Gladiator_cover_final

1.I am a retired Marine infantry colonel and now a full-time writer living in North Las Vegas, Nevada with my wife Kiwi and twin baby girls, Danika Dawn and Darika Marie.

I published my first work back in 1978, a so-so short story titled "Secession." Since then, I have been published in newspapers, magazines, and in book format in fiction, political science, business, military, sports, race relations, and personal relations fields. I returned to writing fiction in 2009, and I currently have over 75 titles published, 44 being novels. My novelette, "Weaponized Math," was a finalist for the 2017 Nebula Award, "Fire Ant" was a finalist for the 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novella, and "Integration" was a finalist for the 2018 Dragon Award for Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel.

My undergraduate degree was earned at the U. S. Naval Academy (Class of 1979), and I have attended graduate school at U. S. International University and the University of California, San Diego, earning a masters and doctorate. I am a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the US. Naval Academy Alumni Association, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America where I'm serving as the chairman of SFWA Ed, our professional education program.

Gladiator by Jonathan P. Brazee

1.United Federation Marine Lance Corporal Tamara Veal catches the attention of recruiters who nominate her to serve as a Single Combat Specialist. Gladiators, as they are better known, are genetically modified human champions who meet Klethos d'relle in the combat ring when the Klethos issue a challenge for a human world. Win, and the planet stays in human possession; lose, and not only do they lose their lives, but the world as well. With the Klethos much more advanced and militarily powerful, able to defeat humanity in an all-out war, the challenge ring is the only way to retain at least some of the worlds of man.

While life as a gladiator is full of celebrity status and the gratitude of humanity, it comes with a heavy price. Not only is there the real risk of death in the ring, if a gladiator survives that, the "Brick," or Boosted Regeneration Cancer, will claim her life within a few years.

Lance Corporal Veal, who has found a home in the Marines, has to decide whether to accept the nomination. She would have to leave her brothers and sisters in the Corps, be assigned to the combined human gladiator course, and undergo extreme genetic modification that will leave her almost unrecognizable from the woman she was before. Becoming a gladiator will enable her to serve humanity to a far greater extent than anything else she could do as a Marine grunt, but at a tremendous personal cost.

 

REVIEWS

  • 1."Col. Brazee has outdone himself with this one. This the best book of any kind that I have read in a long time. He created superb characters with real feelings and real interactions. The story grabs you and won't let go. Semper Fi indeed."

    – Amazon Review
  • "Great storytelling and world building. Makes the worlds of the gladiators so rich and full, you could see it in a few words. No spoilers, but the combat scenes were terrific, dances of death and danger."

    – Amazon Review
  • "I loved this story! Beginning to end. It is brutally honest and the main character is really flushed out. The ending is perfect. It is a very, very rare comment from me regarding an end to a book. I read about 3-5 novel a week so I do not write reviews, let alone a glowing one like this, unless the book is special. This book is special and so is the author."

    – Amazon Review
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

"You look great, Tamara, great. Nothing has changed since you asked me last."

Tamara thought she did look great. She loved her hair, of course, and the gold and black shark suit looked striking. The shark suit, or fighting suit (no one knew why they were called shark suits) was a tight, form-fitting, full-body suit. With pressurized lattice-wear, it helped to contain bleeding and tissue damage from sword strikes. It traded armor for mobility. Early gladiators had more overt armor, more in line with what the d'relle wore, but that had gradually shifted to the tight shark suit Tamara now wore.

The suit had not given up on all armor, though. Using the same technology as in a Marine's "bones," the fabric itself immediately formed crystal-like structures that served to deflect oblique blade strikes, to immediately "de-crystalize" a fraction of a second later. This gave some protection without affecting mobility to any noticeable degree.

Another feature of the shark suit was that it left nothing—nothing—to the imagination. Every curve, every nuance of a gladiator's body was revealed. The first time she'd put on her fitted suit, the Orinoco girl in her had almost been mortified. She hadn't considered herself a prude, but with three technicians swarming over her, taking readings, touching her, she'd been highly embarrassed. It had taken her a bit of time to get over that. She'd sacrificed so much for this body, she realized, and she shouldn't be ashamed of it.

Some kind soul from the terraforming staff had put a full-length (normal human full-length) mirror screen in the room, but by stepping back, Tamara could get a good look at herself. She made a few combat movements, studying her image.

