In the words of the bowl of petunias: Oh no, not again.
As I said yesterday, each of the Volumes is divided into three ‘books’; each book has its own chapter numbering. As a result, there are always three ‘Chapter One’s’ in each volume which comes out.
Yeah, it’s a little confusing, but Adam’s explained to me why he did it that way and it made sense. I won’t repeat his explanation, unless you really want me to. But if you want me to, you’ll have to ask!
As for the chapter, this one was a few weeks after Davie was first brought aboard Njord, and it’s the first time she and I had a chance to talk face-to-face.
Now, before I get into the goodies, Adam has a favor to ask. He’s entered a cover in the latest monthly contest, and he needs your vote! Just click the button, vote, and come back!
Now, for the good stuff! The Audiobook is officially released and you can buy it by clicking on any image – or maybe just click the button below here. And if you aren’t convinced, the audio chapter is at the end.
The door to the compartment slid open, revealing a woman sitting at a terminal.
“Admiral.” Davie made no move to offer Kendra a seat, nor did she rise.
Kendra walked into the quarters assigned to Davie and examined them. They were standard quarters, not opulent, not spartan. Comfortable.
“What brings you here? Usually you simply drop in on my sessions.”
“I thought you and I should talk, without others listening in.”
“Don’t you want a witness?”
Kendra decided not to mention the station AI, programmed to unobtrusively listen to every conversation in case she was needed.
“I don’t think it will be that sort of conversation.”
Kendra took a chair, moved it closer to Davie, and sat.
“Practicality. There are things you aren’t telling us.”
“My country abandoned me, Admiral, not the other way around. I’m grateful for what you did to get me out, yes, but that gratitude is long since spent.”
“I know. I even understand, I think.”
Davie took another look at her unexpected guest. “Go on.”
“You still feel bound to the spirit of the oaths you took, whatever they were. You might not support what your Primus –”
“Not ‘my’ Primus, Admiral. Not anymore. ‘The’ Primus.”
“The Primus,” Kendra corrected. “You don’t support her, or her actions, but you won’t act against others in Artemis.”
“You’re right, Admiral. You do have some understanding.” Davie frowned. “But then, why are you here?”
“You’re a Whitmore.”
Davie was unfazed by the apparent non sequitur. “Yes.”
“President Whitmore is a relative, part of the same Family?” Davie could hear the capital Kendra applied to ‘family’, as was proper for one of the Four Families.
“Yes. First cousin. His mother, my father, they’re siblings.”
“Is he a good person?”
Davie nearly answered, “Of course,” but stopped. She’d never particularly thought about it. Tom wasn’t cruel, or unnecessarily petty, or violent; in fact, he was almost none of the things that the Primus was. That would explain why he was only the President, the most visible and least powerful of the Council of Ministers.
She answered slowly. “It’s a challenge to be particularly ‘good’ as a member of the Four Families, and even more so if you seek higher offices. But, judging him from within Artemis? I’d say that he tries to be.”
Kendra nodded. “Tell me about the Families.”
“Go look it up.”
“Not the stuff in the public records. We both know that’s been edited and sanitized.”
“I’m not going to give away any secrets.”
“I’m not asking you to. Tell me about your cousin.”
“I want to get to know the people who rule the Artemis Colony.”
“We don’t call it that.”
Kendra made a little apologetic gesture. “I didn’t know. What do you call it?”
“Just Artemis. You might want to remember that, dealing with the government.”
“But back to your question, Admiral. Why do you want to get to know the rulers of Artemis?”
Kendra sighed. “Because I want this war to go away, and I figure that the best way to do that is to try to find common ground with the people behind it.”
“That makes a certain amount of sense,” admitted Davie. “Except for one thing.”
“The Primus absolutely will not abide any threat, real or perceived, to her power. Internal, external, doesn’t matter to her. I’ve seen her have her own half-brother killed for making a suggestion that would have implied weakness on her part.”
“That’s a bit extreme.”
“That’s my point. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, or does, or how much they’d rather not fight. As long as the Primus is who she is, there’s going to be a war.”
