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Shepherd Moon, Chapter 26: Surprise! II

 

Peek-a-Boo, I See You –

As the five Elyran cruisers from the Colossus squadron and Mia’s Fifth Fleet of combined Earther, Elyran, Dixx and Arachnian cruisers (minus the Hermes) started to fall into formation prior to their departure for Elyra Prime, alarms blared onboard Colossus. Early-warning buoys had detected a fast-moving unidentified object.

The warning was extremely delayed because none of the Federation and Earther detection systems were able to pick it up. Only the buoys that used visual tracking were able to detect it.

They all thought that it was some celestial body, like a captured asteroid or something, but analysis of the pictures indicated it was the escape craft that had disabled Hermes. Everyone thought that it had been taken out by Gibraltar, but apparently they were wrong. In Mia’s mind, she could imagine the Detterex commander going, “peek-a-boo!”

Mikasa used her Phase-Wave equipment and found that the ship masquerading as an asteroid had an EM suppression field around it. But the field was very small, and the fact that it was flickering showed that their systems weren’t functioning properly. Gibraltar had obviously done a lot of damage.

None of the Federation cruisers were ready except for those that were already deployed, and they were scattered all over. The Elyrans and the Fifth Fleet were the only ones that had a chance of intercepting the enemy, so they delayed their original plans and took off after the intruder.

As before, it was moving around the sun, at incredibly dangerous velocities. It was very near ship-maneuverable speeds, just slow enough that no significant relativistic effects would affect it. They could only assume that the ship had no working FTL drive anymore, and this was the fastest it could travel without an FTL field.

O’Connell had her people compute some turnaround times and it seemed that the Federation ships could only do one quick pass while the Earth ships could actually use their FTL and inertia converters to do stops-and-starts several times, and they’d get close enough to the enemy, but by doing it so many times so close together may damage their FTL systems.

At least there was full FTL communications, and they had organized their ships according to their acceleration profiles, each to make a pass and firing a volley of missiles. Before starting, however, Mia and several squads from all the ships left for Colossus using their shuttles.

The first of the Fifth Fleet shisp to take a turn was the lone Arachnian ship, followed by the Shepherd, then the five Earther ships. After them were the seven Elyrans, and then the three Dixx cruisers.

As each ship zoomed past the Detterex intruder, they fired off a brace of missiles with proximity fuses, but what they had learned was that if a ship was traveling sufficiently fast, missiles were useless. Even if the missile detonation was timed properly, the ship would have already passed for the explosion to have any substantial effect. They could see the fireballs and explosions but the enemy ship would just flash right through them.

Mia had little hope that the missile attacks would have finished off the enemy, but they still had to try. But even if they were successful, the giant station would still have to avoid being hit by the wreckage. Now that she knew that the ship was still incoming, and completely intact, she had to either evacuate everyone, or find a way to move the entire station out of the way, but the enemy might just correct their course to adjust to any movements of Colossus.

Then she had a brainstorm.

She brought out her CC. “This is Admiral Steele to the Shepherd Moon, come in. C’mon, Beth! Pick up!”

“This is O’Connell,” came the response. “Sorry, Admiral. No joy. Our missiles didn’t even slow it down.”

“We saw, Beth. But I have an idea. This is what I want you to do: maneuver the Shepherd to a position that’s at an angle to the trajectory of the Detterex. Use FTL to maneuver, and then use the inertia converters’ lasers.”

After a while, O’Connell responded. “You mean…”

“Yes, Captain. Now, do it! Execute now!”

“Aye, aye!”

Using her barge’s systems, she had her pilot keep close track of the Shepherd’s progress. At that time, the Earther ships hadn’t used their converters since it would have been pointless, so they had been decelerating in the conventional way so as not to tip the other ships off about their converters.

Mia lost the Shepherd’s image there for a second because of her sudden “braking,” and Mia had to track back to find her again. Mia wasn’t able to pick up the Shepherd’s deceleration, and she saw her maneuver so that she was now pointing her nose one hundred thirty-five degrees from her previous trajectory. She turned the turrets of her energy converter away from Colossus so that she’d hide the flash, and then blipped her converters.

She then saw the ship power up to full acceleration and was now moving in her new trajectory.

O’Connell sent her the coordinates where the Shepherd would be braking again, and Mia hurriedly adjusted her equipment to point at those coordinates. In moments she was looking at an area of empty space. On a second screen, she focused on the fast-moving Detterex ship, and she waited.

In a few minutes, she saw the Shepherd slide in, and then stop on a proverbial dime. It actually looked like the Shepherd appeared out of nowhere. A few seconds later, it fired the top two turrets of its energy converters. Eight incandescent beams speared out: a sapphire blue, a ruby, an emerald green, a neon yellow, an orange, a violet and two beams in pure-white. At the same moment, Mia saw in the other screen a brief flash of color. It was too fast to register in the eye except as a flash. There also seemed to be no effect, but after ten or fifteen seconds, a series of explosions wracked both the port and starboard sides of the ship, and, after the explosions had died down Mia noted that all her running lights, and all the lights in all her ports, windows and engines disappeared.

“She’s dead in the water,” Mia whispered to herself. “Good work, Beth.” But the enemy ship was still coasting at high sublight: her inertia still carried her forward in a high-speed fall towards Colossus.

Mia did some fast computations using her CC and was dismayed to find that the enemy lost her ability to maneuver after she had herself pointed directly at Colossus. If she lost power a little earlier, the enemy ship might actually miss Colossus. But now, the incapacitated ship was on a direct collision course.

Mia turned back to the task at hand, and organized a proper debarkation of her little shuttle’s personnel onto Colossus.

-----

On Mia’s CC, a slowed-down playback of the video video showed that the Shepherd’s beams had punched through the enemy cleanly, and had caused her to lose all power. Phase-Wave had confirmed that the EM suppression field had also disappeared, and further sensor sweeps showed that the ship was indeed dead.

There was no hope of stopping the ship, however, so, to paraphrase Earth’s fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, if you have eliminated the impossible things that cannot be done, what’s left, however improbable and difficult, are what you have to do. So that meant that Colossus had to be moved.

Per her calculation, the Detterex ship would impact Colossus three-fourths down its length towards the “south” side. Mia therefore deployed her crew and the crew of the other Earther shuttles to all the places where they thought people would be concentrated and instruct the residents to move to the North side of the station. Mia knew she would need help, but she didn’t know anyone. She went to a wall console and tried to decipher the controls, and was eventually able to connect to the Office of Protocol.

“Office of Protocol,” a friendly-sounding Telcontari answered her call in Elyran, “how may I assist you today?”

