Book Tours: Book Excerpt from Time Commander


I’m hosting an excerpt from space opera novel “Time Commander”, the third book in the First Admiral series. Enjoy.

Book Excerpt

The Time Warrior Arena, Chronos.

Slowly and deliberately, the young Imperial Guard officer walked almost absent-mindedly down the brightly lit corridor.  His attention apparently focused on the small reading device in his hands, he walked slowly, almost painfully slowly through the light-blue coloured corridors.  Passing Guards stiffened their shoulders and held their heads up straight as they passed the young Ganthoran with the Signals Captain’s insignia on his uniform sleeve.  Obviously deep in concentration, the young Captain failed to acknowledge their salute, and carried on slowly towards his own destination.

His name was Thripval Branthus, and he had been an Imperial Guard almost all of his adult life.  However, all was not what it appeared to be with Signals Captain Thripval Branthus.  Over many years the young Signals Captain had perfected the deep-in-thought, absent-minded meander through the corridors of whatever posting he had found himself in.  And, today the years of play-acting and developing his character would finally reach its culmination.   The apparently absent-minded, but highly-focused, technically-brilliant and courageous Signals Officer would strike a blow for the freedom of all Ganthorans.   Today, he was going to influence the destiny of the entire Empire.

Despite wearing the dark blue circle of the Signals Regiments, charged with maintaining communication with the Imperial Palace, Imperial Guard HQ and the planet Ganthus, Thripval’s true talent was in an entirely different.  Like his father before him, Thripval Branthus had a gift that very few Ganthorans possessed.  Signals Captain Thripval Branthus was a Binary Code Reader.

The massive holographic projectors of the Arena were programmed to create the enormous Vide-orb that was viewable from every seat.  To programme the Vide-orb to show whatever was desired in its three-dimensional format required a great deal of very simple Binary Code.  The Binary Code, made up entirely of “1” and “0” characters was far simpler for transcribing the much higher coding languages into the Time Warrior ritual computers.

The major problem for anyone wishing to interfere with, or sabotage, the Time Warrior ritual, was that every programmer more or less had their own particular higher coding language.  With no one single programmer aware of what other programmers were doing for the ritual, the uniqueness of each coding language added a further layer of safety and security to the ritual.  The weakness, with that system, was that each unique programming language was then converted to the Binary Code to integrate the pieces into the overall programme.  With the computers so dependent on the Binary Code, security at the facility had to be of the highest level.

Thripval Branthus, like his father, was the one in twenty billion Ganthorans that had a small genetic mutation; which altered his style of perception, and allowed him to look at Binary Code to see the patterns and structures of the Code itself.  With some simple training Thripval had been able to penetrate the Binary Code and amend what was written.

With a quick glance to his left and right, the apparently deep in thought Captain Branthus, turned swiftly to his right. Taking a small flat square device from the rear panel of his reading equipment, he set the small square against the door frame of the Programming Interface Room.  Within a few seconds the small square device illuminated and the door to the room flew upwards to allow Thripval access.  Then, calmly Thripval retrieved the device and stepped, unchallenged, into the most sensitive part of the facility.  Despite being the most sensitive part of the facility, the Programming Interface Room was not securely locked.

The day before the Time Warrior programme was run there would be a final scrutiny of all the routines, sub-routines and parameters.  Only essential personnel were allowed onto the Interface Room level, of which the Signals Duty Officer was one such individual.  As Duty Signals Officer, Thripval Branthus was responsible for ensuring that the Binary Code signal ran smoothly and uninterrupted from the facility to the Arena floor and the Vide-orb.    The final test of the system would be that afternoon, when Thripval was off duty, and be conducted by his commanding officer.

