Before I start talking about the chapter, Adam wanted me to pass on some news:
FIRST, the cover competition ended with this cover in SECOND PLACE with 464 votes! Here’s a little message to you from Adam and his team:
Second, the first SEVENTEEN chapters – 3h 18m – of this book are RECORDED! Yes, they’re in the can! What’s more, they sound AMAZING! Adam’s let me listen in as he’s gotten them, and the narrator has really been doing an awesome job capturing, if not our exact voices, our personalities.
Which is even more astounding because it’s a new narrator. The previous narrator, Jane Weatherstone, had some scheduling conflicts arise. She was unable to proceed with the next book, and Adam was quite upset about it. She’d done so well with the first three he was definitely invested in continuing, but time constraints wait for nobody.
So now Veronica Wylie has stepped in and she’s really got the gist of the stories. I know you’ll enjoy hearing her, which we’ll start doing as soon as her recordings catch up to the chapters!
If you don’t feel like waiting for chapters, you can borrow this book on Kindle Unlimited. If you prefer to own, you can buy it on Amazon in ebook or paperback by clicking the button below or by clicking any image.
TFS Enterprise, Flag Quarters
“Sweet suffering Semele!”
Kendra paced through her office, listening to the report from Diana and muttering. At least three gremlins with jackhammers were trying to dig their way out of, or maybe into, her brain.
Davie and Kyran stood by silently, watching and waiting. Diana was borrowing Minerva’s holoprojectors to appear as well.
The Enterprise had returned to the system late in the evening, while the after-action was still underway. The CAP had been augmented and positioned as far forward as the agreed-upon boundaries would permit, and the station was still operating at a heightened state of alertness. That would be the first headache.
Artemis was screaming.
Every available channel was bombarding Njord and the Federation with demands for justice, for reparations, for revenge for the hundreds of sailors killed when the four cruisers had been blotted from Artemis skies. The massive, unprovoked missile launch went unreported, as did the follow-on attack. So there was the second headache.
Endeavour was still playing ‘tag’ with the other ship, which they now knew to be the Averroes; they hadn’t approached closer than 15 AU since the chase began. Kiri didn’t have any idea when they’d be returning to the Inner System but she was pretty sure that she’d be able to outlast the Averroes. If nothing else, she’d be willing to swap duty with Enterprise as and when. Until then, she would play ‘follow the leader’. And there was headache number three.
When Diana finished her summary, Kendra said, “Kyran. What is the standing ROE?”
“Right. Tell me again how a missile attack, which we beat back, by the way, is equivalent to destroying four cruisers with all hands?”
“It will prevent them from launching another such attack, Admiral,” Kyran said tightly.
“No, it just gives them an excuse!” She waved her hands.
“Have you heard the reports? Not the ones from Artemis, but from groundside? We’re being called murderers! The truth about Los Alamos finally came out, but now they’re equating that to what you did to the Copernicuses! Congratulations, Commodore; you’re in the same league as Stalin, Jing Tao, and Ratcliffe!”
“Admiral, that was not my intent. We were defending the station!”
“Which you had done, by destroying every last one of those stinking missiles!. Destroying those ships was utterly unnecessary.”
“Admiral, I disagree,” said Whitmore, calmly. “May I explain?”
Kendra inhaled deeply, then sat heavily behind her desk. “Go ahead. I know that you’re the professional here, not us.”
“Which is my point, to an extent, Admiral. What Commodore Knott ordered was the absolutely correct action to take. If they hadn’t done so, then the next time the Primus would have used more cruisers, launched more missiles. You think it was a coincidence that this attack occurred while the Enterprise was away and the Endeavour distracted? No, this was probing your, our, defenses. The fact that Kyran gave them a bloody nose for their trouble not only reduces the number of launchers they possess to attempt something like this again but will also make their commanders think twice about obeying orders to do so.”
Kendra looked thoughtfully at her, and Whitmore continued.
“No commander wants to go into a no-win situation. None of my ship’s captains would ask to sacrifice their lives, and the lives of their crews, if there was any other alternative. That’s not cowardice; that’s sense. You don’t think that the remaining Copernicus captains aren’t thinking about this right now? They’re used to being the bully boys, the biggest kid in the cubic. We just proved to them, conclusively, they aren’t. We can remove them from the game without even letting them make a move.”
“And the press? We’ve gotten an official request from the UE to explain the events, did you know that?”
“Send them Diana’s recordings,” said Whitmore. “Show them exactly what happened, the bravery demonstrated by Nymeria squadron. Let the facts speak for themselves.”
Kendra was nodding in agreement now. “That will satisfy the UE, but not the press. However, I know what you mean. I’ve dealt with bad PR before; this is just next-level crap, isn’t it?”
“I think so,” said Whitmore.
“Admiral, I’d like to say something,” said Kyran.
“I think that we ought to officially separate command of Njord. I just don’t have a military mind-set, where Davie does.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“She should take over defending this station, and I go back to what I do best: building things and managing people. I’m sure there’s some overlap, but we’ll work it out, and I’ll bet Diana will help too.”
The AI said, “Certainly, Commodore. I have some ideas which should maximize the efficiency of this combined operation.”
“Davie? What do you think?”
Whitmore frowned, considering.
“I’m not a fan of separate chains of command,” she said. “It leads to redundancies, inefficiency. But if we have Diana watching over both sides, we can probably minimize it. And what Kyran says makes sense.”
“Work up a plan. Present it to me when you’re ready.”
Kendra rolled her head around her shoulders, trying to loosen up the tension which had built up. “Zeus knows I’d love to give up this Admiral’s rank and just go back to being Kendra.”
Kyran and Davie both looked appalled.
“You can’t!” said Kyran.
“I agree with Kyran. You’re the glue that’s holding this operation together; until there’s a more established sense of mission, everyone looks to you for direction.”
“I know, I know,” Kendra sighed. “One of these days, though.”
“One of these days,” agreed Whitmore. “Until then, you’re the Admiral, Admiral. Orders?”
“Find out what that last missile was. We need details. I didn’t think that Artemis had any drives capable of 300 g, certainly not in something the size of one of their frigates.”
“I am devoting a fair percentage of my processing cycles to the problem,” said Diana. “There are other avenues which are being pursued as well.”
“Keep me informed. Seven minutes from launch to impact doesn’t give us much reaction time.”
“Aye, Admiral,” said Whitmore. “With your permission?”
“Admiral, I hate to interrupt, but you have an incoming transmission, direct to you,” said Minerva. “It seems to be on a loop.”
“From the ANS Roosa.”
“The Roosa? That’s the ship that brought – put them through!”
“At once. There will be considerable light-speed lag; their current position is roughly ten light-minutes distant.”
A new voice, somewhat crackly from the transmission, began. “Admiral Cassidy, this is Lieutenant Gonzalez, commander of the ANS Roosa. I have a passenger who requests a discreet transfer to your facility. Please respond. Admiral Cassidy, this is…”
“A passenger? Who?” said Kendra, wonderingly.
“There’s only one way to find out,” said Whitmore. “Ask.”
“Lieutenant Gonzalez, who is your passenger? We need to know before we can discuss any transfer.”
After the inevitable lag, she found out.