A Very Blue Moon 1

A Very Blue Moon
Chapter 1 Draft (01-18-10)

“He’s got a way with words. And I don’t think they like him much,” Yuri Borselov was talking about Jamie Madry’s Fleet Captain, Fullson Lovell, who was running an inquiry into why Cmdr. Kenwood had the Perseus and the ship’s supposed Captain, Audie Madry, was on the ground. Audie looked at him as if he was the village idiot somehow let loose from his chains. Yuri mentally corrected the analogy; in the modern world that would be like one who was off his meds.

“You don’t even know him,” Audie said, “Lovell’s Ok. After all you can’t expect a full pass from dereliction of duty.”

“Duty’s where you find it Audie; ask Fader or Zavala, they got a clue at least. Jamie could have just papered this thing over; after all she is your cousin. That should count for something.”

“It does, it gives her a chance to as she says ‘Bring a little more professionalism into the Navy,’ and at the same time minimize charges of favoritism.”

“That’d never happen, everyone is still too happy to have Cardoman back and too busy worrying about what’s gonna happen next.”

“It won’t always be like this and Jamie has a job to do. And we didn’t add all that much to kicking the Caps off the planet. In retrospect I think that the Major could have handled the thing without us. We will have our chance to explain, and remember I told you to stay on the ship and keep out of this. For now at the least Yuri, you just keep your mouth shut and let me do the talking.”

“We’re important Audie; they can’t just throw us over the side!”
“I’m important.—You work for me— Got it Yuri?”
“Yes Ma’am!”
“Now start thinking about how you are going to explain the missing drone.”
“Think that will come up?”
“Count on it. Now go get packed, we’re due at the ‘Castle’ in three hours!”

This seemed like a very new and different world and there was no going back. The Caliphate troops sent from Earth that had occupied then been in charge of Cardoman for the last two years were with the exception of a few small units scattered here and there, and a large but leaderless bunch in the Drakonsburg, either dead or under guard. When General Mahdi Jazirah was killed in the capital Minton, and Admiral Kahn who was captured refused to issue orders after the Cardoman victory over the last large enemy units, there was no on left to command the remains of the Calp invasion force to stand down.

It was the use of a large part of the Caliphate fleet based on Philomel that had made the conquest possible. But with victory and time, thinking the position secure, the Calps made the mistake of withdrawing too many units. And when the combined Cardoman and Llanfairn fleets surprised them and drove the remaining units away the battle on the planets surface was both brief and decisive.

Retaliation was certain but with the month long transit time to the nearest Calp naval base on Philomel and the even longer two months time to Earth there was some breathing room and time for appraisal and planning. Even time for celebration.

* * *
As soon as she was done welcoming them to the Castle Irwana al-Omari, in charge of the staff, split them up. She sent Yuri to the rear of the building to bide his time at the smaller or the two bars, and sending Audie to the right and to Wes Calvert’s office, an unenclosed desk situated on the libraries second floor balcony and overlooking the ranked rows of shelving units stretching from floor to ceiling except where tall armorplast windows let in light. When Audie’s head appeared in the staircase hugging the wall her tread on oak had already given her away and Wes gave a half smile as he nodded in greeting, Wanna had undoubtedly sent word, and Wes motioned for her to take a seat.

“This is going to be good isn’t Captain, so get right to it — just how does one justify leaving a major command like a starship for a post in a support battalion on the ground?”

The formal use of her rank caused Audie to take great care in her response, something she was not known for; Wes was never this standoffish, unless he was really annoyed.

“Well it was like this Sir . . .” Audie had been with Wes since the beginning, even before the Seventh Cardoman was founded and something inside of her wouldn’t let her stay on the Perseus while those she knew and yes loved were fighting for their lives on the ground. She was relying on some of that past to get her through the present. “. . . So that’ how it was and now that you can see that I had to do what I had to do. Why not just talk to Lovell and Jamie and convince them it never happened?”

“Too many records Audie”
“We could make them all go away?”
“And the memories too?”
“Well, that would be tougher.”

