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Kris Longknife: Mutineer
Kris Longknife: Mutineer
Click to enlarge
Author(s): Shepherd, Mike
ISBN No.: 9780441011421
Pages: 400
Year: 200401
Format: Mass Market
Price: £6.27
Dispatch delay: Dispatched between 7 to 15 days
Status: Available From Our Suppliers (Active record)

1 "There''s a terrified child down there." Captain Thorpe''s baritone reverberated off the hard metal walls of the Typhoon''s drop bay. Marines, a moment before intent on checking their battle suits, their weapons, their souls for this rescue mission, hung on his every word. Ensign Kris Longknife divided her attention; part of her stood back, studying the impact of his speech on the men and women she would soon lead. In her short twenty-two-year life, she''d heard a lot of fancy oratory. Another part of her listened to her commander''s words, felt them roll over her, into her. It had been a long time since mere words had raised the hackles on her neck, made her want to rip some bastard limb from limb. "The civilians tried to get her back.


" Kris measured his pause. He came in right on the downbeat. "They failed. Now they''ve called for the dogs." The marines around Kris growled for their skipper. She''d only worked with them for four days; the Typhoon had sortied on two hours'' notice! Captain Thorpe had gotten them away from space dock, short half the crew and without a marine lieutenant to command the drop platoon. Now a boot ensign named Longknife was surrounded by marines with three to twelve years in the Corps, champing at the bit to do something definite and dangerous. "You''ve trained.


You''ve sweated." The captain''s words had the staccato of a machine gun. "You''ve drilled for this moment since you joined the Corps. You could rescue that kidnapped girl with your eyes closed." In the dim light of the drop bay, eyes gleamed with inner fire. Jaws tensed; hands closed in tight fists. Kris glanced down; so were hers. Yes, these troops were ready, all except one boot ensign.


Dear God, don''t let me screw up, Kris prayed silently. "Now drop, Marines. Kick some terrorist butt, and put that little girl back in her mother''s arms where she belongs." "Ooh-rah," came back from twelve hyped men and women as the captain slow marched for the exit. Well, eleven hyped marines and one scared ensign. Kris put the same angry confidence into her shout as she heard from the rest. Here was none of the calm, the cool of Father''s political speeches. Here was why Kris had joined the Navy.


Here was something real; something she could get her hands on and make happen. Enough of endless talk and nothing done. She grinned. If you could see me now, Father. You said the Navy was a useless waste of time, Mother. Not today! Kris took a deep breath as her platoon turned back to their preparations. The smell of armor, ammunition, oil, and honest human sweat gave her a rush. This was her mission and her squad, and she would see that one little girl got home safe and sound.


This child would live. As the memory of another child rose to fill her mind''s eye, Kris stomped on the thought. She dared not go there. Captain Thorpe paused in his exit march right in front of her. Eye to eye, he leaned into her face. "Keep out of your head, Ensign," he growled in a whisper. "Trust your gut. Trust your platoon and Gunny.


They''re good. The commodore thinks you have what it takes, even if you are one of those Longknifes. Show me what you''ve got. Take those bastards down hard. But if you''re as empty as your old man, let Gunny know before you funk out on us, and he''ll finish the mission. And I''ll drop you back in your momma''s lap in time for the next debutantes'' ball." Kris stared back at him, her face frozen, her gut a throbbing knot. He''d been riding her since she came aboard, never happy with her, always picking at her.


She would show him. "Yes, sir," she shouted in his face. Around her, the troops grinned, figuring the skipper had a few choice words for the boot ensign, none knowing just how choice. The captain snickered. A scowl or a snicker or a growl was all she''d ever seen on his face since coming aboard. Was there a different crinkle to his eyes, a new uptwist to his lips? He turned before she could read him better. It wasn''t her fault Father had signed all Wardhaven''s legislation for the last eight years. She had nothing to do with her great-grandparents splashing the family name all over the history books.


Let the captain try growing up in shadows like those. He''d be just as desperate as Kris was to make her own name, find her own place. That was why she joined the Navy. With a shiver Kris tried to shake off the fear of failure. She turned to face her locker and tried again to adjust the standard-issue, size three battle spacesuit to fit. Six feet tall and too small everywhere else was her usual requirements for a suit. She''d never had a civilian suit that didn''t leave her plenty of room for her pet computer to conform around her shoulders and down her arms, but those suits weren''t semirigid plasta-steel a centimeter thick. Nelly, worth more than all the computers on the Typhoon and probably fifty times as capable, was a problem in battle armor.