Yeah, I guess I do look pretty good.

Looks shouldn't matter; she was here to fight and win. But she was still human, and her appearance did matter to her. Idly she wondered if her image would make the cybernet rounds. She'd have to win this fight, of course, first, but the paramours and gladgeeks who collected images could be pretty tough judges.

"Tamara, the d'relle and her entourage are on their way, about five minutes out," Lester said as he stepped into the dome.

Tamara had finally gotten him to call her by her first name instead of "Miss Veal." He was actually a pretty good handler, all things considering. He looked young, and if her sex drive was still in working order, he had the looks that probably would have elicited a response from her. Tamara knew he probably had about five Ph.D.'s in psychiatry and psychology and whatever—almost everyone who had any contacts with gladiators were highly educated and trained—but his manner made it was easy to forget that and think of him as a younger brother.

"I guess we're a go, then," she said to Jonna. "You've got my—"

"Yes, I've got your weapon," Jonna answered, picking up the sword case. "It's my only job here, so I'm pretty much on top of it."

"You've got another job, girl. So, come do it and give me a hug."

Jonna stepped up and into Tamara's arms. Tamara squeezed her friend tight, thankful for the comforting contact.

"You're going to do fine," Jonna whispered in her ear.

Tamara held the hug for about 10 seconds longer than was comfortable, then broke it off.

"Lead on, Sir Lester," she told her handler.

The moment she left the dome, her attitude changed. From the calm woman inside the dome, which had kept her from burning nervous energy, she started to focus. She could feel her body come alive, a wonderful machine that would eviscerate any d'relle who dared to stand before her.

You're a lean, green, fighting machine. You're a lean green, fighting machine . . .

Her mantra took over, the rhythm honing her nerves. With every step, she felt more powerful and deadly.

You're a lean, green, fighting machine. You're a lean green, fighting machine . . .

Ahead of her, all 800 or so of the humans in this sector of the planet were waiting for her. A cheer broke out as she came into view, but that barely registered.

This was a far cry from New Budapest and the hundreds of thousands that had been there to watch Marta's fight. Tamara's fight would be broadcast throughout human space, of course, but here, at the scene, she had no Spectacula, no fans. Civilians were not allowed on the planet. The 800 terraforming staff and 100 or so UAM staff would make up the observers. And of course, the 20 gladiator witnesses. As Tamara walked up the slope to the camp's small LZ, where the ring had been constructed, the gladiators came into view. Tamara saw them with her peripheral vision, but she refused to catch any of their eyes.

You're a lean, green, fighting machine. You're a lean green, fighting machine . . .

She stepped into the ring and stood there, feeling the consistency and footing. As usual, the ring was filled with 12 centimeters of packed sand, but as all planets are different, the sand could vary. Tamara slid her feet forward and back. This was pretty good, she realized, close to the main practice rings on Malibu. Tamara liked her footing firm, unlike Jonna who liked a "slipperier" ring.

You're a lean, green, fighting machine. You're a lean green, fighting machine . . .

Tamara's nerves almost started singing in a counterpoint to her mantra. She felt more alive at that moment than she'd ever felt in her life, which had its own irony because she could be dead in ten minutes. Still, that didn't seem possible. She was invincible!

The devil's advocate in her tried to surface. Over-confidence was a recipe for disaster. A lack of confidence was even worse, but a true warrior tried to balance the two. Tamara knew that over-confidence was winning out at the moment, and she just accepted it, going with the flow.

You're a lean, green, fighting machine. You're a lean green, fighting machine . . .

Motion to her right signaled the arrival of the d'relle and her team. Tamara stared straight ahead refusing to look at her, but she could still see this d'relle had, at least, a dozen other Klethos with her. Differences between a d'relle and a normal Klethos soldier were minor, but it looked to Tamara that at least three of the other Klethos might be d'relle as well. She'd find out after the fight, though. It was hard for her to tell without really looking at them, and she was keeping her eyes locked to the front.

Her opponent stepped into the ring and immediately launch into her challenge screech and lunge. She barely waited any time at all before launching into her haka.

You're a lean, green, fighting machine. You're a lean green, fighting machine . . .