“This is what I am going to do. I will stretch the truth a bit and say I had suggested, not ordered, suggested verbally that if the situation developed to a point where your unique talents were required on Cardoman you were to leave the Perseus and give command to Cmdr Kenwood, and you would then go ahead doing what was required.”

“Sounds real military Wes.”
“I’ve been practicing,”

An hour later they were sitting in the back corner bar of the newly recaptured and restored Castle Calvert. The Caliphate Commander and Fleet Admiral Suleah Kahn, in the two years he had been in charge of Cardoman had lived here and had treated the Castle as if it had been his own. Even going so far as to sampling the bar stock and depleting it of several brands of New Erin’s best whiskey. Wes could be excused for not missing them though for in return Kahn had left several cases of the original blend from Earth, and Wes could not say as how he got the worst of the deal.

Now it was like old times. Many of which were uncomfortable but they wouldn’t think about those ones—not tonight. Guests included Robbie Davis, Clay Grayson, Dennis Horvath, and Abe Loomis besides the principal involved. This was after all a celebration of sorts. Cardoman was free from Calp control for the first time in two years and everyone present had much to do with that favorable situation. Yuri was a. Lt Cmdr now, and for all of that was the lowest rank present, but would not be for much longer. And when the others arrived all the stories dealing with Audie and Yuri had best be straight enough to pass inspection.

Preparing for another hundred guests due before nightfall kept Irwana al-Omari moving from place to place with limitless energy. For an occasion of this magnitude the house staff was insufficient. It would have been a strain even if all those who had worked here before were still alive and had decided to return. And with the length of time and the intervention of a war a number of those never would. She resorted to what had worked in times past and recruited locals from Castleton, a village some ten kilometers distance started as a home for those retiring from service but one that was beginning to take on a more commercial look and feel. Wes wasn’t likely to cede it any more land from the Castle’s estate so it would likely remain in its semi rural state.

Connie was the one who had pushed for this party and though Wes had not objected, far from it. The stated reason was as a public thank you and recognition to the unit leaders and those due promotion after the successful retaking of Cardoman. That was important enough that it might even bring Wes out of his shell of introspection for a time. Wanna was glad for that but today spent little time on larger reasons because her husband Gaza, and son Mo, were both on the guest list.

When she heard the soft chime in her ear left ear Wanna knew she had two seconds advanced warning of a message from the guard shack. This one announcing two more visitors, Jack Trebeck from Plans and Intents and Jubal Reeves the head of the Cardoman Military Research and Development division. She got hold of the freshly trained doorman standing post at the Castle’s tall double wide entrance, and told him that the two new additions were familiar with and knew the way, so just greet them and let them carry on and make their own way to the back where the others were and that no escort was required. Then she continued about her work. In another hour the flood gates were going to open.

In the large ballroom at the front of the Castle an hour later Master Sgt Higgins was entertaining his table with stories of the battle for Minton when Captain Fader Jameson joined them for a pre-dinner drink.

“. . . So what the two Calps did was run into the History Museum looking for a place to hide. We saw them go in so that wasn’t going to work. And when we ordered them to give it up in the name of Allah even after they saw they were surrounded without a chance of an out figured to make the most of it before we busted them and their time was up.”

“Now the only person in the place was a staff member, this middle aged assistant curator who worked down in the basement restoring old weapons, really old weapons. Looked like she could have been someone’s maiden aunt. Ancient, fifty if she was a day. They thought to have a bit of fun in their last moments never thinking we would react very fast and bust in quickly, but mostly not giving a damn or giving the curator any credit at all for being able to protect herself. And to tell the truth we were a little slow on the uptake cause one of the guys was talking to us while the other took the curator downstairs for a preview of the whole 72 virgins thing. Didn’t even bother searching the place for a way out.”

“When this first guy and the old lady entered the restoration room the Calp was so surprised at the ancient stuff down there— this was like pre-industrial age, cross-bows, pikes, and battle axes, that kinda stuff— he got distracted for just a moment just by looking around. While he was doing this the old gal picked up a mace and pretty as you please brained him. We got a recording of the whole thing.”

