Demoted by the military and hung out to dry, the media labels her the Butcher of Toro. Despite her soiled record, Tanis still one of the best military counter-insurgency officers in the Terran Space Force.
And they need her to find the terrorists responsible for trying to destroy the GSS Intrepid, a massive interstellar colony ship in the final phases of construction at the Mars Outer Shipyards.
It’ll be her ticket out of the Sol system, but Tanis discovers she is up against more than mercenaries and assassins. Major corporations and governments have a vested interest in ensuring the Intrepid never leaves Sol, ultimately pitting Tanis against factions inside her own military.
With few friends left, Tanis will need to fight for her life to get outsystem.
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Read excerpt of Outsystem:
Tanis looked back at the squad guarding the maglev station. “Someone want to give me a hoist up?”
“Up where, sir?” A Marine bearing a corporal’s insignia asked.
“Into the crawlspace above the corridor,” Tanis replied.
One of the privates coughed. “In that, sir?” He looked her up and down.
“That’s an officer you’re gawking at, Mendez,” the squad’s sergeant growled.
“Aw shit.” Tanis looked down at her new dress. “Someone give me a knife.”
The sergeant handed her his blade and Tanis cut her dress off at the tops of her thighs. “Now hoist me up and no comments please.”
At least the two privates who lifted her didn’t ogle. Rank had some privileges after all. Clambering up into the access hatch Tanis set a VIV on her HUD to Forsythe’s vision as she advanced with her men below. The vision-in-vision showed the two squads advancing under steady fire from the airlock toward the entrance to the ballroom. They were over halfway there, and judging from the angles of fire the attackers were closing in as well.
The accessway had a small ledge for maintenance crews and Tanis scrambled along it, wishing she hadn’t bowed to fashion and had simply worn pants. She could hear the shouts of the men below as they worked their way down the corridor, combined with the whine of the enemy’s lasers and the Marine’s pulse rifles. The corridor had never seemed so long and Tanis was certain she had drawn blood on her knees as she progressed. Luckily, the forces below her seemed to have battled one another to a standstill. Both were still over twenty meters from the entrance to the ballroom.
“What’s ETA on TSF accessing that docked ship externally?” Tanis asked.
“Damn, we really need our own patrol force.”
“It’s on order.”
With her knees now freely bleeding, Tanis passed over the platoon, and a minute later she was positioned over the attacking force. Angela deployed probes through a grate and the team got their first clear look at the attackers. There were fifteen of them in heavy body armor—probably why the TSF’s pulse rifles were doing little or no damage. She relayed the feed to Lieutenant Forsythe.
“We’re not authorized to use more than pulse rifles within the ship,” the lieutenant replied.
Tanis added that to her to-do list. the staff sergeant growled on the combat net.
Tanis turned her attention to Angela. She looked around at the various conduit and piping.
“That’ll make them take that armor off pretty fast.” Tanis relayed the plan to Lieutenant Forsythe and ordered her to keep back from the enemy to avoid any damage. The Intrepid was monitoring the flow to ensure it was shut off before it burned through the deck.
Angela focused on the delicate procedure of slicing through the plasma conduit, while Tanis controlled other nano manually and used them to loosen the fastening for the grate.
Sanderson’s voice came over the combat net.
Angela reported. Tanis initiated a count on the combat net and fifteen seconds later a stream of plasma burned through the corridor’s ceiling and sprayed across the enemy below.
Screams erupted as the attacking force dove out of the stream’s filaments. The visual from the probes showed six men tearing their armor off and one down with a hole burned clear through his torso. The plasma flow to the conduit was cut.
Tanis ordered over the combat net to the Marines in the hall.
The colony ship Intrepid is falling into a star.
The ship’s AI has lost control of the engines and core systems. Battling a saboteur who strives to isolate him, his last act is to wake Colonel Tanis Richards from stasis.
Tanis finds herself alone on a dying ship, unable to contact the AI. She must discover what has happened and save the Intrepid from burning up in the star’s angry red light.
Even if she is successful, the journey to the colony world of New Eden is just beginning. With decades of travel ahead, she will have to find a path in the darkness.
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About the author:
Michael Cooper has been writing since the day he closed Return of the King and wanted more. He’s written a lot of fantasy that he never tried to get published, but one day decided to try his hand at science fiction, of which he has published one book (Outsystem) and is working on the sequel, A Path in the Darkness.
Michael is a software engineer at a company which builds sites and services around the open-source CMS named Drupal and enjoys the creativity involved in building web applications.
When not writing stories or code Michael is spending time with his wife and daughter, or doing carpentry–a hobby which he has been growing over the years.
His other interests include astronomy, cars and racing, blacksmithing, movies, and just about any creative work one can do.
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