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Iskander: Book Five
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-952-0
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 305 Pages
Published: April 2012

From inside the flap

Young Gisel Matah has just started her formal training with Iskander Security when the Gaian version of ‘the Man in the Iron Mask’ draws her to a foreign capital and new dangers. Who is the man in the Palace at Eifel? If he’s not the real Grand Duke—where is the real Grand Duke?

Training aboard the hydrographic launch Sirius, now converted with stealth fog and some simple missiles to a covert operations craft, Gisel finds herself in the middle of what promises to be a civil war. Her companions include the mercurial oceanographer Hannan Badry, her commander, and the young duke’s sister—the spoiled and aristocratic Countess Felicie.

On horseback or underwater, in disguise or as operational commander, Gisel is deep in every aspect of the deadly mission’s sometimes sour progress. She charms, and sometimes angers, those she meets, and even romance does not pass her by when a man she once intended to elope with surprisingly appears. She wins her spurs, and her flippers, daring the powerful Empire and its cruel and canny Commandante Zagdorf in the heart of his own territory.

Masquerade (Excerpt)


The starship freighter Iskander arrives in orbit around an analog of Earth in an alternate universe, and the team of 100 experts aboard - en route to develop the infrastructure on a colony world - are stranded. They quickly make plans to use their knowledge and a scant supply of modern equipment to create a good life for themselves. The alternate Earth, called Gaia by its inhabitants, is in basically a late 17th century stage of development. But their ’Renaissance’ doesn’t turn out as easy to accomplish as they expect.

The local power structures do not welcome any strangers to come and upset the status quo - it suits them very well the way it is. The Trigon Empire becomes the biggest threat, since it rules most of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and has colonies in the new world - the Kosmoneos in the Greek that constitutes the Scholars’ Language in this world that had never known a Roman Empire. It seems the Carthaginians had won the Punic Wars. When the off-world Trigons conquered the ensuing Greco-Semitic empire, some two hundred years before the Iskanders arrived, they instituted a policy of keeping control by crushing every attempt at changing society and technology.

Sixteen year old Gisel Matah becomes the point-person for much of the Iskanders’ early investigation of Gaia (told in "Arrival"). Her command of Greek, a legacy of the few years of childhood spent in her grandparents’ home in Greece, enabled her to comprehend the similar Scholars’ Greek and use it as a stepping stone to learning the Common Tongue, the Lingua Franca of Europe and the Trigon Empire. Her pre-teen competition gymnastics and her later qualification for a place in an Olympic fencing team make her a valuable personal trainer for all the men who now need to carry a rapier; and be able to use it if they want to appear as gentlemen on Gaia.

In this tale, a year after "Arrival", Gisel has become an officer trainee for the Security Service that the Iskanders find necessary to create. She also needs to learn enough of the technology her father, Dr Henrik Matah, head of the engineering department, is introducing - the same steel, steam, and chemical processing that changed society in our 19th century - to be able to protect its secrets. Then there’s the hurried Emergency Medical Technician course she has to take from Dr Hather to function in a world where leeches are the medical treatment for everything. While the rest of the Iskanders are creating a safer infrastructure in Tarnland - Sweden to us - where the local resources can form the nucleus of their new developments, Gisel is training to take on the Trigons in their own backyard.