Command decision, p.1
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       Command Decision, p.1

           S. E. Smith
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Command Decision


  Command Decision:

  Project Gliese 581g

  Book 1

  By S.E. Smith

  Acknowledgments

  I would like to thank my husband Steve for believing in me and being proud enough of me to give me the courage to follow my dream. I would also like to give a special thank you to my sister and best friend, Linda, who not only encouraged me to write, but who also read the manuscript. Also to my other friends who believe in me: Julie, Debbie, Sally, Jolanda, and Narelle. The girls that keep me going!

  —S.E. Smith

  Montana Publishing

  Science Fiction

  Command Decision: Gliese 581g Book 1

  Copyright © 2016 by Susan E. Smith

  First E-Book Published April 2016

  Cover Design by Melody Simmons

  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission from the author.

  All characters, places, and events in this book are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations are strictly coincidental.

  Summary: An unlikely Navy commander is given a new mission in space, one that he might not return from.

  ISBN: 978-1-942562-71-9 (Paperback)

  ISBN: 978-1-942562-72-6 (eBook)

  Published in the United States by Montana Publishing.

  {1. Science Fiction Romance. – Fiction. 2. Science Fiction – Fiction. 3. Fantasy – Fiction. 4. Romance – Fiction.}

  www.montanapublishinghouse.com

  Synopsis

  In a world gone crazy, it is often the humans who are at fault, seeking answers to questions we are not yet ready to understand...

  Lieutenant Commander Joshua Manson’s focus was on his career which has taken him to many places; just not the one he has always dreamed of going – into space. His sometimes controversial methods during missions gives him the reputation of being a soldier who doesn’t always play by the rules.

  A summons to Washington, D.C., after a challenging mission, leaves him questioning if he’ll have a career at all; but once there, Josh is surprised when he is offered the chance of a lifetime, to command a mission in space to investigate an unknown object. The more he learns, the more determined he is to lead it, even if it means a one way ticket.

  Cassa de Rola’s family has lived for centuries in the quiet valley where they farm. Her family has tried to remain untouched by the growing unrest between the intergalactic military forces fighting for control over their planet. All of that changes when an unusual object falls from the sky and Cassa finds a strange male in the container. She knows that taking him in will endanger the lives of everyone close to her, but she can’t leave him defenseless. Now, the military forces on both sides want to discover the origins of the container and its missing contents.

  When the fight between the Legion and the Gallant Order escalates to all-out war, a new rebel leader emerges from the stars that will change the galaxy, and Cassa’s life, forever.

  Table of Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  About S. E. Smith

  Prologue

  Twenty Years earlier:

  Kennedy Space Center: Florida

  Joshua Manson stood on the stands across from the launch pad in stunned disbelief. His gaze was frozen on the sky above him. Tears suddenly burned his eyes. They weren’t caused by the brilliant sun or the chilled wind trying to cut through his jacket, though. No, the burning in them had to do with the unusual trail that followed the liftoff that was supposed to take his dad into space for the last time.

  At almost eighteen, he and his dad might have had the occasional clash of wills; well, maybe more than an occasional one, but the fact remained that he had never missed one of his dad’s launches. Even the fight they had last night over whether Josh should finish college before enlisting in the military hadn’t prevented him from coming to silently support his father.

  His dad wanted him to finish his degree first, and then join the Navy. Josh wanted to enlist in the Army at the same time as his best friend, Ashton Haze, so they could still do things together. It had been a stupid fight.

  Josh really didn’t know what even started it. It was like a red flag had flashed in front of his face when his dad started talking on the phone last night. He had argued with his dad about everything. Now, he wished he could take back his angry words; words he hadn’t really meant. Pain pierced him at the thought. He stared at the sky with a growing sense that his mind was playing tricks on him.

  “I’m so sorry,” a voice whispered behind him.

  Josh remained stunned, nodding his head in acceptance of the sympathy even though the words couldn’t penetrate what his mind was acknowledging. The Space Shuttle was gone, exploding in a fiery ball leaving spiraling ice crystal contrails in its wake as it fell into the ocean below. The sounds of crying echoed around him.

  He jerked when he felt a hand on his arm. Blinking in an effort to focus, he saw a staff member of NASA security standing beside him, a grim expression on the man’s face. The man said something, but Josh’s mind couldn’t decipher what he was saying. It wasn’t until the man repeated his request that Josh nodded in understanding.

  “Follow me.”

  Josh moved numbly down the narrow steps of the bleachers, his gaze darting to the fading remnants of the shuttle’s last path. Other family members of the crew were being guided to a large bus. He waited as several people entered ahead of him before he climbed the steps, almost choking on the heat inside the bus.

