Oh, man. There were times during this stupid war where I actually felt bad for some of the Ministers of Artemis. I got to know a few of them, during and after, and for the most part they were decent enough people. Oh, there are always some bad apples in any bunch, but most of them were simply trying to get by in a system they hadn’t created and were powerless to change.
On the other hand, some people just needed to be smacked around a bit.
Not going to give anything away, but there has been movement on the narration for this book. With any luck, it will be out BEFORE the next Cassidy book is released, but don’t hold your breath! Apparently, Audible is really slow at approving.
Anyways, BUY THE BOOK! Click the button or any image and you can get it right now, then you won’t have to wait for a week for a chapter!
Artemis City; Council of Ministers
“Now is the time to strike!”
“You’re crazy! How many people can we trust, outside this room?”
“That’s irrelevant! MinSec lost their leader, so did the Ministry of War. That leaves MinInt and MinTreas; all the others are unimportant. Without those Ministries, the Primus will fall!”
“And the quake yesterday; that’s got people scared! When people are scared they’re easier to be persuaded, even if has nothing to do with what scared them!”
“Yeah, we can say, ‘The Primus doesn’t care about you dying in a moonquake,’ and I’d bet they’d eat it up!”
“Especially as it’s true.”
Autumn let the argument rage around her. She’d finally gotten out of the hidden cubic, reunited with her co-conspirators. They’d taken an anonymous room in the Hotel Raffles, an establishment designed to cater to tourists. Now she sat with Nour, Sharon, and Caitlin in the ‘living room’ of the suite she had rented for the next three lunars. It was fancier than she’d expected, though not nearly as comfortable as the Newling Family cubic, and she spent a moment in consideration of the strange path which had led her here.
The Newling Family ruled Luna, and had almost since the first permanent colonists had arrived almost a century earlier. Even though she came from a cadet branch of the Family, they still wielded enormous power and influence in Artemis. Family position wasn’t enough to fully insulate from the whims of the current Primus, though. Vasilia Newling was ruthless in her pursuit and retention of power, as her half-brother had discovered. Autumn had been lucky. Her minor Ministry post, combined with her distant Family status, had probably prevented Vasilia from seeing her as a threat, leaving Autumn in a cell rather than one of the city reclamation centers, her body being broken down to provide fertilizers.
That was a mistake on Vasilia’s part.
“There’s no point in arguing because we don’t have an organization that can actually do anything!” she snapped when she couldn’t bear the bickering any longer. It stopped.
“We have to plan,” she said in a calmer voice. “Once we have a plan, then we can start to execute it. Yes, yesterday provided us an opportunity, but there will be others.”
“But, Autumn,” started Nour.
“Nour, there are four of us. Four. We can’t even dream about removing the Primus with just four members. Right now what we need is a quiet revolution, not a noisy one.”
“What about Simon Jester?” asked Caitlin.
“What about it?”
“There’s thousands of people involved!”
“And do you have any idea how many of them are finks for MinSec?” said Autumn.
“Not all of them!” argued Sharon. “I vouched for at least twenty, and I’d trust them with my life. Hell, I have trusted them with my life!”
“And I’ll wager that one or more of them is going to put the state over you if push came to shove. Or if they won’t betray you because of personal loyalty, they won’t think twice about turning in me. Or Nour. Or Caitlin.”
“Caitlin, your point about fear is a good one, and that’s the kind of insight we’re going to need to make this work. Ladies, we have the framework here that we need to create a proper organization. Nour, you know security, and you can build it into the framework; we’ll be assured of our safety, at least as much as we can be, right from the start. Caitlin, you know politics, and how to be appealing even when your views might not align with the listeners. When we become visible, when we enter the Artemis stage, we can’t just appeal to the disaffected. We have to persuade citizens who are wavering, who aren’t sure, who don’t care one way or another as long as they have cubic and money for meals. And Sharon, no matter how much we hope and plan for a peaceful transition, we all know it’s going to come to fighting. Maybe you don’t know ground tactics, since you were Navy, but you know discipline and how to instill it. The people of Artemis aren’t our enemies. The military of Artemis aren’t our enemies. It will take discipline to keep that division in place.”
She saw agreement in each woman. “Now. While I was waiting, after our escape, I found a book that I think you should all read.”
The Primus glared at her cousin Kreitzer.
“Minister Newling, what happened?”
“Primus, my crews are still unable to approach the Grimaldi Research Center.”
“Because it’s not there any longer?”
“That is part of the problem, yes.”
“What happened to it?”
Kreitzer restrained a growl of annoyance; that way led to many poor ends, none of which he found appealing.
