I hate lawyers.
Let me backtrack a bit.
Maybe I shouldn't say I hate lawyers; there are some lawyers I actually like.
Dianna Chew, for one.
Hold on, I'll come up with another one. Eventually.
You just talk amongst yourselves.
Anyways, being involved in litigation which was devoted to the idea of proving I wasn't human? Huge crimp in my plans!
“This is most unorthodox,” said Judge Hodge.
“Yes, Your Honor, I realize that,” answered Kendra. She was standing in her office, talking to the judge via the Q-Net link, avoiding any lightspeed lag. “Unfortunately, this is a mission which requires my presence, one which we’ve delayed as long as practical.”
“Still, being absent from the final presentation of the Plaintiff is going to create the wrong impression.”
“I realize that, Your Honor, and that is not my intention at all. If I could delay the mission, I would, but these things are arranged far in advance. There is no way that my Captains would be able to predict that I’d be needed in court the same time they expect me on a mission.”
Hodge looked at her thoughtfully, examining her, before nodding.
“Very well, Admiral Cassidy. I believe you. Do you know the duration of your absence?”
“According to Captain Martinez, if all goes well, seventy-two hours. If there are problems, it could be longer, but I’ll put a cap at five days.”
“Today is Wednesday,” mused Hodge. “I can declare a recess until Monday without too much trouble. That gives you four days.”
“That’s good. Thank you, Judge.”
“You’re welcome. But there’s a price.”
“Yes, Your Honor?” Kendra was a bit surprised. All of her research had suggested that Hodge was one of the ‘good’ jurists, one who wasn’t swayed by power, money, or influence.
“Tell me again what this mission is?” she said, interest tinging her voice. “I wouldn’t want to admit this before Forman, but I’ve spent some time catching up on the origins of this Federation you’re building. If your missions are anything like the ones on the shows, then I’ve got to hear about it!”
Kendra laughed, a hearty laugh. “So my past is catching up with me? Sorry, Your Honor, nothing that exciting. No alien races to negotiate a treaty with, or anything like that. We’re just landing a mining colony.”
“’Just landing a mining colony’? Oh, is that all? Just creating the first extra-solar human colony? I’m surprised you need so much time,” Hodge scoffed.
“Just a quick trip to the mines of Moria,” agreed Kendra. “Seriously, though, we know it’s a big deal, that’s why I’m along.”
“Any news crews coming with you?”
“I hadn’t planned on any,” said Kendra.
“You might want to,” suggested Hodge. “I won’t say more than that, but I’m surprised a former actress forgot about the value of good publicity.”
Kendra winced and slapped her forehead. Of course!
“Thank you again, Your Honor. When all this is over, would you do me the honor of taking a tour of our ships and facilities?”
“Certainly. I look forward to it. Now,” she said, looking down at the familiar-yet-different controls. “How do I end this call?”
“I can do that,” said Kendra. “I’ll see you Monday.”
“Thanks.” Kendra closed the connection, then, “Diana!”
“Were you, no, you always listen. Do we have any friendly news outlets available?”
“Yes, Admiral. There are a number of reputable media corporations which have been generally well-disposed towards the Federation, including two which are part of the Trust.”
“Who is most influential?”
“The organization with the greatest reputation for non-biased reporting is OAR, the Organization of American Reporters. The network with the greatest reach, however, is GNT, Global News Today. Neither of them are part of the Trust.”
“Put me through to the highest you can get at OAR, then we’ll tackle GNT. And ask Alley and Kiri to stop in, we need to plan.”
“Yes, Admiral. Connecting you to OAR now.”
It took ten minutes and a fair bit of name-dropping, but eventually Kendra got through to Kimberly Reed, an Executive VP. Reed was initially suspicious, but soon warmed to the idea that her reporter could be the first to travel outside the Solar System. The only problem, it seemed, was the timing.
“I wish you’d contacted me earlier,” Reed repeated.
“We’ve been keeping this under wraps,” explained Kendra, not quite lying. “It’s only today that we’ve decided to go public with it, for obvious reasons.”
“Your dispute with the Union. Yes. I can understand that. Still, it limits my options.”
“Whoever you choose to send will be perfectly fine, Ms. Reed.”
