One of the aspects of the whole conflict with Artemis and the Union I absolutely hated were the innocents who got caught up in the crossfire.
This chapter is a good example of that.
Cassandra Carnahan should have had a full life on Earth, doing all the things a young woman in 2119 wanted to do. Instead her mother is recruited by Artemis to build a warp drive, and Cassandra ends up on Luna. And then, well, you’ll see.
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“Mother, this is totally unfair!” she said as she paced the length of the floor.
“I didn’t ask to have you brought along, young lady. You insisted. You said that you didn’t think it was a good idea for me to travel alone. You refused to let me leave without you. And now you want to whine about it? You’ll get no sympathy from me,” the older woman replied from her comfortable-looking seat.
The argument was taking place in rather comfortable quarters in the Artemis Executive Complex, seat of the Artemis and Solarian Union governments.
“I didn’t think we’d end up on the moon!” insisted the first. She was medium height, with olive skin, mahogany eyes, brown hair so dark to be nearly black, and the toned body of a professional athlete.
“Cassandra Carnahan, when you demand – demand! – to know where I’m going, and I tell you, ‘Artemis’, where did you think you’d end up?”
“Mother! I thought that it would be a visit, one of your conferences, or a consultation, not some sort of imprisonment!”
Her mother, Alexis, didn’t reply immediately, though she did purse her lips tightly. The resemblance was evident. They shared the same hair, same eyes, same strong features, but where Cassandra’s were warm, her mother’s were cold. Alexis’ hair was shot through with grey, and her face, though strong, seemed sharper, edgier. There was a sense of tension about her that had nothing to do with the immediate situation, a long-held grudge against the universe.
“Mother! Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“You can leave any time, Cassandra. I’ve been assured that my hosts never wanted you here in the first place.”
“You call them hosts? They kidnapped you!”
“I was invited.”
“We obviously have different views on the subject, Cassandra. The Ministry of Technology asked me to come to the moon to consult on a project; I agreed. I did not inform you because, frankly, it is none of your business. It is simply unfortunate that you were visiting when they came to escort me.” The tone was flat and unforgiving.
“Escort? Mother, why would they need four special services guards, hired thugs, to bring you to the spaceport? I know that Texas isn’t as civilized as the Confederacy, especially the Duchy, but they have some manners.”
Alexis waved a hand dismissively. “Purely a precaution, they explained it all to me. This project is critical to their future and they chose not to take any chances with my safety, something I particularly appreciated.”
“And I didn’t ask to come with you! All I wanted to know is where you were going. You tell me, and the next I know I’m being hustled into the back of a transport, searched, my padd and comm confiscated, all while you stand back and smirk!”
“I did not smirk,” countered Alexis.
“That’s not the point! I don’t want to be here, I’ve told you I don’t want to be there, I’ve told them I don’t want to be here, and yet guess what? I’m still here!”
“Fine, I’ll ask them for you. I wouldn’t want my precious daughter to be inconvenienced.”
“Oh!” Cassandra snapped, then tried to stomp away. She forgot briefly about the reduced gravity, though, and instead pushed herself upward. Her momentum carried her painfully into the ceiling before she rebounded toward the floor. She almost managed to catch herself gracefully, but her Earth-accustomed reactions lagged behind the moon’s mechanics and she landed with a thump.
“Don’t you dare laugh,” she snarled, picking herself up and exiting more carefully.
Alexis ignored her daughter’s exit, as she tried to do with most things concerning her. She hadn’t wanted the child to come with her! She’d always been an inconvenience; a last-ditch effort to save a failing marriage, which hadn’t worked, but her spouse hadn’t wanted Cassandra in the divorce, so she’d been saddled with her. She’d been forced to take time away from her studies, her projects, to care for the child, at least until such time as she could reasonably bring in someone more capable and willing to do the job.
And now this! Blaming her for her own interference?
She might have continued on this vein for hours, as she had plenty of times before, but for the interruption from the door signal. Before she could answer the door dilated and an obvious bodyguard stepped through, followed by a pair of men: one tall, thin, with short, graying hair, the other shorter, younger, and prematurely bald. She glimpsed another pair of guards posted just before the door closed. The first bodyguard scanned the room before assuming a post behind her, in the hall leading to the rest of the suite.
“Dr. Carnahan,” said the older man. “I do apologize for the delay in meeting with you. My name is Colin Dent; I am the Minister who arranged for your transportation to Artemis to work on our project. Thank you so much for accepting our invitation.” He half-bowed.
“Dr. Carnahan, a pleasure to meet you in person at last,” the younger said when Dent finished.
“Minister Newling,” said Carnahan, standing herself. “Have the labs been equipped according to my specifications?”
Newling didn’t skip a beat. “Precisely, Dr. Carnahan. The equipment, power supplies, materials, everything you requested has been acquired and placed at your disposal.”
“Good,” she answered. “The sooner I can start helping you on your project, the sooner I can return to Earth.” She moved about the sitting room, gathering papers, and totally missing the look that Dent and Newling exchanged. “I just need to gather my materials and I can begin.”
“But, Doctor, it’s nearly eighteen; all of our technicians have finished work. Minister Dent and I were only able to –”
“Typical bureaucratic inefficiency. Kreitzer, I expect my people to work when I need them to work. If they can’t, then replace them with someone who will.”
“Yes, Dr. Carnahan. I will make your requirements clear to the staff.”
“Mother – hey! Who’s the ape?”
