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Cover Art by Angelina Onofrio, and special thanks to her for her fine work. Angelina is a true pleasure to work with, and I recommend her to all my author friends for cover art (and other art, as well.) She can be contacted at artbyangelina.onofrio@gmail.com.

Prologue


I have always found ships to be majestic things. As a boy, while my father moved us around the galaxy, I would marvel at the most modest of the spacefaring ships, whatever I could see from any window lining the dock concourses of any port we were on. I suppose it has been much the same way with boys and ships, even from the time ships were sail-driven across the oceans of Old Earth. Then-- as now, I'm sure-- the boys who grew up in awe of ships became the men who sailed on them to new worlds. But the men who built those ships to cross oceans could never have imagined what I had seen, that day, standing at the docks of my duty station.

I watched, completely dumbstruck, as Alliance Military Ship StarFire came in, a truly awesome thing to behold. In just volume and mass, she more than equaled any fabricated space station I had ever visited. She carried a battle complement in excess of 3,000 sailors and marines. Fully 2,100 of those were combat-skill personnel, with weapons and combat-related primary posts. More than a battleship, she was a planet-killer and a fleet-destroyer, without equal in the known universe. The pride of the Alliance Fleet, and the first of three Star-class battleships already contracted for, she showed us the future, the direction the Alliance Navy had chosen. And this base, my duty station, became her first port of call outside the Galactic Core. A lot of us had turned out to watch her come in.

In space there's often not a lot to lend perspective to what you see. StarFire actually maintained a very high approach velocity, but her size made her appear to be much closer than she actually was. As a result, she seemed to move at a snail's pace. Most of us watched her all the way in, anyway. That sort of spectacle gave a man a sense of pride, of belonging to something big, something significant. As she came closer, that feeling grew as the perception of her size grew, until she approached close enough that the true scope of her mass dwarfed everything else in sight. It felt like watching a moon drifting slowly in on a collision course.

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