Cassandra Kresnov is not human. She is a synthetic—a manufactured being that has been designed for violent action. Operation Shield opens with a fight on the planet of Droze, a hive of scum and villainy. It seems that a localized rebellion of her fellow synthetics, or GIs as they are called, has started, and Cassandra is trying to assist them. This rebellion has far-reaching implications that could change the already fragile treaty that has stopped intergalactic war. Cassandra has to make tough decisions, and some of them will haunt her long after the fighting has stopped. After making those choices, she heads home with three street-smart and highly advanced youths she has decided to adopt. Because of her fame and notoriety, she must balance her work life with raising children who have endured the horrors of war, the loss of parents, and the quick death of their innocence. As Cassandra learns how to become a mother, the results of some of her actions on Droze come back to haunt her, her children, and the entire federation. Lock and load—this is going to be a wild ride.
Joel Shepherd, why have I not been reading more of your books? This book is the fifth book in the series and the first book I have read in this series. Starting on the fifth book in any series is normally not a good idea, but the folks at Pyr were kind enough to send me a review copy. I figured if Shepherd is as good as they say he is, I should catch on to what is happening at one point or another. I like doing this sometimes since it lets me know if an author can tell me the backstory through the current narrative. I don’t fault authors if they don’t, but it is cool to see if they can tell the current story while giving me enough backstory so that I do not feel lost. Yes, a quick summary at the beginning of any book in a series is a good thing, but it is interesting to see how each author (and sometimes each publisher) handles that. After reading Operation Shield, I can say without any doubt that Shepherd expects that you have read his previous books. If you haven’t, the catching up is on you.
A super-strong hero needs to save his girlfriend—it’s the most important thing he has ever done. Problem is, she’s trapped under a bus that’s heavier than anything he’s ever lifted.
What happens next?
In a realistic scenario, the hero has a finite and quantifiable amount of strength. Either the bus is too heavy for him, in which case he is unsuccessful, or it’s not too heavy, in which case he is successful. End of story.
In a dramatic scenario, the hero’s actual strength is not what matters. What matters is whether it’s dramatically appropriate for the hero to save the girl, or not. Perhaps the hero is supposed to save her, in which case he flexes his muscles and strains with all his might and he barely lifts the bus enough for her to crawl to safety. Or, perhaps, he is supposed to fail, maybe learning a lesson in the process, or becoming a haunted and dark hero. In the latter case, he flexes and strains but it’s just not enough and he watches her expire before his very eyes, knowing that he couldn’t be the hero this time.
So, you just brought a thug to justice. Go you! But what is in that thug’s belt pouch (or otherwise tucked away on this particular unsavory individual)? You can roll randomly for a result below, or use the handy number provided with each entry to figure out your result on a d12. You can also pick the one that works for the area in which your characters currently linger.
Another element of lost magic came our way, this time from Denver Edwards. This one has more of a metamagic element to it, which you might embrace in your game as is or soften through the use of more story elements. If you’re the GM, ask the player to describe how the caster’s knowledge of this ancient lore plays out in the mind’s eye during casting, for example, which can help you build more lush world detail into your game, plus personalize that character’s casting style and define what others see when this character casts spells.
School evocation; Level bard 3, sorcerer/wizard 3, witch 3 Casting Time 1 swift action Components V Range personal Target you Duration instant
By pronouncing an ancient syllable first spoken at the dawn of creation, you instantly know the optimal way to modify your next spell in a way you desire.
You can add any one metamagic feat (you do not need to know the feat) of your choice to the next spell you cast before the beginning of your next turn without increasing the spell level or casting time, so long as the total modified spell level of the spell is not above a level you can normally cast.
The list of metamagic feats you can choose from is based on your caster level. At 5th level, you can select metamagic feats with a +1 spell level modifier. Every four caster levels, the spell level modifier of the metamagic feat you can choose from increases by 1 (+2 at 9th, +3 at 13th, to a maximum of +4 at 17th).
At 17th level, if you select Quicken Spell to modify a spell, you can cast that spell as a free action if it is cast before the beginning of your next turn.
Do you remember when you first came up with Gaunt and Bone?
I was writing longhand in a coffee place in Menlo Park, California, in the ’90s. I was doing the second of a planned series of stories in a dreamlike fantasy world, taking cues from Dunsany, Lovecraft, and Leiber. (The first one, “The Lions of Karthagar,” eventually appeared in revised form in Black Gate 15.) I wanted a classic Dungeons & Dragons style thief, and played around with names resembling Indiana Jones and Inigo Montoya, coming up with Imago Bone. The inspirations suggested a lot about his character. Next, I needed a reason for him to do something dangerous, so along came his “Goth” girlfriend and her stolen book of poems. Her name, Persimmon Gaunt, was meant to suggest a love of life and a fascination with death. They clicked with me, and when I went on to do a third story in that sequence, they ended up answering the “want ad.” So, I just ran with that and wrote more stories about them.