The Measure of Humanity - Chapter Thirteen

There's a reason Nicole and I got along so well, right from the start.

Neither of us are particularly good at waiting for things to happen to us. We'd both much rather be the one making it happen to someone else.

I think, though, she was better at it.

The situation she was in? Where she managed to restrain herself?

Yeah.

I think I probably would have done something stupid.


CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Artemis City, Ministry of War

“Jake, I need options.”

“There aren’t any good options, Nicole.”

“I didn’t say good options; I just need to do something!”

“Why?”

That halted her frantic pacing across the office.

“What do you mean, why? If I don’t do something to prove to the Primus that I’m taking her seriously, she’s going to have me executed, just like Whitmore and all the others!”

He looked appropriately serious. “Okay. That’s something we want to avoid. But are you sure about this? Sure enough to kill off a good chunk of your Navy?”

“Well,” she started, then stopped. “I don’t want to kill anyone. Excepting the Primus, maybe.”

Taylor looked around frantically, despite knowing that Crozier’s office was as secure as anywhere in Artemis City. “Dammit, Nicole, you can’t talk like that!”

“Why not? Goddess take it, Jake! People who can’t deliver for the Primus end up dead; why should I bother trying to hide my feelings about that? It’s not like it’ll help me one way or the other!”

“Because if you’re not careful you’ll get me killed too!” Taylor snapped.

“Well, we can’t have that, can we? Can’t have Jake Taylor’s precious skin at risk, can we?”

“Nicole, stop acting crazy!”

“Why? Nothing else seems to work in this place, why not try crazy?”

“Nicole, calm down!”

“When has that ever worked, Jake? ‘Hey, you’re acting batshit crazy, why don’t you calm down, that’ll make it all better.’ Fat chance!” Still, she flopped down behind her desk.

“Nicole, will you listen to me for five minutes?”

“Fine, fine.”

“Let’s go through the bad choices first. You could throw some Apollos and Geminis at the habitat and see if they splat.”

“We’ve lost a good piece of our fleet already,” she said. “We still need to have our own, not the Union’s, in case the Miner’s Guild gets restive. The Guild supplies too many personnel to the Union for me to be fully comfortable with their loyalty.”

“Agreed. And we know what their Wolves can do to our ships; I don’t want to learn what their new fighters can do. Okay, next option: we can wait for Averroes to finish refit.”

“Which also scores against throwing our fleet at the habitat. If the Averroes is going to try to tangle with one of their starships, he’ll need support ships to keep the habitat busy.”

“Right. Now, the Primus seems to be willing to let you wait at least until the refit is finished, right?”

“That’s right,” confirmed Crozier. “She said she wants the Averroes to take the war to the Federation as soon as he’s able to fly again.”

“So that’s not a bad option, in that it gives you some time.”

“But the Primus is so fickle,” Nicole said with a bit of a whine. “She changes her mind all the time! What if she decides she wants action now?”

“Then you remind her of the plan and hope,” answered Taylor. “There’s not much more you can do in that case.”

“I feel so much better.”

“Hey, don’t shoot the messenger.”

“Why not? It works for the Primus.”

Taylor shook his head, then continued. “Okay, more options. What else is on the table? The Titanites?”

Nicole looked unsure. “I haven’t heard anything from them since the Primus ordered me to contact them. I had a brief exchange, and that’s it.”

“So we don’t know anything?”

“Not really. We might hear from them at any time, or they could stay silent.”

Taylor frowned. “Did you ask their ambassador?”

“Their who?”

“Ambassador.” He looked at her with disbelief. “Did you really not know that they have an ambassador in Luna?”

“Of course I knew!” she insisted. “…I just sort of forgot. Come on, a year ago I was an analyst!”

“And for the past year you’ve been Minister. Not buying it, Nicole.”

“Hey, why wouldn’t the Primus ask the ambassador herself? She said that she had contacts on Titan; maybe the ambassador doesn’t know?”

“Only one way to find out. But that’s a problem for another day; today, we’re figuring out how to keep you breathing air, not vacuum.” He looked around again, as if weighing the security of the office.

“Look, I can’t really say anything specific, but I think the Primus is going to have more pressing concerns on her mind in the next few days. Don’t ask,” he said as Crozier opened her mouth. “I don’t really know the details, and I’m pretty sure you’re better off not knowing even that. Um. You might want to take a couple days off, though. Make yourself scarce.”

“Are you suggesting –“

He interrupted before she could finish the question.

“I’m suggesting that you take a couple days off, is all. Visit your parents. Does your mom still run the restaurant in the City? I’ll bet you haven’t spent two hours with them in the past six months.”

“No, but –“

“Then call them now and tell them you want to drop in! I’ll bet your dad will be thrilled to see you. Your mom’s usually pretty busy, isn’t she?”

“Yeah.” She looked right at Jake, examining him for any hint of deception. Satisfied with what she saw, she said, “Hold on.”

She tapped at her padd; when it lit, she smiled widely and said, “Hi, Dad!”

“Nikka!” A man with white hair, a huge grin, and a heavy Slavic accent appeared.

“Hey, Dad, I’m free for a couple days; can I come and spend some time with you guys?”

“What is this, you think you have to ask to come home? Da, da! Your mother will be thrilled! I go over the restaurant and tell her now.”

“That’s great, Dad. I’ll see you after eighteen.”

“Good, good! We have snack, and late dinner when Karolina home. Dasvedaniya!

With the padd dark again, Nicole looked at Jake. “When this is all over, you owe me an explanation.”

“When this is all over I think an explanation is going to be at the bottom of your priorities,” he said, standing. “Now. You have another call to make.”

“You’re my secretary now? Good, I need more coffee.”

“No, you don’t, and no, I’m not. Titan’s ambassador. Bennett Dryden’s his name. I’d suggest a face-to-face, instead of trying to get him to talk over the comms.”

“I’m not entirely a rookie, Jake, but thanks. For everything.”

“Treat me to dinner tomorrow.”

“Where?”

“You mom’s place?”

“Why not?”



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