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The Thorne Legacy
by J. D. Brink
This is a military SF novella (with a touch of monster horror) that goes for $1.49 just about anywhere ebooks are sold. It was also a quarter finalist in 2012 at the Writers of the Future Contest. I also just sent the audiobook version up for final approval, which should be available soon on Audible.com, Amazon, and iTunes.
Here’s a few primary links:
(B&N still showing old cover for some reason)
Fugitives of Purgatory (author’s website): http://www.jdbrinkfugitive.com
The military police had not gone easy on Corporal Cranston Thorne. He rolled the beer can against his blackened right eye, searching for a spot that was still cold. Getting warm, he thought. He popped it open and chugged half of it, grimacing as the carbonation burned his throat, then fished a fresh one from the minifridge and slumped back into the couch. The new can’s cold metallic surface was shocking to his swollen eye, but it felt good.
“I’ll remember that, Jarvis,” he said aloud. He and that traitorous MP Jarvis had shared brews and a couple games of darts just a few weeks back. But last night’s incident just proved what Thorne had always said: you can’t trust a man on duty to back his friends.
The gladiators on the vid hovered in their gravboots, beating their chests and talking shit behind colorful masks. Thorne took another swig of warm beer and imagined himself as a primetime gladiator. He’d wear blue tights with a plunging waist line (to show off the tattoo on his stomach) and a shiny chrome helmet with a yellow Roman crest bristling down the middle. Weapon of choice... An oversized mallet, maybe. Hell, big-time cornball pit fighting might be the only career track left to him if he ended up with a dishonorable discharge from the Guard.
There were voices outside. Sharp and crisp, like obedient dogs yipping for their master’s approval. There had been a rotation of two privates—probably all fresh from boot camp with no qualifications yet to do anything else—posted on his door ever since the MPs had deposited him back home. Whatever pair of lapdogs were out there now, they were obviously kissing someone’s ass smartly.
Thorne sighed and his cold aluminum compress fell away from his face.
Not him, he thought. The old prick should still be out on patrol somewhere. He knew it would only be a matter of time before the Captain showed up, but he was hoping it would be after tomorrow’s court-martial. The base judicial system was moving fast on him this time, but maybe not fast enough. Corporal Thorne scratched his bristly chin and slouched even further down in his seat. His green uniform pants were unbuttoned at the top, the belt undone and hanging open, and he made no effort to close them; Thorne intended to show the Captain a deliberate lack of military discipline. He did, however, tug his white undershirt down over the naked woman tattooed on his belly.
The door of the barracks apartment opened. Two buck privates in immaculate green uniforms stood like statues outside while Captain Thanos Thorne entered between them.
“The boys all get tall and stiff when you come around,” Cranston deadpanned, turning his attention back to the colorful gladiators on the vidscreen. “When did you get back?”
The door slid shut behind Captain Thorne, who stormed forward and came to a stop at the younger man’s elbow. Thorne glanced up, saw the dark blue of the Spatial Corps uniform and the matching eyes that burned like cold stars, then looked away. The Captain said nothing.
“The silent treatment hasn’t worked on me since the seventh grade, Pops.”
“Don’t ‘Pops’ me,” the Captain growled. “Get on your feet.”
Cranston Thorne stubbornly laced his fingers behind his head. His arms bulged and the naked woman’s legs peeked out. “This is my place.”
The Captain’s speed defied his age. He stole the vid control, turned off and flung the controller at the screen in one swing, then stooped down face to face with his son, the deep ravines of his weathered face made deeper by his angry snarl. “And the only reason you’re in this rat hole and not the brig is because you’re my son. Now get on your feet!”
Thorne got up, deliberately slow, matching glares with his father. They were almost mirror images, both built thick and stocky, both with stone jaws and blue eyes. The elder’s were dark and intense, the younger’s bloodshot and ringed with bruises. The father’s hair was slate grey, the son’s sandy brown.
“Don’t look at me,” Captain Thorne spat. “You’re addressing a superior officer, stand at attention!”
The corporal became rigid, arms at his sides, staring straight through his father and the wall beyond.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” The Captain sidestepped, his glare focused on the blackening of his son’s right eye. “You’ll be out this time, I’ll see to it.”
The corporal was like a statue, showing no sign that being a civilian again would bother him in the least.
Captain Thorne looked him up and down, then kicked aside a lump of laundry on the floor. “Humpf. It’s appropriate that you’re wearing only half a uniform, since you’ve only ever been half a soldier. We’ll see how you like wearing brig orange. That will be more appropriate.” He snatched a green uniform jacket from the floor. Pinned to the chest were only three service ribbons, not very impressive for five years of service, and on the lapels were corporals’ paired chevrons. “Do you even know what kind of an embarrassment you are?” he continued. “My son, the corporal. When someone asks how my son, the sergeant, is liking the Planetary Corps, I have to explain that you lost a rank. I have to tell the whole damned story again, and how you drag the Thorne family name through the mud every time you decide to play in it.”
Sergeant Cranston Thorne had been busted down not so long ago for conduct unbecoming. Now he’d likely be reduced to a private first class. The Captain was having a harder time with it than he was.
“Six generations of spacefaring military officers...”
