The Cassini Mission by Rob Colton
The adventure continues in the action-packed follow up to The Degan Incident!
Dr. Aron Adler is ordered to take part in a rescue mission to a research colony located on an uninhabited planet in the outer rim. He is to immediately report to the U.S.C. Cassini, which will take Aron, two other scientists, and a unit of Union Marines to the colony. Once there, they are to assess the situation and retrieve any data or specimens.
Formerly a scientist in the Union Army, Aron was dishonorably discharged following a court-martial for failing to obey orders. Stepping foot on the Cassini brings up old feelings he would rather forget. Shunned by the crew of the Cassini, Aron finds comfort in the arms--and bed--of Marine corporal Kane Robertson.
Upon reaching the colony, it becomes apparent that not everything is as it seems. Once again, Aron is faced with a difficult decision: follow orders or follow his heart.
While quite a bit shorter than The Degan Incident, this book was just as good and contained just as many emotionally wrenching scenes. Aron is very abruptly reinstated to the Navy in order to be part of a mission to fly to a research facility located way, way out on the edges of normal exploration for reasons that no one will tell him. When he shows up at the ship, he is pleasantly surprised to see his friend Kenji, and not so pleasantly surprised to see a former Navy member, Bradley. A marine unit consisting of GEM (Genetically Enhanced Military Units) Marines also joins the group as does the skeleton crew of the USC Cassini which is described more than once as an out-of-date, rust-bucket of a space ship.
It is quickly clear that this mission is a cluster in more ways than one, rather than teach the scientists (Aron, Kenji, and Bradley) combat skills, the Marines use that time to beat up on the scientists to showcase who is top dog. Several of the marines also make sexually suggestive remarks (and more) causing Aron and Kenji to be rather uncomfortable at times. Bradley gladly hooks up with one of the Marines, causing even more dissent among the team. The only exception to this horrible trip is a Marine named Kane Robertson who actually does try to teach the scientists survival tactics and who helps Aron learn some combat skills. Kane makes his interest in Aron clear, but before they act on it too much they (and the others aboard the Cassini) have to enter a six week cryo-sleep (something like a coma).
When they wake up they are close to the research facility and are given the sketchiest of details of what their mission is: to recover the data being worked on. When they get to the facility, things go from bad to worse in the form of cyborgs who quickly wreck havoc upon the team. It is at this point that tensions ratchet up ten-fold as it quickly becomes clear that not everyone in the group has been honest and there are at least two agendas going on...getting out of this situation alive will be tricky...stopping the horrors that have been happening in the lab will be even harder. Aron and Kane have to decide who among them they can trust and how they are going to both stay alive and retain their sense of right and justice.
This book was fantastic but there were several passages that were difficult to read as the violence ramps up in the last third. Overall I felt it did a great job of connecting to the first book and setting the reader up for the third--which I can't wait to read!