Things have moved on with the Earth Federation, the League of Sovereign Worlds and the Ascendency. As you’ll recall in the first book of this series, “First Flight”, a young Flight Lieutenant Mason Grey got his first combat experience against the Legion and promptly got shot down. While he was captured for a while, the League and taken aboard a cruiser who was trying to figure out what or whom had destroyed the League base. All Mason found when he attacked was rubble. But, now they know there’s another player in the game and that’s the Ascendency.
It’s thought that the Ascendency might be the results of an long ago Earth colonization effort, but since no one has yet to speak or even see an Ascendency entity, where they came from and why they are just fighting is something of a mystery. Lieutenant Jessica Sinclair has a mission to find any possible explanation as to who the Ascendency could be. She is told that a former wealthy business tycoon had been in the starship/colony ship business a long time ago in Earth’s past history. This lady, Miriam Xia, had been dead for over two hundred and fifty years, yet due to available advanced technology, she had uploaded her mind into a digital repository and was actually living in a self-created world of her choosing. Time for this mind was slowed down to where two years of digital time could be the equivalent of several centuries for the real world. Miriam still had all the memories of her ship building days and was instrumental in preparing that first star colonization effort. Jessica needed to talk with her and find out what she knew about he leader of the colonization mission. Little did Jessica know that her relationship with Miriam would extend into the real world a very great deal.
So, following Jessica is one thread in this book. The other is back to now Flight Leader Mason Grey who has been assigned to the Special Purpose Branch of the Federation Navy. His initial assignment is to form his new Flight by choosing his Squadron Leaders and the in-turn find additional pilots to fill up the Flight. Most pilots knew about the Special Purpose Branch although they didn’t know exactly what it did. But, all were eager for some action, so when they were offered a slot in the Flight, they usually took it without hesitation. The only concern with this to Mason was that these people he knew personally. By assigning them to his Flight, he was definitely going to place them in harms way.
Still, he didn’t expect his first mission to involve going back to the League! League planet Triumph was apparently the next target for the Ascendency. It also the planet that Mason Flight was going to protect! While the League and Federation weren’t exactly best pals now, they had come to the conclusion that they needed to work together since the Ascendency didn’t discriminate as to whom they attacked. And the system that Triumph was located also contain several gas giants that were supplying all the starship fuel both the League and Federation needed desperately. Neither could afford to let this planet nor this system to fall into the hands of the Ascendency. Mason was to find that his Flights actual purpose was to support the League with bombing runs against Ascendency ground troops when they finally landed. So, he was going to have to form some strange relationships with his former enemies to get this mission done. The war had taken a very strange turn for Mason and all his Flight personnel.
The two threads, Jessica’s and Mason’s eventually due come together towards the end of the book as expected. What was unexpected is how things turn out. The war hadn’t been going so well for either the Federation or the League. In fact, without the fuel contained at the gas giants around Triumph, the war was lost and pretty darn quickly. That, of course, was unacceptable. I liked the story, but I think I have now come to the conclusion that I like space Marines and ground warfare stories a lot better than this flying and fighting stuff! Space combat is exciting and all, but it seems to be over pretty quickly. I think ground combat and being with either Marines or soldiers can get more personal in reading about what they think and feel as they face difficult tasks. Sill, this was a very good book and I’ll continue with the series if it continues.