Not the Odysseus lecture again, Thorne thought. The first two ancestors in that proud line were supposedly of the Odysseus subspecies, engineered for space exploration. Even though the characteristic Thorne build hinted at the robust nature of Oddies, Cranston had always assumed that particular claim was dreamed up by his father for pure boasting rights.
The Captain tossed the green jacket to the floor. “And not only are you not an officer, but you’re not even in the System Guard Spatial Corps. Six generations of tradition and family honor, and with you the chain’s been broken. The Thorne legacy, ruined.”
Corporal Thorne maintained his military bearing, posture rigid, eyes locked on some distant horizon. “Lucky number seven,” he muttered.
The Captain closed again, his breath hot on his son’s face. “You’re not funny.
“And now you’re in trouble again. It was all over my ship within an hour of docking. But I told myself that the rumor mills are vicious and exaggerated. Or are they?”
“Dereliction of duty,” Thorne replied, “and theft of a System Guard vehicle.”
The Captain shook his head. “A common criminal. Have you no pride?”
“What can I say, Pops? A bottle of rum and a nice pair of tits play hell with your moral compass.”
“You’re a disgrace.”
“So you’ve said.” Corporal Thorne licked his lips. “Six generations of spacefarers, huh? Did Commander Cranston Thorne the First tell your father that he was a disgrace when he broke the Naval tradition and decided to join System Guard instead? When he chose to stay on Giger with his wife and son, to raise you instead of being off-planet for years at a time? Was my grandfather a disgrace, too?”
“Shut your mouth. You don’t have family as an excuse. You don’t have an excuse.” The Captain moved into his son’s thousand meter stare. “I’ve already spoken with Colonel Ymir, who will be holding your court-martial tomorrow. I’ve told him my feelings on the matter, that you should be busted down in rank and thrown out on your ear, after spending your last few months of service in the brig.”
Thorne’s bearing broke. Their blue eyes met. “Thanks for standing up for me, Pops.”
The Captain blinked. His face crinkled slightly and turned away, hands clasping behind his back.
And there was silence. Captain Thorne walked over to an open closet and aimlessly inspected a few hanging uniforms. He meandered to the bathroom threshold and flicked the light on and off. He stared at a painting on the wall, pretending to be interested in the image of an old time matador shaking a red cape at a naked woman on all fours with horns on her head.
Well, how do you like that? Cranston thought. The ice in Hell does thaw once in while. He’s speechless, maybe even ashamed. For a minute.
Sensing this rare vulnerability, he pressed the attack: “Will you be in court tomorrow, Daddy, to personally strip me of my uniform? I’m sure your big brass buddies will be cheering you on and slapping you on the ass.”
His father turned back to him, face softened. “No.” The Captain adjusted the matador painting on the wall, then his hands went behind him again. “We only came back into dock for supplies and to gather the rest of the squadron. We’ll be leaving orbit in a few hours.”
The atmosphere changed. Suddenly there was more going on here than their little family crisis. “The whole squadron?” Thorne asked.
The Captain nodded. “I can’t tell you much about it. Some of it is classified.”
“I can’t leave this room, and, from what you say, I’ll be in the brig past next spring.” Cranston allowed himself a sneer. “Who am I going to tell?”
Captain Thorne cleared his throat. “We’ve lost contact with John Henry Station in the Bradley Belt. The patrol boat Orion’s Hound was sent to investigate and now they’re missing.”
“That’s way out on the edge of the system... You think it was an attack?”
The Captain said nothing.
“But we’re no where near any border space.” Of course, that didn’t really matter. A truly dedicated assault fleet could just remain in Slip Space for a longer period of time and pop back out well beyond the stellar borders. An extended jump like that, though, had a lot of risks.
Thorne’s deteriorating posture relaxed completely now. “You’re going to take the entire squadron out there and leave the planet defenseless? You’re the commanding officer of the damn flagship, shouldn’t you know better than that?”
His father’s finger hovered in front of his nose, a very unmilitary gesture and another sign that the ice was melting, despite the Captain’s words: “You are in no position to tell me how to conduct military business. When I want advice on how to get my ass in a sling, I’ll come to you. Understand?”
Thorne couldn’t help but grin. “Yes, sir.”
The smile was too much. It completely dissolved the disciplinary atmosphere. Captain Thorne turned away and was halfway to the door when he said, “I’ll come see you in the brig when I get back.” The door slid open, the guards posted outside snapped to attention, the door closed.
Corporal Cranston Thorne collapsed back onto his couch. He took a long drink from his beer and looked at the digital display on the wall. The time was 1134. He’d be getting ready for court in twenty hours.
At least he knew a couple of the guys that worked the brig. Maybe they’d sneak him some beer during his stay.
Click here to purchase The Thorne Legacy from Amazon
About J. D. Brink:
J. D. Brink was not a private detective in the 1940s, but he’d liked to have been. Instead he was born in the 1970s, was a kid at the best time ever to be a kid (the ‘80s), and went to college in the ‘90s. He has since become a sailor, spy, teacher, officer, nurse, and father. Today he and his family live in Texas, where there aren’t enough cheating husbands, missing persons, practicing witches, or hard-boiled mysteries to keep him occupied. In his writing, like his life, he likes to dabble in multiple genres.