Ha! I win again!
Look, I like Adam. I think he’s done a fine job with the books and telling our stories. But I really, really want you guys to get it all, not doled out in dribs and drabs, one short chapter at a time!
I don’t mean I want Adam to post up the whole book; that would be silly!
But these little four- and five-page chapters can get combined into a single post!
Anyways, if you’re sick of waiting, you can click the button below and buy the book in whatever format you want: ebook, paperback, or audiobook.
Or you can wait for next week’s installment.
“Minister Taylor, welcome aboard Averroes.”
Taylor looked around. He’d come up to Averroes on a resupply cutter, one of the first, in order to talk with Newling as soon as possible. He didn’t quite regret coming up on the cutter, but they weren’t exactly the most luxurious means of travel, and he could see that the warship stayed true to that theme: function first. He approved. He didn’t need the Averroes to be pretty as long as he worked.
“Thank you. I know this is an imposition, but I didn’t want to take you from your work, and I felt it important to meet with you.”
“My time is yours, Minister.”
“Oh, no.” Taylor stopped dead and waggled a finger at Newling’s face. “We’re not starting that moondust. I might be able to command an appearance, but I couldn’t begin to command this ship. That’s your gift. Anything which takes you away from commanding it is a waste.”
“You sound just like Minister Crozier,” said Newling.
“I hope so,” Taylor answered. “I taught her everything she knows.”
“Sorry, knew. I’m having a hard time accepting that she’s gone.”
That’s the truth at least.
“Her loss was a terrible day for Artemis,” said Newling, accepting the explanation.
“Yes,” agreed Taylor simply, then changed the subject. “Are we heading for your office?”
Newling’s smile was wry. “Hardly, Minister.”
“I’m used to clutter,” said Taylor. “My assistant is always complaining about the state of my office.”
“No, Minister, it’s because we couldn’t both fit into it. We’re going to take over the officers wardroom.”
“So little space?”
“Averroes is a fighting ship, Minister, which was true before the new warp drive.”
Newling went into details as they wended their way from the airlock to the wardroom.
“Coffee?” asked Newling.
“Please,” said Taylor. “Thank you. Captain, I’ve read your report. It seems that your warp drive test was an unqualified success.”
“So far,” amended Newling. “We only attempted warp two. We ought to be able to achieve warp four, perhaps higher.”
“Still, you maintained that for eight hours?”
“Closer to nine.”
“And you covered nearly two hundred light hours’ distance.”
Newling frowned, waving it off. “Minister, that’s nothing compared to the distances space encompasses. I’ve read the unclassified documents regarding the Federation’s voyages; did you know they’ve recently established a mining colony on Tau Ceti f? The planet they call Lemnos?”
“I was aware, yes, but hadn’t thought much about it.”
“Minister, Tau Ceti is twelve light years away. We went a fraction of that, mostly in circles, and they essentially did a weekend visit to set up a colony.” Taylor could hear the frustration in Newling’s voice, tightly controlled but still present. “And we have no idea if we succeeded in our mission!”
Now Taylor frowned. “Mission? You had no mission from the Ministry other than to test the drive.”
“The mission from the Primus,” said Newling.
“…Of which you were unaware,” he finished, seeing the blankness on Taylor’s face.
“Yes, that one. What was the mission?”
Taylor knew he was putting Newling in an impossible position, stuck between the demands of his Minister and the orders of the Primus. He didn’t particularly care, though. Either he was going to survive or not, and if he didn’t have control of his Ministry, if he didn’t know what was going on with the people under him, then he couldn’t live up to his promise to Nicole.
“She ordered us to attack the habitat,” Newling said blandly. “We were ordered to enter warp and then launch our missiles.”
“That’s impossible! The warp shear would destroy them as soon as they cleared the field!”
Newling nodded. “That’s the answer I got when I finished complaining and bothered to ask. As far as our engineers know, there’s no way to attack from within warp.”
“What are you going to, no, scratch that. How can I help you, Captain?”
Newling was surprised by his offer and it showed.
“Oh, come on!” said Taylor. “Nicole put you in this position for a reason, and from what I’ve seen and read she was absolutely right. Taking you out of it because you didn’t obey an idiotic order would make me just as much of an idiot!”
“I’m not sure, Minister,” Newling said. “My report, which you’ve seen, touches on the Endeavour.”
“Yes, I saw. Would you like to expand? Think of it as a practice run. Plus, this way I can make the same argument when I defend you.”
“Our sensors work fine for seeing objects out of warp, but we can’t see other ships in warp.”
“Why? Genuine ignorance, Captain.”
