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Book 3: Operation Heartstrike (Audiobook)

Book 3: Operation Heartstrike (Audiobook)

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“Major Kira Miyaru.”

Omar’s whispered words, spiced with the minty scent of his favorite tabac, sent tingles up her spine. Beds on starships were neither plentiful nor large, but at least they were private.

“Major Kira Miyaru,” he breathed.

She covered his mouth with hers, drinking in his taste and biting his lower lip.

Omar’s hands trailed down her breasts and along her belly before settling on her hips. He gripped her firmly. “Major Kira Miyaru.”

“You better watch it,” she said. “I’m your commanding officer now.”

“Is that right?” Omar pushed her back so that she lay beneath him.

Kira ripped off his shirt and threw it across the room. The seductive grin he gave her in response made her heart sing with joy—a feeling so rare and so fleeting in this time of interstellar conflict and xeno war that she grabbed onto it with all her might, clinging desperately.

Twisting her powerful legs, Kira rolled them both over. Now, she was on top. “I told you, I’m in charge.”

She grabbed Omar’s wrists and pinned them to the sheets.

“I like it when you play rough, but I think all this power is going to your head, Boss.”

She laughed, then kissed him again. There wasn’t much talking after that. Just a murmured word here, a moan of pleasure there.

Kira knew she had to bask in joy while it lasted. War was hell. And she’d never loved anyone like she loved Omar.

The world of Yuzosix had been their breadbasket—the Solaran Empire’s largest grower of staple crops like rice, wheat and corn. It once boasted tens of thousands of greenhouses, full to bursting with exotic fruits and Earth-descended vegetables.

It was this knowledge that made Major Kira Miyaru sick to her stomach as she flew over acre after acre of the slimy, purplish-black Kryl fungus that smothered the world.

For all its arable farmland, Yuzosix itself was 90 percent water. Its aquamarine ocean still glittered in the light of the local star. From where Kira sat in the cockpit of her Scimitar, it looked as if the landmass had been scattered across a canvas of ocean by flicking paint from a brush sized for the cosmos.

Where the specks of paint landed, clusters of islands had formed, gathering here and there across both hemispheres.

Only one cluster was remotely large enough to deserve the designation of continent: a checkmark-shaped archipelago located 15 degrees south of the equator.

And even that was a stretch.

She adjusted her heading and marked the destination on her nav. With a few motions in her heads-up display, or HUD, she transmitted coordinates over broadbeam to her squad and the other groups in the strike force she was leading.

“Mark location, Banshees,” she told them, “and form up on me.”

She maneuvered to the head of the strike escort, positioned on either side of the bomber group, and engaged autopilot so she could take a closer look at their target.

Kira’s mission briefing included a profile of Yuzosix, so she knew a massive volcano hid underwater just off the coast of the largest island. Centuries of continuous eruptions had churned the crust into a fertile bed of dark soil. That soil was the reason the archipelago had become immeasurably valuable to Ariadne and the Empire’s tenuous string of colonies.

Yuzosix, alone, produced 40 percent of all grain crops distributed across Solaran space.

At least, it had. Now, it produced nothing.

Terraced cliffsides—so painstakingly sculpted by human hands to maximize the amount of productive farmland available—were no longer adorned by rice paddies and rows of green or golden crops.

Instead, a midnight-colored cancer spread across the fields. The Kryl fungus absorbed the light, seeming to swallow it with an insatiable appetite.

It was the very definition of invasive species.

This was the third world the xenos had invaded since the war began. Like the others, they claimed Yuzosix with a swiftness and ruthless brutality that boggled the mind. Those who survived the initial attacks had fled, evacuated one island at a time by the Solaran Fleet… but not before half the population had been brutally murdered. Kira had flown security or strike escort on many of those missions.

Now, she and the 2nd Fighter Squadron—nickname, Banshees—along with a massive contingent of bombers, were back to mete out the Empire’s justice.

“Strike Force Delta to Command, come in Command,” Kira said over tightbeam to the Knight of Eternity, their group’s flagship destroyer.

Colonel Bo Ballerdice, Wing Commander of the 5th Fighter Wing, picked up the line. He was in charge of this operation. “This is Command, go ahead, over.”

“I have visual confirmation of the archipelago. Are we clear to proceed?”

A tense silence followed her question. Kira swallowed and worked her tongue around a dry mouth. She adjusted her helmet against her spinal applicator and eyed her stim levels, the chemical scent of which she’d long ago learned to associate with focus, danger, and the frantic rush of battle.

“You’re a go, Reaper. Proceed with Phase One.”

Kira acknowledged the order, then signaled chaff bombers to move ahead while reducing her approach speed with the rest of the group.

She watched her lidar and radar readings as they strafed the target, dropping metal shavings designed to imitate Scimitars into the troposphere.

