Authors: Jeffrey Burger
The adventure continues... and it does NOT disappoint! Wow! I love the growth of the strong female characters, the expansion of their roles and the continuing adventure. These girls kicked some serious butt. Can't wait so see where the next adventure takes us.”
Another absolutely awesome armchair adventure! Jeff 's descriptions of the universe and Jack's ship are so realistic... I love the characters, he makes them so real... I cried and I rejoiced. Now I am going to try to keep very busy until the next adventure comes out.”
I do love a good space opera and this one is not just good... it is great! I don’t want to provide any spoilers because you need to experience all the cool adventures for yourself. I will say that I am so very glad that Jeff has decided to take this series to six or seven books instead of three because the world/universe he has created is entirely plausible and oh so exciting. You become invested in what is taking place out in the galaxy as well as on Earth and really want to KNOW what is going to happen next. If you enjoy space opera, I recommend you try this series. You won’t be sorry.”
Jeff Burger does it again! Another rockin' and rollin' adventure! The ladies step up their game to steal some of the spotlight and do a great job adding suspense to the storyline. Fritz gets to be the badass we all know he is, and the side plots offer a bounty of ways to expand the series. I look forward to the next installment.”
This one picks up nicely where the first one left off... and I couldn't put it down! This series is a winner! Awesome action, great characters, wonderful interaction and a detailed story. I loved the fact that the vignettes back home on Earth reflect things that are actually happening right now. He also includes some interesting history that I've looked up and found to be factually true which is quite eerie. I'm hooked, eagerly awaiting more from Jeff Burger.”
I just heard that Wings of Steele is no longer going to be a trilogy... It's going to be a SERIES! Sooo awesome!” Molly
WINGS of STEELE
FLIGHT of FREEDOM
A NOVEL BY
JEFFREY J BURGER
Coming in 2014
- WINGS of STEELE – Revenge and Retribution
Published in the United States by Templar Press. Templar Press and the mounted Templar Knight colophon are registered trademarks and may not be reproduced.
Wings of Steele – Flight of Freedom
Copyright © 2013 Jeffrey J. Burger
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no
part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever, without the expressed written consent of the author or publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
This book and contents are a work of fiction. The characters and events portrayed in
this book are fictitious. Any similarity to events, places, or persons, living or dead,
is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Registered with the Library of Congress
ISBN-13: 978-0615854151 (Templar Press)
Cover artwork, copyright © 2013 Jeffrey J. Burger
WINGS of STEELE logo, copyright
© 2013 Jeffrey J. Burger
I want to thank all my readers who have enjoyed Wings of Steele – Destination Unknown and offered their support, enthusiasm, and interest in the continuation of the story. You will be happy to know that this projected trilogy has progressed into a true series with a total of five books planned so far.
A big thank you to the folks at HarperCollins Voyager who not only read
but offered me a deal on it and my next two books sight-unseen. I was currently working on the one you are about to read,
Flight of Freedom
and for a multitude of reasons decided to pass on the offer. Hopefully I will get another opportunity to work with them in the future which will be mutually beneficial to us both.
I am most grateful to Cheryl Stepp, who, through her appreciation for my work used her time and extensive expertise to assist me in professionally editing
Flight of Freedom.
An additional thank you to Mike O'Byrne for his valuable input on editing and military knowledge, contributing some corrective technical information.
The hours and effort these folks put into reading and reviewing this work, their advice and professionalism, is and continues to be, genuinely appreciated. I look forward to being able to work with them again on my next book,
Revenge and Retribution.
Thank you to my Brothers, for your unified support, ideas for present and future work, technical advice and valuable wealth of knowledge.
And last but certainly not least, to my family for all their loving support and my parents for instilling in me an innate sense of integrity.
I can't forget Fritz... For enduring the late night writing sessions and getting me away from the desk once in a while to get out and exercise a bit.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FT. MYERS BEACH, FLORIDA
It was almost seven weeks to the day that Jack Steele and his new wife Alité had walked up the ramp of the Freedom's Invader, leaving Jack's family and FBI Agent Phil Cooper standing on the fine golden sand in front of the Ft. Myers beach house Jack had so carefully remodeled. It was the first time his parents had heard Jack's German Shepherd, Fritz, talk... In retrospect, Lisa thought that was rather funny, her parents stood there, open-mouthed as the Invader lifted off the sand, the low hum of the anti-gravity system propelling it upward. They stood there on the deserted beach, watching the menacing, shadowy ship, crab sideways from the sand out over the water before rotating smoothly and gliding away, accelerating gently, its form disappearing in the failing darkness. They watched and waited, suddenly hearing the rolling thunder miles off in the distance, before seeing the flicker and streak of light as it shot almost straight upwards into space. Even as the cloudless sky began to lighten behind them with the approach of dawn, they could still see the silhouette of the Freedom against the moon; in fact the shapes of the other two ships that had come to meet the Freedom were visible too.
Lisa had felt an excitement, an exhilaration, an acute fascination, almost uncontainable like a small child wanting to tell everyone who would listen about a secret that begged to be told. But even if she did, who would believe her? She decided that someday, maybe she would join her brother and fly in space. She had mixed feelings about that earlier; she was still torn now.
She shrugged. For now, the comm-tablet that Jack left her with would have to do to keep her connected to him and to what was happening
. It was a tenuous connection at best, but it was better than nothing. Jack had instructed her to spend no more than ten minutes on it at a time and to not use it at the same time of day or day of the week.
is what he had said. So she had taken to downloading the previous editions of the InterGal News instead of watching them live. And when they did get to communicate, which hadn't been more than once every two weeks or so, Jack carefully watched the time.
