Esther and Noah Lysander are the twin children of General Ryck Lysander, Commandant of the Marine Corps, leader of the Evolution, and Chairman of the Federation. When they are told that their father and mother have been assassinated, they are both devastated. Cut adrift, they each decide to enlist in the Corps—but for different reasons. Esther feels it is her duty to carry on the family legacy, confident that she can excel and reach the top. Noah simply wants to earn his father's pride, even if it is too late.
As children of General Lysander, they are not "normal" recruits. Seniors and peers are well aware of their background, and the twins can't escape the public eye. From under their father's heavy shadow, the two have to discover his or her personal path in the Corps, even when that seems to pull them apart from each other.
"This is an outstanding story about the next generation of "LYSANDER" in the U F M C . Their father's and their mother's legacy is carried on. The action and character development was done with great insight and thought-provoking expectations. The story is what I think a future Marine Corps adventure could be. Lots of action and adventure in Space Warfare."– Amazon Review
"Well written, Excellent series. His other books are also great, Even if they are written by a Jar Head."– Amazon Review
"A great segue into the next generation of Lysander's in the UFMC. Col. Brazees' knowledge of the various Marine corps, and his character development and focus make for enjoyable reading for the military fiction fan."– Amazon Review
The cell was stark, bare except for the table and two chairs bolted to the floor. The walls were padded, the two ceiling lights recessed. Three prisoners were in the room. In an ineffective act of defiance, they ignored the table and chairs and were huddled on the floor, up against the far wall.
Hannah Lysander, wife of General Ryck Lysander, leader of the Evolution, sat easily, knees up, forearms resting on them. Esther Lysander, Hannah and Ryck's daughter, sat next to her, staring at the ceiling. Noah, Esther's twin brother, sat on the other side of his mother.
They'd been held in captivity for nine months, picked up as they'd tried to flee the homeworld at the onset of hostilities. Hannah blamed herself for that. Now they were pawns as the old government tried to put down the "rebellion," as they termed it.
Initially, the three of them had been treated as well as could be expected, living under house arrest in a condo in Brussels. It was on the 40th floor, and with armed guards ever-present outside the door, it might as well have been a jail cell. There had been no Red Cross visits, but the fabricator worked, and there was even a library of flicks and holo series that they could watch.
That had changed two weeks ago—at least they thought it was two weeks ago. The three had been whisked away in the middle of the night and stuck in this real prison cell. Hopkins Garrison, the First Minister, had personally taken charge of a renewed interrogation. Hannah knew Garrison from when Ryck had been his military aide. He was a driven, ambitious man, and she hadn't cared much for him. Now, she hated him with a passion that surprised her.
They hadn't been physically tortured, but the threat of it was ever-present, a stink that all the air purifiers in the world couldn't erase. His smarmy attitude, his constant reminders that their very future was in his hands, grated on her. He inferred that he was the only person keeping the wolves at bay, the wolves who wanted the blood of the Lysander family in revenge for the rebellion.
The problem was, Hannah believed it. But not from any sense of honor or compassion. The three of them were mere pawns being played in the big game.
Esther let out a sigh, then asked, "Have we ever figured out how long we've been here?"
"I still think they're screwing with us," Noah said. "They've dimmed the lights 13 times, but I don't think they do that every 24 hours. Look, my beard is still stubble. I think they're speeding the frequency up to make us think it's been longer."
"You've never been able to grow much of a beard there," Esther said, but without her normal delight in pulling his chain.
Noah frowned, then lowered his head between his knees and closed his eyes. He'd been outwardly calm during the ordeal, controlling the rising tide of angst that sometimes threatened to surface.
They sat quietly, lost in their thoughts when the lock on the door clicked. All three sat up straight before the door opened, and the first minister strode in, looking immaculate in a blue polytwill suit with a deep yellow cravat.
"Get up," he said with the voice of a man who expected—and received—instant obedience.
"Eat me," Esther snarled, remaining seated.
The first minister walked across the cell until he was standing in front of her, examining her as if she was a piece of meat. He reached out and, with his forefinger, lifted a lock of her blonde hair up from her face.
