Cover image for Phobos
Title:
Phobos
Author:
Drago, Ty.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Tor, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
431 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780765305442
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Status
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Concord Library X Adult Fiction Science Fiction/Fantasy
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Summary

Summary

Lt. Mike Brogue is one of a kind: the only native Martian to be a commissioned officer. He's the military's poster boy for relieving political tensions between Mars Colony and Earth---but he wants nothing to do with it. Brogue is just a man trying to do his job as a tactical analyst and prefers to leave the politics to civilians and government subcommittees.
After he manages to save a top Terran official from an extremist plot, however, the only way to avoid the spotlight is to get offplanet. So he pulls some strings and gets shipped to one of the small moons of Mars to help unravel a mystery.
Some people at the research station on Phobos---Mars's smallest moon---have been killed, and it seems like the culprit is a native life form. The first military team sent in quickly discovered just how lethal the Phobos beast could be.
Brogue, however, doesn't focus on the dust clouds and barren rock that compose the beast's lair but rather turns his attention to the high-tech research facility and its crew.
He soon learns that there's no such thing as a safe haven from political upheaval.


Author Notes

Ty Drago is a computer programmer, husband, father, and a born Quaker who has lived in New Jersey almost his entire life. An avid fan of history, he has traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe. Many years ago, Isaac Asimov gave a book signing in Philadelphia to promote his non-fiction work, One in a Trillion . Drago went to obtain an autographed copy, and when Dr. Asimov learned that Drago was a struggling young SF writer, he penned the following: To Ty: Please keep trying. Isaac Asimov. And he did.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Drago's exceptionally well-written first novel is a police procedural set on Mars in the twenty-second century. Lieutenant Mike Brogue, a tactical analyst, is the only native Martian officer in the Peace (-keeping) Corps, and for that reason, he isn't trusted by many of his colleagues. Their grudging acceptance is better than being a political public relations token, however, as is his lot after he saves the life of a high government official--a Terran official--and foils a terrorist plot. Escaping that predicament, he is sent to Phobos, where something suspected of being a native Martian life-form is killing people at a highly guarded research station. The book's opening sequences are a bit awkward, especially the dialogue, but once the investigation gets going, plot, pacing, and characters blend well. And suspense rapidly builds as we realize that some of the plots afoot threaten death tolls that make the ambitions of the terrorists Brogue foils early on seem mild. More, if you please, Mr. Drago. --Frieda Murray Copyright 2003 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Set on 22nd-century Mars and the larger of its two moons, Phobos, Drago's first novel successfully combines hard science (biotech and nanotech) with military and social SF. The SED corporation, which mines a vital metal christened barsoomium, calls the shots on the colonized Red Planet. When Lieutenant Michael Brogue, the only native Martian colonist in the Peacekeepers, rescues a visiting Terran politician from terrorists, he discovers that no good deed goes unpunished. He gets transferred to Phobos, where he replaces the moon's popular Peacekeeper officer recently killed by a mysterious life form known as the Phobos Beast. He also encounters the formidable Sergeant Choi Min Lau and the equally formidable Wilber Isaacs and his daughter Gabrielle, entrepreneurs running the Agraria research station on Phobos. Tracking down the Phobos Beast tangles Brogue in a web of intrigue involving near-mutiny, kidnapping and murder. After a weak opening (with infelicitous coinages like "Freedomist"), the author hardly sets a foot or a word wrong. This is a strong candidate for the year's best SF debut. (Nov. 17) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

