Damn. I oughta go to Vegas for a week and see if my lucky streak continues.
I did it again.
Four books. Four days. MULTIPLE CHAPTERS EACH DAY.
Aren’t you lucky I fight for you as hard as I fight for my ohana?
Damn right you are.
Anyways, this is when I met Anne-Marie for the first time. bringing her over from the Roosa and then sitting and talking with her over drinks. Who, me? Break the rules?
I just bend ’em as far as they can possibly go and then give them a quick twist to make sure they stay bent.
As always, if you want to skip past the “waiting for another chapter” thing you can click on any image to buy the book; you can get it in any format you want! Or just click the button below. Either works.
And as a special treat, here’s the trailer Adam had created for this book. Enjoy!
“ANS Roosa, this is Admiral Cassidy.”
The light-speed lag was down to just a few seconds, and Gonzalez replied quickly.
“Go ahead, Admiral. I’ve been wondering when we’d hear from you.”
“Sorry for the delay, Captain. We had some details to work out our end.” Kendra had taken over Alley’s ready room so she could talk undisturbed.
“We’re less than six hours from our scheduled return, Admiral.”
“We’re ready when you are, Captain. We can rendezvous at any time.”
“And then? Same as before?”
“Not exactly, Captain. Tell me, is there an area in your ship which is relatively clear of obstructions? Maybe four square meters?”
Kendra could hear the frown in Gonzalez’ reply. “We can clear a space, yes.”
“Good! Then here’s what we need you to do…”
As Kendra explained, Lt. Datu, the second officer, was preparing the ship for the rendezvous. Cass was in the Enterprise’s Portal room, with Gigluk, fussing over the settings.
“Ensign Chastain, set course for the Roosa. Be prepared to match speed and heading. Lt. Kay, have the shields on standby. Commander Cassidy said that we can’t have them up.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” said Kay. “Laser?”
“On standby as well. We’re going to maintain 25000 klicks separation, and they don’t have any broadside weapons, so we ought to be secure enough.”
“This is a friendly meeting,” added Alley. “Let’s not push away a potential ally. However, I think a passive lock on the Roosa would be prudent.”
“Aye, Captain,” said Datu. “Mr. Kay, you heard the Captain. Ensign Chastain, engage.”
“Engage, aye. Three minutes to intercept.”
“Captain, I’ve been informed that we’re three minutes away; will you have your passenger prepare?” said Kendra.
“Three minutes? You’re not on our scan yet,” Gonzalez answered, confused.
“Please just prepare, Captain.”
“We’ll be ready. Don’t be late.”
“Not an issue, Captain.”
There was silence for a couple minutes before Gonzalez returned. “The space is ready, though I don’t see what the hurry was. You’re still not…wait one. What?”
Kendra could faintly hear a discussion in the background, with some rather colorful language, before Gonzalez returned.
“We have you on our scans now. Where did you come from?” she said with not a little awe.
“Federation delivery express,” Kendra deadpanned. “When it absolutely, positively has to be there before you send it.”
“Never mind. We should be coming alongside momentarily.”
“I show you at 24,915 kilometers. Please let me know when you’ll be alongside for the transfer.”
“We are,” said Kendra.
“The envoy can’t cross that distance!”
“We’ll handle it,” Kendra reassured her. “Can you connect me to them?”
“Patching you through.”
“Representative Lusardi, who is this?”
“My name is Kendra Cassidy, Representative, and I’ll be with you through this whole process.”
“I thought I was transferring to your ship, so why am I in the Roosa’s mess?”
“Is that where they had space? I had no idea. Everything will be clear in a few moments. Now, this is very important: once you’re in position, you can’t move. Don’t step away from that spot, no matter what.”
“What happens if I do?”
“All I’m told is that it’s Very Very Bad and you Really Don’t Want to Do It.”
“I’m in position, and not moving,” said Lusardi.
“Good. Hold right there.” Kendra pinged Cass. Ready?
Ready. She’s in position?
Yes, and I think I convinced her not to move.
Okay. Let’s do this.
“Representative, we’re going to start the process now. Don’t worry about a thing.”
“Why would I – what’s happe…” The voice suddenly cut off.
“Cassidy! What have you done to the envoy?” Gonzalez yelled. Obviously she’d been watching the proceedings.
“If it all went according to plan, transferring her to Enterprise. Let me check.”
WE GOT HER!
“Captain, I can confirm a successful transfer. Thank you for your cooperation. We’ll be separating shortly. Have a safe journey home.” Kendra disconnected and went back to the bridge.
“Smoothly done, everyone. Captain, thank you for the use of your ready room.”
“We’re done?” asked Alley.
“We’re done,” agreed Kendra. “Time to go home.”
“You heard the Admiral,” Datu said. “Set course for home.”
“You teleported me.”
“That’s correct, Representative Lusardi,” agreed Kendra.
“I’m not sure how I feel about this. Have you done that? Teleported?”
“Many times,” Kendra assured her. “Over longer distances. And I’m just fine.”
