A Very Blue Moon 11

A Very Blue Moon
Chapter 11 Draft (06-14-10)

“Two, One, Transition in!” Three of the five ships from the Cardoman led attack at Yatagan popped out of hyper only ten minutes outside the limit, the G-4’s Aladin, SnapDragon and Essex II. The battle cruiser Novi was almost certainly at her own home world already.

A quick scan of the system showed everything normal, no extreme ship movements and no large unknown energy sources. Instructing his comm officer Captain Voinovich said, “Send the messages, mission accomplished first followed by the casualty list. The first will bring a lot of smiles but let’s be sure everyone understands the cost.”

Switching to Pavel Tsarinstyn, Aladin’s first officer, and relaying to the two other ships, he said, “We’ve got fuel to burn; make it a max G course for orbit.”

* * *
Aladin was hard docked to the military side of Cardoman Station; there was an escort but no ceremony when Stan Voinovich came aboard. A reasonable change in policy, Stan thought, ceremony had its place. It was just fine when one Captain welcomed another aboard his own ship but with the current size of the Cardoman Navy and the way he expected it to grow the overhead was too much on an orbital behemoth such as this.

The escort, an ensign he had never laid eyes on before, and he would have remembered her if he had, saluted and formally received his mission data cube, plugging it into her comm link. Of course all the data had been sent and transcribed during the twenty-five hour trip in from the limit but this presentation in person made it official.

“If you would come with me Sir, the Admiral will see you at once.”

Two Marines from the Seventh stood guard at the door to Admiral Madry’s quarters, that was a surprise; Jamie had eliminated that flourish out in the fleet. The senior of the two nodded and touched the pad next to the hatch frame and the door slid open. Standing to one side out of the field of view of someone looking in Jamie was standing with a smile she reserved only for him. As the door slid shut she fell into his arms.

Two hours later when they finally got around to talking about the battle at Yatagan Stan remembered to ask about the guards.

“Davis’s idea, I tried to overrule him but he went over my head to the Major. Wes said he thought that so long as the station here was half military and half civilian the extra protection if not necessary was warranted. He was quick on the uptake so I think Davis had him primed. He has guards outside my office as well and someone tags along where ever I go. No privacy and no getting around it.”

“Well I suppose it does make sense but I don’t fancy all my comings and going being recorded for all to comment on.”

“There is one way we could stop the gossip you know.”

“You know the Navy as well as I do Jamie, probably better, no way can gossip be repressed, not even by Admiralty orders.”

“This isn’t an order dear, just a suggestion. You could make an honest woman out of me,” and her expression said the rest.

Close to stunned, but a Captain must be ready for any surprise, Stan asked at once, “Jamie would you marry me?”

“Why of course I will, you don’t think I would set myself up to fail now do you?”

A while later Stan said, “I wish I had a ring with me now, don’t usually travel with one on hand.”

“Got ya covered,” Jamie said from her superior position, “In the drawer of the nightstand. I bought a matched set; simple and basic, you want something different you can exchange them at your own expense.”

“Let’s see,” he said reaching for the drawer in question. After a moment, “No—I think they’ll do nicely.”

Getting ready to leave for the Essex Stan said, “I’m about as happy as a man can be, but I do wonder what people are going to think about the Admiral of the Fleet marrying one of her senior officers.”

“There is some precedent here,” Jamie said with a knowing grin. “A certain Major and Captain we both know seem to have survived any negative publicity. I ran our situation by that Captain and she is taking charge of the wedding arrangements, or at least Irwana al-Omari is. Much as I’d like to there are just not enough hours in the day.” She kissed him then straightened his uniform collar. “One hour till the staff meeting, see you there.”

Mark McCormack, the Essex’s Captain delivered the after action report to the packed briefing room. Calvert had come up from below and had a seat in back where he could watch without attracting attention. Jamie from the front controlled the flow.

