Conspirators by Cora BuhlertLord Jonathan Summerton, husband, father, lord of Caswallon and current head of one of the oldest families in the Empire. For too many years, he turned a blind eye to the abuses perpetrated by the Emperor and his followers. But now that his homeworld is under threat, he is no longer willing to stay silent.

Arthur Madden, miner’s son from Askvig IV turned Rebel leader turned most wanted man in the universe. He has dedicated his life to fighting the Empire and putting an end to injustice and inequality. However, in order to achieve that goal, he needs allies, including some who seem to represent everything he fights against.

Alanna Greyskull, former commander in the Imperial Navy. Court-martialled for refusing to scorch a planet full of unarmed civilians, she escaped the firing squad and wound up joining the Great Galactic Rebellion, because there was nowhere else she could go. Ever since then she has been trying to bring some semblance of organisation to the chaotic rabble that makes up the Rebellion, while plotting to make the Empire pay for what was done to her.

When these three meet in a nameless restaurant on the planet Wei Xiu II, lives are changed and history is made and the universe will never be the same…

This is a prequel novella of 24000 words or approximately 82 pages in the Shattered Empire universe, but may be read as a standalone.

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Some background information:

  • Conspirators is a novella of 24200 words. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
  • This story is part of the Shattered Empire saga, a series of more or less loosely connected novellas about the great rebellion against the Fifth Human Empire told from the POVs of the people who fought it.
  • Actually, Conspirators is a sort of prequel to the Shattered Empire saga, since it takes place approximately six years before Mercy Mission.
  • I have long wondered how Jonathan Summerton, who is after all a rather conservative aristocrat (just how conservative comes out in this story) from a powerful and ancient family, would come to support the Rebellion and eventually die for it. Conspirators is my attempt to answer that question.
  • We learn a lot more about the Summerton family in Conspirators, though we only meet Jonathan and Helena, parents of Ethan directly. Among other things, we learn that Ethan was already passionate about gardening as a teenager and that he used to breed vegetables. Coincidentally, I felt a lot worse about killing off all the Summertons except Ethan in Mercy Mission, once I learned more about them while writing Conspirators.
  • We also meet Rebel leader Arthur Madden and his impressive second-in-command Alanna Greyskull again and learn more about them, including just how Alanna, who after all once commanded a starcruiser of the Imperial Navy, came to join the Rebellion. There also are more hints that what Arthur Madden says about his background might not be quite accurate.
  • Conspirators also takes us back to the city of Houshou on the planet of Wei Xiu II, which was the setting of Partners in Crime. We learn a bit more about the culinary and gastronomic scene on Wei Xiu II. We also meet a teenaged version of Rebel pilot Isabel Kwan and there even is a brief reference to Robert William Montague Lowe, director of the Premier Imperial Bank of Houshou and an important character in Partners in Crime.
  • Holly and Carlotta don’t appear in Conspirators at all, since neither was part of the Rebellion at the time in question. Holly would still have been a teenage petty thief at this point in time, while Carlotta would have been a junior mercenary.
  • However, there is a brief reference to the ultimate failed uprising that Arthur Madden led on the planet Aguilar, which also happens to be the homeworld of Carlotta Valdez. We learn more about this failed revolt and its aftermath from Carlotta’s point-of-view in Debts to Pay.
  • For some reason, all Shattered Empire stories to date with the exception of Debts to Pay more or less prominently feature food. I suspect the reason for this is that I have long been dissatisfied with the way that many science fiction novels either reduce food in the future to all protein cubes all the time or prefer to ignore the issue altogether.
  • The dishes on offer at Kelvin Liu’s nameless restaurant are all real dishes from the menus of restaurants specialising in molecular cuisine. Meanwhile, Kona’s is basically a Tiki Bar in outer space.
  • When looking through images of vintage Tiki Bars for inspiration, I came across the spectacular Tiki-style neon sign for a California bowling alley named Kona Lanes and borrowed the name for Madame Chu’s bar and restaurant.
  • Coincidentally, the fake names that Jonathan Summerton and the Rebels use for the meeting at the restaurant were borrowed from players of the German national football team which won the 2014 World Cup. I’ve long considered international football team roosters a good source of both first and surnames and so I had fun using the names of actual players as a little in-joke.
  • The cover is digital art by Luca Oleastri via Dreamstime. I had problems finding images that look even remotely like I envision Arthur Madden, Jonathan Summerton and Alanna Greyskull, since digital SF art usually does not depict people over forty. So I settled for a generic space marine – pardon Peacekeeper – instead. I added the graffiti on the ruins in the background to match the graffiti Isabel Kwan spray onto the ruins of the nameless restaurant.
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