Chapter Five is a case of Short Chapter Syndrome – I couldn’t let Adam post just that!
So first you get to see what went on in the Council of Ministers after Averroes returned, as well as me trying to talk Cass and Alley into using a teleport without a portal at both ends. It wasn’t an easy sell!
Okay, so you can skip the wait and buy the book by clicking the button below or any image in the chapters. The audiobook is being recorded now, but Adam only has rough copies and I don’t think he wants to post sub-par quality recordings.
Artemis City, Council of Ministers
“Tell me how this was a success.”
“The warp drive on Averroes worked as predicted. Eight hours of continuous use and not a single reading that strayed from predictions.”
Trust Kreitzer to pick out the technical element, thought Taylor.
“We have made inroads, again, into the popularity of the Federation on Earth,” said the Foreign Minister. Dryden was still in the care of MinSec, so Dent’s trip to soothe the Titanites was on hold. “Since the Federation refuses to ally with any government, none will come to its aid. They are becoming isolated.”
“The basic strategy worked, Primus, as you suggested it would,” said Taylor. It wasn’t subtle, but he figured it wouldn’t hurt to remind the Primus the impetus behind this latest disaster came from her.
“We tested their defenses and nearly penetrated them. We have a much better idea of their capabilities now and may well be able to swamp them next. And we successfully tested your heavy missile design.”
At the cost of the ANS Swigert, he thought. The frigate had been hastily gutted and stripped down to the bulkheads before being refitted with an engine from a cancelled Apollo cruiser and a fusion warhead. The removal of all inertial dampers, the mass reduction, and no longer needing to protect a crew had allowed the frigate to achieve its ridiculous acceleration.
“At the cost of four destroyed cruisers! Cruisers, I might add, which belong to the Union, not Artemis.”
“Which is a good thing, Primus,” said Dent. “I can use this attack to pull the recalcitrant members back into our orbit. The fact they destroyed Union ships and killed Union crews will play right into our hands.”
“We also know that they will send their starships after the Averroes in a futile attempt to catch him, rather than protect their habitat. It demonstrates their priorities.” Taylor made a show of pausing, as if considering his next words. “That makes them predictable. Vulnerable.”
“Frankly, Primus, the only failure in this plan, if you want to call it a failure, was in not damaging the habitat. Surely that was the least important aspect!” Dent concluded.
“Perhaps,” said a slightly mollified Primus. “How do we follow this up?”
“By doing nothing,” said Taylor. “Let them think they’ve won this round. Finish the refit on the El-Baz and Al-Battani. We can pull more frigates from construction to build more missiles. Prepare our trap for them so the next time there is no chance for escape.”
By the end of his recitation the Primus was nodding.
“And I will work on our allies, Primus,” said Dent. “With this, I can solidify our, Artemis’s, position as the power in the Solarian Union. Remove any residual thoughts of independence in the face of this renewed threat.”
“We will keep working on our own warp drive, Primus,” said Minister Newling. “The progress has been incredible now that Carnahan has been mollified by the conversion of the Averroes. She has been practically human, willing to discuss and educate our best engineers.”
“It was a noble sacrifice those crews made,” the Primus now pronounced. “One which we will not allow to go to waste. Yes, Minister Taylor. I agree with your plan. Ministers Dent and Newling, continue your efforts. Together you will give me the tools I need to bring the Federation crumbling down.”
“Yes, Primus,” they echoed.
“I need you to find their source of antimatter when you are on Titan. I don’t care what it takes. If they retain exclusive possession then we are at risk. It gives them leverage, Dent. That cannot be permitted to continue.”
“You want to what?”
“Come on, Cass! You said you’ve worked out how to teleport a person without a portal on both ends, right?”
“And it works? You’ve tested it?”
“To a limited degree, yes.”
That brought a frown to Kendra. “Define limited.”
“I’ve transported dogs. And monkeys. Two cows.”
“They’re big and they don’t move much. Makes them really easy targets, okay?”
“I haven’t tried it on a person. Are you sure you want to start with a secret envoy from the Miner’s Guild?”
“Mmm. Valid point. Still, you’d better get it worked out quickly and get Minerva up to speed.”
