Chapters like these allow the characters to explore the situation and they also serve as a mission statement for the first part of the book. You'll be able to see the intensions of many of the characters who are in power, but we all know how often things proceed as planned...
Preview Part 3
Captain Jacob Valent, Captain Ayan Anderson, Commander Stephanie Vega and Lieutenant Liara Erron went aboard Freeground Alpha with Minh-Chu Buu as their pilot. The five of them rode in one of the oldest transit cars any of them had ever seen. Jake looked from one member of his team to the next. There was Minh-Chu, comfortable in his light armour and pilot bomber jacket – a new one since he’d given his original to Ashley Lamport nearly a year before. His shoulder length dark hair was loose, he watched the surfaces of the tunnel go by as though he was riding through a ghost town.
Lieutenant Erron was studying everything she could to finish learning about Freeground’s history, people and organizational structure. Jake couldn’t see exactly what she was looking through from second to second, but those holographic images were flipping by so quickly he could scarcely believe that she was absorbing anything. In a short amount of time she’d proven to be a highly valuable communications officer. She didn’t seem comfortable in her heavy armour yet, struggling against the thick suit covered by horizontal bands of protective metal. The flexible strips overlapped each other for protection, and to hide emitters inside that could provide minor propulsion in space, or more commonly, a personal shield.
Commander Stephanie Vega was right at home in her black armour. They didn’t need her for security, the group could handle themselves, but Jake, Minh-Chu and Ayan needed new eyes with them, and those would be Liara’s and Stephanie’s. Jake had come to trust Stephanie Vega, one of the few people who had stuck around for almost all of his bounty hunting years, when he wasn’t even aware of who he was supposed to be. She watched him transform more than once, following along, supporting him without a complaint or question. Her trust and loyalty to Jake was proven, and he knew she would notice if something wasn’t quite right on Freeground Alpha. She was his first officer, a post she assumed with gusto, studying the responsibilities of the position, the crew under her command and the details of their ship – the Revenge – late into every evening. It was about time she was given a clear path to her own command, but Jake wasn’t ready for her to leave just yet.
Ayan flashed him a smile, noticing that he was looking at his people, or that he was quiet, well, noticing something. He didn’t think she should be on the first trip to Freeground Alpha, but he wouldn’t tell her that. With her along, he was afraid that they would become more involved with the station’s politics than they could afford to be. Time was not on their side, if it were up to him, they would make a quick statement about Triton Fleet’s intentions, find out if Freeground Alpha had any objections, then take every action they could to assure that the massive station could get out of the Nebula. Politics would definitely complicate matters.
Even still, Jake had learned not to underestimate her. They’d had time away from each other, and he could see that she’d changed, she’d grown in ways he was slowly discovering. Ayan was one of the strongest women he’d ever known, and he didn’t just love her, he admired her for all she had accomplished and for her unbreakable spirit. She may have been made to replace an earlier version of Ayan, named Ayan Rice, but Jake firmly believed that Ayan Anderson was an improvement on the original. She wore the same style of combat armour, but hers was blue, designating her as a member of the Triton Fleet Engineering Department. She was the highest ranking member, technically a Captain but with more responsibility than any master of a single ship. It was her task to supervise the upkeep and upgrading of every Triton ship within her live communication range.
Ayan tucked her curly red hair into a bun, then sighed and undid it – perhaps because she thought it was too sloppy or loose, then tried again, leaving her second attempt as it was. He idly wondered how much time they’d actually have together when they returned home.
“Unearthing strange memories?” Ayan asked him. Her warm smile lightened his mood.
“It’s strange,” Jake said. “I’ve never been here before, and I can tell all my memories of this place are from Jonas,” he shrugged. “It’s like seeing someone else’s home after hearing them describe it over and over again.”
“I know how you feel,” Ayan replied. “I’ve never been here before either, but it’s like Ayan Rice is with us, welcoming me in.”
“Maybe she is,” Stephanie said. “My people still believe that our ancestors look in on us. Ayan Rice and Jonas Valent are as much your parents as anyone.”
“It’s like genetic memory?” Liara said. “The Soojoun have a genetic memory, you might want to look into them. They stay away from humans and most of the other species because they see them as immature, but who can blame them. They have a perspective of centuries. The traders who ran into them also said they were really big snobs, they didn’t want to deal with humans at all but they needed parts.” As though she just realized who she was speaking to, she returned to her work.
“Are you all right, Minh?” Ayan asked.
“Just got a case of the welcome back jitters. When I left here last time, I was technically an escaped mental patient.”
