The stars pierced through the inky black curtain like myriad eyes scrutinising Captain Andrea Gillespie.  She eyed them back accusingly.  So, she hated filing her paperwork.  She was an explorer and adventurer who was in space to be out there in the thick of the action so to speak, not a bureaucrat there to write reports.  With thick salt and pepper hair she was a distinguished woman who had seen her fair share of the action she craved, yet it seemed like that was all too long ago.  She tossed her tablet carelessly onto her desk and stood up.  She rubbed her eyes and let out a heavy sigh.  It would wait, she thought.  The stellar nursery they were observing from four light months distance was unlikely to complain if her captain’s report was filed tomorrow.  She crossed her office to the small galley alcove and poured herself some whisky.  She took a sip and closed her eyes.  The warming fingers of the liquor massaged her oesophagus as she swallowed.  She sat on the sofa in her office and relinquished herself to the fatigue that was creeping in.

Andrea found herself remembering a similar time; sitting on a sofa with dim but warm lighting, glass in her hand, warming peaty smell from fine single malt and…her.  It must have been more than twenty years since that evening with Vivienne.  She imagined her face as it was with very fine bone structure, high cheekbones, porcelain skin and sapphire blue eyes beneath a thick and luscious mane of dark brown hair.  She was so beautiful.  They had both been brand new officers on their first deep space assignment.  Their affair had been intense but sadly very brief, she remembered with regret.  What had happened?  She had been a navigator and what was she again?  Defensive systems, wasn’t it? They had met on a project tying the navigational sensor array to the particle lance targeting systems.  She couldn’t remember much about the actual project anymore, she had been distracted after all.  However, before it had progressed or they had been caught Viv had disappeared without a word to her.  She had asked Viv’s commanding officer and he had just replied that she had transferred and would say no more.  Andrea had suspected something wasn’t right, but never got to the bottom of it.  She chuckled to herself – she still didn’t know despite orange level clearance, as if all trace of Viv never was.  Ach well, it wasn’t like she’d been celibate in the years since, but she had never settled.

A chime brought Andrea out of her reverie.  She tapped a control on the wall, “Gillespie,” she responded.  A professional female voice came through the intercom – Joanne Campbell, her first officer.  “Apologies for disturbing you, Captain – but we have a high level priority signal from Command.  Red level clearance.”  Those last words hung in the air – this was serious.  “Understood.  Patch it through to my office,” she said and clicked off the intercom.  She put her glass down and returned to her desk to activate her visual monitor.

The face of Admiral Lawrence appeared on the monitor.  Andrea couldn’t help but notice the coincidence.  Admiral Lawrence had been captain of the ship that Andrea had been that young navigator aboard.

“Admiral Lawrence,” Andrea smiled.  “It’s good to see you.  To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Good to see you too Captain,” the admiral said.  “I’m sorry, but we have little time.”

Very serious.

“New Saudi is in the midst of a civilian uprising and the government has requested aid from the States of the Former European Union.”

Andrea nodded but continued to listen without comment.

“We have reason to believe that the civilian militia is receiving help from the Federated Free Colonies.  You are to leave for New Saudi and assist the government with non-military aid only.”

Andrea responded, “I understand sir.”

“There’s more, Captain.  You have been granted red level clearance for this mission.  I am sending an encrypted mission briefing.  You have permission to advise your crew as you deem appropriate, but this is need to know only.  Understood?”

A civilian uprising, she thought, hardly a secretive event.  Human occupied space was full of colonies from old Earth nation states that had their own unique ideas of how to run themselves with little or no input from the old Earth governments.  Sometimes those colonies did request aid in some form or another, usually from the Union as the response was often favourable, as it was in this case.  Ships like Gillespie’s were frequently sent to tense political situations.  So a red level clearance was unusual.

“Yes sir, I understand.”

“Your current mission is postponed.  Set course immediately.  Lawrence out.”

