Only four days to Release Day!
You think those Direwolves might make Artemis think twice?
I wonder what’s coming next…well, why don’t we find out?
Chapter Fourteen is on deck – and you can order your own copy of the book by clicking HERE or by clicking the title above!
TFS Enterprise, Admiral’s Quarters
The door slid open, and Alley and Kiri walked in.
“You wanted to see us, Admiral?” Alley deliberately used Kendra’s rank; if this was an informal meeting, Kendra would object. Vociferously, in fact.
“I did,” Kendra answered, rising from her desk. “Have a seat.”
She stepped over to the replicator and asked, “Would you like anything to drink? This may take a while.”
“Just water, if you don’t mind,” said Alley. She’d adjusted to Kendra’s ideas of egalitarianism in her version of a navy. She also knew that Kendra’s offering of drinks meant that this meeting just went from formal to important.
“Water as well, ma’am,” added Kiri. She wasn’t as easy with it.
“Computer, two waters, chilled, one iced tea.” A moment of whirring and three glasses appeared. Kendra distributed the waters, took her tea, and returned to her chair.
A full thirty seconds of silence stretched out before Alley broke it.
“Admiral. You asked us here. We’re here. What can we do for you?”
Kendra rubbed her eyes, then looked at her.
“I’m afraid you’re losing your XO, Captain.”
Alley stole a quick glimpse of Kiri’s face, seeing the shock, before answering. “Yes, ma’am.”
“That’s it? ‘Yes, ma’am’? No arguments? No objections?”
Alley shook her head. “I keep forgetting that you are still new to all this. Kendra, when the Admiral tells you something, that’s the Word from On High. You might ask for an explanation, but argue? No.”
“And you don’t want an explanation?”
“I think I know why. You might want to explain it to Kiri before her wife becomes a widow, though.”
Kendra shifted her gaze to Kiri, who was, indeed, looking stunned.
“I’m sorry, Kiri. I’d been worrying myself, trying to figure out how to have this conversation, and finally decided that it was best to simply come out and say it.”
“Yes, Admiral,” said Kiri, still shaken. “Say what?”
“Oh! Kiri, I’m giving you the Endeavour. If you want her.”
A huge grin blossomed on Kiri, joy shining in her eyes. “Hell yes!” she practically shouted. Regaining some of her composure, she said, more calmly, “Yes, Admiral. I want the command. But shouldn’t it go to Captain Martinez? She is the senior officer.”
“That’s a good point, and I did consider it, but there are a couple points against it. She’s already gone through the initial fitting-out of a starship, and I don’t think she’s particularly eager to do it again.” Alley shook her head in confirmation.
Kendra continued. “And the other point goes along with her seniority. The Enterprise is my flagship, or will be, once we have more than one fully functional starship. No offense, Kiri, but I want Alley to command the flagship of the fleet.”
Kiri was nodding. “I understand, Admiral, and I accept.”
“Then we’ll make it happen. Now, we need to figure out a command crew for you. Your Division heads, at least.”
“Dawn, for Science,” Kiri said immediately.
“Easy ones first, eh? Alley?”
“No argument. Dawn’s almost as good as Cass; better, at the planetology.”
“Raynie for Tactical. I’d ask for Candice for Tactical, but I know better.”
“No, you’re right, you can’t have Candice for Tactical. Raynie is good, she just has a tendency –“
Kiri interrupted Alley. “To focus on the details and lose sight of the big picture. I’ve noticed that, but she’s improved.”
“How about Dr. Quinn?”
Alley looked pained. “He’s an excellent doctor. I don’t know if I’m comfortable losing him.”
“His assistant, Dr. Lespier, is almost as experienced,” argued Kiri. “And fifteen years younger.”
Minerva, who was always listening, added, “The project that Dr. Quinn and I have been working on is complete and fully functional.”
“I didn’t know,” said Kiri. “That just adds to my argument, though.”
“Fine, you can take Joe,” Alley said. “But you can’t have Dellin!”
“Actually,” Kendra purred, putting them both on alert. “Dellin is taking over the position of construction supervisor on Njord. It’s just too much for Kyran to handle on their own, and their skills at personnel management is absolutely critical in the new habitat. So you both need Chief Engineers.”
“Jess?” said Kiri.
Alley shook her head. “No, but not for the reason you think.”
Kiri tilted her head quizzically but didn’t say anything.
“I think that Lorelei should be your Chief.”
“Your wife. You’ve shown you can work with her without compromising either your position or your authority; she’s a skilled engineer who has become even more so under Chief Anderson; and she also is the person who designed the new collimation and targeting system that’s installed on Endeavour. Frankly, there isn’t anyone who I think would be more capable.”
“And neither do I,” added Kendra. “Don’t sell her short, Kiri. If you can’t have Dellin, then she’s your best choice.”
