THE FALL OF FREEDOM
of the descendants of
Kenneth E. Ingle
Copyright 2014 by Kenneth E. Ingle, all rights reserved. No portion of this novel may be duplicated, transmitted, or stored in any form without the express written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and locations are fictitious or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or people is coincidental.
This book is dedicated to more people than I can mention here. I greatly appreciate all the compliments you have given. To my detractor’s, find something useful to do.
Special mention: To my newest Great-grandson, Sawyer
I owe a singular mention to Carolyn Williamson for a final read
Keeping track of a continuing series can sometimes leave a reader in a quandary. Following is a brief on the events that track mankind into space.
FIRST CONTACT: A laboratory explosion caused a dramatic change in eight DNA scientists—their normal life span increased over three hundred years. One hundred twenty more souls carry the long life gene as a result of blood transfusions. To avoid becoming lab rats, led by Maria Presk they leave Earth and make a home on 55 Cancri. There, they find a troika of aliens already claimed the planet.
SECOND CONTACT: For two hundred years, our spacefarers are firmly ensconced in their home, New Earth. However, forces on Old Earth are determined to have the long life gene and warred to get what they want. As a safeguard against losing what Maria Presk had started, President Jimmy John Jabari sent two-hundred fifty New Earth humans to a far distant planet from their home world to begin a life on New Hope.
THIRD CONTACT: Years later, war comes to New Hope. The planet is destroyed and only one man lives, Joshua Penrose, who also is the last surviving relative of Maria Presk. He is the sole carrier of the long-life gene. Circumstances prevail and to survive, Joshua becomes a pirate. Quite different, he doesn’t kill the crew of any ship he takes. Intelligent and determined, he amasses a fortune and starts a new life on the planet, Euterpe.
GALACTIC FREIGHTER: Emperor Sabastian gives Buck Fryman a blank check to arm his freighters and go after pirates that plague the commercial deep space freight haulers and cruise ships. Heavily armed and with a ram on the nose of his ship, he attacks pirates with gusto. Even the alien Kalazecis get involved. Buck also rediscovers the long-life gene.
That brings us to EUTERPE-THE FALL OF FREEDOM. Harmon Penrose, son of Joshua and Michelle Penrose, now leads the Penrose family and keeps the vision of First Contact alive.
I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I did the writing.
*EUTERPE in Greek mythology means “Giver of delight”.
Harmon Penrose, days earlier released from prison for raiding Braeden freighters, stood before his sister and four brothers in the family den surrounded by memories of their parents. A few vids of the Penrose family, many of different worlds, but mainly works of art chosen by their mother, took most of the wall space.
Having gained control of the anger that roiled in his gut, he faced them. Harmon regretted disrupting the lives of his family but there was no way they would have permitted him to leave without them. Braeden’s killing their mother and dad started a fire that even time couldn’t quench. To a person, they wanted revenge. That did bother him. Hate could destroy a person as surely as a gun. Virtually every world condemned the Kingdom of Braeden for hanging Michelle Penrose and demanded Harmon’s release. Braeden’s treatment of his father, hung without a trial, also brought condemnation.
With the room shielded against eavesdroppers, he told them what he had in mind—not without worry on his part. “What I did, raiding the three freighters, was no more than a stunt. But after the third, I knew what to do to really make our attacks worthwhile. We will hurt them where they are most vulnerable—their fish protein freighters.” Braeden’s prosperity stemmed largely from hauling Saragosa Prime and Namyacush processed fish products to many worlds that needed the protein.
That brought whistles and looks of doubt, but not one word was raised against the idea. Braeden fish freighters massed around ten million tons. They were the largest ships in space with crews of over one hundred. His sister and brothers had hounded him with plots to strike back, but he’d rejected every earlier idea, knowing all were emotional responses to quell their anger—their need to hurt Braeden. Hopefully, any aggressive action against the family would continue to cast Braeden in a bad light.
