Freedom’s Horizon

Freedom's Horizon by Cora BuhlertOnce, Anjali Patel and Mikhail Grikov were soldiers on opposing sides of an intergalactic war. They met, fell in love and decided to go on the run together.

Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eke out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.

After a run-in with a Republican spy on the rim world of Metra Litko, Anjali and Mikhail need to get off planet fast. So they sign on as security aboard the freighter Freedom’s Horizon, which is supposed to transport a valuable cargo through pirate infested space.

But they have far bigger problems than pirates, for the Republic of United Planets sends no less than three battlecruisers after them, commanded by none other than Colonel Brian Mayhew, Mikhail’s former superior and now their most determined pursuer.

The chase culminates in a stand-off in orbit around Metra Litko, where Anjali and Mikhail have to make a fatal choice. Fight and endanger the innocent crew of the Freedom’s Horizon or surrender and face death and worse at the hands of the Republic.

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More information:

  • This is a short novel of 55000 words or approx. 185 print pages in the In Love and War series, but may be read as a standalone. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
  • What eventually became Freedom’s Horizon was actually the first story ever written in the In Love and War series.
  • As chronicled here, approx. two years ago, a scene popped into my head: Two intergalactic mercenaries, a man and a woman, bantering while walking through a grimy spaceport. I knew at once that they were a couple and that they came from very different backgrounds which they had left behind to be together. They worked as mercenaries now, not because they wanted to, but because it was the only option left open to them. They were also on the run. I was intrigued by the bantering couple, so I started writing and followed them through the spaceport. I learned that they were about to apply for a security position aboard a freighter, because the ground had gotten too hot for them. This early scene became, in slightly altered form, the second chapter of Freedom’s Horizon.
  • Initially, I had intended for the story that eventually became Freedom’s Horizon to be a kind of Firefly-esque space opera, chronicling the adventures of the crew of the Freedom’s Horizon, including new recruits Anjali and Mikhail, during their voyage through pirate-infested space. However, as I wrote the story, trouble found Anjali, Mikhail and the Freedom’s Horizon before they could even leave the orbit of Metra Litko. And the orbital stand-off with the Republican forces under the command of Brian Mayhew was a lot more exciting than any altercation with space pirates. It also turned out that Anjali and Mikhail were the true focus of the story, while the crew of the Freedom’s Horizon, though interesting people, were secondary characters.
  • While I was working on an early draft of Freedom’s Horizon, I also learned how precisely Anjali and Mikhail had met and how they got together against all odds. It was a good story, not to mention one that occurred before Freedom’s Horizon, so I decided to write that story instead and set Freedom’s Horizon aside for now. The story of how Anjali and Mikhail met, fell in love and ran off together will be published… eventually.
  • Sometime this fall, after I had already written and published a couple of adventures in the In Love and War series, I looked at the file of what would eventually become Freedom’s Horizon again and realised that I had a solid and nearly complete story there, just not the one I’d initially thought I was telling.
  • Nonetheless, I strongly expect that we will be seeing the crew of the Freedom’s Horizon again, if only because I’ve really come to enjoy writing those characters.
  • Elijah Tyrone appears briefly in Graveyard Shift, where he even encounters Mikhail. Elijah’s doomed wife Tabitha and oldest son Clarke play somewhat more important roles in Graveyard Shift, which chronicles the so-called Unity incident, where Elijah Tyrone lost his wife and oldest son.
  • I literally got the name of the Freedom’s Horizon from a spaceship name generator. Sometimes, they can be useful. Meanwhile, the names of the three Republican battlecruisers are based on the “adjective + noun, both heroic sounding” pattern already established for Republican warships.
  • Natalya Shepkova, Captain of the Republican battlecruiser Dauntless Courage and formerly Mayhew’s first officer in his fleet days, will eventually appear in another prequel story detailing the destruction of Jagellowsk.
  • Coincidentally, the big stand-off between Anjali on the bridge of the Freedom’s Horizon and Mayhew on the bridge of the Dauntless Courage illustrates the problem of big spaceship crews. Because even though that scene is basically a conflict between two people, there are a whole lot of extra people in that scene, including four people on the bridge of the Freedom’s Horizon and an unknown, but clearly larger number on the bridge of the Dauntless Courage. None of these people actually have much to do in this scene, but ignoring them can lead to the “standing around while shit happens” syndrome we sometimes see in Star Trek Discovery, where the bridge crew literally stands around, while their captain is killed over and over again. My solution to this dilemma was actually giving the bridge crew of the Freedom’s Horizon something to do. And since the confrontation was written in Anjali’s POV, I didn’t need to bother with the bridge crew of the Dauntless Courage at all, since Anjali does not know these people (and neither does Mayhew, for that matter). Though they occasionally show up tagged with descriptions such as “curly-haired ensign”.
  • Anjali’s and Mikhail’s confrontation with the dockworkers early on was inspired by a report I translated, which detailed why a shipment of heavy machinery arrived late and damaged at its destination. It was a classic example of what I call “It’s not my fault, honest” reports. And in this case, the person who wrote the report claimed that the longshoremen at the port where the cargo was loaded were to blame for the delays, because they kept taking union-mandated breaks and because the vessel’s crew was not allowed to operate their own cranes, but had to wait for the longshoremen, because of local union regulations. After translating four pages detailing every single break and every single altercation with the foreman, I felt about as charitably inclined towards those longshoremen as Anjali and Mikhail.
  • The memorable meal of spacer’s curry that the crew of the Freedom’s Horizon share in the final chapter is actually adapted from North German sailor’s curry, which happens to be one of my favourite foods. There is some background on the origin of the dish as well as the recipe for my family’s version of sailor’s curry in the author’s note, by the way.
  • The cover is once again stock art by the talented Thai artist Tithi Luadthong a.k.a. Grandfailure.
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