“Because I intend to have the flagship of the Federation pick up the first envoy from another star nation, that’s why, and you only have a little more than two days to make it work.”
The Roosa was loafing back to Artemis. Captain Gonzalez was in no hurry to get back and have to answer potentially awkward questions about two mysterious passengers-that-weren’t. She’d chosen to return at a piddling 2g acceleration which allowed for a five day transit from Ceres to the Earth-Luna system.
What Kendra hoped to do was to use the Enterprise to rendezvous with Roosa. It was inspired by Cass’s mention of the possibility of teleporting with only a single portal. Kendra had decided to talk to Cass about it first, before going further. She saw this as a step forward.
“Two days?” squeaked Cass. “You have any idea the sort of theoretical leap this represents, and you want it in two days?”
“It’ll make things so much easier,” purred Kendra. “Imagine being able to jump from ship to ship without fiddling around with shuttles and airlocks.”
“I know, but…two days?”
“You just said you’ve done testing.”
“How is that different from people?”
“Well, there’s clothing.”
Kendra gestured. “So? Put a shirt on a chimp.”
“You just don’t get it!” fumed Cass.
“Then explain it to me, in small words.”
“It’s just not that easy!”
“Commander, if I may?” interrupted Minerva. “As I will be the computer behind the process, I would like to add to the conversation.”
“Please,” said Cass, exasperated, flopping onto a couch.
“Admiral, what Commander Cassidy refers to is in the differences between living and non-living materials. The process by which non-living materials are teleported lends itself well to a non-portal method. It is a fully mature technology, as demonstrated whenever a replicator is used.”
“I remember all this. Living beings require a quantum scan, right?”
“Correct, Admiral. The difficulty then lies in the different types of scan required. Integrating a quantum scan with a molecular scan presents a huge challenge.”
“Why do a molecular scan?”
“Admiral? That is what non-living matter requires.”
“So what? Maybe I’m missing something, but can’t you do a quantum scan for everything? Wouldn’t that solve the problem?”
“I heard,” said Cass, eyes wide. “We’d need more storage, but we do it for portal-to-portal transporting. There’s no reason we can’t do it for single-portal transport.”
“I concur. Reprogramming shouldn’t present an issue.”
“Hello? Genius and AI? Does this mean we can – oof!” Kendra was cut off by Cass’s swoop and grab, wrapping her in her arms and spinning her around.
“Of course we can do it!” Cass kissed her, first on the forehead, then squarely on the lips, before putting her back down. “It’s just a bit of reprogramming, which Minerva can do and I can cross-check. Ooh, I know, I’ll get Mac to do a once-over.”
“Good. I’ll talk to Alley next.”
“Good luck,” said Cass, already distracted.
Have a minute? Kendra commed.
Just going over reports. Come to you?
No, replied Kendra. Cass is geniusing again. Ready room?
Not surprisingly, Alley and LJ’s quarters were only a short walk down the corridor, and Kendra arrived in seconds. The door slid open at her request to enter.
“Catch him!” she heard, and looked down just in time to see a grey streak dash through the closing doors. “Dammit, Theo!”
LJ hurried past in pursuit of the cat and Kendra continued into the quarters.
“In my office,” came her voice.
“Admiral, nice to see you outside duty hours,” Alley said pointedly.
“Whoops. I suppose it is. I just wanted to talk to you about the Roosa.”
“What about it?” said Alley, nodding to her visitor’s chair.
“It’s like this,” started Kendra, and she explained her plan.
“Let me get this straight. You want us to rendezvous with an enemy frigate that’s moving at 1600 KPS, drop our shields, and transport aboard a person who they claim is an envoy from the Miner’s Guild using a technique that your wife is still perfecting? Did I miss anything?”
“No, that pretty well hits the highlights.”
“Admiral, you’re absolutely insane.”
“We know this; I have season tickets to the ‘Crazy, Not Stupid’ section. What I need to know is, oh, hi LJ.”
Alley’s partner, LJ, appeared in the doorway, cradling a grey cat. “Theo got out again.”
“Again?” said Kendra.
“Again. Luci’s getting cranky; she’s due any day now and can barely move. Theo doesn’t want any part of her so he takes off every chance he gets.”