As the only native-born Martian to serve as an officer in the Terran army, Lt. Mike Brogue acts as a liaison between Earth and the colonists of Mars. When he becomes embroiled in politics through saving the life of a Terran official, he requests reassignment to the moon Phobos, where a mysterious creature is killing members of a research station. Drago's first novel introduces a resourceful and honorable hero caught between sometimes conflicting loyalties. A speedy pace and lots of action scenes make this a good choice for readers of sf adventure and intrigue. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

CHAPTER 1 Vishniac Colony, Mars--August 11, 2218, 1000 Hours SST "That's an officer's tail, ain't it?" Lieutenant Michael Brogue, dressed in camouflage fatigues the color of a Terran desert, stood in the center of a wide cavern, surrounded by old-style arc lamps, fifty or more unmarked crates, a dozen terrified hostages, six desperate Freedomists, and an antique handheld chemically propelled projectile weapon pointed directly at the bridge of his nose. The man addressing him appeared to be about twenty-five years old, a native Martian. He was dressed in a sleeveless blue tunic and loose-fitting, bright red trousers, the cuffs of which had been sloppily shoved into a pair of heavy workman's boots--probably in an attempt to appear "military." He was currently being called a "terrorist" by the Martian media, and a "freedom fighter" by his small circle of compatriots. To Brogue, for the moment at least, he was simply the chud with the gun. It looked like a 9mm semiautomatic pistol. Brogue's father had collected such antiques. Though old, the weapon appeared quite serviceable. This meant that, like the pulse pistol that Brogue usually carried, it could strike him down effortlessly at this range (less than one meter). Unlike his pulse pistol, however, the 9mm did not have a stun setting. "Answer me, offworlder!" the gunman menaced. "Ain't that what they call that pony tail hanging down your back? An officer's tail? Guess that means you're an officer ?" The last word rolled off his tongue, thick with contempt. His fellows, three men and two women, murmured their loose consent. The sound seemed to rumble dangerously through the chamber, like an approaching sandstorm. Brogue swallowed reflexively. The barrel of the 9mm looked a meter wide. "Lieutenant Mike Brogue, Peace Corps Tactical Division. I'm unarmed." Of the group of terrorists, the gunman appeared to be most senior in both age and authority. They were all dressed as he was: in garishly colored clothing that, despite the seemingly haphazard splashes of red and blue, were actually uniforms of a sort. Their heads were shaved, and each sported a black tattoo, crudely inked upon their foreheads. Though the appearance of the tattoos varied all across Mars, these particular glyphs were identical, indicating that they were all clansmen, members of what Terrans would call a "street gang." Brogue didn't recognize this particular tattoo--three triangles, angled together to form the lower half of a hexagon, which suggested that this crowd didn't owe allegiance to any of the larger clans. Most likely they were a splinter group, or perhaps an entirely new faction. In either case, oaths had been sworn, with all the proper bloodletting--oaths that would be adhered to with deadly, youthful zeal. The cavern was spacious, but had a low ceiling. The floor was bare, layered in a couple of centimeters of regolith, the Martian word for soil. The Freedomists had obviously been using the place for some weeks. There were cots and blankets thrown here and there, and a makeshift kitchen--a hot plate, laser oven, and a small, portable refrigerator--had been established in a convenient niche. On the walls, Freedomist posters had been slapped up at odd angles. One showed the planet Mars from a distance, locked in the vise grip of a barsoomium glove. The glove was marked "SED," and the slogan below read: "They cannot hold our hearts. Free Mars!" Another depicted a hairless young man with a clan tattoo on his forehead raising one fist high in the air. He seemed to be in the midst of shouting something to a crowd. "Can't hear him?" the slogan inquired. "Try listening with your soul!" But it wasn't the posters that worried Brogue. It wasn't even the gunman. It was the crates. The cavern had almost certainly been a natural cave when the Vishniac construction companies had found it more than a century before. The work crews had probably expanded its original dimensions, leveling the floor and pulverizing the more inconvenient boulders. Such places made handy, makeshift supply depots. If true, then the fifty or so crates had been there a long time, which made them extremely dangerous, and Brogue doubted very much if his enthusiastic hosts truly understood that. The only way in