The screen darkened with just a blinking red icon – the briefing documents.  Andrea tapped another intercom panel at her desk.  “Commander Campbell,” she said, “Set destination New Saudi colony in the Perseus cluster – maximum displacement and engage.” She clicked off without waiting for acknowledgement.  She felt the familiar queasiness in her stomach as the displacement drives engaged pushing the ship into extradimensional space-time.  The myriad eyes that had bothered her earlier winked out simultaneously leaving the swirling blue tendrils of displacement space that science was still at odds to explain fully.

Andrea tapped the icon on her screen to open the document.  “Decrypt,” she requested of the ship’s AI.  The text appeared in a readable format in front of him.  “Transfer to tablet, please.”  It would be twenty hours or so before they got to New Saudi so she poured herself another whisky and sat on her sofa with the tablet.

The next morning Andrea stepped onto the command deck of her ship E.S.S. Windermere.  She was a standard Lake class frigate with a modest crew of three hundred spread across five hundred metres and eighteen decks.  Although there was no requirement for aerodynamics in space, the designers felt that a sleekness and beauty to Union ships helped in maintaining an image.  Andrea did like captaining a pretty ship she had to admit.  She was primarily peaceful and conveyed that image to those that looked upon her; however, she did have teeth that could be deployed if necessary; just how Andrea liked it.

“New Saudi system Kuiper belt approaching,” the AI announced.

Andrea reviewed the monitors around her seat assessing distance, gravitational fields within the system, objects to be aware of, other vessels and finally the exit point from displacement space.

“Helm,” she called out, “Point two two port and disengage in three, two, one, mark!”

She felt the same queasiness in her stomach as she had upon entry into displacement space as they emerged.  Stars appeared on the main viewscreen with an ochre disc that hung like a ball from a child’s mobile to the right hand side of the screen.

“Magneto drives ahead two thirds, please,” Andrea said.  “Slide us into a high orbit over the capital.”

“Captain!” the tactical officer called.  “Free Colonies ship detected in low orbit.  Atmospheric ionisation disguised them from us until now.”

Andrea asked the AI to bring up an image.  The typical black knobbed hull of a Free Colonies starship appeared in front of her.  They were in low orbit as she could perceive a glow of ions around their ship as they grazed the edge of the world beneath them.  She requested the image zoom.  She could make out the slender cylinders of particle lance cannon.  It looked like she had sharper teeth than Windermere.  And an ace in the hole from the mission briefing she had read last night.

“Singh!” she called to the tactical officer.  “Work with Commander Freidriksen – I want at least one hundred fifty percent on EM shielding.”  An unreasonable request? Maybe, Andrea thought.  But if anyone could do it, they could and the rest of the crew could be reliant on those skills in the next few hours.

“Comms, raise the New Saudi Prime Minister, please,” Andrea ordered.

“Prime Minister Khouri, sir,” the officer replied as the viewscreen ahead changed to show an Arabic man with neatly kept beard and cream coloured keffiyeh to match his suit.

“Prime Minister Khouri, I am pleased to make your acquaintance,” Andrea began.  “I am Captain Andrea Gillespie of the States of the Former European Union starship Windermere.  How may I be of assistance?”

“Thank you, Captain Gillespie,” the Prime minister began in a harried voice.  “We have a rebellion on our hands with whom we need help to control.  This is purely for the safety of our citizens you understand.”

“In understand,” Andrea replied, “but we cannot get involved in what is defined as an internal matter.”  This was a part of the job she really disliked; trying to calm pompous government officials who wanted her to clean up messes of their own making.  She didn’t pretend to understand the details of the political situation; she only knew the basics that had been in the briefing.  Basically, the populace were dissatisfied at being subjugated based on race, gender, belief and financial status much like any uprising in countless times and places throughout human history.  Andrea had no desire to be part of another.

“The rebels are armed with Federal weapons!” the Prime Minister announced.

