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Excerpt Reveal: Furious Heaven by Kate Elliott

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Furious Heaven by Kate Elliott

Furious Heaven is Kate Elliott’s highly anticipated sequel to the thrilling space adventure Unconquerable Sun!

The Republic of Chaonia fleets, under the joint command of Princess Sun and her formidable mother, Queen-Marshal Eirene, have defeated and driven out an invading fleet of the Phene Empire, though not without heavy losses. But the Empire remains undeterred. While Chaonia scrambles to rebuild its military, the Empire’s rulers are determined to squash Chaonia once and for all. They believe their military might is strong enough to defeat the enemy, but they also secure a secret alliance with a deadly religious sect skilled in the use of assassination and covert ops, to destabilize the republic.

On the eve of Eirene’s bold attack on the rich and populous Karnos System, an unexpected tragedy strikes the republic. Sun must take charge or lose the throne. Will Sun be content with the pragmatic path laid out by her mother for Chaonia’s future? Or will she choose to forge her own legend? Can she succeed despite all the forces arrayed against her?

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Furious Heaven by Kate Elliott, on sale 4/18/23.


4

She Alone of All Chaonia

To reach Fleet Strategic Command a person had to have the highest level of military clearance. With that clearance, an individual could descend via one of five security elevators or enter by a reinforced tunnel that linked FSC to Battle Reserve Command buried deep in the western mountains one hundred klicks away. The queen-marshal had direct access via stairs that connected the war room in her private quarters in the aboveground part of the palace to the underground nerve center of Chaonia’s military.

Eirene’s retinal scan and blood trace unlocked an airlock that let onto the stairs. Two spatharioi snapped to attention as the queen-marshal entered and gave them a curt nod. Sun admired the patience of palace guards, the whole of their duty to stand at the top of an enclosed stairwell that might be used once or twice a day at most, or not at all for weeks on end when Eirene was out on campaign.

She virtually clipped their ID bars into her network to find their names. “Sergeant Saif Yíng Alargos. Lance Corporal Sukja Rèn Alcotai.”

Their faces brightened. “Your Highness.”

Eirene had charged on without waiting. Sun scrambled to catch up. They descended three long flights to a second airlock guarded by a second pair of spatharioi, both corporals whom Sun also greeted by name.

The airlock opened onto an underground foyer. Anyone entering via stairs, elevators, or tunnel had to cross the foyer as through a shooting gallery to the entry barrier. This metal-and-ceramic gate was decorated with an image of the five-headed scylla native to Chaonia Prime’s oceans. Instead of waiting to be admitted by the security stationed on the other side of the gate, Eirene placed a hand on the barrier.

“Eirene Shān, queen-marshal of the Republic of Chaonia.”

The gate opened to her touch, she alone of all Chaonia able to open any door, any airlock, any shield. Sun followed her through a secure set of airlocks and into a cavernous chamber. Since Chaonia was on a wartime footing, soldiers stationed at consoles did not rise as Eirene entered.

Machines hummed. The light of screens painted a glow on faces intent on their tasks. The night watch was a quiet time if there were no immediate crises. In the aftermath of the battles at Molossia and Troia, both the republic and the empire had defaulted to “retrench and wait” mode, but of course Chaonia had limited knowledge of what was really going on in the Phene Empire and it would take weeks for news to trickle out.

At the center of the cavern a transparent dome sealed in a large strategos table. Here the location of every asset in the republic was marked, tracked, approved, and deployed. A colonel and a chief attended the table at all times. They stepped away to leave the queen-marshal and her heir alone beneath the dome. Eirene tuned the dome to become opaque.

A three-dimensional virtual map appeared above. It displayed the local belt of stars through which humanity had spread after the ancient Argosy fleets discovered Landfall, a system with an inhabitable planet. Each star system was marked with the symbol of the confederation to which it was politically aligned: a sunburst for the Republic of Chaonia, a double helix for the Phene Empire, a lotus for the systems collectively associated as the Yele League. There were other designations for other coalitions, as well as for the modern Argosy fleets and the nomadic banner fleets known as Gatoi, but at the moment these weren’t the focus of military operations.

For six generations Chaonia had been beleaguered by the Yele League or subject to the Phene Empire. Eirene had changed all that. Now the Yele were yoked by a treaty, leaving Chaonian fleets free to fight the empire.

The queen-marshal removed a disk from a pocket tucked into the sleeve of her uniform. Setting it onto the table she turned the red glimmer of her obsidian eye upon it and, with a hidden code, opened its secrets. Lights sparked to indicate the three founding systems of the republic: Chaonia, Molossia, and Thesprotis.

Eirene expanded the view of Molossia System, scene of the recent monumental battle. “The damage the Phene inflicted sets back our fleet readiness by years.”

“If I were the Phene, I’d make my move now while we’re most vulnerable.”

“That’s the thinking of certain of my marshals. Qìngzhī recommends retreat from our forward footholds in the Hatti territories. He argues we should consolidate our gains by establishing a static and permanent frontier at Troia System.”

