I know some of you are pretty excited about Book 3 in my Tribes of Yggdrasil series. I’m definitely going to be pushing the envelope in Star Viking. Here is the first Draft of the Prologue and Chapter 1. It may have typos – it’s a first draft – but I wanted to get something in front of you soon. I hope you’re as excited as I am!
Read online below, or download in a variety of formats:
Eight years have passed since the Hrymar slavers obliterated the colony of Norvik. The Hrymar didn’t stop at a single colony. They set their sights on the Earth herself. And they came, visiting ruin and destruction upon her greatest cities, and one craven human was to blame.
Once the traitor was identified, Haldor Olsen hunted him mercilessly, putting a stop to the billionaire’s experiments on humans and other sentient races. Yet it was a hollow victory. Haldor’s wife and young son were still dead…as far as he knew. Then came the death of Eva’s unborn child – his child. There seemed not a quantum of happiness to be had for Haldor Olsen.
Meanwhile, The Solar Inclusive Democracy, weakened by internal strife and politicking, refused to act, and prevent further Hrymar incursions into Allied Space. Haldor resolved to do what others could, or would not, do. With his old friend, former-Governor Drew Zelinski, they founded Rig’s Vaka (Heimdall’s Vigil) to stand as a first line of defense against the dark forces.
Part outpost, part fortress, Rig’s Vaka became a home to Olsen’s Privateers. They sought out and harried the Hrymar, disrupting the slave-trade, and bringing war to the enemy’s homes and colonies for the first time. Men, women, even other races, flocked to Haldor’s banner. A diverse lot, they all had this in common: an icy desire for justice, and a life with honor. These things Haldor promised them. And delivered.
As Rig’s Vaka’s worth was proved time and time again, crushing the enemy in space and on land, other governments sought alliances and pacts. With the help of the Alfar, Rig’s Vaka began fielding newly designed classes of starships; some for fighting, others for commerce.
Though Haldor kept the wolves from Earth’s doorstep, the SID remained factious. After years of tension and secret military build-ups, several of the strongest factions tried to seize the Prefabricated Colonization Module factories on Mars. The PCMs were crucial for rapid expansion beyond the Solar system, and ultimately, ensuring the future of the Human race. This contest sparked The Industrial Conflict of 2130, which raged for nine months, shattering the Martian economy.
After the Industrial Conflict, four new home-worlds were established far beyond the solar system: New Mecca (Mecca J’adeeda), an Islamic Theocracy; The Soviet Socialist Empire (Sovetskaya Sotsialisticheskaya Imperiya), a Socialist Dictatorship; Mang’s Republic of China (Mang-Zhonghua), a newly minted Socialist Monarchy; and The Republic, a Plutocratic colony of North Americans governed by the Corporate Congress. These four stellar powers began competing with the SID for scarce human-resources – scientists, engineers, and experienced military personnel – gravely weakening the ability for humanity to defend itself.
The SID, aware of their weakened position, and recognizing the success of Rig’s Vaka, sign a mutual defense pact with Haldor Olsen’s forces. Deciding that a more formal martial authority needed to be established, Haldor and Drew formed The Democratic Council, governed by an elected Jarl, or Chieftain. Haldor is unanimously elected as the first Jarl of Rig’s Vaka and the newly formed Tyrmundr – Hands of Tyr.
Now part Warlord and part Viking, Haldor’s days are filled with his quest for justice.
Haldor Olsen sat in his stateroom nursing a glass of mead. He had been drinking more frequently this last couple of years. You might chalk it up to the stress of building and running the newest military organization, complete with tens of thousands of warriors, and the design and commissioning of new star ships. But those who knew Hal would tell you a different story. A sad story. A tale of loss and incomprehensible grief, balanced with a cold desire to serve justice to those deserving.
Hal looked down at the deck where his long-time companion Venn, lay quietly, her eyes monitoring him.
“What?” Hal asked Venn.
Venn just groaned in response.
Hal hefted the crystal glass and examined it. Then looked back at the wolf. “It’s only my second drink today. Quit being such a mother-hen.”
