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Excerpt, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, v7: Tempest

On January 12, leading the entire fleet that was under his command, Lutz departed from Iserlohn Fortress. The fleet was composed of more than 15,000 vessels, and the embarkation of this stately swarm of light flecks was picked up by the Yang Fleet right away—though since this was being done for show, that was only natural.

“Admiral Lutz has left Iserlohn.”

On January 13, that report from Bagdash was greeted with cheers and whistles among the crew of the Yang Fleet. Another of “Yang Wen-li’s miracles” was on the verge of coming to pass, and it was how well theyfought that would determine whether or not it came true. Voices rose up calling for an advance celebration, and in no time bottles of whiskey were passing from hand to hand, each soldier drinking in turn.

In the midst of such a cheerful, fearless crew, not even calm, imperturbable Merkatz—whom some even called “the Yang Fleet’s only gentleman”—could maintain the dignified aloofness of his imperial days. Although he just touched his lips to the drink for appearances’ sake, when he awkwardly raised aloft a small flask of whiskey, the applause and the cheers grew even louder, and that was when he opened his mouth with something important to say.

“We have Lutz acting in accordance with our plan, but Lutz must also think that he has us acting according to his plan. He is an outstanding tactician, and the fleet he commands is ten times the size of ours. Unless we can gain control of the fortress before he turns around and overwhelms us, our chance for victory will be lost forever. The battle to capture the fortress will commence immediately. Vice Admiral von Schönkopf, I’d like to ask you to command the front line.”

“You can rest assured, Admiral. Just leave it to me.”

Von Schönkopf saluted, showing not a hint of apprehension. In that year of SE 800, he would turn thirty-six, a graceful gentleman in his prime. Watching him, Julian was remembering Yang’s explanation of the plan to capture the fortress.

“…Lutz is a fine admiral. He understands just how important Iserlohn is, so even if the kaiser orders him to mobilize, it’s possible that he’ll stay put and beg him to reconsider. And even if he departs Iserlohn per the kaiser’s command, there’s no telling when he might catch on to our plan and turn back. That’s why we’re letting him know up front what our plan is. If he sits there and doesn’t mobilize, there’s nothing we can do, but depending on how we leak the intel, we can probably make him think that he’s catching us in a trap. And to catch us in that trap, it will be necessary for him to be a certain distance away from the fortress. The farther away he moves, the easier it gets for our plan to succeed. You may think I’m relying too much on cheap tricks, but cheap tricks are what we need… so that Lutz can see through them…”

Lutz fell splendidly into Yang’s trap. At that time, the orthodox tactician—who under normal circumstances would have led a large force and an impregnable fortress to crush Yang’s group head-on without resorting to stopgap tricks—was 800,000 kilometers from port, watch­ing on the screen of his flagship as the Yang fleet bore down on the fortress.

“They’ve fallen for it, those wandering bandits.”

Kornelias Lutz was hardly what might he called a frivolous man, but just this once, he couldn’t contain the joy that was bubbling up inside him. At long last, Yang Wen-li, that living treasure trove of trickery and ingenious plans, was about to become ensnared in his own trap, and the knee of the Imperial Navy would soon weigh heavily against his neck.

His joy, however, was not to be long-lived. Though he waited and waited, the white column of Thor’s Hammer—the fortress’s main cannon, capable at any moment of erasing those impertinent enemies from the sky at point-blank range—never roared forth. The commanding officer’s eyes were locked on the screen, while behind him, his staff officers were exchanging uneasy and suspicious glances.

“Why isn’t Thor’s Hammer firing?” Lutz shouted. A nervous, agitated sweat dampened the brow of the Imperial Navy’s intrepid admiral. His carefully timed, intricately constructed plan was beginning to collapse like a wall of sand.

###

On the other side of an 800,000-kilometer void, the tension inside Iser­lohn Fortress had rapidly grown into worry, followed by panic. Operators flooded the comm channels with a mixture of screams and curses, and their fingers raced vainly across their keyboards as though they were amateur pianists.

“It isn’t working!”

“No response!”

“Control is not possible!”

