Galaxy Dog is an epic space opera. What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet brings to light an ancient archeological site of huge importance. A young man called Knave makes a life-changing discovery there and rises from a lowly position as an infantry trooper to become a player among the powers of the galaxy. This is the story of his rise, and the story of the fierce and independent woman and the feisty robot who help him. It is also the story of a spaceship that can upset the balance of power across human space. A spaceship from an ancient time, built by aliens, and full of advanced technology. It is an action-packed, sci-fi page turner that goes in directions the reader just will not expect.
Brett Fitzpatrick was born in Newcastle, England, and has lived in Venice, Italy, for several years. He writes sci-fi and fantasy, and recently completed his first zombie novel.
Captain Bacher, a tall, slim woman with light brown skin and her hair in dreads, was standing on the stage with the eyes of the whole room on her.
"What idiot ordered an assault on this ball of ice?" the captain grumbled.
She was pointing at a large holographic projection of their objective. A moon orbiting a planet called Phaeton 7. The auditorium was at the heart of the spaceship, easy for the command crew to reach from the upper decks and equally easy for the lower ranks to get to from the bowels of the ship.
The briefing chamber was large and tall, and there was ample room to fit the entire crew inside. The room was designed as an amphitheater, with the holograms of the target center stage and semicircular rows of surprisingly comfortable seating. The spaceship was coasting through hyperspace with all systems on full autonomous, so there was no reason for anyone to be anywhere else. The ship's computer would alert them if any threat was detected along their route.
There were a couple of hundred humans in the room, of all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds.
Knave, a muscular young man with straight hair, and epicanthic folds was sitting unobtrusively at the back of the ranks of seating with the other slugs. The infantry were called slugs because their units, even a swift grav drone with a top speed of a couple of hundred miles an hour, tended to be the slowest things in any tactical arena.
Knave watched as the leader of ground operations stood up from the first semicircle of seats, attracting the captain's attention.
"There seems to be only one structure on the entire moon," he said, "Atop the mountain, here."
"Yes," the captain agreed, "but there are defensive installations dotted around the nearby surface.
"There are atmospheric units and space defenses too. It won't be an easy mission. Surprise is the key."
"As always," the captain nodded in agreement.
"We have to be inserting dropships before they know what's hit them."
"What can we expect on the ground?" one of the dropship captains asked.
"Don't know exactly," the captain replied, "It looks like some kind of experimental research facility. So defenses could be virtually nonexistent or impossibly heavy, depending on whether they're developing a new kind of spoon or if they are developing some top-secret super weapon."
"What I love about your briefings captain, is how helpful and information-rich they are," the dropship commander said.
"You're welcome," the captain growled, and she went on to start talking about some other important aspect of the mission, but Knave didn't hear her. Henrik, another slug, and a gaunt white man in his middle years with salt and pepper hair, turned to him, whispered in his ear, making it difficult to hear what the bigwigs were saying.
"This is such bullshit," he said.
"What do you mean?" Knave whispered back, intrigued despite himself.
"Nobody knows why the Buzzers do what they do. They could be on this moon for some important strategic goal, or they might like R&R on ice moons. We don't know."
"So this mission doesn't really have an objective. They sent us out here to try and take the Buzzers and their mountain and they'll see if they defend it or let us have it. If the Buzzers defend it, they'll know the evil, alien mechanisms think it's important."
"So we're bait?"
"More like we've been sent to poke a hive of dangerous aliens with a sharp stick to see how sleepy it is."
Henrik's attention was drawn away by the discussion going on at the center of the room. The captain was getting to the meat of her presentation.
"The Buzzers are concentrated at this feature," she said.
She had walked up so close to the hologram of the moon that it engulfed one of her shoulders. A ghostly impression of her shoulder could be seen through the holographic surface of the moon. She raised her arm and used a laser pointer to highlight a section of the moon's surface. The moon then dissolved leaving just this tiny chunk behind. The chunk enlarged to show a section of crust centered around some kind of tall, craggy mountain.
"Mount Sabre Tooth," the captain said, "and the Buzzer structures get real numerous here in the foothills."
"Okay," a voice from the seating, Knave didn't see who or recognize the voice, "So what's the mission?"