That drew surprised glances from Stephanie and Liara. Ayan only laughed. “I’m sure they won’t put you away, they’ve got to be past it by now.”
“I hope so. I don’t know why I came though, I don’t have family here anymore. The notes in the system say that everyone but my youngest sister found a Lorander Colony Ship and they’re not even in the same galaxy anymore.”
“Maybe you’re here for your little sister?” Jake asked.
“She left me a note saying she didn’t think I’d ever be back to Freeground, but to be sure I’d be seeing her soon if I did come back and read the message. It didn’t say where or how or when though.”
“She was always sneaky,” Jake said.
“And loud,” Minh-Chu added. “How she made those two things work together, I’ll never understand, but that’s the way she is. I hope she’s okay.”
“I remember her being smart and resourceful too,” Jake said. “I’m sure she’s fine. For all we know, she’s tracking your route through the galaxy right now.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Minh-Chu replied, his mood brightening.
“I’m wondering,” Stephanie said. “Did any of you expect to see Freeground again?”
The question surprised Jake, and he was still pondering when Ayan replied. “No,” she said. “Once I’d found Oz, and found out that Carl was my father, I didn’t see a reason to return. The politics here have cost the station isn’t viability, it’s not the place I remember from Ayan Rice.”
“You didn’t know he was your father?” Liara asked.
“I had no idea. I loved him like one, he was around a lot when Ayan Rice was growing up, was her family doctor, and even joined us on the First Light, but I had no idea. To be honest, Ayan Rice worshipped him a little because his career was so diverse and maybe the mystery associated with that was part of it.”
“That sort of explains your attraction to mysterious older men,” Liara said. The colour drained from her face. “I’m so sorry, the classified profile on you is pretty exhaustive.”
“We’re all officers here,” Ayan said. “And I’ve paid for the wrong turn I took in my personal life. I’d appreciate a little more discretion, though.”
Jake could see that Ayan was making a real effort to be kind to the new Communications Officer. In his experience, Liara was normally graceful, clear and what she said was well thought out, but she seemed nervous around Ayan and to a lesser degree, Stephanie. Ayan was blushing, Stephanie and Minh-Chu were watching the exchange with interest.
“Thank you, Captain,” Liara said to Ayan. “I have to say, I admire you for everything you’ve done with Haven Shore and the Fleet. I think you’re really amazing.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant.”
“There’s something else,” Liara said. “I’m getting a data dump from Freeground Fleet via the Triton, not from Freeground Alpha. It’s navigational and observational logs of the nebula from their journey so far and from limited scouting missions.”
“Take a quick inventory of the data but focus on the meeting once we get started,” Jake said.
“Aye, Sir,” Liara replied.
“When I heard my family were off the station,” Minh-Chu said, returning the conversation to the previous topic, “I didn’t think I’d ever be back. I loved what I had here after the All-Con War, but I was restless. Seeing more of the galaxy, even though it was dangerous, was more interesting to me, especially after I heard my family was safe somewhere else. I was the black sheep after I left on the First Light, no one said it, but I knew I was the brother everyone relied on before then. I disappointed them, and I couldn’t handle it, so I left. I’ll have to find them someday, I don’t know how, but I will.”
The car stopped, several people on an old grey and white platform tried to enter the car, but the doors were locked. The people there, most of them in plain vacsuits of various colours, regarded the locked doors with irritation but stood back as the car began to move again. They were only a few stops away from the command section of Freeground Alpha.
Jake decided it was time for him to answer. “I never thought I’d see Freeground. There’s nothing for me here, even Jonas didn’t really care about Freeground much by the end, his friends were home to him more than any place,” he took a breath and shook his head. “Okay, it’s time to focus on the present. We know what we’re doing here, right?”
“Oh, yes,” Ayan said. “We are not offering anything unconditionally.”
“I have to admit I wish Oz was here,” Minh-Chu said. “Just because he’s probably the only person who would want to see the inside of Freeground again.”
The transit car passed into a section of the station that had taken massive damage. The outer hull was gone for a stretch of more than a hundred metres, and the rooms behind it were destroyed. The transit tube was the first thing to be repaired, it seemed, and it passed through open space. The white, blue and rust coloured hues of the Iron Head Nebula were visible through the large gap. There were crews removing sections of plating that was too damaged to be repaired and others working on critical components. A large shield emitter was being moved into place, it looked newer than everything they’d seen on Freeground Alpha until then.
The transit car continued into the undamaged section and began to slow down. “How old is this part of the station?” Stephanie asked.