Complicated.  Both Andrea and her superiors hated interference in internal matters by third parties.  However, the policies of the Federated Free Colonies differed significantly.  Help in a coup and you can control the new government ready to be exploited, or maybe that was too cynical Andrea thought.  Strictly speaking it was still an internal affair despite the outside interference.

“I am authorised to aid with provisions of food, medical supplies and equipment and a small amount of infrastructure reinforcement purely for safety purposes,” Andrea said authoritatively.

“We need weapons to defend ourselves,” the Prime Minister implored.  “I wouldn’t expect a woman to understand.”

Andrea sneered perceptibly, secretly hoping this fool of a Prime Minister could see.  Gender had nothing to with it; a calm head and measured response was required, not the hot-headed shoot back with bigger guns response that the man on the screen appeared to want.  She responded impatiently, “We will send supplies down to you shortly, please provide landing co-ordinates.  Gillespie out.”  She chided herself internally; the Prime Minister was just desperate to control a situation that had gone too far because of outside interference.  She shouldn’t blame him, despite the sexist comment Andrea thought.  It was time to intervene as much as she could legally get away with.

“Comms, tightbeam signal at the transceiver assembly of the Fed ship, please,” she ordered.

“Open,” the officer replied.

“Free Colonies vessel,” Andrea challenged, “this is E.S.S. Windermere.  Please state your purpose in this sector.”

Andrea waited for the response.

“I might ask the same of you Windermere,” the reply finally came.  Andrea had fairly limited experience in direct communication with the notoriously secretive people.  Ever since the expansionist movement of the early twenty-fifth century the former United States had become isolationist.  Andrea knew enough to recognise a Texan accent though.

“We are here at the request of the planetary government,” Andrea said.  What she had to say next was a long shot, “I must ask that you cease and desist your supply of weapons and materiel to the civilian militia.”

A chuckle was the response he received.  “Aha.  Quite frankly, hunnie; it ain’t Europe’s goddam business!  Who are you, anyway?”

“I am Captain Andrea Gillespie,” Andrea answered.  He hoped the shields were coming along, he could see this exchange ending poorly.

Another chuckle and some inaudible conversation, probably with another member of the other captain’s bridge crew.  “Well, Andy it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” the Texan captain’s response came after a moment.  Andrea bristled.  “I’m Colonel Hank O’Malley.  We’ll be in touch again soon.” The connection was cut.

Andrea was angry about that very short exchange.  Clearly O’Malley had more information than she and had very effectively taken control of the interaction.  Damn it! “Joanne, take the command centre, I’m going to my office.  Keep me updated on our supply runs.  Watch that Free Colony ship very closely.”

Joanne nodded briskly.  Then, more sensitively, “Is everything ok Andrea?” she asked quietly so only she could hear her.

“I don’t know Jo; I don’t like how this is going.  I can’t really discuss it yet, but I think I’ll need your friendship before this is over.”  She headed over to her office door on the starboard side of the command centre and stepped through to her sanctuary.

Andrea had been reviewing the mission briefing again.  She was concerned.  She tapped her intercom control, “Singh?  Freidriksen?” she awaited their response.  It was Freidriksen that answered an accent reminiscent of the old state of Germany, “Yes, Captain?”

“How are those shields coming?  I’m going to need them in thirty minutes.”

“I have reinforced the power coupling manifolds to take extra plasma flow.  We can shunt fifteen percent of the displacement drive power to shields without blowing the grid.  With a field test we can be ready in forty five minutes,” he said.

“I have every expectation they’ll be tested for us.  You have thirty.  Gillespie out.”

She switched the intercom to a new channel.  “Campbell, how are the supply runs?” she asked.

“Yes Captain.  So far, no interference from the Free Colonies vessel.  They are letting our ships through unhindered,” Joanne answered.  “However, there are ion trails from their own launch bays.  Admittedly tough to resolve with them in such low orbit.”