The Programming Interface Room was starkly white in comparison to the rest of the facility’s pale-blue.  Hexagonal in shape, with no decoration or visible equipment, the room was a series of six benches attached to the wall.  At each bench, a small, square, single-support stool could be raised and lowered from the floor to accommodate each programmer.  Each programmer brought their own Encryption Ball; a black spherical device with four grooves embedded into each half of the sphere.   With this device, each programmer could upload or download their code into the programme, with the grooves of the ball being used as the keyboard-like interface.  Every sphere was unique, and bore no numeral or letter characters.  Each programmer had their own unique language which used coded figures that they were compelled to memorise.  They then had to memorise the groove settings to their own Encryption Ball.  Thus, each programmer had their own unique coding language and their own unique Encryption Ball.  It was more layers of security on top of what already existed.

Working swiftly, Thripval took two pieces of equipment from his uniform pockets.  They were slim, narrow and rectangular on three sides of their structure, but rounded on the fourth short side.  Pressing the two pieces of metal together side-by-side to form a thicker version of the original two shapes, he operated a small switch on the left hand side of the new structure.  Slowly, four indented grooves depressed inwards from each side of the shape.  This was a Binary Code Interface Device.  Made to look like two Signal Resistance Detectors, Thripval had designed and built the device himself for this day.

With his heart hammering in his chest and his breathing becoming more and more laboured and shallow, Thripval felt his mouth suddenly become very dry.  This was the most dangerous part of the operation.  Crouching down under the third bench, Thripval slid a small access panel downwards to reveal a row of six red lights and a small square aperture.  Drawing a long cord, on a spring loaded spool, from the top of the Binary Code Interface Device he fitted the small square fixture at its end into the aperture.  Quickly, the six red lights indicated that he had achieved interface with the main Binary Code Memory of the Time Warrior ritual computer.

With a deep breath, Thripval pressed the switch on the left of the Binary Code Interface Device, twice.  From the bench above his head, a large round indented groove appeared in front of a holographically projected oval screen.

The snowy effect on the screen indicated that no video signal was currently being pushed through from the main computer.   As the screen image was projected upwards the square topped stool rose from the bare white floor.  And, with one deft movement, Thripval perched himself on the edge of the stool, and slotted the rounded base of the Binary Code Interface Device into the round indented groove on the bench.  The round base to the Binary Code Interface Device fitted the bench groove perfectly, and operated the signal from the main computer to the holographic monitor.

Within moments the screen began to show a rapidly scrolling series of “1”s and “0”s.

Right we’re in Thripval thought and set his fingers against the four indentations at either side of the Binary Code Interface Device.  From the moment the square interface socket had been plugged into the main computer, Thripval knew that he had exactly six minutes to complete his task before a silent alarm was tripped in the Main Computer Control Centre.  Engineers and Technicians were constantly checking the physical circuitry of the Binary Code processors and memory, so a special protocol de-activated the alarms to allow the work to continue more rapidly.

Six minutes, Thripval thought to himself, and watched thousands of the binary characters flash past his eyes every second.   Quickly, and deftly, his fingers operated the indented grooves on the side of the home-made Binary Code Interface Device.  And, as he input the code sent by General Kallet Thripval considered that he was doing his duty for the greater good of the Empire.

That he was sabotaging the programme with coding that would inevitably lead to the death of First Admiral William Caudwell of the Universal Alliance was a secondary consideration to the thought that the Ganthoran Empire would be ruled over by an alien.  The concept of an alien Emperor on the Crystal Throne of Ganthus was just utterly intolerable to Signals Captain Thripval Branthus.  The Ganthoran Empire should only be ruled over by full-blood Ganthorans; that was the way of things according to his father.

Any alien ruling over the Ganthoran Empire was by definition not in the best interest of the Empire and its subject peoples.  Any alien Emperor would be first and foremost loyal to their own particular species, which would inevitably put the Ganthoran people in second place.  That was the unacceptable part to Thripval Branthus, and that was why this flame–haired alien had to fail in the Time Warrior ritual.