“Well done,” she said when McCormack was finished. “One more thing Captain, would you care to elaborate on why Captain Voinovich elected to return without Captain Speedway and his Admiral Raymond.

McCormack smiled a guilty smile, he had been in on the decision, but his eyes belied any concern. “We were deep into the Caliphate for the first time and the operation went really well, beyond anything we expected. Our ground force losses were heavy but even those less than our expectation. The capture of two Calp ships was something we had not planed for, could not plan for, at least not in any detail. Or original orders gave us some leeway on what we might do after Yatagan and on our way back home. Captain Voinovich chose to interpret those orders liberally.”

“And so he did Captain, in the spirit in which they were given. But please continue.”

“Ideally the entire squadron would have dropped in on one more Calp targets. But manning those two captured ships cut our remaining crew strength to the bone. We had fuel and weapons for a look into another planet but if it came to a fight we would most likely need to turn and run. So Captain Voinovich decided to rearm and refuel the Raymond up to full strength and send her off on an independent mission. She was the only G-3 and would be trailing behind in any event. For the rest of us getting back to Cardoman with the G-4’s and the news seemed best.”

“Captain Speedway will stick with the two captured ships, not that they are likely to be found, until he is certain their crews have everything under control. At that time those two ships will continue on to Cardoman and the Admiral Raymond will look into a Calp system or two, whatever’s reasonable, and see what mischief she can initiate. If nothing else it furthers our original goal of giving the Calps more to think about then just sending out more ships out to attack us and our allies. And Captain Speedway, after suggesting that very course of action, was quite happy when given the go ahead.”

“A well done doesn’t really cover this but be so kind as to take it as a first pass. Your Navy and your Government applaud you.” Jamie was listening to herself and having a hard time adjusting to how she had changed over the years since hiring on with the Seventh. Close as she looked no one else, not even Calvert, showed any evidence of just how preposterous the whole thing was. She would likely be the last to get used to it. Then she caught Audie smiling back at her and realized there would always be at least one person to help keep her head on straight.

“Captain you may take your seat and Cmdr Woodward will take over for a bit and fill you in on what we have been about ever since you transitioned.”

Warren (Woody) Woodward almost skipped as he went from a middle aisle to the front of the auditorium. That came as a surprise to most everyone in the room, Wes Calvert in particular. Ever since the Calps took out the Hyper Yard Woody kept working the same ungodly hours but without his old style glee. Building shuttles and system level infrastructure was one thing, old hat for someone like Cmdr Woodward. He’s gone gray was the way Wes internalized the engineers change in demeanor, but not any more.

President Horvath and Foreign Minister Vic Shearing had made obtaining a new band machine a top priority, almost the top priority. Done everything they could, moved heaven and earth to try and rebuild the Cardoman Hyper Yard. They had given up. A band machine, even before the war, was almost impossible to obtain— now—any planet capable of building one, and there were only four in all known space, two inside the Caliphate, were keeping them close to home.

Capturing that Calp G-1 on its way to wherever it was going, they weren’t sure about that part because the database was cleared and it seemed Yatagan was an unlikely destination, was a gift from on high. And Woody viewed it as such. He shook McCormack’s hand in passing and reaching the podium turned to face the room.

“I usually think it’s silly to stand in front of a crowd and address folks; that kind of thing is best done on a screen unless you are some kind of orator or other,—which I most certainly am not! Yet hear I am, and glad for the chance. Those of you back from Yatagan know how things were four months ago. A lot has changed. The shuttle yard is running at a 120%, we can use in house anything we can’t sell but we can sell anything we make.”

“Things were running so smoothly that I was thinking I should retire and take my ease. Now I won’t have to worry about that.” Woody paused, expecting laughter, and got some help from his friends.

“Now I’m not going to ramble on here but I am going to say that come hell or high water we are going to put out the next Cardoman Starship no later than two months from the time the band machine arrives. Make that fourteen weeks from today. Take all we have done so far and I will still say . . . The Cardoman Navy is only just getting started!