“See, when she did her restorations seems she always checked to make sure that whatever it was the thing functioned, testing for balance and such. Well he hit the floor like a sack of potatoes; we got no sound but I bet it sounded that way, and then she grabbed herself up a crossbow, didn’t even think to take the guy’s gun, or maybe just wasn’t comfortable with such a new fangled piece of gear, and went back upstairs where she shot the other Calp straight through the neck. A few minutes after that happened, since no one was talking inside anymore, we stormed the place.”

“To make a long story short . . . by the time we got down to the basement level the curator lady had finished up with the one she had knocked out first. She had him welded into a suit of armor with every movable flap and joint soldered and sealed. ‘Try and desecrate a museum and rape me!’ she was muttering. She saw us soon as I poked my head through the doorway and heard me yell ‘Friendlies!’ Lucky thing it was too cause she had twirled around with that crossbow cocked and aimed. Well she just nodded affably and we all gathered round admiring the handiwork.

We left then, filed a report and went on to the next building. Somehow the report must have got misplaced because by the time someone came back for him a couple of days later he wasn’t good for much. Not as if he ever was anyway.”

“Maybe we should recruit her into the Seventh as an Unusual Weapons Instructor?” Fader commented.

“Don’t think so Sir,” Higgins said, “She was enjoying herself so damned much it wouldn’t seem professional. And besides a few of us are already signed up for private lessons.”

“Hang in there guys,” Fader said finishing his drink, “I’m off to visit with some of Zavala’s people. Any of you that can’t stay sober till after dinner are gonna have to answer to me about it because this just in—we have some of the local talent showing up real soon afterwards for a bit of dancing. But the shuttles start flying again at midnight so you better work quickly.”

* * *
Audie called the meeting of the Seventh Association to order, she had been responsible for the organizational details and record keeping just about from it’s conception seven years before when Wes Calvert, a young lieutenant, and Constance Melbourne also a Lt but his nominal superior, along with then Cpl. Audie Madry, Sgts Robbie Davis, Higgins, and a very few others managed to survive Witherway, getting off broke but mostly alive.

From a broken—down and out platoon— one that had anyone but Wes been in charge of would have folded then and their, they evolved into a small private mercenary company, and a fabulously successful one at that. Afterwards it wasn’t just winning ground actions on Ophia and Altoona that fueled their reputation but also the capture of several hyper capable starships along the way, and a well publicized prize court award. This did even more than help out the reputation, it added immensely to the units treasury and the personal fortunes of the few involved early. Whatever else the Seventh certainly had an unlikely start and improbable early history.

At the same time they kept on the lookout for new hires and grew under the impetus of the coming war between the Confederation of Free States and Independents, (the Feddies and Indies) against the Caliphate which was again on an expansionist trajectory. Based on Earth but controlling more than half of all colonized planets and with a larger industrial base than the rest combined, the Calps could see that it was only a matter of time until the rest of explored space caught up and then surpassed them.

The leadership on Earth decided to take a last stab at a Universal Caliphate. The war, now being fought, with actions on almost a dozen planets, was one that too many governments found it easy to close their eyes to, pretending it would just go away and not interfere with their lives, leaving them alone to continue as before.

The Seventh was no longer an independent unit. Wes had offered its service to Cardoman and in return for citizenship and land it had become a part, the lead part, of the Cardoman military. Not coincidentally due to Cardoman being the original home world of Wesleyan Loyola Calvert and a place where the conflict to come was seen clearly and was a continuation of a fight with the Caliphates that had ended with the Calps thrown off of the planet only a generation before.

At one time when the Seventh held a general meeting they split into sections. Now with so many mustered out, or dead, or still looking for Calps on the loose, that was no longer necessary; they all fit into one rather small auditorium in Government House at Cardoman’s capital of Minton. As soon as the noise died down Audie began to speak.

