You know, you ought to be glad Adam didn’t include all the meetings we had over the months and years these books chronicle.
It seemed like there were two or three of these things every single day, whether it was with the construction gang, the officers, the diplomats… There was always something, and it ate into my time something terrible! Adam’s reduced it down to those which actually had something important happen.
Did you know you can now get all five of the current Cassidy Chronicles novels in a single volume? Yup, Adam went and put them all together. And he added a novelette, The Martian Gambit, about the TFS Nike and what happened under Captain Rene Mikall, a story you can’t get anywhere else. And it’s all just $9.99 for the ebook! Go ahead, check it out. And if you want to put some artwork of Yours Truly up on your walls, click the other button and see what’s out there!
“How did it go?”
Kendra collapsed onto the bench below the room’s main window. “Better than we hoped, actually.”
Cass dropped next to her and pulled Kendra in. “You had me worried. No comms all day?”
“I didn’t think it would go over well in the courtroom if I suddenly started zoning out and talking to myself,” she answered. “And after court finished, Dianna thought we ought to talk about the next steps.”
“Yes, and why wasn’t I invited to that?”
“For the simple reason that there are multiple subpoenas out for your ginger ass which they can’t serve if you’re aboard ship, and Dianna won’t come up to orbit.”
“Subpoenas? For what?”
“From what Dianna said, they want your testimony about my enhanced genetics.”
Cass’s white skin went paler. “But all I know is what you told me, back when we were running from Farrell, I mean Jeffries.”
“Exactly. But you’re a terrible liar; you might try to evade, but we’ve been together for almost nine years, and friends since we were little. They’re not going to let a bland, ‘I don’t recall’ slip by.”
“But it was one conversation! One! You were talking about weirdness about you, and you mentioned your teeth, and your heartrate, and your vision, but that’s all it was. You were trying to reassure me, I think.”
Kendra nodded. “I was, totally. But these sharks aren’t anyone to underestimate. They could twist that into my having knowledge of my background, and that’s what they need to hang ‘fraud’ on me.”
Her eyes took on a wicked gleam. “You should have seen them today, though. We surprised ‘em good!”
“I’ll bet you did.”
“Totally knocked out ninety percent of their case, Dianna estimated. That was totally the central point for them, because fraud is much more difficult for them to prove.”
“Honey, I’m happy that it worked so far. But no more of these surprises, okay? I don’t like arguing with you.” Cass emphasized her point with a hug.
“Agreed. We shouldn’t have to.”
“One point, Admiral,” said Minerva.
“Minna, we didn’t mention your name.” The problem with an omnipresent AI was that she tended to respond to her name as an invitation to participate. On Enterprise, an agreement had been reached that Minerva would only consider herself invited if she heard her chosen nickname, Minna.
“Yes, Admiral, but this information impacts your discussion.”
“Captain Martinez asked us to investigate the possibility that some of the Harriman Trustees might be involved in the pending legal action.”
“I remember that. And?”
“We have to date discovered no connections between any of the Trustees and the case. However, we have determined that, in addition to providing the initial leak of information, the Artemis Ministry of Intelligence is currently funding the legal effort against you through a number of dummy companies. Unfortunately, we have not yet received independent confirmation and thus you cannot present this in court.” Kendra would have sworn she heard the AI shrug. “It does, however, explain why Counselor Forman was so interested in the Njord placement.”
“Thank you, Minna. Now shoo.” She leaned into the hug for a moment before sitting up. “Anyways, enough about the case. We’re having dinner at nineteen with Alley and LJ tonight, remember?”
“No, but Minna reminded me.”
“Good thing we have an Alpha AI to keep your calendar,” Kendra teased, standing and starting towards the bedroom. “Since this is officially unofficial, I’m changing out of my uniform.” She began suiting actions to words.
“Did Alley and LJ getting together catch you by surprise too?” she added.
Cass answered, “No,” as she stood as well. If Kendra was going casual, so was she.
“Really? I totally didn’t see that coming,” Kendra continued.
“It’s been plain as day since the Direwolf demonstration. Didn’t you see how LJ was staring at Alley? Or Alley volunteering to lift her to Njord?”
“Now you mention it, I guess I did notice something,” said Kendra, thinking back to the afternoon of the demonstration.
“What I’m surprised about is how long they kept it under wraps, or tried to. And that reminds me, I invited Mac and Ted. They wanted to talk about the new Defiant-class ships, I think.”
“Who’s watching the girls?” Chief Stone was off doing something for OutLook, Kendra didn’t know what, so finding the occasional minder was a little more challenging.
“Audrey’s volunteered. I think she misses them.” Vanek’s job had become both more and less difficult when the Cassidy’s had moved shipboard. Security itself was easier, as the members of the crew had already been screened before being accepted into Starfleet. On the other hand, she and her team were less connected to the threats that might be afoot from Earthbound opponents. It left her with more time, yes, but more things to fret about.
“Good. Do you have time for a shower?” said Kendra.
