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Book 3: Rogue Swarm

Book 3: Rogue Swarm

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He opened his engines to full burn, causing Hedgebot to squawk and smack hard against the rear bulkhead.

He was approaching the edge of the asteroid field now, and a large rock loomed ahead of him. Elya tapped the trigger on his stick, sending a few bolts of energy flying ahead of him.

The drones scattered, moving in all different directions to avoid the blast.

All except one.

One drone blurred, letting the bolt pass through its fuselage.

“It’s Subject Zero!” Elya said to the others. “I just saw him phase shift.”

“Flight 4 is closing on your position,” Volk said. “They’re cutting off the angle and will be there in less than two minutes.”

“We don’t have two minutes, Colonel!”

“Whatever you do, keep him in your sights,” said Captain Osprey.

Zero’s drone went solid again. Elya knew from experience that the mutant had to wait about forty-five seconds before the relic he was using cooled down enough to phase shift again. The time was now.

Elya muted his mic. “Hedgebot, timer for forty seconds.” He unmuted it. “I’m going after him. Gears, Naab—wipe those other drones off the lidar.”

“On it!” Yorra said. The two of them veered away.

“Raptor, are you with me?” Elya asked.

“On your six. Go!”

Subject Zero pulled a hard left and aimed straight for an egg-shaped asteroid. Elya followed, leaning on his blaster. Zero dodged every shot.

Damn, he’s good! Elya thought.

Subject Zero was once the best starfighter pilot in the Fleet. As the mutant approached the rock, he twisted and spun as he turned down, putting the belly of his drone close to the rock and forcing Elya to weave between cracks, cliffs, and crenellations to keep him in his sights. Zero curved around the asteroid. Elya mimicked his path, staying hot on his tail.

“We can’t catch him if he’s leading the dance,” Osprey said. “We’ve got to head him off.”

Forty-five seconds was a long time in a dogfight, but Elya was so engrossed in the chase that it passed without notice. Hedgebot flared red and beeped. “He’s gonna phase shift again.”

Subject Zero braked hard in front of them and turned right into the rock. He passed right through it this time as the indicator tracking his ship dropped off the lidar.

“Quick,” Osprey said. “Other side of the asteroid.”

They hugged the rock tight as they curved around, but it caused them to take a longer arc than Subject Zero would have. The only difference was, he was flying blind, without instruments. Assuming those drones even had instrument panels.

“Where’d he go?” Osprey asked.
“Earth, I don’t know! Hedgebot?” A blinking dot re-appeared on his lidar and Hedgebot scurried straight overhead. “There!” Elya said, pointing the nose of his Sabre up.

His stomach somersaulted as he pulled back on his stick.

“He’s headed back out,” Elya said. “I think he’s trying to jump away!”

It would take a moment to warm up his hyperspace drive. It was also prudent to jump as far from a gravity well as a starship could manage. Elturis-2, being a broken planet, gave a little more leeway than most.

Elya turned his engines to max burn once again, determined to catch Subject Zero before he escaped. This was the fight he’d been waiting for, and all the mutant seemed to want to do was lead him on a wild chase around the asteroid field. Annoying.

“Why won’t you turn and fight me?” Elya muttered under his breath.

Flight 4 arrived and helped Yorra and Park clean up the rest of the drones—mere distractions. Only Zero mattered.

“Raptor, dual launch? We’ve got a clear shot now.”

They deployed their missiles, four of them. Subject Zero waited until the missiles got close enough to fight, then immediately flipped backwards and used his projectile weapons to shoot them down one at a time, all while dodging blaster fire from both him and Captain Osprey’s Sabre.

“Stars!” Elya cursed. “He’s so good.”

It had been footage of Subject Zero, then known as Captain Omar Ruidiaz, which had inspired Elya to become a pilot. It got under his skin that even now, he still wasn’t good enough to beat the man—or rather, the mutant. The Kryl genes seemed to have made him into a better pilot.

“Fire again!” Osprey was into it now, hanging with Elya’s every curve. She was a skilled pilot, too. A match for Nevers on a good day. Surely the two of them could take out a single mutant.

This time Subject Zero didn’t dodge their shots. Another forty-five seconds had elapsed, and he phase shifted, letting the missiles pass through him and drift into space as they lost their target. He shut off his engines while the phase shift was active.

“He’s jumping!” Elya shouted.

He accelerated, trying to get as close as he could. Maybe the phase shifter would shut off before the jump and Elya would have a split second for a clear shot. Subject Zero didn’t make a move to jump away. He let himself drift, as he had to in order to activate the hyperspace drive.

Elya’s instrument panels jumped again. Hedgebot beeped angrily.

A majestic, armored cruiseliner dropped out of hyperspace exactly halfway between his position and the Kryl mutant.

“Earth!” Elya said, pulling up into a loop and arcing back.

Subject Zero jumped away, turning into a streak of light behind the cruiseliner.

An arms race for alien artifacts!

In an arms race for the last remaining pieces of powerful alien technology, the Solaran Fleet and their killer xeno nemesis vie for control of the galaxy.

If the relics fall into the wrong hands, Overmind X’s rogue swarm will have the advantage in the most deadly space battle the Solaran Fleet has ever fought.

But a surprise visit from a wealthy and enigmatic patron complicates the admiral’s plans, unlocking new mysteries about the ancient technology’s true purpose.

Victory is uncertain. But in the face of invasion and all-out war, failure is not an option.

Read the hit space opera adventure series beloved by fans of Honor Harrington, Battlestar Galactica, and the Starcraft franchise. Expect an unforgettable ride filled with intrepid starfighter pilots, killer xenos, lovable robot sidekicks, and an innovative twist on ancient alien technology that will keep you guessing till the very end.

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Series reading order

1. Starfighter Down
2. Hidden Relics
3. Rogue Swarm
4. Spare Parts
5. Raptor
6. Operation Heartstrike

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