It’s funny to me how things work occasionally.
I didn’t plan to create Cass & Ken’s universe; I certainly didn’t intend to do the kind of elaborate world-building that I’ve been doing lately. When I set out to write these tales, the sum total was a botched wedding.
Of course, I had to build from there. The first thing I did was take the timeline I had created – emulating Heinlein’s Future History – and apply that to the one lonely chapter I had. That led me to the map I had created some mumble-mumble years earlier. That, fleshed out, turned into their slice of the world, and was sufficient for the first volume.
Of course, when I got into the second volume I had to invent a number of extra-terrestrial colonies, give them at least some sort of history, along with a broader view of the Earth than what happened in North America.
Of course, there wouldn’t be much point in writing science fiction if I didn’t include some vaguely plausible science, so I did. Let’s see, replicators and quantum teleportation in the first book. Warp drive, inertial compensators, fusion and antimatter reactors, space-borne missiles, second book. Oh, and don’t forget about descriptions of extra-solar planets. Third book we added antimatter bombs, right? And the fourth book, well, you’ll see. *SPOILERS*
Plus we’re getting more into the politics and economics of the various polities.
All this because three people wanted to get married on a sunny summer afternoon.
Before I let you get into the chapter, one word: I’m still looking for eARC readers, and you still have time to apply. Watch this video and then you can decide!
“This isn’t my strength, so I want you to all to bear with me.”
“Chief, I’ve gotten to know you pretty well the past several lunars; sorry, months. Frankly, I don’t think there isn’t anything you can’t do.”
Chief Stone nodded her thanks to Whitmore. “That said, the reason we’re here is to develop the best intelligence we can on what Artemis is likely to do next. I’m going to go around and give your name and your position, if you don’t mind; there are a few new faces here, and a couple faces that aren’t usually part of this kind of get-together.”
A murmured acceptance greeted these words and she nodded again.
“Starting to my left, Cristina Montana, Director of OutLook. She’s in charge of gathering intelligence for the Federation, and in some sort of strange way my CO, but I don’t hold that against her.” Montana shrugged that off; while Stone was technically on the OutLook payroll, nobody would ever confuse her with some sort of subordinate.
“Robert Huff, formerly of the Artemis Navy and commander of the ANS Gordon. He’s been helping us with tactical and operational information since his capture last year. Artemis refused repatriation for him and the other survivors we recovered.” Huff was in late middle age and seemed uncomfortable wearing non-military clothes. One got the impression, if you squinted hard enough, he’d still be wearing his uniform. The patch he wore over the eye he lost in the battle only added to his military air.
“Dr. Val Roberts. She’s one of the geniuses behind the warp drive and has taken time away from her development of the next generation to be here.” Roberts was nearing fifty, but had achieved the permanently-rumpled look of the serious researcher before she was thirty and had held onto it ever since. She spent most of her time in her labs aboard Njord, working her assistants hard and her Beta AI, Prometheus, harder. As a result each iteration of the warp drive was more refined and capable than the last.
“Davie Whitmore, former Artemesian Minister of War. She survived the Primus’s attempt to have her killed by disappearing into the Artemis City underworld and staying there for six lunars. Since she was recovered, she’s been an invaluable resource and a most unexpected ally.” Whitmore was whipcord-thin and tall, as many Artemesians were, with short-cropped hair and a surprisingly relaxed attitude. It was the look of a woman who had faced her own mortality, come to grips with it, and when it passed her by decided to appreciate whatever came next.
“James Moore. He’s an engineer from Artemis who was most recently working on the installation of a warp drive into the Averroes, the lead ship in a new design.” Moore was about forty and had a serious mien, eyes lined and his face bearing the tell-tale signs of someone who spent many hours suited and in vacuum. He looked to have been an athlete at some point in his past, though he was slowly softening.
“James spent some time as an involuntary guest of MinSec with the woman next to him, Cassandra Carnahan.”
Startled, the woman jumped at her name, getting reactions of comfort from both Moore and the woman to her right. She was medium height, with olive skin, mahogany eyes, brown hair so dark to be nearly black, and the toned body of a professional athlete, but her eyes were haunted.
“She’d been brought to Luna unwillingly and when her mother found her an inconvenience she was tossed into the same prison as Mr. Moore. She earned her place here today, ladies and gentlemen. Make no mistake.”
Her tone softened slightly. “Jim, how are you doing with your implants? And Nicole?”
The two participants looked to her at that and both unconsciously rubbed their jaws.
“It’s helped,” said Jim. “Much more than I expected.”
“Yes,” agreed the woman. “I don’t think I could have gotten around without it.”
The implants that both had received were, among other things, nanobot factories. The nanobots worked tirelessly to optimize the functionality of the bodies they occupied, including increasing muscular and skeletal strength, a vital consideration for the two recent Artemesian refugees. Without the internal enhancements, even the station’s reduced gravity would have been more than four times what they had grown up experiencing.
“Next, Nicole Crozier.” The tall, young, blonde woman stood, nodded across to Whitmore, and sat down again next to Cassandra. “She was caught up in the mission to rescue Miss Carnahan, but I have to say she kept her head in a sticky situation and was instrumental in getting yours truly off Luna in one piece. Coincidentally, she too filled the post of Minister of War before being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“Lieutenants Elliott Kay and Raynie Leard, Tactical officers for the TFS Enterprise and TFS Endeavour, respectively. Short of their captains, they are the experts as to the capabilities of their starships in responding to any threats that Artemis may pose.” The two uniform-clad officers, looking out of place, flashed apprehensive smiles to the other attendees.
