Hellfire (THEIRS NOT TO REASON WHY)

PRAISE FOR

A SOLDIER’S DUTY

“Reminiscent of both
Starship Troopers
and
Dune
…Successfully balances its military and science fiction elements.”


Publishers Weekly

“Full of suspense, danger, and intrigue, this new series shows a lot of promise. Fans of military science fiction will definitely want to check out this surprising and exciting novel.”

—SciFiChick.com

“A good read.”


SF Signal

PRAISE FOR JEAN JOHNSON
AND THE SONS OF DESTINY NOVELS

“Jean Johnson’s writing is fabulously fresh, thoroughly romantic, and wildly entertaining. Terrific—fast, sexy, charming, and utterly engaging. I loved it!”

—Jayne Ann Krentz,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Cursed brothers, fated mates, prophecies, yum! A fresh new voice in fantasy romance, Jean Johnson spins an intriguing tale of destiny and magic.”

—Robin D. Owens, RITA Award–winning author

“A must-read for those who enjoy fantasy and romance. I…eagerly look forward to each of the other brothers’ stories. Jean Johnson can’t write them fast enough for me!”


The Best Reviews

“[It] has everything—love, humor, danger, excitement, trickery, hope, and even sizzling-hot…sex.”


Errant Dreams Reviews

“Enchantments, amusement, and eight hunks and one bewitching woman make for a fun romantic fantasy…Humorous and magical…A delightful charmer.”


Midwest Book Review

“A paranormal adventure series that will appeal to fantasy and historical fans, plus time-travel lovers as well…Delightful entertainment.”


Romance Junkies

“An intriguing new fantasy romance series…A unique combination of magic, time travel, and fantasy that will have readers looking toward the next book.”


Time Travel Romance Writers

“The writing is sharp and witty, and the story is charming. [Johnson] makes everything perfectly believable. She has created an enchanting situation and characters that are irascible at times and lovable at others. Jean Johnson…is off to a flying start. She tells her story with a lively zest that transports a reader to the place of action. I can hardly wait for the next one. It is a must-read.”


Romance Reviews Today

“A fun story. I look forward to seeing how these alpha males find their soul mates in the remaining books.”


The Eternal Night

“An intriguing world…An enjoyable hero…An enjoyable showcase for an inventive new author. Jean Johnson brings a welcome voice to the romance genre, and she’s assured of a warm welcome.”


The Romance Reader

“An intriguing and entertaining tale of another dimension. It will be fun to see how the prophecy turns out for the rest of the brothers.”


Fresh Fiction

Titles by Jean Johnson

Theirs Not to Reason Why

A SOLDIER’S DUTY

AN OFFICER’S DUTY

HELLFIRE

The Sons of Destiny

THE SWORD

THE WOLF

THE MASTER

THE SONG

THE CAT

THE STORM

THE FLAME

THE MAGE

The Guardians of Destiny

THE TOWER

SHIFTING PLAINS

BEDTIME STORIES

FINDING DESTINY

THE SHIFTER

THEIRS NOT TO REASON WHY

HELLFIRE

JEAN JOHNSON

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

For more information about the Penguin Group, visit penguin.com.

HELLFIRE

An Ace Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2013 by G. Jean Johnson.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

ACE and the “A” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-62488-3

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Ace mass-market edition / August 2013

Cover art by Gene Mollica.

Cover design by Annette Fiore Defex.

Interior text design by Laura K. Corless.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This whole series is dedicated to the men and women around the world who have been, are, and will be willing to step between their fellow sentient beings and whatever threatens them. Specifically, the military, but this includes police officers, medical personnel, firefighters, and other emergency services. As always, I have worked to create my vision of the future with a deep respect for those who serve in the present day.

While the Terran United Planets Space Force has been based along the lines of several real-world military systems, it is not meant to represent any one particular such military; for example, the TUPSF-MC is not the same as the United States Marine Corps, and the TUPSF-Navy is not the same thing as the Royal Navy of the British armed forces. Though there are several things they and other militaries have in common with the versions I have created for these four books, there are also many differences.

If you, the reader, find any difference in the various military functions in this story that you do not agree with, please remember either it was placed there because it was sifted from a different nation’s military traditions, it was deliberately chosen to be different by the author, it was simply a case of ignorance on the author’s part, it may have come from a different person’s perspective uncovered during the many interviews I have conducted with people from various military branches around the world…or it just wound up appearing in the story because it sounded cool. (When telling a fiction story, the Rule of Cool and the Rule of Funny automatically get a higher pay grade and rank than the Rule of How Things Actually Work.)

If you have served or are serving to help defend, protect, and better your home, wherever that home may be, I salute you with respect. If you are the spouse, relative, or friend of someone who has served or is serving, I thank you deeply for the many kinds of support you give your loved ones in these services. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what it is to either serve or have someone you know serve, thank you for reading this series; I hope I have given you a glimpse of military life. This series is not an accurate window into the real-world day-to-day lives of the men and women serving out there, but I have tried to give you a window into the hearts and minds of those who are willing to serve.

My thanks, as ever, go to my beta editors, Buzzy, NotSoSaintly, Alexandra, and Stormi, and to my many readers for taking a chance on these books. Thank you very much for picking up this one and the others. May you continue to enjoy my efforts to entertain and inspire you.

Jean

Table of Contents

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

PROLOGUE

The past is nothing more than a story we tell to each other. It is not meant for mere mortal hands to erase or sever…though it is not immutable. In fact, it can be changed, if only by God and madmeioas. To all others, it is indeed written in stone.

Shakespeare once said, “What’s past is prologue,” but you must understand that this is true only because the story never ends. Yes, you had a beginning in your birth, and yes, you will have an ending in your death, but the story itself never ends. Still, each segment is preserved in one shining moment, a granite tome held up to the light of the universe so that it can be revealed in all its horrors and all its glories…and thus preserved forever. But only in the past.

Eventually, even the slowest of readers will come to that last line, and must turn the story to a new page.

~Ia

SEPTEMBER 23, 2495 TERRAN STANDARD

THE TOWER
TERRAN UNITED PLANETS SPACE FORCE HEADQUARTERS
EARTH, SOL SYSTEM

The voices kept impinging on her senses, distracting her from her search. Ia wished they would shut up.

“What about Lieutenant Second Class Brad Arstoll? She served in Basic Training with him,” a middle-aged woman offered.

“Yes, he’s just finished his Marines Academy training. But that means he’s still a new officer. Can we really risk the 2nd Platoon being led by a raw cadet?” an elderly man countered.

Their voices blended together, male and female, middle-aged and older, like the babbling of a brook in the background of her awareness.

Physically, Ia stood in one of the research rooms used by the Department of Innovations, a chamber filled with banks of workstations ringing an oval table scattered with datapads and stacks of personnel printouts. The walls themselves were mostly datascreens broken by a trio of doors. Each screen displayed a larger-than-life face and the bare-bones stats of the Service record belonging to each profiled soldier, flickering and shifting with each new suggestion.

Other books

9 Letters by Austin, Blake
La torre prohibida by Ángel Gutiérrez, David Zurdo
The Amazing Absorbing Boy by Rabindranath Maharaj
The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey
Cat's Claw by Susan Wittig Albert
Stones by William Bell
Riding to Washington by Gwenyth Swain