For a mission which was laid on in a hurry, this went off extremely smoothly.
Well, to be fair, the mission itself was well-planned. They just hadn’t bothered telling me about it. ME! The Admiral, the XO’s wife!
In retrospect, I still can’t believe they were going to try to sneak the first colonization out from under me. I missed out on the first round of explorations; I was not going to miss out on this one!
As always, if you’re tired of getting one chapter a week you can click on ANY image and you’ll be brought to a wonderful place you can purchase the book!
“Go ahead, Enterprise.”
Glen Spurgeon was always amused by the formality Captain Martinez insisted on when departing the station, at least with humans. Hecate didn’t follow any protocols, but the AI was eccentric. It didn’t seem to affect her efficiency so he didn’t worry about it. As for Martinez, well, he knew her background, knew she had served in the Northern Imperium Navy, but he hadn’t served. Most of the people serving the Federation, and it seemed like there were new ones every week, hadn’t served. It didn’t stop her, though, and he had to admit that the infusion of formality added discipline. Still, he could just about recite the back-and-forth word for word.
“Request permission to depart.”
“Roger, Enterprise. Permission granted. Flight path is clear. Go bring the miners home.”
“Thank you, Njord.”
He watched through the giant window which overlooked the bay as the starship gracefully undocked, pivoted, and, with surprising suddenness, disappeared out the bay doors. The Endeavour finally returned to status, and departed for patrol, which left the Wolves and Direwolves as the only local mobile units. Defiant and Defender were incomplete, though their hulls were fully fleshed out now. Across from them the next two starships, still unnamed, were little more than skeletons. On the far side the form of the new ship fabricator was also nearing completion, though it too was a few months away. Once that happened, they could really start to turn out ships! Then there was the Missouri; he was still trying to figure out which bay to place her, so that the people coming aboard to work wouldn’t have to learn about vacuum the hard way. He had a few days, though.
Humming happily, he turned back to his more mundane tasks.
“Susana, Deone, it’s nice to see you aboard again. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to greet you earlier, but I was tied up.” Kendra had met them at the transporter room. “Was this your first time in a teleport?”
“Not at all, Admiral.” Susana Hall was too professional a reporter to take Kendra’s absence as a slight.
“And yes, it was. Quite an experience.” The Enterprise had dropped to LEO to be in range of the groundside portal that the team from OAR used. “I’m glad to see that you’ve recovered from your injuries.”
“We have the best medics around,” Kendra replied. “But I wasn’t about to die right after we’d beaten Artemis in court.” She very carefully didn’t place any emphasis on the name, counting on the reporter’s instincts to pick it out.
“Artemis? I thought the suit was brought by a number of anonymous plaintiffs who alleged financial injury?”
“Well,” started Kendra, feigning reluctance. This was part of their strategy. If the press could be persuaded to do their digging, then they could continue to read Artemis’ mail without their knowledge.
“Off the record? Strictly background information. ‘An anonymous source’ and all that?”
“Oh, certainly. Deone, turn off the camera, but keep recording audio. Will that do? I want to be sure I’m accurate.”
“That’s fine. We have very good evidence that the Artemis Colony is behind this attempt to discredit me and damage the Federation.”
“What sort of evidence?”
“I can’t reveal sources.”
“No, of course not.”
“Their Ministry of Intelligence has pursued a vendetta against me, presumably at the direction of their Primus. This has extended to them doing deep opposition research into my background on Earth, attempting to place a member of their Foreign Ministry on the counsel’s bench, and planting an agent to pose as a Plaintiff.”
“But that’s illegal! Can’t you just go to the Court?”
“No,” said Kendra sadly. “Not without betraying our sources. We have people providing us information who are putting themselves at great risk, possibly even to the point of death. We need to confirm what we know before we can bring it to the Court.”
Susana frowned. “You mentioned a person I’m not familiar with, the ‘Primus’. Who are they?”
“From what I’ve learned, the Primus is the head of Artemis.”
“I thought they had a President and a Council of Ministers? A sort of parliamentary democracy?”
“They want everyone to believe they have a democracy. In fact, the power on Luna flows through the Four Families, the descendants of the first permanent colonists. Vasilia Newling is the current leader of the most powerful family, so she is the power behind the throne, as it were.”
Susana gestured for Deone to stop recording completely. “You know I’ll have to verify this.”
“Be my guest. None of what I told you about Artemis is secret, though they try not to publicize it. Shall we continue to the bridge?”
The talk on the way to the bridge was trivial; Susana and Deone had fought hard to get the assignment to accompany Enterprise back to Lemnos. The original miners were due to be replaced, with additional supplies and the beginnings of an orbital habitat scheduled to be delivered as well. The damage to Endeavour had delayed the mission, but had also allowed for additional work to be done on the habitat’s equipment.
“In a few months, when Defiant and Defender are commissioned, then Enterprise and Endeavour can resume more exploratory missions. We also want to get the Lemnos habitat functional as soon as possible; while temporarily modifying people to function under high-g conditions is possible, we’d rather rely on robots and have our people safely in orbit.”
“You said modifying people. Isn’t that illegal under the Green Wars treaties?”
“Permanently modifying their genetic structure, yes, but we’re not doing so. Our medical nanobots simply provide additional support to the musculoskeletal structure of the miner’s bodies, allowing them to tolerate the increased gravity on Lemnos. Once we retrieve them, the same nanobots will reverse the changes. We’ve been very careful not to tinker with our miners’ genetics, believe me!” Kendra managed a genuine-sounding laugh. She’d completely skipped over the fact that, since Lemnos was not in any way, shape, or form part of the UE, it was exempt from all of the regulations and treaties they tried to enforce.
“And you envision a permanent colony above Lemnos?”
“Yes. We intend the first outpost of humanity outside the Solar System to be orbiting Lemnos. Using those raw materials, we then will start terraforming Niflheim, Tau Ceti f, by releasing some of the CO2 in the ices, in order to create a greenhouse effect. Our best calculations suggest Niflheim will be ready for preliminary colonization in twenty years, full colonization in forty.”
“You don’t think small, do you?”
A genuine smile rose to Kendra’s lips. “We can’t, Susana. The Earth is too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in. Even the Solar System, for all its billions of kilometers, is too small, too limited. A single supernova could sterilize every planet, every rock, in a heartbeat. We need to spread out, Susana, the farther the better.”
“And what if you run into aliens?”
Kendra’s smile widened. “Then we see just how well my dream translates into whatever they speak.”