Hey, welcome back!
It’s the second sequential post for this volume, but it’s still only chapter one.
Well, last week was the prologue, and I’m sure I can hear you asking, why did you do it as a prologue? Why not just a chapter?
It’s actually fairly simple.
I try to put dates of the chapters around the chapters which occur during that month. That means that at some point I’ll insert a page that says, for example, ‘June 2119’, and then there’s chapters, and then another insert saying ‘July 2119’. I believe that helps you, the reader, keep track of what is going on when. After all, my stories – right, right, not my stories, Cass & Ken’s stories – are pretty linear, but there’s a bunch that happens simultaneously in different places.
However, the Prologue for this volume – and for Volume 2 – take place outside the normal stream, and it didn’t make sense to me to do a whole ‘Date’ page just for a single chapter.
Hence a Prologue.
Now, though, you’re getting into the meat.
WARNING: SPOILERS! First chapters of series books have a bunch of exposition and explanation of what went on in the previous book(s). If you haven’t read the other volumes, and you plan to do so, you might want to skip this one. You can just go get them now. I’ll even provide you links, aren’t I kind? And they’re all free to borrow if you have Kindle Unlimited.
And finally, next week you’ll actually know the title of this book. The title reveal is Monday the 1st, and I hope you’re as excited about it as I am!
Enough. You ready to start the ride?
Into the Black
The door to their quarters opened and Aiyana Cassidy entered, looking spent.
“Hi, hon,” said Kendra Cassidy from her office. As the Admiral of the Terran Federation, she spent her days either on the Enterprise, the flagship, or on the Njord. The past couple weeks, as she’d recovered from her injuries, she’d been mostly aboard Enterprise.
“Hi babe,” answered her wife, walking into the office and tugging her uniform coat open. Kendra looked up.
“Wow. Tough day?” Aiyana, who was known to everyone as Cass, nodded.
“Partial failure on one of the navigational shields.”
“That’s not good.”
Cass shrugged and flopped into the seat across from her wife. “It’s not unexpected. Enterprise has been in active service for over a year now, we’ve been having minor systems failures on and off for weeks. Most of them we’ve headed off with our maintenance schedule, but she’s the first starship. There’s an awful lot we don’t know.”
“As long as you’ve got it under control. I assume there are reports about these things in my queue?”
“Probably,” agreed Cass. “I know that I send reports to Alley, after I brief her; I’m sure that she sends at least some sort of summary to you.”
“One of these days Alley is going to quiz me, isn’t she?” Alley, properly Jennifer Martinez, was the Enterprise’s Captain and thus Cass’s superior. Unlike both Kendra and Cass, Alley was a naval professional and brought that professionalism with her into the nascent Terran Federation. And that meant that Admiral Kendra Cassidy was occasionally dragged along with her.
“Probably,” said Cass with a ghost of a smile.
“Then I’ll read them. One of these days. Say, Minna, could you download the details of those summaries to my implant?”
“I could, Admiral,” said the voice of the ship’s AI. “Unfortunately, Captain Martinez has ordered me not to.”
“Fortunately, Admiral, you’re still on medical leave, even though you insist on working. The HMO –“ Holographic Medical Officer, a recent innovation aboard the Njord. “- would have kittens if he was aware that you were ignoring his orders to rest.”
“But he’s not, because nobody’s telling him. And you’re getting better with the idiom, Minna.”
“Thank you, Admiral. And no, nobody is telling him yet.”
Kendra raised an eyebrow. “Yet?”
“I am not a doctor, Admiral, but I have an extensive knowledge of human anatomy through my access to the planetary networks. There are a multitude of sources which I can utilize to confirm, to my own satisfaction, that you are not doing anything which will put you at risk of further injury or setbacks. As long as that condition maintains, I shall make no reports to the HMO.”
“I’m henpecked by an AI!” Kendra exclaimed. Then she saw Cass’s smirk. “And you’re in on it!”
“Hey, I have a job to do! I can’t be in quarters all day, babysitting you, so I have to get help somewhere.”
“Fine, fine. I see how it is.”
Hoping to change the subject, Cass said, “What have you heard from Earthside today?”
The Enterprise, when she wasn’t on patrol, docked within the massive habitat Njord, located at the L5 Earth-Moon Lagrangian point, 400,000 kilometers from both the Earth and Moon. That meant that what most people took for granted, such as the day-to-day minutiae of living in the 22nd Century, required a special effort.
“Heard from Dianna today.” Dianna Chew was Kendra’s lawyer.
“They actually filed the appeal.” The previous year, a shadowy group of anonymous plaintiffs had accused her of being an Enhanced Human, the prohibited result of illegal genetic manipulation, a being who was not legally recognized as ‘human’ by most of the governments of the 21st Century. Worse, the documentation they had unearthed had actually proven their accusation. One question was how had they uncovered it? As it turned out, the answer was simple: espionage, as exercised by Artemis and the Solarian Union in a desperate attempt to derail the Terran Federation. But Artemis couldn’t appear in court, so they’d found a willing mouthpiece and a disgruntled former associate of Kendra’s to front the suit.
Fortunately the various polities occupying the North American continent in the 22nd Century had, in the intervening decades, struck the clauses regarding the inhumanity of Enhanced Humans from the books while leaving the prohibitions against creating more, a detail that the Artemis Ministry of Intelligence had missed when searching for the skeletons in Kendra’s closet. So the lawsuit had failed, fairly spectacularly, and even more so when the one plaintiff who had been dragged from the shadows attempted to kill Kendra when the case was dismissed. Cass had taken care of him, but not before he’d gravely injured Kendra. That had landed her in medical for a week, healing, and landed him in intensive care. It also got him removed as the lead plaintiff in the case, which would cause a problem.