Marines were expected to be lean as well as mean; nothing extra was allowed anywhere. Kris tried slipping the main bulk of the computer down to her chest. She didn''t carry much there, and most marine males seemed to be a bit bulky in that spot. Resealing herself in, she rotated her shoulders, bent, then stooped. Yes, that worked. She put on the helmet, rotated it until she got a firm click. With the faceplate down, the suit was a bit warm, but she''d been hot before. "Krissie, can I have an ice cream?" Eddy wheedled.


It was a hot spring day on Wardhaven, and they''d run to the park, leaving Nanna well behind them. Kris fumbled in her pocket. She was the big sister; she was expected to plan ahead now, just like big brother Honovi had done for her when she was just a little kid. Kris had enough coins for two ice creams. But Father insisted that planning ahead included making things last. "Not now," Kris insisted. "Let''s go see the ducks." "But I want an ice cream now," came in as much of a wail as an out-of-breath six-year-old could muster.


"Come on, Nanna''s almost here. Race you to the duck pond." Which got Eddy''s feet moving even before Kris finished the challenge. She beat him, of course, but only by as much as a ten-year-old big sister should beat a six-year-old kid brother. "Look, the swans are back." Kris pointed at the four huge birds. So they walked along the pond, not too far behind the old man with the corn who always fed the birds. Kris was careful to keep Eddy from getting too near to the water.


She must have done a good job because when Nanna finally caught up with them, she didn''t give Kris a lecture about how deep the pond was. "I want an ice cream," Eddy demanded again with the single-mindedness of his few years. "I don''t have any money," Nanna insisted. "I do," Kris put in proudly. She had planned ahead, just like Father said smart people should. "Then you go buy the ice cream," Nanna grumbled. Kris skipped off, so sure she would be seeing them again that she didn''t even look back. There was a tap at her shoulder.


With a shiver, she turned to see a freckled face and raised her faceplate in time to be met with a "Need help, short fork?" The drop bay was busy and noisy, and her shiver went unnoticed. She managed the cheery "No way, wooden spoon," reply the infectious grin and challenge demanded. Ensign Tommy Li Chin Lien had been born to a family of Santa Maria asteroid miners. Rather than hang around that isolated world, he''d joined the Navy to see the galaxy, thereby greatly disappointing his folks and, per his great-grandmother, his ancestors. At Officer Candidate School, they''d passed hours swapping stories about how their parents had stormed and ranted against their career choice. Kris was surprised by how fast they became friends, one from supersophisticated Wardhaven, the other that crazy blend of Irish and Chinese that so much of Santa Maria''s working class still held to. Right now, Tommy waved his universal tester in Kris''s face. Raised in vacuum, he distrusted air and gravity and viewed mud-raised people like Kris as hopeless optimists, dependent on him for the proper paranoia toward space.


Kris raised her left arm for Tommy to plug his black box into the battle suit she''d been issued. While he ran his checks, Kris worked with Nelly, running her personal computer through interface tests with the command net. Auntie Tru, now retired from her job as Wardhaven''s Info War Chief, had helped Kris with Nelly''s interface, as she''d done with most of Kris''s math and computer homework for as long as Kris could remember. Nelly lit up Kris''s heads-up display with every report or screen authorized to a boot ensign on a mission . and a few it was better the skipper did not know Kris had access to. Kris and Nelly finished about the same time Tommy detached his tester from Kris. She flipped up her faceplate. "Your camouflage adjustment is about five nanoseconds below optimum, but it meets Navy standards," Tommy grumbled.


The Navy rarely met his expectations for perfection. "Your coolant system isn''t all that far into the green, either." "I''m more worried about my heater. It''s arctic tundra where I''m headed, haven''t you heard?" She grinned. He refused to swallow his scowl for her attempt at a Santa Maria brogue. "And there''s a bad gasket in there somewhere." They''d been over that one before; one of the battle suit''s jelly seals was a slow leaker, but every suit aboard had at least one bum seal. It was a bitter joke among the troops; good seals went to the civilian market, weak ones went to lowest-bid government contracts.


"I''m not working the asteroids, Tommy. I won''t be living in this suit for a month." Kris gave the standard reply the procurement chiefs gave her father. The prime minister of Wardhaven always accepted it. But then, h.


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