Authors: Thomas DePrima
He smiled. "Okay, Jen."
"How have you been?"
"Fine. Things have been pretty quiet since you left the sector. We've just been running our normal patrol routes. You put so many Raiders behind bars while you were the base commander at Stewart that it's been almost as quiet here as it is around Dixon."
"That's good to hear. I can say the same about Region Two right now, but I think it's just the calm before the storm. Our problems there haven't even begun yet. The Milori crushed anyone who got out of line, but by now the pirates have learned the Milori have had their teeth pulled. I expect them to start trying to build their own little empires in the absence of a heavy governmental hand. The worst part is there's absolutely nothing we can do about it. Not unless we suddenly find eight-hundred fully crewed warships."
"That's a tall order. How many ships have been assigned to the second fleet so far?"
"Seventy-seven, but most of them haven't even crossed into Region Two yet. It will take years just to get them to their bases so they can start patrolling. I received all three of the new battleships that were recently commissioned and that helps a great deal because they're capable of Light-9375. I have eight ships with the new speed capability now, if I count all the scout-destroyers as warships."
"You've certainly shown everyone what those small scout-destroyers can do. It makes me wonder if we need battleships any more. How will you be dividing up your forces?"
"I've identified twenty-five locations for StratCom-One bases, and each base should have at least fifteen warships assigned to it. To properly cover the entire region there should be an additional seventy-five lesser bases established and I'd like to have an additional four-hundred-twenty-five ships to divide among them, but it's going to take a long time to come up with those eight-hundred ships. The Mars facility is trying to ramp up production to a point where they produce twenty-five ships a year, but Region One is still severely short of their five-hundred-ship quota. What we need is a ship building facility like Maxxiloth had. When we destroyed his shipyard, he had about a thousand warships in various stages of construction."
"Good God, the docks must have stretched on forever."
"It sure seemed that way. We left a hell of mess behind when we were done."
"All I know about your operation is that you accomplished it with just two small ships. Is it classified, or can you talk about it?"
Jenetta had known before she arrived that he'd want to hear about her incursion into the former Milori Empire, so she didn't disappoint him. She explained in detail the various steps she had taken to destroy the Milori military and civilian infrastructure, leaving the enemy no choice but to plead for a cessation of hostilities.
The Colorado separated from the Bellona just after 2100 hours. Jenetta had thanked Captain Hyden for accommodating her request and promised to have Eliza back in about two and half months.
* * *
The Colorado arrived in the vicinity of Stewart Space Command Base at 0400 hours. Anticipating the late arrival hour, Jenetta had decided to have the ship wait outside the port until morning and went to bed at her usual time. The Colorado would complete its docking when Jenetta arrived on the bridge in the morning. When she learned of the estimated arrival time, she chastised herself for not checking before linking with the Bellona. She could have enjoyed a more leisurely meal with Captain Hyden and not felt compelled to advance his normal evening meal hour.
Although Jenetta was sure Lt. Commander Ashraf was experienced enough to handle the approach and docking maneuvers without her supervision, the SC Handbook
recommended the captain's presence on the bridge during all docking and undocking operations. It would set a poor example if she ignored it.
The Colorado moved inside the base as soon as Jen arrived on the bridge in the morning. Lt. Commander Ashraf had no difficulty with the docking procedure and turned over command of the bridge as soon as the dock master certified the airlock seal and she had reported the status of the ship to Jenetta. After accepting command of the bridge, Jenetta checked her message queue and then prepared to disembark the ship. Lt. Maria Cruz, Jenetta's third officer, would have the bridge watch while Jenetta was off ship.
Lt. Commander Ashraf, temporarily resuming her role as an admiral's aide, joined Jenetta as she walked to the airlock.
"Did you get breakfast?" Jenetta asked.
"Yes ma'am. I had a chance to wash up, change, and grab a bite."
"Good. I'll try to make this visit with Admiral Vroman brief so you can get some sleep."
A large crowd was waiting as they stepped onto the docking platform that ran the length of the habitat. A line of Marines had prevented them from pressing close to the ship's pier, but when someone spotted her and shouted something, the crowd began to yell and applaud with a deafening din. The station's public relations officer stepped forward with Admiral Vroman. Both came to attention and saluted. Jenetta responded as military protocol dictated and then tried to say hello over the noise. Admiral Vroman wisely gestured to a low platform that had been set up. Jenetta understood immediately, nodded, and climbed up onto the makeshift stage. Admiral Vroman followed her, then walked to the podium and raised his hands to quiet the crowd. It took several attempts.
"Good morning. I hadn't realized when we informed the press Admiral Carver was arriving today that the word would spread so quickly. I suppose that's a testament to the grapevine we have here on Stewart. I won't keep you waiting, since you've obviously come here to see Admiral Carver and not me, so here she is."
Admiral Vroman stepped out of the way and gestured for Jenetta to speak.
"Good morning," Jenetta said as she stepped up to the microphone. "It's great to be back here at Stewart, which I've come to think of as my second home. I see a great many familiar faces in the crowd and I'm happy to say you're all a little safer now than when I left. The Milori will never invade our territory again." Jenetta had to pause as the crowd erupted in applause and cheering. When it died down she said, "Some of you may have heard I've been given the job of bringing peace to the annexed territory. That's true, and it will be as difficult an undertaking as the one I faced bringing stability and the rule of law to Stewart's assigned area of the Frontier Zone."