or out was through a large, uneven archway to the north. The archway fed a man-made tunnel that eventually intersected with one of the colony's underground transit tubes. That was the way through which Brogue had entered, unarmed and waving a white rag. They had closed around him like ionized sand, seizing him and dragging him into the chamber's center, where the gunman had been waiting. He, in turn, had focused his weapon and waved off his followers, clearly confident of his authority and absolute control. Directly overhead, by Brogue's reckoning, the vast crowded center of Vishniac Colony muddled along in sweaty dissatisfaction. In the largest and oldest of the Martian colonies, six million people eked out their lives beneath Vishniac's shallow, translucent dome, insulated from the gutting, airless cold that was Mars. Such conditions, when suffered with little real hope for change, bred first discontent, then desperation. This desperation found its home in the hearts of children, turning enthusiastic idealism into violence and early graves. It had always been that way. A philosopher to the end, Brogue thought. His father would have laughed. Lieutenant Radcliff had reluctantly granted him ten minutes. Brogue guessed that he'd already used up two of them. In another eight, twenty combat troops would come pouring in and--if Brogue's worst fears were realized--a disaster would occur that would extend far beyond these young toughs and the hostages they held. Eight minutes. The hostages, trussed up with shipping wire and lined up against the chamber's uneven sidewall, stood huddled together with heavy fibrous tape pressed across their mouths. All but one were men, yet it was the woman amongst them whose presence lent urgency to the situation--whose welfare had induced Solar Exploration and Development, Inc. (SED) to dispatch Peacekeepers to "defuse the situation" rather than rely on the local civilian militia. She was Anja Golokov, Her Honor the Mayor of Vishniac, the single most powerful political figure on Mars. The rest were her entourage, aides and secretaries, as well as a couple of reporters who had been in the mayoral limousine, interviewing Her Honor when the ambush had struck. They'd been en route from Colony Hall to the Frontier House, in which Vishniac's elected Parliament met, when an explosion had rocked Government Avenue. A sinkhole had opened up in the street and into it had gone the mayoral limousine and its rearguard transport. The surrounding crowd had apparently broken into wild cheers. The mayor, like most SED-backed government officials, was not widely appreciated by the increasingly Freedomist populace. A celebratory riot had ensued, hampering the rescue efforts. A frantic search netted only two empty vehicles. Neither had fallen more than two meters--just far enough to disorient the mayor's guards and ensure a smooth capture. A note had been left, scrawled on a thin sliver of slate and written in a hasty Martian scrawl: "The truth shall set us free! Await instructions. Take no action or she dies." The Speaker of Parliament assumed temporary control of the city and issued a call for help to SED. Within two hours, a Peace Corps combat unit had been dispatched. Someone hunted up the underground transport tunnel construction blueprints. An old maintenance accessway was traced to a forgotten cave, unofficially marked "supplies." Peacekeeper troops entered the pressurized underground tunnel system less than three hours after the kidnapping. Thirty minutes later, they'd located the cavern entrance and secured its perimeter. As per regulations, a negotiator from Tactical Division was called in. Brogue had landed the assignment. Using a voice amplifier, he'd tried to establish contact. The kidnappers refused even to acknowledge him. So, already suspecting the dangers inherent in a direct assault, Brogue had volunteered to go in unarmed and "defuse" things. A bold idea that seemed less meritorious in the face of a gun barrel. Mayor Golokov, like all of her fellow politicos, was both a staunch Colonist and a born Terran. No birthright Martian had ever served as the mayor of any colony. At Vishniac, this highest office was appointed by Parliament, which met in the Frontier House and did include Martian representatives. However, beyond that function, Parliament could claim little real political weight. SED controlled the media and the money, which meant that it controlled nearly every seat in the Frontier House. In truth, it was the mayor--and, through her, SED--who made all the real decisions. Though not today, Brogue thought. Golokov, whom Brogue had never met, was