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“Preons: Alpha” by by Frederik T. Stevens 

In a universe of highly intelligent beings and the fiercest fighters, former military strategist David seeks revenge.

David evades the first strike, but the second pincer grabs his leg. The elephant-sized scorpionlike beast is too fast for him. It lifts him by the ankle and pierces his shoulder with its tail. David’s trainer nods, the battle ends, and David faints from blood loss. Today is just a usual day in his life since the attack on Earth seven years ago. It’s the life he chose because he needs to become stronger—it’s the only way to avenge his friends.

Elsewhere in the known universe, Hanla tightens the last screw. She’s done it again. The new prototype still needs to be thoroughly tested, but she knows it will work. Her designs are flawless. In a few months, the best military ships in the known universe will be using her engine. But now that the work is done, the anxiety over her coming wedding weights on her shoulders again. She hates the prospect of an arranged marriage. Sometimes, she hates being royalty.

A stranger offers David a path for revenge, away from his cruel teacher, and he accepts. Hanla gets framed for a murder she didn’t commit. In his quest for vengeance and her pursuit of truth, they might just ignite an unprecedented galactic war.

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