“Good day,” Mia replied hesitantly. “I am Lady Amelia Catherine Steele of the…”

Mia couldn’t continue as the Telcontari started to squeal and squeak in excitement. In a bit, Mia could see the little thing wave to more of her friends, and more of them crowded around the video screen.

“My friends, my friends, please!” Mia interrupted.

The furry little aliens quieted down.

“I have a serious matter to discuss. I need to speak with either Pinpin or Mumu. Are they there?”

Those behind the operator rushed away, and in moments they had the two dragged in front of the screen.

“Damnation! Let go of me,” Mumu shrieked. “I was doing something! Stop it! Oh…” Mumu had seen Mia on the screen.

“Mistress!” Pinpin exclaimed in Elyran, but she calmed herself. Together, Pinpin and Mumu bowed, Elyran style.

“It is wonderful to see you again,” she said. “We had been following the developments of your cruisers’ chase of the rogue Detterex ship. We have been wondering how it has been going…”

“My dear, my dear! Please stop! I have something of great urgency to discuss. It’s a matter of life and death.”

Pinpin stopped, and bowed in apology. “I apologize, Mistress. Please continue.”

“The Fifth Fleet has been successful in disabling the enemy ship…” The Telcontari cheered. “But! The unpowered ship is still flying towards Colossus at an unstoppable speed. We are still trying to see if we can take it out, but I am not too hopeful. So, what I need you to do is to help me find a way to move the station out of the path of the enemy. Do you understand?”

The Telcontari squeaked and chirped at each other.

“We understand the dilemma, Mistress,” Pinpin said. “What you want is easily done. Colossus can be moved by using the station’s rockets.”

“Then do it. Now, my dear, now!”

“As my Mistress commands,” Pinpin bowed and rushed away.

“I need more help, however.”

“I am at your service, Mistress,” Mumu said.

“Just in case, we need to have as many of the people moved to the northernmost sections of the station, and be ready to secure all airtight bulkheads. We still have some time but I fear it will not be enough. We need to execute now.”

Mumu was on the verge of crying in panic.

“Mumu. Mumu! Look at me!”

Mumu looked up at her.

“We have no time for that now, my dear. You must dig deep and find your courage. People need you now. I believe in you. Do you?”

“My Mistress…”

“You have the heart of a warrior, Mumu. I know it. Remember what you and Pinpin told me earlier back on Zeos. Were those things true?”

Mumu took a deep breath. “They were true, my Mistress.”

“You are my rock, dear child. Go, then. The Federation needs you.”

Mumu bowed deeply, and ran out of video range.

Mia sighed in relief, and faced the others in the screen.

“All, right, then, children,” she said. “Who among you is in charge?”

“I’m sorry, My Lady,” the operator said. “Those were Mumu and Pinpin. They are the directors of the Office of Protocol.”

Mia was extremely surprised. “They’re the directors? You’re kidding.”

“Yes, they are, and I am not joking. But the office is answerable directly to the Lord Chamberlain of Colossus, as are all the officers, administrators and personnel of Colossus.”

“I see… Then who among you are the deputy or assistant directors?”

An even more diminutive Telcontari moved forward.

“I am their apprentice, My Lady.”

“What is your name, my dear?”

“I am Chi-Chi, My Lady.”

“I am glad to meet you, Chi-Chi. I am Mia.”

The gathered Telcontari giggled.

Chi-Chi smiled. “I am pleased to meet you as well, Lady Mia.”

“I apologize for my abrupt manner, and for taking your directors away. The matter was extremely urgent.”

“No apologies are necessary, Lady Mia.”

“Have I compromised the operation of the Office of Protocol?”

“Not at all, My Lady.”

“I am relieved. I must take my leave as I have much to take care of.”

“Please do not let us keep you.”

“Before I do, I have another mission for you, Chi-Chi, and I need you and your staff to take care of it.”

“We are just the Office of Protocol, My Lady. We have no real authority to…”

“I understand that, child. If you need to pass this on to others, please do. Just know the urgency.”

Chi-Chi sighed. “All right, My Lady. I understand. What is it you require?”

“I need you to communicate the situation to everyone, Chi-Chi. Call the necessary people and explain what is happening. Get us the necessary permission. Tell them that, regardless, we will proceed to do what is necessary so that we all survive this crisis.”

“I understand. Authority to move the station, and relocate the citizenry to the northern sections.”

“Good child. Now, is there a way for me to be able to reach you, as well as Mumu and Pinpin without the need of these consoles? Something portable?”

“Please take the portable communicator clipped to the side of the console, My Lady, and bring it with you. All of the public consoles have them. We are programming Keys One, Two and Three of the one there with you for Pinpin, Mumu and this office. Just press the necessary key to contact us.”

“Many thanks, Chi-Chi.”

“Just call us anytime if you need assistance,” Chi-Chi replied.

Mia switched off and took the portable communicator. It wasn’t that portable since it was as big as a loaf of bread. She did notice that it had a built-in strap tucked in the back so she used that to sling the device over her shoulder. She walked down the hall in a direction she hoped was towards Aonta, brought out her CC and contacted her people. She started coordinating her people’s efforts to move the passengers.

With the assistance of Mumu and his staff, the people of the Federation finally started moving. To help them, Mia coordinated with Nick and Sahsha over at the Earth’s office on the south side of the station to fire regular Phase-Wave pulse sweeps through the station and pinpoint stragglers for Mumu. Mia joined her people and helped them move, as well. Slowly, the south side was starting to empty out.

As she finished up with one of the inner decks, she heard someone running. She looked and it was Pinpin.

“Mistress!” the little Telcontari called in distress. She cannoned into Mia and hugged her around the waist.

“What is it, my dear?” Mia said as she petted the furry little alien and tried to calm her down.

“I have just discovered that the reaction jets of the station aren’t working, as are the main attitude control jets.”

“What does that mean?”

“I means Colossus cannot be moved, Mistress!”

“Is it some kind of fault in the engines or some kind of equipment failure? I can have my people go over and check them out.”

The Telcontari shook her head.

“There is no defect, Mistress. The problem is that there is no more fuel!"

“What!”

“I do not know why, Mistress, but all the tanks are empty.”

“All right. Take this.” She handed the large communicator to Pinpin. “I will ask Sahsha and Nick to coordinate with you so that you can evacuate this side of the station. Can you do this?”

Pinpin took a deep breath. “I can, Mistress.”

“Good child.” Mia gave the little furry alien a hug. “Now go!”

The Telcontari ran down the hall and contacted her office.

Mia brought out her CC and called Sahsha and Nick to relay their sensor data to Pinpin instead, and then she called O’Connell, explaining the problem with the engines.

