Dani Devereaux captains Alaska's Vengeance, the ship that has won countless battles against the Vaerian advances into human space.
But when the aliens bring a new weapon to war, everything goes sideways leaving millions dead and billions more demanding blood. The government needs a scapegoat, and their accusing eye lands squarely on Dani and her crew.
Dani takes full responsibility to protect her crew. In her solitude she has plenty of time to dwell on how recent events don't quite add up. And Dani's not the only one. Someone is leaving her a trail of clues that point to corruption at the highest levels of government. But the death sentence that was handed to her ends up being just the beginning.
As a new tyrant moves into power, Dani gets a second chance at life. She rallies her crew, and they embark on a new mission: to eliminate corruption at its source before more innocent lives are lost.
This is the complete first season of the Ardent Redux Saga featuring episodes 1 - 5:
The Dead Zone
This growing series is perfect for fans of who love action-packed space adventures.
•The only thing better than reading one book by a great writer is reading five. Thanks to this fantastic box set, you can do a serious deep dive into J.L.'s Ardent Redux saga, an action-packed space opera that will leave you wanting the next five books in the series. Ardent Redux has it all—a brave and complex hero facing seemingly insurmountable odds, devastating threats from brutal aliens and corrupt humans alike, and full-throttle battles for survival among the stars. We're so lucky to have J.L.'s work in this bundle, and even luckier that this gifted writer continues to weave new epic tales in the series. – Robert Jeschonek
"I totally enjoyed this series. It's fast paced and holds your interest. Good character development. When you read it be sure you have the next book, when you put the one you finished down, you will want to immediately pick the next one up. Looking forward to the next book in the series."– Amazon Review
"This is a great, fast paced read that hits all the right notes. The author actually made me care about what happens to the different characters, and I have read too many books that haven't. Seriously the only complaint I have is that the episodes are too short. This is right up there as a top 3 series for me. Please keep writing this series."– Amazon Review
"I just read this 5 book series. EXCELLENT space opera. Written by someone who cares instead of the mass production unedited crap in many ebooks. Each book is a story alone but better together as you get invested in the characters. Can't wait for more in this series."– Amazon Review
Vengeance Lost: Chapter 1
Alaska's Vengeance dropped out of hyperdrive and straight into hell.
"Shields up, full power." Captain Dani Devereaux unclipped her harness and leapt out of her seat in one graceful motion. Her eyes studied the battlefield displayed on the large screen before the crew as she gave her next command. "Begin evasive maneuvers."
"You got it, Captain," First Officer Jag Reinhart called from his station. He projected the ship's status and expertly manipulated the holograph. "Shields are up and here we go!"
The scene before them jolted sideways as the battleship veered to the side to avoid a barrage of fire. Dani stood in the middle of the bridge, watching the action unfold before her on the floor-to-ceiling display. The ship's artificial gravity field worked relative to the ship, so despite the banks and rolls, she was able to maintain her balance effortlessly.
"Incoming communication," Communications Officer Cassia Simpkins announced from her station seat.
"Let's see it. Half screen."
Bernard Winston, Captain of the Louisiana, appeared on the left half of the screen. "It's about time you got here."
"My deepest apologies for the delay, Captain Winston. We were held up in PS709 cleaning up another Vaerian attack. It seems they're targeting all planetary systems containing glowshard. The GC's resources have been spread thin, but we're here now." Dani bowed her head respectfully to the captain.
Captain Winston nodded. "I understand. Our situation is dire. We've lost most of our fighters. An unfortunate accident sent one of our own into our main engine, so we're currently unable to make a hop, much less warp to safety."
Dani nodded as she watched the Vaerian fighters whiz around the massive Louisiana, hitting it with a bombardment of white energy blasts. The fighters swarmed like insects against the massive Class-A warship, but with enough time they would be able to break through the Louisiana's defenses.
"Where's the Vaerian destroyer?" she asked, noting the absence of the fighter's mothership.
Captain Winston smirked. "We got off a pretty good shot and damaged the ship. It limped out to the outer planets, but we've been unable to pursue."