“I wouldn’t dream of dissing her abilities,” said Kiri with a smile. “I know how good she is. I just was uneasy about suggesting her for the position.”
“Alley? That leaves you without a Chief.”
“Morgan,” she answered. “Jess is capable, and has been pulling shifts as Acting Chief since Dellin was pulled out for her construction duties.
“What about your small boats? Wolves and Direwolves?” asked Alley. “I don’t want to give up the Garcias, but I suppose I could.” The squadron of six MOVs assigned to Enterprise had only two boats survive the battle with the Brahe: the Newton and the DaVinci. The crew of the Newton had been promoted and transferred to the command of the new Flying Tigers squadron, leaving only Justina and Briana Garcia, Double Dip’s sisters, as her only experienced crew.
“I’m putting a hold on that,” said Kendra. “We’re still bringing the Enterprise squadron online, and right now there’s only one operational Direwolf. There aren’t any birds to command, so we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.”
“Don’t you mean…?”
“I meant what I said. That just leaves your XO.” Kendra turned to Kiri. “Any ideas?”
“Sanzari,” she said without hesitation. “I know you won’t give her up to take Endeavour’s Tactical position, but she is the most-qualified candidate to be my XO, hands down.”
“Before you say anything, Alley, I’m going to tell you that I support Kiri on this. I’ve known Sanzari for six years. She knows how to lead, how to motivate her people to do their best; I wouldn’t have had her head of security otherwise. She can learn from you and you’ll be able to rely on her.”
Alley looked from Kiri to Kendra and back. “No objection. If you hadn’t asked for her, I would have suggested her. Of course, that leaves me short both an XO and my Tactical Division head. Any ideas?”
Kiri said, “I think that I’d slide Kay from Helm over to Tactical. That’s his secondary assignment and he’s gotten good reports on his abilities. That leaves Christina Manco as his second, which will be a step up for her so she won’t complain about his promotion.” She considered some more. “I’m not sure what to do about XO, though.”
“Or just don’t want to say. Admiral?”
“Your ship, Captain. Your choice.” Kendra’s voice was carefully neutral.
“Cowards, both of you,” Alley sniffed. “The logical choice is Cass. Nobody else has the sort of experience I need my XO to have.”
“But what about Science?” said Kiri.
“Now that she’s got the coordinate system worked out Phaedra’s at a bit of a loss as to what to do. She’s got the background and inclination for it. She’ll still have Willerman and Wilt to back her up, and Greenstein can keep working on Astro.”
“Admiral?” prompted Alley. “Kendra?”
Kendra pulled herself back into the conversation. “I was just thinking that Cass might not be as eager as we think to take this position.”
“That’s –” started Alley, then stopped.
Kendra leaned forward. “She took the position because she loves science. She loves discovering, and exploring, not just places and things but ideas. The Enterprise gave her a chance nobody else had ever had, and she couldn’t say no, even though it took her away from our family. I know that she’s happier now that we’re all aboard; she doesn’t have to choose exploration over family. Now we’re going to ask her to trade the exploration, the hands-on part, for command? I don’t know if having her family with her will be enough incentive.”
“Every time I think I have you two figured out, you throw me another curve,” Alley said. “Let me think.”
The silence rolled on and over them. Finally Alley said, “We don’t have to take it away from her.”
“I don’t follow you,” Kendra said.
“It goes back to the original source of all this,” Alley answered, waving her hand at the compartment. “That old show, the first one. Wasn’t the XO also the Science Officer?”
Alley could see the comprehension blossoming on Kendra’s face. “Of course! There really isn’t any reason why Cass couldn’t keep up with her passion, at least for the really interesting bits, while Phaedra handles the Division and the routine.”
“I’m sure that Phaedra would appreciate having Cass available for the more challenging aspects,” Kiri added. “And I don’t think that she’d be offended if we ask her to go to Cass for advice.”
“Then I think we’re settled,” said Alley. “Except for one thing.”
“I’m not telling Cass she’s getting a new job. That’s definitely a job for the Admiral. Kiri and I will tell everyone else, but Cass?” She shook her head vehemently. “That’s on you.”
“And you called me a coward. Hmmph. Well, we should probably start putting the wheels in motion. Minna.”
“Commander Stewart has accepted the post.”
“And promotion; I forgot to mention that. Nice catch, Minna.”
“I try, Admiral. Effective date?”
“Today. Don’t transfer her command codes to Endeavour until we have a chance to talk to the other officer candidates.”
Kendra, standing, looked at her two captains. “Ladies, you have a number of meetings you need to arrange, and I have to talk to my wife. If I survive, I’ll see you this evening.”
“You didn’t think I’d let you get promoted without a celebratory dinner, did you? We’ll do the formal ceremony later in the week, along with the big dining-in. For tonight, it’s just the family. Nineteen, so don’t be late.”