So, his fingers, almost a blur, sped rapidly over the indented keys of the Binary Code Interface Device.  Quickly and with deadly efficiency he set down the code within the main computer memory that would sabotage the chances of First Admiral William Caudwell in the Time Warrior ritual.  His eyes and attention entirely focussed on the rapidly scrolling code that sped down the holographic screen, Thripval felt the excitement begin to rise inside him.  At first, he had been anxious and frightened.  The penalty of interfering with the Binary Code Programming of the Time Warrior was summary and immediate execution.

However, Thripval Branthus had gotten beyond his original fear.  Now Thripval Branthus felt the excitement of what he was doing.  Now that he was in the very depths of the Time Warrior Computer Control Centre he was no longer afraid.

His breath still came in shallow, rapid gasps.  His hands felt sweaty, his chest felt tight, but his head was spinning with the excitement of it all.  Looking at the time keeping mechanism on the holographically-projected screen, Thripval could see he had used the equivalent of four of his six minutes, and there was still a considerable amount of code to download.

It’s going to be close, Thripval thought to himself as he watched the thousands of characters flash past his eyes as the screen scrolled downwards.  Once again, his fingers a blur, he downloaded more and more of the malicious coding into the main computer.  And, in his minds-eye, he saw the images of himself that he had dared to dream since being told he had been chosen for this secret and, highly dangerous, mission.  One day, when a Ganthoran Emperor sat on the Crystal Throne, he, Thripval Branthus; a lowly Signals Officer in the Imperial Guard would be recognised for his heroism and patriotism.  He would be awarded the highest orders and distinctions for bravery that he Empire could give.

He would be promoted to a General’s rank in the Imperial Guard, and be allowed to stay within the Imperial Precinct.  That was where the wealthiest and most respected people in the Empire kept grand residences.

And, he would marry Glinya.  He had promised that one day he would return from his adventures and they would be together always.  The thought of Glinya, the beautiful daughter of his father’s neighbour, with whom he had grown up made Thripval smile for a few moments.  Until he realised that he had been distracted from the mission he was risking his life to undertake.  Quickly glancing at the time keeping mechanism, he watched the numerals counting down into the last minute of his undiscovered intrusion.

Cursing himself for allowing his mind to wander, he realised he would never be able to download all of the malicious code on time.  He would have to leave the really big file that would focus all of the alien’s enemies on killing only him.  It was a clever piece of coding.  The Zulus, whatever species they were, Thripval considered, would be focussed entirely on killing the Caudwell alien.   However, he would be able to include the coding which made the holographically-projected Zulu warriors ignore all of the ‘self-preservation’ protocols built into the programme.  Thus, they would sacrifice themselves in huge numbers to kill Caudwell.

Smiling wickedly, Thripval Branthus lodged the final piece of malicious coding into the Time Warrior programme and realised he had just over thirty seconds.    And, as the final piece of code was downloaded, Thripval yanked the cord connection from the aperture in the computer with two seconds to spare.  He hadn’t quite managed to download all of the malicious code that he had been given, but here was more than enough to sabotage this Caudwell’s chances of being Emperor.

Calmly and quickly, Thripval disconnected the holographically-generated screen and de-activated the Binary Code Interface Device.   As he arose from the square topped stool in front of the bench, the stool slid slowly, and silently, back into its housing in the stark white floor.   Then, it was simply a case of disassembling the Binary Code Interface Device, and slipping the two parts into his uniform pockets.  With a quick check of the starkly white, hexagonal room, Thripval Branthus made one final check to ensure he had left no race of his unauthorised visit to the Interface Room.  Once again, he tripped the security lock of the Interface Room and stepped back out into the soothing calm of the light blue corridor.

After re-sealing the security lock, Thripval took a deep breath and exhaled.  The feeling of relief that surged through his body made him feel lighter and calmer.  It was over.  He had done his duty for the Empire.  All he needed to do now was establish his alibi.

