close menu

Read the Unpublished Prologue to BLACK STAR RENEGADES (Exclusive)

When you read Black Star Renegades, you can tell that Michael Moreci wrote the whole darn novel with a smile on his face. It’s rip-roaring science fiction romp that hits us right in our Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy-lovin’ hearts, and we absolutely adored it. In fact, it’s this rich, deep love that we have for the novel that makes us so honored to present the previously unpublished prologue.

Think of this as a deleted scene, a glimpse at something left on the cutting room floor, and just another chance to dive right into the fantastic world of Black Star Renegades. Enjoy!

Gundar was ravaged and burning.

Ga Halle’s command cruiser swooped down through the indigo sky, its landing vector directed toward the platform that jutted out from Gundar’s research tower. The massive edifice was an unlikely sight on the planet, but the Gundarian people were nothing if not rife with contradictions. They were an agrarian species, dedicated to their farms, castor bean fields, and botho pastures. Yet they permitted a band of rogue scientists to construct a research outpost for their forays into fringe—and dangerous—experimentation that was outlawed in most systems. The angular structure centered in Ga Halle’s viewport, and she couldn’t help but feel disgust for what this cabal of alleged “truth-seeking” physicists, mathematicians, and engineers had brought to Gundar. The Gundarians had always been peaceful—pacifists, in fact. But someone had tainted them; someone had led them to believe that they could fight back.

Someone told them they could defy the Praxis kingdom.

Ga Halle’s eyes ran down the length of the research tower, and her gaze lingered on its base. Its pristine metal was coated in a blurry orange smear—a reflection of the surrounding flames—that weaved and bobbed in a mesmerizing dance. Ga Halle’s jaw clenched as she festered on the senselessness of it all. All Gundar had to do was annex. Become one with Praxis. Instead, they chose rebellion. They chose violence and battles and blood and death. And now, as she looked out onto the Gundarian topography, she hoped the people of this planet saw what she saw: futility. The once green, lush pastures were being incinerated by a fire that swallowed the land all the way to the horizon line. Ga Halle heard fires could be cleansing, but not this one. No, this was a purge, a punishment, and a lesson. She could stop it at any time and stem the destruction that, unchecked, would consume the entire planet. But not yet. Not until she made her point abundantly clear.

As she looked through the viewport, she caught sight of a spectral presence floating just beyond the fortified glass. Her eyes narrowed as the shape came into focus, and Ga Halle realized she was staring at her own reflection. She’d made a habit of avoiding such contact with herself, but there she was, this disembodied face cast against the flames of Gundar. Her attention fixated on the deep scarring that veined over her mouth, across her right cheek, and up to her eye, like a lattice of ravines that’d been scored into her own flesh. The remembrance of her scars brought back pain that gave way to agony that was much deeper than any physical discomfort. But then she blinked, forcefully, and the reflection was gone, and so were the memories that refused to be extinguished.

Her cruiser landed with a hiss as the ship’s hydraulics settled onto the platform. The hatch opened and Ga Halle glided down, flanked by a pair of armed gunners. She breathed deep, taking in the stench of burning crops, palpable even from this height. The smoke billowed into the night sky, smudging the indigo sheen with a filthy gray residue. It would be a long time before the light from Gundar’s life-giving star was clear again. The planet was lucky, though, because Praxis could do much worse, and when everything was said and done, Ga Halle would make certain that the people recognized her mercy. They had to know that a temporarily obfuscated star was much better than no star at all.

But Ga Halle’s point of focus wasn’t on the sky, it was directly in front of her. She shifted her gaze down the long, narrow platform that led to the research tower’s entrance, and there she spotted the man she’d come all this way to see. The man who’d catalyzed all the problems that had to be so forcefully rectified on Gundar:

Declan Grenig, vaunted Rai of the Well.

Ga Halle strode down the platform, her crimson cape billowing off her tightly fitted black tunic. The anger she felt at the rise of a militant opposition to the Praxis Kingdom was one thing; even the waste induced by their actions she could tolerate. But not the sight of a Rai. She could already see the look on his righteous, implacable face even from a distance, and it filled her with a fury that was as consuming as the fires that raged across the planet below. As much as she wanted to act on her fury, she needed Grenig. At least for now.

A soft, muffled sound like a door slamming into a tightly-fitted frame filled Ga Halle’s ears as the gunner behind Declan drove his blaster into the base of his neck. Declan dropped to his knees, and as he looked up, Ga Halle saw the old man he’d become. Old and slow, judging by the beating the gunners were able to give him. That was to be expected as age took its toll on everyone. What wasn’t expected was for Declan to have gotten so reckless and bold. That came as a surprise.