“I have no direct data, Primus. From the incomplete information my Ministry has gathered, there was an explosive event in the vicinity of the Grimaldi Research Center at 15:04:27.3 yesterday. The resulting explosion, which was accompanied by a spike in gamma radiation, triggered a sympathetic reaction in various materials stored at the site, releasing radiation across the spectrum and liquefying the regolith. That process is continuing at the rate of 21 meters per hour as measured from orbit. There also continues to be considerable quantities of ionizing radiation being emitted from the site, far in excess of lethal levels.”
“What caused it?”
“Again, Primus, I have no direct evidence. My first inclination would be an untracked meteor; they aren’t common, but they do happen. However, a detonation so sizeable would have certain typical characteristics if it were an impact, and this event lacks them all.”
“How big was the explosion?” asked Treasury Minister Pitt.
“Two gigatons. One point nine six times ten to the eighteenth joules of energy.”
“That sounds like…” started Taylor, who then clamped his mouth shut. He was still trying to stay unnoticed, too new and too tenuous in his position to do otherwise.
Too late. The Primus turned her attention to him.
“Like what, Minister?”
He tried to be dismissive. “Well, Primus, it struck me the number Minister Kreitzer quoted is very similar to those being thrown around in the warp drive project by Dr. Carnahan. Her process requires huge amounts of power, and the only suitable source is antimatter annihilation reactors.”
After a moment of silence, the Primus prompted, “And?”
“One of the projects Minister Crozier and I discussed was building an antimatter warhead, mounted in our missiles. She asked our allies on Titan for the details of their containment techniques but hadn’t received an answer, as far as I know.”
“You’re saying this was an antimatter warhead?”
“No, no, Primus, just the scale and the increased gamma radiation, those are two similarities.” But she’d moved on.
“It’s possible, Primus, that this was an antimatter annihilation event. We hadn’t considered it as a possibility.”
“Then consider it now.” Pivot. “Foreign Minister.”
“Primus?” The Foreign Minister, Arthur Dent, was back in Artemis for one of his infrequent visits. He’d spent the bulk of the past year on a station in Low Earth Orbit, playing verbal ‘footsie’ with the Terran Federation negotiator. Both sides had deeply entrenched positions which weren’t going to change. Both sides knew the negotiations were little more than a delaying tactic. Both sides were perfectly fine with that, as long as there was a benefit to not shooting at each other. As a practical matter, it meant that Dent only traveled to Luna for a ‘consultation’ every lunar or so, for a few days, before returning to LEO and resuming his dance.
“Who is the Ambassador from Titan?”
“The Honorable Bennett Dryden, Primus.”
“Primus, one does not simply summon the Ambassador from another member of the Union as if they were a, a, a repairman!” sputtered Dent.
“I don’t care. Summon him, or I will order MinSec to retrieve him.”
“Yes, Primus.” Dent began to sit, until the Primus barked at him.
“Now! I don’t mean later, I don’t mean tomorrow. I want him here, in front of me, in an hour, no more!”
“Right away, Primus,” Dent said, and hustled from the chamber.
“I’d like to hear the opinion of our Minister of Intelligence,” said the Primus, turning her gaze to him.
“Both MinInt and MinSec have lent resources to Minister Newling, Primus, to support his efforts.” Colin Dent rose unhurriedly.
“I’m certain you have, Minister, but to what end?”
“We received a communication from the Terran Federation,” he said, and she was puzzled by the seeming non sequitur. “They claimed to be willing to lend assistance.”
“And what was our reply?”
“Underminister Phalkon denied the event in its entirety, Primus,” said Dent. “However, I find it curious that they would respond so quickly to an event which could only harm their enemy. Perhaps they did so to deflect suspicion?”
“That’s preposterous!” said Taylor without thinking, and regretted it instantly.
Taylor tried to pull thoughts together to support his instinctive reaction. “Primus, think. It makes no sense at all, no matter how you look at it. If the Federation had weapons of this magnitude, why haven’t they used them before? One of these would have wiped out the entire squadron which we sent against them a year ago, without risking any of their ships.”
“They could have only recently developed it,” mused Dent, playing devil’s advocate.
“Fine. Then why target Grimaldi? Dent, do you have any indication that the Federation knew about the GRC?”
“No,” he admitted. “That has been one of the most closely-held secrets in Artemis.”
“So it wasn’t a tactical move on their part. One thing we know about their Admiral is that she doesn’t waste opportunities. If she had one of these devices, wouldn’t she have used it on Artemis City?”
Most of the Ministers and others glanced upward.
“For that matter, the main weapons on their starships could decimate the City and all of our other cubic without difficulty and without leaving their habitat. Why haven’t they?”
Nobody answered, so Taylor pressed on.
“I say that the reason they haven’t, the reason they won’t, is because they don’t want to be responsible for the deaths of civilians.”
