Hellburner, an experimental ship being built on ummm, I forget where, and Dekker, the crazed pilot from Heavy Time is still whacked, but now a crack pilot after completing the specialized training for this ship. The deal with this ship is that it takes faster than average response time from the pilot and crew, who operate almost intuitively, not simply from training, and the crew is a working unit, and splitting them up is dangerous because of the way they depend on each other.
Ben, from Ben and Bird on Heavy Time, has trained even further for computer type ops stuff, wants desperately to go to Earth to get away from the danger of war. Here’s the official blurb:
Lt. Ben Pollard thinks he’s traded the perils of the Belt for security as an Earth-based computer jockey for United Defence Command. Then he’s forced to perform a mission of mercy – and lands on an isolated, intrigue-riddled space station. In Hellburner, her newest novel, Hugo Award winner C. J. Cherryh returns to the best-selling universe of Heavy Time, Cyteen, and Downbelow Station, and creates a story of multi-global conspiracy, power politics, and military in-fighting. Here the stakes are nothing less than the future of humanity. When Pollard finds himself stranded on the Sol II battle installation without his orders, I.D., and possessions, he discovers something equally disturbing. He’s been named next-of-kin to a man he never wanted to even see again: Paul Dekker, a young pilot who attracts crises like dead flesh draws flies. The centerpiece of a top-secret war project, Dekker has just lost his entire crew in a mysterious freak accident and lost his mind to amnesia from an attempted suicide. Or attempted murder. Suddenly two more faces from Dekker and Pollard’s past are shanghaied to Sol II: their occasional lovers, renegade pilots Meg Kady and Sal Aboujib. Together they had once smashed the criminal cover-ups of a mining cartel. Now, they’re all caught in a shadowy, deadly maze of power-mongering rivalries between UDC and Fleet Strategic Operations, the Senate and Peace Lobby, and the corporate lords of both Earth and Mars. In this subtle, dark contest with mysteries that deepen by the hour and rules that change without warning, Pollard, Kady, Aboujib and Dekker must survive kidnapping, sabotage, ambush, riots, kangaroo courts, conspiracy, and treason – only to become lab animals in the frontline of an endless war for humanity’s soul. The two couples are being programmed to crew an experimental deathship no one has been able to control. And to escape the quagmire of manipulation, Pollard and his companions must master and wield the awesome power of Hellburner.
OK, I am devouring these books like salted peanuts. And frankly, in spite of what the author says about reading Heavy Time and Hellburner first, I read Cyteen, and then Downbelow Station, and I recommend you do the same. Gives you a lot more idea about what is going on.