“You’ve made a terrible mistake,” Ga Halle said as she stood above Declan, her hands clamped tightly behind her back. “But you can stop this. I have the means to put an end to this destruction if you give me what I want.”

Declan raised his head and, with the one that wasn’t swollen shut, he met Ga Halle’s gaze. “I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Ga Halle smiled without humor. She then motioned in a way that took in the burning planet below. “You’re responsible for this. You lit this fuse.”

Declan smirked. “You have an interesting interpretation of cause and effect,” he said.

“Meaning?” Ga Halle probed.

“Meaning if Praxis wants to find someone to blame, it should look in the mirror. You tried to annex a planet that doesn’t want to be annexed, and this is the result.”

Ga Halle stepped away from Declan, disengaging from a philosophical argument she refused to lend credence to. Declan would never understand what it meant to bring order to the galaxy. None of the Rai would, and clarifying that point is not what she came all this way to do.

“You will tell me why the Well decided to make this stand against Praxis,” Ga Halle demanded. “Why here? Why now?”

“The Well has nothing to do with what’s happened here. No Rai, no Masters. Just me and my fellow Gundarians.”

Ga Halle paced back to Declan. She leaned her face down to his and snarled: “You lie.”

“I’m an old man with nothing to lose, Ga Halle. I don’t care about the Well’s diplomacy, I don’t care that they’ll paint me as a rogue militant. This is my home, and I will not let you come in here and claim it, I will not let you—” Declan caught his breath and gripped his side. Ga Halle took it that he had at least one cracked rib, and the strain of his increasingly aggressive tone must have pained his wound. Still, he continued: “I won’t let you have it without a fight. The people won’t let you have it without a fight.”

Self-righteous fool, Ga Halle thought. He was telling the truth. This wasn’t an assault sanctioned by the Well, it was guerrilla warfare crafted by one man alone. Declan’s efforts were misguided at their start and pathetic by their end.

“And what do they have now, Declan?”

Declan tightened his brow and pierced his gaze into Ga Halle’s eyes. “We’d burn our own fields before we let Praxis claim them.”

“That’s what they all say,” Ga Halle said, holding Declan’s stare. “But the people out there, your people—they’re not going to condemn themselves to death. They’re not going to condemn their children to death. The Gundarians will come around, you just won’t be around to see it.”

“Then get on with it already,” Declan spat.

Ga Halle took a final look at Declan—this Rai, this defender of peace and justice throughout the galaxy. She shifted her attention to the gunners standing behind Declan and gave them a nod. Before she was even turned and headed back toward her ship, she heard the sound of two tri-blasters firing, followed by the impact of Declan’s lifeless body as it slapped against the platform’s cold metal.

When Ga Halle returned to her ship, she found her captain, Cotel, waiting at the entrance.

“My queen,” he said, standing at attention in his crisp black and crimson uniform, the colors of the Praxis Kingdom. “We’ve received word of an encrypted transmission from the Fortress. I’ve relayed it to your personal comms.”

Ga Halle cocked an eyebrow. “Who is it from?” she asked.

“I’m afraid that information is reserved only for you, my queen. Though I do know the message was designated as urgent.”

“Very well,” Ga Halle said and dismissed Cotel. Alone, she pulled back the sleeve of her tunic to reveal her comms band. The fluorescent green display blinked softly, indicating the encryption that awaited her. Once decoded, the transmission revealed a set of glyphs that only Ga Halle and one other person in the galaxy could understand. The secret language flashed a simple message that Ga Halle had been waiting nearly twenty years to hear:

Prepare your Fatebreaker the time is now.

Ga Halle took in a deep, stuttered breath. This is real, she assured herself. This is happening. 

As she looked out onto the burning horizon, Ga Halle relished her newfound perspective. Gundar wouldn’t be just another pitiful entry in the record of those who resisted the Praxis Kingdom. Gundar would instead be remembered as the final spark of insurgency before Ga Halle assumed complete and total control over the galaxy. Soon, systems would line up to bow to her rule as they choked on whatever political or moral opposition they harbored against Praxis. Soon, Ga Halle would have the power to bring order and peace to the galaxy at last.

Ga Halle would have the power to do whatever she pleased, and no one would be able to stop her.

Holy crap, right? So, so awesome. Black Star Renegades is available now from St. Martin’s Press at fine bookstores everywhere. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

Images: St. Martin’s Press

THE SENIOR CLASS is a Beautiful Animated Film with an Ugly Message (Fantasia Review)

THE SENIOR CLASS is a Beautiful Animated Film with an Ugly Message (Fantasia Review)

Giraffes Barely Sleep, and When They do, it's on Their Butts

Giraffes Barely Sleep, and When They do, it's on Their Butts

The Meg's True Size According to Math

The Meg's True Size According to Math