I really stepped in it this time.
Let me back up and address another elephant in the room.
Some of Adam’s readers have protested the division of priorities during the course of the Artemis War. They argue that, as a military organization, all of our resources and attention should have been devoted to defeating Artemis as quickly as possible.
And they have a point. If we were a military organization.
We weren’t. We aren’t. Yes, we use military ranks; yes, we have weapons and plans. But the primary mission of Starfleet is exploration, not combat. We are prepared to fight in order to ensure our ability to carry out our mission.
So of course we continued the exploratory cruises as soon as we possibly could!
Now, back to my messy foot.
I was still a rank novice at the whole ‘chain of command’ think with Alley, and she called me out on it. Which I needed, I’ll admit, and I won’t say anything else.
You’re running out of time! Got to enter to win, right? Win what? Oh, nothing much, just a $50 Restaurant.com gift card. That’s all; no big deal.
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE
Kendra walked out of the lift onto the bridge.
“Captain, you said there was something interesting? What’s so interesting it couldn’t go over the comms? Especially at dinner?”
“Ah, Admiral. Yes. There is a locked signal for you. Minerva?”
“Message received from Buoy 2, Captain Kiri Stewart sending, attention Admiral Kendra Cassidy. ‘Does anyone want to take up farming? I have lots of land to sell you, cheap.’ Message ends.”
“Do you want me to repeat the message, Admiral?”
“No, no, I got that. Something about farming. The buoys worked?”
“It would seem,” said Alley. “I think you’re a little too focused, Kendra.”
The use of her name in front of the crew, instead of her rank, snapped Kendra’s attention back.
“Minerva, the message again?”
“’ Does anyone want to take up farming? I have lots of land to sell you, cheap,’” the AI dutifully repeated.
“Where are they, Kendra?”
Kendra frowned, recalling the mission plan, then smiled broadly. “40 Eridani. Vulcan! Zeus’s brass balls, they found Vulcan!”
“Not quite, but close,” said Alley. “Kiri attached their preliminary sensor results.”
She couldn’t hold back her matching smile.
“They found chlorophyll, Kendra. Plants. Extra-solar life!”
The exuberant yelp drew stares from some of the second shift crew, who weren’t as used to Kendra’s ways.
“We’ve got to get there!” she exclaimed. “Joel, set a course!”
The helmsman looked back to the duty officer. “Lieutenant?”
Datu looked to Alley. “Captain?”
“Kendra, my ship, remember?”
“Sorry, sorry, sorry! It’s just, oh, man, Alley, this is amazing!”
“Yes, and it’ll still be amazing when we can get there. After Endeavour returns and we have a better idea what we’re looking at, and we’re not leaving Njord undefended.”
“And we have a mission planned to Lemnos next week, remember?”
“And you’re not going to drop this, are you?” It wasn’t a question.
“Admiral, let’s talk. Privately. Ms. Datu, you have the conn.” Alley didn’t really hear Datu’s reply as she strode to her ready room, Kendra in tow.
“Why do I feel like I’ve been sent to the principal’s office?”
“Because, Admiral, you’re coming dangerously close to crossing a line.”
Kendra dropped into the seat across from Alley’s desk.
“Okay. Educate me. I thought I was in charge?”
“You are,” said Alley, sitting more deliberately. “In general. On any given ship, though, you’re a passenger.”
“A passenger. I can’t believe this hasn’t come up before.”
“Well, until a few months ago, I was pretty much stuck on Njord.”
“Okay, good point. Let me see if I can explain this so it makes sense, given your background.”
Alley was silent for a couple minutes.
“I think I’ve got it. When you were in sensies, you had a director and a producer, as well as all the actors, right?”
“Right, and a crew to do filming and other things. If it was a big production. If it was small, like when I got started on my own, I was often the producer and director and one of the stars.”
“Okay, good information, but it’s really not important to this. The producer had a vision for the film, which they’d tell the director, right?”
“And the director would then tell the actors how to do each scene in order to match with the producer’s vision.”
“More or less.”
“Did the producer ever tell the director what to say to the actors?”
“No; the producer was usually somewhere else. When they saw the rough footage, if they didn’t like what was done that day, they’d correct the director and clarify their vision. Well, the good ones did. The bad ones fired the director and brought in a new one.”
“Right. On board a ship, even a starship, it’s similar. The CO, in this case you, is the same as the producer. The Captain, me, is the director. The crew are the actors. You have a vision, a mission, which needs doing. You tell me what the mission is, and then I go off and do it, using my XO to do the actual directing of the crew.”
“I never thought of it that way.”
“No, I didn’t think you had. And what you said about doing all the roles, I hadn’t thought of and explains a bunch. The point, Kendra, is once you tell me what the mission is, you let me do it. You don’t override me, and you don’t jump in and start giving orders. It would be like a producer cutting out the director and going to the actors. Would it end well?”
“No; didn’t happen often, but it was a disaster when it did.”
Kendra nodded ruefully.
“I really put my foot in it, didn’t I?”
“Well, yes. But I wouldn’t worry about it unless it happens again; the crew loves you and they’re completely used to you getting carried away. They won’t take this the wrong way.”
“I’m glad; the last thing I want to do is undermine you.”
“Most of ‘em think you can walk on water, and those that don’t haven’t met you yet.”
Alley’s voice turned serious again.
“We can get out to 40 Eridani after the mission to Lemnos; the two systems are less than six light years apart. Lemnos is thirteen hours at warp six; from there to the 40 Eridani system is seven, and return from Eridani is nineteen. We can do it, Admiral.”
Kendra looked like a child given a ten-credit note and told to go get herself some candy. “Then make it so, Captain.”
Kendra deflated. “Aye, Captain. Next week.”
Then she shrugged.
“It’s not like I can really leave this week anyways.”
“The Miner’s Guild have accepted the draft treaty, as is, no changes. All we have to do is sign and we just got ourselves another ally. Oh, yes, I’ll need a ride to Ceres for the signing.” She paused for thought. “You know, we’ve got ourselves the beginnings of a proper star nation.”
“And another vulnerability,” said Alley. “They’re spread out all over, Kendra.”
“But we don’t have to defend all over.”
“Once the Guild lets Artemis know they’re pulling out of the Union, the Primus will be pissed, right?”
“And she’ll try to attack them, right?”
“But Artemis is a second-and-a-half away from us at light speed. We’ll know what they’re trying to do, and can intercept before they leave orbit.”
“Ah, I see what you mean. We don’t have to defend the asteroids as much as bottle up Artemis.” Alley’s brief grin faded.
“But they have more ships than we do. They can flood space with them and we won’t know who to chase.”
“If we can keep fracturing the Union politically, we can isolate Artemis. If we can isolate them, then we can blockade them and keep any of those ships from ever leaving orbit.”
“I hope you’re right.”
“So do I, Alley. So do I.” She shook herself and put on her best persuasive smile.
“Next week. We’re going to make a big show of this, putting the beginnings of the orbital habitat in place around Lemnos and exploring the first extra-solar life. Kim signed off on Susana and Deone staying embedded –”
“Thank you ever so much, Admiral, for that little bit of joy.”
“We’re going to get press; it may as well be press that likes and supports us.”
“As I was saying. We’ve got the press, but let’s beef up science for this mission. Do you think Kiri will give up her department for a week?”