“Any ideas, Beth?” Mia asked.

“Essentially we need to strap thrusters onto the station’s surface. Are there any ships out there that you can use like boosters?”

“Lots, Beth, but by the time I can get them, Colossus would be gone.”

“You can’t say that we should be the ones…”

“I’m just laying out the facts.”

“We can’t send a missile because we don’t have time to reprogram…”

“Yes. How about a shuttle?”

“Can you get the barge out, or the other shuttles you brought?”

“They’ve been parked way down inside Colossus’ hangar bay. It’ll take half an hour to get them out. No, it has to be one of yours.”

“Admiral, in order to get there ahead of the intruder, we have to max out the shuttle’s acceleration and then decelerate on max as well. No one will survive that.”

“How about remote control, Beth?”

“That’s an idea. But how do we moor it to the station?”

“Harpoon missiles on tether cables. Fire them into the hull.”

“All right. You have to find out where we’re supposed to fire them at, though.”

“Leave that to me. Now, get on it, Captain.”

“Aye, sir!”

Mia then contacted Chi-Chi, and asked for assistance again.

“Chi-Chi, I need you to find the strongest structural areas on the station where mooring cables can be attached to.”

“My Lady, I do not understand…”

Mia explained what they needed, and Chi-Chi said she finally understood.

“All right, child. Time is of the essence. Get me the information as quickly as you can. I am currently near the Earther embassy.”

“As My Lady commands.”

Mia hurried to the Earthers’ quarters to get a pressure helmet and tanks because she had a suspicion that she was going to need it.

Nick, and Sahsha were in pressures suits too. She had Nick begin evacuation of the Earth offices as well, and after a desperate last kiss with Sahsha, Mia ran out to rendezvous with Chi-Chi.

They met in the main passageway somewhere in between the Earth offices and Chi-Chi’s offices.

“My Lady,” Chi-Chi said. She and several other Telcontari, followed by Pinpin, all in pressure suits as well, bowed.

“Are those the plans?” Mia pointed at several rolled up sheets of paper under Chi-Chi’s arm.

Chi-Chi nodded. She knelt on the passageway floors and spread the topmost sheet. Her companions held the corners down.

“These,” she pointed at several concentric circles running through the station, “are load-bearing rings mounted to several spines that run through the station horizontally. The engineer I talked with said that the best place to attach your cable is at the point where a ring actually attaches to a spine. Any of these rings,” Chi-Chi pointed, “are essentially on the same level as the hull plates so there is reasonably low coriolis forces acting on them, and they have SIF conduits running through them as well, providing maximum structural integrity.”

“I see.”

Chi-Chi then gave her a small piece of paper with some Telcontari writing and Elyran mathematical script and symbols. Mia puzzled it out. She looked at the blueprints and then at the piece of paper, trying to figure it out.

“So if we attach here,” she mumbled, “we would need about 343,000 newton-meters, which translates to roughly 35,000 kilopond, and that will allow a movement of about twenty kilometers per minute from the topmost part of Colossus, and the structure of the station will remain intact. Now a Mud Turtle or a Cobra shuttle is rated at…”

“What are you saying, My Lady?”

“Sorry, Chi-Chi. I was just doing some calculations. Which ring is the closest to where we are now?”

The Telcontari pointed.

“Okay. Where is that ring?”

She looked around for a bit and pointed down the hall. “There’s the ring. And the rib is there.” She pointed again.

Mia brought out her CC. “Captain O’Connell?”

“O’Connell here. The shuttle is on its way, Admiral. It’s on final deceleration and should be there in ten minutes.”

“We’ll need the Mud Turtle to go on full thrust once moored to the station.”

“We sent a Cobra, sir, from the Kirov.”

“Even better. Cobras have more legs to them. Okay. Track my CC. When I say go, the CC will be your target.”

“Aye, sir.”

Mia turned back to Chi-Chi. “Dear, if I were on the hull, how could I tell where the ribs and the rings are?”

“The engineer told me they are marked on the hull with diagonal white stripes. There are handholds bracketing the markings.”

“Good. Now all of you get behind those bulkhead doors and close them. I’m going to cut into the hull here, so prepare for depressurization. Pinpin, come here.”

Pinpin approached. Mia gave her a hug and a kiss on top of her head. “Get your people to safety.”

“Mistress…”

“I will be all right. Now, go. Protect your people.”

Pinpin bowed and motioned all of them to move back. At the end of the passageway, Pinpin tripped the emergency locks and the pressure doors came down.

When Mia could see the safety lights winking, she took her uniform off, leaving her in her pressure suit. She donned her helmet, slipped on the little rebreather pack she got from the office, attached its hoses and cables to the helmet, and turned the pack on.

Waving to the little Telcontari that peeked through the pressure door portholes, Mia turned on her dress sword to full.

With a modified Passata Sotto, Mia lunged at the wall with her sword, and it went through the wall like a hot knife through butter. As soon as she did, the passage depressurized rapidly.

Mia braced herself against the wind, and as soon as all the air had escaped, she used her sword to make a large human-sized hole. She slid her sword back into its scabbard, peeked outside and looked for the handholds. Seeing several nearby, Mia, an experienced spacer, calculated her jump, and then leaped into space. She reached out and was able to grab a handhold at the very last moment.

Mia had to hold on very strongly because the centrifugal effect was threatening to throw her off into space. But she persevered. It was one of the times when her less-massive body was an advantage since her muscles were still her old ones. She started making her way to where the marks indicated that the rib and the ring intersected. Looking back to the hole she had just jumped through, she saw the Telcontari looking through it, and at her. Mia waved to them, and proceeded.

She thought it wasn’t too far away, but it seemed farther and farther away as she got more and more tired. But eventually, she made it. She hooked her right arm through one of the rungs and paused to rest. She looked down, and past her feet. The sunlight glinted off something, and she knew that was the approaching Cobra shuttle.

With superhuman effort, she pulled herself up and hooked her feet into the rungs.

Quickly, she then slipped her left hand in her suit’s utility pouch and brought out her CC. Looking down, she noticed that the Cobra was rapidly coming closer and closer. “Dammit,” she muttered.

She looked at the hull’s surface and found no way of mounting her CC on it.

“Admiral!” O’Connell warned. “We have a proximity warning here! Turn on your CC now, Admiral. Please!”

Mia didn’t know what to do anymore, so she stretched her left arm as far as she could. And after a deep breath and a short prayer, she pressed the GPS transmit button on her CC, and looked away.

