I’ve lost my son.
He isn’t dead—God, please let him not be dead. But he was sent somewhere across the galaxy, and now, like everyone else throughout the empire, cannot return home.
Despite my extensive political connections, I cannot learn what ship he was assigned to. Nobody at Military High Command or the Academy will tell me anything, least of all that loathsome Admiral Thomas.
He smiles and respects me in public, but it is a poor secret that he despises me.
That’s fine. There isn’t much love for the political class at the best of times, but my son hasn’t yet assumed office. He was a cadet under Thomas’s command. The man should have protected him. Nurtured and taught him.
Instead, in an overreach of his perceived power, he presumed to accelerate Hayden’s graduation so that he could assign him to…
Ah, that is the crux of it. Nobody will tell me where they’ve sent my son, only that the assignment is ‘classified.’
Nobody sends a wet-behind-the-ears junior officer on a secret mission. Thomas’s desire to strike back at me is so transparent that it is almost pathetic. It would be harmless except that he stooped to endanger the life of my only child.
My friends have tried to convince me that I overreact. They remind me that the galaxy is safe. No wars are being fought because our empire is one, big, peaceful, happy family.
I cannot fault them. From their perspective, what they say is true. In three hundred years of interstellar colonization we’ve only encountered the dusty remains of long-dead civilizations. No one else is out there. The fleet offers humanitarian support and serves as galactic police to the thousand human-populated systems within our dominion.
If only they were privy to the dirty little secret the Confederacy chooses to keep hidden from the unwashed.
The empire is at war with itself.
Insurrections and rebellions are put down before they can gain momentum and build into something that might cause trouble for those of us on Terra.
I have little doubt that my boy was sent to one of those theatres, and under normal conditions, I would not worry. Our ships are well equipped and few opportunities exist for malcontents to cause them serious trouble.
But today I was informed of something that has yet to be made public.
The local jump gate that provides near instantaneous connection between Terra and our colonies has inexplicably stopped working.
Of course, the engineers explained that it is just a glitch. But I watched the chief administrator report to the council. More than embarrassment was behind his eyes as he spoke. It was terror.
My sources inform me what has happened is more than a simple malfunction. If they are correct, then the entire network is down. No part of the web with strands that interconnect all of our colonies is functioning. A thousand worlds are now isolated.
If true, that administrator had every right to be afraid. A collapse of the network is unprecedented—a statistical impossibility is what I’ve been told. Yet, it has happened.
And because of it, my only son is now trapped somewhere across the galaxy.
They won’t tell me where they sent him, so I have no idea what star to look for in the sky so that I can wish him well.
I regret that we did not part on good terms. Now I have no opportunity to say the things that a father should have.
My son may not be dead, but I fear I shall never see him again.
The Empire is in greater peril than anyone can imagine.
Learn what happened to Hayden Kaine…
…and what threat lurks out there…