Glad you’re along for the ride!
Everybody keeping track of the players? This book has a substantial cast, so it can get tough to stay abreast. I should know; I have a notebook I refer to!
Anyways, here’s Chapter Six for you to enjoy – and if you want to pre-order, just click the title above!
“Commander,” said the voice of the station’s AI.
“Go ahead, Diana,” answered Cass, not looking up from the schematics she was reviewing.
“You have an incoming message from Richard Percoco.”
“The CEO of CusslerNautics. You installed him in that position last year.”
“Oh, right. Go ahead, connect him.”
“Ms. Cassidy is available, Mr. Percoco,” said the AI, then cut herself out of the circuit.
“Dogfish? Did I remember that right?”
“You did,” came a strong male voice. “Thank you for taking time to talk to me.”
“No problem,” answered Cass, still not looking away. “What can I do for you?”
“We’re wrapping up the remediation on the recovery site. I’m still getting used to the whole ‘running the company’ thing and was hoping you could tell me what I’m supposed to do next.”
Cass stopped her perusal of the Yavin gas mine plans at that. “Oh.” She shook her head, forgetting that he couldn’t see her. “I’m sorry, Dogfish. I totally forgot that this wasn’t your choice of job.”
“No problem, Ms. Cassidy. I think I’ve done okay so far.”
Cass quickly checked the entries on CusslerNautics from the months Dogfish had been in charge so far. “I agree. You did the first thing any good leader learns: if it ain’t broke…”
“Don’t fix it. Yeah, I learned that from my first SCUBA instructor, when I started fiddling with a regulator.”
“Well, Ms. Cassidy, like I said, I don’t know what to do next. Do I go out looking for jobs for the company? Do clients come to us? I mean, I just don’t know what I don’t know!”
Cass laughed. “I’ve been there, Dogfish. Believe me.” She looked around her office aboard the habitat. “Let’s take care of a small thing first. You have holographic capability on this call; it’s standard for all our CEOs. I like to be able to see people when I talk to them.”
“Like that. Exactly that. I didn’t know. How do I turn it on?”
“That’s a good question. I don’t know the exact layout of your office. Let me get some help. Diana.”
“Who’s Diana? The woman who I talked to first?” asked Percoco, but Cass was only half-listening.
“Sort of,” she answered absently as the AI responded with, “Yes, Commander?”
“I need Mr. Percoco to have access to the holographic call part of his system, but I can’t walk him through it. Can you?”
“Done,” replied Diana instantly.
“Hey!” exclaimed a surprised Percoco. “A dialog box just popped up, asking me if I wanted to start a holocall.”
“Just say yes. In the future, just make calls through that system.”
“Here goes nothing.”
The flickering, luminescent form of Dogfish sitting at his desk appeared in front of Cass.
“Whoa. That’s bizarre!” he said. “Oh. Hi, Ms. Cassidy.”
“Anything else, Commander?”
“No, thank you Diana. Hello again, Dogfish. That’s better.”
“It can be,” she agreed. “If you find yourself getting disoriented, close your eyes for a few seconds.”
“I’m okay,” he said with some uncertainty. “Anyways, why did that woman keep calling you ‘Commander’?”
“Oh, right,” said Cass. “I forgot you just know me as the company owner.”
“And that’s another thing. You said ‘all our CEOs’. How many CEOs do you have?”
“I’d have to count,” she said honestly. “I don’t keep track of them. But to answer your other questions, well, how closely do you follow the news? Especially about space?”
He shook his head. “Hardly follow the news at all. Never anything good in it.”
“Well, about six, seven months ago, did you hear anything about something called the Terran Federation?”
His face wrinkled in concentration. “Maybe? Some sort of spaceship?”
“Some sort, yes,” she agreed with a smile. “The starship is called the Enterprise, and one of the things I do, the main one these days, is be the chief Science Officer aboard her. Hence my rank. You don’t have to use it,” she hastened to add. “Ms. Cassidy is fine.”
“So that’s why you’re wearing that uniform?”
Cass looked down. She’d gotten so used to wearing her uniform, even when not aboard ship, that she’d nearly forgotten about it.
“Yes,” she answered simply.
“Are you aboard the, what did you say, Enterprise, now?”
