This was fun. I didn’t get much chance to sorta ‘throw my weight around’, you know? I was off-planet most of the time, almost all the time after that stupid useless lawsuit, and my people knew better than to try to do the whole ‘impress the boss’ thing.
On the other hand, what’s the point of being the top dog if you don’t get to show your teeth every now and again? Besides, her assistant? Total jerk. Just because you have the power doesn’t mean you have to abuse it, right?
If you’re tired of waiting for chapters, Adam has three options for you. First, you can go to Amazon and buy the book. He’d love for you to do that (and leave a review!), but there are other choices. Click on the FIRST button (or any image) for this option. Second, if you have Kindle Unlimited you can borrow the book, and if you don’t have KU you can sign up and get a free month! Click on the SECOND button for that option. And the Audible version is coming soon!
“OAR, office of the Executive Vice President.”
“Put me through to Kim, please.”
“I’m sorry, Ms. Reed is in a meeting and cannot be disturbed.”
“My name is Kendra Cassidy. I think she’ll speak to me.”
“I’m sorry, Ms. Cassidy, Ms. Reed –”
“Is in a meeting and can’t be disturbed. Fine. Thank you.” The connection broke.
Two minutes later the building started shaking.
“Is it an earthquake?” the assistant, Bill Trout, asked as his boss came out of her office.
“Not that I know, and I don’t think there are many earthquakes in New York,” said Reed. The shaking died away, leaving only a deep, almost subsonic rumble which they felt running up their legs.
The comm signaled for attention.
“OAR, office of the –”
“Yeah, it’s me again, is Kim still busy?”
Reed was standing close enough to hear the question and gestured for the comm.
“Hi, Kim, it’s Kendra. Do you have a minute?”
“Admiral Cassidy. On the record, what’s your reaction to yesterday’s decision by the Sonoran Supreme Court?”
“Obviously I’m thrilled. Enough with the questions, do you have time?”
“I have a few minutes,” admitted Reed. She had much more, actually, but it was best to hold a few cards back.
“Come up to the roof,” said Kendra, and disconnected.
Bemused, Reed gave the handset back to Trout.
“I’ll be back,” she said, and made her way to the elevator. Her office was only two floors below the roof and it took only seconds for the elevator to rise.
There was a large, gleaming spaceship hovering a few centimeters above the rooftop. A hatch was open in the side, and Reed saw Kendra hanging out of it, waving her over. Carefully she crossed the distance, taking Kendra’s hand up into the ship.
“This is not what I expected,” she said when she was aboard and the hatch closed.
“How much time do you have? Really?”
“I don’t have much planned this morning,” Reed temporized. “And who is this?”
“Oh, sorry. Kim, Dianna Chew. She’s my lawyer. Dianna, Kim pretty much runs OAR.”
“It’s a pleasure,” said Reed automatically. “Why are we on a spaceship?”
“Well, I needed to talk to my lawyer, so I thought I’d give her a lift. I wanted to ask you a couple questions but your assistant put me off, so I figured hey, Albuquerque and New York are right next door, why don’t I just drop in? And here I am.”
“Kendra, Albuquerque and New York are not right next door.”
“Sorry, Kim, when you can accelerate at two KPS per second, yeah, they are. And this is important, so it was worth the detour.”
“Admiral, New York Air Traffic Control is getting itchy,” said a voice from the cockpit. “They want to know when we’re going to clear their airspace.”
“Stall ‘em, Motherlove,” said Kendra before turning back to Reed. “So three hours?”
“About,” said Reed.
“Then sit down and strap in. We’re going to get ATC off our back.” Kendra sat too, securely fastening the five-point harness; Reed and Chew saw this and copied her movements.
“Passengers secure,” said Kendra.
“Roger, we’re cleared to pass through ATC coverage at angels 60 at max accel, so hold onto your knickers,” said Motherlove. “Five seconds.”
Seeing the others’ confusion, Kendra translated. “She’s going to kick us in the ass to get through airspace.”
The background hum of the engine rose to a howl and they were slammed into their seats for a few seconds before the pressure released them.
“Blaster! Did you do something to the dampers?” yelled Kendra.
“Maybe?” replied the EM. “But I did it the way Lieutenant Burg showed us.”
