Writing. Culture. Politics. Wandering.
At the heart of it is a young Lieutenant, given her first command. Lieutenant Isabelle Thibodaux, Belle to friends. Call sign Lynx.
She may be young, in terms of looks and experience, but I like to think that Dante – a Master At Arms on board the Republic carrier Deus, featured in Coasting as well – would not have chosen her if he had not judged her capable. Or at least seen something in her, enough to make him decide to give her the chance. Then again, with missions like these you never really know whether their success or failure is the actual goal in the bigger scheme of things, do we?
As Belle says, it’s a bastard mission.
So far I think she is doing quite well though. She has faced a number of problems already, and while team building is a job that never ends, she is getting closer to achieving what she needs to really get her mission underway. But yes, not without a price.
By the way, please don’t forget about the Sci-Fi / Fantasy Kindle Book Event on 13-14 July, we’re getting closer to those dates!
As a bit of insight in the current situation of reworking and editing, here’s the – current – start of the first chapter of the next volume in the series.
Enjoying a warm drink and the benefits of artificial gravity, Belle shut down her screen, time for a meeting with the ship’s crew – which these days included the local volunteers she had been training as pilots ever since they came aboard.
We’ll get to orbit soon, she said to herself, things will change. A different rhythm.
“Sir, we’re 10 hours from orbital insertion, you asked to be notified,” a channel opened and the ship’s pilot spoke. “Very well, thank you,” she said, grudgingly acknowledging to herself that less than half a day from now she’d find herself no longer dealing with just the people on board, but with politicians and a local military, both most likely vested in delusions she was going to shatter.
A knock heralded the chief’s arrival. “Ready sir?” Facing him she considered how well they all worked together now, they had come quite far since the start of the mission. “Yes chief, let’s walk shall we. Time to sort a few things out.” With a thin smile he followed.
“We’ve come a long way since picking them up sir.” She agreed, these pilots were maturing. Of course their training had been brutal, forcing them through a rather creative set of hurdles to not only acquire new skills, but to temper their characters. Making them embrace a place in the bigger scheme of things.
“Aye chief, they have. It’s been tough on them, and us. I imagine we could all do with a little time to ourselves.” She glanced sideways, curious for his reaction. The thin smile briefly transformed to a grin, but no reply followed.
She understood, this was a time of war. Granted, they were on a mission away from the spear points of the conflict, that was not going to last long though. Their job was to draw in hostile forces once they showed up, force them in a prolonged engagement of attrition. Under a guise of keeping an inhabited world safe from conquest, or worse.
Deep inside she also knew that this world would be made an example. Double edged blade, that part of the objectives.
She considered the situation. An attack was guaranteed to follow. They did have a few cards under the table though, but it would be walking a fine line. Achieving her objectives, without letting this world burn. Well, too much.
“Quite right chief, quite right,” halting outside the briefing room’s door she looked at him. “Still, I’ll do what I can once we arrive. Chances are we’ll have to punch through a number of convictions first, drilling through the skulls of politicians might give some time for the crew to unwind a bit.” The smile disappeared, “maybe so, for all our sakes I hope that won’t take too much time. The guys would love a little bit of time to wander, but all know the deal here.”
Unable to resist a dry smile of her own she put her hand on his arm. “I know, we all play our part. Thank you.” Once again he’d managed to put her mind a little bit at ease. They did understand, and it meant a lot, not having to confront matters alone.
“At ease,” her first words entering the room, “we’re some ten hours away from orbit, I’d like to go over a few things and I would appreciate your input.” Noticing the quiet confidence and curiosity on all their faces she continued. “We’ve all pushed ourselves hard, I’d like you to know that once we arrive I’ll do my best to find at least a little bit of time for everyone to unwind. No promises though.” A few faces lit up, others relaxed. It had been quite hectic indeed.
“First things first, I’ve approved the proposal from our ingenious engineers to produce a series of micro satellites. We’ll be seeding these throughout the inner system, which will greatly enhance our signal intelligence and our communications.” Watching one of the engineers sit up a little straighter she gave a nod.
“Well, sir, there may have been a little misunderstanding,” he said. Scraping his throat he continued “see we thought you were fine with it, so we already started production. We’ve managed to complete some 1500 units.”
As if she hadn’t know that, still, formalities and paperwork. “I see, I presume that number also means we’ve hit the end of our material reserves and you’ll be needing more?” He nodded.
“Well, excellent timing then it appears. We can launch that batch on trajectories, by the time we’re done with that we’ll be arriving at our destination.” Giving him a bit of a stare she said “please take care of it.” Not as a question, or a suggestion. They understood.
Next item on her list. “Chief, any results from our little game design project?” Something that had come up one night, going from idea to practical concept in the company of drinks. They couldn’t share simulation tech, nor did the locals have the industrial base for it, but they had found themselves needing a way to get the rest of the local SDF pilots a head start in shaking off old reflexes until they arrived. These new systems and ships required a completely different approach in navigation, manoeuvring and thinking.
“Yes sir, as you know we found a way to package a number of stripped down interaction models from our simulations, and a means to adapt those to what the locals use. They went out on the tight beam link, and I understand they’ve figured it out.”
But what of actual results, she wondered, almost feeling as if he was avoiding something, but he continued.
“It took a bit of adjusting, at least so I’m told,” he said. “Actually they more or less discarded what we sent them until one of the base commander’s kids ran off with some of it, following instructions he figured it out. After that it didn’t take long for their pilots to hear of it. So it kinda went bottom up, to top, sir.”
“If you ever retire,” she remarked, “you might want to consider a career on stage. Thank you chief. Aside of their adoption of it, I presume we all see this as an example of how carefully our collaboration with local forces must be managed.” Good, all seemed to have gotten the point. “If you’re going to step on someone’s toes, make sure it’s during a dance.”
“As for all of you,” directly looking at the pilots, she continued. “You don’t have names yet. Prior to our arrival in orbit we’ll deploy on manoeuvres. It’ll be a show, for those below, but for us it will be our graduation ceremony.” Eyes began to smile, they had been adjusting well, especially after she had fooled them in thinking their first live flight was a combat mission. One which had succeeded, but with severe losses. When they found out it was just another simulation it had hit them hard.
But it hit them as and where needed. They had accepted the lesson, making it a part of themselves. “You will guide us in, and you will do so in an impressive display of formation and precision flying. Once we dock, each of you will receive his or her callsign. You will have your names.”
Noticing the chief look up at that she continued. “Yes, that will mean a delay in everything the locals have set up. That’s tough.” Somehow everyone managed to keep a neutral face, even those who were – had been – locals. “You’ve worked hard, and you know your life is not your own. That comes first.”
Nodding at the chief she made a final remark. “We’re broadcast the the naming ceremony, live. So look sharp. Now let’s go over the problem of logistics, shall we?”
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