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The Road to the Stars – Chapter Two

So you want to fly a starship, eh? First you need officers and a crew.

And of course you have to take all these people and make them into a team. Alley did all the work on that, really, but I like to think I added. A little. Or maybe at least I didn’t make things any worse!

I’ll tell you, I was as nervous as ever I’d been. First sensie scene? First premiere? First date with Cass? First kill? This topped them all.

Right, I won’t say too much more about the chapter, except I really like how Adam wrote it out. He really managed to capture the energy of the moment without him actually being there.

Okay, three bits of housekeeping. First, you want to skip the wait? There’s a button for that, or click on any image, and you can buy the book (ebook, paperback, or audiobook). Second, and speaking of the audiobook, the chapter is at the bottom of the post for you to listen to. Third, Adam’s cover is in the final week of the contest, so go vote for it (and there’s another button for that!).

Chapter Two

The officers of the Enterprise had a conference room tucked behind the bridge. It served as a larger venue for meetings, official and unofficial. Today, it was filled to capacity.

Cass, Ken, and Alley were there, of course. Kendra stood out from the rest, as her uniform, though matching in cut to the rest, was the only one pure white with gold piping. The division heads were all there, as well as Dr. Zihal, in her role as Cass’s right hand; Kyran and Val, who both insisted on being present for the initial shakedown flight; and Mac, who, if pressed, would have admitted to just wanting to hang out with Minerva.

“Good morning, everyone,” said Kendra

A murmur of responses swept around the room.

“Minerva, activate security protocols.”

“Security protocols in place, Admiral.”

Kendra sighed as the officers who had prior military experience stiffened. Her position hadn’t been a secret, precisely, just not well-publicized.

“Relax,” she said, then corrected herself. “At ease. Whatever.” She smiled to take the sting out of her words.

“Okay, so that cat’s out of the bag,” she said.

“It’s purely a formality. Alley, sorry, Captain Martinez –” This elicited a few chuckles. “- Convinced me that we needed a chain of command, and she also convinced me that she couldn’t command everything. Something about multi-ship commands and desks and she didn’t want to give up Enterprise before she even got a chance to fly?”

More chuckles.

“In any case, it’s mostly me still doing what I do, just with a fancy title and a uniform. For example, in about an hour, when we go live for the official launch, I’ll be the one who has to do the speaking, not any of you lot, so I think you should feel pretty good about that!”

A rolling wave of laughter rippled around the room.

“There are a few people here who are visiting, so let’s just do a quick introduction. I think we’ll start with Mia.”

The surprised junior officer jumped to her feet. She was taller than Kendra, at just under two meters, but had the same predilection for putting her blonde hair into pixie cuts, and had skin kept a careful golden tone despite the long hours piloting. Her age was hard to pin down; she was over twenty, but probably less than fifty.

“Lieutenant Commander Mia Kleve, formerly of the Republic of Texas air force. I was a pilot for my entire term, until I was retired because I wasn’t promoted to full colonel. Kendra recruited me for this project three years ago. I do have experience in multi-unit command, which is probably why she tapped me to try to control the Wolfpack.”

“Thanks, Mia. I should add that Mia helped design the Wolf-class MOV, as well as creating and supervising the training program. Dr. Quinn?”

A stocky older man, with light blue piping on his uniform, stood. “Y’all, Ah’m Joe Quinn, and Ah’ve been a doctor probably as long as most of y’all been alive. Ah’m from the New Confederacy by birth, but Ah’ve lived in Houston since Ah graduated from med school. Ah’ve spent time on Luna, which makes me one of the few physicians to practice in the black and be available on Earth. Most of us end up staying in Artemis.”

“Thanks, Joe. Joe’s also working with Minerva to expand her knowledge of human physiology, but more on that project another time. Dellin?”

Another woman, wearing the piping of Engineering, stood. She was tall as well, with ebony skin and close-cropped hair, and hands that showed the results of a lifetime of getting in and doing. There was an undefinable air of competence about her, a sense that there hadn’t ever been a problem she couldn’t wrap a solution around.

“Dellin Anderson. I was part of the team involved in Project Pegasus, before Kendra, I mean Admiral Cassidy, took over and renamed it.”

“Kendra will do in here; you’ve known me for long enough and we’ve never stood on formality before.”

“Yes, ma’am. As I was saying, I was on the team which worked on the warp drive. I don’t know it as well as Dr. Roberts,” and she nodded to Val before continuing. “But I’ve got as much experience with it as anyone not named Roberts, and more than most. Before that, I was a consultant with a few of the boosting companies, like HLC, so I’ve done my time. I’m really hoping that I’m overpaid and underutilized on this ship, but I’m not counting on it.”

Laughing, Kendra said, “We hope so too! And no offense to Val, but you’re better with the nuts and bolts of the drive than she is. Candice?”

Sanzari stood up. “If you don’t already know me, my name is Candice Sanzari, and I’m the tactical officer. For the past five years I’ve been in command of the personal security for the Cassidys. Prior to that, I was an agent with OutLook. One of my assignments had me undercover on a submarine in the New Imperium Navy, and that’s how I met both Admiral Cassidy and Captain Martinez. Like Commander Anderson, I really hope to be overpaid and underutilized on this mission.”

“She’s far too modest,” said Kendra. “I won’t get into the details, but she has proven her abilities over and over again, under some of the most challenging circumstances. Cass?”