“They’re weak,” said Newling with a sneer. “It’s why they’ll lose.”
“Why wouldn’t they simply target Scipio City? It’s the primary base for the Union Navy and thus a huge threat to them,” asked Daryl Jones. He was normally MinInt’s Director of Intelligence but he’d been pressed into service to help manage MinSec after the removal of Minister Kim Yvette Pitt. “It would be the most logical move and give the greatest return for the minimal cost.”
“It’s not how they fight,” agreed Taylor. “They haven’t gone in for retribution, or terror strikes, even though they could. Why would they start now, even if they possess this sort of weapon?” He turned to Dent. “And do they possess an antimatter weapon?”
“Not that we know of,” Dent reluctantly admitted. “But if they had created one, it would make sense to destroy the GRC. After all, it is about as far away from our population centers as possible, so that would fit with what you believe their tactical goals to be.”
“But you said that they don’t know about the GRC, so it makes no sense again. No matter how you look at it, that’s what it comes back to. It makes no sense!”
He raised a finger. “If they had one of these, then why waste it on a crater, an empty crater as far as they knew, in the middle of nowhere?”
Another finger. “If they only had one, then wouldn’t they use it on a valuable military target?”
Another finger. “And if they have more than one, well, we’re screwed. I don’t believe they have any, and I don’t believe that this was them.”
“You definitely learned from Minister Crozier,” said the Primus with the slightest hint of admiration. “Very well; we will assume, for now, that this was not an attack by the Federation. What else could it be?”
Discussion, mostly circular and at times quite loud, continued for the next three-quarters of an hour. It terminated when the Foreign Minister returned with the Titan Ambassador in tow.
“Primus, I present the Honorable Bennett Dryden, Ambassador Plenipotentiary from the Independent Star Nation of Titan.”
“Seize him,” said the Primus, and her armsmen secured the Ambassador before he could protest.
“Answer this question. Your life depends on it,” she said, coming to stand in front of the stunned Titanite. “I know that Titan has more antimatter bombs. I also know that you were to continue launching them at the Federation’s habitat, as per our agreement.”
A shocked whisper coursed through the chamber. This was news to most of the Ministers, though Taylor noted neither Dent appeared at all surprised.
The Primus was continuing, growing louder with each question.
“Did you launch one at Luna? Were you trying to assert your independence? Break our deal?”
The frantic ambassador was shaking his head, his hair flying back and forth, terror evident in his eyes.
“No, Primus! No!” he was repeating, over and over. “We – we did nothing! Nothing! We did what we said we would do, we continue to do what we promised!”
“You did this! You deliberately targeted our high-energy research facility, to ensure that we would be dependent upon you for your antimatter! Admit it!”
He writhed in the arms of his captors, his body’s denial lending credence to his words. “No, no, no! We didn’t, I swear it!”
“Dent. No, Colin,” the Primus corrected when Arthur tore his gaze from the ambassador. “Take him away and verify his story. Use whatever means are necessary.”
“Yes, Primus. Jones. Deal with him.”
Jones nodded curtly, gathered the armsmen with his eyes, and led them from the chambers.
“It’s a pity that Minister Pitt is no longer available,” mused Dent. “I’m afraid that I haven’t quite her skills in information extraction.”
The former Minister of Security lasted longer under interrogation than anyone expected; frustratingly so, for she had insisted, loudly, she had nothing to do with Crozier’s disappearance or any so-called coup. Unfortunately even the strongest constitution would eventually reach a limit, and hers had come a half-lunar earlier. Whatever she knew, or didn’t know, went to the reclamation center with her.
Arthur finally found his voice. “Primus, this simply isn’t done. There will be repercussions, possibly serious ones, with Titan!”
“You don’t say,” the Primus replied blandly.
“This is a breach of all established protocols!”
“It may well cause a schism between us and Titan, perhaps even cause them to withdraw from the Union!”
That captured her attention.
“Then it is your job to ensure they do not, Dent.”
“Primus, they have cause to be furious with us. Withdrawing is virtually expected under these circumstances.”
“That is your problem, Dent; after all, you’re Foreign Minister. If you can’t handle it, I will replace you with someone who can.”
He recognized the threat behind those words.
“I would have to travel to Titan in order to assuage an offense of this magnitude,” he temporized.
“So be it. Arrange transport aboard a frigate with Minister Taylor, once your cousin has all the information we need. Who knows? Perhaps he is telling the truth, and you’ll be able to convince him of the necessity of our actions.”
She looked for, and found, her cousin again. “Kreitzer, I want answers.”
“You will make a frigate available to Minister Dent.”
“And I want a defense against these things, whatever they were.”
“Yes, Primus. I will consult with Minister Newling for his ideas.”
The Primus waved a hand. “Whomever.”