Virtues of War Cover Reveal and Excerpt — Art by Fred Gambino

Tor.com is pleased to reveal Fred Gambino’s cover art for Virtues of War, a new military science fiction novel from Bennett R. Coles! Virtues of War is the first book in The Astral Saga trilogy, and will be published in June 2015 by Titan Books.

See the full cover image below, and read an exclusive preview excerpt from the novel!

The catalog copy for Virtues of War, from Bennet R. Coles’ site:

Lieutenant Katja Emmes is a platoon commander who was transferred last-minute to be the leader of the 10-trooper strike team carried aboard the fast-attack craft Rapier. Although fully trained, she has never led troops in real operations before, and she is haunted by the shadow of her war-hero father.

Sublieutenant Jack Mallory is fresh out of pilot school, reluctantly doing his duty in the mysterious world of extra-dimensional warfare while pining for the glamour of a fighter pilot position in the space fleet. Day-dreaming his way through life, Jack is in for a rude awakening.

Lieutenant Commander Thomas Kane is poised for promotion, and he knows that this six-month deployment in command of Rapier is the single, best chance to secure his rise to stardom within the Astral Force. He has already learned that performance alone isn’t enough and actively dabbles in the subtle politics of his professional world, but he will learn that there are far more dangerous foes than the ones he can see.

Set far enough in the future to present a society that has evolved and splintered from our own, Virtues of War is a sci fi novel that reveals the traits common in any age, and ultimately looks at the heart of what makes us human.

Read an excerpt below!

Virtues of War Bennett R Coles Fred Gambino cover art

 

 

It was Thomas who spotted trouble first.

“Viper, three-one-five mark zero-four-zero, two hundred-k, archons one-five-zero. Desig Tango-One.”

Katja strained to read her 3-D display, picking out the craft off their relative port bow, already one hundred miles up and climbing to intercept. Rapier was plunging past the two hundred mile mark, and was at her most vulnerable. This was not a good place to get caught.

Thomas’s voice carried firmly over the roar of re-entry.

“Full power dive.”

The constriction in Katja’s chest immediately eased as Rapier accelerated downward. Unease kept her breathing tight, however—they would need to slow down before rendezvousing with the surface. She flicked a glance at Thomas, who appeared unfazed.

Unknown spacecraft.” A scratchy, heavily-accented voice, speaking in English, came over the civilian frequency. “This is Cerberan Orbital Authority. Terminate your approach and move to low orbit.”

Katja watched the symbol on her display as the warlord patrol ship closed rapidly, highlighted with a red diamond indicating Breeze’s weapons-lock.

“Authority!” Thomas screamed into the radio, in his best imitation of panic. “Mayday! Mayday! We’re going down! We’ve lost thruster control—we’re trying to air brake! Keep clear! Keep clear!”

Instantly the symbol on Katja’s display changed vector as the patrol craft altered course. It was close enough now to have a visual on Rapier, streaking through the sky like a meteor. Most likely the Cerberans were saying prayers already for this doomed interloper.

It was a brilliant maneuver.

At sixty miles altitude, Thomas ordered the engines reversed. It was like deploying a parachute, and Rapier shuddered with the strain of deceleration. Katja heard a groan escape her own lips as her vision faded to red. The roar of the atmosphere was drowned out by the screech of the engines. The orange gas on the nose faded, replaced by a larger cone of tortured air that was instantly superheated by the forward exhaust of Rapier’s accretion-thrust drive. The entire ship was enshrouded in a massive fireball.

“Ready morningstar, salvo size one,” Thomas ordered. “Target surface, dead ahead.”

Breeze’s fingers danced across the weapons console.

“Ready!”

Rapier’s speed faded fast as the engines countered the ship’s suicidal dive, but the orange-hot canopy grew even larger, fueled now by Rapier’s own reverse-thrust. To the eyes on the patrol craft, she still appeared to be plummeting to her doom. Detailed tracking analysis would reveal her speed as well below safe atmospheric levels—but it was doubtful the Cerberans were paying such close attention.

Katja’s system still showed the patrol craft loitering more than sixty miles from the surface.

“Stand by to fire,” Thomas ordered. “And stand by to cut engines and vector to strike target on my mark.”

Rapierdropped through thirty kilometers. Twenty… Ten…

“Mark!”

Katja lurched in her seat as the engines died. The flare of superheated air faded instantly, to be replaced by a dazzling sunburst that rocketed ahead from the starboard wing. The morningstar missile took its name from the fiery nature of its fusion makeup, and for a few shining moments it burned as a second sun in the Cerberan sky.

 

Excerpted from Virtues of War © Bennett R. Coles

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