“Sorry,” Kendra apologized. “My pilots aren’t supposed to use max accel groundside, but there’s nothing that can catch them, and they don’t have to pay any fines, so…well, if they weren’t hot dogs, they wouldn’t be pilots, right?”
“…right?” agreed Reed tentatively.
“Approaching edge of atmosphere,” said the CM. “Holding 100 g accel for run to Enterprise. ETA three minutes.”
“Enterprise?” asked Chew.
“That’s where my office is, Dianna.”
“We’re in space?”
By way of answer, Kendra said, “Blaster, give us the outside view.”
The interior walls and ceiling of the Charlemagne seemed to disappear, revealing the blackness of space in all its glory. To their credit, neither woman screamed, though Kendra noted how tightly Dianna’s fingers gripped the seat arm.
Reed recovered first. “What is this?”
“This is a Wolf-class MOV, specifically the Charlemagne. It’s the workhorse of our small craft fleet.”
“You usually use one for errands?”
“Well, actually, yes? Charlemagne is one of a dozen which are attached to Enterprise, and they’re more flexible than the quantum teleport system. But let’s continue this later, okay? We’re approaching Enterprise, and I don’t want you to miss it.”
“Where is it, ohhh!”
The silver ship hung against the backdrop of stars, appearing as insubstantial as a bubble. At first tiny, she grew rapidly larger, details becoming apparent.
“Enterprise, Cassidy. On approach aboard Charlemagne. Request permission for fly-by.”
“Cassidy, Enterprise. Permission granted. Watch for traffic in and out of the bay,” answered Justina Garcia, the Lieutenant in charge of the small boat operations. She’d started as a Wolf pilot, with her sisters Briana and Daniela. Her Wolf was the only one aboard Enterprise on her first extra-solar mission, and had thus been one of only three original MOVs to survive, along with Flashdance and Wrangler’s boats. Flashdance had been pushed into the role of overall small boat commander, Wrangler her second, and Daniela transferred out to head the Direwolf program. Briana and Justina were left to run the operations on Enterprise. When LJ joined, she took over running the bay, but Justina was responsible for the mobile units.
“Roger, Enterprise. Out. Motherlove, give us a full swing around Enterprise.”
“You got it, Admiral.”
“Very informal,” commented Reed.
“We’re not really military,” answered Kendra.
Kendra waved the comment off. “We need some sort of structure, and the language of navies makes the most sense. But it’s not our purpose, Kim.”
They closed on the underside of the starship, looking up at the engineering and primary hulls, the nacelles stretching off behind.
“Are we upside down?” asked Chew.
“Yes and no. There’s no gravity in space, so there’s no real ‘up’ or ‘down’. It’s all a matter of orientation. The Charlemagne has internal gravity at ¾ g, so within the boat there’s an up and down. But, from an external point of view, we’re looking at the underside of Enterprise.”
“I wish I had a camera operator,” said Reed. “This is priceless.”
“Deone is still aboard,” said Kendra. “They can accompany you, or Susana, or both. Get all the shots you want.”
They were approaching the primary hull now, still inverted.
“Are those windows?” Chew said.
“I’ve been told I ought to call them supplemental optical observation systems, but yes. They’re windows.”
“Really? Who suggested that?”
“One of my officers who spent a career in a navy, in a moment of weakness, fell victim to jargonization. I’ve resisted it.”
“No, I meant windows. Why do you have windows?”
“Because space is beautiful, and should be seen. I’ve recently come back from Tau Ceti, and I was able to lie in our quarters at night and watch the stars stream past. Gorgeous. Our daughters are fascinated by it, too, and the rapture on their faces when they slow down long enough to look out is worth all the headaches that went into figuring out how to do them.”
“Daughters?” asked Reed. “Your daughters come with you?”
“I told you, we’re not military. We’re an exploration vessel, and eventually we’re going to be spending months, years, away from Earth. I’m not going to leave my kids behind, and I’m not going to ask any of my people either. Starfleet is for families.”
“And what happens when you have to fight?”
“So far the only fighting we’ve done is in this system. We’re looking for an end sooner rather than later. Until then, on system patrols, families are encouraged to remain aboard the habitat.”
The Wolf rounded the primary hull and approached along the dorsal side, the central dome rising before them.
“Motherlove, slow it down to about one MPS. Can you line us up with the bridge?”
