The Measure of Humanity - Chapter Twenty-Three

You know what I hate almost as much as waiting?

Meetings.

I know, it seems like there are meetings all the time in the books Adam wrote.

And to a degree, he's not wrong.

But it's mostly because there's so much that happened during them that he includes so many of them.

You know what I'm saying?


CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

TFS Enterprise

“System entry in three, two, one, warp drive disengaged.”

“Nicely done, Mr. Hamby,” said Lt. Orloff. It was nearing the middle of the third watch, almost oh three hundred on Monday morning, and the bridge was a peaceful place right at the moment. Half-light, routine entry, and…

Enterprise, Njord. Priority message for Admiral Cassidy.”

“Frak me,” said Orloff before responding to the hail. “Njord, Enterprise. You do know what time it is?”

“Yes, we know the time, now get the Admiral!” The urgency in the voice grabbed Orloff’s attention, and she reached out to tap the direct line to the Admiral’s quarters before thinking of a better alternative.

“Minerva, patch Njord through to the Admiral.”

“I shall, Lieutenant, after I awaken her.”

Njord, Enterprise. Wait one. We’re getting the Admiral on the line.”

“Thank you, Enterprise.”

Curiosity got her. “What’s up?”

“You’re not going to believe it,” said the voice.

*

“I don’t fucking believe it.”

Cass was still yawning and trying to wake up; she’d surfaced when Kendra climbed out of bed and came more alert at Kendra’s first, more creative, cursing.

“What’s going on?” she said, but Kendra waved off the question. It was obvious she was having a conversation through her implant, which wasn’t unusual for her. The agitation, though, was another story.

“Goddamn it!”

“Minerva, cut me in,” Cass said.

…two months to repair, a voice was saying. Kyran, she thought.

But nobody was killed?

No, Admiral.

Okay. Broken ship, we can deal with.

What ship?

Kendra turned at Cass’s question. “You’re not supposed to be in this!”

“I’m the XO of your flagship, I’m half of the directorship of the Federation, and I’m your wife! You want me out of this? Try to make me!”

Kyran was answering. The Endeavour suffered major damage during their patrol on Friday. They were struck by a chunk of antimatter from a partially-detonated Union bomb.

“Oh, shit.”

“Exactly.” Kendra flipped the conversation from the implants to the speakers. “Since we’re all awake now, may as well have this in the open. What can we do to help?”

“Being back in the system is a huge relief,” admitted Knott. “We’ve had every Wolf and Direwolf we could scare up doing the heaviest CAP we could manage, but if Artemis had decided to get frisky, especially Friday before the Endeavour could limp home…” They could hear the shudder before Kyran continued.

“I guess removing Crozier shook them up enough they couldn’t react.”

“Removing who?”

“Nicole Crozier. The Artemesian Minister of War. She got caught up in one of Director Montana’s ops, and Chief Stone ended up doing an impromptu rescue.”

“Mikki was on Luna?” asked Cass, echoed instantly by Kendra.

“Ye-es?” said Knott. “I didn’t know either, Admiral. It was something she was doing with the Director.”

“Fine, fine. That’s not really important right now. So the Enterprise goes right out on patrol.” She checked the timing. “We’re going to be docking in a few minutes. Anything else can wait until we can come aboard. I want a meeting at oh four hundred to get everyone up to speed.”

“Aye-aye, Admiral. You’ll inform Captain Martinez?”

“I’ll bet she’ll love that,” said Cass.

*

“Let me get this straight,” said Kendra, raising a finger and looking around. Everyone she had summoned was there, coffee in hand: Alley and Cass from Enterprise. Kyran and Sturgeon from Njord. Kiri and Sanzari from the crippled Endeavour. Flashdance and Double Dip. Mac and Ted. Montana and Stone.

“First, and most critically, Endeavour is out of commission for two months.”

“I can maybe cut that down to six weeks,” said Hecate. She was, for the first time, present virtually as a hologram, taking the form of a teenage girl with bubblegum pink hair in pigtails. With the purchase of Zorin, upgrades and additional capacity had become much easier to come by and all the AI’s had been indulged. “I have a little extra capacity I’ve been holding back, you know, as a reserve? Just in case? I think this is just in case.”

“Agreed. Okay, then, six weeks. Alley, you’re going to be pulling some long patrols.”

“Not so long for someone from submarines,” she said. “We used to do three, four months. And we can always run back to Njord if we need to, so it’s not like we won’t have options.”

“Two. Artemis is gonna have three warp ships by the end of the year?”

“One next month; the other two, yes, September, October,” confirmed Montana.

“Which just happens to be when Defiant and Defender should be commissioned.”