“Over three hundred years, maybe even older,” Ayan said. “There have always been rumours that this was the main ring on a large ship that ran through the middle and provided main power and propulsion.”
The car stopped and the station they arrived at was filled with Freeground Officers who greeted them with applause. The space was built like so many other main hallway intersections, only the floor was worn down by so many feet over the centuries that it shone with the steely silver of the original metal. The rest of the space was coloured white and grey, and it was spotless. Memories of a lifetime spent growing up in modules that looked very similar were instantly revived, and it felt like Jonas was watching from within.
“This is kind of eerie, right?” Ayan asked him quietly.
“So glad it’s not just me.”
“If you’ll follow me, please,” an ensign who looked too old to wear the uniform, but had a youthful gait. They were led down the left hallway only a few steps before entering a narrower corridor that led directly into a conference room. There were no chairs around the waist-high table, and the transparent metal windows along one side overlooked the main control room of Freeground Alpha. “The members of the High Command wanted to meet you at the secure station, but the risk was too high,” the Ensign explained. “This contained Control Centre is the most secure space on the station now. No attacks have been able to penetrate this area.”
“There have been internal attacks?” Liara asked.
“You haven’t been briefed?” the Ensign asked.
“We’ve only had time to review the information you provided in summary, we’d appreciate some details, especially if you’re having difficulty with security.”
“I’m sorry, I haven’t been cleared to give you any of those details. The members of High Command should be with you soon. Please wait here,” he told them before exiting through the opposite door set into the transparent wall.
He swiftly made his way through the busy command centre, where at least a hundred crewmembers worked at their posts. The work stations looked like they were built with three-hundred-year old technology, there were no visible upgrades in sight with one exception. In the middle of the control centre was a shielded tube with the liquid quantum core of a massive computer system.
“Oh my God,” Minh-Chu said. “Some nightmares never cease to haunt.” He said, pointing at the computer core in the middle of the control centre.
Jake took a longer look and realized what it was. “Is that what I think it is?” he asked.
Ayan was already scanning, and a moment later she nodded. “That’s the liquid quantum core the First Light captured when the crew escaped the Overlord class Base Ship. They have it tied into their navigational systems, but isolated from any communications devices.”
“Is it installed well? Can there be any outside interference?”
“They have hardware safeties in place and signal shielding around it. Even at this range I couldn’t send an instruction to it.”
“Well, I never wondered what happened to it,” Minh-Chu said. “I know anyway.”
Admiral Jessica Rice followed by an older looking woman and gentleman entered the room. Jake couldn’t help but notice that she looked young for her age, and her gait was particularly spry.
She stopped to stand directly in front of Ayan. “I’m so sorry for the way you were treated, especially for the way I treated you, when you were last with us.” It looked as though the Admiral was between deciding to attempt a hug, a handshake, or even a shoulder pat.
Ayan broke the awkward moment by embracing the woman warmly. Jessica was visibly surprised at first, then rested her hands on Ayan’s back gently. Without letting Jessica go, Ayan said; “I know what it is to make mistakes and regret them more every day. You were still grieving when I was born, so I understand why you couldn’t accept me then. It’s okay.”
Jacob could see Jessica Rice’s expression relax, as though she’d found a moment of peace. “Thank you, Ayan,” she said quietly. “Thank you so much.”
They parted, and Ayan smiled at Jessica Rice. “We’re going to be okay.” She whispered, and Jessica nodded.
“I’m sorry to interrupt this strange, albeit touching reunion, but we have little time to spare,” said the grey haired stocky woman settling in at the other end of the table. “I’m Commodore Merick, and this,” she said, gesturing at the gentleman in a loose fitted vacsuit and long jacket with glittering public service medals on the lapels, “is Prime Minister Hemron. The pair of us are the High Command for the fleet,” she said, gesturing at herself, “and the Civilian body,” she finished, gesturing at the Prime Minister. “Admiral Rice is here as a courtesy.”
“We don’t have much time for negotiations, Commodore,” Jake said. “What we need to know is how long it will be until this station can jump again, how much distance you can cross, and if you’ve scouted ahead in the right direction. If any of those parts of your strategy are missing, we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
“Don’t worry, we have the situation well in hand,” Prime Minister Hemron said. “What we need are any foodstuffs, or medical supplies you may have on hand. We also require any spare components that we could use to restore function to a few damaged sections.”
“From our scans we can see that the Revenge has a large store of spare parts, long supports that haven’t been installed, and ammunition that will be compatible with our heavy point defence guns,” the Commodore said. “The Triton has a great deal of food and equipment in reserve, including some fabrication systems that we could use. We weren’t able to complete our scan, however, since it was blocked seconds after we started it.”