With a huge force of will, Esther kept herself from flinching, staring venomously at the first minister instead.
"Eat you, dear Esther? As appealing as that might be, I think I'll pass. But a word to the wise. Be careful of glib invitations, because you might not appreciate when a vampire takes you up on one."
He dropped her hair, turned, and repeated, "I said, get up."
Esther started another retort, but Hannah reached out to place a hand on her knee, silencing her.
"Why?" she asked.
"Why? Because I told you to. But I guess it wouldn't hurt for you to know. You're leaving here."
"Oh, thanks for releasing us," Noah said.
"Noah? Actually speaking, and with sarcasm, no less. I'm impressed. No, as you know, I'm not releasing you. Can't do that with traitors and all. All four of us, well, more when you included the muscle to make sure you stay compliant, are going to the moon."
Hannah gasped, unable to keep it checked.
"To the Cube?"
"I cannot confirm that, Hannah. I can't deny it, either," he said, a self-satisfied-looking smile on his face.
The Federation and Fiji were the only two Earth-based governments that still practiced capital punishment, but the UAM Charter prohibited executions on Earth soil. Therefore, both governments carried out executions adjudged on Earth at Luna Base, at the "Cube."
"What, no trial? Is that what you've sunk to?" Hannah asked.
"Traitors don't have any rights. Certainly, you know that. Besides, we can have a quick trial on the way up, if you insist. But for now, what I insist is that you get up and come along quietly. It's either that, or I ask the hulks outside the door to drag you.
"Come on," Noah said, slowly standing. "Let's just do it."
Hannah got up, but Esther took a good 15 seconds, glaring at the first minister until she stood.
"See, isn't this better? Now, if you would follow me?"
He walked out of the cell, not even looking back. His arrogance annoyed Hannah, but it incensed Esther, who imagined creative and painful ways to kill the man. The five large guards who fell in behind the three didn't faze her at all.
They trooped to the elevator, and then rode it for at least half a minute. Hannah realized that they had to be deep within the bowels of the city. Two more guards were waiting for them as the elevator door opened. Now, with eleven people in the parade, they marched down an empty hallway until they reached a door, guarded by yet another two guards.
The first minister submitted to a retinal scan, and one of the guards opened the door.
It was night outside, one of the warm, muggy nights that were so different from Hannah's homeworld of Prophesy, where water was at a premium. Even after following Ryck to Tarawa, she'd never gotten used to the viscosity of the air that weighed heavily in her lungs.
"Told you," Noah muttered to Esther as they stepped out into the darkness.
Since the lights hadn't been dimmed in the cell, it shouldn't have been night, so Noah took that as proof of his contention that they'd been screwing with their time.
A windowless van awaited them at the loading dock, the back open. The three Lysanders were hustled inside, along with five of the guards and the first minister.
"Cuff them," he said as he sat on the bench seat that ran along the right side of the van.
"What, afraid we'll jump your ass?" Esther asked as she submitted to the cuff around her wrist, with the other side secured to a ring on the floor.
"I know you'd like to try," the first minister said.
No one said another word as the van lifted and silently got underway. Twenty minutes later, it stopped. A few muffled words were exchanged outside, probably between the driver and some sort of guard, and the van smoothly accelerated once more, this time driving for only a few minutes before stopping and settling onto the ground. The back door opened, revealing a tarmac. Across the landing pads, the bright lights of the terminals and commercial shuttles let the prisoners know they were at Brussel-Zaventem instead of some secret military spaceport. Their corner of it, however, was dark.
One of the guards released their cuffs from the floor rings, then attached all three to each other.
"If you please," the first minister said with fake sincerity.
Mindful of their one-meter tethers to each other, the three slowly got out of the van. Parked beside them was a black ship without markings. It had the shape of a private yacht, one able to both land on planets as well as travel between stars, but there was a sinister air about it that brought a shudder to Hannah's very bones. She feared the ship was their hearse, even if the hangman hadn't released the trap door yet.
One of the guards gave Noah a shove towards the waiting hatch on the ship. All three Lysanders walked forward with as much dignity as they could muster. An old-fashioned mobile stairway was pushed up against the side of the black yacht. They climbed it, walked past yet one more armed man in Navy overhauls, but without insignia or patches, and took the seats the man indicated.