“Yes,” said Hecate. “Although that might be delayed by the repairs to Endeavour. I mean, I have that extra capacity, yes, but repairs of this nature are programmed to take priority, so that six weeks is with me pulling back on the Defiants to about fifty percent.”

“Mac. This kind of thing is right up your alley; you and Ted figure it out. We can’t have delays.”

A meeting at oh-dark-hundred didn’t seem to affect Mac as much as anyone else, apparently. “Right, Kendra, we can do that, I’ll work with Hecate to find some extra efficiencies, you know you never know yourself as well as other people know you, and that’s true for AI’s as well as people, you know that?”

“Right. Three, we have to worry about antimatter bombs and bombers and who knows what else coming from Titan.”

“We should be able to intercept them,” said Double Dip. “The Wolves have better sensors, but we have the speed and the weaponry. We also know how it’s done. Between us, nothing’s going to get through.”

“I’ll hold you to that. Fourth.” She turned to face Montana. “What is this about a mission on Luna?”

“Well, two missions,” she said. This wasn’t the time to hold operational secrecy paramount. “We mounted an operation to retrieve Dr. Carnahan’s daughter, and…”

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why retrieve her daughter? I mean, ten out of ten for style and chivalry and all that, but minus several thousand for foggy thinking. Don’t you think that might destabilize their government? Or piss them off?”

“Ah, well, that was actually part of my operation,” said Stone. “Y’see, it occurred to me that if the Artemis government was busy trying to root out traitors and trouble from within, they might pay a little less attention to the Federation. Give us all a wee bit more time. Admittedly, grabbing the Minister of War wasn’t part of my plan, but never kick the goose that lays the golden eggs, right?”

Kendra stared at her with shock plain on her face. “You were trying to destabilize their government?”

Stone met her stare head-on. “Not all at once, no. Just get them a little more paranoid, a little more inward-looking.” Stone glanced around. “Maybe we went a tad too far this time?”

“You think?” Kendra closed her eyes for a moment. This is one of my closest friends and staunchest supporters, as well as the girls’ favorite aunt. I won’t kill her. I won’t.

“Fine. Cris, you and Mikki need to give me a new threat projection for Artemis. And if we’re going to go for a regime change, we’re going to do it right, not sneaking behind my back. Are we clear?”

“Yes, Admiral!”

“Sure, Kendra.”

Kendra ran a hand through her hair. “Is there anything I’ve missed?”

Endeavour, warp ships, antimatter bombs, Artemis. Oh, don’t forget that we got independent confirmation that Artemis dug up the information about your background.”

“I won’t,” promised Kendra.

“I think that’s it, then,” said Cass.

Kiri stood, drawing Kendra’s attention.

“Admiral. I formally request to be relieved of command.”

“Don’t do this to me now, Kiri,” said Kendra.

“Admiral. I failed you and the trust you placed in me. I shouldn’t be in command.”

“No.” Kendra’s voice was flat.

“Then, Admiral, I resign my commission.”

“No. I refuse to accept it.” Kendra desperately turned her eyes to Alley.

“Captain,” said Alley. “Sit down and stop making an ass of yourself.”

“But, Alley, I –“

“You what? You bent your boat. It happens, more than any Captain wants to admit. I served a lot longer than you and I saw officers do things which you wouldn’t believe could happen and still keep their post.”

“That was the Imperium, not the Federation!”

“And what sort of message are we sending if we remove a commander when something goes wrong? We won’t be any better than Artemis!”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Kiri said.

“Damn right you hadn’t, you were so full of your honor and pride you didn’t think of the consequences of responsibility. I had to teach Commander Cassidy this, so now I guess I get to teach it to you. What you’re doing is taking the blame, not the responsibility. That’s because blame is easier to deal with. You don’t get off that easy. You think Commander Sanzari wants to babysit a broken ship? Because that’s who it’s going to fall on, you know. She’s next up for that command, not Cass. I need Cass on my ship to keep her crazy wife from getting crazier.”

“Hey!”

“Admiral, with all due respect: shut up. Kiri. You want to do the right thing? The honorable thing?”

“Yes.”

“Then suck it up, admit it’s your responsibility, and help fix the problem!”

“Shut up and soldier?”

“Something like that, yes.”

Kendra interrupted. “Your resignation is hereby denied. Your request to relinquish command is also denied. You are going to spend the next however long doing everything you can to get your ship back into service. Are we clear, Captain?”

“Aye, Admiral. We’re clear.”

“Good. And Kiri?” she added in a softer tone.

“Yes?”

“You and I should talk sometime. Unofficially, off the record.”

“I think I’m going to be busy, but I’ll see what I can work in,” Kiri answered with a half-smile.

“Anything else? No? Then I need to talk to my lawyer. Cass, closing arguments today. You want to come down?”

“Absolutely.”


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