“I’m sorry,” Ayan said. “I’m sure the Captains can come up with a shipment of food, and maybe a little equipment that will help, but most of what you’ve scanned is essential to the function of those ships.”
“I’m sure they’ll be pleased to know that the Captain with no ship has spoken for them here,” the Prime Minister said.
“My responsibility is to oversee the condition of the fleet, and I’m telling you that you’re not going to scavenge in our cargo holds and fighter bays for parts and supplies. Our mandate is simple: to assist in the defence of Freeground Alpha and escort you to a safe solar system. We were thinking of taking you right to Rega Gain, but, unless the tone of these negotiations changes, you won’t be welcome there.”
“I warned you,” Jessica Rice told the Commodore. “These people know what they’re doing. They have their own priorities, and we’re lucky they’re here at all.”
Jake shook his head at what he was seeing. It seemed more like a staged argument with one of their people taking one side, while another took the other so their guests would be guided to a conclusion of their choosing. “I speak for the Revenge,” he said, his voice filling the room. “Your people are not going to be allowed aboard. We have the supplies and equipment we need, you can’t have a single crate. Nothing we would provide you with, if I chose to do so, would be in a quantity that would make any difference anyway. Captain Anderson is right. Our mandate here is simple: to assist in the defence of Freeground Alpha and deliver it to a safe solar system.”
“That’s utterly ridiculous,” Commodore Merick said. “Your ships should join Freeground Fleet, we already have plans, and our wormhole systems are charging as we speak.”
“How long will that take?” Ayan asked.
“We have to charge for another thirteen point six hours,” Admiral Rice replied.
“Admiral, you will not share operational details until we’ve negotiated the position of the Triton and the Revenge in terms of where they will fit in the fleet,” warned the Commodore.
“That’s easy,” Jake said. “The Revenge won’t be joining your failing fleet. Every single ship out there is damaged, I’ve seen that scans. You are orchestrating a disaster, and I bet your commanding out of fear, not wisdom. I bet every ship you have is right here so you can feel safer.”
“You’re right, Captain,” Admiral Rice said.
“You need ships out there doing small jumps along your projected course, scouting, making sure you’re not going to run into opposition, checking for planets where you can salvage supplies and materials,” Minh-Chu said. “Let us do that for you. We have plenty of fighters with jump capabilities, and they’re in good shape. I’ll even volunteer to lead a long range scout ship so we can map a real route for you, one that will make it harder for the Order to find you.”
“Now that’s a good place to start,” Admiral Rice said.
“We are using long range scans,” the Prime Minister said. “We see a clear route ahead.”
“Those scans can be tricked without using a cloaking device in this nebula,” Jake said. “You’re also making signal noise that anyone can use to locate Freeground. The more deep scans you perform, the longer you remain here afterwards, the more likely you’ll be discovered.”
“I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet,” Ayan added. “You need us, but you’re going to have to accept our help on our terms.” She specifically adjusted her tone and demeanour to one that was almost pleading. “Our terms are the best you’ll find. We keep the supplies and equipment that enable us, and help this entire station to safety. I’d like to see a day very soon when you are welcomed into the Rega Gain System with open arms. We’re forming a larger fleet there and have a partnership with the British Alliance.”
“The British?” Prime Minister Hemron said, throwing up his hands. “The Freeground Loyalist Party won’t have it! I’m wasting my time.” He began storming from the room.
Jake couldn’t take any more. He hadn’t had a flare of anger since he lost the framework technology, but it was easy for him to embrace his irritation and follow his instincts. Without a moment’s hesitation, he moved to stand in front of the Prime Minister, who looked up at him wide-eyed. With a firm push, Jake sat him down in a chair. “Prime Minister Hemron,” he said so clearly and loudly that something in the room vibrated. Jake leaned down until they were nose to nose. “You are going to get your people killed or sent to a planet where the edxian young will hunt them down and feed on them.” Jake’s anger was already beginning to dissipate, but he pressed on. The man he saw in the chair was terrified. To him, the politician seemed weaker and greedier than any creature he’d ever seen. It was a snap judgement, but Jake wanted to wear him down quickly so he could see if there was a rational man under the pride and selfishness. He continued channelling the mannerisms of every drill sergeant he’d ever seen. “I will not allow you drag my ship and my crew down with you. The Revenge will put you to our rear thrusters and make best speed back home the instant I feel push back from you. We are not Freegrounders, we are not politicians. We are military Officers who have come to help you. I don’t see anyone else offering you a hand. We have the solutions you need, the technology to make it happen, and can execute a plan that will increase your chances of survival. If your greed and prejudice gets in the way of our solution, this opportunity we’re handing you will disappear. There’s a war on, a fleet to build, and a whole solar system to defend. I’d rather be there, so when I see your pride getting in the way of your people’s survival, I wonder if my ship is even in the right place. You will accept our help, or you we’ll leave. You don’t have a week to decide, or a day, you have a few hours. Am I speaking clearly and loudly enough for you? Do you understand me?”