The remotely-controlled Cobra shuttle’s computer started beeping away, warning of an impending crash, but there was no one in her cockpit to hear it.

When Beth and her crew received Mia’s signal, they triggered the Cobra’s harpoon missile. It flew off and zeroed in on Mia’s CC. The targeting was a little off so, instead of hitting the CC squarely, the harpoon sank into Mia’s left forearm.

Mia screamed in pain. A one-inch diameter metal pole punched through her suit and arm and into the hull. The barbs on the end deployed and locked the spear solidly into the hull.

Mia’s suit’s repair systems were triggered and more than half a liter of fast-forming foam sealant sealed the rip and prevented her suit’s air from bleeding away. The suit also chemically cauterized the massively traumatic wound, preventing total blood loss. Mia knew this would happen, but her mind was filled with so much pain, she couldn’t think or do anything but scream into space.

The Cobra shuttle flashed past her and the station, and the massive tow cable connected to the harpoon grew taut. Mia could feel the vibration in her arm.

The ship’s engine power spooled up until Mia was silhouetted in the electric-blue light of the Cobra’s engine, and the shuttle started making some progress in overcoming the inertia of the station.

Mia’s right hand had come unhooked from the handhold, and she pounded it into the hull. She couldn’t help it because of the unbearable pain in her left arm.

The harpoon bent, but it, and the cable, held, and, inch by inch, the massive station started to turn.

The shuttle continued to run it’s engines and the inches turned to feet, and in a while the station’s movements could be felt.

The cable started to change direction as the station’s spin started to affect it. In another fifteen minutes, it would start wrapping around the hull, but by then the enemy ship would have hit the station.

“Admiral!” O’Connell called. “Admiral! What’s happening!” She had a sneaking suspicion what had happened, but it was too late by then.

Mia couldn’t hear her through the cloud of pain, but O’Connell continued on. She needed to let her know that the plan was working, and justify this.

“Admiral! Admiral! It’s working! Mia, it’s working! T-plus five meters. T-plus ten. Fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, fifty! Mia it’s now over fifty meters! We’re fine! The Station’s saved! Mia!”

But by then, Mia had fallen into unconsciousness.

-----

Over thirty hours later, Mia found herself waking up in the Earth Office’s clinic. It took her a few moments to collect her thoughts and recognize where she was. She looked at her left arm; a large, tubular device covered it. She recognized it as a force-growth tank. She had remembered having such devices attached all over her during her gender change at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda oh, so long ago. This one wasn’t as fancy and complicated – just the standard tank used in most trauma centers now. She sighed. At least her arm’s damage wasn’t so bad that it couldn’t be fixed and regrown.

She felt no pain in her arm. She actually couldn’t feel anything in her arm.

She sighed again. Looking around the little clinic, she saw Beth, Ren, Tasha and Sahsha, all sleeping quietly. She didn’t know that Elyrans also practiced the habit of Earthers watching over loved ones. She giggled.

But then she noticed little furry puppies surrounding her bed. She shook the meds and sleepiness from her head, and focused better.

There were three Telcontari around her, with their heads on her bed, also sleeping. She looked closer and recognized Mumu, Pinpin and Chi-Chi. Mia smiled, and sighed. “My little children,” she thought.

A medic came in.

“Good morning, Admiral,” the nurse said. “We noticed that you were awake already, and we wanted to check on you. How are you feeling?”

“A little thirsty…”

“No problem. Here you go.” She held a glass full of water to her lips, and Mia took some sips.

“That felt good,” Mia said. “Any chance of pancakes or something?”

“Easily done. I’ll buzz the doctor, and then I’ll bring you some breakfast.”

“Breakfast? How long has it been?”

“Since the Detterex ship narrowly missed us? About thirty-six hours.”

“Oh… Has the Fifth Fleet left for Elyra already?”

“No, actually. Captain O’Connell has ordered the fleet to stay until she could consult with you. Or so she said.”

“She shouldn’t have done that.”

Mia reached down with her right hand and petted Pinpin. That woke the Telcontari up.

“Mistress,” the little bear chirped and smiled. “It is so good to see you well and awake.”

“You shouldn’t have worried, my dear.”

Pinpin held Mia’s hand in her soft paws, and affectionately rubbed it on her cheek.

“Can you wake the others?”

Pinpin nodded. She gently shook the other two Telcontari awake, and proceeded to gently and respectfully wake the others.

Sahsha was first to come over. She awkwardly hugged Mia, and gave her a gentle kiss on her cheek.

“Hello, my love,” she whispered.

“Hey, Sahsha.”

“You’re one crazy bitch, you know?” She giggled.

Mia laughed. “Oh, certainly. I’ve always known I was crazy.”

“Admiral,” O’Connell said. “Glad that you’re okay.”

“Hello, Beth.”

In a while, everyone was milling around her bed.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” the nurse cried. “This will not do! My patient needs room and rest! Out! Now!”

The non-Earthers looked around worriedly, fearing that they had broken some kind of rule, but seeing Sahsha’s and Beth’s reactions, they sighed in relief. Still, under the less-than-gentle insistence of the nurse, and after a final kiss between Mia and Sahsha, everyone left.

“Beth, hang around a while. Okay?”

“Aye, sir.” And both waited for everyone to leave.

“Please brief me on what’s happened since yesterday.”

O’Connell nodded, and while the nurse fed Mia breakfast, O’Connell told her everything that had happened.

Mia’s instructions had been very clear and the CC signal was at the right spot. The harpoon missile hit where it needed to. O’Connel also said, incredibly, they were even able to recover her CC. She handed it over and Mia looked at her little CC.

The remotely-controlled Cobra shuttle was able to start the station moving in time, and about fifteen minutes later, the Detterex ship whispered by and narrowly missed the station with only a few hundred meters of clearance. Pinpin and Chi-Chi then laboriously clambered to where she was and cut her from the harpoon with her own sword. They then brought her in and waited for Sahsha and the others to come and help her.

As the Fifth Fleet’s fastest, O’Connell had Cruiser 99 chase after the unstoppable runaway, and when they were in close enough proximity and had matched velocities, they bombarded the Detterex ship and broke her up into extremely small pieces of rubble. In its present state, any ship with a deflector field, or even just a structural integrity field, wouldn’t be hurt by it anymore.

Cruiser 99 was now on a return course, but because of the distance they had traveled, she wouldn’t be back for another four hours. That was actually the official reason O’Connell had delayed departure (or so she said).

As for the station, there was no damage, except for what they had to break in order to get it tethered and moved.