“Hi, I’m Aiyana Cassidy, and I’m slotted to head the science division aboard the Enterprise. I’ve worked on high-energy physics, optics, and dabbled in quantum mechanics since I graduated from MIT. I’ve been busy making arrangements for my absence on Earth, so Dr. Dawn Zihal has been, and will continue to be, my second and my right arm.” She tried to sit down, but a look from Kendra stopped her. “What?”

“What Cass isn’t telling you is that the quantum teleportation modules – the transporters – are a direct result of her ‘dabbling’ in quantum mechanics. She’s also had a huge influence in turning this dream into a reality. On a personal note, she also had the good grace to marry me. But she absolutely would not be here if your captain didn’t believe that she was capable of the tasks she will be assigned.” Kendra nodded once, and Cass sat, grateful to be out of the spotlight. “Commander Stewart?”

Kiri stood, still taking great pleasure in the simple action. “I am Commander Kiri Stewart, and I’m the Executive Officer. Like Captain Martinez, I served in the Northern Imperium Navy, and also like her, my career was cut short by another’s negligence.” She unconsciously brushed her hands against her thighs in memory of the accident. “When Alley, sorry, sorry,” she said, as the laughter ran around the room again. Much more seriously, she said, “When Captain Martinez recruited me, I was a paraplegic and ready to be on the beach the rest of my life. At least, I thought I was ready. Turns out the universe has other plans for me, so I’m here.”

She looked around the assembled officers. “As I said, I’m the XO. What that means to the non-military professionals, if you have problems in your division you can’t handle, you bring them to me. That said, none of you would be here if you didn’t have a track record of success in managing both your specialty and your people. I expect the same aboard Enterprise, but I will be there for you. I don’t demand perfection, but I do expect you and your people to do your best, help each other out, and own up to anything that isn’t up to par.” She swept them all with her eyes before finishing.

“This is the first starship. What we do sets the bar for every ship that comes after us. I aim to set that bar high indeed.” With another glance, she sat.

“Well said, Commander,” said Kendra in an unaccustomedly formal voice. “Captain?”

Alley stood slowly. “I’m not going to waste your time with speeches. That’s what Admirals are for.” That provoked a few chuckles before Alley turned serious. “As Commander Stewart said, we are the first starship, the first crew. I intend history to remember the name Enterprise as a shining exemplar of all the good humanity can muster. To do that, I need you, your experience, your dedication, your hard work, and, most of all, your support. No captain has ever succeeded without their officers and crew behind her, and I am certainly no exception. Today, we make history.”

Applause swept around the table, along with murmured exclamations of encouragement and enthusiasm.

“Nice speech,” Kendra said sotto voce to Alley. “You sure you don’t want this uniform?”

“Not a prayer.”

“Damn.” Pitching her voice to carry, she said, “Thank you, Captain.” As soon as the noise died away, she repeated, “Thank you. Now, we have a few visitors today who have all had a hand in the creation of this ship. First, Dr. Valeri Roberts.”

Val stood and looked around, unsure of what to say, so Kendra filled in for her.

“Dr. Roberts is responsible for the heart of this ship, the one piece which turns her from a spaceship to a starship: the warp drive. She has worked tirelessly for nearly a decade to perfect the drive and see it installed aboard the Enterprise. She’ll accompany us today, as she’s more than earned the right to see her brainchild in action.” Another round of applause carried around the room as Val reclaimed her seat.

“Next, we have Amanda McAllister.” Mac’s face showed her shock at being named, but she gamely stood. “To call Mac a computer technician would be like calling Rodin a stonemason. She’s been instrumental in the optimization of both Minerva’s and Diana’s heuristic programming, finding time around her regular position.”

“And for that I thank you too,” said Minerva’s voice. “I enjoy what I perceive to be your touches in my personality.”

Mac blushed and dropped into her chair.

“Finally, Kyran Knott.” If Mac was shocked, Kyran was stunned. Kendra continued as they tried to find their feet. “We found Kyran working for HLC, building the ground-to-orbit cargo lifters, and recognized their talent for planning and organization. They were transferred to Project Pegasus and have been invaluable in making the impossible happen. It didn’t matter what challenge arose, whether it was a shifting deadline, a material issue, or simply needing to bang a conduit with a wrench to make it fit, they’ve risen to every single one. Quite literally, we would not be here today, for this historic voyage, if not for them.”

As applause began again, Kendra held up one hand.

“Not done yet, folks. As recognition for this feat, I’m officially announcing their permanent posting to Diana. There, they will take up the position of Supervising Engineer for all of the Harriman projects, including the continuing work on Diana, Endeavour, and the next generation MOVs. As such, when necessary for the execution of their position, they will have the equivalent rank of Commodore and be entitled to all the rights and privileges thereof.” She looked around at the expectant faces. “Now, I’m done.”

The applause that rang through the room was loud and prolonged, mixed with shouts of encouragement. Even as the noise abated, the various officers gathered around Kyran to offer their personal congratulations.

“How long have you been planning this?” said Cass, holding back.

“A couple weeks now, ever since I knew we’d actually make the latest impossible deadline.”

“They deserve it.”

“Damn right. Let’s go tell them.”

After several minutes of chaos, the gathering settled down again.

“Again, my – our – congratulations to Commodore Knott.”

“Does this mean I have to wear a uniform, too?”

“We’ll discuss that later. Okay, people, we have to put our game faces on in,” she checked her ‘plant. “Twenty minutes. Let’s go over the plan one more time…”

The Road to the Stars – Book Two – Chapter Two

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