“Have I ever said no to you?”
By eighteen thirty both were clean, dressed, and had sent their daughters off with Audrey. Conversation turned to trivia they had heard as they worked to prepare dinner. They could easily have replicated it, but they both enjoyed cooking, even if they did take shortcuts.
“Bet you don’t know who got the XO slot for the Flying Tiger squadron,” asked Cass.
“Nope. I knew that Wrangler’s EM didn’t want any part of it, but I didn’t hear who did.”
“Hangover’s EM, believe it or not.”
“Wait. Wilcox, right?”
“The one who barely passed flight school?”
“Second time she did better. Yup.”
“How the hell did she manage that?”
“Well, Wrangler was sort of stuck when EM Self took himself out, no pun intended.”
“Right. You have the salt?”
“Here you go. Anyways, he figured he’d throw it open to the whole squadron, but he didn’t tell any of them. He enlisted Flashdance’s help and they came up with a bitch of a practice scenario. I think,” Cass reflected, “They were trying to impress you.”
“You, dear, you and your television shows. You know what the most downloaded content is for the Federation, as a whole?”
“Uh, no,” said Kendra, thrown off by the apparent non sequitur.
“The various Star Trek shows. Anyways, they even called this their ‘Kobayashi Maru’ test. What was that again?”
“It was supposed to be a no-win scenario to show cadets that they could do everything right and still lose. Supposed to measure their reaction to failure.”
“Right. So they snagged a bunch of simulator time and ran every single pilot and engineer through the test. Nobody beat the test, which is what they expected. What they didn’t expect is that, without exception, every single man and woman took at least two tries.”
“Good for them!”
“Yeah, well, Wilcox took eight tries at it. Nearly made it through on the last; it took a, ah, ‘intervention’ on the part of Flashdance to keep the test’s reputation intact.”
“At anywhere between forty and ninety minutes each.”
Kendra whistled as she stirred. “No wonder they promoted her.”
“Oh, it wasn’t the number of attempts, or even how close she came.”
“Then what was it?”
“The fact that she spent the time waiting for her next turn helping her fellows.”
Kendra nodded. “That’s an even better reason.”
“That’s what they thought. So, Wilcox got the XO slot.”
The door chime sounded. As one, Kendra and Cass said, “It’s Mac.”
“You are correct,” announced Minerva. “And Captain Martinez has just transported aboard.”
The next few minutes were filled with greetings and chatter. Quickly everyone settled down and conversation turned to more meaningful topics.
“Mac, you look like you’re going to burst. What’s up?” said Kendra.
“Ohmigod, Kendra, you won’t believe what happened, well, I suppose you of all people will, it’s not like improbable things don’t happen around you, so I guess you’d be used to it, and how do you deal with that, isn’t it like rolling an eleven every time at craps, not that I play craps any more, not since that time in Vegas, but you don’t want to hear about that.”
Kendra had found that the best way to deal with Mac was to keep a large supply of placid faces on hand and constantly exchange them as they wore out. “Mac, what is your news?”
“Oh, yeah, so it happened!”
Change placid face. “What happened, Mac?”
“We got it!”
“Got what, Mac?”
Ted, mercifully, intervened. “What Amanda is trying to say is that we finished our acquisition of Zorin Industries and now have access to as many Alphas as we need.”
“Amanda?” asked LJ, who only voiced what everyone else was thinking.
“Mac,” answered Ted at the same time that Mac said, “Me!”
Cass, after laughing, spoke first. “Sorry, Ted, Amanda. We’ve known you as ‘Mac’ for so long…”
“Oh, I’m still Mac, Ted’s the only one who calls me Amanda, well, except my mom, and my sister, though my sister doesn’t call me Amanda all the time, actually she calls me ‘Brat’, but that’s because she’s older than me.”
“Mac, Ted, nicely done!” exclaimed Kendra. “I knew you were the right ones for this job. Tell me, Ted, how did you get around the two Alpha limit?”
“Simple. We used a dummy company to purchase Zorin, then sold it off to Via ad Sidera. Zorin, of course, is exempt from the two Alpha limit; it would be tough to only have two AI’s on hand if you’re in the business of selling them. And, since Via ad Sidera is essentially the purchasing and logistics arm for the Federation, it’s just an internal transfer. Not subject to regulation.”
“There’s also the fact that the Federation is off-Earth. Turns out that the law, as written, only applies to Terrestrial organizations.”
“But doesn’t the Federation have a presence on Earth?” LJ questioned.
“Which is why the transfer is so important.”
LJ said, “I can see that.”
She’d looked nervous when first introduced around; she hadn’t spent much time at all with Cass and Kendra, and almost none with Ted and Mac. But Alley’s relaxed attitude rubbed off on LJ, and except for an occasional reassuring glance between them she was handling things.
“So when can we get AI for the Defiant and Defender?” said Kendra.
“Any time. That brings me to the other thing.”
“What other thing?” Cass said. “And who needs a drink?”
Ted waited as Cass and Ken served drinks before answering.
