But she’s still as ruthless as ever.
And if Aiyana and Kendra thought she was playing dirty before? They’re going to see how filthy she really can get.
There isn’t room for both the Terran Federation and the Union.
This time, one is going down.
“Commander? Aren’t you on your honeymoon?”
Commander Daniela Garcia-Kay stopped filling her coffee cup and to stare at the questioner.
“Ma’am,” she belatedly appended.
“Better, Rat,” Garcia-Kay said, finishing the pour. “And for your information, yes, I am, but I need to stay sharp.”
She added, in a much more conversational tone, “Boomer’s been after me as well. He says that he’s still trying to integrate with his new body and I should be flying him, so…”
Rat, Ensign (JG) Judith Bastin, grinned. The Epsilon-class AI’s installed in the Direwolf fighters could be nearly human in their personalities, if encouraged by their human counterparts. A good number of the pilots of Nymeria Squadron did so, reaping the benefits of the enhanced partnership, taking after the lead of their commander.
Daniela, as the first Direwolf pilot, had led the way. She’d investigated the interests the Admiral had in 20th/21st century ‘television’ and ‘movies’, eventually arriving at ‘Boomer’ as a good name for her AI. As a result, his personality tended to be cool, calculating, and confident, with a special knack for engineering his way around problems. His level-headedness complemented Daniela’s more aggressive flying style.
“I heard they salvaged your chair,” Rat said.
“They did,” agreed Daniela. “That was about all, though.”
Her face clouded briefly at the memory. Her prior Direwolf had been ruined by a mid-space collision with another fighter during an exercise in which the other pilot had lost her life. It was the first non-action casualty the squadron had faced and it still stung.
Rat picked up on her discomfort and tried to change the subject. “How’s Boomer doing? Does he like the new ship?”
“He appreciates the new capabilities, but keeps sending me messages about how things just aren’t quite ‘right’ with it. Which is why I’m here at oh six hundred instead of in bed with my husband,” she finished, raising her mug.
“Aye, ma’am,” said Rat, raising her half-empty mug in mock salute. “Do you need a wing? I’m scheduled for the mid-watch CAP, but I have a couple hours.”
“Thanks, Rat, I’m covered. Locksmith is going out with me.”
Rat nodded. Locksmith was the XO of the second Direwolf squadron under Lt. Commander Ashlyn Bontrager. Red Squadron was officially assigned to the TFS Endeavour, but only half the fighters could fit aboard at any one time for away missions if there would be a couple of the older Wolves attached for the duration. The other half remained at Njord and did drills until the Endeavour returned.
“Catch you later, Double Dip,” Rat said and strolled out.
She had to smile. For all that Starfleet was a military organization, the formality and rigidity which plagued longer-established militaries simply didn’t exist. Given the preferences of the Admiral, it probably never would.
Daniela spent the next few minutes with her thoughts before Locksmith arrived.
Lieutenant Lexie Marsh, recently promoted, was nearly a mirror image of Double Dip. She was just as tall and built in a similar, athletic manner. Her hair, which she wore in a single long braid, was dyed a pale green which set off her emerald eyes and dark skin. Her most prominent feature, though, was her smile. It was said in her division that as long as Locksmith was smiling you were doing well. If it flickered, though, you were in trouble. Nobody knew what would happen if it disappeared. Yet.
Today, it was in full force.
“Morning, Danni,” Locksmith said, already carrying her own mug.
“Morning Lexie,” Daniela answered around another sip. “Ready for today?”
“As soon as I finish my cacao.”
“You and Commander Cassidy,” Daniela chuckled. “What is it about that stuff?”
“I could ask you the same,” countered Locksmith. “Coffee, yuck.”
“Just for that I’m going to dust you,” Daniela said.
“Hello? We’re both flying the same bird?”
“Nope. I have the first of the Mark II’s.”
Instantly Locksmith was all business.
“I didn’t think they were going to be in production until next year! That’s why my girlfriend told me, and she should know; she works at HLC, testing.”
“She’s not wrong. But someone has to break them in before they start rolling them out, and since I have the most hours in Direwolves of any pilot in Starfleet, well, the decision was simple. Mine’s one of the two-seaters, too, a training model.”
“Is the scuttlebutt true?”
Daniela laughed. “I hope so! We’ll find out today anyways.”
Locksmith put down her mug, sloshing the contents onto the table, and stood. “What are we waiting for?”
Daniela took a final swallow and led the way to the bay. After they’d done the mandatory walkarounds and pre-flight checks they each climbed into their cockpits.
“About time,” grumped her AI as she settled in.
“It’s my honeymoon,” she grumped right back. “I’m permitted.”
“It’s all well and good for you, you can get out of the ship just by standing up. Me, it takes major mechanical surgery.”
“Sorry, Boomer. Admiral’s orders. I tried to delay the wedding but she wouldn’t allow it.”
She could tell he was somewhat mollified, though, as they ran through the power-up checklists. They’d developed enough of a rapport over the previous months that they could do the tasks almost on automatic while holding a conversation.
“How does she feel?” Daniela asked now.
“It’s different,” Boomer said. “The basic systems are all the same, except where they aren’t. It’s tough to explain.”
“Anything I need to be concerned about? Anything radically different?”
“No. Most of the changes they made are incremental, evolutionary. Like the aiming mechanism on the lasers.”
“We can aim?”
“A little. About two degrees, but it’s enough so we can do some pinpoint shooting at longer ranges.”
“If you ask me, though, I’m most impressed with the new reactor, if it works.”
“What do you mean, ‘if it works’?”
“It’s a new design. The old reactor was a laser-pumped design, while the new one is a z-pinch. If it works the way it should, we ought to achieve increased thrust as well as higher power for the other systems.”
“How much increased thrust?”
“Up to 650 g.”
Daniela allowed herself a low whistle. The Mark 1 already had the highest acceleration of any sublight craft in any fleet, 500 g, and a skilled pilot/AI combination could squeeze an extra 10 g or 20 g performance. 650 g, though, was unheard-of.
“What will I feel?” she asked. She knew she could tap her implant to get the information, but one of the reasons she and Boomer were such an effective team was she treated him as a partner. Currently, at max accel, she felt 6 g, which was eight times more than the Federation standard aboard vessels and habitats. Her nanobots prevented the lower gravity from weakening her bones and muscles, but she’d been in Starfleet since the beginning. Three-quarter g felt normal now, hence her concern.
“You’ll love this. Five g.”
I was born in Maine, didn’t live there for long before my parents figured out that it was too bloody cold and moved south, all the way to Massachusetts. Grew up there and in Connecticut, lived in Maryland and Indiana for a while before moving back to Maine. Lived there for twenty years before I, too, decided the winters were too long. Of course, where do you to get away from long winters? COLORADO! Naturally. Married to a wonderful, inspirational, supportive woman; between us we have five kids, five dogs, and five cats.
As for my writing, well, I’ve thrown a bunch out onto Amazon. There’s a couple Sherlock Holmes stories, a few horror-ish shorts, and then you get to my longer books: Refuge, a time-traveling take on vampire stories, and The Cassidy Chronicles. Triumph’s Ashes is the fifth book in the series and completes the Artemis War story arc.
Like I said, thanks for dropping in! You can find me on Allauthor.com, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and on my website www.cassidychronicles.com.This month, I’ll be appearing on the Meet the Author Podcast/Vidcast on November 24th, so tune in and check it out! I