The New Saudi Prime Minister was probably correct in his assessment of weapons supplies.  Andrea’s train of thought was interrupted.

“We’re receiving a transmission from them, for you personally,” Joanne continued over the same intercom connection.  This was the dreaded moment.

“Ok, put it through Jo.  Thank you.”

Andrea tapped off the intercom and sat behind her desk.  She was going to appear professional for this; give away as little as possible.  She activated her screen.  Despite the document she had read, she still wasn’t prepared for the face she saw now looking back at her.

“Viv.”

“Hey Andy, my sweet!  You’re looking very well.  Command agrees with you, my darling,” Vivienne said with what Andrea perceived as a slightly mocking tone, but that could be her anger colouring the tone.

“I’m not sure I can say the same of defection,” Andrea replied acidly.   Keep it professional she admonished herself.

Her former lover had a pained look, possibly genuine; Andrea didn’t know what to think anymore.

“I’m sorry, Andy.  It wasn’t you my sweet.  It was complicated, still is really.  I never stopped loving you, you know?”

This was manipulation, Andrea could feel it.

“I couldn’t tell you where I was going.  I had to have you believe I just left,” she continued.

Ok, Andrea thought, let’s give you benefit of the doubt – play into your games for now.

“So, why?”

“I’m not sure you would understand, my darling,” Viv said.

This was bullshit she was being fed.  And here she was eating it up.  Distraction while the other hand was what?  Andrea muted the connection and tapped her intercom.  “Campbell, detailed analysis of orbit and ionising pattern of the Free Colonies ship,” she demanded.  She could see Viv’s mouth moving and a puzzled expression on her face.  She deactivated her monitor with a thump.

“Activity has increased,” Joanne said calmly.  Crunch time.  Andrea deactivated her intercom and returned to the command centre.  She took her seat firmly.

“Alert one!” she ordered.  The command centre lighting dimmed, monitors shifted to systems and damage readouts, intraship communications opened and stayed open and the AI increased awareness to full to make microsecond decisions a human crew could not.  “Enhanced shields now, please.”  Singh was back at the tactical station and enthusiastically activated his project.  “Open our weapons ports and charge,” Andrea continued her orders.  “Helm, alter orbit to one five zero kilometres!  Put us in the atmosphere between that ship and the surface.”

Tension among the crew in the command centre visibly increased.  They had fully expected a diplomatic mission – low demand on a crew.  Andrea sympathised but she had to wipe that smile off the smug cow.  Was this too personal?  She couldn’t allow the Free Colonies to orchestrate a coup, no matter what she thought of the current government.  But would she act in this way?  She couldn’t afford to second guess herself.

Her monitors showed the ship’s movement in a symbolic format intercepting and crossing the orbital path of the Free Colonies ship.  She could see their alteration course in response.  Landing craft were still being launched though.  That irked Andrea.  Using her relationship to step up weapons runs!

“Particle lances!  Warning shots ahead of each lander,” she ordered.  “Comms, ship to ship.”

“Channel open,” an officer replied.

A voice came through before Andrea had chance to issue her own demand.

“Hey, hunnie!  What do you think you’re doing shooting at my guys?” the Free Colonies captain asked in his drawl.

“The State of the Former European Union will not allow you to interfere in the internal matters of a sovereign colony world.  Cease and desist your supply of weapons and materiel, or I will be forced to prevent your ships from landing!” Enough was enough.  This captain clearly had no respect for her and was prepared to use underhand tactics to get his way.  Was she letting him get to her?  Was this actually the response he wanted and she was playing into his hands?  Would he call her bluff on shooting landing craft?  Was she even bluffing?

The screen activated showing the Free Colonies captain on the command deck of his ship.  Stood next to him was Viv.  “Don’t shoot at us darling, that would hurt me and you wouldn’t want that, my sweet.”

