Defender of the Flame by Sylvia Engdahl
Starship pilot Terry Radnor is elated to be among those chosen to defend the secret colony Maclairn against enemies who pose a threat to the spread of paranormal human mind powers. He commits himself wholly to the goal of that world, not guessing how far his effort to safeguard it will take him from everything else he cares about–his promising career as a Fleet officer, contact with people who share his newly-discovered psi capability, his wife and unborn child. Torn away against his will after learning a secret too deep for its disclosure to be risked, he is forced into exile from all that matters to him, and must build a new life grounded far from Maclairn. There seems little hope that he can fulfill his pledge to protect the world whose safety is crucial–more crucial than anyone else knows–to the future of humankind. Yetan extraordinary destiny has been predicted for Terry, and fate puts him in place to confront the colony’s greatest peril.
From the reviews:
“This book reaches back to the brio and speculation of Engdahl’s classic books of the Seventies. . . . The reader will be taken on an exciting and suspenseful ride. . . . With an admirable protagonist and many interesting and well-drawn characters major and minor, Defender is satisfying on multiple levels. . . . I expected to like this book; I was startled that I loved it. A must read!” –Literary critic Nicholas Birns
“I was hooked from page one and found myself so completely engrossed that I could not put it down until I finished this novel. . . . The only negative critique I have is that I wanted it to go on forever.” –Amazon verified purchaser
“The things that happen to the hero of this book are heart-wrenching. But that’s what the best hero stories are made of . . . . I’ve read a ton of sci-fi and this trilogy is up there among the best — fun to read, thought-provoking, exciting plot twists, and big in scope.” –Amazon verified purchaser
Targeted Age Group:: Adults and teens age 16 and older
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 3 – PG-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I had written two previous novels about the founding of the colony Maclairn, established with the goal of developing a culture where psi powers, which it viewed as the next step in human evolution, were widespread and of ultimately extending them to Earth and other colonies. Having had to steal a starship to escape their birthworld and knowing that there would be opposition, perhaps violent opposition, to the acceptance of psi, they kept the colony secret but made arrngements for it to be found by supporters after two hundred years. I hadn't planned to write anither novel, as I rarely get ideas for story action; but I wondered what would happen when the colony was discovered. And after several years, I did get ideas for incidents that might occur at that time.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The hero of the book needed to be someone to whom the acceptance and spread of psi powers were emotionally important, yet who didn't have much previous experience with such powers. And he must be in a position to take action to defend the colony against whatever threats from outsiders might develop. So I made him a young officer of the cruiser deployed by Earth's government to protect the colony (as much to prevent it from being discovered by more potential supporters as by enemies). In training for the mission, Terry discovers that he has been unconsciously psi-gifted all his life and that this explains why he has always been unable to connect with people–instinctively he expected underlying contact with them that didn't develop. Once he's aware of this and meets a woman who has become telepathic, he is more than ready to fall in love. (The woman–Kathryn, who appeared briefly in the Epilogue to Promise of the Flame–is also eager for a relationship, as she has recently broken up with a man who proved antagonistic to the idea of psi.) I got so involved with Terry that a year after the book was published I wrote a sequel about his later life–and recently, seven years after that, I wrote a third book dealing in part with the influence of his life on his successors.
Then, abruptly, a starship loomed in front of him–huge, filling his viewscreen, an ominously strange shape unlike any ship he had ever seen. Incredibly, he had intercepted it precisely, despite having had no way of predicting the direction in which to fly. Was he dreaming this, Terry wondered, or had unconscious remote viewing led him to it . . . or, perhaps, had the other ship been simultaneously seeking him? It was much larger than Skywalker, larger even than Promise, and undoubtedly faster. Its sensors could have tracked his trajectory. The crew, whatever their mission, probably wouldn't want their presence to become known.
He had not expected anything like this. No one had thought there could ever be an intruder significantly bigger than an explorer, for the mere existence of a privately-owned starship large enough to hold more than twelve people was in itself illegal. In the years since formation of the League, Fleet had not needed to enforce its monopoly. An illegally-sized ship would have been detected during construction, or at the very least if it tried to unload cargo anywhere, so nobody had attempted to build one–and of course, undercover League conspirators could not use a Fleet ship. How had the owners of this monster managed to conceal it?
Steadying himself, Terry decided to proceed with his original plan for warning them off; it wasn't his job to deal with prior violations of League law. Setting the comm to broadcast on all frequencies, he declared, "Unidentified ship, this is FIS Skywalker. This entire system has been placed off-limits by Fleet, as maneuvers are underway here. You are required to jump at your earliest opportunity. Over."
There was no response. . . . The comm remained silent, its vidscreen blank; but the ship moved closer, almost as if they planned to rendezvous. Terry had no intention of doing so; while they surely would not blast him out of the sky without provocation, they might well take him prisoner if they could induce him to board–and he had had enough of being held captive by outlaws. What their ostensible aim might be in coming to this outlying solar system was hard to imagine; they couldn’t claim to be pirates here, nor could they masquerade as smugglers since they couldn't show themselves to sell any resources they might acquire–unless perhaps they planned to transfer cargo to smaller starships instead of approaching inhabited planets. Terry turned cold, for that made sense, now that he thought of it. A really large smuggling ring, controlled by the underworld, might be able to function that way. But in that case . . . maybe they would blast Skywalker. . . .
He alone now knew what Shepard could not foresee. Had precognition led him here to warn them? He must call even before learning the ship's identity; switching the comm to Fleet's frequency he started to do so . . . only to find that the comm panel was dead.
Dead! No power seemed to be reaching it. This could hardly be a coincidence, but what technology of theirs could kill just one power circuit within his ship? An EMP would have taken out everything.
The starship was still approaching, and it was even larger than he had thought because he had first seen it at a greater distance than he'd realized. It seemed headed to collide with Skywalker–maybe they meant to ram him! Frantically Terry reached for the AI console, attempting to change course. The override switch had no effect, and in horror he perceived that the other ship wasn't moving after all; Skywalker was being inexorably drawn toward it. A tractor beam? Such things existed in fiction, but not, as far as he knew, in real life. His instruments showed that the AI was fully operative; it was executing maneuvers leading not to a collision, but to a normal docking. Somehow they had taken remote control of his ship.
Where would anyone have obtained technology that could do that? If it was available, pirates would be using it, and he'd heard no reports in Fleet that any were. For a moment he wondered if Fleet was testing some secret new development, just as they were testing Skywalker, which would also account for the unprecedented design of the starship. But since it involved a crew other than Shepard's they wouldn't have picked Maclairn's solar system to do it in, not when there was a bigger secret here to protect. And in any case Admiral Frazer, knowing of his plan for patrolling, would have told him. He sat helplessly watching the viewscreen as, directly in front of him, a port opened in the starship and Skywalker was drawn through.
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