* * *
“What is the Navy going to do with our new found riches?” Wes asked Jamie after the briefing broke apart; they were in the Cardoman High Club the stations newest lounge and one Wes had not visited yet. Stan was with them but they were otherwise alone. The day shift was still working and it was still too early for the after dinner crowd but a few gamblers were like always playing the slots, a machine game that was older than civilization itself.

“If we can pry the workforce away from other projects I want to take a page from New Britain’s playbook and turn the G-1 into an orbital fortress. Move everything off of Cardoman High and make it our naval headquarters as well. Our presence here makes us a proper military target and even without attack from space there is always the chance of sabotage. And we spend too much time and effort defending against that.”

“Makes sense,” Wes replied, “From what I see the station is bursting at the seams already and I don’t imagine it would take much more time and manpower to do the conversion as to keep building on here.” Wes made himself a note and said, “I’ll talk to Horvath and Shearing about this and let Woody know to start planning. He needs just a little more on his plate before he becomes completely happy.”

“We’ll take the G-2, do the standard retrofit, and add an M to her designation. By keeping her here at Cardoman we can free up a ship to use elsewhere and above all else we need to be striking at the Caliphate. Waiting on our part plays into their hands because they won’t be waiting at all. Keeping Joe Speedway out there was exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. Now that you’re back I am going to send Fullson Lovell out with the Sara on a similar mission. He needs to get out from under my thumb and show what he can do on his own. Not that I have any doubts or I would never have put him in charge of her when I got stuck here on Cardoman High.”

“Where does that leave me?” Stan Asked.

Wes looked at him and raised his eyes before saying, “You Mr. Voinovich—have a wedding to prepare for! Followed by a six month tour heading up the Naval Academy. You’ll be off ship but readily available if we need you, and it gives Pavel Tsarinstyn a turn at the helm.”

“He’s said over and over he doesn’t what the job,” Jamie protested mildly.

“Then you will just have to see that he has no choice now won’t you Admiral?”

Taking a moment to consider the obvious advantages of having Stan on shore duty for the next six months Jamie replied, “You have convinced me once again Sir with your strategic and tactical brilliance!”

Thirty-seven hours later the Saratoga was on her way to the limit. No one on board, not even her captain knew where she was bound. That was taking security to a level never practiced before but Captain Lovell knew the why and how of the thing, and the data concerning their destination was included in the sealed orders so the where could take care of itself. The course, pre-jump, might give a clue, but it would be a false one. The Sara would come back into normal space and correct her flight path after she was well away from any chance of observation.

Taking a ground car from the shuttle pad and parking in the lot, Jamie Madry saw President Horvath’s armored aircar and knew his guard detail couldn’t be far away. As she passed the sentry booth, a smallish two story stone tower, she could see beyond Luther White to the two men dressed in Minton Police Uniforms who had that duty today. The Presidents detail was drawn exclusively from civilian sources, no mixing of the military and political security. It made sense to the paranoid and was one less thing for the Seventh to worry about.

Jamie was down below, delivering the draft opp plans to the Castle in person. Calvert had presented three scenarios the last time he saw her and taking a week she had roughed out the mission requirements, time, force, and materials. Irwana greeted her at the Castle’s massive entrance door then walked with her as far as the multi-paned windowed door opening into the rear corner room that did double duty as a small bar and informal meeting place. Besides the President and Wes, Connie, Robbie Davis, and uncharacteristically, Foreign Secretary Shearing, who seldom attended military planning sessions, were here as well.

Coffee or tea was the drink of the day and Jamie took a mug of the dark black drink she favored from a service on the bar before joining the others. “Good morning, Admiral,” President Horvath said, “Or should I say afternoon, I hear the chimes from the clock tower just now so the hour has stuck. Wes, has already filled me in on the basics, I’m sure I’ll be equally astonished with the details.”