"Cruz, scan for the destroyer, please." A hand popped up in the air from the navigation area and gave a quick wave.
"Shields at thirty percent," a voice on the Louisiana called from off screen.
"Don't worry, Captain Winston." Dani read the concern on his face. "We're on it."
She returned to her seat and said into the ship's PA system, "Alright, team, get out there and give them the fight they're looking for."
Dani brought up a small holographic screen displaying the fighters docked on the back of her ship and watched them take off two by two. Though she carried a considerably smaller crew, they were the best of the best. Every fighter pilot in the Galactic Conglomerate longed to be aboard Alaska's Vengeance for both the prestige and the rescue missions.
Dani turned back to Captain Winston. "Help is on the way, Captain. Stay safe."
With a nod, Captain Winston blipped off of the screen, the battlefield screen enlarging once more.
Dani scowled at the Vaerian fighters as they tore around a nearby moon before zipping back toward the Louisiana. Part of her missed being directly in the action as she listened to the GC pilots strategize through her earpiece. They were a well-oiled team, having worked innumerable similar missions together. Often, Dani and her crew were tied up with the battleship while her fighter pilots eliminated the small threats. However, with the Vaerian battleship's absence, Dani felt the tug of battle.
"Let's help them out, Jag."
"My pleasure, Captain." A maniacal grin crept across his face as he opened links with the automated gunners on all sides of the ship.
As Jag readied the weapons, Dani redirected controls of Alaska's Vengeance to her console. The battleship lacked the grace of the fighters, but now, without the added bulk of the fighters on her hull, Alaska's Vengeance was a formidable opponent.
A small hologram projected just above Dani's console, displaying the ship's real-time statistics. A familiar rush of excitement tore through her body as she grabbed onto the yoke. Flying was always her passion and flying to the rescue, even more so. She turned her battleship toward the fight.
The elite team of twelve GC fighters helped even the odds, but Dani liked to be a hands-on participant in every battle when possible. She expertly guided Alaska's Vengeance through the chaos as Jag whooped and hollered as he fired on the enemy fighters.
Dani swung around to face the Louisiana, falling into a small orbit around the massive warship as Jag worked quickly to pick off the Vaerian fighters attempting to blast their way through the shields.
The ding of an old-fashioned bell caught Dani's attention, and her eyes shot to the bottom right corner of the main display screen. There, on the outskirts of the system, was the Vaerian destroyer.
"Great work, Cruz."
Navigator Daemon Cruz acknowledged her gratitude with a wave.
"We need to get that destroyer. Peterson," Dani called out to her lead fighter pilot, "can you handle the fighters if we go get the destroyer?"
"Absolutely. We're picking them off left and right. Gotta love being the turner of tides," Peterson's voice called out in her ear. He was one of the cockiest pilots she'd ever met, but his reputation supported his ego quite well.
Dani couldn't help but smile as she saw Peterson's red-tailed fighter slingshot around the same small moon before opening fire on a cluster of Vaerian fighters that were regrouping for another pass on the Louisiana. His enthusiasm matched her own, and his love for piloting a fighter had caused him to turn down a position in her bridge. She didn't blame him, though; sometimes she longed to be in the middle of the action, too.
"Alright, let's go hunt down a destroyer." Dani turned Alaska's Vengeance away from the battle and the red, glowing star at the center of the solar system.
"Preparing to hop," Jag called out.
The ship began to hum as it built up energy before the densely populated planets and moons around them became a momentary blur. In just a few seconds, they had traveled halfway through the solar system toward their target.
"Cloaking on," Dani ordered as she peered into the quiet dark.
The lights in the bridge and on her console dimmed. The status holograph flashed red momentarily, signifying that shield power had been reduced to fifty percent. Cloaking was a huge power draw, but an effective strategy when done correctly.
Dani powered off the engines as they glided through space silently toward the coordinates. They crept past a planet laced with lights. In the silence, she wondered if the mining colonies below were even aware of their presence. She couldn't help but smile at the idea of being the silent protector to millions of lifeforms, a guardian among the stars.