“All of our sensors are limited by light-speed, Minister. We can see from warp into normal space, though it takes some time to get the readings. The computer has to extrapolate quite a lot, based on course, speed, and other data. But we just don’t have the ability to see while in warp; we leave the sensor readings behind, as it were.”
“I think I follow you. What does that have to do with Endeavour and the Primus’s mission?”
“We knew where Endeavour was when we launched, and we kept track of them when we went into warp. Then they began their pursuit, we presume, and entered warp as well. That’s where we lost track of them.”
“Here’s my logic, Minister,” started Taylor, and if he felt any lingering traces of doubt he kept it out of his voice. “We couldn’t launch missiles from warp; my engineers will testify to that, and I think I can get Dr. Carnahan to do so as well. We could only attack the station if we left warp, but once we left warp the Endeavour would be upon us in no time. I don’t know how fast they can travel, but we know it’s hugely fast, far more than we can currently achieve. That gave us only a small window to attack, possibly too small to flood their defenses. It also left us open to retaliation. I tried to discover the location of Endeavour, and wait them out, but we know that their ships are capable of long-endurance cruising. We aren’t. So I chose to abort the attack.”
“It seems that the Primus was trying for a coordinated attack,” said Taylor. “You heard about the disaster with the SUN ships?”
“I did. I knew three of the captains. There were no survivors?”
“Four ships, over a thousand crew, eight survivors.”
“And they did this from the habitat?”
“We didn’t detect any of their shuttles nearby, their dammed fighters were busy with our attack, and their starships were occupied elsewhere.”
“From L5?” Newling was shocked.
“From L5,” Taylor agreed. “I see what the Primus was trying to do: if you had been able to attack as she hoped, it would have put the habitat between two walls of missiles. Unfortunately, she organized your attack herself, without consulting me, which meant she didn’t get the advice she needed. Then again, we don’t have the missile throw weight we used to, and except for you, nothing that can stand up to the Federation’s starships, so maybe she was right not to come to me.”
“So what do I do now? At some point she’s going to look for someone to blame, and I did disobey her orders.”
“Funnily enough, I think you’re about to have a comms failure. It won’t prevent you from resupplying, though I’d expedite if I were you.”
“We don’t need much,” said Newling. “There’s only one more cutter scheduled.”
“Fine. And I’ll write out orders for you before I leave today which will direct you to conduct deep-space tests of your warp drive for, oh, two weeks. Is that within your endurance?”
“Good. By the time you return, either the Primus will have moved on or she will have taken it out on me. One way or another, written orders will cover your departure.”
Newling stuck out his hand. “Thank you, Minister. You seem to be from the same mold as Minister Crozier.”
Taylor took it and shook. “I like to think we are, Captain. And please, if we’re going to ignore the Primus and her directives, you can call me Jake.”
“Diana, security protocol Stone Beta three.”
“Security protocol active, Director Stone.”
“Director?” said Jordan.
“Aye, well, I have different abilities in different roles. If I ask for security as retired Chief Stone, I get basic. If I ask for it as Aunt Mikki, I get more. To get the biggest boom, I have to use my directorship in OutLook.”
There were eight present today: Stone, Jordan, Cass and Jim, Nicole, Huff, Mac, and Tony. The meeting was taking place on Njord in deference to the Artemis refugees, as their knowledge would be critical for next steps.
“I won’t beat about the bush,” said Stone. “We’re here to plan the removal of the Artemis head of state, Vasilia Newling, known as the Primus. We are doing this to end the war between Artemis and the Federation with the loss of the fewest additional lives. This action has been sanctioned at the highest levels, and we can draw on the full resources of the Federation and Via ad Sidera. If you want out, now’s the time to say so, though you are hereby enjoined from discussing this mission with anyone not currently present.”
“Did you memorize that?” asked Jordan.
“Yeah,” admitted Stone. “Had to say it all just right to be official. I do it right, Diana?”
“You did well, Chief.”
“Chief, why am I here?” asked Cassie.
“Well, partly because I wanted Jim here, and I know you don’t like him going places without you. Mostly, though, because you have information that I want us to explore. Not yet,” Stone said, when Cassie was about to speak. “All in time. Fair dinkum?”
“Fair…dinkum? I guess.”
“Any objections? Anyone want out?” Stone let the silence stretch out for ten seconds. “Good. First off, we have to figure out how to do this, and why are you shaking your head Nicole?”
“It doesn’t matter how you remove her if you don’t have a replacement in place. Simply destabilizing the Artemis government is going to lead to chaos, a power struggle, and deaths across all of Artemis.”