Their cries resounded against one another. Numerous transmissions had been broadcast from the rapidly closing Yang Fleet. One of them that Iserlohn’s computers picked up was a string of words no operator could have considered a normal transmission—“For health and beauty, have a cup of tea after every meal”—and in that instant, all defensive systems immediately went down.

Vice Admiral Wöhler, entrusted by Lutz with the vital mission of defending the fortress, could feel something akin to a toothache shooting through his mental circuitry. The sense of victory he had felt up until a moment ago had been purged from his body, replaced by the oppressive weight of a nightmare presaging doom.

“Break off computer control and switch over to manual! Fire Thor’s Hammer at all costs!” The orders caught in his throat, and wouldn’t eas­ily leave his mouth.

Despair transformed into sound, and leapt from the operator’s mouth.

“It’s no good, Commander! It’s impossible!”

Understanding and terror invaded Vice Admiral Wöhler’s right and left lungs, and finding it increasingly hard to breathe, he sat there frozen in the command seat.

That keyword for disabling the fortress defenses had been the seed of Yang Wen-li’s magic trick—one he had planted one year ago, when he had fled from the fortress. Even so, what an absurd pass phrase! For his part, Yang felt he had worked very hard to come up with an utterance that carried no risk of being used in Iserlohn’s official transmissions dur­ing the next few years—although not even he could have put up a strong argument for it in terms of stylishness and taste.

Clearly, there had to be another phrase to unlock the systems, but as a practical problem, discovering it was an impossibility.

When the Imperial Navy had recovered Iserlohn, a large number of ultra-low-frequency bombs had been discovered. It had been believed that the fleeing Free Planets’ forces had tried and failed to detonate the fortress. However, when he thought about it now, that had actually been an exceedingly clever feint, designed to divert the Imperial Navy’s eyes from the real trap.

“The enemy is about to storm the port!”

“Close the gates! Don’t let them inside!”

Although the order was given, the reply was not hard to guess. When he heard the operator’s cry that the gates couldn’t he closed, Wöhler stood up from the command seat, and gave the order to prepare for hand-to-hand combat. The air inside the fortress vibrated with the sound of alarms.

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Excerpt for LEGEND OF THE GALACTIC HEROES V6: FLIGHT

Elfriede stirred on the sofa. The evergreen oak door opened, and the master of the von Reuentahl residence cast his tall shadow across the floor. With his mismatched eyes, the man who’d taken Elfriede’s virginity admired her cream-colored hair and fresh limbs.

“I’m touched. It seems you haven’t run away after all.”

“It’s not as if I’ve done anything wrong. Why would I need to run away?”

“You’re a criminal who tried to kill the secretary-general of the Imperial Navy’s Supreme Command Headquarters. I could have you executed on the spot. The fact that I haven’t put you in chains should tell you what a forgiving man I can be.”

“I’m not a habitual criminal like all of you.”

One couldn’t wound the pride of a veteran hero with such cynicism and get away with it. The young admiral with the heterochromatic eyes let out a short, derisive laugh. He closed the door behind him and made his slow approach. His ferocity and grace were in perfect harmony. Ignoring his intention, the woman’s eyes were drawn to him. When she came to her senses, her right wrist was firmly in his grasp.

“Such a beautiful hand,” he said, his breath reeking of alcohol. “I’ve been told my mother’s hands were also beautiful, as if carved from the finest ivory. She never once used those hands for anyone but herself. The first time she picked up her own son, she tried to stab him in the eye with a knife. That was the last time she ever touched me.”

Caught in von Reuentahl’s attractive gaze of gold and silver, Elfriede held her breath for a moment.

“Such a pity! Even your own mother knew her son would one day commit treason. She threw her feelings aside and took matters into her own hands. If only I had an ounce of her bravery. That such a splendid mother could give birth to such an unworthy son!”

“With a little adjustment, we could use that as your epitaph.”

Von Reuentahl released Elfriede’s white hand and brushed back the dark-brown hair hanging over his forehead. The sensation of his hand remained as a hot ring on the woman’s wrist. Von Reuentahl leaned his tall frame against a wall tapestry, deep in thought.