Slowly and deliberately, he took ten steps down the empty corridor, removing one half of the Binary Code Interface Device from his uniform pocket.  Crouching down he activated what had become a Signal Resistivity Detector.  The Signal Resistivity Detector was a device that detected signal radiation behind walls and bulkheads, and was indicative of faulty circuitry that could reduce the effectiveness of the signal to the Time Warrior Arena.  Thripval knew that when he activated the Signal Resistivity Detector, the low power detection field would trip a silent alarm in the Main Control Room of the installation.

Crawling on his hands and knees along the wall towards the Programming Interface Room, Thripval was aware that the Security Detail would be watching his every move on the closed-circuit video monitors.

The observers would see absent-minded Signals Captain Thripval Branthus being his usual careful and diligent self, making sure that here was no loss of signal from the Programming Interface Room and the main computer to the Time Warrior Arena.

At a distance equivalent to four steps from the door of the Programming Interface Room, Thripval stood up again and made a great show of entering some data onto his Reading Device.

Looking up from his Reading Device, Thripval Branthus raised a hand in greeting and acknowledgement to the Security Detail on the monitors in the Main Control Room before rising to his feet.   The small spherical video-scanner blinked red when in operation, and Thripval could see that the scanner was following and monitoring him.  Then, turning on his heel, he walked slowly to the end of the corridor and turned the corner, out of range of the video scanner.

Once out of view of the Security Detail’s prying scanners, Signals Captain Thripval Branthus smiled to himself and carried on with the remainder of his duties.  Too easy, Thripval thought to himself.

Too easy.

Time Commander

Book III Time CommanderThe third installment in the exciting First Admiral Series, Time Commander follows the continuing adventures of Billy Caudwell; the teenage First Admiral of the Universal Alliance Fleet as he strives to prevent a long, protracted and bloody war with the Ganthorans.

Having defeated a Ganthoran Frontier Fleet General in battle, Billy Caudwell must undertake the dangerous ‘Time Warrior Ritual’. In the ritual, Billy has to re-fight (and win) a major battle, that in the history of his species was lost – and in which the losing Commander was killed. To prevent years, possibly decades, of costly warfare, Billy must comple the ritual and claim the Crystal Throne of Ganthus. If Billy completes the challenge, he will become the Emperor of the Ganthorans. If he fails, he will die on a historical battlefield from Earth’s past.

Sinister powerful and xenophobic forces among the Ganthoran aristocracy and military are ranged against Billy, determined to prevent an alien claiming the Crystal Throne.
Can Billy survive the challenge and avert a brutal and costly war?

Author Bio

The author, William J.Benning was born in Dumfries (south west Scotland) in 1963. With his 50th birthday fast approaching, Benning has decided to grow old disgracefully. An intensely private individual, Benning recently returned to his home town seeking inspiration for his passion of creative writing. At age 18, Benning left home to take an Honours Degree in Psychology at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. He has some very fond memories, and many nights of vague recollection – which are, on the whole, probably best forgotten (!) – from his student days. After graduating, Benning had a career “false start” moving into the world of Pest Control Management. However, after several unhappy years, he switched tack and took further qualifications in Personnel Management, carving out a successful and enjoyable career in Human Resources as well as Learning & Development. Throughout his career, Benning has worked to support the activities of the British Red Cross.

From his early days as a First Aid Volunteer, he enjoyed working for the organisation which gave him further skills and built his self-confidence. Progressing within British Red Cross, Benning became a First Aid Instructor (Trainer), Assessor and Lecturer plus becoming invoved in training other Trainers and Assessors. Having returned to Dumfries to further his writing career, Benning now lives alone, but has been adopted by four members of the Canine Community. With four dogs in his life – and a newly arrived litter of Tibetan Terrier pups – plus a newly published novel, life is never going to be dull for Benning. William likes his sci-fi, but is also keen on military history and speculative fiction. Among his fiction favourites are Harry Turtledove, the late George MacDonald Fraser, Bernard Cornwell and Clive Cussler. William collects Edinburgh Crystal and has a terrible weakness for malt whisky. He has published his novel First Admiral with Malachite Quills in 2012.


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