“The first thing we are going to do today is sign in the new members.” A Captain, Naval type now, and still only in her late 20’s; in spite of all of the aggravation and intervening years, Audie had aged well. She didn’t think of herself as a beauty, not like Connie Calvert, but still a little short she had lost the baby fat and cleaned up well. She didn’t feel the least self conscious standing in front while the processing of the newbies went on. She was a natural extrovert and always had been, outgoing wasn’t a word half strong enough to describe her.

Becoming a member of the old Seventh Mercenary Association brought with it more than just a badge of honor. It was most akin to being invested with a royalty granted title a patent of nobility, something that still happened on some worlds even today, but not Cardoman. With the grant came rights to an ownership share in the Company funds. It was like holding stock in a corporation. It was above and beyond pension type benefits or a one time payout upon leaving the unit for most any reason. Retirement being the best.

The share started growing from the point one became a member. The money involved didn’t seem like much of a bonus these days. With a war to fight and everything the Company once owned invested in the outcome the coffers were dry. But these people were here for the glory and out of dedication. It took a nomination and a 90% vote of current members to join, and the small badge all members wore on their dress uniforms always gathered attention.

After the investiture Audie went straight to the finances saying in preface, “They Suck! The only thing keeping us solvent is that most of what we have is invested on Cardoman. And even after what the Calps just finished doing here the government under President Horvath is honoring our pensions and other obligations with Cardoman currency. And there is the fact that many of our people back on duty have stopped withdrawing anything for now. Keep that badge shinny cause that’s all any of us are getting out of this until the war is over. And on that score the Major has a few things to say.”

For those not acquainted with the peculiarities of the Cardoman Military—rank structure was somewhat of a problem. The youngish, early thirties looking “Major” wore a uniform indicating he was in fact a General. And this was true. Even beyond this, since the death of Sandoval Inglase, Wesley was in charge of the entire Cardoman military establishment, ground, space, and all; in total something approaching 50.000 soldiers of all stripe. Yet he was still called the “Major,” at least in private, and by everyone who had known him for years, and most especially by the people in this room.

Cardoman’s population was growing rapidly, nearing 60 million, close to a thirty percent increase from what it was when Wes left the planet 15 years earlier for formal training on Jorgen. At that time Cardoman could boast of a 20 thousand man army with half of those serving off the planet for the better pay offered and the credit shipped home. Money used to help industrialize a mostly rural planetary economy, one that was just getting over a Calp attempted grab a generation earlier. One that had cost Wesley his father.

“I’ll start this out with the situation on Cardoman, which is mostly good. Then continue to what we think is happening elsewhere—which isn’t . . .”

Taking up from where the meeting left off, seated in a private dining room over thick steaks in Minton’s Grand Hotel, Wes, Connie, Aldoria Verser, the Cardoman Finance Minister who had returned with the fleet from Llanfairn via Novi and would not have been in on the first meeting in any event, and the day to day commander of the Seventh Robbie Davis, continued on with what amounted to little more than speculation.

“How long will it take to rebuild or our off planet infrastructure, especially our ship building capability?” asked Connie between mouthfuls. “I hated to watch when we blew most all of it away to keep it from falling into Calp hands.”

“Several years at a minimum,” Aldoria said, “And only if we get a lot of help from Union or Llanfairn or both. Last time around when we got the drive band technology we had a large off planet base to build from. Now, even if we push things, and we will, I would say two years minimum. And that’s if we can keep the Calps from raiding and interfering with us while we rebuild. They made a big mistake rebuilding and in cases even improving upon what was damaged or destroyed on the ground. So at least we can concentrate our resources where the will do us the most good from the Navy’s standpoint.”

“I don’t see how you two can eat steak and mashed potatoes from the same plate at the same time,” Robbie Davis said to the two Cardoman natives; he was originally from Ryman and Connie from Llanfairn, “anywhere else but here and you could be shot for that! Pan Fries with onions, that’s the way it’s done,” he said washing down his last ketchup covered bite with a dark liquid reported to be the original Cola recipe carried from Earth generations ago by Cardoman’s founders.