“Deploy Aluminite Fist,” Colonel Ballerdice said.

A dozen pairs of light, supersonic starcraft dipped into the atmosphere. They moved at incredible speeds over the islands, launching precision missiles to root out the most aggressive surface-to-air defenses while the Kryl were confused by the chaff.

She flinched when a pair of starcraft blinked out on her lidar. No matter how many pilots she lost, their deaths always jolted her heart like an electric shock.

It was different now that she was commander. It hurt more, somehow. She felt personally responsible for each life lost.

“Major Miyaru, what’s happening to the chaff? Report!” Colonel Ballerdice said.

Kira checked and found a group of Kryl drones using some kind of magnetic nets to sweep it out to sea. “They’ve clued in to our tactics, sir. Should we return and regroup?”

Ballerdice cursed colorfully. He’d personally developed these tactics on Teviq and Joplin, the two other colonies which had been invaded as the Kryl gained ground in the war. Those worlds had been nascent colonies, younger than Yuzosix and not nearly as essential to the Solaran Empire’s economy or food supply. Still, their human toll had been significant.

“Negative,” said her commanding officer. “Losses are well within mission parameters. Proceed with Phase Two.”

One of the reasons Kira had been awarded her new position was because the Fleet had suffered substantial losses over the past two years. She may have been a veteran of this war, but she was still young for a squadron commander.

The other reason was that she knew when to shut up and take orders.

Her tightbeam blinked on a private channel. She opened it and heard Omar’s familiar, confident voice. “We got this, Reaper, chaff or no chaff. Put me in. I’ll show you.”

Ballerdice’s words didn’t comfort her, but Omar’s did. Her resolve hardened. Out her portside window, he tilted his wings. She felt a wicked grin grow across her face.

He was the light in her darkness. Even in the face of death, Omar’s presence and game attitude lifted her spirits.

If it was a fight the Kryl wanted, it was a fight they were going to get. “Frag them into oblivion, Spidermonkey,” she said, using his callsign.

She switched back to Command and confirmed again—in a more professional tone—their decision. “Proceeding with Phase Two.” Then she added in a whisper, “For the people of Yuzosix.”

She lowered her Scimitar’s nose until it pointed at the tip of the island, then plunged into the stratosphere.

Her starfighters flew like avenging archangels. Omar blasted through Kryl drones like the destructive Spirit of Old Earth itself. They took several casualties on their way to the island chain, but not as many as they could have.

The firebombing began at the narrowest tip of the checkmark-shaped archipelago and continued across the land mass. Up close, Kira could see the fungus wasn’t a continuous sheet of black-purple mold coating the ground, but broken by cracks, wrapped around steaming pools of orange-yellow sulfur, and prying open cave mouths of incipient mining sites or lairs.

None of it would survive the precision depth rounds the bomber group dropped into them. The bombs were designed to burrow into the earth, and they were aimed at every visible Kryl encroachment.

On Teviq and Joplin, their missiles hadn’t gone deep enough. The Kryl protected their burrows by digging them deep—an evolutionary instinct—and the operations had to be repeated several times.

The Fleet wasn’t taking any chances with this one. As they completed their first pass, two more groups were coming in behind them to repeat the process.

It made Kira sick to her stomach. There would be no Kryl left when they were done.

There would be no Yuzosix, either.

No bread basket.

Only fire and grease, smoke and destruction. No human would return to this land for decades, maybe centuries. The Solaran Empire would have to find somewhere else to grow their crops.

Hours later, as she put the smoking wreckage in her rearview and returned to the Knight of Eternity, Kira held her churning gut still as she breathed through her nose and clung to the memory of joy with Omar.

It didn’t solve anything—not the sickening loss of Yuzosix, not the never ending exchange of death between human and xeno—but somehow his presence made it easier to bear.

Love, Loss, and Galactic Warfare

Major Kira Miyaru embarks on a top-secret mission that will reshape the destiny of the galaxy.

Chosen to lead a stealth bombing operation on the enemy homeworld, Kira faces unimaginable risk as hostile xenos and the perils of galactic war threaten to consume her.

In the crucible of battle, she must rise above her fears and transform into a leader who will stop at nothing to destroy the alien Overmind.

But victory comes at a steep price. Kira must risk herself, her squad—and, to her horror, the love of her life.

Operation Heartstrike is a heart-pounding space opera novella that will leave readers breathless. With its thrilling starfighter battles, immersive world-building, and the emotional journey of a commander searching for the strength to lead her squad through the jaws of death, this space fleet adventure explores the complexities of love, the cost of sacrifice, and the indomitable human spirit.

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Series reading order

Starfighter Origins
1. Spare Parts
2. Raptor
3. Operation Heartstrike

Relics of the Ancients
1. Starfighter Down
2. Hidden Relics
3. Rogue Swarm

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