“I just don’t get it. Is it so terrible losing the privileges you had until your father’s generation? It’s not like your father or grandfather worked to earn those privileges. All they did was run around like children.”

Elfriede swallowed her response.

“Where’s the justice in that lifestyle? Noblemen are institutionalized thieves. Haven’t you ever noticed that? If taking something by force is evil, then how is taking something by one’s inherited authority any different?”

Von Reuentahl stood upright from the wall, his expression deflated.

“I thought you were better than that. What a turnoff. Get out, right now, and find yourself a man more ‘worthy’ of you. Some dimwit who clings to a bygone era in which his comfortable little life would’ve been guaranteed by authority and law. But before that, I have one thing to say.”

The heterochromatic admiral banged the wall with his fist, enunciating every word.

“There’s nothing uglier or lowlier in this world than gaining political authority regardless of ability or talent. Even an act of usurpation is infinitely better. In that case, at least one makes a real effort to gain that authority, because he knows it wasn’t his to begin with.”

Elfriede remained on the sofa, a seated tempest.

“I get it,” she spat out, her voice filled with heat lightning. “You’re just a regular rebel to the bone, aren’t you?! If you think you have so much ability and talent, then why not have a go at it yourself? Sooner or later, your conceit will compel you to go against your present lord.”

Elfriede ran out of breath and sank into silence. Von Reuentahl changed his expression. With renewed interest, he gazed at this woman who’d tried to kill him. A few seconds of silence passed before he spoke.

“The emperor is nine years younger than I am, and yet he holds the entire universe in his own hands. I may harbor animosity toward the Goldenbaum royal family and the noble elite, but I lack the backbone to overthrow the dynasty itself. There’s no way I could ever be a match for him.”

As he turned his back on the woman struggling to find her retort, von Reuentahl left the salon in stride. Elfriede watched as his broad-shouldered silhouette receded, but she suddenly turned away, having caught herself waiting for this abominable man to look back over his shoulder. Her gaze was fixed on an unremarkable oil painting and stayed that way for ten seconds. When she finally looked back, the master of the house was gone. Elfriede had no idea whether von Reuentahl had indeed looked back at her.

It’s the LEGEND OF THE GALACTIC HEROES giveaway contest!

To celebrate the release of Legend of the Galactic Heroes v4: Stratagem, we are doing a giveaway contest, and a special one. We’re giving away copies of v2, v3, or v4 to one of four lucky winners. (Winners’ choice, of course!)  We’ve not done giveaways for the prior volumes of LOGH for the simple reason that many people were eager for the series—word of mouth is the best marketing tool. But as we are almost halfway through the series now, we wanted to remind fans who may have read the first volume that it is continuing, and at a rapid pace. We’re here to help you keep track and catch up!

The contest is a simple one: in the form of a comment to this point, write about your favorite science fiction series: it can be a set of novels, films, comics, manga, pulp stories from the Golden Age, what have you—just make sure it’s science fiction and a series. Tell is why it’s your favorite, and what the series element of it brings to you as a reader. (And as we’re publishers here, we probably will have a bias toward novel series.) You can submit in English, Spanish, Japanese, or Greek, and on Friday we’ll announce four winners! Pick the volume you need and we’ll send it your way. And yes, we ship worldwide.

 

So, favorite SF series and why? Ready, go!

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It’s the LEGEND OF THE GALACTIC HEROES giveaway contest!

We know you’re excited. Get more excited. Our Legend of the Galactic Heroes, v1: Dawn product page is up, and our friends at io9.com are running an excerpt today. So, now it’s time to channel that excitement into the possibility of a few copy of the book!

We’re giving away six copies of Dawn, and it’s easy to win. Just leave a brief essay, or poem, on the comments of this post, basically flipping out at us about how much you love LOGH. You can talk about the anime, the manga, your attempts to learn Japanese to read the books, dreams you’ve had, how you think it compares to other space operas…whatever you like. The six best essays and/or poems will get free copies! We read English, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese, and Greek around here, and we ship anywhere, so please try! We’ll announce the winners around noon, Pacific time, on Friday, March 4th.

 

Sound good? Get typin’!

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