"You can take off the restraints," the first minister told one of the guards.
Noah and Hannah held out their hands for the guard, but Esther refused, causing the guard to jerk up the chain up roughly so that he could release the cuffs.
The first minister led them to the base of the stairway, then, with a dramatic gentlemanly flourish, waved his arm to allow Hannah to go first.
The cabin of the ship was nothing extraordinary, belying the grim exterior. It could have been any commercial yacht. The three Lysanders took the indicated seats and strapped in while another non-Navy sailor prepped the ship for takeoff and got their clearance. As the ship lifted from the surface, Hannah wondered if this was the last time she'd be on Earth.
The trip to the moon was short and silent. Hannah, Esther, and Noah were lost in their own thoughts, and even the first minister restrained himself. An hour-and-a-half later, the ship settled down on the moon with a soft bump.
"And, we're here," the first minister said, his voice bright and seemingly happy.
The guards stayed on board as the first minister escorted his prisoners out of the ship and into a large, surprisingly empty hangar. Hannah looked around in surprise. She could understand the government having some secretive hangars, but this one looked pretty big, too big to be much of a secret.
The hangar bay doors were open to the lunar surface, but none of the Lysanders knew enough of the lunar landscape to recognize where they were.
The first minister put his hand on Esther's back as if to turn her towards the near bulkheads, but she snarled, knocked back his hand, and said, "Keep your hands off of me."
He laughed and replied, "Calm down, little tiger. I just don't want to see any of us flatted by the tractor assist beams."
He pointed back to the ship, which was rising over the landing pad. The four moved out of the way as the progressive beams turned the ship and led it to the hangar doors. After the ship crossed the red line, its own power took over, and with a flare in the electrostatic gate, it crossed into the vacuum of space and flew out of sight.
"What now?" Hannah asked, unable to contain herself.
"Now, we wait."
"For whatever happens next."
And so they did. For the next two hours, the four stood around in the hangar, the first minister on his PA, the three Lysanders standing close to each other but not speaking much.
"I wasn't sure about how this would go down, but I should have been," the first minister finally remarked.
"Sure of what?" Esther asked.
"Patience, young lady, is a virtue."
"I'm not very virtuous, you know. I come from rebel stock."
The first minister harrumphed but didn't say anything.
Ten minutes later, another ship made its appearance outside the huge hangar doors. The landing pad took over, pulling it through the gate with its tractor assists and to the middle of the deck.
"Our ride out of here? Why didn't you just take us to wherever the first time," Esther said. "Too afraid of anyone seeing us? You should be, you know."
The ship was a good 150 meters away, and Hannah waited anxiously, wondering when their fate would be revealed. She couldn't imagine what the sloop was there for, but it couldn't be good news.
The stress level rose as nothing happened for one minute, then two. Finally, the hatch opened . . .
. . .and Ryck stepped out.
"Dad!" Esther screamed out, her tough exterior melting at the sight of her father.
"Stay where you are," the first minister said, his voice brooking no argument.
Esther started quietly sobbing, grabbing and holding onto Noah's hand as their father firmly marched towards them.
"Send them over!" he shouted at the first minister when he'd reached the halfway point between them.
Hannah's thoughts were in a whirl, overjoyed that Ryck was there—and scared to death that he was.
"OK, now, you may go," the first minister said, nudging Hannah in the back. "All three of you."
Esther immediately broke into a run, bounding in the lower gravity until she reached her father and collided, arms grabbing and holding him in a death grip.
"Daddy!" she sobbed into his shoulder while Ryck squeezed her tight.
"It's all right, snuggle bunny," he said, "You're safe now."
Hannah didn't run, but with Noah's arm around her shoulders, there was an urgency in her walk, her eyes locked on her husband's as he looked over Esther's head.
Noah helped his mother, but he wanted to slow down, to delay. He immediately realized what his father's appearance meant, and he felt a surge of joy that he wasn't going to be executed—followed by an immediate and immense sense of guilt that he'd felt that elation. He wasn't going to get executed because his father had traded himself for the three of them, and his father would be the one to lose his life.