considered to be a tough, no-nonsense administrator, and had been the first to embrace SED's declaration of martial law after Freedomist riots threatened her control. In the hands of these "terrorists," however, she had become simply a frightened, round-faced woman of some sixty years, her features plump in a way that was rarely seen on Mars, with imported food scarce and the local hydroponics gardens deteriorating because of poor management. Most of her entourage was the same: off-worlders of wealth and influence--the very antithesis of everything truly Martian. "Unarmed, huh?" the gunman remarked. Advancing, he pressed the barrel of his pistol against Brogue's forehead. "Riddle, give him a poke and prod." A moment later, Brogue felt a presence behind him. Small, inexperienced hands traced tentative paths under his armpits, along his arms, around his waist, and down each pant leg. Brogue, feeling the cold steel of the gun barrel hard against his bare skin, risked a small smile. "Riddle," he said, using what he assumed to be a clan nickname. "That was the worst frisk anyone's ever given me. I think you've seen too many vids. Why don't you do it again? This time, check my crotch, my sleeves and trouser cuffs, and the soles of my shoes. If I was wearing a hat, I'd suggest you check there, too." "Wh...what?" Riddle stammered. The voice was that of a boy, certainly no older than seventeen. "Do it," the gunman said, sounding annoyed. Riddle hesitated, then went over Brogue's wrists and ankles. Then he stooped and felt along the heels of his heavy combat boots. Finally, and with obvious reluctance, he ran a hand between Brogue's legs. It was a shy and cursory inspection. Brogue could have taped a knife below his scrotum, and the kid would have missed it entirely. "Better," Brogue said. "Not great, but better. You keep practicing." "He's...uh...he's clean," Riddle reported. "Take his veyer!" a voice called out from among the clanspeople. "He ain't wearing one," Riddle replied. "My veyer is embedded under the skin of my right temple," Brogue said conversationally, keeping his eyes fixed on Buzz. "That's standard for all Peace Corps personnel." "I heard that," the gunman remarked. "I also heard that the brass sends signals through the veyer into your brain, to control you." Brogue shook his head. "That's a myth. My veyer is more or less exactly like the external patches you all wear, strictly one-way. It receives a wide variety of feeds and turns them into signals that my optical and auditory nerves can interpret. True, I have a broader range of access when it comes to available signals than you do. But it's still strictly one-way." "Then why embed it under your skin, Officer's Tail?" the gunman sneered. "It improves the interface," Brogue replied, keeping his voice carefully steady, almost friendly. "Your veyer patch has to transmit through the epidural layers at your temple. Mine is wired directly into the target nerves. It allows for a more vivid signal. On top of that, military personnel are required to wear their veyers at all times. Implanting them relieves us of the temptation to take them off." "Uh-huh," the gunman said. "Just one more thing that makes you an SED stooge, Officer's Tail." "If you say so." Again the sneer. "Yeah. I say so. Okay. So you're clean." He retreated a couple of steps, keeping his weapon firmly directed at Brogue. "Say your piece and, if I like it, I won't blow your head off and dump your body up the tunnel for your buddies to cry over." "I appreciate that," Brogue replied. Keeping his arms raised, he nodded at the gun. "Does that thing have a safety?" The gunman grinned. "Not as far as you're concerned." "Do you have a handle?" Brogue asked. "Something I can call you?" "Buzz," the gunman said. "Like the old astronaut." Brogue wasn't sure if Edwin Aldrin would have appreciated the homage, but a name was a name. Nodding, he slowly regarded each of the kidnappers' faces. Kids. The youngest of them looked no more than fourteen, a skinny waiflike girl who had probably been raised in the colony's gutters and kissed her innocence good-bye about three years back. She wore the look of a wary rabbit on the edge of bolting. It was an odd observation, Brogue thought, since, outside of Terran vids, he'd never seen a rabbit. Most of the others were doing their level best to mimic Buzz's bravado. The thrill of it had intoxicated them, filling them with a delicious rush of camaraderie and power. Conversely, however, the cold reality of their situation must be slowly setting in. Despite the audacity, courage, and luck that had gone into the kidnapping, they were not