“Senior Lieutenants Shannon Fowler, called Flashdance, and Daniela Garcia, Double Dip. Flashdance is the senior small craft commander and our most experienced pilot in the Wolf-class MOVs; Double Dip started in Wolves and is now the senior pilot for our Direwolf-class fighters. Each of them will have roles in a defense of this station and Earth.” The two young commanders looked around with equanimity; they’d spent enough time in the Federation, with its relatively loose command structure, to be comfortable with brass and unimpressed by rank.
“Commodore Kyran Knott. They’re in charge of Njord and oversee all of the system’s mobile units, as well of coordinating defense with the assistance of the station AI, Diana.” Kyran was shorter and looked as though they worked out. A serious face looked out on the world from beneath spiky brown hair.
“Finally, the AI’s: Diana and Hecate.” Two holograms ‘sat’ to Stone’s right; one was a representation of the 21st Century actor, Gal Godot, in a navy business suit. The other was a lanky, gawky teenage girl, with bubblegum pink hair tied into pigtails and wearing a garish tee-shirt and shorts, feet stuffed into sneakers. “If you’ve never had reason to interact with her, Diana is the Alpha AI who runs Njord; Hecate is the Beta AI who runs the mobile unit bay.”
“Now. Like I said, the reason we’re all here is to talk about the threats that Artemis and the Union might throw at us in the near future and try to come up with ideas to counter them. I’m not going to say much; this is way over my head. As a SEAL I was always at the pointy end of the stick, not the planning end. Davie.”
“You’ve done this thing for a living. You run it.” It was the most obvious demonstration of trust Stone could think to make to the woman who had once been tasked with destroying the Federation. She hoped it would be enough.
“Thank you, ever so much,” said Whitmore with a grin. “Okay, then. Let’s start with background. Lieutenant Huff, why don’t you…”
Three hours later everyone looked beat, including the AI’s, but Stone felt they’d covered good ground.
“Davie, will you summarize?”
“I can. We’re going to be facing a large, well-armed, warp-capable ship by the end of next month at the latest. It will have a top speed of warp four, we think, and have a massive throw weight, though it won’t mount any defenses at all. Six months after that, there will be three of these ships, though we don’t know about their warp drive. Plus the Artemesian government is actively working on developing their own warp technologies. From our end, we have two full squadrons of Wolves and the Enterprise right now. Within that initial time frame, we should have Endeavour back online, as well as two squadrons of Direwolves. In six months, Defiant should be about ready to commission, and we may have a full wing, six squadrons, of Direwolves, if training and manufacturing come through. And we have the most heavily-armed and -defended habitat ever built by humanity in Njord.”
She took a sip of water. “Longer-term, once the first fabricator is completed, we should be able to increase the pace of production. Then the only bottleneck will be personnel, which we’re already starting to address from the surge in volunteers we recently received. Officers will be a more long-term issue, which we won’t solve today.”
Davie looked around. “Did I miss anything?”
There was a general indication that no, she hadn’t.
“Thank you, Davie. You did that brilliantly. In fact, you did it so well that I think we need to officially add you to Commodore Knott’s staff. Kyran?”
“I agree,” they said. “Davie, I could use you as my Chief of Staff, and someone to run the military side of the station. I’m a builder, an engineer, not a warrior. This is all too much for one person to deal with.”
“Oberon wept, are you serious? A year ago, I was doing my best to stop you!”
“And then you weren’t. Lots can change in a year, Davie. And you’re proof positive of that.” Kyran paused for a moment. “Are you in?”
“I’m honored, Commodore. Yes.”
“Very good. I think you need some rank to give your words emphasis; would Colonel suit you?”
“Well, my Family would say it’s a bit of a step down from Minister, but far better than scavenger in the undercity. I accept.”
“Good. Diana, log that.”
“Yes, Commodore. Logged. Congratulations, Colonel Whitmore.”
Kyran continued. “Miss Crozier, I’d like to keep you in the loop as well. Would you be willing to continue to lend us your expertise?”
“Certainly, Commodore. I do love my country, like Davie, but I also recognize that there are issues rooted deep in the culture.”
“It has never been our intent to antagonize Artemis or the Union; but you know that. I’m glad to have you. Mr. Moore.”
Moore’s head jerked up. “Eh? Yes, Commodore?”
“I’m sure that Dr. Roberts could use another hand familiar with warp drives.”
“I’m not sure that I’m exactly familiar,” he demurred.
“You certainly have a background I can appreciate,” said Val. “And I’ve been where you were: trying to work under Alexis. Let’s see what we can manage together.”
Moore looked to Cassandra. “Can Cassie stay? She’s, that is to say, um.”
“I’m not going back to Earth,” Carnahan said flatly. “If Jim’s staying here, then I’m staying, too.”
“Not a problem,” said Kyran. “We have plenty of space, and I’m sure we can find something for you to do when you’re ready. Finally, Lieutenant Huff.”
“Commodore.” Huff seemed to grow a few centimeters as his former rank was mentioned.
“As Ms. Whitmore mentioned, experienced officers are in short supply. Would you be willing to lend your hard-earned expertise in space to our Academy as an instructor?”
“I’d be happy to, but isn’t your Academy on Earth? It’s taken me almost a year to get this comfortable in ¾ g; I don’t know if I can handle a full g on a permanent basis.”
“You’re right, the Academy is on Earth, but for the upper-level courses, the practical teaching, we’re planning to do it aboard Njord. Your job will be first, to help design an appropriate curriculum, then implement it when we have students ready for that level. Probably another year.”
“I can work with that timetable.”
“Then I think we’re done here. Chief?”
“I agree. Cris, can I talk with you afterward? And Nicole, can you stay for a moment?”
Everyone else filed out or, in the case of the AI’s, disconnected.
“Thanks for sticking around. What I’d like to talk to you two about is…”