“So what?” said Cassie. “Why do we care if Loonies die?”
Stone spoke very carefully. “Because most Loonies are people who don’t want any more part of this than we do, Cassandra. Our conflict is with the leadership, not the citizens.”
“I still don’t see why we should care. They’re trying to kill us, aren’t they? Just a few days ago, right?”
“Cassie, listen to me,” Nicole said.
Cassie’s head pivoted to face Nicole.
“Do you think I want you dead?”
“No, but –”
“What about Bob?” She pointed to Huff.
“My mom? Dad?”
“Chief Stone is exactly right, Cassie. It’s the leadership, and not all of the leadership, which has a problem with the Federation. We remove the leadership, replace it with the right people, and nobody else has to die.”
“I’m still pissed at them,” Cassie insisted.
“Good! Be angry! I am; I had a job I liked, and was doing good work for the people under me, and now all that’s gone. This is the only way I get to go home, Cassie.”
When no further arguments were forthcoming, Nicole resumed her previous point.
“There are members of the Council who would support her removal, Chief. We have to make sure they’re the ones in position to take advantage of Newling’s removal and not others.”
“Who in the Council might support it?”
“I don’t think Kreitzer cares one way or another, as long as he gets to play with his toys,” mused Nicole.
“Kreitzer Newling. Ministry of Technology. Colin Dent, Minister of Intelligence, he’s neutral. We worked well together, and I get the feeling he’d like to have more power than he has. He won’t do anything that will put his family at risk. If Jake survived, he’ll back your play. That’s Jake Taylor, my deputy. Other than those three, there isn’t really anyone else. Oh, maybe Tom Whitmore. I didn’t get to talk to him much, but Davie likes him and thinks he’s a decent enough person.”
“What about Autumn?” said Cassie.
“Autumn Newling. She was in the Rehab Center with us, and she made the arrangements for us to get out.”
“That’s interesting,” said Stone. “A Newling arranged for your escape?”
“That’s correct, Chief,” Jim said. “She did the planning, told us what to do and when, even gave us the passphrase to get into our refuge.”
“Why was she in the Rehab Center?” said Jordan.
“She said she’d been tossed in there for annoying her cousin.”
“Her cousin being Vasilia?”
“Yes. One other time she said it was because she’d been talking at her Ministry, but she didn’t say more.”
“She also said she’d see us outside, remember?” added Cassie.
“She did,” agreed Jim. “A few nights before the escape. She said, ‘We’ll meet again.’ I remember because it was the last time we talked about it.”
“So presumably she got out too,” said Stone. “Mac?”
“You want me to get into the Artemis systems and try to track her down, or do you want me to confirm that she escaped, or maybe both, that would make most sense, especially if I check that first then I won’t waste any time trying to find her, and it would be a good idea if I got into her accounts anyways because then I can trace her contacts and then we have the organization she was part of, although I wonder how much will be left since she got thrown into jail, that’s basically what it was, right, a jail even though they gave it a fancy title, so that’s what I’m going to do, I’ll get her data first, then find out if she’s missing, and ooh, I wonder if she broke anyone else out at the same time, I mean go big or go home right, and then once I do that we’ll know who to look for, good thing we did the hack and left backdoors all over the place, I think I’m going to earn my credits on this one, and oh boy is this going to be fun!”
“Yes,” is all Stone said. She scanned the faces of the other participants and grinned; none of them had gotten the full-on Mac treatment before, and she was happy to see she wasn’t the only one who had trouble with it.
“Nicole, who would take precedence? Kreitzer or Autumn?”
“I don’t know,” she said, frowning. “I sort of remember Autumn from some of my early meetings as Minister; she was a very low-ranking member of the, um, Production Ministry, I think. Kreitzer is a full Minister. But that’s not the only consideration.”
“Autumn is involved in some opposition and Kreitzer doesn’t care,” supplied Jordan.
“That’s part of it. There’s also family connections, how close to Vasilia’s branch they are. That would override any ministerial position.”
“Diana? Any data?”
“Checking. Autumn Newling is first cousin to Vasilia, being the daughter of Vasilia’s late older half-brother. Kreitzer is a second cousin, though of the same generation; he is the son of Vasilia’s great aunt.”
“It seems that Autumn will be the better choice,” said Tony, speaking for the first time. “Now we just have to find her.”
“I have faith in Mac and her electronic henchmen,” said Stone. “Right, so that’s part one, the replacement. Now, how do we go about removing Vasilia without killing off Artemis City?”
“I had a thought about that,” said Jordan, and the discussion was off and running.