“No. Right now she’s on a short-range patrol to keep the Solarian Union away from Njord.”
“What’s a Nord?”
“Njord. It’s the Federation’s main off-Earth habitat.”
“Whoa. Maybe you could slow down a little? This is an awful lot of information.”
“Right? Anyways, no, they don’t need me on Enterprise for the current mission, so I’m in my office on Njordworking up plans for a gas mine. And that’s why you talked to Diana.”
“She works on the station? Some sort of junior officer?”
“Not exactly. Diana is the AI which runs Njord.”
“You have an AI answering your phone?”
Cass was getting more and more amused at the twists and turns of the conversation. “Not exactly,” she repeated. “But she had some extra time, and CEOs get through her filter to me. Diana, introduce yourself.”
“Hello, Dogfish,” said Diana. “I’ve been admiring your team’s work on the Mobile Bay project. It’s been very efficient.”
“Thank you?” he replied. “Weirder and weirder, man. Let me get this straight. I’m talking to the owner of the company, who’s a commander in some space navy thing, who’s sitting in an office somewhere in orbit?”
“Well, the office is inside the space station, and the orbit is actually the L5 Earth-Moon Lagrangian point, but yes, otherwise that’s correct.”
“And the space navy?”
“We’re working on it. Now. Much as I’m enjoying this, what do you need me to do?”
“Oh, right. So the company needs a new project.”
Cass thought furiously. She should have anticipated this, she really should have, but she’d been so caught up in the planning for her long-term projects that she’d let details get away from her. It was easy to forget, with the more immediate press of problems, but that wasn’t any excuse. Then a memory came back to her.
“Dogfish, how are your people are surveys?”
“What sort of surveys?”
“Structural integrity surveys of ships.”
“Oh, we can do that easily enough. We’ve got a couple guys who’ve been doing that for twenty, twenty-five years, and they each have a couple journeymen and apprentices.”
“And your divers. Can they work out of the water as well as they work in it?”
“They can all turn a wrench, if it comes to it,” said Dogfish.
“Okay. I want you to send your surveying teams to, oh, I have to do some research.” She closed her eyes and accessed her ‘plant. It only took a couple seconds and she had what she needed. “I’m sending you addresses. I want your people to go there. You’ll have to arrange for transportation, per diem, access, that sort of thing.”
He looked down at the invisible-to-Cass screen in front of him. “Those are all museums.”
“I know. If you have problems with access, let me know. Or Diana. She might be able to handle the forms and paperwork better.”
“I can certainly do a better job with paperwork,” said the AI. “Please let me know the order you will inspect them, Dogfish, and I will arrange all the necessary permits.”
“Thanks? And how do I bill this?”
“Oh, run an open-ended contract, personal to me. Don’t worry about nickel-and-diming it. If your people need anything, do it and bill me.”
“How soon do you want this done?”
“I don’t know. Get started as soon as possible, though. I have to run this by Kendra.”
“My wife,” said Cass absently. “I probably need a meet with her, Ted, and Mac…”
“You lost me,” he complained.
Cass came back to her conversation. “Thinking out loud,” she semi-explained. “Ted and Mac, you know.”
“You mean Mr. O’Quinn and Ms. McAllister? Yes, I talk with them every couple days. Say, can I ask you something else?”
“Does she always talk so much? No offense, of course, but I don’t know how she doesn’t pass out!”
Cass had to laugh in agreement. “Neither does anyone else.”
“Okay, Ms. Cassidy. I’ll get right on it. Let you know next week how it’s going?”
“That’ll work,” said Cass, already working on Next Steps. “Talk to you soon, Dogfish.” She cut the connection and commed Kendra.
Hey, babe, what’s up? asked Kendra.
I just got finished talking with Dogfish, and I had an idea…she started, then relayed the conversation and her sudden brainstorm.
That’s completely crackers, said Kendra. Absolutely nuts. I thought you said that wouldn’t work when we talked about it before?
It wouldn’t, then, explained Cass. But with the advances in collimation Lorelei’s made it’s doable. It won’t be easy, but since when have we chosen easy?
Okay, okay. You have a point. Let’s get that meeting set up and see where we go from there.
Don’t make me blush. I’m trying to listen to the progress report on Endeavour. See you tonight.