Harmon, as the eldest sibling, was generally seen as having many of his father’s characteristics: bright, daring, and cunning, assertive but not aggressive, yet unsympathetic to those hostile to him, his family, or those unable to defend themselves. Since his release from prison, he had anguished about retaliation against Braeden. The kingdom had a military fleet of over one thousand warships against his six corvettes, making the choices almost non-existent. Any action against Braeden meant risking the rest of his family to the fate of their parents. Even if he could connect with the eighteen Euterpe naval ships that had been off-orbit on various missions, their current fate unknown, when Braeden’s Eighth Fleet blockaded Euterpe, he would be outnumbered and outgunned.
Harmon’s flaming red hair, dark green eyes, lean form, tanned complexion, and strong foreboding jawline complemented the tempest that boiled inside him. Except for the hair, people said he resembled his mother. Friends called him bold, and enemies termed him ‘a scourge.’
“I’m not sure we can do much against Braeden, but we can accomplish nothing bottled up here on Euterpe.” Initially, Braeden had kept a close watch on the Penrose’s six corvettes and one hundred eighty Euterpe naval ships, but over time the blocking fleet’s attention became lax, haphazard.
“Braeden’s made the mistake we needed, putting our corvettes on high orbit.” Harmon gave the first smile he’d shown since his release—bringing similar responses from the family. On high orbit, the ships were more difficult to reach, or so Braeden’s navy thought. Joshua Penrose had the corvettes built with the latest technology, and then trained the children in the skills needed to captain the highly spirited vessels.
“We’ll get to the ships and make our escape, then set up a base of operations at a location neither Braeden nor anyone else knows about—just us. We’ll make Barbados, that’s the name dad gave the planet, our new home and raid Braeden’s commercial ships from there until we get mom and dad’s killers.” Determination replaced anger in his voice and, like his father, Harmon was at his most dangerous when driven by cold logic. All the siblings had the long-life gene, as did most of the population of the known galaxy. They’d have time to take their revenge.
“Where is this place?” Billy knew only too well that inhabitable planets were scarce and generally taken. The youngest sibling, he rivaled Harmon in intellect and the flaming color of his hair. All he lacked was experience, and if they lived long enough, his oldest brother would see that he got a good education—even if he were a raider on the run from the law.” It will need to be some place Braeden can’t reach us, yet where we can strike at them. That combination seems unlikely.” Braeden’s naval fleet was by far the largest and most powerful in the galaxy. Since agreeing to haul fish protein for Saragosa Prime, their commercial haulers had no rivals. They simply dominated space.
“There’s a planet on the far end of the Void.” Harmon smiled at his brother and activated the hologram.
The group studied it for a few moments.
“That’s New Hope isn’t it?” asked the tall, black-haired Jessica with a large dose of suspicion, leaving no question she doubted the wisdom of the choice. The only female in the Penrose clan, she could say things to Harmon where the brothers might be reluctant. “Won’t that be the first place they’ll look?” Nods from the others made it clear they had the same misgivings. New Hope, Joshua’s home world before Cullen destroyed it, remained no more than a cinder with most of the planet still unable to grow edible vegetation.
“Look again.” Harmon chuckled, and then focused a laser pointer on a dot well beyond New Hope. “Dad found this planet but never said anything about it. It’s so close to the Void that electronic navigation is impossible and far enough away from New Hope to minimize accidental discovery. He named the planet Barbados. Should keep us well hidden. Mention this to no one,” he cautioned with a look that said more than take care of whom you talk with and reminded them not everyone, even on Euterpe, favored their home world over Braeden.
One foot on a chair, elbow on his knee, chin resting in his cupped hand, he said, “Two Braeden ships disappeared well short of this location a few years ago—a carrier and a heavy cruiser, over ten thousand people lost. It’s off limits so they shouldn’t be poking around.”
It remained a mystery why Braeden didn’t board the corvettes on orbit above Euterpe and take the high tech secrets. Apparently, they thought only Marauder carried the sophisticated improvements. Later it became known the Federation warned Braeden without a declared war, the high court would consider boarding non-combatant ships an act of piracy. Such a declaration would close most ports to that world. Even with their overwhelming naval power, Braeden apparently was not willing to test the court or at least did not want the bad publicity—most likely the second. Joshua and Michelle’s hanging would continue to plague the powerful kingdom.