Reed waved that off. “That’s not the problem, Admiral. I’d rather give this the attention it deserves and send one of our featured reporters, someone with a strong reputation. Unfortunately, all of my best are already pursuing other stories, and it would be counterproductive to pull them from the field.”
“I completely understand.”
Reed tapped a pen on her desk, thinking. “Of the ones who are available, I think my best choice is Susana.”
“Susana?” fished Kendra.
“Susana Hall,” Reed expanded, and as she continued to talk Kendra tapped her ‘plant to do her own research. While Reed threw around phrases like, ‘outstanding’ and ‘top-notch’ and ‘go-getter,’, Kendra learned that Hall was ambitious, intense, almost completely unafraid when pursuing a story, and roundly hated within OAR because she didn’t care who she pissed off.
Kendra liked the sound of that.
When Reed finished, Kendra said, “She sounds perfect. Will she be doing her own camera work? Or do we need to provide that?”
“Oh, no, we’ll send up a camera operator. Deone Lex is Susana’s usual partner; they’re considerably older, but they get along with her well enough.”
“Fine. I’ll be in touch with you shortly to arrange for their transportation. We can teleport them up, or we can send a Wolf to pick them up.”
“I’ll talk with them and let you know.”
“Okay, then. Bye!”
She was about to ask Diana to reach GNT when the door alert sounded.
“Enter!” she called.
The hatch opened and her two Captains stepped through. Her brow wrinkled in puzzlement.
“Kiri? I thought you’re on patrol?”
“Officially we are, Admiral,” said Stewart. “But when Alley told me about your run to Lemnos, I decided that my crew should have a night at the habitat.” She saw Kendra’s worried look and hastened to add, “Both our ships are on standby, Admiral. Ten minutes’ warning and either of us can be on station. The Wolfpack is pulling a double CAP tonight with Nymeria, so nothing from the Union will sneak through.”
“I should have known you’d have it covered,” Kendra said, relieved. “Sit down, both of you. Coffee?”
After the social niceties had been handled, Kendra turned to Alley.
“Alley, how did the drop go? Did all the tunnellers survive?”
“Smoothly, Admiral,” she answered. “By now they’ve been working at the tunnels for nearly three days and will be wrapped up tomorrow.”
“Good. Because we have a new wrinkle.”
“Oh? I’m not sure I approve.”
Kendra winced. She didn’t like springing surprises on her people; it just seemed to happen that way. Frequently.
“We’re going to have a reporting crew aboard. Is that going to be an issue?”
“No, Admiral,” she answered instantly. “A bit unexpected, but not an issue.”
“Quarters? They’re not a couple, so we’d need two.”
“We’re still undermanned, but even if we weren’t your design had extra quarters included for VIPs.”
“Once they’re aboard, Minerva can scan them and produce suits pretty quickly.”
“How quickly? Minna?”
“Technically, I don’t produce the suits, Captain. I alter existing suits which are closest to the required measurements to fit.”
“Technicalities,” said Alley.
“And the answer is no more than thirty minutes, Admiral.”
“We don’t leave the dock until they have suits,” insisted Alley. “Protocols.”
“You can give them a tour. That’ll burn time,” Kiri said.
“Good. Now, I don’t know if they’re going to teleport or come up on a Wolf, but I’ll let you know. Kiri.”
“If we’re not back in three days, I’ll need you to make a run to come pick me up.”
“Ma’am? Both starships, out of the system?”
Kendra looked unhappy.
“I know, but…” And she explained the situation with the court.
“Near as I can remember, it took you sixteen hours to get from Tau Ceti home on your first visit. I have to be in court at opening on Monday, that’s ten o’clock local and station time.”
“I’m with you so far.”
“If we run into problems, then obviously Enterprise can’t leave before the situation is resolved, right?”
“We could just pick everyone up and start over next time,” Alley suggested before Kiri could answer.
“Not with press aboard,” Kendra corrected. “If they weren’t, then fine. We can lose the time. But if we turn around and abandon the effort?”
She shook her head. “The whole idea is to get us some really inspiring publicity. Hell, even if we run into problems, if you stay on station that could be spun into a ‘heroic’ take, right?”
“I suppose so.”
“So you can’t leave. But I have to. That brings me back to court, and the sixteen hours it took to traverse the distance. Why are you shaking your head, Kiri?”
