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The final novel in the Legion of the Damned prequel trilogy—from the national bestselling author of Andromeda’s Choice and Andromeda’s Fall
Now a platoon leader, Legionnaire Andromeda McKee seems to have successfully left behind her true identity of Lady Catherine “Cat” Carletto, one of the last two surviving members of her family targeted for death by Empress Ophelia.
After failing at her one shot at vengeance, Andromeda questioned her own resolve. But now her uncle has been killed in a government raid back on Earth, leaving her the last Carletto standing—and the family’s only chance for justice...
A chance that comes when the empress’s ship crashes on a hostile planet. As a legionnaire, Andromeda McKee has countless kills under her belt. But it will be Cat Carletto who has to pull the trigger on the one who really matters...
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William C. Dietz is the national bestselling author of more than forty novels, including Andromeda’s War, Andromeda’s Choice, and Andromeda’s Fall, some of which have been translated into German, Russian, and Japanese. He grew up in the Seattle area, served as a medic with the Navy and Marine Corps, graduated from the University of Washington, and has been employed as a surgical technician, college instructor, and television news writer, director, and producer. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Dietz served as director of public relations and marketing for an international telephone company. He and his wife live near Gig Harbor, Washington.
When asked where his officers were, a British NCO replied, “When it comes time to die, they’ll be with us.”
RICHARD A. GABRIEL and PAUL L. SAVAGE
Crisis in Command: Mismanagement in the Army
Standard year 1978
Forward Operating Base Vickers sat atop a low mesa located just south of a mountain range called the Towers of Algeron. The FOB was named after a civilian who, according to official dispatches, “. . . Volunteered to fight—and gave her life to protect our legionnaires.”
The truth was quite different. Carly Vickers had been working for the Bureau of Missing Persons, which, in spite of the innocent-sounding name, had been created to find and eliminate anyone who might oppose Empress Ophelia. People like Andromeda McKee. The bitch.
Now, as McKee stood on the top deck of the newly reconstructed observation tower and looked out over a snow-dusted plain, her mind was filled with images of the final attack. Thousands upon thousands of Naa warriors had surrounded the mesa, all determined to kill every Human they could lay their hands on. McKee could “see” them coming, and when she closed her eyes, they were still there. “The CO is looking for you, Lieutenant.” McKee opened her eyes. “Lieutenant.” It sounded strange. But there it was. The Legion had been a place to hide from Ophelia’s synths at first. But now it was something more. The fact that she could become a soldier, and a good one, had been a revelation. Recruit, private, corporal, sergeant, and now lieutenant. She’d come a long way.
Most of her superiors thought she deserved the most recent promotion. McKee knew better. She’d been lucky, that’s all. Lucky enough to survive as others fell. She turned. Corporal Smith had dark skin, intelligent eyes, and an engaging grin. “I could tell the old man that you went AWOL.”
McKee smiled. “Thanks, Smith. Unfortunately there’s no place to go. Keep your eyes peeled. I saw a glint of light just to the right of Finger Rock. A scout probably. Shoot the bastard if he gets too close.”
The tower had four .50 cal sniper’s rifles dedicated to that very purpose. Smith nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”
McKee walked over to the stairs and began to make her way down to the ground. Her right calf was still sore where a bullet fired from Vickers’s rifle had passed through it. She was lucky though . . . The bone was untouched, and she was alive.
FOB Vickers had undergone an amazing transformation during the last couple of months. Minefields ringed the bottom of the mesa now. Twenty-three autocannons were dug in on top . . . And the gaps between them were protected by heavy machine guns and mortars.
Two companies of legionnaires had been assigned to the mesa, including two platoons of cavalry, one of which belonged to her. McKee returned two salutes as she followed the path that led down into an underground bunker. It was a good deal larger than it had originally been, and that was a good thing.
A sentry snapped to attention as she entered. The ceiling was intentionally high so that Trooper Is could enter, and like the walls, it was made of duracrete slabs hooked together with rails and pins. The floor was covered with pea gravel. McKee’s boots made crunching sounds as she approached the front desk. It was a sheet of plywood laid across two upended mortar boxes. A sergeant named Nichols sat behind it. She had a mop of curly red hair and a spray of freckles across her nose. “Hey, Lieutenant . . . The major is looking for you.”
“That’s what I heard. Is he available?”
“Yes, ma’am. But watch out . . . He’s pissed about something.”
McKee nodded. “Thanks for the heads-up.”