Lusardi was still occasionally patting parts of herself, as if to confirm that she was all there. “There wasn’t another way?”
“The main concern was providing deniability to the crew of the Roosa,” Kendra explained. “After all, their own instruments will show that we never came closer than many thousands of kilometers, so even if there is a MinSec spy aboard, how will they explain your absence? ‘Who? From Ceres? We never picked up anyone at Ceres.’ We do try to protect those who do right by us.”
“Very comforting, especially in light of my mission,” Lusardi said.
“Yes,” agreed Kendra. She wanted to push, she wanted to get all the details, but she recognized the need to move at the pace the envoy set, much as it galled her.
After she’d been checked by Dr. Desjier, Kendra had stayed with her for the short return to Njord, then led her to guest quarters. She’d offered to give her time for herself, but Lusardi had indicated she’d prefer company, so here they were.
“Can I get you a drink? Are you familiar with replicators?” asked Kendra.
“Yes, and no.”
Kendra walked to the replicator.
“What would you like? Water? Coffee? Juice? Something stronger?”
“I’d love a coffee, but I’m not sure; what time is it?”
“We run on GMT minus seven, so it’s just after eighteen. What time does Ceres run on?”
“The Guild is supposed to run on Greenwich, but each outpost can have their own time. Most are pretty close to Greenwich, though there’s one group which insist on setting their clocks twelve minutes slower. Just being contrary, I think. For me, then, I’m thinking it’s after midnight.”
“Coffee’s probably not a good plan, then.”
“No,” Lusardi agreed. “Something strong, please. Help me sleep.”
“Two Irish coffees, decaf, Bushmill’s 1800, extra whipped,” Kendra said. The replicator hummed, and two steaming mugs appeared in the dispensing bay.
“Irish coffee, with the good stuff,” said Kendra, presenting one to Lusardi. She raised her mug in salute. “To a prosperous future, Representative.”
Lusardi returned the salute.
“To a successful venture,” she answered and took a sip. Her eyes opened wide. “You weren’t kidding about good stuff.”
Kendra simply nodded. “And that’s the replicator version. I’ll get you a case of the real thing to take home when we’re all finished.”
She sat back, determined to let Lusardi start talking, but the seconds stretched into a minute, then minutes.
Finally, with a smile, Lusardi relented. “That was killing you, wasn’t it?”
“You have no idea!” heaved Kendra.
“You wouldn’t last a day in the Guild, you know.”
“I’ve never been much for subtle,” Kendra agreed. “I’d rather have all the cards facing up. If I have to fold, I’ll fold.”
“Very well. Admiral, I’ve been dispatched to negotiate the entrance of the Miner’s Guild into the Federation.”
Kendra nearly choked on her sip of coffee.
“Could – could you repeat that?” she said when she was able to catch her breath.
“Certainly. I am here to negotiate the entrance of the Miner’s Guild into the Federation.”
“I thought I heard those words. Why?”
“I could tell you the Union doesn’t sufficiently represent the needs of the Guild, or the trading arrangements are inequitable, or we’re tired of being fodder for the Union’s navy. All of these are true, but they don’t go to the core reason.”
“The Union is going to lose, and we want to be on the winning side.”
“I appreciate the honesty, Representative. Or Envoy.”
“I think Envoy is appropriate in this context.”
“Very well. Envoy. What do you get from this?”
“Like I said, we want to be on the winning side.”
“Protection. When Artemis hears of this, the Primus will be hell-bent on revenge. Goddess knows that she’s never known restraint, despite our best efforts in the Union. With us gone, only whatever can be mustered within Artemis will be positioned to hold her back. We haven’t much of a navy compared to the Union and we have the smallest population with the largest area to defend. We would fight valiantly, Admiral, but in the end we’d all die.”
“And in return? What’s in it for us?”
“As I said, we hold the largest area in the system: every asteroid between the orbits of Earth and Saturn belong to the Guild, whether there’s an outpost established or not. That’s a huge resource base, from carbonaceous asteroids rich in ices and carbon compounds, to iron asteroids and even the heavier metals, such as iridium and platinum.”
“Go on,” said Kendra as blandly as she could.
“As part of our withdrawal from the Union, we would be bringing home all of our enlisted citizens, who would be available for service within the Federation.”
“Potentially useful,” Kendra allowed.
“Our merchant vessels are the backbone of the Union economy. With them withdrawn from trade, the Union will face grave difficulties.”
“And it would be a political coup for the Federation. It may lead to further fractures between the remaining Union members.”
“The Envoy is not overstating her case, Admiral,” said the AI, appearing and drawing a startled reaction from Lusardi.
“Her analysis of the economic crisis precipitated by the withdrawal of the Guild is accurate, as is her speculation over the political repercussions.”
“Who by the Blessed One is that?”
“Sorry; that’s Diana, the station AI. I maybe should have mentioned her; she keeps me from getting carried away with emotional arguments.”
“I attempt to, Admiral, but you are most stubborn and, at times, illogical.”