Andrea made a kill gesture to the comms officer.  He cut the connection.  Andrea was utterly furious now.  She had been effectively manipulated into these actions she could clearly see that now.  “Use our landers to block their lander’s paths,” she ordered.  Good pilots and careful flying could achieve her goals bloodlessly.  She looked at her first officer, “Tactical discussion, my office,” she said calmly.  “Singh, you have command.  Keep those landers up here, but don’t shoot.”

Andrea and Joanne entered her office.  Andrea cut AI monitoring using an executive override.  “Red level clearance,” she said to Joanne.  Joanne nodded.  “I know the woman over there, she was one of us.  Need to know basis, she was a defensive systems specialist.”  Andrea let that hand in the air for a moment.  She hated feeling vulnerable, but Joanne was someone she could trust.  They had been friends for nearly ten years and served on two starships together.  This was still hard for her though.  “I also had a personal relationship with that woman,” she admitted to her friend.

Joanne was thoughtful for a moment, but not at all judgemental.  “My advice, Andrea,” she started, “they are playing on your anger and hurt.  They clearly want to provoke a violent exchange, but have you fire the first shot.  We cannot let that happen.  My suggestion would be to send our marines down to the planet surface to help garrison the parliamentary headquarters.  We can use our displacement field coils to direct a dampening field to neutralise the rebels’ energy weapons.”

Andrea greatly appreciated Joanne’s input.  She was always so calm and measured.  So was Andrea usually, but prone to passionate responses at times.  Viv’s knowledge of her had obviously been to the enemy’s advantage here.  But they had no defence for the logic of Joanne Campbell.

“They will still have their projectile weapons, but that was what they had in the first place,” Joanne continued.  A cheeky grin then cracked her impassive exterior, “Then, we issue a priority one arrest warrant for the traitorous bitch!  The Free Colonies and Union still have an extradition treaty from the twenty fourth century.”  They laughed together for a moment.

They returned to the command centre and took their seats.  “Report?” Andrea ordered.

“Landers all holding station, there’s and ours,” Singh replied.

“Brilliant,” Andrea said.  “Now, send marine teams one through four to the surface.  They are to support the parliamentary building and government workers inside.  Non-lethal force only and portable shield generators.”

Her commands were repeated and acknowledged by her crew and the marines.  Within ten minutes the marine landers were already out of the hanger.

“Incoming signal,” the comms officer said.

“It doesn’t appear you are ceasing and desisting either hunnie!” came the irritating drawl.

“Weapons signatures!” called another officer.

Time for some strengthened shields.  “Extend shields ahead of our landers, protect them from harm!” Andrea ordered.

Her crew obliged and the AI calculated a safe field orientation to keep the enemy weapons from meeting the marines’ landers.  Particle lances crackled across their shields.  Monitors glowed warnings and bar graphs showed power absorption and consumption information.  A very pretty colour display was visible through the viewscreen in front of them.  The weapons were not targeted over any structure of the ship so there was no feeling of attack.  The atmosphere would offer some protection soon and an evasive course through an ionisation effect of atmospheric entry would throw off targeting sensors just enough.

“Landers through successfully,” the report came.  Andrea visibly relaxed for a moment.  It appeared the Free Colonies ship wasn’t looking to escalate an incident either.  They could have tried a lot harder.  Time for the next phase.

“Freidriksen!” she called out to the open intercom.  “I need you to direct a static displacement field onto the planet surface around the parliamentary compound.  Create a dampening field to suppress energy weapons fire but without harming anyone.”

“It’ll tax the engines somewhat and I will need to pull the energy away from the shield improvements.  The people down there will just feel queasy like we do when we engage the drives.”

Damn, the shields.  They had to do this though.  “Go ahead, I need that field,” she said.  A few moments later she heard the displacement engines engage.  It was strange hearing their familiar hum but no queasiness.

“Incoming signal,” comms said.

Andrea thought they should disable ship to ship to avoid them denigrating her in front of her crew.