“I’m sure you will Sir, but before I go any further I have an ultimatum to deliver!”

“This sounds serious,” Wes said, the corners of his mouth barley tugging upwards.

“Oh it is alright,” Jamie said looking strait at Wes’s wife, “Stan and I have set the date, it’s barely a month away.” Connie, if you don’t give me Irwana right now and for the next three weeks—I resign my commission, turn civilian, and go into full marriage mode!”

“Tish, Tosh! Just because I had to give up my position doesn’t mean you need to. Of course you can borrow Irwana—provided she is willing—but until the day only. Not only that but I mentioned your situation to Barry Summers, of Stine and Summers, and he graciously volunteered to take over the building and staffing of your new residence.”

“New residence?” This wasn’t going exactly how Jamie had imagined it.

“Why certainly. You need something more elaborate than your apartment in Minton! How else will you be able to entertain us in the style to which we are accustomed?” Connie smiled and waved an arm and hand at the bar, but also managing to encompass its surroundings.

“You are going to have to learn to deal with this, Admiral,” Wes said somewhat formally while Robbie hid a grin, “Neither I nor Dennis are inclined to accept your resignation, so it’s either this or be clapped in irons in the dungeon.”

“You have a dungeon?”

“Why Of course! What castle is complete without one?”

“Well in that case I accept your kind offer. Now if I can just convince Stan.”

“You can do it,” Janie said airily, “Need any help and I’ll tell you how I got Wes to go along with the program.”

“Fine,” Wes said beaming, “Now let’s get on to the other reason we are all here. Jamie why don’t you start with our proposed attack on the Calp fleet base at Philomel?”

* * *
The captured G-1 newly christened as the Burgeron, after Hugo Burgeron, the Captain of the FNS Victorious who gave his live at the first battle of Cardoman, but already in slang called the Berg, was surrounded by work craft. In geosynchronous orbit, in the middle of a spread of components waiting to be installed, and scattered in what looked like haphazard fashion, she was the center of activity for near to a thousand yard workers.

The G-2 being converted to G-2M status had been renamed the Wanderlust, too good a name to waste on a mythical Ryman Navy ship. Cmdr Emma Debus formerly first officer of the SnapDragon was in charge of the retrofit, she would get her Captains stripe as soon as the Wanderlust was ready. With luck in another month. You could be excused for missing the activity around her ship as it paled when compared to the work involved in getting the new Cardoman Burgeron finished.

Were it not for the fact that Cmdr Woodward had drafted Stan Voinovich to spend some of his spare time overseeing shuttle production like he had in the past, the Wanderlust would have been waiting. But because of so many Cardoman warships at home right now there was far more engineering and construction talent available then usual and the Navy was more then willing to use it’s own to get another ship ready.

With Audie Madry doing the electronics and sensors, Yuri Borselov the comp systems, and Miles Ellsberg overseeing the weapons installation Emma could not have wished for more. It was eye opening to watch people like that make everything look simple when Emma knew how hard it was. She spent little time overseeing work crews, devoting her own time to learning the systems she was unfamiliar with.

She had Lt—now Lt Cmdr Carla Bignotti, formerly second of the Perseus as her new First Officer. With so many moving up there were dozens of slots to fill throughout the fleet. Recent Academy graduates were thrown in to sink or swim and the rest of Emma’s team was mostly made up of these.

Critically short of engineering talent, what she wouldn’t give for someone like a Borselov or Ellsberg. Emma was praying Doug Moffit, an academy graduate six months ago who with out a ship had been working for Cmdr Woodward might prove as apt at ship’s duty as his record showed he had while working on a shore station. There was no choice in the matter but like many other things about her new command, it led to sleepless nights.