“Can do, Admiral.”
They passed slowly over the hull, stopping just a few meters in front of the bridge.
“That’s another window.”
“Yup. They can’t see us; these are just screens. But you can see, it’s first shift, so the primary bridge crew is on duty. That’s Captain Martinez, and Commander Cassidy, her XO, in the center. Looks like Elliot’s working on something at Tactical, and Briana’s at helm. She’s an excellent pilot, by the way. You wouldn’t know that two years ago she was studying psychology at university, but then the Federation happened and she was bit by the space bug. I don’t see Dawn, but she’s probably in, oh, wait, there she is, in the back of the bridge.”
Kendra had pointed to everyone she mentioned; now some of the bridge crew had turned to face them and were pointing and waving back.
“Charlemagne, Enterprise. You just hanging around?”
“Guided tour for VIPs, Enterprise,” answered Motherlove. “Wave for the nice people.”
“Wrap it up, Charlemagne,” ordered Alley. “We do have a schedule of sorts.”
“You heard her,” said Kendra. “Finish the fly-by and set us down.”
“Aye, Admiral.” The MOV glided over the bridge, past the rest of the primary hull, and down over the neck connecting the two hulls.
“Enterprise, Charlemagne. Are we clear for landing?”
“No honors, Junkyard!” Kendra pitched her voice to be picked up.
“Admiral, the Kazoo Quintet was so looking forward to it!”
“Funny. No honors.”
“Aye, Admiral Spoilsport. Enterprise out.”
“The first time I arrived aboard with Captain Martinez, the yard dogs arranged to do what they thought were proper ‘honors’ for an arriving officer. Since I became Admiral, it’s gotten worse, and unless I remember to call them off they try to out-do themselves each time. Kazoos are a new, ugly step.” Kendra watched their progress for a few seconds. “Ought to strap in again. Just in case.”
Motherlove, though, stuck the landing. It was so gentle as to not be noticeable.
“Thanks, Blaster. Perfect landing, Motherlove.”
“We aim to please,” said the CM, pulling her hair out of its ponytail and giving it a shake.
“Don’t go too far,” Kendra instructed, leading the other passengers out of the MOV. She gave them a somewhat abbreviated tour of the ship, ending at her office.
“Dianna,” she said. “I’m bringing Kim to another section, but I’ll be right back and we can talk next steps. Kim, this way?”
A deck down, she stopped at the quarters assigned to the two OAR employees.
“Kim, what I wanted to talk to you about was Susana and Deone.”
“Is there a problem, Admiral?”
“Not at all. In fact, I was wondering if you’d be willing to make Enterprise their primary assignment.”
“Oh? Why would I want to do that?”
“It occurred to me that we’re doing historic things, things which should be properly documented. How much of history has been lost? We haven’t the slightest idea, do we? We can prevent it, at least to some degree, at an absolutely pivotal moment in humanity’s history: our first steps to other stars.”
“And why these two?”
“They’ve been with us for two missions now, admittedly briefly. They’re familiar to the crew, they know when to ask questions and when to fade back, and the reports they’ve produced have been both accurate and fair. They fit, Kim. I don’t know if we’d get the same sort of meshing if we had a different team.”
“Have you discussed it with them?”
Kendra shook her head.
“No. That’s your job, not mine, and I didn’t want to raise the prospect with them if you were going to shoot it down.”
“Why not just hire them away? You have enough money to do it.”
“Because I respect you, and your organization, and I didn’t want to piss you off. We get enough bad press as it is.”
“Well, I happen to agree. I think we ought to have an embedded team, probably on all of your starships, as well as a presence on your habitat.”
“Let’s start with Enterprise, okay?” laughed Kendra.
“Fine. You and I can work out details later, but I want to talk with them, find out if they’re willing, and if not convince them otherwise.”
“And that’s why we’re here.”
Kendra requested entry. A moment later, the door slid open, revealing Susana.
“Kendra, what a – Ms. Reed! I didn’t expect you aboard, won’t you come it? Admiral?”
“I’m just the escort, Susana. Kim, when you’re done, just ask to be put through to me. I’ll be nearby.”
Feeling very satisfied with the morning, Kendra headed back up to her office to put the wraps on her legal troubles.
At least for now, she amended. But that’s good enough.