There wasn’t a whole bunch going on in this book…
I was trying to figure out how to fight the stupid court case which I was faced with; Endeavour was getting up to speed on their patrolling, Enterprise was doing their exploration thing, and meanwhile the Direwolves were starting to come online in quantities which actually made a difference.
And that’s where we are today: Double Dip, Shooting Star, and the rest of the recruits in the new Direwolves.
Adam’s got a new collection; isn’t the cover cool? He’s gathered the four volumes which contain the Artemis War, the prequel (telling how Cass and I got started on this crazy road), plus an exclusive novelette, The Martian Gambit, all in one place and then slapped a price of $9.99 on it all.
Personally I think he’s nuts, but hey, I just lived it.
If you want to order, click the cover image or the button below.
As usual, the audio for this installment is at the bottom, and you can also buy the book in any format by clicking the other button or any of the cover images.
“Nymeria Squadron, you are cleared to approach the shuttlebay.”
“Roger, Endeavour,” Double Dip answered. “Shooting Star, you and second division are lead. First division, hold position on me until they’re clear.”
The Endeavour was stationed ten thousand kilometers away from the habitat, waiting. The attack the previous month had brought everyone’s attention to the need for a more flexible response. That meant the Direwolves. The problem was the squadron wasn’t a cohesive whole yet.
That meant four weeks of hell for the pilots and their commander. Daniela and Ashlyn had run their divisions ragged, practicing coordination and operating as cohesive units for up to sixteen hours a day. Plus they needed to learn how to operate from the shuttlebay of the Endeavour, not the bay of Njord. That was an entirely separate problem which added to the training burden.
Somehow they had managed it without any casualties. Now it was time to transfer onto the starship.
LJ had her crew, both HLC specialists and Starfleet personnel, ready for the recovery operations. She was overseeing the process, with Pollux communicating with the various Epsilon AI’s in the Direwolves to handle the fiddly bits. If LJ was being honest, it was all fiddly bits, and she was just there to keep a human presence in the loop. Still, this was what she’d been brought in to do, and she was going to do it.
“Endeavour, Nymeria squadron. On approach.”
Ashlyn had thought about showing her pilots how it was done and shooting the landing first, but decided against it.
“Rubberneck, you’re up first. Ready?”
“I’m good, Double S.” Daniela was the only member of the squadron who still used her full handle; her pilots had shortened it to Double S, and she’d let the new nickname stick.
“Take it nice and easy.”
The Direwolf was already turning to align with the bay, throttling back until he was crawling along at only five meters per second.
“Nymeria Three on approach,” he radioed to LJ.
“Roger, Nymeria Three. You’re right on the beam.”
“You’re looking good, Rubberneck,” added Ashlyn.
“With all due respect, Double S, shut up. I’m trying to concentrate.”
She suppressed a snort. Rubberneck occasionally forgot that she was a rank higher than him.
“Eighty meters,” LJ said. “Adjust course three degrees starboard.”
“Three degrees starboard,” acknowledged Robertson.
“Decelerate to two MPS.”
“Two MPS, check.”
The range between the fighter and the shuttlebay closed, with LJ calling a couple more minor corrections.
“Nymeria Three, cut your engines. We’ve got you from here.”
The Endeavour shuttlebay was built into the engineering hull, with the bay door opening directly aft. Fighters and shuttles could land under their own power, of course, but the bay also mounted powerful tractor beams which would be the standard method of landing. Those same tractors would also move and turn the ships docked in the bay.
Now, one of those tractors locked onto Rubberneck’s ship and pulled it inward to his designated landing spot.
“Talk about hands-off,” Rubberneck radioed.
“Cut the chatter and concentrate. You’re going to have to be able to do this someday.”
“Sure, Double S.”
“That’s an order, Rubberneck.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He realized he’d crossed a line and his voice reflected it.
His ship came in under the bay’s control, smoothly sliding into the slot marked ‘3’.
“Power down, Nymeria Three.”
“Remain in your ship until all craft are recovered.”
The rest of Ashlyn’s division, having seen Rubberneck’s approach and landing, followed his lead. In minutes they were all in their stalls and it was Ashlyn’s turn.
“Nymeria Two, you’re up.”
“Endeavour, request unassisted approach.”
“Ashlyn, what are you doing?” commed Daniela.
“Making a point, boss.”
“Nymeria Two, unassisted approach granted.”
“Here we go,” said Ashlyn. “Starbuck, keep me on the straight and narrow.”
Ashlyn, like Daniela, had named her AI and interacted with it frequently. Most of the other pilots weren’t as comfortable with AI and treated them purely as mechanical assistants, and so that’s all they got. The commander and XO, though, had turned their AI’s into active assistants, with distinct personalities. This had benefits and drawbacks; the personalities had quirks.
“Got it, sweetheart.”
“Why do you talk like this?” Ashlyn asked for not the first time.
And his response was the same as other times. “Hey, what can I say? Your boss made the choice of ‘Boomer’ for her Epsilon because of the Admiral’s obsession with television. You expected me to be anyone else?”
She swore she could hear a cigar being held between his nonexistent lips; she’d tracked down the source of his personality just to keep up with the slang.
“Okay, smooth and easy.”
“That’s my specialty.”
“Call the range.”
“Two hundred meters, speed ten MPS. One fifty, eight MPS. One hundred, five MPS. Fifty, five MPS. Twenty, three MPS. Ten, two MPS. Coming up on zero/zero. And zero.”