Carnahan whirled at the sound of Cassandra’s voice, as did the guard. He stepped into the hallway and did something, eliciting a protest, even as Dent opened his mouth.
“Get your hands off me, you damned dirty ape! Mother! Stop this – awk!” There was a thud.
“Leave her alone!” yelled Dent, stepping past the guard. “Newling! Get medical staff!”
He crouched down to peer at the prostrate body. “Miss? Can you hear me?”
A groan was his answer, followed by another.
“Miss, can you sit up?” He gently helped her up and propped her against the wall.
“He didn’t have to hit me,” she muttered, holding her hand to her right eye, left eye still closed.
“Did he hit you anywhere else?”
She shook her head, winced, then spoke. “No, just the once.” She opened her uninjured eye. “Who the hell are you?”
“My name is Dent, I am here visiting you mother. I’m very sorry about Mr. Barstow; he reacts badly to surprises.”
“I still say your ape didn’t have to hit me,” she complained.
“If you hadn’t forced your way where you’re not wanted, none of this would have happened!” called Carnahan from the next room.
“And if you weren’t more concerned about your reputation than your daughter we wouldn’t be here either!” Cassandra shouted back, wincing again. “I probably shouldn’t yell right now. She’ll like that, dammit.”
A medtech arrived then, pushed Dent out of the way, and started checking her injuries. Dent returned to the sitting room, where Newling was speaking to Carnahan. At least he was attempting to speak to her.
“…my daughter but she is not my responsibility! I did not ask for her to be brought here, I did not want her to be brought here, and I would rather have as little to do with her as possible while she is here!” she could be heard saying.
“Yes, Doctor, I understand, but –”
“This is entirely your fault, you know.” She spun to face Dent. “And yours.”
“Doctor Carnahan, I assure you, your daughter is receiving the finest medical attention Artemis has to offer.”
“I don’t care about that,” she replied. “She’s been nothing but a nuisance and a nag, and even worse since we arrived on Luna. Frankly, I wish she’d simply go. She interferes.”
Dent tried to calm the waters. “I’m sure we can arrange separate quarters for you two if that is your wish.”
“Or just send her home, I don’t much care.”
“Screw you, Mother,” snarled Cassandra, standing now and still being fussed over by the medtech.
Newling opened the door, gesturing to one of the guards. “Please escort Miss Carnahan to alternate quarters.”
She hesitated briefly. “My clothes?”
“Will be provided,” finished Dent. With that Cassandra followed the guard out the door.
“Thank you,” Carnahan said when her daughter had been escorted out. “She’s terribly disruptive. I don’t understand why she had to be brought with me.”
Dent chose to answer. “I have spoken with our agent in charge of your escort at length,” he said. “He convinced me that Miss Carnahan gave him no choice. This is a most critical project, as you know. There are interests on Earth which would desire nothing more than to disrupt and interfere with your mission here on Luna. It’s absolutely vital to our future and our security that you be allowed to work freely.”
“And I appreciate your concern. I can’t tell you how much it means for me to be able to resume my study into the practical applications of the Carnahan Warp Theory.”
“Yes, and we are thrilled to have you here to build a warp drive for –”
“Oh, no, I’m no engineer; I’m a theoretician.” Her tone was disdainful. “I push chalk, Mr. Dent, not turn wrenches.”
As she turned her attention to getting a drink, Dent whispered to Newling, “She doesn’t build?”
Newling shook his head. “No. She directs others to build to her specifications. She’ll troubleshoot, occasionally, but not often; she usually leaves it to the engineers and others that work for her.”
Dent looked at her puttering with cups. “And there isn’t anyone else.” It wasn’t a question.
“She’s the only one we have access to who’s available,” agreed Newling.
“Time to make the best of it,” sighed Dent. “Doctor, what time tomorrow would you like your escort to come for you?”
“Escort? I don’t need an escort to my lab!”
“Have you visited it yet?”
“Why, no, but that’s hardly –”
“We simply can’t afford to have our Director of Applied Warp Field Studies wandering about the corridors,” soothed Dent.
“Director of what?”
“Applied Warp Field Studies,” he repeated. “That’s your official position.” At least it would be now, whatever it might have been a moment earlier.
“As a Director, you will be entitled to the finest quarters available, all the same perqs as a Minister, unlimited power, terminal access, and of course a generous stipend on top of the fee we promised you.”
“Very good. I accept it all, immediately.” Carnahan stood and retrieved a small bag and her personal terminal. “Ready.”
This caught Dent off-guard, but he recovered quickly. “Are you certain you have everything?”
“Everything that matters,” she answered. “Lead on.”
“Why don’t I bring you to dinner,” he temporized. They were going to need to quickly arrange for suitable rooms, and that would take some time. “I owe you at least that for your delays, and I rarely get a chance to spend time with such a brilliant, charming woman.”
The flattery worked. “Thank you, Minister, that is most gracious.” She walked to the door and through, flanked by the guards.
Dent whispered to Newling. “Get her rooms, the best you can manage. I’ll stretch this out as long as I can.”
Newling whispered back, “And the daughter?”
“You heard her; she doesn’t care what happens.” Dent thought as they paced her a few steps behind. “Put her in with the other political prisoners, the ones who might yet be useful. Don’t damage her more than necessary.”
“I’ll get in touch with Pitt,” Newling said, referring to the Minister of Security. “No problem.”
“Good. And after tonight?”
“She’s your problem. One dinner is all I can stand.”