  Sliding into a vacant seat, he stared out of the tinted windows. His father was gone. The last member of his family. He was alone in the world except for his best friend, Ash. His gaze jerked down when he felt his cell phone buzz. He flipped the top and looked at it, recognizing Ash’s phone number. Pressing the connect button, he held it to his ear.

  “Is it true, man?” Ash asked in a slightly husky tone.

  “Yes,” Josh replied in a tight voice.

  “I’m sorry,” Ash finally replied with a sigh. “I’m here for you.”

  “I know,” Josh muttered, looking down so he didn’t see the long line of cars and the people standing around talking about what just happened. “Thanks.”

  “I mean it,” Ash said bluntly.

  “I know,” Josh replied, closing his eyes. “I’ll talk to you later.”

  “’Kay,” Ash said. “Hang in there.”

  Josh pushed the red button. He could feel the reaction of shock hit him like a rogue wave. Opening his eyes, he stared out at the launch pad’s skeletal tower standing in the distance. His dad loved being an astronaut. He had once told Josh that there was nothing like seeing the earth from above to give you an appreciation for just how alone and isolated we were in the vastness of space. Right now, that space felt big, scary, and lonely to Josh.

&n
bsp; “Goodbye,” Josh murmured when the first wave of real grief hit him. “Aw, shit. I love you, dad. I hope you knew that. I love you,” he choked out, closing his eyes when a fierce wave of pain swept through him.

  Chapter 1

  Ten Years later:

  Outside Flagstaff, Arizona:

  “Dad, do you need anything else?” Julia Marksdale asked as she stepped into the Observatory.

  “No, thank you. I have everything I need at the moment,” Harry Marksdale replied in an absent-minded voice.

  Julia shook her head and sighed. For the last week, her father had been distracted. She chuckled when she saw that he had placed the remains of his sandwich in his coffee cup by mistake instead of on the plate. He was bent forward over the computer in front of him, studying it with a frown.

  “What’s wrong?” She asked, walking forward to stand behind him.

  Julia watched as her father rubbed a hand down his face and leaned back to gaze up at her through blurry eyes. He shook his head and released a tired sigh. She reached out and touched his shoulder when he closed his eyes for a moment.

  “I’m not sure,” he admitted in a tired voice, slowly opening his eyes to look up at her. “It could be nothing. I need to take more photographs and check them.”

  “Are you still studying the Gliese system?” Julia asked, pulling a small, metal, folding chair closer to the table where several different computers were hooked up.

  “Yes,” Harry replied as he gave Julia a distracted smile before he turned to study her for a moment. “You look so much like your mother when she was your age.”

  Julia resisted the urge to roll her eyes like she used to do when she was a teenager. He had been saying things like that more frequently. She was beginning to think that the lack of sleep was making him a touch loopy.

  At twenty-two, she was used to being the one to take care of him. Her mother left them when she was ten. Living in the desert outside of Flagstaff, Arizona was not the place her mother - Carry Marksdale wanted to spend the rest of her life. The fact that her father spent more time gazing at the stars than he did at his wife didn’t help matters. When her mom gave her the choice of going or staying, Julia stayed. She loved the desert and the stars as much as her dad. In the end, she suspected her mother was relieved, because the only time Julia ever heard from her mom was on her birthday.

  “So, what are you studying so intently?” Julia asked instead, glancing at the fuzzy images on the screen.

  Harry glanced back at the monitor and frowned. “I’m not sure,” he admitted. “It may be nothing. I have a new telescope coming, so I hope that it will help.”

  Julia raised her eyes to the old fourteen inch Cassegrain telescope. It was currently the largest telescope her father owned. The other two were a smaller eight inch and a refractor. They were each housed in separate smaller observatories on the property.

  “I’ll help you set it up tomorrow night after I finish with the class I’m teaching,” Julia said with a smile. “How much more do you have to do tonight? I was going to fix some dinner.”

  Harry glanced at the computer screen with a sigh before he smiled at Julia. For a moment, she saw his eyes glaze over as he lost himself back in whatever he was thinking before they cleared. The crooked smile told her that she had won the battle with the stars this time.

  “I’ll be up in a few minutes,” he promised with an affectionate grin. “I just need to check the everything one last time before I come in.”

  Julia rose out of the chair and bent to brush a kiss across her father’s forehead. With a sigh, she picked up the remains of his lunch in the stale coffee. A soft chuckle escaped her when she saw a grimace flash across his face.

  “If you aren’t, I’ll be back,” she said with a shake of her head. “I love you, dad.”

  “I love you, too, honey,” Harry absently replied, already lost in what he was doing.

  Julia glanced at the computer screen once more, a frown creasing her brow. Her dad was an excellent astronomer. He not only taught astronomy and ran the planetarium program with the undergraduates at Northern Arizona University; he had an impressive private set up. She had recently finished her PhD in Astronomy and Physics, taught classes at NAU and volunteered at the Lowell Observatory. Her love of the universe had been nurtured by the fascinating stories her father told her as she was growing up.

