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Authors: Thomas DePrima

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BOOK: Against All Odds
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"We've heard some disturbing rumors of possible problems in the Uthlaro Dominion," Admiral Bradlee, the Director of Intelligence Services said.

"What sort of problems, Roger?" Admiral Platt asked.

"We have nothing definitive yet, just snatches of a conversation overheard in a bar. A junior Raider officer was talking about an upcoming operation against a Milori base."

"A Milori base?" Admiral Burke asked.

"Yes, but technically there are no Milori bases— only Space Command bases still occupied by Milori Security Forces. If they move against any bases in Region Two, they're moving against us."

"It must be a raid to steal weapons and ordnance before we take control," Admiral Ahmed said. "Admiral Carver has foreseen that possibility and ordered the Milori to man the bases until we arrive to prevent them from being stripped by thieves."

"I hope that's all it is. I've sent word that all agents should keep their ears especially open for any word about operations in Region Two and immediately relay the information to us, regardless of how insignificant they think it might be.

"Is there any chance this is sanctioned by the Uthlaro?" Admiral Hillaire asked.

"The Uthlaro have been closely allied with the Raiders for as long as I can remember. The captives of the Raiders have always been sent to the Uthlaro Dominion because human slavery is legal there."

"Do we have anyone inside the Uthlaro military?" Admiral Plimley asked.

"No. We haven't been able to turn any Uthlaro and, given our physical differences, there's no chance of sneaking in a non-Uthlaro. At least the Uthlaro don't resent the presence of Terrans and other species, as the Milori did, so we're able to see and overhear things occasionally."

* * *

Jenetta had paced around her briefing room for almost a half hour. She was bored. Until the new base actually began operations, she had very little to do. She had already been down to the planet that morning to observe the construction efforts and she had read and responded to all the reports in her mail queue. She had even replied to all her personal mail from family and friends.

The computer annunciation system said to her, "Commander Fannon requests admittance."

"Come," Jenetta said, and the doors to her briefing room opened.

"Good afternoon, Admiral," the Captain of the Yangtze said cheerfully as he entered the room. "You wanted to see me?"

"Hi Frank. Beverage?"

"No thank you, Admiral."

"Have a seat," Jenetta said, as she moved behind her desk and plopped into her own chair. She stared blankly at Commander Fannon without saying a word until he started to fidget under her gaze.

"Is there a problem, Admiral?" he asked, when she shifted her gaze away.

Jenetta took a deep breath and then let it out slowly. "No problem with you, Frank. You've done, and are doing, a great job. I'm very pleased you chose to join us on this venture."

Commander Fannon relaxed slightly and smiled. "Thank you. It's been my pleasure, Admiral. I mean that. I wanted some payback for what the Milori did to me and the crew of the Lisbon when they stranded us on that hostile planet, not to mention payback for the Space Command people we lost in the two invasion attempts. We've kicked ass out here and I've loved every minute of it."

Jenetta smiled and nodded, then grew serious again. "I'm thinking about taking a little vacation."

"I know you haven't taken any time off since we left Stewart a year ago. Quesann is a great place to kick back for a few days and forget about the job. It would be nice if we had a five-star hotel here, but that'll come later. We can handle things while you rest up."

"I'm thinking about a longer vacation than that. I was thinking more along the lines of four months."

"Four months?"

"Yes, a trip to Earth will take fifty-two days each way."


"I haven't been home in twelve years and right now I have little to do. It appears likely that once we're staffed here and we begin to exercise control in this region I won't be able to take sufficient time off for a trip to Earth for a number of years. The first of the M-designate ships won't be here for another five months. If I left now, I'd be back before they arrive. There's really very little that requires my personal attention in the meantime. We've installed the planetary defense laser arrays delivered by the battleships, so the base is well protected from orbital attack. If you can handle the space defense, our new headquarters security officer, Lt. Colonel Barletto and his Marines, should be able to handle everything dirt-side."

"The Yangtze can handle most anything that's likely to come our way, Admiral," Commander Fannon said confidently.

"I know, Frank, but I'd feel a lot better about it if we had a few more ships here. I keep thinking about the time the Raiders tried to retake Stewart and sent twenty-six warships at us. That was just a month after I dispatched the Thor on a special mission that took it far enough away so it couldn't play a part in our protection. The three new battleships are more than a month away from here."

"As I recall, you repelled that attack."

"Yes, but the Stewart base is housed inside a giant asteroid, and we had four warships when the actual fight commenced."

"But none of them was impervious to laser fire, Admiral. That makes the Yangtze as good as five tritanium-hulled ships because we only have to worry about torpedoes."

"I'd put our ships up against any Milori vessel, or even any five of them, but I wouldn't want to take on more than that because the number of incoming torpedoes might be too much for the Phalanx system."

"Then there should be nothing to stop you from taking a trip home while you can," he said smiling. "The war is over, the Milori are finished, and we only have to worry about an occasional pirate or smuggler now."

"You're probably right. I've been agonizing over this decision for a week. I really want to do it now while I can."

"Then go, Admiral. I promise you we'll hold things together here. I won't tell you not to worry about us because I know you will, but we'll be alright."

* * *

Tapping the record button on the com unit in her briefing room aboard the Colorado, Jenetta faced the screen and said, "Message to Admiral Thaddeus Vroman, Stewart Space Command Base, from Admiral Jenetta Carver aboard the GSC Colorado.

"Hi Thad, I hope everything's going well there and that you're fully recovered from your terrible ordeal at the hands of the Milori. I'm presently on my way to Stewart and we expect to dock there in about thirty days.

