From the desk of Kendra Cassidy, Admiral, Terran Federation
Ah, yes, Double Dip.
One of three triplets. Brianna, Justina, and Daniela Garcia. All applied to join the Federation back when we were recruiting for coxswains and engineers for our Wolf Multipurpose Orbital Vehicles program, and all three got in. Having gotten to know them all in the intervening years, that was probably a huge disappointment to each of them. I’m not saying there’s any sibling rivalry going on, but, well, okay. Maybe I am.
Brianna was a natural Engineer; there wasn’t anything in a Wolf she couldn’t get to perform at about 110% of what the engineers claimed was possible. Justina, despite the handle ‘Junkyard,’ was a natural Coxswain. Simply putting her at the controls of a Wolf meant that ship would be flying rings around everyone else in short order.
But this is about Daniela.
She got the handle ‘Double Dip’ because she was the only person we brought on who could handle either the Cox or Eng position equally well. Every Cox was cross-trained on basic Eng duties, and vice-versa. But out of the dozens in the first classes we ran through, she was exceptional. She could outfly Justina and out – what? Out-wrench? Out-engineer? Anyways, she was better than Brianna at her job, too. While they were flying together, it made for the most flexible, capable MOV in the fleet.
And when we launched the Direwolf project, she was the only one we considered, once we knew all the hurdles.
See, the MOV is designed for a two-person crew but can get by with one, in a pinch. The Direwolf, though, is a fighter, stripped down to the bare minimums needed to do the job: three ridiculously overpowered engines, inertial dampers to match, and a pair of lasers which deliver the punch of an old Artemisian Gemini-class frigate.
And room for one person.
That person had better be a hell of a hot pilot, be able to wrestle a beast which wants to go flying off on its own, and monitor all the systems and react to imbalances before they can tear the ship apart.
Daniela could do that. She is, to this day, the only person who ever managed to fly a Direwolf manually for any length of time. You see, or maybe you don’t, the balancing act between all the systems was so tricky that we eventually decided we needed support for the pilots and installed Epsilon-class AI’s in the ships to do most of the grunt work, freeing up the pilot to, well, pilot.
But Daniela can fly one without the AI assist.
It was only natural, then, that she was commander of the first Direwolf squadron, Nymeria. And she did all the training of the pilots that filled the squadron, including our friend, Shooting Star (we already talked about her, but we’ll revisit her some other time).
Along the way she and Shannon Fowler, Flashdance, became inseparable. This was sort of odd, as they took totally different tracks. Yes, they both started in the Wolves. Shannon, though, stayed in with the Wolves after the Battle of Diana wiped out 80% of the squadron. She rebuilt that program, even as Double Dip was building the Direwolves. When Flashdance was promoted to Commander Air Group, we created the position of Deputy Commander Air Group for Double Dip, to reflect the two different wings.
I don’t want to say too much; there are more stories I could tell, but I keep being told, ‘SPOILERS!’, so I’ll leave you with just one more. This was when the Endeavour was first encountering the antimatter bombs, and it really sums her up.
“The XO told you to lock it down, Ensign Vancel,” said the utterly calm voice of Double Dip. “I need every one of you for this mission. Twelve bombs, twelve Direwolves. Even you can do the math.”
“Why can’t they use their laser? It’s way more powerful than ours!”
“And they can’t aim it any more precisely than we can, and there are a couple hundred people on that starship, and one of two – two – warp drives in the universe. You want any more reasons?” She glared around the cockpit as if she were in the briefing room. “If you wanted a safe job, you shouldn’t have volunteered for Direwolves. And if you want to resign, if you want to turn in your wings? Fine. After we do the mission. Because if we don’t, there’s going to be a lot more people dead than maybe a few pilots.”
Her admission that some of them might not come back seemed, paradoxically, to silence the complaints.
“I’m taking the first run,” she said. “Watch and learn.”
Switching to the command channel, she said, more quietly, “Ash.”
“You’re tail end Charlie. If something goes sideways, I’ll need you to keep them on mission.”
“It’s not going to go sideways.” She could hear the sniffle that Ashlyn couldn’t quite muffle.
“From your lips…” She switched back to the squadron frequency.
“Starting my run.”
Her fighter accelerated smoothly, as always, and she smiled at the joy she always felt when pushing her bird just a little bit faster, a little bit harder.
“Okay, Boomer. Weapons check.”
The AI’s normally-serious voice was even more so. “Full capacitor charge. Sensors slaved to firing mechanism. Ready as we’re going to be.”
“Roger that, Boomer. Coming about for our run.” Still piling on the g’s she aligned her fighter with the tiny, distant target. “Five seconds. Four. Three. Two. One.”
Somewhere between one and zero, in a slice of time too tiny for her to determine, Boomer gauged the range, the aim, and fired. Two lasers lanced invisibly from the sides of her ship. One sailed off into the void. The other managed to gouge a trench in the underside of the bomb’s casing, deep enough to disrupt the magnetic field that held the antimatter in check. As if sensing the rupture the mass of positrons surged towards the weakened field, pushing through and contacting the first atoms of the shell. Then more. The field collapsed further, and the positrons expanded further, unevenly, contacting more of the shell and causing a cascading failure.
All this happened in nanoseconds, then there was a terrible blazing eruption of energy, first in the direction of the initial damage, then everywhere. Ravening, hungry, destructive radiation across the breadth of the spectrum reached out for the Direwolf as it flashed past, but were ever so slightly too far behind to ever catch it.
By the time she finished saying “Zero”, they were past.
“Yeeeeeee-hah!” Boomer’s joyful exclamation was echoed by Daniela’s inarticulate yelp.
“Holy fucking hell,” said Rube. “She did it. She goddam well did it!”
“All systems functioning within normal parameters,” said Boomer. “Though I think our tail’s a bit singed.”
“I’ll buff it out personally,” laughed Double Dip, adrenalin fighting the relief she felt at surviving.
“Okay, Nymeria,” she commed when she felt a little more under control. “Did you all take notes?”
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