“Give me a burst to land.”
“You got it, babe.”
The touchdown was a subtle bump.
“Nymeria Two, you’re down. Power down and wait for clearance to debark.”
“Slick as drawing a full pyramid,” said Starbuck.
Oblivious to the interplay within the bay, Daniela commed her division. She had taken the more junior pilots, since she was the squadron commander, and though she believed in them she was just a bit nervous.
“Listen up, kids. It’s our turn. Furtado, lead off.”
“Aye, ma’am.” The Ensign (Junior Grade) sounded as young as he was, just barely twenty. “Nymeria Twelve to Endeavor, requesting clearance to land.”
“Endeavour to Nymeria Twelve, clearance granted.”
For all her nervousness, Daniela was an excellent instructor pilot, and her students had listened well. One after another all five ships eased into the bay and snugged into their slots, and then it was her turn.
“This is risky, Double Dip,” answered the AI.
“That’s not what I asked.”
“I’m gonna regret this,” he said. “Ready.”
“Endeavour, Nymeria Actual. Hot approach requested.” Even as she was comming she swung her Direwolf out from the starship and accelerated.
“Hot approach? Negative, Nymeria Actual. Request is not, repeat not, granted.”
“Court martial me,” she said, though she didn’t trigger the mic.
“You really ought to swap with Shooting Star. I think you and Starbuck would get along great,” said Boomer.
“You’d miss all this,” she said, coming around and pushing the throttle full open.
“That would be the point,” Boomer replied. “Max accel.”
At five hundred g, they were rapidly closing on the open bay.
“Flip!” shouted Daniela, pulling on her controls at the same time, and the fighter rotated end-over-end so the engines were pointed at the onrushing ship. “Emergency power!”
Briefly her engines surged, throwing out nearly six hundred g, and her forward momentum was quickly reduced to a more reasonable 100 MPS.
“Five seconds,” said Boomer.
“Rotate ship.” Still flying backwards into the bay, the fighter now rotated about its longitudinal axis so she was at least upright, relative to the deck.
“Kill accel.” This was the agreed-upon command for Boomer to trigger the engines and zero out their momentum. With literally inhuman precision he did so, then nudged the ship to the deck, in the center of their slot at the head of the bay.
“Touchdown,” he reported calmly, if anticlimactically. “Power down?”
“Negative.” She opened the squadron frequency. “EMERGENCY SCRAMBLE!” she shouted, then flipped to the bay channel. “Nymeria Squadron executing emergency launch procedures. Clear the bay!”
The magic word ‘emergency’ galvanized LJ and her crew. “Clear, Nymeria!” All the personnel who were primed to help retrieve the pilots and service the fighters fell back into shelters, closing blast doors and locking down.
“Nymeria Squadron, execute!” Daniela slammed her throttle forward, her ship leapt forward, and they burst from the bay with her AI’s scream of, “Yeeeeee-haaaa!” echoing in the cockpit.
“Ashlyn, you’re Tail End Charlie. Make sure they’re all out!”
“Got it, boss.”
“Squadron, by the numbers, launch! That means you first, Rubberneck!”
In less than a minute, all ten of her junior pilots had powered up, pivoted, and launched.
“Squadron clear, Nymeria Two launching,” commed Ashlyn when the last fighter had cleared the bay.
“We’ve got this,” Starbuck said. “And I’ve thought up a couple little tricks that ought to –”
“No tricks, just get us on station.”
Ashlyn’s ship smoothly cleared the bay and flew to rendezvous with the rest of the squadron.
“On position,” she radioed after a few moments.
“Good job, everyone. That’s how you have to scramble if one of those ships is headed inbound.”
“That was a frakking drill?” complained Hopper.
“Yes, Bun-Bun, it was a drill. That’s the point of drills, getting things right in practice before you need them in real life.” She would have continued but a voice came over the command channel.
“Nymeria Actual, this is Captain Stewart.”
“Oh, frak,” said Boomer.
“Yes, Captain,” answered Daniela. She’d expected this, though maybe not so quickly.
“Any reason I shouldn’t ground you right now and turn your squadron over to your XO for that little stunt? Then have you drummed out of Starfleet?”
“I’m sorry if I worried you, Captain. That wasn’t my intent.”
“Intent or not, you disobeyed a direct order!”
“Can a civilian specialist give an order? Asking for clarification, Captain.”
“Hmmph. Irrelevant. I still ought to ground you.”
“Two points, Captain?”
“First, it was no stunt, Captain. It was a legitimate demonstration of emergency landing and deployment techniques. Unscheduled, perhaps, but totally within my purview as squadron commander.”
Stewart’s voice showed she was unconvinced. “And your second point?”
“The squadron hasn’t officially reported aboard, and therefore I am not officially under your command. If you wish to make a complaint, please address it to my current CO, Lieutenant Fowler.”
There was a heavy sigh over the comm. “You’re a damn space lawyer, Double Dip. Plus I know you and Flashdance are thick as thieves. Very well, you get away with it this time. But if it happens again, I’ll have you stripped of flight status and brought up on charges. Do I make myself clear?”
“Aye, Captain. I’ll be sure to inform LJ, I mean Civilian Specialist Berg, of any upcoming practice maneuvers.”
“See that you do. Oh, and Garcia?”
“That was slick flying. Someday that might just save our bacon. Stewart, out.”
Boomer whistled. “I thought you were done.”
“So did I. Come on, let’s get our sheep into the barn.”