Euterpe had severed diplomatic relations between the two worlds and declared war on Braeden. That kingdom’s parliament did not see that a credible threat and had yet to ratify a declaration of their own. Still, Euterpe’s proclamation had provided Harmon with a legal fig leaf as he’d raided Braeden’s commercial ships until his capture at Mercer. Since the kingdom’s freighters hauled fish protein to most of the known worlds, that placed Euterpe at odds with Saragosa Prime as well.
Since Braeden’s Parliament had not ratified their declaration of war against Euterpe, Galactica’s court had ruled the taking of any Euterpe ship not engaged in a conflict would be an act of piracy. The Federation of Aligned Worlds sent a fleet to Euterpe to keep the peace. Despite their best efforts, it wasn’t successful as Braeden warships now orbited Euterpe in complete control. Only a ship with a fool as captain tried to run the cordon or so the relevant minds thought.
“You have a way to do this?” asked Jessica. “How?” Tall compared to most women, she carried herself with the air of self-assurance. She had her father’s height, but Michelle’s looks. The brothers called her ‘one tough broad,’ something she didn’t cultivate but never denied.
“It’s risky, but staying here isn’t an option,” Harmon said with force. They would make their way to the ships and leave Euterpe—for Barbados. Joshua Penrose had trained his children to pilot and navigate in space. This journey would test them all. Harmon didn’t see getting the family members to the on-orbit ships as much of a problem. Finding enough crewmembers willing to take the risk and get them to the six ships was. The second part he hadn’t figured out. If Braeden got word of his recruiting, that would end their hopes.
For the next few months, Harmon studied the movements of the Braeden fleet, in particular the supply and repair ships. Under the crowded conditions created above Euterpe, even when on a fixed orbit, a ship required a minimal crew. Those crews had to be his people on the six corvettes that would take them to Barbados. While new crews would be hard pressed to fly the ships, he remained convinced that they could escape Euterpe. Once free of the Braeden blockade, the family would give their crews detailed training. In Harmon’s mind, it was doable. It had to work.
Flights to the on-orbit ships for crew shift changes and resupply created the most havoc. That played into his idea of how to make his scheme work. Bribery, treachery, and manipulation of schedules, gave Harmon what he needed. As part of the normal crew replacement, over the next few days, the people needed to man the ships would make their final trips.
Harmon took his seat on the last evening shuttle up to Flicker. With his arrival, all of the Penrose ships were as ready to space as he could get them without alerting the blockading Braeden navy. Everything had to happen with precision. A cold military start was risky and would tax the Casimir engines to their maximum. Failure was a real possibility. Six corvettes, each with four engines, meant the probability of a malfunction would be high.
Aboard Flicker, Harmon made one last round, checking each crew station’s readiness before returning to the bridge. He studied the plot. The three Braeden ships assigned to guard the six corvettes had their engines on station-keeping and would take almost thirty minutes to bring them on line. The rest of the fleet would take a minimum of two hours to power up and get underway unless they dared a cold military start. Doing so would put their ships, as well as their careers, at risk, and few captains would take that chance.
Harmon did not attempt to communicate with his other ships. The prospects of Braeden detecting the transmission, even with a tight whisper beam comm increased the risk. If any last minute problem cropped up, each captain would have to deal with it as best he could.
Over the prior months, electronic technicians had satisfied Harmon that the six ships synchronized control systems would respond on command as one—even the slightest delay could doom their escape.
He touched an icon, sending a microburst signal, and all six ships were under control of their respective computers. At this point, even if Braeden detected the transmission, any actions they took would be too late.
He watched the chronometer tick off the seconds.
Thrusters fired, turning each ship to their collective escape heading. He took his chair, and the engines roared to life. He could imagine alarms on every Braeden ship within a billion kilometers screaming as the crews raced to general quarters. By the time the Braeden fleet spaced, the little Penrose armada would be out-system, and the prospects of any ship catching them remote. The deception had worked to perfection. The Penrose family was on the loose and ready to deliver retribution on Braeden.
“My god, Admiral. Don’t you realize what you’ve done?” Her face ashen, Missy glared at the head of her navy. “Hanging Joshua Penrose and his wife, Michelle—how could you be so stupid?”