“Andy, my sweet – what are you doing?  I’m afraid I can’t stop Colonel O’Malley if he feels he needs to retaliate.”  Aha, like that was really a concern.  Andrea silently observed her monitors showing a live feed of the marines’ mission.  She reviewed the chatter between the ground teams and the commands given from the marines’ mission control room aboard Windemere.  She was a ship’s captain, not a ground mission specialist.  She gave them a mission objective and they determined how to deliver it.  She liked to listen in though, particularly when stalling for time and making traitorous ex-lovers wait uncomfortably.  “Darling, why aren’t you responding?  The Colonel might have to be forceful.  I really don’t want that.”  Andrea made the kill gesture to comms.  She wished her shields were still reinforced, but a hundred percent on a Union frigate was still pretty damn tough!

She watched the Free Colonies ship begin a manoeuvre on her screens.  Three large cylinders on their dorsal aspect wheeled to a position aimed at Windemere’s starboard side.  They did not look like particle lances.  Andrea trawled her memory as quickly as she could.  As painful as it was she thought back to her pillow-talk with Viv; back in those foolish hormone-fuelled days as junior officers.  She remembered Viv talking about a project she wanted to work on after their current one.  A ship mounted projectile weapon accelerated by a displacement field.  Theoretically it could accelerate an object to near light speed.  Was that what Viv had done?  Surely not.  Would she really test it out on Andrea?  She really was vicious if that were true.  All these darlings and sweeties over communications; they were just cruel taunts to embarrass her.  Could normal frigate shields repel such an attack?  Andrea doubted it.  But they couldn’t move with the displacement dampening field active, nor could they shoot out the cylinders – that would play into their ‘who shot first’ game.  It had to be a bluff – they hadn’t shot the marines down when they really could have.  This was awful.  Andrea imagined feeling like an eighteenth century suitor duelling for the love of a woman, only she had armed his opponent and he had to await the first shot.

“Weapons signatures!” cried out a voice that snapped Andrea back to reality.

“Reinforce the starboard shields with whatever power you can, Singh!” she ordered.

The first volley hit.  The noise was overwhelming.  The deck disappeared beneath their feet – dropped over two metres leaving the crew floating for a millisecond before the artificial gravity compensated and dropped the crew to the new height of the deck with a bone crunching thud.  The ship screamed herself through a voice of torn metal and composite, fried power relays and venting atmosphere.  The entire shield grid had failed absorbing a near light velocity projectile.  The projectile had struck midway along Windemere’s starboard flank.  The shields had slowed the projectile enough to reduce the energy such that it wouldn’t immediately vaporise the ship, but it still had enough energy to tear a path of destruction through the whole ship.  Windemere had been shot in the abdomen right through and now she was haemorrhaging – badly.

Andrea climbed back into her seat.  Her right ankle felt like red hot irons were being stabbed into it constantly and her uniform trouser leg was wet and sticky – open fracture she suspected.  “Return fire!  Three shots, take out each of those rail guns right now!”  Another shot would destroy them entirely.  Fortunately Union frigate particle lances made short work of Free Colony destroyer shielding – armour really.  Many of the command centre monitors were damaged, but thankfully not all.  She willed three piercing orange and blue lances of light toward the bitch.  Despite her grave injury, Windemere listened and surgically removed the rail guns from the destroyer with three flashes and barely a scratch on the rest of the enemy’s ship.  Andrea might have been a fool for sleeping with such a demon, but she would never be a murderer.  Damn, she thought suddenly, who was hurt on her ship.  “Casualty report,” she requested.