Jenetta paused and looked at Admiral Vroman for a second. "I guess we're going to have to find a new term for that area. It's hardly a frontier anymore since it sits almost squarely in the center of Galactic Alliance territory." Looking back at the crowd, she continued, "The Galactic Alliance now stretches 2000 light-years further out than it did last year. Taming the new territory is going to take years of effort. Not just mine, and not just that of my officers and crews, but all of ours. I'm talking about miners, freight haulers, traders, farmers, merchants, and everybody else who makes their living out here. There are opportunities for everybody as long as you obey the law. The Raiders will find
opportunities as limited there as they've become here." Jenetta paused as laughter rippled through the crowd.
"Thank you for coming out to welcome me back. It's nice to know I haven't been forgotten." Another laugh rippled through the crowd. No one could conceive of anyone on Stewart not knowing of, or forgetting, Jenetta Carver. "Thank you," she repeated, waving to the crowd, and a thunderous applause rocked the dock area.
Jenetta turned to Admiral Vroman as the crowd started to dissipate. "I thought I was going to have a quiet walk to your office," she said, smiling.
"I'm afraid I mentioned to a couple of people that you were coming and the word got to the press. When they pressed me for confirmation I admitted that you were coming for a very brief visit. They're still waiting for you to talk to them now that most of the crowd has left."
Jenetta turned and saw that the Marines were now letting the press approach the stage. She sighed and returned to the podium where she answered questions for about half an hour. A couple of reporters asked repeatedly when the official vid logs of the Milori actions were going to be declassified and she kept referring them to Supreme HQ on Earth. When she decided they'd pretty well covered everything, she took one last question, thanked them for coming to greet her, and then waved to them as she walked off the stage. The reporters reluctantly turned to face their own 'oh-gee' cameras and wrap up their stories as Jenetta, Admiral Vroman, and Lt. Commander Ashraf walked to the base commander's office.
As they entered the Admiral's office, Jenetta was surprised to find it already occupied by eight warship captains. The entire group came to attention and saluted.
Jenetta returned their salute and said, "As you were."
"Everyone who was in port wanted to welcome you back, and I felt it would be better to meet in here instead of doing it in front of the press."
"I agree," Jenetta said, just before she circled the room, stopping to say hello, shake hands, and exchange a few pleasantries with each officer.
As with Captain Hyden, everyone wanted to hear about Jenetta's tactics against the Milori, and she spent about two hours telling the officers about the campaign. The captains would have liked to stay for hours and discuss every aspect as they used to do over dinner in Jenetta's dining room, but Jenetta hinted she was anxious to get underway. Everyone understood and, almost as a group, took their leave, giving Jenetta a little time with Admiral Vroman.
"That was a remarkable feat, Jen," he said.
"We never could have done it without the Colorado and Yangtze. I love those little ships. I wish I had a dozen more of them."
"Have the Milori on the space stations given you any problems?"
"Not yet. The Viceroy told them to comply and they're complying. A Milori warrior would never disobey an order. They will happily fall upon their own sword if ordered to do so by their commander."
"What's going to happen to their world now?"
"They're working to rebuild their infrastructure. I'm afraid I made quite a mess. I regretted doing it, but Maxxiloth's refusal to surrender made it necessary."
"It had to be done. We couldn't have them attacking us again in five or ten years after they'd had a chance to rebuild their warship fleet."
"We'll keep an eye on them and make sure they never threaten their neighbors again." Standing up, Jenetta said, "I guess I'd better get going. Steve Powers told me he ordered Christa to report to the Colorado by 0900 hours, so she should be aboard by now."
"I was hoping you'd stay for lunch."
"I'd love to, but I don't have the time today. On my return trip I promise I'll stay for dinner, if I'm invited."
"You have a standing invitation for dinner anytime you're in the area."
"Thanks Thad. And thanks for arranging for my sisters to be available for the trip."
"My pleasure, Jen. Have a safe trip."
* * *
Christa was conversing with Eliza in Jenetta's quarters when Jenetta returned to the ship.
"Christa!" Jenetta said excitedly as she entered her sitting room. The two women hugged warmly for a few seconds before pulling back to arm's length and looking at one another. "You look good."
"So do you, except your shoulders are drooping a little."
"Yeah, the four stars are a little heavy— a bit ostentatious, aren't they?"
"On you, they look good. I was surprised when I heard the news. I wondered if you'd accept them."
"I gave the matter a lot of thought after I received the message from Admiral Moore. It's going to be five more years before my ship is ready to be commissioned and I have to be working somewhere, so it might as well be in Region Two."
"You don't seriously believe you're going to get a ship now, do you?"
"They promised me one. I'm going to hold them to it."
"But that was when you were a brevetted two-star. Now you're a permanent four-star, by confirmation of the Galactic Alliance Council."
"Then I guess I'll be the first four-star to captain a battleship. They promised me and I intend to hold them to it. But right now I have to get to the bridge and get us underway. Next stop, ladies, is Earth."
~ February 24
, 2282 ~
"I've received a message from Admiral Carver," Admiral Moore said to the Admiralty Board members during their regular session. "She's on her way to Earth."
"To Earth? Why?" Admiral Platt asked.
"She says she hasn't been home for twelve years and hasn't even taken any personal leave since becoming the base commander of Stewart eight years ago. She feels that now is the best time to leave the new headquarters base because there's little to do until the ships assigned to the Second Fleet actually begin to arrive and construction can begin."
"This is dereliction of duty," Admiral Hubera said. "I told you all that putting her in command of Region Two is a mistake, but you insisted she was the best person for the job."
"Oh, Donald, not again," Admiral Hillaire said. "Her fleet has virtually no people and no ships yet. She's wisely taking a break now before she's really needed. How do you see that as dereliction of duty?"