Joshua, a direct descendant of Maria Presk who had led the first expedition into space, had given up pirating after founding Euterpe. His illicit career had come as a result of finding the abandoned Braeden corvette, Interdictor, claiming salvage rights and renaming it Marauder. According to salvage law in effect, this had been legal, but Braeden had seen the matter quite differently, demanding the ship’s return and pursuing Penrose. Joshua had done what he’d always done—found a way to survive and turned to pirating. His exploits, and there were many, became legendary.
Missy, formally Margaret Summers Day, had ascended the Braeden throne after Joshua’s actions had forced Victoria’s abdication. Second cousin to Rutherford, Braeden’s first monarch, Missy was the only other acknowledged blood relative and had taken the crown twenty years earlier.
Small in stature, but with a dynamic demeanor, she rose from her chair like a Belgorian tiger stalking its prey. In a slow measured pace, the queen walked around the great desk and fronted Braeden’s Fleet High Admiral Rogalford Hettinger, a man noted for self-promotion.
“My god, my god, my god.” Hands clasped to her face, she spoke in a quiet tone but one that snapped like a whiplash. Standing in front of the much taller man, fists now jammed on her waist, she said, “Your scandalous action will destroy everything we’ve worked so hard to create. We will pay a price for this stupid, vain act. Every decent world will condemn us. Moreover, the Penrose family will find some way to take revenge. All because of this illegal and senseless act.” Again, a breath of exasperation escaped her lips. She made no physical move toward the naval officer but her glare was enough that the man leaned backward.
“This is on your head, admiral. Your officer made no effort to contact Braeden before authorizing these heinous killings.” Few had ever seen the queen so angry. Even fewer knew how to respond, and those who did understood silence was the best answer.
The fleet high admiral stiffened at the rebuke, crushing his visor cap tucked under his left arm. Dressed in whites with all the adornments of his position, as was customary in a private audience with the queen, he said, “Madam, need I remind you the kingdom had an outstanding warrant against the pirate, and it states he was to be hanged. Any standing order from the throne we obey without delay, and based on that prior authorization, my officer did just that. The warrant was signed by Rochelle, no less.”
Missy stared as a studied look crossed her face. “Admiral, you knew Penrose was on New Las Vegas and dispatched that ship specifically to catch and kill this man and his wife.” She shook her finger at him. “How could you? Have you no sense of what’s right and wrong?” Missy’s glare riveted the officer. “We are not murderers. But that is what our enemies will say and I suspect our friends as well.”
After her husband Rutherford died, Rochelle had taken the throne and ruled with an iron fist. In turn, Princess Sophie, called Victoria, became queen following the death of her mother. Her time on the throne was considered the worst in Braeden’s history. Rochelle became the standard for any ruler. Following an officer rebellion, for the last twenty-T-years, something resembling peace had existed between Euterpe and Braeden. Even before the peace, when their national interests coincided, the two worlds had cooperated and joined forces on the diplomatic level as well as military—mostly military. Despite its small size and isolated location on the fringe of the explored universe, Euterpe had become the galaxy’s wealthiest world with its dominance of the silk industry and technology its scientists dreamt up. Even though he didn’t hold the title, Joshua Penrose had been the acknowledged leader of Euterpe.
Missy, hands clasped to the sides of her face, her bearing regal, studied an imaginary spot on the light blue Mackenzie rug. “We’ve already heard from the Federation and a number of other worlds. All have expressed their contempt toward Braeden.”
The admiral again stiffened, as if his height emphasized who and what he represented. He started to speak; “Madam....” Missy waved him quiet with the stab of her hand.
As Braeden’s sovereign, she met every standard for a competent ruler. Some called her a tyrant, others a resolute queen. Whichever description her subjects subscribed to, none doubted that Missy ruled Braeden, or that it had thrived on every level, economic, political, military, and social under her leadership. Braeden’s diplomatic and military powers in the Federation were second to none. And the Penrose fiasco threatened all of that.
Her hands slipped from cheeks crimson with anger and brushed across the frown that seemed frozen in place. “Admiral, I know little of his family. As I recall, there are five sons and a daughter. Harmon Penrose’s reputation is that he has proven every bit as resourceful as his father. He will find a way to come after us.”
The Euterpe fleet didn’t match Braeden’s in mass or numbers. Its reliance on speed, superior weaponry, superb strategy, and daring tactics couldn’t threaten Braeden’s dominance, but they made any confrontation challenging.
