- Author: Duncan Hamilton
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The Alpha Protocol
Alpha Protocol Book 1
Duncan M. Hamilton
Also by Duncan M. Hamilton
From the Author
About the Author
Also by Duncan M. Hamilton
Also by Duncan M. Hamilton
The Dragonslayer Trilogy
Knight of the Silver Circle
Servant of the Crown
The Wolf of the North Trilogy
The Wolf of the North
The Blood Debt
The Society of the Sword Trilogy
The Tattered Banner
The Huntsman’s Amulet
The Telastrian Song
Society of the Sword Trilogy Omnibus
The First Blade of Ostia
Copyright © Duncan M. Hamilton 2021
All Rights Reserved
The right of Duncan M. Hamilton to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, or downloaded in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise, without the express written permission of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. All of the characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Cover Art by Fred Gambino
Cover Typography by Christian Bentulan
Oculus System, Frontier Space - 2362
The Terran Union Ship Sidewinder idled up to the unidentified vessel. Lieutenant Jack Samson watched it pass by the Sidewinder’s viewport, hopeful for the first bit of excitement on this cruise. The ship wasn’t broadcasting a transponder signal, and that usually meant it was up to no good. He scanned for weapons systems, but there were none obviously visible. That didn’t mean there weren’t any, though.
‘All stop,’ Captain Kate Stettin said.
‘Aye, Captain,’ the coxswain said. ‘All stop.’
A series of thrusters fired, and Samson could feel the subtle change in inertia, but he kept his focus on the subject of their investigation. She was a generic design, the type of mass-produced vessel that could be easily modified to fill any of a dozen roles. Her hull was scratched and pitted like any ship that had been in service for a long time, but it seemed his visual and sensor scans were correct—she had no weapons systems. He targeted her engines as per procedure, then sat back in his chair waiting for further instruction from his captain.
‘This is Terran Union Ship Sidewinder hailing the ship off our bow,’ Captain Stettin said. ‘Identify yourself.’
The half-dozen crew on the Sidewinder’s bridge remained silent at their stations, their tension palpable. Samson knew that, like him, they were all wondering if the ship would respond, try to make a run for it, or attack. Interdicting a ship was a tense time. Scans didn’t always pick up weapons, and a brief visual inspection was no guarantee either. It was a moment of complete uncertainty, something he hated and loved in equal measure.
The bridge was filled with the sound of static clearing to reveal a man’s voice. ‘This is Cargo Vessel Arlen’s Bounty. I’m Arlen. What can I do for you, Sidewinder?’
Captain Stettin stood from her command chair and walked over to the viewport to take a closer look at the ship.
‘You’re not broadcasting your identification transponder,’ she said. ‘Why?’
There was a delay before the response came. ‘Transponder’s broken. Has been for months. I’m sure you know how hard it is to get parts out here.’
The Sidewinder’s lonely duty was to patrol a section of the Frontier—it was the only naval vessel for several systems, and at the very outer limit of human expansion into the galaxy. The nearest worthwhile space station was a month away, and nothing lay between but small planetary settlements and smaller orbital relays. Extending the rule of law was their mandate, but dealing with smugglers, outlaws, and those seeking to live beyond legality was their stock in trade. It wasn’t the exciting life of a young naval officer that Samson had dreamed of, nor was it the one he was accustomed to.
‘I do,’ Captain Stettin said. ‘But for some reason I think you switched yours off. Power down and prepare to be boarded.’ She made a chopping gesture with her hand, and the communications officer cut off the transmission. Her eyes fell on Samson, sitting beside the main weapons battery control panel.
‘Mr. Samson,’ she said. ‘I believe it’s your turn.’
‘I believe it is, Captain,’ he said, a smile spreading across his face. It would be the first time he had led a boarding mission under Captain Stettin’s command, the first chance to prove himself to his new commander, and the first thing he had felt even remotely excited about since arriving on the Frontier.
‘You’re relieved from bridge duty, Lieutenant,’ she said. ‘Three Marines, Lieutenant Harper, and two sailors to complete the party. Good luck.’
Samson headed for the armoury. His team would meet him in the Sidewinder’s small hangar, then the ship’s launch would take them across the void to the Arlen’s Bounty. It didn’t take long to get where he was going. He had served on capital ships where it could take a full thirty minutes to walk from stem to stern, with small trams installed to speed up the journey, but the Sidewinder was definitely not one of them. Small and cramped, there was barely enough room for two people to pass one another in the corridors, and at six feet two inches, Samson had to be careful when passing through bulkhead doors. At times he felt he was built for capital-ship service, rather than a small corvette that was a leftover from the Separatist Wars nearly a century earlier.
When he arrived at the armoury he pulled his boarding suit from his locker and put it on as quickly as possible, being careful not to snag or tear the fabric. A vessel with no atmosphere was not the place to discover you’d damaged your suit. He