soldiers. They were children, or little better, in so far over their heads that they couldn't even see the surface anymore. The scenario that they'd set into motion had exploded into a sociopolitical sandstorm that they could barely comprehend, much less control. "Where are you getting your air and power, Buzz?" Brogue asked casually. "Stealing it from the city?" "Green for go, Officer Tail," Buzz crowed. "We hooked into one of the underground vents a week after we found this place. There was already an old transit juice line passing through. We just tapped right in. Now the breeze and the juice come in twenty-four hours a day. Collies don't know a thing." "Collie" was a derogatory term for "Colonist"--the facet of Mars's population, ever smaller, that still valued the old status quo established by the original settlers nearly a century and a half before. Colonists paid their taxes without complaint to SED, fully supported the traditional practice of ID tattoos, and recognized Mars's inherent subservience to the corporation that had colonized it. It was a point of view lately reserved for very wealthy, old Martian families, who found the current system personally advantageous. "Problem is, they do know it now, Buzz," Brogue said, keeping his hands very high above his head. He needed to be frank, disarmingly honest--but not hostile. Buzz was confident at the moment, but that confidence could turn to panic at the slightest hint of trouble. If something--anything--happened to startle him, Brogue would be dead in a heartbeat. "Snatching the mayor the way you did was nothing short of genius, but you blew it on the getaway. It wasn't hard to track you back to this old supply cavern, and even easier to track the makeshift vents that bleed air into it from the colony stores. If they wanted to, SED could cut off your air right now." "Not a chance, Officer Tail!" Buzz said with a laugh of sheer bravado. "I'll waste the whole lot of these Collies if the air stops coming in. Her Honor the bitch first!" "Maybe they'll just drop in a nerve agent then," Brogue suggested. "A gram or two per cubic meter. I could name a half dozen handy little mixtures that would drop you off to sleep before you knew what happened." Buzz didn't have a ready answer for that one. The "soldier" guarding the hostages stiffened, his expression wary. "Can they do that, Buzz?" "Deimos, man!" Buzz said, using the popular Martian curse word, named for the smaller of the Red Planet's two moons. "He's bluffing!" The rest of the Freedomists broke into a chorus of nervous chatter. "You may be right, Buzz," Brogue said, speaking loudly enough to bring the chamber to instant, attentive silence. "Maybe they'll just cut the power and come in shooting." "They do that, and all these Collies are dead, Officer Tail!" Buzz spat. "Think so?" Brogue asked. "Here's how it will happen. The lights'11 go out...like that!" Brogue snapped his fingers, still keeping both hands high above his head. "For a second or two you'll be disoriented. It's human nature, Buzz. Can't be helped. Before you can even raise that ancient gun of yours, a pulse from a sniper rifle will turn your skull into pudding. Light-amplification veyer modules, Buzz. They can see you, but you can't see them. You'll be dead before you hit the floor." Buzz's pale face flushed. His grip on the gun tightened. Brogue didn't like the signs, but then Buzz was no longer his relevant audience. Though he kept his eyes locked on the ringleader, it was the followers he was really addressing. "Want to know why I just walked in here, alone and unarmed?" "To die, that's why," Buzz muttered. "No, to talk to you," Brogue said. "To break tradition and actually tell you people the truth for once." "Maybe we'd better listen, Buzz," one of the women said. The speaker was older than the waif, perhaps all of nineteen. She had a nice figure, though the heavy makeup she wore, especially set against her bald head, lent her an oddly ghoulish appearance. Buzz glanced nervously around, sensing his authority slipping slightly. If pushed too far, he might pull the trigger just to prove that he was still in control. "Okay," Buzz said finally. "But enough with the what-ifs. Talk straight." Brogue took a deep breath. "I'm here because I asked...well, bullied...the antiterrorist squad leader into letting me come in and talk you all out of this." Before anyone could make any response, he plunged on. "Right now there are twenty...everybody hear me? Twenty ...combat troops out in the tunnel, just beyond sight. Their commander is a chud named Radcliff, and he's about as mean as they come. Remember what I