As she made her way past the com section, logistics, and Intel, McKee caught glimpses of the video being provided by half a dozen surveillance drones. The ops center and the CO’s “office” came next. If a desk surrounded by makeshift partitions could be dignified as such. McKee paused to knock. “Lieutenant McKee reporting as . . .”
“Cut the crap and come on in,” Major Gordon said from the other side of the thin wall.
As McKee entered, she saw that Gordon was stripped to the waist and standing in front of a small wall-mounted mirror. There was white shaving gel on his face, and he was working with a straight razor. “Take a load off McKee . . . We’re about to have company—so it’s time to make myself presentable.”
Gordon was small but muscular, like the bantam-weight boxer he’d once been. His black hair was combed straight back, and for some reason, he had chosen to grow a pencil-thin mustache. McKee sat on an empty cable spool and watched him work. “Company, sir? What kind of company?”
“The worst kind,” Gordon replied gloomily. “A REMF (rear echelon mother fucker), a civilian, and a combot.”
“A combot. Meaning an android equipped to make vids.”
McKee felt a rising sense of apprehension. During a recent visit to Earth, she’d been forced to make numerous public appearances, all calculated to benefit the person she hated most . . . Empress Ophelia. No one had recognized her as Lady Catherine Carletto because of the scar that ran from just above her right eye down onto her left cheek. But that didn’t mean she was safe. There was no such thing. She cleared her throat. “So, what’s up? A training vid?”
“Hell no,” Gordon replied, as he wiped the remaining gel off his face. “It’s going to be a McKee vid. Yeah, yeah, I know. You don’t want to do it. Well, let me tell you something . . . There aren’t many people of any rank who have the right to wear the Imperial Order of Merit. And now, having added a Star Cluster to that, you’re a big deal on Earth. So the government sent a combot to make a documentary about you. And yes, you have to put up with it. The brass sees you as their number one recruiter.”
McKee was about to object when Nichols stepped into the room. “They’re here, sir. On pad two.”
“We’ll be right there,” Gordon said as he buttoned his shirt. Then he turned to McKee. “I’m sorry . . . I really am. But there’s nothing you can do. Just grit your teeth, let the combot do its thing, and the whole thing will be over before you know it. Come on . . . We wouldn’t want to keep our visitors waiting, now would we?”
Apprehension had morphed to fear by that time. And what felt like a rock occupied the pit of McKee’s stomach as she followed Gordon up the back ramp and onto the surface. Clusters of floodlights came on as another two-hour-and-forty-two-minute day came to an abrupt end. That was the result of a rotation so fast that it created a bulge at the planet’s equator. In fact, some of the higher peaks soared eighty thousand feet up into the sky and dwarfed both Everest on Earth and Olympic Mons on Mars.
A fly-form was sitting on the pad, and like all such aircraft, it was piloted by a cyborg rather than a bio bod. Just one of the many things that made the Legion different from the rest of the armed services. Some of the Legion’s borgs were criminals who, having been executed for capital crimes, had chosen life in a brain box over the big nothing. Others were legionnaires who had been wounded so badly that they were left with no choice but to pilot a fly-form, quad, or T-1.
Three figures appeared at the top of the ramp as it was lowered to the ground. The first person to make his way down was a portly colonel dressed in starched camos and wearing a sidearm with ivory grips. Rather than the rough-outs real soldiers wore in the field, he sported mirror-bright barracks boots. A REMF for sure. Gordon and McKee saluted the officer as he arrived on the ground. The response was so crisp, McKee suspected that the gesture had been perfected in front of a mirror. “As you were,” the colonel said. “My name is Cavenaugh.”
Before Gordon could speak, Cavenaugh turned to introduce his companion. The civilian had shoulder-length black hair, big brown eyes, and olive-colored skin. She was dressed in khakis and desert boots. McKee figured she might weigh a hundred pounds soaking wet. “This is Bindali Jivani,” Cavenaugh said. “She’s a civilian contractor—and we’ll discuss her role shortly.”
That was Gordon’s opportunity to step forward and introduce McKee. “I’ve heard about you,” Cavenaugh said. “Order of Merit and all that. Well done.”
The civilian offered her hand, and McKee shook it. “My friends call me Bindy,” Jivani said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Jivani was so open, it was impossible not to like her. McKee smiled. “Likewise, ma’am. Welcome to Forward Operating Base Vickers.”
