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The Road to the Stars - Chapter Twenty-One

I'd love to say that Nicole Crozier was always secretly on our side.

But I can't.

When she was thrust into the role of Minister of War, she did her damndest to fulfill the orders given her by the Primus.

And she came close to succeeding, more than once.

And yet I can't, don't, hold it against her.

She didn't know us, at all.

She did know the Primus.

And she knew, or thought she knew, what happened to Davie Whitmore.

So she did her job to the best of her ability.

Chapter Twenty One

“Your request is approved.”

The message from the Primus was short, but Nicole didn’t need eloquence. For her plan to succeed, and for her to keep breathing, she needed the Brahe, and if that was phrased brusquely or covered in flowery phrases was irrelevant. She had it, and that gave her a better chance of seeing the next morning.

“Mr. Taylor to my office,” she said. Jake Taylor had been as close to a friend as she had in the Ministry before her promotion, and was still one of the few people she was comfortable with. She had an official deputy, who doubled as the Underminister of the Navy. He was a slimy piece of work named Sterling Cox, a Newling cousin and very aware of the fact. She studiously avoided talking with him about anything which, in her estimation, would possibly result in a negative report being sent to his family. Of course, she still had to deal with him for routine matters, which she was perfectly happy to fill his day with, but anything critical stayed off his desk entirely. This project, unfortunately, required far more of his presence than she was comfortable with. Still, knowing that there was a trap made avoiding stepping in it much more possible.

Of course, it was entirely likely that she’d have to deal with rumors she was sleeping with Jake, but that she could handle. She’d been quashing that sort of talk for years. She could do it again.

“You wished to see me, Minister?”

Jake Taylor was a first-generation Artemesian; his parents had immigrated to Artemis in 2085, though not from Earth. They had themselves been from the Martian Colonies, but decided they would prefer to live a more comfortable life and brought their skills to Artemis. Cross-migration between the Union members was easy, if not common. Jake had inherited his father’s height, slightly over two meters, and his mother’s relaxed personality. The wiry black hair and brown eyes came from grandparents he’d never met. He’d been working for the Ministry for eight years, right after he finished with secondary school. He had developed contacts throughout the Ministry and Admiralty, which gave him real-world knowledge most of the ivory-tower analysts couldn’t match.

She’d met him when she started at the Ministry, four years earlier, and had immediately appreciated his connections and common sense. He, in turn, had chosen to help her instead of burying her. They’d remained friends since, through setbacks and promotions.

“Yes, Mr. Taylor. Close the door and sit down.”

He stepped in, pressing the panel next to the door so it closed, then sat before her desk.

She held up a hand before he could speak, tapping a command into her computer, then waiting for a result.

“We’re clear,” she said after perhaps thirty seconds.

“Damn, Nikki, that’s a pain in the ass. Can’t you shield your office?”

“Don’t you think I have? I also have the official shield that Whitmore had installed, plus the one I use, and every morning when I check there’s another bug, sometimes two or three. Anyways, we’ve got the Brahe.”

“Then we’re a go?”

“We’re a go,” she confirmed. “Pass the orders to Admiral Dodd, let him know. I expect them off the ground in two hours.”

“Yes, Minister.”

“Don’t you start that!”

“Hey, who’s commanding the Brahe?”

She consulted the files. “Captain Nicholas Shorey, why?”

“Shorey? I’ve heard of him.”

She gave him a little, “Come on,” gesture.

“He’s a loyalist, but not to the Union. He was born in Artemis City, raised there, went through the SUNC, and was further indoctrinated by MinSec. He’s also itching to become an Admiral, and he knows what it takes to get there. Short version is that he’ll do whatever he’s asked to do. You had better be sure that the orders you give him have no wiggle room whatsoever, no possible misinterpretations. I’m not saying that the Primus and all her people want you to fail, mind you.” He shook his head. “But you said yourself that you bought into the plan that Whitmore tried to execute, the one that got her killed. And that plan was put in place over the Primus’ opposition. Then you went and not just reiterated the plan but added more arguments to it.”

“Oh my.”

“Oh my indeed. So before you tell me to send out those orders, you want to look them over again? Maybe with a little help from a friend?”

“I’d appreciate that, Jake.”

“Then give me a terminal and I’ll start digging in. I could use a coffee, though,” he added hopefully.

“You have your own assistant, you ask him. Have him bring me a coffee too.”

“You’re learning, Crozier. You’re learning.”

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