said about the power getting cut off? He plans to do exactly that. Then, with the lights out, his troops will pour in here with those light-amp v-mods. Each one will be armed with either a sniper rifle or a wide-range pulse sprayer. Anybody holding a weapon...yeah, even a relic like that one you've got there...will be killed on the spot. The rest will be stunned, hostages included. The whole operation will take less than half a minute. Buzz, you'll be dead. The rest of you will probably end up hanged under the canons of martial law." The murmur that ran through the Freedomist ranks sounded decidedly fearful. "Deimos!" Buzz cried. "We got the mayor in here, Officer Tail! They ain't going to risk the mayor's wrinkled old ass on a stunt like that!" "Radcliff will, and he has sole discretion in this matter. To him, you're little better than mad dogs. Whatever excuse he can use to terminate the lot of you, he'll use. If a couple hostages get sacrificed...well, this is war, right? Sometimes there are casualties. They'll go down as having been killed by one of your people before the rescue. Even Mayor Golokov. Who's going to know different?" "We'll know," the waif said quietly. "Only until you're dead," Brogue countered gently. "That's another bonus of losing a hostage or two. It gives the bastard the perfect excuse to waste the lot of you. Just a drumhead tribunal, then a wire noose." "Buzz..." muttered Riddle. Buzz scoffed. "No chance! This Collie stooge is plowing us! Clansmen! We got the mayor! They'll give us anything we want!" "They won't give you a thing," Brogue said. "They don't dare appear that weak in front of a local population so ripe for open revolt. Radcliff gave me ten minutes to explain that to you, to convince you to surrender peacefully. I only got that much time because, technically, I outrank him and because he frankly hates my guts and hopes to the stars that you'll kill me." "But...if we give up...won't they shoot us?" asked the waif. "Not if you drop your weapons and walk out with me. Under the canons of martial law, terrorism is only a capital offense if people are killed. Radcliff's crazy enough to sacrifice me...or one of the hostages...and call it 'the heat of battle.' But if nobody on your side is fighting...if he has no gunshots or enemy pulse burns to point to, he'll have no excuse." "It's dead earth!" Buzz snapped. "Dead as the Red. Don't plant it." "Your call," Brogue said with a shrug. "I figure I've got about ninety seconds of my ten minutes left. If I'm very lucky, I might just get out of this alive once the shooting starts." "You won't, Officer Tail!" spat Buzz. "I'll dust you right off." "You'll be dead by then," Brogue said flatly. "If I die, it'll be by Radcliff's hand...or one of his troops." "But you're both Peacekeepers!" the waif exclaimed, her eyes wide with fear. "Why would he shoot you?" Finally, Brogue thought. He'd begun to think they'd never get around to that question. "Partly because Radcliff is a Combat Division veteran. I'm in the Tactical Division, and the two branches of the Corps have kept up a nasty rivalry for decades. But largely, it's because Radcliff is more than just a diehard Collie. He's a Purificationist, at least in his heart, with a Purificationist's hatred of Mars and its people. He'd dust me because I'm like you, honey...because I'm a Martian." A shocked murmur ran through the group. Even the hostages gaped at him. After a moment of stunned silence, Buzz uttered a loud, overplayed laugh. "Deimos you are! Martians don't get into the Corps...'least not as officers." "I'm the first," Brogue said. "I was born at Allara, up near the equator." "Allara's gone," someone said--not an accusation, just a statement of fact. "I know," Brogue said. Allara had been a small, underfunded, and unprofitable colony that had endured for only a few years before packing it up, its meager population merging with one of the larger Martian settlements, such as Olympus or Vishniac. A few went off-world, emigrating either to Luna or to Terra, which was what Martians called Earth. "You got digits?" the older woman asked. "He ain't got no digits!" Buzz cried. He was waving the gun all over the place now, his voice high-pitched, like a child's. "It's dead earth! You hear me? Dead earth!" Slowly, never taking his eyes off the gun, Brogue lowered one hand. Buzz caught the movement and turned, his face a sheen of sweat, his eyes wide with suspicious hatred. The business end of his pistol was suddenly under Brogue's nose, so close that he could smell the gun oil. "Don't try it, Officer Tail. Don't you do a thi--" "My forearm," Brogue said. "Have a