An exciting collection of four novellas, describing the evolution of the Patrol Force, a combination Defense Organization and Interplanetary Constabulary for the Confederation of the Six Systems, an economic empire covering a significant portion of the Milky Way.
The First Step - One hundred years of armistice following a devastating genocidal war finds the Listrians and Urtimalians eyeing each other warily across their frontier. After picking up a furtive distress call from an Urtimalian research vessel, the captain of a Listrian intelligence-gathering ship faces a difficult choice: break cover and cross the border in violation of the truce or leave over one hundred Urtimalians to their deaths.
False Flag - The Listrian and Urtimalian governments have finally broken down the walls between their two civilizations, concluding several trade treaties. But old hatreds and suspicions die hard and a series of murderous raids implicating each side could lead to disruption or a renewal of their centuries-old war.
Force Majeure - The sentry ship maintaining a security watch on a developing planet is pummeled by an unexpected solar flare and collision with one of its service drones. With communications destroyed and their only means of power generation damaged, the ship must land and obtain materials for makeshift repairs if they are to return home. If unable to complete repairs and depart before the clever natives find their landing site, the ship's captain must destroy his ship and crew to avoid cultural contamination of the planet.
The Pirate Crisis - Pirates in outer space? Commerce is being systematically attacked in the Confederation of the Six Systems. What started out as grand larceny has turned into mass murder and with the entire merchant fleet in almost complete lockdown, economic collapse is imminent. PF-238 is liberated from the convoy duty she was assigned since the first skirmish to track down and root out the menace. But can they defeat a ruthless enemy who always seems to be one step ahead?
Edward M. Hochsmann's 'C6S: Tales Of The Patrol Force' - an epic military Science Fiction collection, comprising of four novella-sized stories.
We begin with a great piece of expositionery prologue that gives us a potted history of the two main species; The Urtimalians and the Listrians, and how their xenophobic dislike of each other has led to present events. If this was a movie, it would make a cracking pre-credits sequence!
The First Step (the first story in the series), focuses on a Listrian ship, which picks up a distress call, and the truly difficult choice that its Captain (Therlos) has to make in order to save lives. This acts as a great study on the complexities of war and how even the slightest movements and decisions can have massive outcomes. There's a particularly moving, and ultimately pivotal scene involving a ceremony that the author has placed and paced perfectly - we won't spoil it, but it's a great piece of writing.
False Flag - the second in the series, is set a year after the events of the previous story. We also get properly introduced (after a fleeting mention, previously) to a new alien species; The Baltans. The ever present threat of the dissolution of peace is palpable, and the reader cannot help but see parallels to conflict in our own world. So much can be at stake, yet balanced on a knife-edge. Hochsmann masterfully plays with this theme, and the constant threat keeps you invested throughout.
The third story, Force Majeure, acts as a great change of pace as we somewhat put aside politics for a mission based plot. Planetary Observation Station 331-3 has been severely damaged by a solar flare, and the crew must land on a developing planet, fix the ship and leave without breaking Patrol Fleet regulations. We really loved Force Majeure as it almost felt like a textbook Star Trek story.
The final story, Pirate Crisis, mixes things up once more as we deal with the theme of space pirates. We're thrown straight into the action as merchant ship Patrakee is under attack from said pirates. Class-A frigate patrol ship, PF-238 is on the trail and together with it's crew, must uncover the identity of the pirates and bring them to justice.
This was another solid story, full of action and intensity, and the reveal of how and why PF-238 kept getting out-manoueivered is once more a masterstroke from Hochsmann's pen.
Overall, a great collection of stories that have the concurrent theme of meeting challenges and resolving them through ones own skill and integrity.
Grab a nice cup of Girondon Tea, find a comfortable chair and settle into the holiday season with this fantastic story. Recommended!