“From what I understand, the reaction of the fleet is more cautious than yours, admiral.” The monarch didn’t state her source. Little of what concerned Braeden escaped Missy’s attention. Anyone who dared lie or short the truth could expect the worst. One exception remained, the officers in deep space who were without close oversight. Some still resented the monarchy. “They believe Penrose will attack any commercial Braeden ship he encounters and just maybe a few of our naval vessels as well. If he can catch one napping, he’ll take it.”
“This Penrose will be no more of a problem than was his father.” Hettinger waved the hand now holding his cap, a clear insult to the queen. “He is in our custody, a prisoner in his own brig on Euterpe. The man is going nowhere. Seventh Fleet has a blockade on Euterpe that will keep the Penrose ships and Euterpe’s navy from space. Our numbers will see to that, and I put no credibility on these brothers and” he paused, “one woman.”
Missy shot him a withering look, and the admiral flinched, belatedly realizing his choice of words wouldn’t set well with his monarch. The last three rulers of Braeden, including her, were all female.
The admiral wasn’t ready to back down and offered no apology. “The stories of this Joshua Penrose’s exploits are just tales told in the bistros. Nothing more,” the admiral said, looking down on the queen, his manner defiant. “Seventh Fleet is under the command of one of our best fleet admirals, and I’m confident he will contain them.” That admiral was also a favorite of Missy and his loyalty was unquestioned. “No one on the planet, including Penrose, is going anywhere. Our navy has the matter contained. I see no reason to put the fleet on alert. It will only make us look foolish. We have heard the last of the Penroses.” Before becoming fleet admiral, Hettinger serving as naval attaché to Namaycush, distinguished himself in support of Saragosa Prime’s assertion of sovereignty over that world, and prevented a war. With communication between Namaycush and Braeden cut off, the admiral had to act without home world instructions. By the time Hettinger returned to Braeden, Missy’s claim to the throne was no longer a subject for debate and the telling of Joshua’s escapades became idle chatter. Appointed to his ambassadorial post by Victoria, Hettinger had never been involved in any acts against the queen or the throne.
“Admiral, I said earlier you were stupid, and I add to that, an ass.” She closed the gap between the two and looked up at him. “You are relieved of your command as of this moment.”
Hettinger bolted, or more correctly, his knees almost gave way. “Madam, you are badly mistaken.” The admiral raised his voice to emphasize the vituperative response to his accusation. Something even he knew, added insult to his actions. “The fleet will not stand still for this. You have misjudged this entire affair.”
The navy had the power to remove any ruler. Home fleet, under the direct control of the throne, lacked the ships and firepower to stand against the entire navy. A number of junior fleet officers had rebelled against the monarchy during Rochelle’s reign and apparently, the fleet admiral thought that enough still harbored that sentiment to give him the leverage to defy the queen. “You dare to challenge me, Admiral.” Missy’s head jutted forward as if to strike, her words no more than a whisper cut like a scythe, removing any veneer of past tolerance. “Who in the hell do you think you are?” she said, her voice rising. “You’re in that job because of a major screw-up by the admiralty, and the entire fleet knows it. You are confined to your quarters pending the convening of a court martial for the murder of Michelle Penrose.” Hands on her hips, Missy stepped toward the admiral with such force that he involuntarily took a step back. “Braeden will suffer the condemnation from every world that matters. I’m through with you. Now get out of here.” She spun and touched a desk icon, “Summon the privy high council for a meeting in one hour.” She smiled. The privy high council had officially ceased to exist when the constitutional monarchy became reality. She corrected herself and said to summon her cabinet. She then touched another icon without saying a word.
High Fleet Admiral Hettinger did not bow to the queen as he stomped from her office and came face-to-face with a waiting Marine. To the admiral’s consternation, Missy had anticipated this result.
She touched the blinking icon, a message appeared. The entire Penrose family, along with six corvettes had escaped Euterpe.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these opening pages from EUTERPE: THE FALL OF FREEDOM by Kenneth Ingle. You may read the entire novel, (available in HTML, PDF, ePub and Kindle/Mobi format) for only $3.99 by clicking the Buy Now button below. Processed by PayPal for your safety.