look." "It's a trick!" "Have a look," Brogue said. "Quickly. You're almost out of time." "Do it, Buzz!" Riddle said. The rest nodded a hasty assent. Cursing, Buzz's free hand pulled back the sleeve of Brogue's camouflage suit, revealing a blue, stenciled number tattooed into his left forearm, just below the wrist. AL-62017 "It's true," the waif said. "He's one of us." "It's dead earth," Buzz said, but there was no conviction in it. "He could've...put it there to...you know...trick us..." He rubbed his thumb over the characters, as if trying to smudge them, to prove they were merely drawn on. They stayed right where they were, buried under the skin since birth, marking Brogue for who and what he was--the sixty-two thousand and seventeenth person born into the colony of Allara--a Martian. And therefore unclean. At that instant, the lights went out. Some of the kidnappers began to scream. Buzz let out a startled gasp. Brogue's right hand came down and caught Buzz's wrist, giving it a vicious twist. The gunman cried out, struggling, but Brogue balled up his left fist and brought it crashing down upon the youth's head, clubbing him to his knees. Then he wrenched the gun free and shoved Buzz to the ground, pinning his chest under one heavy boot. "Everybody down!" he cried into the darkness. "Now!" He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a pellet that Riddle had missed during his amateurish search. He bit the pellet to break its seal and threw it toward the cavern's threshold. It landed silently in the thin layer of regolith, bounced once, then sizzled into bright, fiery life, filling the chamber with uneven, but effective, illumination. Brogue heard a cry of surprise and pain from the corridor, followed by several angry curses. With their light-amp v-mods activated, the magnesium pellet had momentarily blinded the approaching troops, though the flash safeties would prevent any real corneal damage. Seizing this narrow window of opportunity, Brogue drew a deep breath and called at the top of his voice, "This is Lieutenant Brogue. This situation is stable. Repeat! This situation is stable! Hold your fire!" "Proceed as planned!" someone called from deep within the chamber's only tunnel. It was a low, gravelly voice that Brogue recognized immediately. "The situation intel has not changed! Proceed as planned!" "I have the only gun!" Brogue declared. "The terrorists have all submitted and are lying prone. Under the canons of martial law, you cannot open fire on unarmed offenders who have willingly surrendered. To do so, even under orders, is a court-martial offense. Peace Corps Combat Regulations: Chapter 22, Subchapter 12, Paragraph 9." That probably wasn't the exact quote, or even the right chapter, but the content was real enough, and Radcliff knew it. For more than half a minute, no sound came from the darkened tunnel. "I repeat!" Brogue shouted. "I am in possession of the only gun! The terrorists have surrendered, and the hostages are safe! Do...not...fire!" As the magnesium pellet's glare subsided, a single soldier, his features concealed behind a visored helmet, emerged through the tunnel entrance. The faceless figure looked left, then right, taking in the chamber and its occupants. Then he raised his pulse rifle. The weapon's business end settled on Brogue's chest. Brogue felt a sudden, cold snap of fear--knowing full well who was behind that tinted mask. "Radcliff," he said loudly, "the situation is stable. If you fire that weapon, even on stun--you're liable to kill us all." "Like hell, Martian," the figure said. The rage and menace dripping from his words carried far more weight than anything Buzz had been able to muster. "Mayor Golokov is right here, Radcliff," Brogue said. "She's watching your every move. Your Honor? May I present Lieutenant Jeffrey Radcliff." Despite the easy tone of his voice, Brogue didn't turn, or take his eyes away from the armed figure. Radcliff remained stock-still for another few seconds before slowly, and with visible reluctance, lowering his weapon. "Stand down, troops!" he called back into the tunnel. Then, with his free hand, he removed the helmet, revealing a pale, heavily featured visage and two small, resentful eyes set under a mop of blond hair. Radcliff's own officer's tail was long, hanging nearly to the small of his back. "Damn you, Brogue!" he spat. "The next time you stick your Martian nose into one of my operations, I swear to God I will kill you!" Copyright (c) 2003 by Ty Drago Excerpted from Phobos by Ty Drago All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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