“And this is Andy,” Cavenaugh said, as the combot arrived. Like most machines that were designed to interact with Humans, Andy was an android. Meaning a robot made to look like a Human being. In this case a thirtysomething male with light brown hair, beige skin, and a perpetual smile. It didn’t need clothes but wore some anyway. They were made of leatherlike tufskin and were too fashionable for Algeron. “I’m glad to meet you,” Andy said brightly. “Please stand closer together. I need a three shot.”
That was when McKee realized that one if not both of Andy’s “eyes” were cameras. She had no choice but to comply and wondered how long Andy would hang around. A couple of days? A week? Hopefully no more than that.
Gordon led the way back to the bunker, with Cavenaugh at his side. That left McKee to walk with Jivani. Andy followed along behind. “It’s very beautiful, isn’t it?” the civilian said, as she looked out over the desertlike wasteland. And it was beautiful. Or had been. Back before McKee had seen thousands of people die on it.
“Yes,” McKee answered. “That’s how the whole planet is. Or the parts I’ve seen anyway. Beautiful but dangerous.”
Jivani nodded and said something in a language that McKee knew to be Naa. A Human who spoke Naa! That was rare indeed. Most people relied on computerized translators. “The words you spoke . . . What did they mean?”
“It’s an old folk saying. ‘The blade that gleams can also cut deep.’”
“So you live here?”
Jivani smiled and shook her head. “No . . . I arrived last week.”
McKee wanted to ask more questions, but they were belowground by then. Gordon apologized for the lack of a meeting room as they entered his office. Cavenaugh sat in Gordon’s chair. That left the rest of them to perch on cable spools. “So,” he said. “Let’s get to it . . . I’d like to stay and get a feel for the area—but I promised General Vale that I would join her for dinner at 1800 hours. Annoying, but that’s life.”
McKee got the feeling that Cavenaugh was anything but annoyed by the obligation and looking forward to dinner. Any dinner. But especially one that might help to advance his career.
“Yes, of course,” Gordon responded. “It’s my understanding that Andy is supposed to make a vid about Lieutenant McKee.”
“That’s one aspect of the situation,” Cavenaugh agreed judiciously. “But not the most important part of what we need to accomplish. I have a mission for Lieutenant McKee. A tricky mission, which, if successful, will help us to fully secure the planet. I trust both of you know who Chief of Chiefs Truthsayer is.”
“Yes,” McKee answered. Momentarily forgetting to say, “sir.” “He’s the one who sent warriors north to fight Chief Lifetaker’s alliance. They also attacked the village of Doothdown and the legionnaires stationed on this mesa.”
“That’s correct,” Cavenaugh agreed. “And you beat him fair and square.”
“No, sir. I wasn’t in command.”
“Ah, but according to official records, the strategy employed to beat him was yours. So you beat him fair and square. And that, according to Ms. Jivani here, means that you are qualified to negotiate with him. A lesser warrior couldn’t. Not according to Naa traditions.”
“I was given access to some relevant intelligence reports,” Jivani said. “The villagers who lived in Doothdown gave you the name Nofear Deathgiver. And it’s safe to assume that Truthsayer has heard of you by now.”
“Precisely,” Cavenaugh said. “So, here are your orders. You will take a mixed force of legionnaires and Naa south, find the chief of chiefs, and give him some gifts. Then you will invite the son of a bitch to come up and negotiate with us.”
McKee knew the mission was next to impossible. In order to carry out Cavenaugh’s orders, she’d have to enter territory that no legionnaire had visited before—and try to find a Naa who hated slick skins in general and her in particular. A suicide mission for sure. But she couldn’t say that. No legionnaire could. So McKee gave voice to the obvious question. “And if Truthsayer says, ‘No’?”
Cavenaugh had bushy eyebrows. They rose slightly. “In that case, it will be your duty to shoot him.”
McKee wanted to laugh or cry. She wasn’t sure which. If she caught up with Truthsayer, and that was a huge if, the Naa leader would be surrounded by bodyguards. And were she to so much as lift a finger against Truthsayer, she’d be dead within seconds. A possibility that didn’t seem to trouble Cavenaugh at all.
Then McKee realized that the government would score a propaganda coup either way. If she brought Truthsayer to the negotiating table, then so much the better. That’s the sort of thing heroes were supposed to do. And if she gave her life in an attempt to kill him, that would suit their purposes equally well. She could imagine the headline. “War hero dies in a valiant attempt to kill rebel leader.” With any luck, Andy would have time to upload video of the assassination attempt just before the machine was beaten to death. “I see, sir,” McKee said. “I like the first option better.”
Both men chuckled, but Jivani frowned. “With all due respect, Colonel . . . That’s a bad idea. If the lieutenant assassinates Truthsayer, that could start a war and make negotiations impossible.”