By the time Cruiser 99 was able to chase down the intruder, various shuttles from the Federation had been able to coax the station back into its former position, and the little damage it sustained had been repaired. The pedantic Dravidians had insisted that the Earthers be required to repair the damage they had caused, and this was met with much derision from the Assembly. But, instead of dragging it all out, a small Earther crew was dispatched, and with help from the Telcontari custodial and repair crews, the damage was fixed in short order.

A short investigation was conducted regarding the missing fuel, and it was discovered that the Dravidians and Erocii had been siphoning off the station’s liquid hydrogen and oxygen supplies for decades now, and using it to fuel their ships. No one had noticed since its engines had not been used for centuries, and the Erocii had been adjusting the station’s distribution of mass so that the station’s movement and orientation wasn’t affected even as the slow consumption of the fuel changed its distribution of mass.

Checking the fuel levels was not considered a critical activity, and inspection of the tanks was never done. This made it easy for them to cover up the theft.

A loud furor had broken out then, and the beginnings of a move to impeach the Lord Chamberlain and have all Dravidians and Erocii removed from all Federation boards, councils and ministries started to circulate. The Lord Chamberlain tried to use the fact that the fuel was not needed since the engines hadn’t been used for centuries, and actually posed a large danger – the fuel was quite volatile, after all, and he was just doing his duty to protect the station’s citizens. He said there was even a motion several decades back to drain the tanks, remove the engines and use the space for more living areas. This didn’t help put the controversy to bed because the Office of Protocol was able to unearth the fact that this motion to reallocate the space was actually sponsored by the Dravidians. Furthermore, the Office of Lodging and Habitation showed documents that the Dravidians had reserved the areas of the engine and tankage sections of the station for future Dravidian living space.

Normally, such reservations were ignored since there was no way to claim them. But with the new information unearthed, this indicated a conspiracy. Adding fuel to the fire, the Office of Protocol also showed records that the motion to convert the station’s engine space into living space was again on the Assembly’s calendar in several months’ time, with the Dravidians sponsoring it again. There were also new questions raised about where the fuel that the Dravidians had siphoned off went. Questions also started to circulate about the fuel that Dravidians regularly gave to any who found themselves short of fuel or consumables. It was general knowledge that the Dravidians were easy marks in this area, and would gladly provide hydrogen or oxygen in exchange for small seemingly-inconsequential favors, such as voting for or against certain legislation, shifting transport schedules, moving meeting schedules or adjusting the Assembly’s calendar. Such things were patently illegal if it could be proven that these were done under surreptitious circumstances. These suspicions would, however, require further investigation to substantiate.

Needless to say, the position of the Dravidians started to become precarious. Many delegates reserved time in Colossus’ huge library in order to research any precedents that were in the books so that they could remove the Dravidians from Federation office, and had ordered the Office of Protocol to conduct the investigation.

However, this was all unimportant, compared to the fact that the station was still stuck in place. So Commander Iyanda of the still-grounded Hermes volunteered to electrolyze oxygen and hydrogen for the station. To prevent the appearance of any impropriety, the Earthers had quickly disclosed that this was being done in payment for processing and other administrative matters required for their leasehold’s documentation. Such arrangements were actually an accepted mode of transacting business in the Federation – a barter-trade mechanism that was the fallback mode of commerce for economies without a currency accepted on Federation worlds. The Office of Supply and Logistics had thankfully accepted the deal, with the added proviso that the Earthers also check out the long-unused engines as well. However, though the engines seemed familiar, the station’s tanks were very large, so they might take months to fill them up.

The Office of Supply and Logistics said, however, that the cost of the fuel would be more than the paltry cost of the Earthers’ administrative paperwork.

The delegates therefore fixed the cost of the fuel to their current market price, and demanded the Dravidian Mission to reimburse Colossus. For its part, Colossus will pay the Earthers for the fuel they will provide, and the work that they would be doing for them.

It was noted, of course, that the raw material which the Earthers would use was from Zeos, so they said that the price should be substantially reduced. The Earthers were magnanimous and said they would leave it to them to fix the price.

After some time, the Office of Protocol came back with some precedents. The upshot of it all was that the Earthers were entitled to charge Colossus for the fuel at seventy-five percent of the current market price.

This would set a new precedent, and any products that Gibraltar Base would produce from then on, the Earthers could sell at seventy-five percent of the going rate.

O’Connell said she never realized that even such things like these were part of the work of the Council. This made it feel just like the U.N. back home, she joked.

After that bit of retail-related matter, the discussion switched back to more important matters.

There was a bit of bad news at Earth’s new base: Apparently Hermes couldn’t be repaired and it therefore wouldn’t be recommissioned and relaunched. Sure, the ship could be re-assembled with new components, but they’d have to wait for spares from New Copernicus, and it would still be tricky refitting her this far away from home port. The decision was therefore made that they would not even try.

The components from the Hermes would, however, make excellent components for Gibraltar Base - her turrets and rail guns could be repurposed into excellent gun emplacements, and the Hermes command tower could be the base’s control tower and command center. And more importantly, her FTL engines would make for a great power station and a land-based EM suppression field generator. The Hermes’ complement of Eagle fighters and Cobra shuttles could also become the Gibraltar Squadron as well.

Mia asked if Commander Iyanda was informed of this, but O’Connell actually said it was she who made the suggestion. Hearing that, Mia gave her concurrence.

O’Connell then broached a sensitive subject, which was, would Mia be going with them when they departed for Elyra, and Mia replied with an emphatic “of course!”

O’Connell sighed because Sahsha Delyer had given notice that, if Mia was going with the Fifth Fleet, she was going, too.

Mia sighed. “Guess we have no choice, then.”

“So, it’s you and Sahsha, huh?”

“Oh, Beth… it’s not like that. Sahsha and I have known each other for years. There were just too many complications. You know…”

“Well, there are definitely hearts breaking out there.”

“Oh, shut up.”

“We can, you know, strand her here.”

Mia chuckled. “Yes, we could do that,” she said, “but can you imagine Sahsha on the warpath, which is what we’d get if we do that.”

O’Connell laughed. “Well, we wouldn’t want that.

“Oh, Chief Haskell has also repaired your suit by grafting a pressure cuff above the elbow and then grafting a regular suit sleeve and glove to it. He’ll make you a new one from scratch once you get rid of that.” She gestured at the device on her arm.

“Before all of this is over, I might need several suits.”

“Okay.”

“That was a joke, Beth.”

“Oh.”

“Wait. What did the doctors say about me? Do I have to stay in bed or something, or can I go?”

“Nothing new. Major damage to the brachioradials and flexors, completely crushed radius but the ulna is mostly okay. Your brachial artery was totally shredded as well as most of the tendons and nerve clusters so they’re practically regrowing you a new arm. Will probably take two weeks.”