“Marshal Qìngzhī wants us to abandon Aspera, Maras Shantiya, Hatti, Tarsa, Kaska, Na Iri, and Kanesh too?” Each star system sparked with a brighter light as Sun spoke their names. “After all the people who died to liberate them from the Phene? All the resources we expended in order to get control of beacons surrounding Karnos? Are you considering it?”

“Of course I’m not considering it. I’m going to stay on the schedule I set in motion years ago. And do you know why?”

Eirene’s love of lecturing included treating her daughter as if she were the queen-marshal’s student, and of course in most political and philosophical ways Sun was. Sun had learned never to interrupt. Half of successful tactics was knowing not to expend your effort to no benefit. Eirene zoomed the map to enlarge and focus the current-to-the-day configuration of the biggest prize of all: Karnos System and its eleven planets. Seven of these planets had beacons anchored to them like moons.

“Because Karnos used to be an independent territory with its own dynastic lineage, it still functions as a buffering frontier between us and the central imperial systems of the Phene. You may find my pedagogy annoying,” she added with a quirk of one eyebrow as she studied her daughter’s expression, “but drill is the heart of discipline. Why is Karnos such an effective buffer, given that it has seven beacons? The presence of six functional beacons out of those seven ought to make it a porous and difficult-to-defend system.”

“Because only two of the beacons lead directly from Karnos into the heart of imperial space. That makes it a bottleneck.”

The planets spun through the next year of their orbits around the Karnos star until Eirene paused them. “Twenty years ago I identified a local-to-Karnos window when the configuration of the planets and their beacons in Karnos System would favor an attack into Karnos through the Na Iri and Tarsa beacons. Why is that?”

Sun used a laser stylus to indicate the different beacons. “At this time and in this alignment the two beacons that link directly into imperial space—Sleepless and Windworn—will be disadvantageously positioned. If we attack into Karnos System via the Tarsa and Na Iri Beacons, then any reinforcement forces the Phene send into Karnos via Sleepless and Windworn will be separated by greater distances from each other than our fleets will be from each other. So our forces can coordinate more rapidly than theirs can.”

“Very good.”

“That’s all very well, but nothing we can do will counter the communications advantage the Phene have.”

“It’s true. But physical distances remain the same for their ships as for ours. Once we are all in the same system, their Riders give them a much less disproportionate comms advantage. And it burdens them with the need to get the Riders out of harm’s way.” She indicated each beacon in Karnos System, named according to the system it linked to: Tarsa, Na Iri, Windworn, Sleepless, Aspera, Hellion Terminus, and the seventh, the dead one, whose paired system no one knew. “That’s why this configuration is a rare chance I intend to take advantage of forty-two republic weeks from now. Some have argued it’s too big a risk because it’s too short a time frame for such a massive undertaking considering the losses we took. But I say it remains our best opportunity to take Karnos.”

“Isn’t the bigger risk that the Phene attack us sooner than we can attack them?”

“Maybe. But a good marshal knows when to sit tight. The Phene have so many more resources and population than we do that they’ll think we can’t bounce back after the damage we suffered. We were hit hard, it’s true. But our shipyards, industrial parks, and training camps are working longer hours, more efficiently than ever. Combined with our better training and stronger unit cohesion, we have reserves of toughness the Phene lack. Chaonians don’t dither. And despite Baron Voy’s cowardly flight, and perhaps partly because of it, we maintain a substantial contingent of allied Yele League ships. Like the Larissan Centaur Division and the heavy frigate division. Neither of which were damaged in the battle.”

Although lacking an obsidian eye, Sun did possess a laser stylus embedded in her ring, which she used to indicate Karnos Prime. One of three rocky planets in the goldilocks zone, it was the main center of the system’s population.

“How do you mean to deal with the planet defense system and ground installations on Karnos Prime? The Phene could keep our forces stuck for years fighting over each patch of dirt.”

Her mother had a smug smile that she only trotted out in private. It wasn’t that Eirene was a modest or humble person; she was perfectly happy to rub her victories into the faces of her enemies. But she knew better than to tip her hand in front of people who might use foreknowledge against her.

“That’s what clandestine operations and secret allies are for.” She popped the disk out of the table and handed it to Sun. “Memorize everything on this. It opens to your retinal scan and voice only. It will erase itself if anyone else tries to access it. Do you have any questions?”

Sun bit back irritation at it having taken so long for her mother to trust her with the full military intelligence an heir ought to have. Octavian had trained her in a hard school. Don’t let your temper control you. She had her mother’s trust now. Start as you mean to go on.

“What happened to the Rider I captured on Tjeker? I’ve asked, but no one seems to know.”

“Ah.” Eirene’s gaze lit up, as if she had forgotten her daughter had personally captured one of the Phene ruling class, the first Chaonian ever to do so. Perhaps she had. It would be exactly like her. “A good question. Let’s go see.”

Copyright © 2023 from Kate Elliott

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