“I was afraid of that.” Kendra’s voice was resigned. “And there’s nothing that could change her?”
Davie’s laugh was rueful and bitter. “The Primus? Change? Admiral, the only thing that motivates her is holding onto power. She’s not even worried about the future of her family if her family interferes with her plans.”
“So you said.”
“When I told her that your ship was going to be the power in the system as soon as it was operational, she lashed out. She wasn’t rational. But she was, is, the Primus, and so we all –”
“Wait. You told her?”
Davie looked puzzled. “I did. Admiral, there isn’t another dozen ships in the system which combined could touch yours.”
Kendra’s face showed barely-restrained rage as she ground out her words. “You. Are responsible. For the deaths of thousands of innocent people. The deaths of my people. The deaths of my friends.”
Davie raised her hands but didn’t otherwise react. “Admiral, if that’s what you believe, then you’re not ready to be a janitor, much less an Admiral,” she said coldly.
Kendra, who had half-risen from her chair, sat back with a thump.
“Maeve wept. I don’t know all of your background, but it’s obvious to me that you’ve never had much experience making strategic decision, making decisions which would affect more than a small circle of people.”
“No, not until I started doing this,” Kendra answered, waving at her uniform.
“Then I’m going to give you some advice. Call it the last payment for my rescue from Artemis.” Davie looked Kendra over, as if judging her ability to handle the information. “When you’re leading people, bad things will happen to them. I can see that you know that, and maybe even acknowledge it. What I don’t see, though, is this: don’t take it personally. Deaths in the course of battle have nothing to do with you, Kendra Cassidy. It has everything to do with the other side doing their best to kill you, and your people, and stay alive themselves. When you get angry, Admiral, you make bad decisions, and when you make bad decisions, more people die, yours and theirs.”
Davie leaned forward. “That’s what makes the Primus dangerous, Admiral. She gets angry, and she genuinely doesn’t care what happens to others. She makes rash, terrible, bloodthirsty decisions, and then people like me have to turn those decisions into actions, and then people die who didn’t have to.”
She sat back and lowered her voice. “Yes, I told the Primus that your ship would make your Federation the preeminent power in the system. I told her that because it was the truth, and if I didn’t then someone else would, someone who wouldn’t care about consequences.”
“And you did?” Kendra’s voice had a bitter edge, but there was a core of genuine interest.
“I did. I stalled as long as I possibly could, threw up as many objections as I could, and tried to find the least damaging way to fulfill her arrogant, stupid, foolish order. I ordered the KEW which destroyed your home on Earth, but not because I wanted to kill civilians. I wanted to keep deaths to a minimum, and if I removed you and your wife, I could do that.”
“How can you sit there and calmly tell me that you ordered me killed?” demanded Kendra.
“Oak and ash! Because I would have saved every single person you killed when your forces destroyed our ships!” barked Davie. “Don’t you think that their deaths pained me, as much as your losses pained you?”
“You weren’t in command at that point; I read the debriefings that you’ve done.”
Davie waved it off. “Irrelevant. I might have dropped off the grid to save my own life, but they were still my people. When I failed to kill you, I killed them, sure as I had put a pulse rifle to their head and pulled the trigger.” She was very quiet by the end of her statement. “My husbands were killed in that stupid attack, when their ship was destroyed by your Wolves. By your logic, Admiral, I should hate you for that. I don’t. I hate the decisions that led to their deaths, and I especially hate the person who put those decisions in motion.”
“I’m sorry, Minister.” Kendra’s voice was also pitched low.
“Not Minister, not any longer. If you need to call me anything, call me Davie.”
“I will. Will you call me Kendra?”
“No. At least, not yet. Don’t mistake this for friendship, Admiral. It’s nothing of the sort. But you and I both want this war to end as quickly as possible, with as few more people dead as is possible. On both sides.”
Kendra thought she heard something in Davie’s voice. “You’ll help us? Me?”
Now it was Davie’s turn to sigh. “Yes, Oberon help me. Because I believe you. And because I believe we have both been hurt enough.”
“That works for me.”