At six-hundred-plus pounds, she was no normal wolf. Biologists on Earth decided to name her species: Nova canus dirus – New fearsome dog, after Earth’s extinct Dire-Wolf. She certainly was fearsome. But she was so much more. There was a strong telepathic bond between her and Hal. They could sense each other’s emotions, and communicate on a level that SID scientists could not explain.
Venn rose and padded over to Hal, then lay back down with her body in contact with his legs. Hal smiled as she licked his arm.
“Alright, this will be my last.”
She looked up at him with her massive black eyes.
“I promise!” He said, smiling at her.
Even in the depths of self-pity, Venn could usually bring him back from the brink. Without her, Hal was certain he would have ended his own life. The loss of his wife and son still gnawed at his soul, pulling it into the abyss. Since their deaths almost nine years ago, he had busied himself building the most sophisticated military in local space. He built new ships, trained new men and women, and other sentients, into formidable warriors. Capable of metering out the justice his soul craved. But nothing filled the void left behind. No amount of advanced medication or therapy could heal the wounds that remained. Only duty and Venn’s affection kept him going.
A beeping sound erupted from Hal’s wrist-comm. “Yes.”
“My Lord, we’ve made contact with several Hrymar slaver-ships,” said one of his bridge officers. He didn’t know this one personally. The new Drekkar-class Longship was ten times bigger than his old Sleipnir stealth ship. At nine-thousand tons, she had a crew commensurately more numerous.
“Be right there,” Hal said. He looked down to Venn. “Time to get to work. You ready?”
Venn stood, her tail wagging.
Gwenfrewi was anxious as she approached her parent’s home. She tried to concentrate on the cool moss beneath her bare feet; that sensation had always relaxed her. She was glad of the shade that the leafy ywen branches provided; passers-by could not read her anxiety. She was ninety-three, seven years shy of adulthood, and the decision which would shape the rest of her life. Yet she knew already what path she would take. Her concern was the reaction of her parents. She required their permission to commit to her path before she was of age. Would they give it?
She placed a hand on the white bark of her parents door. A section of it slid sideways, revealing a spiral staircase within the confines of the ywen’s titanic trunk. She strode the ten meters with poise, trying to bolster her confidence as she crossed the indoor herb-garden. Her lithe form made swift work of the hundred-meter ascent to the first floor.
She performed a cursory scan of the kitchen and dining room, but found nobody there. Another few meters up the staircase, and she saw her mother reclined in a chair on the balcony, reading a book. Gwenfrewi took a deep breath and tried to slow her heart rate. Confidence, that is what I must project. Certainty and confidence. I can do this, she thought, not so certainly.
“Hello mother,” she said.
Former Ambassador Saeran set her book on her lap and smiled at her daughter. “Gwen, what are you doing home?”
“Mother, I had hoped for a warmer welcome,” she said with a pout.
Saeran shook her head and stood, her face beaming. “Come here, my child. Embrace your mother.”
Gwen danced over to Saeran, her jet-black hair bouncing as she did. Mother and daughter hugged. Saeran pulled back a bit, and brushed some of the hair out of Gwenfrewi’s face, and revealing her corn-flower blue eyes.
“My dearest daughter. It does me well to see you. How is your education proceeding?”
“Faring well, mother. Almost complete.”
“How so? You have seven more years, do you not?”
Gwenfrewi looked down. “That is why I came. I need to speak with you and father.”
“Oh? Her mother said. “So you have decided then.”
Gwenfrewi looked shocked. “How can you know that?”
“I am your mother. Would it not concern you, if I did not know?”
Gwenfrewi cracked a half smile and raised her eyebrows, but said nothing.
“And,” her mother continued, “I am certain your father can be persuaded to support whatever path you choose.”
“Does that mean you approve?” She asked.
“I approve of you, my dear. Whatever you do, whatever you are, you are mine. And how can anything of mine be wrong?”
They both laughed. Saeran gestured to a mossy sofa inside the trunk of their home.
“Where will you work as a healer?” her mother asked.
“You even know what path I have chosen?” Gwenfrewi asked, astonished.
Saeran just smiled.
“I want to work on Rig’s Vaka.”
Saeran’s smile faded.
“Daughter, that is a war zone,” she said evenly.
“Yes, mother. I know very well what it is. Where better to be a healer?”