The original judge, Senior Justice Bethany Hodge, had ruled early in the proceedings that, as the case was alleging injuries and financial damage and asking for extraordinary remedies, they would have to prove the alleged damages as specifically applied to individual people. With the removal of ‘Junior’ Williamson, another puppet would have to be found before the appeal could proceed.
They evidently found one.
“The greed of lawyers is limitless, I guess,” growled Kendra. Almost three weeks of waiting had done nothing to improve her mood.
“Or they’re getting pressure from Artemis.”
“Or they’re getting pressure from Artemis.” Kendra agreed with her wife, but that didn’t mean she liked it and she grimaced.
“All I ever wanted to do with Enterprise was explore.”
“I know,” Cass agreed.
“Just jump in a ship and sail off, chasing other stars. Never wanted to be running things, never wanted there to be things I needed to run, just you and me and the girls and a ship.”
“It’s a lot tougher to do than those old shows ever made it seem. And they didn’t talk about crazed oligarchs trying to kill you and your friends so their monopoly on the Inner System isn’t disrupted.”
“Mm-hmm.” This was an old sore spot, made worse by the end of Kendra’s trial, and Cass figured she’d try to pull it from the realm of griping and make it a little more constructive. “Has Cris managed to dig up anything you can enter into the official records about the Artemis involvement?”
“No,” said Kendra. Cristina Montana, Director of OutLook and the unofficial Director of Central Intelligence for the Federation, had been asked to look into the lawsuit brought against Kendra. She’d managed to confirm what their AI network had uncovered regarding the involvement of MinInt, but not in a way which would be admissible in court. They even had a former Artemis Minister of War, Nicole Crozier, who would be willing to testify to what she knew. Unfortunately, doing so would probably put her squarely in the crosshairs of MinInt, as well as destroying a priceless source of information.
“Not yet. Seems there’s some chaos going on in Artemis City these days and all scheduled tours from out-planet have been, regretfully, rescheduled.”
“Law of unexpected consequences?”
“Exactly. Well, Mikki did say she wanted to destabilize their government.”
Mikki Stone, retired SEAL, had adopted the role of unofficial troubleshooter for the Terran Federation when she wasn’t busy playing favorite auntie to the Cassidy’s girls. She’d worked with Montana in OutLook on a pair of missions to Luna, one to retrieve a political prisoner and one to evaluate the possibility of causing disruption in the autocratic Artemesian government. OutLook had utilized Lunar tours to get agents on-planet; now they’d need to find an alternative to acquire HumInt.
“She did. Speaking of Mikki…?” Cass looked around. Quiet.
“Oh, she took the girls onto the station. She said she wanted to spend some time on their hand-to-hand skills, but promised she’d have them back for dinner.”
“That’s good. They’ll be tired.”
“Those two? After an hour with Aunt Mikki?” scoffed Kendra. “They’ll be revved up!”
“Mmm, I see your point. Oh, did you hear from Kiri today?” Kiri Stewart was Captain of the other starship currently in service, the TFS Endeavour. A more advanced and larger starship, it had been damaged during a recent encounter with an unmanned bomber launched from Titan. It was currently undergoing repairs in the berth next to Enterprise.
“She sent over her report this morning on yesterday’s progress. She’s actually managed to shave another week off Hecate’s repair estimate.”
“How?” Cass had inherited the XO position when Kiri was promoted; she was always looking for tips the hints to improve her performance.
“Her entire crew’s pitching in to help, and I think she may have gone and secured some, what did Alley call it? Backchannel support.”
“She went and tapped into the workforce at HLC.” Heavy Lift Corporation was another one of the companies which were being absorbed by the Federation and the umbrella company that supported it, Via ad Sidera (The Road to the Stars). All of these were part of the D.D. Harriman Trust, which was controlled by Cass and Kendra.
“Thinking outside the box there. Nice. Well, the sooner Endeavour is back online, the sooner we can go back to Lemnos and retrieve the miners.”
“I totally forgot about them!”
Cass explained it away. “You’ve been busy.”
Kendra checked the date. “It’s been three weeks since we dropped them off. I don’t remember the details, but how long can they last without resupply?” The same weekend that Endeavour encountered the bomber, Enterprise was in the Tau Ceti system, landing the first extra-solar mining colony. There were forty human miners and a host of robots, living underground and building a plant to process platinum group and other precious metals. It wasn’t intended as a permanent colony, at least not on the surface, due to the high gravity and hot, thin atmosphere.
“Another six weeks, though they could manage eight in a pinch,” said Cass immediately. Obviously she’d been thinking about it.
“That should allow us to get back with supplies and more miners.”
“Precisely. Alley and I have been discussing it, along with contingency plans.” Cass leaned back against the chair and said, “That’s enough shop talk for one night, especially before dinner.”
“Fair enough,” said Kendra. “The girls will be back any time now. Minna?”
“Where are our hellions?”
“They are still occupying Chief Stone’s full attention aboard Njord, despite her best attempts to end their session,” said the AI.
“Herding cats,” laughed Kendra.
“That reminds me,” said Cass. “Apparently LJ’s cat, Luci, is going to have kittens, and Alley asked me if we were going to want one.” Enterprise had been designed for long-term deployments. To Kendra, that meant space for families aboard. When Lt. LJ Burg had moved aboard, she’d brought her cats, Theo and Luciferous Dimples, and they had become the first four-legged family on the ship.
“The way Alley was talking, I think she hopes we take more than one.”
“The girls would love them.”