Cavenaugh frowned. “We are at war because Truthsayer decided to bring all of the southern tribes together under his totem. If we manage to kill him, the savages will turn on each other, and the alliance will disintegrate like wet cardboard. At that point, we can slice and dice the tribes as we see fit. Andy . . . Delete what I said.”
“Yes, Colonel,” the android said obediently. “Your comment was deleted.”
“I object,” Jivani said angrily.
“So noted,” Cavenaugh replied. “Although Andy will delete that, too.” The avuncular manner was gone now. “Listen carefully young lady . . . You were brought here to facilitate negotiations. Not to set policy. So do what you’re being paid for—and keep your personal opinions to yourself.
“Enough of that,” Cavenaugh said dismissively, as his gaze turned to McKee. “A contingent of Naa troops will arrive soon, and I trust that Major Gordon will provide you with some legionnaires. As for me, well, I have a three-hour flight to endure. Good hunting, Lieutenant. If anyone can complete this mission, you can.”
He left, with Gordon in tow. McKee and Jivani looked at each other, and ...
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Book Description Titan Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2014. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Now a platoon leader, Legionnaire Andromeda McKee seems to have successfully left behind her true identity of Lady Catherine iCati Carletto, one of the last two surviving members of the Carletto family targeted for death by Empress Ophelia. After missing her one shot at vengeance, Andromeda had been questioning her resolve. But now her uncle has been killed in a government raid back on Earth, leaving her as the Carletto familyis only chance for justice. As a legionnaire, Andromeda McKee has countless kills under her belt. But when faced with her greatest enemy, it will be Cat Carletto who has to pull the trigger on the one who really matters. Seller Inventory # AWC9781783290345
Book Description Titan Books, 2014. Paperback. Condition: New. In stock ready to dispatch from the UK. Seller Inventory # mon0000209029
Book Description Titan Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2014. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Now a platoon leader, Legionnaire Andromeda McKee seems to have successfully left behind her true identity of Lady Catherine iCati Carletto, one of the last two surviving members of the Carletto family targeted for death by Empress Ophelia. After missing her one shot at vengeance, Andromeda had been questioning her resolve. But now her uncle has been killed in a government raid back on Earth, leaving her as the Carletto familyis only chance for justice. As a legionnaire, Andromeda McKee has countless kills under her belt. But when faced with her greatest enemy, it will be Cat Carletto who has to pull the trigger on the one who really matters. Seller Inventory # AWC9781783290345
Book Description Titan Books, 2014. Paperback. Condition: New. Shipped from the UK within 2 business days of order being placed. Seller Inventory # mon0000105244
Book Description Titan Books Ltd. Paperback / softback. Condition: New. New copy - Usually dispatched within 2 working days. Seller Inventory # B9781783290345
Book Description Titan Books Ltd. Condition: New. Now a platoon leader, Legionnaire Andromeda McKee seems to have successfully left behind her true identity of Lady Catherine "Cat" Carletto. When the empress' ship crashes on a hostile planet and Andromeda is assigned to head up the rescue mission, she will finally come face to face with her greatest enemy. Num Pages: 320 pages. BIC Classification: FL. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 147 x 203 x 24. Weight in Grams: 234. . 2014. Paperback. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Seller Inventory # V9781783290345
Book Description Titan Books Ltd, 2014. Condition: New. Now a platoon leader, Legionnaire Andromeda McKee seems to have successfully left behind her true identity of Lady Catherine "Cat" Carletto. When the empress' ship crashes on a hostile planet and Andromeda is assigned to head up the rescue mission, she will finally come face to face with her greatest enemy. Num Pages: 320 pages. BIC Classification: FL. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 147 x 203 x 24. Weight in Grams: 234. . 2014. Paperback. . . . . . Seller Inventory # V9781783290345
Book Description Titan Books, 2014. Paperback. Condition: New. BRAND NEW ** SUPER FAST SHIPPING FROM UK WAREHOUSE ** 30 DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE. Seller Inventory # mon0001374971
Book Description Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # ST178329034X. Seller Inventory # ST178329034X
Book Description Paperback. Condition: New. Not Signed; Now a platoon leader, Legionnaire Andromeda McKee seems to have successfully left behind her true identity of Lady Catherine iCati Carletto, one of the last two surviving members of the Carletto family targeted for death by Empress Ophelia. After missing her one shot at vengeance, Andromeda had been. book. Seller Inventory # ria9781783290345_rkm