"I'm going to ask a big favor. As of the last messages I received from my sisters, Christa's ship was at the base and Eliza's ship was on patrol about five light years out. If you could arrange it, I'd like you to transfer both of them to the Colorado for a quick trip to Earth. I think it would thrill my Mom to see all of us together and, since they're only junior officers, their absence shouldn't adversely affect operations aboard their ships. The round trip from Stewart should take about two and a half months.

"Thanks, Thad. I'll see you soon.

"Jenetta A. Carver, Admiral, aboard the GSC Colorado. Message complete."

Jenetta leaned back in her chair and smiled. As excited as she was to be going home for a visit, she knew that taking Christa and Eliza would make the trip even better. None of them had been to Earth since the cloning process had produced the two identical
twelve years earlier. She knew her mother would be beside herself with joy once she learned of the impending visit, but she had already decided to keep the trip a secret from her until they arrived at Earth so Mom wouldn't be a nervous wreck by the time they actually arrived.

* * *

Twenty days later Jenetta received a reply from Stewart. She raised the cover of her com unit and the face of Admiral Vroman filled the screen.

"Hi Jen, it was great to hear from you. Everything is going well here and I've fully recovered from the ordeal on Siena.

"As to your request to take your sisters for two months— how could I refuse you anything? I owe you so much that I'm delighted to extend this very small courtesy. I've asked Captain Hyden of the Bellona to proceed to a rendezvous point of your choosing where Lt. Eliza Carver can be transferred aboard for temporary duty. He'll be contacting you directly to arrange the RP.

"I'm looking forward to seeing you again.

"Thaddeus Vroman, Admiral, Upper Half, Commander of Stewart Space Command Base. Message complete."

Jenetta didn't have long to wait for Captain Hyden to contact her. His message arrived a few hours later.

"Hi Admiral," a smiling Edward Hyden said. "It's about time you arranged a little R&R for yourself. Eliza is excited about traveling to Earth, and can't wait to board the Colorado. My navigator will append our current location coordinates and a suggested RP, assuming you're taking the most direct route from Quesann to Stewart. If you prefer a different RP, let us know as quickly as possible. See you soon.

"Edward Hyden, Captain of the Bellona. Message complete."

* * *

The GSC Battleship Bellona was waiting at the RP when the Colorado arrived. After supervising the linkup from the bridge, Jenetta hurried down to the bow airlock to greet her sister. Captain Hyden was standing with Eliza inside the Colorado when Jenetta arrived. Both officers came to attention when Jenetta approached and then saluted when she reached them.

After returning the salute, Jenetta extended her hand to both and said, "Welcome aboard, Captain. Welcome aboard, Lieutenant."

"Welcome back to Region One, Admiral," Captain Hyden said. "I'd like to offer my personal congratulations for your success against the Milori. I never would have believed that two tiny ships could bring the Empire to its knees, but those of us who know you knew you'd at least leave them smarting more than they could imagine."

"We had luck on our side," Jenetta said. "That and the fact the Milori never expected us to be able to hit back so quickly."

"Will you join me for dinner tonight in my dining room, Admiral?" Captain Hyden asked.

Jenetta would have preferred to continue her trip immediately, but it was late afternoon already and a few more hours wouldn't make enough of a difference for her to slight an officer who had just extended a courtesy. "Thank you, Captain. I'd be delighted to have dinner with you. 1700?" Jenetta knew most captains ate dinner around 1800 hours, but she couldn't help advancing the time by an hour. She would be able to depart at least an hour earlier than if she had allowed Captain Hyden to set the time.

"Fine, Admiral, 1700 it is. I'll see you then."

After Captain Hyden returned to his ship, Jenetta and Eliza walked to Jenetta's quarters. Once behind the closed doors, they embraced like the close siblings they were.

"You're becoming decorously rigid, sis," Eliza said, smiling as they separated, "calling me Lieutenant in front of the Captain when he knows we haven't seen one another for over a year."

"I'm a four-star now, El, and people expect a certain behavior from senior admirals."

"Senior admirals only act that way because most of them are old, grumpy, and stuffy to begin with. You're none of those."

"I admit that my impulse was to embrace you and hug you with all my strength, but I have to set an example now and it's not proper for admirals to hug lieutenants."

Eliza grimaced momentarily, made a sniffing noise, and then quickly smiled again. "Where are the kitties?"

"What was that?"

"What was what?"

"That sniffing noise. I don't do that, do I?"

"I guess it's a mannerism I've picked up. We do have separate lives now, different experiences, and different social circles. So where are the kitties?"

"In my briefing room. I know that Captain Hyden has felt a little uncomfortable around them in the past. He tries not to show it, but I can always feel his discomfort."

"He's more of a
man. He has a toy beagle now."

Jenetta giggled. "When Heather Gulvil first reported to Stewart, she told me she had a toy cocker spaniel. She said my cats could probably swallow her dog in one gulp. Of course I explained that Cayla and Tayna only eat meat that's well cooked and wouldn't eat anything they didn't find in their food bowls, but I've often wondered how many people have felt their pets were in danger."

"Since regulations require that they keep them in their quarters, they probably felt safe enough."

"You're right, they probably did." Looking up at the wall chronometer, Jenetta said, "I have to get back to the bridge now. I'll see you later. Want to come to dinner with the Captain and me?"

"No, you go ahead. I wasn't really invited and I see him every day anyway. I'll grab something in the officer's mess later."

Returning to her quarters after her watch, Jenetta had plenty of time to wash up, change her clothes, and feed her cats. She reached Captain Hyden's private dining room a minute before 1700. The captain was already there and waiting. He jumped up as she entered.

"Relax, Ed. I'm still just Jen Carver when we're alone and don't have to maintain proper military protocol in front of other people."

BOOK: Against All Odds
12.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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