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Authors: Thomas DePrima

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BOOK: Against All Odds
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"Roger's section has information about a pending Raider attack. She should be at her headquarters, ready to direct the defensive efforts."

"How can she possibly mount a defensive effort when she has no ships or people?" Admiral Platt asked. "Roger, have you identified the target?"

"No, we haven't," Admiral Bradlee said. "We haven't gotten any new information since our agent overheard that one scrap of conversation."

"Have you relayed that information to Admiral Carver?" Admiral Ahmed asked.

"No, I haven't. I was hoping to have something a little more tangible before raising her concerns. The Milori had almost ninety bases and, for all we know, the base being discussed might be in the returned Gondusan or Hudeera territory."

"But what if they were talking about mounting an attack on the new Headquarters base?" Admiral Woo asked.

"That's extremely unlikely, Lon. The Milori had deserted the base, which was only partially completed at the time. There would be little to gain until the first supply ships get there and I don't have to remind you that the twelve ships with supplies are the newest, fastest, and best protected warships from the M-designate fleet."

"Whatever their target, Carver shouldn't have left her post without prior authorization," Admiral Hubera said.

"We made her the supreme military authority in Region Two, Donald," Admiral Burke said. "Just who was she supposed to get permission from to approve leave for an overworked officer who has served the Galactic Alliance so well and so faithfully?"

"I'm not saying she couldn't take a few days off," Admiral Hubera said, "but that doesn't include leaving her command for four months."

"A few days off," Admiral Hillaire echoed. "That's generous of you, Donald. Perhaps you'll consent to giving her a few additional days in another eight years."

"Admiral Carver is the best one to decide when and for how long she can afford to be away from her command," Admiral Moore said. "Since she hasn't been made aware of the intelligence from the Uthlaro Dominion, she can't be faulted for thinking this was the opportune time to enjoy a very well-deserved vacation."

"Will she be appearing here, Richard?" Admiral Platt asked.

"She has made a request for a meeting with the Board while she's on Earth."

"She's probably going to ask for more ships and people," Admiral Hubera said.

"She knows we're giving her everything we possibly can," Admiral Ressler said.

"And it isn't nearly enough," Admiral Moore said. "We've given her a problem comparable to emptying Lake Superior with a ten-liter bucket. If we had anything else to give, she'd get it, but we must retain most of our present fleet to patrol and protect Region One. As it is we're a hundred-fifty ships short of the approved ship strength for this region alone."

* * *

"Excuse me, Viceroy," Exalted Lord Space Marshall Berquyth's aide said, "I'm most sorry to disturb your meditation, but we've received a message from the governor of Ekoqulith. He says that dozens of ships have encircled the planet and shuttles have landed in the capital. They're rounding up government employees and demanding the complete surrender of all citizens. Anyone who resists is slain."

Berquyth was stretched out on the carpeted floor of his office in the palace to perform the daily Milori prayer and meditation ritual of Danisu. "I've issued orders that all Milori military, militias, and citizens, are to comply with Space Command fully," he said. "Our empire is gone, Flinuq. The Galactic Alliance controls this part of space now and they can land wherever they want. I'm surprised to hear that Space Command is killing people though. I didn't think they were like that, even with people who resisted."

"But they're not Space Command, Viceroy, they're Tsgardi."

Berquyth opened his eyes, wide. "Tsgardi? What are Tsgardi doing there? Ekoqulith is fifty light-annuals inside our border. Uh, I mean the Galactic Alliance border."

"We didn't get any more than what I've told you. The transmission suddenly went silent."


"Yes, Viceroy. It cut off in mid word, as if the equipment suddenly malfunctioned or the signal was suddenly jammed."

Lord Space Marshall Berquyth closed his eyes again. His aide waited for several minutes, unsure if he was dismissed.

"Should I do anything, Viceroy," the aide finally asked.

Berquyth opened his eyes again. "No. I will send a message to Admiral Carver. Space Command must deal with this. We've been forbidden to take any aggressive actions outside our solar system. We can only protect our home planet. Help me up."

* * *

"That fool Wesyesku didn't activate the jamming satellite before the attack began, Captain," Warrior Colonel Ekulosque said in the attack review meeting days after the fall of Ekoqulith. "We didn't realize it until our com operator detected an encrypted outgoing message."

"What?" the Tsgardi captain said. "That idiot. You're sure the message was encrypted?"

"Yes, my Captain."

"Then it wasn't just a general cry for help. If it was encrypted, it was directed to someone of importance. The sender no doubt informed them of the takeover. Warrior Major Wesyesku has cost us the element of surprise in future engagements. Many Tsgardi will die because of his carelessness. When I see him he'll learn personally what a lattice projectile to the chest can do. Where is he?"

"I've already seen to his punishment, my Captain. He won't be making any more such mistakes. I promoted his immediate subordinate into his vacated position."

"Very well. What's done is done. It's time to continue on to our next objective."

* * *

"We've received an encrypted message for Admiral Carver from the Viceroy of Milor, Captain," the com operator said to Lt. Colonel Barletto, the senior security officer at Space Command Headquarters – Quesann. "They've used a discontinued code for the encryption, but it's still in the system."

"Place it in her queue," Lt. Colonel Barletto said to the image on his com unit. "She'll handle it when she returns from vacation."

"But it's marked 'most urgent', sir."

"Most urgent, eh? I suppose I should look at it then. Forward a copy to my com station."

When the copy appeared in his queue, Lt. Colonel Barletto selected it from the list and tapped the play button. The image of Exalted Lord Space Marshall Berquyth filled his screen.