  “I’ll see you in a few minutes, dad,” she said again.

  *.*.*

  Harry stared at the images he had on the screen before his gaze moved to the glossy pictures he had printed out earlier. He had already forgotten his promise to Julia to not be very long. Picking up the eyepiece he used to magnify the objects on the paper in front of him, he leaned forward and looked at the smudge on the photograph. He did the same with the other hundred pictures he had taken over the last several months.

  “Tomorrow, I’ll have a better chance of seeing what you are,” he whispered, sitting back and staring at the computer screen.

  Rising stiffly out of the chair when his stomach growled, he turned toward the door. He would come back after dinner for a few hours. The telescope and camera were already set up. All he would need to do tomorrow was process the images.

  He paused at the doorway of the observatory, his gaze drifting back one more time to the images. There was something out there, something unnatural that wasn’t supposed to be there. He could feel it in his gut. He just needed more proof.

  *.*.*

  Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

  Eight years later:

  Lieutenant Commander Joshua Manson tucked his hat under his arm as he entered the Pentagon’s main entrance and passed through the rigid security. There would be several more security checkpoints before he reached his destination. Security continued to be tightened as the war against terrorism escalated; a war that he had recently experienced first hand.

  He kept his gaze straight as he continued down the corridor, turning right at the main intersection. He walked past the Administrative Assistant Offices of the Army, noting the changes that had been made in the last year. A quick glance at his watch told him he would still make it to his meeting on time. His gaze briefly swept over the different personnel that he passed in the corridors, but he didn’t recognize anyone. Turning right, he soon found himself in front of a set of stairs that would take him down several flights.

  The constant renovations at the Pentagon made the journey to the Navy’s side of the building a challenge. He had given up trying to memorize the interior layout. Every time he thought he had it down, he would discover that the new commander in charge would order changes. It was nothing for a stairwell to abruptly end or a corridor to lead to nowhere.

  “Josh,” a voice called out behind him.

  Josh turned and he saw a familiar face. His eyebrow lifted as he waited. Ashton “Ash” Haze strode down the corridor toward him with a worried expression on his face. The sinking feeling in the pit of Josh’s stomach started to grow. If Ash was worried, then that meant everyone should be concerned. Ash was known for his “no worries, be happy” personality.

  “What are you doing here?” Josh asked when Ash stopped in front of him. “I thought you were home on leave.”

  “I was, but I received a call to come here,” Ash replied with a shrug. “I thought with the investigation over things would settle down.”

  Josh’s mouth tightened into a straight line. “So had I,” he responded lightly, turning back in the direction he was heading. “You never did tell me why you’re here.”

  Ash shrugged. “Admiral Greenburg’s Assistant sent a notice. There was no explanation, just that I grace the Admiral with my charming presence. I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life, most of them from following you, but disobeying a direct order from an Admiral is not one of them,” he retorted with an easy grin. “What about you? I expected you to be doing latrine duty after the way Captain Horne ripped you apart.”

  “Us… He ripped both of us apart. I wasn
t the only one he was threatening, remember?” Josh replied with a grin before it faded. “He understands that we had no choice in the matter. Our mission was to protect the plane that we were escorting and we did.”

  “That still doesn’t mean it didn’t cause an international incident,” Ash replied dryly as they turned left before making an immediate right into the Administrative Offices for the Navy.

  Josh nodded before opening the door. His mind flashed back to the recent investigation that had grounded him and Ash. They had been providing a military escort for a group of dignitaries when two fighters appeared on their radar. Repeated efforts to warn the fighters to turn away had proven fruitless, so he and Ash had engaged. The fighters had been stolen from an undisclosed military base in Saudi Arabia. The issue came up when the news blasted it all over the world that the United States had attacked two allied military fighters.

  It would have been nice if the media could have given the whole story instead of one that would create the most controversy so they could sell ad time, Josh thought bitterly.

  His and Ash’s life had been on hold for the past six months while the investigation was underway. To hide the lapse in security, the true details of the findings were sealed. Unfortunately, until the Senate released the final findings, he and Ash were both grounded.

  Stepping up to the front desk, Josh handed the woman behind it his security badge. She swiped it before reaching for the one Ash was holding out. She was silent for several long minutes as she stared at the computer screen in front of her before she gave them a brief, polite smile.

  “I will let the Admiral’s assistant know that you are here,” she said. “Please have a seat.”

  Josh gave her a curt nod while Ash sent her one of his easy – I’m-pleased-to-meet-you – ones. The woman pointedly ignored Ash’s flirtatious grin and returned to whatever she was doing before they came in. Ash’s pained expression drew a smirk from Josh. He hadn’t missed the faint white line around the third finger of the woman’s left hand or the slightly hostile look in her dark brown eyes.

 
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