“That’s it?”

“You also lost almost two liters of blood. Thank God for your suit and your little Telcontari friends, or you might have bled out.”

“Okay. So I can transfer out to the Shepherd?”

“Aye, sir. As soon as you’re ready. Today if you want. Just take it slow.”

-----

“You sure you wanna do this?” Sahsha asked. She helped Mia shrug into her dress blues jacket. It was a little difficult to get the metal tank on her left arm through the sleeve.

“Yeah. And who had the idea of me wearing dress blues?”

“That was me.”

“Why, for God’s sake?”

“Trust me. You’ll understand.” She helped her with her dress sword and belt, and then over the belt went the red sash.

“Okay, sexy. You’re all set. Let’s go.”

“Let’s go,” Mia agreed. “But go slow. Us grannies need to take it easy. Can I lean on you while we walk to the barge?”

“Lean on me all you like, Mia.”

With Sahsha’s help, Mia got up off the bed and they made their way to the lounge.

As they were about to step out into the passageway, Sahsha switched on Mia’s dress sword. “For effect,” she said to Mia. And they stepped out.

Outside, they couldn’t help notice that the passageway was lined with people.

“I told you to keep my leaving quiet.” Mia whispered to Sahsha.

“It’s not my fault. I think it was your little friends, Mumu and Pinpin. They leaked the news.”

“I should have known.”

Mia looked at the people lining the aisles and they all broke into applause.

“Who taught them about clapping?” Mia whispered.

“Wanna guess?”

Mia sighed. She turned to them and bowed. It was more like a short bob but that was all she could manage, and the applause and cheering doubled in volume.

Mia and Sahsha walked their slow, frail way to the nearby airlock, and the people would bow as they passed, almost like a curtsey.

“That’s probably Ren’s handiwork,” Sahsha whispered to Mia.

They saw Ren and Tasha, both in spacesuits, but without the helmets.

Mia smiled. “What are you two doing here?” Mia chuckled. “Pray tell you are going with us?”

“What else, Mia,” Tasha said. “You don’t think you’re getting rid of us that easily.” The both of them gave her hugs.

“Well, for what it’s worth, I’m actually glad.”

“Reena isn’t too happy about it,” Ren said.

“Why, for goodness’ sake?”

“Well, it won’t help her having ‘the boss’ looking over her shoulder again,” he nodded toward Tasha. Mia and Sahsha chuckled that Ren was learning new Earth terms and idioms.

“How about Daxx and the First Ambassador?”

“You couldn’t keep them away if you tried,” Tasha nodded down the aisle to the two mismatched sophonts walking towards them. They were also in their suits.

“I am pleased to see you, my friend,” Daxx said and bowed. Mia bowed as well.

“Admiral,” the First Ambassador said, arms akimbo in what they knew was a gesture of happiness. “I am so pleased to see you ambulatory.” He proffered an antenna and Mia touched the tip with her finger.

“All of us together again, eh?”

“The Tirosians and Detterex better watch out,” Daxx said, and they all laughed.

“True.”

A Daemon approached the group.

“My Lords and ladies,” the Daemon said, and bowed.

Sahsha couldn’t help but be reminded again of lions from the Serengeti, and wanted to reach out to stroke the alien’s silky-looking mane.

“My Lord,” Mia said, and bowed.

“If I may express dismay at your injury, and that you incurred it in service to the Federation. I believe you have rescued our galactic alliance from shattering into pieces. You have accomplished what none in the Federation could do, and here you are, again flying into harm’s way, in defense of our Federation citizens yet again. I do not wish to keep you from your appointed destiny, but I wanted to say something that will no doubt please you, and perhaps help you in your mission. I wish to say that I have received word from the homeworld, courtesy of the crew of the Shepherd Moon. With all the recent events, and the immeasurable debt we have to you, My Lady, and to the people of the Earth, all of the Daemon Territories declare their fullest support for your cause. In the next Assembly, I shall announce that we are declaring war on the Tiros Empire. Our forces are yours to command to end the dual threat of the Detterex and the Tirosians.”

The people that were crowding around them fell silent, and a quiet murmuring spread hearing the Daemons' announcement.

Mia bowed and extended her uninjured right hand.

For the first time, an Earther and a Daemon shook hands.

“I am pleased, My Lord. Thank you.”

The Daemon grinned in satisfaction and stepped back to allow the little group to move on.

Eventually, they reached the airlock at the end of the passage. Mia’s admiral’s barge was just outside, moored and waiting. Standing by the airlock waiting were the representative from Star 453-A, and Mumu and Pinpin.

Mia and Sahsha paused and bowed.

“My Lord,” Mia said. “It is pleasant to see you.”

“It is most pleasant to see you as well, Lady Amelia,” the cyborg said.

Mumu and Pinpin moved to the front and gave Mia hugs.

“Careful, my dears,” Mia laughed. “You’re liable to tip me over.”

“Sophonts,” the tall robotic alien chided gently, and the two let go, a little chagrined, and stepped back.

“I know you all need to depart, but I have momentous news from the Council of Custodians that I am sure you would want to hear before you leave us.”

Mia bowed. “We are listening, My Lord.”

He raised a robotic hand to the crowd, and they all quieted down to listen.

“Friends and fellow sophonts,” the cyborg said in formal tones, “I am deeply sorry to do this not in Assembly, but we had no choice. The Lady Amelia is on her way to again fly to the defense of Federation worlds, and we did not wish to delay her, hence this hastily-organized announcement.

“Upon consulting with my peers in the council,” he announced to everyone present, “and upon consulting with the Office of Protocol, we have judged the character of the people of the Earth by the example of the members of their race that have helped the Federation in such an immeasurable way. Their adeptness in navigating the maze of the Federation’s rules and principles speak well of their knowledge of Galactic culture, and their cleverness in adapting to them. Their unfailing politeness and considerateness in their interactions with the Federation’s representatives, as well as their sophistication in interpreting, appreciating and understanding complex issues of culture, commerce and war have shown that these sophonts are more than ready to join the Galactic Federation of Free Races. And in consideration of this, after an unprecedentedly short sixteen solar days, the Council of Custodians therefore unanimously declare that Earth’s probationary period is now ended.”

A roar of approval and applause greeted this. The cyborg raised his hand again.

“Know that we have already informed the Chamber of Migration and Peerage of this. This means that the Earth now has the full right of representation in the Assembly. They also have the full right to establish a full diplomatic mission on Colossus, and the right to request the establishment of embassies on any Federation world. The Chamber of Migration and Peerage shall therefore be reviewing our findings and recommendations shortly, and hopefully, before next Rotation, we shall be able to welcome the Earth and her colonies as full and permanent members of the Federation. Dear gentlebeings, please express your congratulations to our Earther friends, and welcome them into our ranks!”