There was no other explanation. During their interrogations, the first minister seemed to have taken a perverse pleasure in letting all of them know that their father had been tried in absentia and sentenced to death, and when they caught their father, that sentence would be carried out.
"But you're not safe. The first minister, he said what they're going to do to you!" Esther managed to get out between her sobs.
"I'll be fine, Esther. I always am," he said as he tried to soothe her.
Hannah and Noah reached Ryck, her eyes red and puffy.
"Ryck," she said.
"I know," he replied, bringing her into the hug.
Noah put his arms around the other three, and the four stood there for a moment, a family again.
"I'm so sorry, Hannah. And Ben. . ."
"We know. They told us."
"I. . .it's my fault, I let him enlist, and now, I've dragged you into this."
"That's about all the time you have!" the first minister shouted from back along the bulkhead. "Let's go!"
"Why did you agree to this?" Hannah asked, like Noah, aware of what would happen.
"Do you really have to ask? Because I love you, all of you," Ryck answered.
"But the rebellion—"
". . .will do fine without me," Ryck said, changing what Hannah had meant to say. "And you mean more to me than anything else."
"That's time, Ryck!" the first minister shouted out again.
"Look, you've got to go. Hans is waiting for you in the ship."
"No, Daddy!" Esther shouted, hugging him tighter.
Ryck had to reach down and peel her arms from around him.
"Noah, take your sister to the ship."
Noah wanted to tell his father he loved him. He wanted to tell him he was proud of him. But the guilt that overwhelmed him for feeling gratitude that his life would be saved was a huge barrier, a barrier that he couldn't overcome. He tried, but all he could do was let out a strangled grunt. Giving up, he nodded, then put his arm around the sobbing Esther and started to the ship.
"I love you, Hannah, with all my heart. You've made me the luckiest man in the world," Ryck told Hannah as their children walked to the sloop.
"Why, Ryck? Now I have to live with this, to live alone without you. I'd rather stay here."
He embraced his wife and kissed her gently on her forehead. "Go, Hannah. Take care of the kids."
He turned her and gave her a gentle shove towards their children, and that broke Hannah's heart. She walked away, focusing on them, knowing that if she turned back to her husband, she would break down and run to him.
Esther reached the access ladder, turned around and cried out, "Daddy, I love you!"
Right inside the hatch, Gunnery Sergeant Hans Çağlar, General Lysander's long-time friend and shadow, waited. He helped Esther into the cabin of the sloop and then turned to give Noah a hand.
"Hans, did you have to help him kill himself?" Hannah asked as she came aboard.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but he was going to do what he wanted to do. And what he wanted was to save you."
Noah put a hand on the gunny's shoulder and said, "I'm glad he had a friend with him, Gunny."
The corner of the gunny's mouth was ticking, the only sign of the turmoil the big Marine was feeling.
"A friend wouldn't have taken him here," Esther said.
Noah stepped to his sister, who had collapsed in a seat, and kneeled.
"Gunny Çağlar had to, Ess. You know that. He couldn't say no to Dad."
Seeing Esther like this jarred Noah. Esther was the strong one, the fierce one. But he knew she was also Daddy's Little Girl, and that had broken her will.
The hatch closed behind them, and the gunny said, "We need to leave now. Please take a seat."
Hannah paused at the top of the ladder, turned, and blew her husband one last kiss. "Can you turn on a viewscreen?" she asked, her voice terse, as she entered the ship.
Gunny Çağlar reached the control panel, and a moment later, the view of the hangar appeared on the screen. All three Lysanders moved in front of it, staring at the image of their father reached the first minister.
Esther prayed that he would jump the asshole, then come running back, but she knew he wouldn't. He was a man of honor to a fault, even if that would cost him his life.
The gunny sat in the pilot's chair, and within a few moments, the hangar's tractor assists picked the ship up and backed it.
Esther let out another muffled sob, and Noah put his arms around her, hugging her tight. Their eyes were glued on their father as he turned to watch the ship cross the hangar deck.
They had one last glimpse of him before the viewscreen flared with them piercing the gate, and Gunny took control, sending the ship into the Dark.