"Admiral Carver, we've received a most distressing message from the governor of Ekoqulith. The planet was under attack by a large Tsgardi taskforce. After dozens of ships ringed the planet, shuttles began landing in the capital. The Tsgardi started rounding up our people and slaying anyone who resisted. The transmission went dead at that point, as if the sender was interrupted or the signal was jammed.

"As the planet lies within Galactic Alliance Region Two space, Ekoqulith is entitled to protection from outside aggression. I humbly request you immediately dispatch a task force to retake Ekoqulith, return its government to its people and punish the aggressors.

"Exalted Lord Space Marshall Berquyth, Viceroy of Milor. Message complete."

Lt. Colonel Barletto knew that this problem could only be handled by the Admiral. He leaned back in his chair as he performed a quick mental calculation and exhaled the breath he had been holding since the message began. At three-light-years per hour, it would take eighteen days for the message to reach Earth. Admiral Carver had left on January 23
, so she would already be on Earth for a week before the message reached the Colorado. Barletto sighed and issued the command to reroute a copy of the message, re-encrypted with a current code. He hated to interrupt the Admiral's long overdue vacation, but he knew she'd have his head if he didn't forward the message immediately.

* * *

"Six more days," Jenetta said to her sisters as they sat on the carpeted deck in her sitting room. They had eaten dinner and were now playing with the cats as they talked. Jenetta was brushing Cayla's thick coat of fur, while Eliza and Christa were petting Tayna a few feet away.

"When are you going to call Mom?" Eliza asked.

"When we enter Earth's solar system. If I call before then she'll be in a complete frenzy until we get there. This way she'll only have to wait a few hours to see us."

"Are we stopping to pick up Hugh?"

"No," Jenetta said sadly, "not this trip."

"Why not?" Christa asked. "You two have a fight?"

"No, nothing like that. The second officer of the Bonn has just been promoted off the ship and the third officer is away at some training conference. They're out on patrol and Captain Simpson can't spare her first officer right now. And I wouldn't ask her to."

"It's too bad we couldn't bring Billy with us. His first, second, and third officers are all aboard ship and he was only ten light-years from Stewart."

"But he's a ship's captain now. He wouldn't want to be separated from his command for two months."

"Why not?" Christa said. "You're separated from yours for four months."

"That's different. I was just sitting around on my hands waiting for my ships to arrive. As it is, I'll still be back before they get there. Besides, I've wanted to address the Admiralty Board in person ever since they began pinning all these stars on me."

"What are you going to tell them?"

"I don't know yet. I'd like to resign, but I really think I can make a difference in Region Two once some ships begin to arrive. I just want to get the region straightened out and then turn it over to someone else."

"Have you thought what it's going to be like stepping down, after being one of the most powerful people in Space Command for so long?" Eliza asked.

"El, you know I've never sought the power. And being responsible for trillions of lives doesn't exactly help one sleep at night. I'll be content to merely be responsible for a few thousand lives aboard ship again. You'll understand better when you attain the rank yourselves. You were born before I had risen very high, so you don't share these memories."

"We have the memories of you being the second officer on the Prometheus and the Captain of the Song. I miss those days. All we do now is steer the ship wherever we're ordered."

"You're just one step away from becoming Lt. Commanders. With your next promotions your duties and responsibilities will increase tremendously. For one thing, you'll have the watch for a part of each day, even if it's only during the first watch when the captain is off the bridge.

"It can't come soon enough," Eliza said. "People expect Christa and me to be just like the great Jenetta Carver. It's difficult trying to measure up to yourself. Here we are, still just lieutenants after more than nine years of service."

Jenetta smiled and said, "Oh come on now, El, show me one other twelve-year-old who's come as far and fast as you and Christa have? You know that on average, officers don't reach Lt. Commander until they've had between fourteen and eighteen years of service."

"But you're a four-star already."

"I'm also going to be forty-six in a couple of months."

"If we weren't cloned from you, we'd be thirty-two now if you base it on eleven years from Academy graduation."

"Be patient a little longer. Space Command is desperate to increase the size of our fleets now that we've tripled our territory. Promotion rates are going to speed up tremendously as new positions are created. Within a couple of year's time you might very well have that extra half-stripe."

* * *

Six days later the Colorado docked at Earth Station Three. Most of the crew was from Earth and Jenetta had established a schedule so everyone aboard would get at least one full week of leave.

Fearing she might have problems if she was recognized aboard a shuttle in the mass transit system— and there was little doubt she would be— she exercised her prerogative as captain of the ship and a flag officer in Space Command to use one of the Colorado's shuttles. Jenetta delighted in taking the helm for the first time in years. She was a little rusty, but got the feel of the tiny ship quickly enough.

The shuttle had to sit in a holding queue until it received clearance down to the Potomac Space Command Base but, once authorized, they made the trip to the surface in just eighteen minutes. The short flight had given Jenetta enough of a feel for the small craft that she was able to touch it down with the same gentle touch of a feather falling to the ground.

"That was wonderful!" Jenetta exclaimed as she shut everything down. "It's been a long time since I actually took the helm controls."

"Now that you've had your fun, it's time to pay the piper," Eliza said.

"What are you talking about?"

"Look at the bow monitor."

Jenetta raised her eyes to look at the monitor. Dozens of people were streaming in through the entranceway in the shuttle pad blast walls now that the engines had shut down. A few were carrying hastily constructed signs that read, 'Welcome home Jenetta."

"Oh, no! How do you suppose they heard about me coming?"

"Are you kidding?" Christa asked. "The entire planet probably knows by now. The reporters at Stewart probably sent off their stories before we even left port."

BOOK: Against All Odds
10.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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