In deference to Mia’s frail condition, the people kept their distance and satisfied themselves with Earther-style applause. Others bowed while a few knelt.

Mia, despite her condition, bowed to the crowd, Elyran style, bowing low with her fist on her heart. She bowed to the cyborg, and hugged the little Telcontari.

“We wish that you reconsider, Mistress,” Pinpin said to her.

“Yes, Mistress,” Mumu said. “Please let us come with you.”

“My dears, no. You have work here. With everything that has happened, your role is even more vital.”

“Chi-Chi is sufficiently in authority to take over for us, Mistress.”

Mia grunted a bit and knelt on one knee so that she would be eye-level with them.

“Pinpin. Mumu. There really is nothing to be done. If it were left to me, I would welcome you to my crew with open arms. But Telcontari have a larger role yet to play. Tell your fellows that fate has given you and your fellow Telcontari an important role. You are the gatekeepers of the Federation. You must make sure that none will abuse their power to the detriment of Federation citizens. You must make sure that the Federation’s rules are complied with, but more than that, that the spirit of the Federation charter is observed, cherished and celebrated. You did not ask for this responsibility but it is yours now. There are no others that can do it.”

“Mistress,” Pinpin cried and keened like a little child whose heart was breaking.

Mia looked up at the tall cyborg.

“My Lord,” Mia said, with eyes shining, “I have no right to ask, but… will you look after my little friends? They are but babes, thrown into the wilderness. Will you take them under your tutelage and protection?”

The tall robotic alien approached her. He put his robotic hand on her shoulder and nodded. He knew the affectation and deliberately copied it.

“You may count on me, noble warrior,” he whispered in his electronic-sounding voice. “I am humbled by your example. Do not worry. We shall be there for them, and for all Telcontari.”

He gently pulled the two Telcontari away.

“Let go, children. Let your mistress go. She has places to be.”

The two moved back and Mia stood.

After a final wave, she and Sahsha stepped into the airlock, and then into the barge.

In minutes, the modified shuttle pulled away slowly and gracefully spun. As soon as it was oriented properly, its engines fired up and emitted an electric blue glow. Everyone watched it move up and away to rendezvous with its mothership.

-----

The Fifth Fleet and five other Elyran cruisers started on their month-long trip to Elyra prime. They flew in close formation such that they could remain in contact with each other. Of course “close formation” is relative – they maintained over a thousand kilometers of distance between each.

Yes, they had over a month to travel to Elyra, but having worked with Reena during their weeks-long sublight trip from Saturn to Earth, the Earthers knew enough of Elyran systems now so they were able to fine-tune the Elyrans’ engines and improve their acceleration and deceleration. As for Cruiser 99, the little round ship was an Arachnian ship. So the First Ambassador facilitated the transfer of information and the Earthers were able to do the same adjustments for them. After the “tune-up” was completed, Cruiser 99’s systems were improved by at least thirty percent. They also did the same to Daxx’s three Dixx ships.

The Fifth Fleet ships and the five Elyran cruisers were able to reduce their travel time to less than three weeks instead of a month. This was enough time, however, for the Fifth Fleet veterans to familiarize the other ships, including Cruiser 99, with how “EarthForce” did things. Also, during down-time, they were able to share Earth music and Earth “TV,” along with an eclectic mix of Dixx, Arachnian and Elyran entertainment with each other. Such things were part of how they were able to gel the crewmembers into a more cohesive and cooperative team. But what everyone wanted to hear about during breaks were stories about Earth and the Earthers. The First Ambassador, Ren, Ben and Sahsha took it upon themselves to talk about their time together on Earth, with Tasha, Admiral Daxx and Mia herself sitting in on a few of these late-night “talks.” Mia couldn’t do much while she was recovering, so it was a way for her to keep busy.

Much of the Elyrans’ time was spent on drills. For the Earthers, it was an eye-opener dealing with seven whole Elyran crews all together. They learned how mission-focused the Elyrans could be and it upped the ante for them. The Earthers found themselves drilling and practicing more, lest their more laid-back attitude reflect badly on them.

Given the hyped-up status of their people, O’Connell and the other ship commanders decided to capitalize on the high esprit-de-corps and instituted simulated joint formations and joint missions based on scenarios that Mia and the strategy teams formulated, and before they arrived in Elyra, they became quite familiar with the capabilities of each squadron, their machines and their people.

Meanwhile, Earth continued to send updates on the invading fleets. Their telemetry showed that the enemy was on-track to arriving in the Elyran system in about two months’ time, whereas the ones en route to Dixx and Arachnia would be arriving between six to eight months. This indicated that these ships came from one massive fleet that split up into three. Given Elyra was the outermost of the three targeted planets and therefore the closest to the enemy, naturally, it would be the first to come under attack.

Their turnover times meant Mia and crew would be arriving about a month ahead of the enemy. Which might give them sufficient time to regroup and strategize.

All of these timing issues and things like improving engine efficiencies were a bit confusing to Sahsha so, during O’Connell’s break periods, the captain tried to explain it: In normal space, Newton said for every action, there was an equal and opposite reaction. Earth’s pre-FTL ships, as well as Federation and Empire ships, achieved motion by the ejection of some material, whether that be in the form of the combustion of hydrogen, ejection of ionized plasma or whatever. This method was effective for accelerations while below light speed. However, while in normal space, traveling faster than light was not possible because of ever-increasing mass, and infinite mass required infinite energy, which wasn’t possible.

What the FTL drives did was that they reduced the “perceptible mass” of an object traveling at the speed of light to its sublight dimensions, and therefore kept everything within their field in the same relativistic plane as normal space.

The thing about it was, this effect would not work below light speed. When the engines are engaged while in normal space, the ship’s relativistic aspect is already at normal mass, so the drive, in effect, didn't do anything.

The FTL would only work at velocities when there were sufficient relativistic effects. For the current technology, this was about sixty percent the speed of light, although the Earth version could work at somewhat lower velocities by virtue of more precise controls.

Similarly, the Earther inertia converters also only worked within a certain velocity range or relativistic mass.

O’Connell also explained that because FTL engines are ineffective below light speed, Federation ships use their conventional sublight systems: mostly they use variations of ion drives. Such engine technologies were the same used in the old J-class cruisers (which was what the Shepherd Moon used to be before being upgraded) and the so-called “Enterprise-class” fusion-ion ships. Federation and Empire ships therefore had two kinds of engines – the FTL for travel above light speed, and the ion engine for normal-space sublight velocities.