"Easy," the captain said, "While the bulk of Tarazet forces drop right down their throats here," she pointed at the foothills, "we'll drop a bunch of slugs way out here," she pointed vaguely at an area away from the mountain, "to make sure they get some warning of reinforcements. That's it."
"Easy," Henrik said, "Nothing's ever easy."
"I don't know," Knave said, "It looks like they're planning for us to be pretty much a sideshow."
Henrik turned to him, a smile on his face.
"It's just because they don't think our crappy equipment will last ten minutes as part of the main assault," he said, "And besides, sideshows have a way of turning into the main event."
"It's being so cheerful that keeps us going," Knave said.
"As soon as this briefing wraps up," Henrik said, "we should get down to the racks and spend some time with our drones. Make sure none of them have rusted away."
"They get the standard checks," Knave protested weakly.
"Standard checks aren't worth shit," Henrik said, "All they do is a tight-beam laser handshake to see if the drone is going to wake up when we need it to. I'm talking about pulling them apart and putting them back together, make sure nothing has gone to shit."
"But I've got twenty drones in my pack."
"It's your call, but I'm going down to the racks."
"I'll call round," Knave said, "We can go down to the racks together."
"Smart boy," Henrik said.
Knave was walking the corridors of the huge ship on the way to pick up Henrik and head down to the drone hangar. He should really have been jogging, he was falling behind on his exercise quota, but he didn't care, and he was a health nut in relation to Henrik. Henrik could spend days at a time in his quarters without moving his skinny old carcass further than the drinks dispenser. There was nobody to see if he was keeping up with his exercise anyway, or care. The Galaxy-class drone transport called Galaxy Dog was so huge, and had so few crew that it may as well have been deserted. Knave was pretty much alone, walking along empty corridors. He passed people in the corridors from time to time, but they usually didn't even bother to greet a lowly slug. It was a long walk from Knave's birth to Henrik's and Knave was in no hurry. He decided to take the scenic route, to see where his feet took him.
After a few minutes, he found himself in the nose of the carrier, walking towards the huge forward view port. The blast cover was supposed to be kept shut, but, of course, it had been left open in defiance of navy regulations.
"If anything gets close enough that we need the blast covers, we're already toast," Henrik had explained once.
Knave didn't argue, even though he suspected Henrik was entirely wrong, he just liked being able to wander along the corridors to the nose and stare out at where they were going. Knave walked right up and stood right in the center of the view port, arms crossed behind his back, legs slightly akimbo. Right here right now, watching the stars slide by as he raced towards the objective, he couldn't help thinking he was heading towards something special, glory, fortune, destiny.
A hand fell on his shoulder. Knave span round, and saw Henrik.
"I thought I'd find you here," he said, "But where you should be, is the racks."
The racks were huge. All the drones and pilot units were stored there, and the Galaxy Dog held thousands. They ranged from huge orbital superiority fighters down to the lowliest two-legged ground unit, the real slugs. It was down in these lowest levels of the racks that Henrik and Knave were standing. They were in an aisle between hulking war machines racked nose to tail and one on top of another. The platform they were standing on had a grav engine to allow it to glide between the metal warrior robots and was piled with heavy-duty plastic and metal canisters of tools. A crab-like repair droid was going through the tools, sorting them into the most logical arrangement for general drone maintenance.
Henrik brought the platform to a gliding stop alongside the nose of one of his drones.
"You go over my drones with me," he said, "and I'll give you a hand with yours. It always helps to have two pairs of eyes down in here."
"Deal," Knave said.
Henrik slowly brought the platform into contact with the side of his first drone and dropped the safety handrail on that side of the platform down into a recess in the floor. Henrik grabbed a marker and unceremoniously scrawled a big X on the drone's access hatch. Knave raised an eyebrow.
"They'll need repainting after this anyway," Henrik said, "and I don't want to check any of these things twice."
"Have you ever seen a Buzzer?" Knave asked.
"Couple of times," Henrik said, "dead ones, or soon to be dead. Though they're just robots. It's not like they're really alive. Not like an organic."
"That sort of talk isn't cool Henrik," Knave said quietly and simply.
"What?" Henrik said, "Oh. Look, what I mean is..." Henrik stopped to think, putting his hand on top of the repair droid. He was rewarded with a friendly beep from the little machine.
"Sure, our robots are alive, the ones with AI anyway. It's just," he went...