Saeran remained silent for a very long moment.
“Mother, is that not a noble place to offer my gifts? They fight to defend us from the Hrymar.”
“We are in no danger from the Hrymar here!” Saeran said, voice raised.
Gwenfrewi was taken back by her mother’s reaction. She had not expected this; resistance that she was choosing seven years early, certainly. But this? Her mother was angry. She had never seen her mother angry. Not through all her time as an Ambassador and member of the White Council, through a war, and times of conflict – not once. But now?
Kadir circled his opponent, eyes wide and focusing on Bora’s feet. At fourteen, he was taller than any Hrymar. Being Human born had its advantages.
Bora thrust the dagger in his left hand and slashed backhanded with his right. Kadir blocked both and left Bora with a bright red slash across his left cheek. Bora put a hand on his cheek and inspected the blood.
“Lucky,” Bora said, and spat on the black sand of the training-hall floor.
“No such thing as luck. Only skill, which you seem to lack,” Kadir said with a smirk.
“We shall see.”
“Judging by your face, we have already seen.”
Bora’s blue skin darkened as the fury from Kadir’s insult bubbled to the surface. Bora crouched lower, and flipped the left dagger from a forward grip to an ice-pick grip; better for stabbing. He shot a lighting thrust with his right dagger at Kadir’s belly, then sidestepped backward, around Kadir, and slammed his left dagger into Kadir’s side as he pivoted.
Bora smiled as he disengaged. He could see a trickle of blood from Kadir’s side. “Perhaps you were right, Human. My skill will win the day.”
Kadir did not respond, but instead grimaced at the pain.
Bora wore a hungry smile now; one of confidence and surety; one of a hunter in sight of his prey. This time Kadir attacked, thrusting in towards Bora’s groin. It was parried easily, and Bora slashed Kadir’s cheek. Now he put a hand to his cheek and saw blood. Bora shook his head and laughed.
“A Human has no place in the combat ring.”
Kadir could feel Bora’s rising confidence, while he limped heavily now, wincing at the pain in his side.
Bora arced his right dagger at Kadir’s temple. Kadir straightened up with a broad grin and slammed his foot into Bora’s stomach, then followed up with an elbow to Bora’s ear. Bora fell to the sand like a bag of rocks.
Kadir kneeled over his back and turned him over roughly by one shoulder. He placed both daggers across Bora’s exposed throat in a scissor like fashion.
“Luck you said? Do you yield?” He pressed the daggers harder, drawing two lines of blood from Bora’s neck. “Perhaps you didn’t hear me?” Kadir slammed his knee into Bora’s groin three times. “I said, – do – you – yield?”
Bora choked as he nodded – the pressure from Kadir’s dagger were almost strangling him.
Kadir sprang up like cat and wiped the blood off his side. There was no wound.
Bora clutched his throat as he sat up. “B- but I stabbed you?”
“I allowed you to think you stabbed me. I wiped some of your blood that was on my dagger, onto my side where you would have stabbed me. Then I behaved as if wounded, bolstering your confidence, and tearing down your caution. Your own arrogance defeated you, Bora.”
Kadir offered him a hand. Bora took it, and Kadir yanked him to his feet.
“How is it that you have learned so much already, Kadir? And you are but a Human?”
“Had I not learned quickly and well, Bora, I would have been dead long ago. There is no place for the weak here, especially a weak Human. My years at the Egil Arkek boys camp, taught me that.”
Despite the mocking, Kadir was inches taller than any Hrymar, and heavier set. He had the genetics of Human parents, and nine years growing up on a heavy gravity planet. Combined, they made him one of the best warriors on Niflheim. Though not respected, he was feared.
Kadir caught a glimpse of an older Hrymar, the grizzled veteran, and his mentor, Serkan. As Serkan strode out onto the black sand, all the trainees bowed before him, except Kadir. He was right-hand of the Over-Chieftain, Devrim, and one of the most powerful men among the Hrymar tribes.
Serkan stood before Kadir, and although a couple of inches shorter, was a more imposing figure. It may have been the breadth of his shoulders, or the many scars that decorated his body – a legacy of his victories.
