For all that Mikki complained she was a SEAL, not a secret agent, she was actually pretty good at it.
This was her second clandestine mission to Luna, and she was feeling the pressure, which is probably why she dealt with the hired crew the way she did. Not a complaint or a criticism, just an observation, because it was certainly effective!
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.
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO
“I can’t believe that there are still Lunar tours going in the middle of a war,” muttered Stone, looking at the tourists milling around the lounge.
“Seems pretty silly,” agreed Jordan.
“We should be thankful there are,” said Mac. “If there weren’t, I wouldn’t have been able to book us into anything, let alone a VIP, high-end, rich bitch wife of a politician on a whim wanting to see the moon today and not wait for the regular tours so she’s hired out a freighter and is going to make the run on her own with only her besties with her plus a mountain of luggage, but that wasn’t the hard part, the tough part was creating her diplomatic immunities so that we’re going to get in without being searched, you know how tough that was because frankly there aren’t a lot of countries that Artemis actually likes on Earth so I hope you are comfortable being from Luxembourg, actually nobody is really from there it’s more of a tax dodge than a real country, I mean it’s real enough, like there’s an actual place but it’s really small, anyways Joe put them together for us, the basic ID’s that is, and it was up to Harpo and me to get them fleshed out but here we are and where are you going Chief?”
“I need a bloody drink.”
“Oh, well, yeah, I guess that’s a good idea, we ought to look like we’re blending in with the rest of the customers, it’s been a while since I was off Njord, and longer since I took a field mission, it kinda feels good you know Alyssa?”
“Yes?” guessed the blonde. “Um, I think I ought to study my identity.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s a good idea, I ought to do that too, I mean I have it downloaded into my ‘plant so that I have access all the time, it’s not like it was an easy name, Julissa Zednanreh, but we know it works because it’s been used before, anyways I’ve got it programmed so that it gives me reminders whenever I might be going into a situation that might be troublesome, you know, sometime that I’d be likely to forget my role, if you want I can download the same programming to you and to the Chief, it might be helpful, don’t you think?”
“Mac, go get a drink,” said Stone, returning from the bar. “See if you can get into the systems again and smooth our way. I know that you and Harpo can do magic, but let’s set ourselves up for success, eh?”
“Good idea Chief, gee, thanks for thinking of that, and yeah, I’m thirsty, I don’t know why.”
Mac stood and went to the bar; from the look on the bartender’s face, she was just being herself.
“How long have you known her?” asked a shell-shocked Jordan.
“Almost seven years.”
“Has she always been like that?”
“Like what?” Stone said innocently, then relented. “Yeah. Pretty much.”
“Titania’s Tits, the woman can talk!”
“Yeah, but she makes some good sense, once you filter it.”
“Better you than me.”
“You haven’t studied your cover yet, have you?”
“I’m the muscle. She’s Miss Rich Bitch. You’re her personal secretary slash attendant slash minder, which means you get to spend every waking minute with her while I go off occasionally and do my thing.”
“Aye. That sums it up. Here.” Stone pushed her mostly-full glass over to Jordan.
“Whiskey. Best they have on this shack. You’re going to need anaesthetic.”
The SS Bernado de la Paz was what would have been called, two centuries earlier, a tramp freighter. The ship itself was nearly a half-century old. She had started life as the United Earth Space Cargo Vessel Gustav IV before being sold in 2086 to a consortium of shipping companies. Since then she had passed through numerous owners, all buying into the idea that they had what it took to get rich plying cargo through the Inner System. Eventually they had all learned that they didn’t and sold the ship, at increasingly lower prices, to the next sucker.
The de la Paz was now owned by a small company which was barely keeping its head above water, and so the sudden offer from, well, it wasn’t entirely clear where the offer came from.
When they were offered over a year’s income to rent the de la Paz for a trip to Luna, they were thrilled.
When it was explained that it wouldn’t involve any freight, they were ecstatic.
When they were told their crew wouldn’t be needed, they were less sanguine, but then they were told every registered member of the officers and crew would receive a bonus worth three months’ salary, they shrugged and accepted it.
“Jesus, this tub is junk,” complained Sam DiPasquale, the temporary Captain. He’d been going through Wolf training, third in his cohort, when he’d been snagged for this mission. He had experience running orbits for HLC before moving over to Starfleet, which explained why his name pinged the computer’s checklist.
“The engines are good,” said Sid Douglas. He’d been brought in from HLC to baby the engineering section, expecting the worst. Unlike DiPasquale, he’d been pleasantly surprised by the conditions he’d found.
“Great. So we’ll get to Luna no problem, but we’ll have lost half the hull to stress and metal fatigue. I’m serious, Sid, this shouldn’t even be in a parking orbit, let alone shuttling between here and Luna!”
“Environmental checks out too.” That came from Harry Spitz, an enviro tech from the Njord.
“Navigation seems to function, though these sensors are total shit.” Kailie Winland was the youngest member of the ad hoc crew, pulled out of the Federation Academy to act as navigator.
“This stuff isn’t any better than the antiques they have in the Artemis Mission exhibits.”
“Will it get us there safely?” asked DiPasquale.
“Do any of you know why we’re doing this?” said Spitz. “I mean, I got called into the Commodore’s office and ‘voluntold’ I’d be aboard.”
“Pretty much the same,” said DiPasquale. “I was going through a simulation when the hatch opens and I’m sent to get my duffel and my skinsuit. Next thing I know, I’m on a Wolf for Capricorn Station.”
“Speculation will be the death of ye,” said a new voice with an Australian accent, and the four spun to the bridge’s lone hatch.
“And who the blazes are you?” demanded DiPasquale.
“Depends on how official you want to make this. Right now, I’m just a friendly voice suggesting you not wonder about this too much.” Her voice was still friendly enough, but he could hear the steel of command underneath.
She was tall and muscular, probably about fifty, and DiPasquale was suddenly sure he didn’t want to know anything else. Maybe it was the trident he could see tattooed on one bicep, or perhaps the lethal way her body moved.
“Just curious. Nothing important,” he said now. “Nothing to get official about.”
“Excellent. Your passengers are all aboard and we can depart any time.” She nodded once then left, closing the hatch behind her.
“What was that?” asked Winland.
“That was trouble if ever I saw it,” said DiPasquale. “Spitz, get on the radio, get us clearance to depart. I think the sooner we can get to Luna the happier we’ll all be. Sid, get down to engineering. I’m going to push this bird as hard as I can and I really don’t need the engines to fail. Winland, lay in our course and be prepared to move us as soon as we’re clear.”
“Okay,” Winland said, turning to the boards. “But I still want to know who that was.”
“When we get back, if we get back, which is a question that wasn’t a question until just now, you look up Master Chief Stone in the Starfleet database. For now, enough chatter. We’ve got a run.”