Her eyes darted over the screen, seeking visual confirmation of the destroyer they were stalking.
"There she is." On the large screen, Dani zoomed in on the destroyer. The ship was clearly damaged, but the weapons systems appeared to be intact.
"Scans show droids are repairing the ship. Shields are down," Cassia advised. "There are numerous lifeform readings aboard, too."
Dani fired up the thrusters to position Alaska's Vengeance behind a barren moon. "They won't be able to lock on to us right away from here. Cassia, prepare to record a message."
"This is Captain Dani Devereaux of the Alaska's Vengeance, flagship of the Galactic Conglomerate. Withdraw your forces and retreat or face destruction."
"Got it. Ready to transmit." Cassia smiled, her hand poised over the controls on her console.
"Great. Send the transmission. Jag, drop cloaking and fully power shields and weapons."
"Done," the pair said in unison.
The holograph indicated shields and weapons were fully powered, and Dani nudged the ship out from behind the moon far enough to make their presence known, but still difficult to target.
"They're powering secondary weapons." Cassia pinged the locations on the screen. The small circles rippled outward around the areas showing an increase in power.
"Jag, hit them, ten percent."
White energy bolts shot out from the primary blasters on either side of the bridge before making contact with the areas Cassia had pinged moments earlier. Small explosions erupted where the guns once stood. It wouldn't be enough to puncture the hull, but that wasn't the goal.
"Send the message again."
"Sent. Now they're powering their primary weapons." Cassia pinged another location.
Dani sighed at the Vaerian ship's noncompliance, but she wasn't surprised. "Jag, power up main weapon, 100 percent."
"You got it."
"Half screen please, Cassia." Dani stood tall between her console and captain's chair, rolling her shoulders back.
The left side of the screen filled with the reptilian face of a Vaerian Commander, easily identifiable by the number of white slits in his blood-red flesh down the right side of his neck. A crown of horns across his forehead gave him an almost prehistoric look. The Vaerians had narrow eyes, close together like the most aggressive of predators. Below the nostril slits that opened and closed with each breath was a trunk-like appendage. He spoke, his words sounding like a combination of a duck and a dog as they passed through his narrow, elongated maw. The translation of the quacks and barks scrolled across the bottom of the screen.
Stand down and depart or face your demise.
"Planetary System 683 is under jurisdiction of the Galactic Conglomerate. You have no authority here. You are outmatched and outnumbered. I order you to withdraw your fighters and leave this area." Dani leaned forward over her console like a predator ready to pounce and stared down the Vaerian Commander.
You'll regret this decision.
The Vaerian Commander blipped off of the screen.
"I guess that's that. Lock onto our target, Jag. I'll get us into position." Dani sat at the controls once more and maneuvered the ship to have a clear shot of the Vaerian destroyer.
"Captain," Cassia called out in a panicked tone, "something is happening at the center of the system."
"Turn on aft cam and display on half," Dani ordered coolly. Cassia had a tendency to overreact, and Dani wanted to see what was going on for herself before she began to worry.
The gentle red-glowing sun and surrounding planets appeared on the left side of the screen, while the Vaerian destroyer targeted by Alaska's Vengeance shifted to the right side. Dani zoomed in as far as she could. She was unable to make out the details of the fighters, but she could see the Louisiana and a second Vaerian destroyer, which must have just joined the battle.
"Peterson, looks like you've got company. Status update?"
She frowned, hearing only silence through the earpiece. Worry started to grow in the pit of Dani's stomach.
"Shit. Can you get the Louisiana on the comm?" Dani asked Cassia.
"N—no," Cassia stammered, "something's preventing communications."
"We need to get back there."
"Brace for incoming fire," Jag called out.
Dani shifted her eyes to the destroyer before them just in time to see a large burst of energy head toward Alaska's Vengeance. The ship shuddered as the energy met her shield, causing it to drop by six percent.
"Return fire!" Dani yelled back at Jag.
The battleship jerked as it let loose a massive ball of energy toward the first Vaerian destroyer. With no shields to protect it, the blast collided with the hull of the ship, causing a section of twisted metal to explode outward. The lights across the exterior flashed and went out.