On the other hand, Earth FTL ships actually used their FTL engines for sublight as well. During sublight, they generated artificial gravity similar to what gravity plates generate instead of the gravity fields that “fold” space. In fact, their smallships use this kind of propulsion too (and because of this, their pilots have erroneously called Eagle and Cobra engines FTL engines as well).

Sahsha couldn’t follow her at that point anymore, so she just raised her hands in surrender. “I’m more confused,” she said. “I give up!”

O’Connell laughed at that.

-----

While en route to Elyra, the Earthers got regular updates from the Telcontari about the goings-on in Colossus. Mumu and Pinpin asked Nick and Commander Iyanda to relay their messages up to the Shepherd Moon.

The latest news from Colossus showed that there were a lot of things happening over there, the likes of which no one had seen in a long time, the biggest piece of news having to do with the Dravidians.

The move to impeach the Dravidians was starting to gather steam, and if it pushed through, it would be the first time for such a thing to happen in eons. Even the possibility of such a thing had the Dravidians in a panic, so, in a move never seen in the history of the Federation, the Dravidians had voluntarily resigned their custodianship of the Federation government. No race had ever voluntarily given up their custodianship, probably because it would be a long while before they got the chance to govern again – they’d have to wait for the raffle for the next rotation.

But since the Dravidians were the last in line for the current rotation and had only ten more Earth years to go on their current tenure, it was a natural assumption that the timetable for the next raffle would just be moved up. However, the officers from the Chamber of Migration and Peerage said it was impractical to do so: after so many eons, the schedule for the raffle and subsequent rotation and turnover was already so intertwined in Federation life, it would be very disruptive if the schedule was changed. Nick told Pinpin it was sort of similar to someone trying to change the date for Christmas or something. Pinpin didn’t understand it but she said that being around Nick allowed them to learn more about Earthers everyday. Mia laughed at that.

The representative from Star 453-A had a suggestion, which was met with very strong opposition by the Dravidians and Erocii. This was to allot the remainder of the Dravidians’ remaining time to the Telcontari. After all, they were already doing much of the work to administer the Federation government so it wouldn’t change things much, and it was only for ten years.

The Erocii representative said that there were no precedents for such a motion.

The cyborg agreed, therefore, as per the rules, only a unanimous vote would do. He called the question and asked for a vote. After an impassioned speech by Nick (it was the first time for the Earthers to speak before the Federation in the capacity of a fellow delegate), lauding the bravery, commitment and ability of the Telcontari, but mostly their impartiality and commitment to uphold galactic traditions and law, the result of the vote that followed was unanimous, although the Dravidians and Erocii were the final ones to vote.

The Erocii representative then brought up the question of who would take over as apprentices since the Telcontari would vacate that position. Surely no race would want to assume so menial a role.

The cyborg responded to that for now, perhaps it might be well to see if the Earthers would consent to take up the role. This would be beneficial in two ways – that the Earthers would have practical experience with Federation processes, methods, protocols and institutions, and would shortcut their period of acclimatization. And, besides, by tradition, the role falls to the newest Federation member, anyway.

This time, the Telcontari Ambassador, Lulu, spoke up for the Earthers. He said that though the Earthers might feel the role to be beneath them, he agreed that this was the quickest opportunity to integrate their newest members into the Federation family. He went on to say that, as the interim administrators, he and his fellow Telcontari would be honored to be able to work side by side with the Earthers. He could only imagine the kind of heights that the Federation could reach with the Earthers as part of Colossus administration.

The motion was again passed with an overwhelming majority, with only a dozen races abstaining. Not surprisingly, the Dravidians and Erocii were the final ones to vote again. After the vote, the Telcontari then asked the Earthers to speak.

Nick stood and bowed deeply. He spoke eloquently, and expressed how humbled and proud he was for the support of the gathered assembly. He promised to contact Lady Amelia and Secretary-General Romarkin immediately, and would have their response for the Assembly shortly.

As to the question of declaring war on the Tirosians, many of the members were of the opinion that, insofar as all the events that had unfolded so far, no direct attacks had been made on any Federation world and they could not justify a declaration of war. A few expressed the point of view that the Tirosians had essentially done this when they invaded the Earth System and opened fire on Elyran, Arachnian and Dixx spacecraft.

The cyborg representative of Star 453-A asked if the Telcontari could hazard an opinion.

The Erocii protested that the Telcontari were not competent to hazard any opinions.

The cyborg replied that, on the contrary, Pinpin and Mumu, the directors of the Office of Protocol, had shown their expert knowledge on Federation rules and conventions, and invited them to speak. Besides, he said, they represented the Office of Protocol.

Mumu, the more junior of the two, stood and explained that, using the resolutions of the Assembly over the past one hundred Elyran years as precedents, the circumstances could be rationalized either way. Ultimately, it would be a personal decision of each individual representative, using her wisdom to divine the proper path for her people.

The cyborg asked what his personal assessment was. Mumu deferred to the Telcontari ambassador and said that it was improper for him to preempt him. Lulu pinged to say that he was giving him leave to speak.

Mumu bowed deeply in deference and gratitude. He then expressed his sorrow, but he would have to say that he was more inclined to defer the decision to declare war by the Federation. Such a motion would have wide-ranging repercussions. Unlike the decision to declare war on the Detterex, which was fairly straightforward, declaring war on the Tirosians on the other hand was not too clear. Even the invasion of the Earth system could be argued that it happened before the Earthers became members, and the Federation might not be involved in the circumstances that precipitated the invasion.

He did say, however, that he would recommend to his leadership that, like the Daemons, Telcontar should declare war on the Tirosians, based on the circumstantial evidence of collusion between them and the Detterex, but more to express solidarity with Dixx, Elyra, Arachnia, Earth, and Daemon.

The entire Assembly applauded his short but very erudite speech, and a call to defer the matter was passed.

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About the author

Bobbi-C

  • Washington DC
  • Mistress of Confusion

Bio: Bobbi Cabot is a transgender girl in her thirties (35 y.o. as of 2016), who transitioned in 2005. She is known as "Roberta J. Cabot," "Bobbie-C," "Bobbie," "Bobbi" and "Bobbi-C" in the sites where she posts her stories.

Though not a professional writer, Bobbi is under the delusion that she writes passably well and indulges this delusion by sometimes posting stories, which is, thankfully, very seldom.

Bobbi's day job (the phrase "day job" is hereby stressed) involves being the big cheese of the overseas BPO practice of a Top 100 computer technology corporation.

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