The young officer who responded had a gash in his forehead with the blood trickling into his eyes.  He squinted at his screen as crew throughout the ship submitted their counts.  The officer looked like he had been punched in the stomach – tears welled in his eyes.  On a crew of three hundred, one wouldn’t know everyone personally, probably only fifty well, but you would know someone who would feel great loss.  “Twenty-eight confirmed as dead, Captain,” he wavered.  “Thirty-four critically injured en route or already in the medical bays.  Many injuries; including you, Captain,” he said as he looked pointedly at her ruined ankle.  She dipped her head for a moment – she would have to grieve her crew losses later.  The Free Colonies ship still had some claws despite removing her big teeth.  As if to punctuate her thought, she felt the jolts and heard the peppering of particle weapons striking Windermere’s hull.  Shoot someone critically and then kick them – this was a whole new level of viciousness.  Andrea imagined her hands around Viv’s throat.  But that helped no-one.

“Return fire, take out all weapons ports.  Hit their displacement field coils too.  We can’t have them running away after we bruise them!  They need to face the sternest justice!”

Windermere still had sharp teeth and an extremely competent engineer who had bandaged Windermere enough to make it through the night.  The enemy’s own particle weapons were quickly dealt with without too much more damage to themselves.  The exchange of further fire had sadly pushed three of the criticals into deaths.  Andrea was going to make sure that Vivienne was charged with the pre-meditated murder of each of those thirty-one people and the attempted murder of the other two hundred and sixty-nine people on her ship – minus the marines, but they were shot at earlier, she thought.  Throw in some grievous bodily harm for all the injuries and no doubt a multitude of other criminal charges – not to mention the original traitor charge.  Andrea also wanted that smug arsehole of a captain charged with the same crimes.  The Federated Free Colonies and the States of the Former European Union were not at war and the diplomats would smooth things over.  Therefore, she was sure she could push to have Colonel Hank fucking O’Malley put in prison for life.

“Target their displacement core – just so they get a nice frightening weapons lock alert,” Andrea said.  “Now open a comms channel.”

“Lock achieved!”

“Channel open!”

“Put me through to your crew, please,” she asked the comms officer on the other end.  “What I have to say concerns you all under Article 9 of the New Washington Agreement 2413.”

She looked at her comms officer who nodded to confirm she had been patched through.

“Your captain, Colonel Henry O’Malley and first officer Major Vivienne Jacques have been found to be in contravention of Article 9 of the New Washington Agreement 2413 – namely an act of war against a sovereign vessel of the States of the Former European Union, a signatory of the Agreement,” Andrea explained in her most official captain’s voice.  “As a crew acting under illegal orders, you are not subject to the same penalties.  You will be asked to co-operate with an investigation by independent examiners and will be released if found to be acting under these illegal orders.  Failure to co-operate, or impede the arrest warrants of Colonel O’Malley and Major Jacques will be punishable by custodial sentences.  Open your docking bays and prepare for boarding.”  Andrea made the kill gesture at her comms officer.  She really hoped the destroyer’s crew would recognise the actions of their commander and his pet snake.

“Marine teams five through eight, board the Free Colonies destroyer and place their captain and our traitor under arrest.  Prepare their crew for questioning,” Andrea ordered.  “Comms, place a request for an independent review team to rendezvous in New Saudi orbit.  You better add a repair vessel for us and a towing vessel for them to that request too.”  There was also the matter of their reason for being in New Saudi orbit in the first place.  “Commander Campbell, update on the surface situation?”

“Fortunately, our marine teams have things in hand,” Joanne replied.  “We lost the dampening field when we were hit but engineering teams report we can have it back within the hour.  Hull breaches have been isolated and power system disruptions have been rerouted.  Now I am calling for medical attention for you, Captain.”

The Free Colonies crew were co-operative, possibly due to Andrea’s words, but probably the displacement core weapons lock.  Very few people were willing to die for a cause – especially one as meaningless as civilian uprising on backwater Islamic colony as far as they were concerned.  Just as well, Andrea wanted no more blood.  The pain in her ankle was excruciating now the adrenaline from the situation was wearing off.  She began to feel light-headed and nauseous.  Andrea surrendered to the attentions of the medic Joanne had called.  I’ll confront that bitch in the brig tomorrow.

Charlotte S. McCarroll (@TransCharlotte)

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