"It looks like we knocked out their power source. The Vaerian ship is nonoperational," Cassia reported. "Long-range scanners are showing the second Vaerian destroyer at the center of the system is powering up... but... this can't be right."
"What is it, Cassia?" Dani demanded, squinting at the screen, hoping to see what Cassia was seeing through her long-range scans.
"I... I've never seen this much power on a Vaerian ship before. It doesn't make sense."
Dani's stomach dropped. "Can we get through to the Louisiana yet?"
"No, communications are still jammed, but they're not targeting the Louisiana. They're targeting the star."
The words took a moment to register in Dani's mind before the blood rushing through her veins chilled. "How much power?"
After not receiving an immediate answer, she turned to face Cassia. "How much..." Her question trailed off when she saw the stark white expression on Cassia's face.
"There's nothing we can do," Cassia whimpered quietly.
A million thoughts flooded Dani's mind as she stared at the Louisiana on the aft cam. Her fingertips grazed her lips as she ran through various scenarios in her mind, realizing she was helpless to save not only the crew of the massive warship, but her own fighter pilots as well.
A massive red burst emitted from the Vaerian destroyer and flew toward the star.
"No!" Dani bellowed as she grabbed the yoke. She knew enough about stars to know what would happen next. "Full power to shields and engines. Get us out of here. It's going to supernova!"
"Power from the blast hasn't regenerated yet. We can't warp." Jag mashed buttons on his console. "Trying to reroute power, but I don't think we can make the jump."
Dani pushed the engines as fast as they would go.
"We can't outrun it," Cassia mumbled quietly, slumping into her chair, defeated. She leaned forward and grabbed fistfuls of her blonde hair at the roots.
Dani's eyes quickly returned to the screen and scanned it. She wouldn't resign herself to total hopelessness. Not yet. "There!" she shouted as she pointed toward a vortex in space. The phenomenon was often ignored by Dani and her crew, but not today. The purple and blue dust prominent in the star system swirled around the funnel before disappearing into a soft white glow within.
"The wormhole?" Cassia looked up, bewildered. "How's that going to help us?"
"That's how we're going to escape." Dani had already altered the path of the ship to intercept the anomaly.
"You're kidding, right?" Jag piped in. "No one has survived wormhole travel. Ever."
Dani gunned for the wormhole as the energy orb collided with the star on the aft camera, and the red color of the star morphed into white at the center. "I'll take 'almost certain death' over 'certain death' any day! Strap in!"
Alaska's Vengeance plunged into the funnel. Colors swirled around her through the white fog momentarily before the ship started bouncing from side to side. The ship rocked violently as Dani struggled to maintain control. Another violent jerk knocked Cassia out of her seat. Her head met her console with a crack before she crumpled to the ground.
"Dammit," Dani muttered as she saw the scene unfold out of the corner of her eye.
"Do you want me to—" Jag started.
"No, stay where you are," Dani ordered as she struggled with the controls. "Disengage all automatic sensors and controls. The ship is fighting with me."
"Are you sure?" Jag stared at her, bewildered.
"Do it, now!" Dani bellowed in return.
Alaska's Vengeance suddenly plunged into darkness. The navigation screen blipped to black and the bridge fell silent momentarily.
"What the hell, Jag? I didn't say cut all power."
"That wasn't me! It must be some kind of interference from this goddamned tunnel."
"Shit! Open the solar shades. We're flying blind."
"We're down to minimal power. Only life-support and artificial gravity systems are online," Jag protested. "I mean, I could reroute power from the engine's separate power source, but I don't think that'd be the best idea right now."
A ding rang out through the darkness.
"Cruz, you sure? I can't guarantee your safety if you don't stay locked in."
The silent reply told her he was already on the move.
Dani did her best to keep the bouncing and shaking to a minimum, closing her eyes and relying on the instincts that had provided her with a perfect flight record—so far. A moment later, a brilliant bright line shone into the bridge. Cruz was doing it; perched precariously on his wheelchair, he was manually opening the solar screens. The well-defined muscles of his arms and back flexed beneath his uniform as he pried apart the solar screens where they joined in the center of the windshield.