Now, Tamara paid attention. She watched the movements of her opponent, looking for anything that might help her. This d'relle was more graceful than most, and her movements lacked many of the strength-type moves. She twirled and spun, all four arms intertwining in continual motion. Her sword looked the same as any other d'relle weapon, but it didn't sing through the air as had Marta's opponent's. It was more as if it was slipping through the air instead of cleaving through it.

With ten or twelve blindingly quick pirouettes, the d'relle kicked up a small cloud of dust before landing back in the challenge pose, one foot stretched out and pointing at Tamara.

You're a lean, green, fighting machine. You're a lean green, fighting machine, she thought one last time.

The time for mantras was over.

Tamara had thought long and hard about her haka. Some gladiators tried to mislead the d'relles by performing a haka in a style opposite of her fighting style. Other's tried to create the most exciting haka, hoping to strike uncertainty in her opponent. Tamara rather thought that was over-thinking it. She doubted that it really mattered other than as a formal acceptance of the challenge. So, she decided to honor the people from whose culture the word haka had come. She would do her version of a Maori haka.

With a shout, she jumped into the center of the ring, centimeters from her opponent. She stuck out her tongue as she squatted, legs bent and spread. Slapping her hands on her thighs, she then raised her hands high before slapping them down again.

"Prepare your feet! Stamp with fury and gusto!" she shouted, slapping her thighs in time with her words.

It is death, it is death.

It is life, it is life!

Behold the hairy woman

Who reigns in the sun

And so it shines

Tamara started twisting her body, right arm flexed, the left reaching around to slap at the first arm's elbow.

Arise, arise

Rise up to the heights of the rising sun

She flung her arms up, still keeping the beat with her stomping feet.

It is death, it is death.

It is life, it is life!

I'm going to die. I'm going to die.

I'm going to live! I'm going to live!

She held her left arm high, bent at the elbow as she held her right arm straight and down at a 45-degree angle, turning her head to look down that arm.

Because I am so strong,

I will bring back the sunny days of peace.

Up the step! Up the step!

I'm making progress to prolong the sunny days of peace!

Tamara slapped her chest, stomped harder and faster, and stopped, still only centimeters from her opponent, who hadn't moved a muscle.

For the first time, Tamara seemed to take notice of her opponent. She leaned in closer to the d'relle, canted her head, and the best warrior face she could muster, yelled out at the top of her lungs.

After a moment, she casually stood up, turned as if not aware of the d'relle anymore, and walked back to the edge of the ring. The crowd behind her erupted, which Tamara barely noted. She turned back to face her opponent and held her right hand behind her. A second later, she felt the hilt of her mameluke slap firmly in her hand. She paused only a moment, then with one more shout, fell into the challenge lunge.

Nothing she had done had been normal procedure, and it had been a far cry from the haka she'd shown the staff at Chicsis. She'd danced the haka without her weapon. She'd stopped within range of her opponent, and then casually sauntered back, exposing her back, before she finished her final lunge. Tamara knew she'd hear about it if she survived the bout, but she'd figured she was safe until she'd finished the haka with the challenge acceptance lunge and shout. And since she was still alive, she'd obviously been right.

The d'relle slowly stood up, then started twirling her sword in an intricate pattern. Tamara almost smiled. While patterns like these looked good in the Hollybolly flics, patterns were a warrior's enemy. An opponent can read the patterns and plan an attack. However, a pattern can lull an opponent into a sense of complacency so that a quick change in the pattern can catch the opponent off-guard. Tamara vowed that would not happen to her.

The d'relle almost casually advanced to Tamara, all the time her sword moving, twirling. Tamara watch her, though, not the sword. A sword never telegraphed what it was going to do next, but a swordsman did. Tamara had studied enough recordings of d'relles in action to be fairly confident in her abilities to watch and understand the tells. The problem with a d'relle was that even with an obvious tell, the d'relle could be just too quick and too powerful to do anything about the action, even knowing it was coming.

Tamara was not going to wait for her opponent to take any more of the initiative. With a short lunge, she executed a vertical parry, not expecting to gain any advantage, but more to interrupt her opponent. To her surprise, the d'relle immediately backed up, then began another different pattern of almost lazy sword movement.

If she was really that hidebound, she would be easy pickings for Tamara, but Tamara refused to fall into what had to be a trap. No warrior could be that vulnerable, and d'relles didn't have a reputation of being easy pickings.

