I cannot for the life of me understand why I did not read this book right after book 3! Instead, I read book 5 and just continued on. This book explains a lot about what happened to Captain Johnathan Dallas, former Commander of the United System starship Callaway. To put it bluntly, he is facing a General Courts-Martial. He is of the opinion that he will be convicted and either imprisoned or just booted out of the Navy. Either way, he’s not looking forward to the outcome of the trial.
Still, when you’re ordered to kill over a hundred million humans, there’s got to be somebody around with a moral code that says this isn’t the right thing to do. Captain Dallas was that person and thankfully he made things happen that did prevent the Admiral of his fleet from completing the mission. It was also noted that the original order sent by Navy HQ was withdrawn not long after the fleet had entered Vega 951. Unfortunately, by then, the enemy had destroyed the slipstream gate and cut off all communications between the fleet and the Navy HQ. And since, Captain Dallas took actions against his Admiral without the knowledge that the order had been rescinded, he looked pretty guilty.
Well, obviously the outcome of the general courts-martial wasn’t detrimental to Captain Dallas’ career. He’s now back with the fleet and specifically one that has been assigned another mission. They are to rescue his old Task Force 72.5, if they are still alive, and then proceed to a Raakaar colony planet and, once again, deploy a planet killer bomb destroying the planet and every living alien on it. In this case, these aliens had already wiped out two Earth colonies. This strike was to send a message to the Raakaar’s that humans aren’t going to stand for those kind of attacks. There were an estimated five million aliens on the colony planet, about the same number of humans that had been killed in the Raakaar’s prior attacks.
So, Captain Dallas is once again faced with the dilemma of choosing his moral code over his military orders. Still, this was an enemy base, a proven enemy that killed humans without compassion, and it was a major fuel producer for their fleet. Wipe out this single colony world and it would cause the Raakaar’s a signifiant military setback and might just stop the war before it got started.
The only possible thing wrong with this mission is that their information about the target colony planet is coming from another Raakaar. He is the Captain of the Talon, a Raakaar starship that has turned against the current ruling faction of Raakaars. While humans can’t speak directly with these Raakaar, they have a telepathic human that is capable of conveying messages between humans and Raakaars. This human is not the most trustworthy and has been with Captain Dallas before. Jonathan has no choice but to believe what Barrick, the human telepathist, conveyed from the alien Captain Valor. That was a mistake.
The book is very interesting. There are definitely a lot of starship battles, but they seem to come after long periods of time in which nothing is being done but waiting on Builder ships to complete slipstream gates. It says that months pass while waiting for those gates to be built all the while these starships are consuming fuel and other consumables. I don’t know how their crews keep busy since combat action takes place very rarely. Still, when it does, they are all going to die.
I will tell you that while the mission of the fleet gets accomplished, everyone in that fleet would have been subject to war crime trials under other circumstances. Humanity has made a very, very terrible mistake and the Elder might just make them pay for it.