“Youngling, it is time for the next phase of your training.”
Kadir inclined his head. “Master. Where are we going?”
Serkan pointed a finger above him. “To space. Time for you to cut a path through our enemies.”
Kadir slammed his clenched fist across his heart in salute. He had longed fort this. Longed for the moment when he could bathe in the blood of humanity. Ached for the moment when he could plunge a dagger into Haldor Olsen’s heart. His father.
The forward view-screen on The Drekkar tracked five Hrymar slaver ships in normal space. Most of their ships were converted freighters – better to haul their sentient cargo – with armor and weapons added to allow them to harvest the less defended worlds. The ships themselves were no match for Haldor’s new Longship-class, which was purpose built for raiding and the destruction of other ships. The problem came in preserving the slaver’s cargo. Their cruel ships held innocent, sentient beings. Without that cargo, Haldor would have attacked them all without mercy or regard for Hrymar lives. They were parasites and deserved no less.
“Can you give me a life-sign count across the five ships?” Haldor asked.
“Yes, my Lord,” a young woman on sensor duty, replied.
Haldor was still uncomfortable with the new title. Rig’s Vaka was now a modern Feudal society with elected leaders. Unlike Medieval Feudalism, there were no serfs, and no injustice. It was simply the most effective form of military government: Each leader was accountable to their followers, and to their superiors. Their power was consensual and could be revoked if they lost respect of their men. Haldor had been unanimously elected as their first Jarl, or Lord.
“I’m detecting four-thousand, two-hundred and twelve life-signs. That includes any Hrymar crew. Accounting for approximately thirty Hrymar per ship, that leaves- ”
“That’s close enough, crewman. Thank you,” Haldor said.
The young woman blushed. She was eager, Hal had to give her that. There were so many young people on his bridge now. Eager youths with a need for honor and respect. They were another of Haldor’s anchors to this life. His pride in them, more threads the Wyrd Sisters wove to bind him to his duty. He reckoned that was a good thing.
“Tactical, any chance we can take them out with EMP torpedoes all at once?”
“Not a chance, Captain. They’re spread out too far. We might get two before the others could react,” the Helmsman replied.
Hal looked nowhere in particular and said, “Skalgrim, recommendations?”
The disembodied male voice of the ships’s Emergent Intelligence replied, “Nothing overly insightful, Captain. Based on the current sensor data, we have a 95% chance of disabling two of the five Hrymar vessels with two EMP torpedoes, as your Tactical officer advised. I would add that we prepare the Hersir for launch against a third vessel, as we pursue the fourth. There is a 75% chance that the fifth vessel will escape.”
The Alfar made extensive use of artificial intelligence, and this new breed, EIs, could evolve and learn, much like crew. Hal was still getting used to the idea, much like his title. He hated new things, and loved them at the same time.
“Very well, two birds with one stone it is.” Hal tapped his wrist-comm. “Gina, are your Hersir ready to go?”
“Damn straight, Captain. We’re in the tubes and ready for a kick in the ass,” Gina Russo replied.
Hal nodded to himself. “On my mark, drop out of Hyperspace, then fire EMP torpedoes and launch the Hersir. Tactical, prepare to close on the next closest vessel immediately after, and target its engines. Ready…mark.”
A slight shudder rippled through the ship as it translated down into normal space, directly behind the five Hrymar slaver-ships. Two EMP torpedoes left their launch tubes simultaneously. A second later, fifty smaller projectiles exploded from the starboard launch tubes. Hal watched anxiously as his Hersir, veteran warriors, were launched into space wearing only their Extravehicular Combat Armor. Each ECA suit was a tiny spacecraft, armed and armored, but vulnerable to a ship’s Point Defense Batteries. Specially designed launch tubes catapulted them into space at unholy speeds. Hal had experienced it himself – what a rush, he mused.
The two EMP torpedoes arrived on target. Each struck a Hrymar ship with a bright blue explosion; it looked like ball-lighting engulfing the ships. The EMP current penetrated the vessels, conducted through any metallic wire, conduit, surface, or object, and burning out any circuits in the process. Each of the ships began to list, and float away under their current momentum. Hal’s eyes bored into the view-screen as Gina and her team approached the third enemy. Hal relaxed his hands as he realized he’d been squeezing the arms of his chair, his knuckles now bloodless and aching; he might have seen them go white if not for the red battle-lighting on the bridge.