“You remember the project that Dr. Quinn and Diana were playing with?”
“No,” Kendra answered honestly.
“I do,” said Alley. “Something to do with a medical AI?”
“Yes, exactly,” said Ted. “They wanted to create a diagnostic tool that could fill in if the doctor was busy, or injured.”
“Like the EMH!” Cass exclaimed. “I remember that one!”
“Right, right,” said Kendra. “That wasn’t one of my favorites, to be honest, but yeah. Okay, they were working on an EMH. And they’ve figured it out?”
“Um, I feel kinda stupid, but what’s an EMH?” LJ asked.
“It was a holographic representation of a doctor on one of Kendra’s pet television shows,” explained Cass. “Voyaging, or something like that.”
“Okay, but how does that help?” LJ said quizzically. “I mean, so it tells you you have a broken leg, what good is that? It can’t exactly set the leg.”
“That’s the thing,” picked up Ted. “That show – and it was Voyager, Cass.”
“Of course it was.”
“They weren’t far off. Oh, it was purely a dream, over a century ago, but between our AI’s, the holographic avatars that people use these days, and the pressor beams that the grav plates make possible, Diana figured they could do it. She and Joe have been working on it ever since, and now they think they’ve got it ready. So much so that they want permission to install the projectors in the medical bays of Defiant and Defender, as well as Njord. I think we ought to start with Njord; for one thing, the bays are already complete, so it’s just a matter of a few upgrades.”
“I don’t have an issue with that,” Kendra said. “And with Zorin onboard, we have the AI’s to spare.”
Mac was shaking her head. “They don’t want an Alpha, Kendra, because that would just be overkill, it’s really not a difficult thing for the AI to manage since it’s a dedicated system, I’ve looked over the design and they really did a clean build on it, there won’t be any problem even with Gammas installed, and that wouldn’t lead to any tricky balancing like we have to do on Endeavour because Gammas just don’t conflict with Alphas, they can’t complete, and besides like I said it’s a dedicated system, not hooked into any of the ship’s functions.”
“Gammas? Fine. Whatever they want. And on that note, I think that supper is ready.”
Conversation returned to lighter topics during dinner when there was conversation at all. Neither Cass nor Ken were gourmet chefs, but they understood flavors and spices and textures.
As the meal wrapped up, Kendra asked LJ, “How are your quarters?”
It was an innocent question, but LJ froze in mid-drink.
“Did I say something wrong?” said Kendra, looking to Alley.
“No,” Alley replied. “You didn’t.” She nudged LJ.
“No, Admiral,” LJ parroted.
“’Admiral’? What’s going on here?” Kendra was suddenly more alert.
“Well,” began LJ, then stopped. She looked to Alley, who nodded her head very slightly. LJ took a deep breath and then started again.
“I’ve pretty much moved into Alley’s quarters. The only reason we had to transport over was that Alley was helping me finish cleaning on Endeavour.”
“That was nice of her,” said Kendra neutrally, not letting LJ off the hook.
“Yes, it was. Um. We’ve been talking,” she said, then rested her hand on Alley’s on the table, interlacing her fingers. “And I’d like to transfer over to the same position on the Enterprise. I’ve already cleared it with Captain Stewart, and found my replacement.”
“Very proactive. Who?”
“Ashley Jadwinski. She was one of my crew from HLC and knows the Direwolves almost as well as me.”
“She willing to sign on to Starfleet?”
Alley answered. “Yes. Kiri wants to bring her in as an Ensign; that’ll keep her senior to most of Double Dip’s pilots.”
“And what about you, LJ?”
“If I’m with Alley, I’ll take your shilling.” She smiled. “Alley even likes my cats.”
“Cats? Oh, I remember. What were their names?”
“There’s Theo; he’s the grey one, and Luciferous Dimples.”
Cass chuckled. “Quite a name.”
“She’s quite the cat,” agreed LJ. “We call her Luci for short. She can be a handful.”
“Hold on, before you start calling up holos, let’s get this settled. Alley, you on board with this?”
“Absolutely. Even with my experience with the Daleys.”
Kendra nodded slowly. Alley’s Navy command had been taken away because she’d tangled with the ruling family of the Northern Imperium. Unsurprisingly, she’d been left extremely averse to anything that smacked of nepotism. If she was willing to put that aside for LJ, it was love mixed with a heavy dose of competence on LJ’s part.
“Done. We’ll make it official tomorrow. We’ve been treating you as a Lieutenant, right LJ?”
“Well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s what we’ll bring you in as. Although I’m curious, LJ. Why the change of heart? I mean, you didn’t want to join; I remember that from our first meeting.”
“No, I didn’t. But I’ve had long enough to see what you’re doing, what you’re trying to do, and I’m with that. And,” she suddenly stopped, tongue-tied. She looked at Alley, flushed slightly, and then turned back to Kendra. “Things change,” she finished.
“That they do,” she agreed, and a concurring rumble rolled around the table. “That they do.”