Lisa padded barefoot through the beach house across its warm maple floors, a laptop tucked under her arm, her devoted German Shorthaired Pointer Gus trailing faithfully behind her through the open sliding glass doors to the sun deck. Her lemonade sat where she left it on the little table next to her lounge chair, condensation rolling down the outside of the icy glass. A warm, gentle breeze blew onshore swishing through the palm trees standing around the deck. The empty hammock hung between them swaying an invitation. She declined and stretched out on the lounger next to her drink and opened the laptop to watch the InterGal news programs she had downloaded and transferred to it. They always proved to be fascinating - covering news, articles and information from all over the universe. In comparison, local and national news seemed boring... except for a few days after Jack's departure, now
was a circus worth watching. It seemed like every Tom, Dick and Harry with a camera took pictures or video of
. Amateur astronomers had pictures of the ship silhouettes against the moon, there were blurry videos of the Invader and dozens of eyewitness accounts including the F-16 pilots out of MacDill AFB. But the clincher were the NASA photos... clear photos of the ship's forms against the moon, with trajectory and telemetry information of the Invader as it entered and exited Earth's atmosphere. Some of the news stations gave it more air time than others but the excitement was hot - at least for a day or two. One-by-one the stories were
as either false, fabricated or discounted... by the government of course. Sure, whatever. Within a few short days the stories were dead and no more mention of them was broadcast. The only place the stories continued to exist was on the internet blogs and conspiracy websites. One of the best thought-out theories she saw was that the United States had those ships in orbit and needed to quell the publicity to keep the secret.
, thought Lisa, if they only knew the truth
She paused the InterGal News video file she was viewing to watch the sun as it slipped below the horizon, the colors striking the bottom of the scattered clouds in an explosive display of color.
Somewhere close, someone had thrown steaks on a bar-b-que and Lisa realized she was hungry. Time to make dinner anyway she decided. Nina would be home soon. The weather had finally improved in Chicago, so mom and dad had decided to head back, but Lisa elected to stay in Florida. Since Nina was the only person the family knew in Ft. Myers and there was plenty of room in the beach house, they had invited Nina to move in and stay for free if she would help Lisa take care of the house. It turned out the two girls had a lot in common and got along very well, though she did not share all the secrets the Steele family was privy to.
Thankfully, after a few short visits from Phil Cooper before Kyle and Lynette left for Chicago, neither Lisa nor Nina had seen or heard from him - or noticed any signs of his comparable government types. Jack had taught her what to look for but she still felt at times like she was being watched, or maybe not alone. As Jack liked to say,
just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean you're not being followed.
So with a little bit of paranoia to drive her, she went to Chase, an instructor-buddy of Jack's, practically
kicking and screaming with her and they both qualified to get their concealed carry permits. It turns out, Lisa was Annie Oakley in a previous life and Nina had been Calamity Jane. It would be a rude awakening for anyone to underestimate either of them, who rarely went anywhere without some kind of defense.
The sun had dropped completely below the waves now and Lisa closed the laptop, walking back inside the house with it tucked under her arm, her drink in her hand, Gus strolling along behind her.
WINGS of STEELE – FLIGHT of FREEDOM
JUMP CARRIER, FREEDOM
: UFW BLACKMOUNT STATION
Jack Steele pushed back from the desk in his ready room and stretched. He'd been looking at the incoming inventory and personnel screens for hours and his mind was numb. He offhandedly toggled the flat glass keyboard set into the desktop and the screen winked from the reports he was reviewing to an outside view of the Freedom, provided by the space station's cameras.
There were four external repair docks at UFW Blackmount. Each looking like a long, giant metal ribcage, attached to the station around the middle of its waist. The Freedom was held motionless in external repair dock D3, by a harmonic-pulse stasis field, as magnetic robotic repair units crawled independently, like mechanical ants across her hull, looking for structural damage to record and repair. Two enormous mechanical gantries rolling on tracks along the length of the framework of the bay passed above and below the hull. The gantries were equipped with lights, cameras, articulated arms, cutters and welding equipment, either assisting the robotic units or inspecting their work after it was complete.
Jack switched cameras to watch three of Blackmount's mechanics in powered jumpsuits, working on the Freedom's main starboard gun battery to correct some electronic problems with the tracking and targeting resolutions it had been miscalculating. Part of the turret floated motionless in space behind the mechanics, moved there by one of the gantry arms, held in position by the same stasis field that held the Freedom. He watched for a moment before switching to a camera showing a wider view of the bay and the ship. Leaning back in his chair and stretching again, he rested his tired eyes.
Actually a better description would probably be to say he needed to rest his tired mind, considering he only had one genetic human eye. One of the first things Hecken Noer did upon arriving at Blackmount was to fulfill his promise to build Jack a
new and improved
mechanical eye that would replace the first one he'd created for him. And true to his word, it was such a perfect match to his real eye that it was impossible to tell by looking at them, which eye was real or mechanical. Jack was still learning how to control his implanted CABL
Computer Assisted Biological Lifeform
system and its unique abilities, like being able to zoom-in independently when desired. It was notable, he observed, how it seemed to be affecting other areas of his physiology as well. He wasn't sure how to measure it, but oddly enough, his reflexes seemed to be increasing. He was convinced it had something to do with the digital speed and clarity of the new eye's abilities.