“Ma’am, you’re right, it took sixteen hours. But that was in Enterprise. We were limited to a top speed of warp six, and nobody wanted to push us that hard. But the Endeavour has a higher top speed.”
Realization crossed Kendra’s face.
“Exactly, ma’am. What Enterprise did in sixteen, Endeavour can do in three. We can maintain warp eight, Admiral. If we have to, we can push all the way to warp nine point five.”
Alley jumped in. “They did that, you know. As a test.”
“I remember they reported it,” said Kendra.
Kiri picked up the story. “From one side of the Solar System to the other, Admiral. All the way out, the outer edge of the Oort Cloud, about a hundred thousand AU, across to the other side. Do you remember how long it took us?”
“No,” admitted Kendra.
“Fourteen seconds,” said Kiri with obvious pride.
“Thirteen point zero nine, to be accurate,” corrected Diana.
Kendra didn’t hear the correction. “Fourteen seconds?”
Kiri nodded, pleased. “If we have to, we can pick you up at seven and have you back in time for your appointment. So no, Admiral, we won’t be leaving to come get you three days after you depart. If Enterprise isn’t back by oh six hundred Monday, we’ll come and get you. Alley, that’s going to mean you have to start your return voyage by fourteen on Sunday.”
“Easy enough. Admiral? Any problems with that plan?”
“I guess not,” said a shaken Kendra. “Damn. Alley…?”
“We’re not going to rip out the warp drive, Kendra,” Alley said, anticipating Kendra’s question. “Warp six is perfectly fine for your flagship, and your Flag Captain.”
“Aye-aye, Captain,” Kendra said, with only the slightest hint of wistfulness. “Kinda makes me hope we run into a problem.”
“You’re welcome aboard for any of our patrols, Admiral,” said Kiri. “We’ve been pairing them with more operational testing.”
“I might just, once this is all over.” The wistfulness was more than a hint, and Alley asked the question.
“Admiral? Is something wrong?”
“Hmm? No, Alley. Thinking of speed runs…I just miss my Bugatti.” Her antique, carefully maintained Veyron had been vaporized when Artemis had destroyed their home and a quarter of Los Alamos a year earlier. Kendra shook off her melancholy, though, and returned to the present.
“Oh nine hundred departure, Captain?” she asked Alley.
“And will three days be enough to get things set up?”
“Assuming the robots have done their work, yes.”
“Good! Then –“
Diana interrupted. “Admiral, I have D. Alejandra Lopez ready to speak with you.”
“The head of GNT,” she explained.
“I should probably talk to her,” Kendra said to her captains. “Her?”
“Her,” confirmed Diana.
“Don’t leave. Okay, Diana, I’m ready.” After a few seconds’ pause, and the sound of the circuit opening, Kendra said, “Ms. Lopez, thank you for speaking with me.”
“This is on the record, Admiral Cassidy. Just so you’re aware.” Lopez’ voice was professional and no-nonsense. “Would you care to comment on your current legal situation?”
Kendra looked displeased but kept it from her voice. “No comment, Ms. Lopez. I’d like to talk business.”
“Certainly.” If Lopez was disappointed at not getting a quote, she hid it well.
“Would GNT be interested in the rights of first distribution for a mission to Tau Ceti e? The planet we call Lemnos?”
“Whose video are you offering?”
“And they’ve agreed?”
“I’ll want to see the contract,” Lopez temporized, but Kendra could hear the eagerness. An interstellar story? GNT would be on top of the game for months.
“As soon as it’s finalized,” Kendra said. She commed, Get a contract to Reed! to Diana.
On the way.
“Then I think we can work something out.”
“I’ll get the contract to you to review, plus a contract between us, shortly.”
“I look forward to working with you, Admiral.”
“And I you. Out.”
“Admiral, if you don’t mind? Do you need us for anything else?”
“Oh! Sorry, Alley. No, at least not yet. I’ll be comming you as details come in.”
“Then…?” Alley left the hint hanging, and Kendra eventually caught it.
“Dismissed,” she said. “I’m getting better!” she added, defensively.
“Yes, Admiral. See you in the morning.”
“Yeah, yeah. Say hi to Lorelei and LJ for me.”
“Of course,” said Alley.
“Naturally,” said Kiri. And they left, Kendra already talking to Diana again.