Kendra Lewis was, hands down, the worst assistant Thrall had ever had. She routinely lost important files, could not remember things, often fed him wrong information, generally got in his way and interfered with many sundry things in small and large ways.

He had missed at least five meetings with admirals so far. Supplies meant for the Third Fleet had been mysteriously rerouted and were now two weeks behind schedule. And Thrall had the sneaky suspicion that several reports meant for his eyes only were stuck in a hidden queue somewhere.

But he could not get mad at her. One look into those gorgeous eyes, framed in that cascading, luscious blonde hair atop that incredible figure . . . and he forgot everything he was supposed to be mad about.

The fact she was completely incompetent, to the point of being a nuisance, was lost on him . . . especially when she poured on the charm. He had not been this enraptured by a woman since . . . since the flight back home from Raton Five with Raquel. But that was just an abstract thought. Raquel herself was long forgotten, completely replaced by this amazing specimen of a woman.

If he got particularly upset, whether with something Kendra did or anything else, she knew of ways to distract him from the matter and instantly calm him down. She would do it right there in the office, or the suite, or wherever they were.

He had not been this calm in years. His blood pressure remained very low, thanks to her willingness to provide him relief several times a day.

And so, despite her incompetence, despite her irritating ability to misplace important items and stir up all sorts of difficulties for him and the Navy, despite all that . . . he kept her around. She was the most attractive, the most fascinating, the most exciting woman he had ever been with. She seemed to know exactly what he wanted and how he liked things. In every other way, that is, just not as an assistant.

In a perfect world he would have both a competent assistant and a woman who looked like this and could please him in all those other ways. But given the choice, he thought . . . given the choice he would take Kendra Lewis. Every time.

He had lost untold hours from the war effort just spending time with her. But it did not seem to matter. The war carried on without him . . .

Last night she kept him up very late in a role-playing game that had proven particularly exciting. And exhausting. This morning he slept past his internal alarm, and Kendra left white noise on in the suite’s bedroom, which kept him sound asleep.

She instructed StarCen to turn off the white noise whenever he woke up, and to let her know when that happened. Then she changed into a business suit and asked the AI to port her to his office.

At five minutes past eight, StarCen directed a call from Admiral Ricci to her from the Third Fleet. The hologram of an older woman with brown hair in a formal blue uniform appeared in the office. She had the look of someone used to bearing the responsibility of leadership.

Ricci frowned at the sight of the beautiful young blonde waiting to see her. The girl was actually showing cleavage, for crying out loud.

“I had an appointment with the Tetrarch for this time.”

“I am sorry, Admiral. Lead Tetrarch Thrall is indisposed at the moment. I am fully authorized to convey everything to him. You may confirm with StarCen if you so desire.”

Ricci did not bother. The young woman would not be in Thrall’s office if StarCen had not allowed it.

“I don’t understand how we are behind on our supplies shipment. The Aquarius was due at our rendezvous two days ago.”

“The Aquarius was rerouted due to the incident at Juventas.”

“Yes, but that doesn’t make sense. Why would losing a drop off point on the supply route delay our shipment? If anything, we should be getting things faster since there are now fewer stops for the zodiac ships to make.”

Kendra shrugged. She said, “I don’t understand interstellar logistics, ma’am.”

Ricci’s brows furrowed. This additional person was not Navy like Thrall’s last assistant. That one had been very good. What was her name? Elven? Where did he dig up this blonde bombshell? She had to be there only for her looks. Ricci could not imagine any other reason this bimbo was in such a high position.

The Admiral pulled out of her negative thoughts and focused on the situation at hand.

She said, “StarCen, please arrange another appointment for me, with the Tetrarch directly this time.”

StarCen’s high-pitched voice could be heard by both ladies. She said, “Kendra Lewis is in charge of Lead Tetrarch’s schedule. You will have to make the appointment through her, Admiral Ricci.”

Kendra smiled sweetly at the frowning Admiral. She flicked her wrist and consulted a holosheet that appeared in the air in front of her face.

“I can fit you in, Admiral, in . . . four days? Yes. He is available at this same time four days from now.”

Unless he oversleeps again, Ricci thought. She glared at the extraordinarily attractive woman.

“Fine. Make the appointment. But I need to speak with him directly next time. No offense, but there are some things that just can’t be relayed through a third party.”

“Oh, none taken, ma’am. I will absolutely see to it that he is here for the next one.”

Ricci signed off, her hologram fading.


Back in the Admiral’s Quarters on the Resolute, her flagship, Ricci sat down and pondered the dilemma. Typically a fleet guarded areas, like chess pieces surrounding a king. Offensive maneuvers were risky, because it meant draining defensive resources.

The Republic had been able to capture an entire quadrant. It left a variety of strategic questions for the League to answer. For Thrall to answer, really.

Do they pull in as many ships as possible and attack, trying to wrest control of Juventas back from the Republic? That was the standard answer, Ricci thought. But this new weapon changed the dynamics of warfare.

Thrall had indeed ordered half of Ricci’s fleet away from its home quadrant to head toward Juventas. His current orders were for Ricci to wait at a location several AUs away from there. They would be there in three days, short on supplies.

What happened after that, Ricci did not know. She could not get ahold of the Tetrarch to ask him. And she surely was not going to ask his . . . girlfriend.

The food and supplies they were supposed to pick up at a previous rendezvous point were nowhere to be found. The Aquarius, they learned, had somehow diverted from her usual route. They would have to be resupplied at the final rendezvous point, which was out of the way of the zodiac ships, far off the regular supply routes.

These sort of things just did not happen in the Navy, Ricci thought. But then, it was war, and they had indeed lost the Juventas quadrant. Maybe the Tetrarch’s girl was right in that logistics were all screwed up at the moment.

She sighed and opened a com link with the Captain of the Resolute.

“We’ll continue now, Allie.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Ricci watched as the icon representing her ship and half of the Third Fleet started moving again on the holoscreen above the table.

What happens if I don’t get to talk to Thrall again at the rendezvous? Will he have solar torpedoes for me in the next shipment? We can’t retake Juventas without bringing in the new weapons. Would the torpedoes even be on a zodiac ship, or would they come in on a special delivery?

Without talking with the Tetrarch, she did not know the answer to any of these questions.

She sighed again, feeling the burdens of leadership. If worse came to worse, she would make decisions on her own, without Thrall’s guidance. She hoped it did not come to that.


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