The d'relle began to move in again, but there seemed to be a slight a degree of uncertainty to her pattern. Tamara was just beginning to accept that this d'relle might not be experienced when the slightest tell alerted her instincts before her mind realized what was happening. At the height of the swirling pattern, the d'relle reversed the swing to slash down at Tamara. If she'd done it an instant before, she might have scored, but the extra height of the d'relle's arm gave Tamara just enough time to parry the slash down and riposte. She'd hoped to hit the d'relle at the juncture of her sword arm, but her opponent ducked lower, and Tamara's blade slashed through the flesh and tendons of the smaller upper left arm. It would be painful, and given time, the loss of blue blood would weaken her, but it was hardly a killing blow.

Take the initiative! she admonished herself.

Except for Bertie, who calmly parried whatever Tamara threw at her, Tamara scored more wins by her relentless attacks than through fancy skills.

Tamara pressed forward, driving the d'relle back. Her opponent had given up the swirling patterns and had reverted to the defense, parrying each blow Tamara sent her way.

Tamara had not fully committed yet as she felt out the d'relle's defense while still maintaining her own. A too aggressive attack could leave her open to a deadly riposte. She had to be aware of not only what was her best offense, but what the d'relle was doing.

Even after admonishing herself about being too aggressive, that was almost her undoing. The d'relle stumbled, and in her eagerness to take advantage of that, Tamara leaped into an attack. Leaped, not lunged, a cardinal sin in sword fighting. It might look dramatic in the flicks, but a swordsman did not leave her feet—ever. There was no way to change direction in the air, no way to control movement until back down on the ground. Luckily, the d'relle's riposte missed her leading thigh, and Tamara was able to counter her opponent's second intention. No serious harm done due to her breach of training, she quickly gathered herself to fight as she was taught, not like some Hollybolly superhero.

She almost forgot, though, that the sword was not a d'relle's only weapon, and that could have been fatal. The d'relle's sword tip drifted too high, and Tamara moved in for the kill when unbelievably quick, the d'relle's right leg snapped out at her belly. At the last instant, Tamara twisted so that the large claws grazed her hip, but not with enough of a connection to spin her around. Tamara immediately wrapped her left arm around the leg and pulled forward. The already extended d'relle gave a screech, too close to use the point of her sword. Incredibly, she hopped on her right leg, which was almost bent under her, preparing to launch a kick up into Tamara's unprotected crotch.

The d'relle was too close to use the point of her weapon, and that meant Tamara was, too. But a mameluke had a long, sharp edge. She yanked the d'relle closer, so the kick she unleased didn't have time to generate too much power, and the shin connected instead of the deadly claw. It still slammed Tamara, but not with enough force to do any damage. And now, the d'relle was completely exposed. Tamara was not in position to generate an executioner's stroke, but she managed to bring the forward curve of her mameluke to the base of the d'relle's neck, and as if cutting carrots in her kitchen, simply pushed forward, letting the sharp edge bite into the d'relles neck, slicing a good five or six centimeters into muscle and nerves. And an artery.

Blue blood spurted out, covering Tamara as the d'relle screamed and struggled, kicking her right leg free and falling to the ground. She put both right arms on the ground to right herself, a true sign that she was hurt.

Tamara didn't know how long it would take a d'relle to bleed out, and she wasn't about to find out. Her opponent was hurt, possibly fatally, but even so, she could still win the bout. She didn't have to live, only live longer than Tamara.

Tamara kicked out the lower right arm, and to keep from falling flat, the d'relle swung around her sword arm to catch herself. Even so, she managed to swing it in an arc which almost caught Tamara.

Tamara ducked back, then with the Klethos queen on her hands and knees, lunged forward like a matador on a bull, driving her mameluke into the back of her opponent's neck, right at the base of her feather crest. A Klethos had a spine similar to a vacuum cleaner hose. It was a very tough cartilage-type tissue, supported by bony strips that ran its length. Tamara could feel the tip of her sword slide alongside one of the bony strips until it found an opening and pierced through the cartilage as she rammed it home. The d'relle didn't even shudder but simply collapsed to lie motionless in the blue-stained sand.

It only took a few moments for Tamara to realize that the d'relle was dead. She'd been acting almost on instinct, and now her conscious mind was regaining control. She jerked free her mameluke, raised it to the skies, and shouted out her pure joy.

She had won!