Today brings a couple shortish chapters, which is why I was able to get it past our faithful watchdog. Everyone wave hi to Adam!
The first one is a peek into what was going on in Artemis – little did I know of their plans! And the second was one of the few sort of ‘crisis moments’ Cass and I had together.
See, usually we were, are, totally on the same page. Utterly and completely. But every now and again our paths would diverge and we’d need to touch base to ensure we got back on track. This was one of those times.
Okay, here’s where Adam gets me to blather on about things he finds important. Today he wants you to know about two things: the next volume of my story (my story, Adam, not yours!), and a contest to win an audiobook.
Second the contest. Adam’s running a Rafflecopter through the end of the month to win a copy of A Quiet Revolution (Volume 4). Just click HERE and you’ll be able to put in your entry!
Enough! Time for the chapter. If you’re tired of waiting for updates, click any image (or the button, or HERE) to order your copy today!
“We were successful in getting an agent aboard their station, Minister,” said Daryl Jones. He was the Director of Operations for the Artemis Ministry of Intelligence.
“Very good,” Minister Dent answered. “How?”
“We had him in place within their organization, HLC. They’ve been recruiting heavily from within; when the latest call for volunteers came out, it was an easy matter for him to alter his records enough to qualify him for a highly sensitive position.”
“Well done. I’ll leave the details to you.”
“Have you made any other progress?”
“Minimal. The locations of their homes and workplaces are public record. Unfortunately, their internal security is excellent, and we have been unable to penetrate their systems yet. I’m working with my counterpart at MinTech, Deborah Arnett. She believes that we will need more direct access. Unfortunately, that will involve either transporting agents to Earth, or utilizing agents already in place.”
“That could be problematic,” said Dent.
“Indeed, sir. I am confident we will succeed, eventually.”
“Eventually might not be soon enough. Whatever it takes, Jones.”
“What about their station?”
“Diana, sir. I persuaded Rilvan Balogun, at MinWar, to share the feed they’re receiving from their surveillance satellites positioned around the station. They aren’t designed for our specific needs, and the instruments are somewhat crude, but until we can get something of our own in place, it’s better than nothing.”
“There haven’t been any further attempts to infiltrate the Ministry, sir. They have six agents within MinInt; we have them all identified and isolated. The projects they work are important, yes, and we are sure to provide them nothing but real information, but there’s nothing sensitive about their tasks. Calculating projected soybean crops and the like.”
“Very good, Jones.” Dent thought for a moment; Jones waited patiently. “Prioritize the penetration of their personal security. The Primus is none too happy about Diana or their starship, but she has directed us to eliminate the women. If we have to, we can use a KEW on their home, but that only works if we know they’re present.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll see to it personally.”
“Good.” With that, the audience ended.
“It looks like a junkyard.”
“That’s what it’s supposed to look like.”
“At least they’re nearly done with the recovery.”
“Did you fire that CEO?”
“Oh, Marie? Yeah. Gave her a nice fat bonus for getting the job so well underway, then told her that we appreciated all her years of hard work, blah, blah, blah, and eased her out the door.” Cass smiled at the memory.
“Who did you promote?”
“Dogfish. Richard Percoco, I guess I should call him now that he’s in charge.”
“How did he take it?”
“He’s not thrilled about having to run the company; he appreciated the bump in pay, though. I told him to find two or three competent assistants and push the work off on them, so he can ‘lead from the front’, as it were, and keep diving.”
Cass and Ken were on their way back from Diana after another flight. This latest one was four days’ duration, and may have finally satisfied Dr. Roberts to certify her warp drive as being fully ready for mission use. Cass was perfectly happy to use the transporter, but Kendra insisted they use a Wolf to return so they could do an aerial survey of the recovery project.
Once the sealant problem was solved, it was a quick matter to raise and recover the wrecks. All of the frigates had been raised by the end of the first week; none of them would be suitable for conversion, but they would provide excellent cover for the real operation. After that, the pace had slowed as they became more selective in their salvage. The next ships raised had been the heavy and light cruisers, being the ships they had thought most likely to survive conversion in a usable state. Then the destroyers were raised; some of them were large enough to be useful, while the others would be good for decoys.