"Bloody brilliant," Jag called out. "Well done!"
Cruz extended his arms, pressing each screen further apart before he turned and grinned, proud of himself, but the moment was short lived.
"Hang on!" Dani yelled as she jolted the spacecraft to the side, causing Cruz to lose his balance and fall back into his wheelchair, causing it to topple, leaving the task unfinished.
Though the screen wasn't open all the way, it was still open enough for Dani to narrowly dodge a stray asteroid barreling toward them down the wormhole. The brilliant blues and purples swirled around the outer edge of the wormhole while in the center loomed a sort of white fog that was much brighter without the screen's automatic adjustment settings.
The power flickered, and dim lights flashed on throughout the bridge.
"Emergency power source is up and running," Jag reported, staring at his console. "Looks like there's a fire in the rear quadrant."
"Of course there is," Dani growled. Her arms and shoulders burned, but she remained focused on the narrow field of vision before her. "Seal it off if you can."
A groan from the floor of Cassia's station pulled her attention. The woman pulled herself to her feet, blood running down her head from a gash above her eye.
"Get strapped in. We'll check you out if we make it through this alive."
Cassia crawled to her seat and hoisted herself up and into it.
"Cruz, you okay over there? Did you make it back to your station?"
The bell dinged in return.
"Captain!" Jag pointed frantically at a mass of twisted metal obscuring most of the tunnel.
Dani pulled the yoke back, putting both feet on her console for extra leverage. Alaska's Vengeance violently tilted back, but metal found metal. The ship shuddered and shook as the hull let out an ear-shattering screech.
Both Jag's and Dani's consoles lit up and sounded various alarms.
"Trying to isolate the breach," Jag updated as he popped up display after display.
Dani grunted as she wrestled with the yoke before the nose of the ship plunged into the upper wall of the wormhole tunnel. The wall wasn't solid, but it was like getting an oar stuck in the mud when rafting down a swiftly moving river. The impact caught and flipped Alaska's Vengeance, causing the deformed hunk of metal to dislodge, but she was now accelerating through the wormhole backward.
We're not going to make it, Dani thought in a moment of panic, but managed to maintain her composure. She always knew she'd die doing what she loved, but this was beyond anything she could have imagined. She eased her grip on the yoke and took a quick look around the bridge. In that brief moment, she saw three sets of eyes staring back at her in horror. Even Cruz had pulled himself up to peek over his console wall. So many lives had been lost already. The least she could do was try to save those still aboard her vessel.
Dani set her jaw and grabbed onto the controls once more. She attempted to spin the ship around again, but it was far too damaged to respond. She fought, nonetheless, hoping that by some miracle they would make it through alive. She closed her eyes, reaching out with her instincts, trying to feel the universe around her, but things moved far too fast inside this tunnel of destruction.
Suddenly a horrendous force pushed Dani and her crew deep into their seats. The familiar hum of the engines ceased and the tug of artificial gravity released. For a moment, she felt like she couldn't breathe. She was certain they'd hit another object, but there was no shudder, no explosion, no agonizing metallic scream. Instead, there was just silence.
Out the open windshield of Alaska's Vengeance appeared the other end of the wormhole. It gradually shrunk in size as they drifted backward, away from it.
Dani and her crew watched in silence as the swirling funnel rippled and jerked before them. The outer edges of the vortex quivered before one side collapsed inward. The wormhole continued to pull itself in until there was nothing but a concentrated white ball of light, which burst and spewed the blue and purple dust out around them in its dying breath. It was gone, and they were free.
The silence of space surrounded them. Quiet stars appeared to drift through the night as though there had never been any disturbance among them. Dani stared through the gap in the solar panels, her jaw agape in disbelief.
"Yes!" Jag shouted, pumping his fist into the air.
The rest of the group offered a collective sigh of relief as Jag continued to cheer and Cruz rang his bell happily.
Dani let the controls slip from her hand and relaxed her shoulders before rubbing her forehead. They had survived.