Prologue for "A Road of Honor"

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The message raced across space, its information encrypted with Fleet Intelligence’s highest cipher. Forwarded from station-to-station, its importance moved it ahead of all others, the communiqué reached its destination. The medical teams aboard the giant space station, after the message arrived, snapped into action.

A single small, unmarked vessel popped out of h-space. Gray and non-descript, it was larger then a shuttle but smaller then a courier ship. Aboard the craft, its pilot skillfully docked it with the station.

The airlock on the vessel cycled and the medical teams rushed aboard. A single stasis chamber stood alone in the craft’s passenger compartment. Inside the impersonal, artificial peace of the stasis field, a young woman’s body floated. Unaware of the bustle around her, the woman’s unconscious form slept on.

A single doctor observed the organized chaos. Inside his pocket was an old-style pen that served a dual role as a good luck charm and stress relief. He pulled it out of his pocket and chewed on it while the orderlies wheeled the stasis chamber past. His lucky pen was in danger of being chewed in two as the orderlies passed.

“Take her straight to surgery,” he said. “Everything is prepped.”

Another man approached while the orderlies hurried past. While the doctor’s attention was diverted, he observed everything carefully. Three years had gone into the effort to find a host for their experiments, and he was pleased with the development. The young woman would be perfect she had no family and was an orphan.

And the fact that she is a former gladiator slave is an added plus, he thought. It means no one in our circles will know who she is.

“Doctor Matthews,” he said. “I trust you have everything in place?”

“Oh, Admiral Reyes!” Matthews said. “Yes, everything is ready for her surgery.”

“Just remember to implant the items we discussed, Doctor,” Reyes said. “I don’t want one hundred million credits of my black-bag money able to ‘get off the ranch.’”

“She won’t go anywhere you don’t want her to,” Matthews said. “Not unless you want her to!”

“Good,” Reyes said. “Now that we’re in
complete understanding, go take care of your patient.”

“Yes, Admiral!”
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