“See?” Kendra waved a hand.
“Let me see if I can summarize this. We get you as a trading partner, a source of manpower, and a provider of transportation infrastructure. In return we agree to integrate you into the Federation and protect the outposts from Union retaliation.”
“You have captured the essence, yes, Admiral.”
“Okay, a few things you should know. First, your hand isn’t as strong as you believe. There’s less need for your metals, oxygen, and personnel. Oh, they aren’t unwelcome, they just aren’t the aces you think they are. Second, the Union is already going to be plenty pissed at us, since we destroyed four of their heavy cruisers a couple days ago.”
“There was a missile attack on this station three days ago. In retaliation, we destroyed the ships that launched the missiles. They were Union ships.”
“Four Copernicus-class cruisers,” Diana clarified.
Kendra read Lusardi’s face.
“You didn’t know?”
“No, Admiral. My oldest son serves in the Union navy, aboard a Copernicus. Do you know which ones were lost?”
“I do not possess the requested data.”
“Find out. Priority. Get Harpo in on it.”
“At once, Admiral.” Her avatar didn’t disappear, but did take on a distracted look.
“We’ll find out, Envoy. I’m, no, I won’t say I’m sorry for your loss, not yet. He may not have been involved.”
Lusardi nodded jerkily. “Thank you, Admiral.”
“Fuck. I hate this war. There is no reason for it, none! If the ignorant psychopath in Artemis City would just realize that then nobody else would have to die!”
Both lapsed into silence.
“Admiral,” Diana said a moment later. “The ships destroyed were the Pogue, Musgrave, Ellison, and Chawla. I have obtained their crew lists.”
“Oh, thank the Goddess!” exclaimed Lusardi.
“I presume he wasn’t aboard any of those?” asked Kendra.
“No,” said Lusardi. “He’s on the Jemison.”
“We’ll provide you the crew manifests for your government,” said Kendra. “No matter what we decide here.”
“Thank you, Admiral; my government will be grateful for the information. Those are our children.”
“I’m tempted to agree to your proposal just to keep more of them safe,” said Kendra. “But I don’t know if you’ll agree to our terms. As I was saying, there are things you don’t know. Where was I?”
“Third,” Diana reminded her.
“Third. When you say ‘integrate,’ what do you mean?”
“Having equal say in the running of the Federation, representation at the table. Seats in the government. Sharing of technology. Non-interference in internal affairs of the Guild.”
“Here’s the thing, Envoy. Right now, we’re not a country, we’re not a nation, we’re not even particularly political. This is all being financed by my wife and I, and the end goal is to set up a system that’s going to provide a framework for humanity spreading to the stars. If that means we form a government, then we will. But until Artemis decided we were public enemy number one, we didn’t worry about policy and laws and other such crap; we just went out and did it. That’s still pretty much where we are. Oh, we’re trying to apply some structure to it, but it’s like trying to carve pudding.”
Kendra paused for another sip.
“Once the situation with Artemis is solved, then we can look to forming a proper government. We’ve had some ridiculously preliminary discussions about it, and the best we’ve come up with is a general sense of we don’t know half as much as we thought we did. What it boils down to now is the buck stops with me, one way or another. If it’s Starfleet, then I’m the Admiral and what I say goes. If it’s Federation, where Cass and I are equal partners, then we share the deciding, unless she’s out of system and then it falls to me.”
“It sounds chaotic, Admiral. And did I hear you correctly? You’re funding this, personally?”
“How can you do that?”
“We’re the joint inheritors of the D.D. Harriman Trust. It’s a fair piece of change.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, Admiral, could you be more specific?”
“Envoy Lusardi, as of close of business today, the assets controlled by Admiral and Commander Cassidy are valued at slightly over one hundred trillion Sonoran credits. In Union currency, that is approximately fourteen quadrillion Sols.”
“You could buy us outright twenty times over,” gasped Lusardi.
“Actually, Envoy, the more accurate figure would be thirty-two times over,” corrected Diana. “With adjustments for various factors, including –”
“Enough, Diana; you want to talk economics with the Envoy, do it later, on your own time, and after she’s had some sleep.”
“The point, Envoy, is that we didn’t want to found a nation, we didn’t want to start a government from scratch, and we sure as Hades didn’t want to start a war.”
“And yet somehow you’ve managed all three.”
“Yep. Still want to join up?”
“Frankly, Admiral, I think you’re insane.”
Kendra grinned. “I’ve been getting a lot of that recently.”
“But it’s my kind of insane. I think, extremely unofficially, we can find common ground. Yes.”
Kendra rose. “Then we’ll pick this up tomorrow. If you need anything, just ask Diana.”
“One more question, Admiral?”
“Sure,” she answered, setting the empty mug in the replicator’s return tray.
“When do I get to meet your wife?”
Kendra laughed. “You already did. She was the one who teleported you over.”
“The red-haired Commander is your wife?”
“Ain’t I lucky? Goodnight, Envoy.”