“One of the things I learned to appreciate Robbie, in those twelve years I spent off planet was the food here on Cardoman, especially when eating from pouches in the field. Most particularly for the couple of months I spent on Valerian. They have this turnip like thing they make into a paste called Vegemite, put it on everything. It’s no wonder so many of their people flee into space first chance they get. But tell me Robbie; how goes the Army buildup?”

“You’ll have to tell me about Valerian someday but here and now I’m quite pleased with what we are managing to accomplish. Clay Grayson and Paul Olivera are doing the work on our new Camp Logan; I get to spend all my time with the Seventh.”

“Glad to hear it because I have a job for you. If we are ever going to not just start again building hyper capable ships, but arm them, we need to take find a new weapons supplier or take Trudelheim back from the Calps. Figure out what that will take and then we can see about making it happen.”

“I need better Intel, and don’t we all, but off the top of my head I say a fleet of a dozen ships to get us into the system; I’ll talk to Jamie about that, 5000 troops with the logistics and transport that that implies, and some people on the ground before we get there to see what we are up against would be a good start.”

“Why don’t you and Raquel start on the planning then, earliest possible kickoff date? So long as Llanfairn is keeping this much of her fleet here we have a window of opportunity I don’t want to waste.”

“What about Fader?”
“I have another job for him.”

They all went back to finishing their meal.

* * *
“It’s like this Fader,” the two of them were riding a wooded path in the forest that separated Castle Calvert from the home Connie had built when she first came with the Seventh to Cardoman. When she was serving with Wes as second in command of the mercenary unit, before they were married, and she went into part time staff work. And a year before the Calps landed, their son Gregoric was born, and she went to back to working again full time. “We need to do something to shake the Calps up, give us some control on the direction of the war, make them spend time and energy reacting and on the defensive.”

“Something like attack one of their home worlds?”

“Exactly! We need to hurt them on a planet that isn’t in dispute, one that is firmly under Calp control and has been since the Calps colonized it. One where any collateral damage falls on them and not us. And one at least a few months travel time from Cardoman. Drawing strength away from this sector is too much to ask, but we might slow down reinforcement.”

“You’ve been thinking about this already Wes so you must have some ideas about the best location.”

“Just a list of the likely suspects. I’ll turn that over to you and I’ll give you Barns and Higgins, and Abe Loomis if you think he can help and Robbie hasn’t grabbed him up first. Choose the top two or three unless one stands out. And I want to see your recommendation by the end of the week.”

By then they had entered the small clearing in front of the substantial log built house Connie had built before they were married. It was still a retreat when things got hectic at the Castle. An aircar was parked on a pad to one side and on the porch sat Kelley Barns, the executive officer for Bravo Company 7th and Sgt John Higgins, one who had been with Wes and the Seventh from the start.

“You have the house until you are done. Every thing we have on file is available from the secure system connection inside. Your own password gets you in. Farmer’s gonna be your second on this and Higgins will be going along as well. Plan it like you are coming back, no suicide missions; we’ll leave that for the other side.”

Without another word but only a wave to those on the porch, Wes turned his mount around and headed back to the Castle. By the time he disappeared into the forest Fader had handed off his horse to Mo al-Omari and talking to his comrades in arms.

“So what about it Gaza? Once more into the breech?” Abe Loomis, sometimes known as Ibrahim al-Saudi, was talking to his long time partner who was now and had been since Abe took over, the top agent in Loomis’s Intelligence Unit.

“And you’re going too?” Gaza asked. He did not seem all that pleased with the direction the conversation was heading.

“What I said.” Abe Loomis looked the part of a mid-level, middle aged, businessman of no particular status or ethnic classification. Simple and harmless the kind of person to the state should tax to an inch of his life but otherwise ignore. “If I stay here on Cardoman all I do is read reports. If I go back into the Caliphate I get to write them . . . and I am an author at heart.”

“No camels this time?”
“No camels!”
“Wanna is not going to be happy about this.”
“For that I am truly sorry, but she will understand.”