Fifty dots on the view-screen were now merged with their target, appearing as one entity on the targeting-sensors.
“We’re on the hull. Cutting through now,” Gina said.
Hal inhaled sharply and switched his focus to the next target. He had to trust Gina, and he did, but this team she’d designed to go EVA and attack ships – well – Hal knew it worked, but it was still so risky. That was Gina though – balls bigger than any man Hal had ever met.
“Fire on the fourth ship’s engines,” Hal ordered.
The Drekkar’s particle-beam cannons belched out a dozen short bolts of highly charged sub-atomic particles which would disrupt the physical structure of whatever it struck. The ethereal purple bolts slammed into the aft section of the Hrymar ship, cause it to lurch several degrees.
Suddenly The Drekkar’s bridge was filled with arcing lightning and sparks. Consoles popped and sizzled.
“Loki’s balls! Sensors, what happened?”
“Not sure, Captain. It appears we have also been hit by EMP of some kind,” she replied.
“What?” He wasn’t shocked, not really. He knew what the effects of EMP looked like. He’d seen so many ships he’d taken out using the same weapons. But the Hrymar?
“Captain,” the sensor officer said, “Engineering reports several impact zones. It appears we may have hit an EMP mine-field.”
“That’s new,” he muttered to himself. “Engineering, damage report?”
“My Lord, the main bridge controls are effectively offline. The auxiliary bridge controls are operational though. I suggest you relocate there immediately. I’ll give you an ETA on repair as soon as I can. All other systems are operational.”
Hal thanked the Gods that their new ships made extensive use of Alfar organic technology, which was much less susceptible to EMP. Certainly even organic circuits conducted electrical impulses – as the human body did – and these could be disrupted by EMP, but they couldn’t burn out like normal conductive material. They would suppress excess current, and could regenerate over time. The main bridge may have suffered damage, but with time, and help from Engineering, it would be operational again soon enough – though not for this battle.
Gina watched as one of her Hersir, the elite of the Tyrmundr, burned through the Hrymar hull. The Plasma cutting torch made quick work of the thin hull. The Hrymar’s re-use of old freighters as their main ships was a chink in their armor, she thought. If they bothered to invest in real warships, it would make her job more interesting.
“We’re through,” the man on the torch said.
Five teams of ten Hersir, were simultaneously breaching the ship’s hull at critical system locations.
“Go!” Gina ordered, and waited for the nine in front of her to enter. She turned back towards The Drekkar before she slid through the breach, and gasped. Through the screen on her HUD, she saw tiny explosions pelting the bow of The Drekkar as it closed on the fourth Hrymar ship. Bastards! It was a trap. Was this? It didn’t matter, she had a mission to complete.
“Eyes open! These blue fuckers are getting crafty. We’re likely headed into a trap,” she barked.
Several of the Hersir cheered. They wanted a challenge. And they needed a fight. Most of the soldiers had family who’d been killed or captured by the Hrymar – this was personal.
Gina’s squad had taken the most sensitive objective – that of safeguarding the cargo. Despite their bulky ECA suits, they all flowed through the corridors like liquid mercury. Executing any Hrymar on sight. Most of the Hrymar were innately cowards, and tried to ambush their foes. But Gina knew and expected such. She’d boarded dozens of Hrymar slaver-ships now, and killed hundreds of Hrymar – some with her bare hands.
She glanced at the map now displayed on her HUD, which showed the cryo-berths for the Hrymar’s slaves ahead.
“Around the corner. Ready?” She asked.
Nods all around, and they rushed the chamber, weapons ready. It was empty.
Gina shook her head. “Teams two through ten, report. Have you seen cryo-berths? Or live cargo?”
“What in Hades?” Gina saw some kind of machine running in the corner. It was the size of a small ground car, and looked to be powered by a fusion reactor. “Somebody please tell me what this is?”
One of her Hersir began a scan of the device. “Gina, this is where the life signs are coming from.”
Another trap. Fuck.
Stay tuned for more on Star Viking!