At this point, only the two aircraft carriers, the Ford class U.S.S. John F. Kennedy and U.S.S. Doris Miller, and the various auxiliary ships remained to be salvaged. While the two carriers were certainly large enough to handle the necessary conversions, they had the insurmountable problem that they were designed as aircraft carriers. By necessity, large sections of the superstructure were open to the air; this introduced an untenable weakness, making them unsuitable as any sort of spaceship. The auxiliary vessels, being oilers, hospital ships, and the like, were also deemed unsuitable.
But that would work just fine. Between the frigates, the carriers and auxiliaries, and the ships that they simply screwed up on, there would be plenty of work going on at all times to keep the Union’s attention.
“Cass?” When Cass didn’t answer immediately, Kendra turned to her wife and repeated her prompt. “Cass?”
“Honey, I was wondering.” She fell silent again. Kendra just waited. When Cass finally spoke, she sounded hesitant, something Kendra didn’t hear from her often.
“Is this weird?”
“Is what weird?”
“All of this! My god, Kendra, six years ago we were just a couple in love, we weren’t even engaged! And everything happened with Derek and Amanda, and I nearly lost you! Then it all worked out, we ended up with this amazing opportunity, and then our girls, and – and –” She stopped, sniffling. Kendra rested a hand on her shoulder, which Cass covered with her own, but didn’t say anything.
Eventually, Cass pulled herself together. “And now look at us! I’m the science officer on a starship – a starship, Kendra! We just spent four days flying around the Solar System, charting it, testing sensors, and oh by the way doing it all at FTL! And you! You’re in charge of, of, of all this!” She waved her hand around, encompassing Diana and Enterprise, the Wolves, the planned expansions. “On top of all that, we’re both secret agents, trying to free, not a person, not a company, no, we’re trying to free the whole damn planet from the dead hand of the past! When do we get to be just us again? When do we go back to being ohana?”
Kendra was ready to reply until Cass brought out the last word. Ohana was very nearly sacred to her, the concept of family above all, and that gave her pause. Her brow furrowed as she gave Cass’s words the consideration they deserved, long minutes of silence, broken only by the sounds of their breathing.
Finally, she thought she was ready.
“I don’t think we can go back to being just us. Hold on,” she said, seeing Cass’s nascent protest. “Hear me out!”
Cass nodded slowly.
“Nothing is more important to me than ohana. That started as you and me, right? Now we have the girls, too. They have to be part of ‘just us’, don’t they? Absolutely,” she answered for Cass. “But what about Lisa? You risked your life to save her and her husband. Isn’t she part of our ohana?”
“Yes, of course.”
“And Cris? And Mac? They were with you, rescuing Lisa.”
“How about Mikki? You know, the one the girls call Auntie Mikki? The only one who can control both of them at once? Get them into bed on time? Make them giggle and laugh and who the girls think is the best thing since kittens?”
“Auntie Alley? How about Candice?”
“Yes, them too.”
“Honey, our little ohana isn’t so little anymore. There’s probably another dozen, maybe two dozen people who you or I could look at and say, ‘Yes. I consider them family.’ Don’t you think?”
“At least that,” agreed Cass.
“Now, think back. Way back. Years and years. Ohana means family, yes. But what else does it mean?”
“Nobody gets left behind.”
“Or forgotten. Honey, when Mya came to us last year and told us that the planet was in trouble, and we might be able to help, did we even hesitate?”
“And why not? Don’t answer that, I’ll tell you: a dead Earth isn’t a place I want to leave for either Lisa or Mikki. We can give them the stars, Aiyana. You and me, babe.” Kendra turned to face Cass. “Honey, we have our ohana, we just didn’t know it. It’s all around us. Maybe we can miss seeing it sometimes, but only for the same reason a fish doesn’t see the ocean. It’s always there, surrounding us.”
Kendra pulled Cass into a hug.
“We’re not missing our ohana. We’re swimming in it. And, by Zeus, we are not leaving anyone behind!”
The Road to the Stars – Book 2 – Chapter 12
The Road to the Stars – Book 2 – Chapter 13