Chapter 24 snippet 2 (brand new writing)
Ducharme looked up from her thoughts when the Captains entered. They both approached her desk and took their seats across from her. In Sagnar naval tradition, she offered them a sherry to drink. Once everyone was served she began to speak.
“I called you here to brief you on two changes to our mission,” she said. “And I trust, Captain Alwyn, you will brief Captain’s Lewis and Jacoby about this.”
“Yes, sir,” She said.
“First off,” Ducharme said. “Our mission is no longer to kill Almir. We are now to do everything we can to keep her alive.”
She waited a few minutes to let that sink in to her subordinates. While White-Green had been aware of her thoughts, this had been the first for Alwyn. Everyone had been psyched to go after ‘The Banshee’ only to learn that they had to keep her alive. It was a disappointment that Ducharme could understand, however, if the First Space Lord was right, they needed Almir to keep them all out of the fire.
“The second is that I know the key to what is happening in this sector,” she said. “It’s here.”
With a flick of her fingers, the holographic plot zeroed in on Epsilon-Zeta. Keeping the screen wide enough, she pointed at the red markers surrounding it. Each of them was colonies that they had lost to the raider. The red marks encircled the Epsilon-Zeta system, leaving no doubt that it was being ignored.
“Epsilon-Zeta is the key,” she said, looking them in the eye.
“Sir,” Alwyn said. “That system only has one world that is remote inhabitable, and it’s got one hell of a harsh climate.”
That much she knew, she mused, since they had passed on colonizing it for that reason. Epsilon-Zeta VI orbited its star at the right distance, but its polar tilt was what ruined it. While Earth was twenty-three and a half degrees of tilt, along with most inhabitable worlds, Epsilon-Zeta VI’s was forty degrees. This made its winters and summers so wildly different that colonizing it wasn’t cost effective.
“Exactly,” she said. “And where else could the Alliance possibly put something under our noses at?”
“You’re thinking that there is some sort of base there?” White-Green said.
“Yes,” she said. “I do.”
“Then why don’t we just find it and destroy it,” Alwyn said. “We would be well within our rights to do so.”
“Because,” Ducharme said, “The First Space Lord has information that indicates the Alliance wants all-out war soon. If we assist Almir in ruining their plans, there’s a good chance she will do something for us.”
“Like what, sir?”
“I’m glad you asked,” she said, changing the holovid.
The image of a vessel appeared before them. The design was standard Alliance, cigar shaped with a sharp point to the bow, and the hammerhead stern. However, it was the black armor on it, and the bristling weapons ports that made it different. In fact, she mused, it made it look sinister and threatening.
“This is a prototype they are building,” she said. “On Earth with eight more in their Orion yards. This ship is armed with fusion beams, particle beams, energy torpedoes and missiles. However, that isn’t the main part.”
“If that isn’t,” Alwyn grumbled. “I hate to know what is.”
“She’s powered by a h-drive that uses a artificial black hole,” she continued. “Which makes it faster then anything in the known galaxy. Her armor, which is four feet thick, is a type of synthetic bio-armor that no one has seen. Provided that she keeps power supplied from her h-drive, this ship can heal a good chunk of the damage she receives.”
“That’s a ****ing monster, sir,” White-Green groused, beating Alwyn to the punch.
“Something you won’t find me arguing about,” She said. “But the AI that has been developed for it is capable of running almost the entire ship by itself if need be.”
“So it’s armed to the teeth and able to think for itself,” Alwyn said. “That would destroy our Fleet in days!”
“Thus,” Ducharme said. “Why we will keep Almir alive. She probably hasn’t figured this out yet, so it’s up to us to assist her. Once she’s on her way, we’ll give her the information and let her do the rest.”
“Do the rest?” Alwyn said.
“Yes,” a shark-line grin crossed Ducharme’s face. “She’s going to steal that ship for us…”
The two captains couldn’t wait to hear the plan that the Admiralty had.
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