Prologue

No.17b Bowler's Green
Somerset, England
August 18th 2671 A.D. (One year before the Alien War)

For the attention of Commander Artimus Bowman, you are hereby requested and required to take command of the Confederated Territories of Earth Battleship (CTEB) Alacrity SHGV-58. For this new tasking you are to be assigned the rank of Captain with all the privileges and responsibilities that come with it.

Artimus Bowman fell back onto the soft mattress of his bed as the rather copious amount of champagne he had consumed earlier that day began to set in leaving his head with a sensation that could only be likened to being a leaf caught in a hurricane. His wife, Brooke, lay down beside him smiling at him brightly. She was still wearing her elegant blue dinner dress that she had worn at the reception from which they had just returned. Looking down at him she smiled as her eyes filled with joy. She was so proud of her husband. Earlier that day Commander Artimus Bowman became Captain Artimus Bowman and he had received word that he was to take command of a Confederated Territories of Earth Battleship, namely the Alacrity.

"You're drunk!" she laughed stating the obvious in a teasing and playful way as she nestled herself under his right arm and began to lay on his chest.

"It doesn't happen often," he slurred with his eyes shut.

"I think I can forgive you today…Captain," she said. It seemed that everyone around him was making a concerted effort to address him by his new rank from the moment Admiral Tunstall had pinned those two little pips onto his collar. Get used to it Captain were the only words of advice his friend Scott Tolan, himself a Rear-Admiral and sponsor of Bowman's promotion, could give.

"Captain!" slurred Artimus. "Cap-tain! Oh God help me! I don't know if I'm ready for this."

Brooke looked up at him and laughed as she said, "It's a little late to be having cold feet." He suddenly sat up pushing his wife's head off his chest. Leaning forward with his elbows on his knees he buried his face into his hands and rubbed his tired eyes. "Are you ok?"

Artimus Bowman wasn't sure how to respond. The whirlwind that was the promotion ceremony and the following reception had now subsided and the realization of what his new duties would entail left him feeling as though a noose was tightening around his neck. It was a noose he was placing there himself.

"There are over three thousand people on the Alacrity all waiting for me to lead them," he uttered to her although she suspected it was more for his own benefit. It was a way of airing what he had bent up inside. "Things with the Titan separatists are getting worse by the day. No doubt Alacrity will be involved in any fighting. They're going to be looking at me for all the right answers and I'm not sure I have them all yet. I don't think I'm ready. I mean…what if I screw it up?"

"You won't!" she said confidently as she sat up to sit beside him. "Look, I'm sure every Captain in history has said the same thing you are right now." She put her arms around him and kissed him delicately on the cheek before resting her head on his right shoulder. "That's the one thing I always found odd about you, Artimus. You never seemed to have any ambition." Artimus looked at her not sure if she was paying him a compliment or an insult. Seeing the confused look on her husband's face Brooke felt compelled to explain, "You never wanted to be the air group commander aboard Valkyrie but it was given to you. After that you never really wanted to be XO of the Cerberus but again it was given to you. I remember us having similar conversations to this one each time you were promoted and look what happened; you exceeded everyone's expectations especially your own. That's why they promoted you again and again. You're one of these people who get put in the right place at the right time because you are the right person to do it. When push comes to shove you've always known the right thing to do. That's one of the reasons why I fell in love with you."

"I hope you're right," he said as their heads tilted lovingly together.

"I now I'm right," she whispered. "You'll see."

She stood up and turned to face him. She placed her hands on his chest and pushed him back down onto the bed.

"Action stations! Action stations! Set damage control state one. This is not a drill! This is not a drill."