Perhaps the strangest appointment to her command was the head of the Marine unit, one Leo Lassiter. On the books he was a Cpl but Fader Jameson had assured her that by the time the ship was ready Leo would be at least a Sgt again. That made her feel much better. Except for helping out as stevedores there wasn’t much the Marines could do right now and Lassiter did have a positive genius for getting those under his command to work with a will.

“Come on Stan, get a move on it!” Jamie didn’t want to waste a moment and her husband to be was talking on his comm unit to the yard dogs he had just left. A month and a half running the Academy and helping out on the Wanderlust refit and this would only be the eighth time they had a chance to spend an evening together. Barry Sanders had documents to sign and Connie had insisted she get it done or else. They’d taken a lander from Cardoman High to the passenger side of the port at Minton. Dressed in civvies the other passengers on the lander were aghast as they walked straight through customs without stopping or being stopped. No salutes either, merely nods, but the coast had been cleared.

Barry Summers himself was waiting on the other side of the line separating those free to go from those still in doubt. “Come this way,” he said leading them to a side entrance, “I have a car ready and waiting.”

Exiting through a fire door with a spaceport guard ready and willing to override the warning alarm they slid into the back of Summers’ Dillingham Speedster, imported from Llanfairn and the most opulent, not to mention the speediest, aircar type on planet. Sinking into the upholstered interior the doors closed seemingly of their own volition, and the pilot/chauffeur, seat topped by a plastiglass panel, with clearances arraigned went up then out at a prodigious rate of speed.

“I’ve got one of these on order for you but with the war and all it could take months, hell let’s not kid ourselves, it might not ever get here. The Dillingham factory is switching over to military production and about time. Still I must say it’s good to know the order’s in.”

“Do you have some photos or any video to look at Mr. Summers? I can’t imagine what you’ve done with the sketches Stan and I gave you. They were so—crude!”

“I’ve got them but why don’t we just have a snack,” he lowered a door on a built into a unit behind the pilots seat, and enjoy the scenery. You can see it for real in under an hour. And I take it you have avoided looking at any overhead imagery, all the better.”

Breaking through a thin screen of high clouds the rolling hills outside of New Hope, home of the survivors of Marais, was picture postcard perfect. “That’s your new home, the building on the river on the outskirts.” Barry was pointing but neither Jamie nor Stan needed any help picking it out. There seemed to be a crowd in front waiting for them.

“It looks so green.”

“Yes, tried to stop them, said it wasn’t in the contract but they insisted. Seems like both of you have a favorable reputation in these parts. Just colored grass over dirt but it does look pretty.”

The car set down to a flood of music and a waving of flags. The entire town turned out to welcome the new residents. Irwana al-Omari was standing in front flanked by Leah Radom and Rebeka Aaronson. Shemuel Ben Judah, somehow able to make leave was standing behind. Looking around Jamie saw as many tears as cheers. She blinked but couldn’t stop her own eyes from filling. These were the survivors of the prison planet Marais; and they spared nothing in welcoming. Rebeka broke ranks and threw her arms around Stan; Jamie felt not a hint of jealousy and Stan for his part felt nothing amiss.

Barry Summers, being the least emotionally involved said, “Let’s take a tour of the work in progress and then go into town. I understand the locals have something planned.”

“So I guess we’ll just have to put you up for the night,” Rebeka Aaronson said, “Who’d have thought a Dillingham Speedster could have engine trouble? The repair truck will be in in the morning but due to the curfew no more air traffic tonight. I got you two a pair of adjoining rooms in the hotel, such that it is, wouldn’t want anyone talking now would we, and I’ll see you both in the morning for breakfast.”

The next morning at breakfast Jamie said, “You know Becky, this marriage and nest building thing that Stan and I are going through must be a repeat of exactly what Connie and Wes Calvert came to settle down on Cardoman. Though on far less grand a scale.”

“It’s the story we all wish to tell Dear! Part of life that should be told again and again. And I can say with certainty that as far as being less grand; everyone in New Hope will be doing his best to prove you wrong!”