She dropped the cat on Alley’s desk surface, where he started unconcernedly to groom. “Am I interrupting?”
“No. Alley thinks I’m crazy. Can I get a second opinion?”
“Sure,” said LJ. “You’re crazy. When has that ever stopped you?”
“I’m not sure,” said Kendra. “Tell me what you think.”
She ran through the idea again, complete with Alley’s commentary, then said, “Well?”
“If Cass gets the transporter to work with just one portal, then I think it’s a good idea.”
“What?” said Alley. “You agree with her?”
“I do. It protects us, and protects the Roosa from suspicion as best we can. We know that they’re willing to bend the rules; look what they did for the Chief and Crozier. This might be on the level. If we actually meet with them, won’t that cast more of a cloud over them?”
“True,” admitted Alley.
“And we’ve paced their ships before. Remember that one cruiser, down towards Venus? Didn’t we get within a few hundred klicks?”
“True, but we had our shields up.”
“But Artemis won’t know we don’t.”
“I’m not worried about Artemis; I’m worried about this being a trap. Lasers have a funny way of ruining your day.”
“Honey, they don’t have broadsides,” LJ reminded her. “We could practically scrape paint with those frigates and not be in any danger.”
“Okay, so I withdraw part of my objection.”
“What’s left? The speed? I’m sure that Engineer Morgan can keep us down to 1600 KPS; that’s what, two thirds of a percent of full sublight?”
“You did that in your head?” said Kendra admiringly. “I have to use my ‘plant.”
“I did engineering before joining up,” said LJ. “You’re not answering me, Alley.”
“Okay, okay, it’s not completely insane. But how do we know that this envoy is legit?”
“Well, I’m not unskilled at interrogation, both hard and soft,” said Kendra. “And if I get twitchy, I can always borrow Stephanie Lyle from OutLook.”
“Who?” said Alley, who thought she was fairly up to speed on all the various high-end personnel.
“She’s Cris’s lead Personnel Researcher; at least, that’s what she calls her. It means she can strip the information from a person’s mind practically without leaving a scar. Remember Chris Knepper, the agent Artemis planted?”
“She extracted the information. If this envoy gets my antennae twitching, I turn them over to Stephanie and we find out the truth.”
“Sounds like you’ve covered all the bases, Admiral.”
“Is that an agreement I hear?”
“Aye, Admiral. We’ll be ready. Do you have a timeline for this?”
“Cass has to finish her reprogramming. Possibly tomorrow, but more likely day after?”
“Admiral, priority message from Earth,” said Minerva. “Counselor Chew.”
“Alley, do you mind if I take this here?”
“Not at all. Come on,” she said, scooping the cat off her desk. “Let’s see what we can do to keep this beast from escaping again.” She and LJ gave Kendra the office, the door closing behind them.
“Go ahead, Minerva.”
“Kendra?” Chew’s voice sounded uncertain.
“I’m here, Dianna.”
The uncertainty vanished, replaced by jubilation. “They threw out the case!”
“Just now. It seems that there were irregularities in both of their listed Plaintiffs’ claims for relief; one had waited past the statute of limitations, and the other one, well, there seemed to be problems with her identity. Can you believe it?”
Kendra guessed that Dianna was in a place she expected to be overheard, or maybe thought that her comms were tapped, so she played along. “No!”
“Yes! The Court issued their refusal to hear the case, citing a lack of standing for those two. They didn’t address the claim of the appeal, Judge Hodge’s supposed bias, but Forman’s going to have a hard time getting a second bite at the apple.”
“So we’ve won?”
“We’ve won,” confirmed Chew.
“No more appeals?”
“Well, they could try to appeal to the UE Court of Justice, but it’s a long shot since the Republic isn’t part of the UE. They could possibly try to claim jurisdiction, but that’s a mighty stretch.”
“And I have it on good authority that the Court of Justice won’t take it up.”
“Can you elaborate?” Chew asked.
“Tell you what; let’s get together to discuss next steps, and we’ll talk about it then.”
“Sounds good. When can I expect you?”
“Why don’t you come to me this time? I’ll send transportation.”
“Tomorrow. Your ride will be at your office parking lot at nine. Dress comfortably.”
“Until tomorrow, then.”
AUDIOBOOK COMING SOON