“Y-yes,” stammered Prime Minister Hemron.
“Get out,” Jake said, stepping away from the man.
Prime Minister Hemron hesitated for a moment, then slinked from the room.
“You’re not a very bright man, are you, Captain?” Commodore Merick said.
“I am a pragmatist, and I do not respect people with more greed than sense,” Jake said. “And we are here to provide a military solution.”
“We need supplies. That is a fact so we ask you for them.”
“No,” Ayan said flatly. “You told us you would be taking them. You have your answer, Commodore, so let’s move on.”
“You can’t believe that the scene we just witnessed was appropriate.”
“It was perfectly appropriate. We are here to deal with you, the leader of the military. We only have time for a military solution. Triton Fleet can’t assist any of your civilian people until we get you out of the nebula and home. We have a situation in the Rega Gain system where we are on the verge of thriving as a new society,” Ayan pressed. “When we found you two hours ago, I was already having visions of getting you there, beginning a peaceful merging of civilians.”
“And growing your military, no doubt,” Commodore Merick said.
“I realize there are a lot of steps to make between today and that dream,” Ayan said. “But once you see how Haven Shore has grown, how we are operating with the British Alliance, I’m sure you’ll understand.”
“The British Alliance will let you lay the foundation, do the grunt work, then take what they want and claim the glory for their people,” the Commodore said. “That man wasn’t the only Loyalist in this room.”
“Don’t let politics get in the way of our survival, Commodore,” Admiral Rice said. “These people were able to find us in days, that says something about the security of our position here.”
“One of our own ships led you here.”
“That’s completely beside the point,” Admiral Rice said. “We’re lucky they’re the ones who arrived to save that ship when they did. If it were another group of Order ships, they could have just as easily downloaded and decrypted the contents of a navigational computer and gotten to us. My experience tells me that we’ve been lucky so far, and these people are willing to risk their lives so we can make our way through the rest of the nebula in a safer way.”
“I hope you’re right, Admiral,” the Commodore said. “I’m going to take your word on their intentions and allow them to scout ahead for us. If they drag trouble back here, I’ll have your commission.”
“This is the only sane way to continue, Commodore,” Admiral Rice said. “You’ve been retired a long time, a lot has changed in thirty-three years. If you don’t take the advice of your officers, and keep letting the Prime Minister cross the divide between the military and civilian government, we will be caught while we argue about priorities and what course of action is best.”
“Take the win, Admiral,” the Commodore said as she left the room.
“I apologize,” Jake said. “I wasn’t sure you were actually advocating for us at first.”
“It’s all right, Captain,” Jessica Rice said. “Since the Loyalists took over, things have been getting better, and their priorities are usually good, but these people are more focused on impressing the few Freegrounders we have left quickly so they can remain in power. The divide that existed between the military and the civilian bodies is practically gone, giving the politicians the idea that they can weigh in on any decision the Fleet has to make. We’re trying to keep things within the fleet, but the politicians listen in more and more. What’s worse, most of them are new, replacing most of our senior representatives and they aren’t thinking long-term. I wanted to handle the relationship between Freeground Fleet and you on my own, but the Commodore wants to prove that she can still be a great commander even though she was just dusted off and put in place a week and a half ago. The Prime Minister wants to show the people that his party can provide, but everything is in short supply.”
“I’ll do what I can to help,” Jake said. “But the Revenge needs everything its got. We’ll try to find salvage opportunities along the way. My intelligence on the area tells me that there are some good locations in the nebula. There are even some star bases and settlements, but I haven’t seen them personally. They’re on the fringes, so we can’t count on their help until we get closer to the edge, but the nebula isn’t barren, there are a lot of people who have been living here well before the Order came along. I doubt most of them are sympathisers.”
“That’s exactly the kind of thing we need. Friends and supplies. Our faster than light systems are not at one hundred percent, so if we can find supplies along the way, the station will get stronger as we go. No one is starving or suffocating yet, though, so there is some time.”
“I only ask that you make every decision about this journey a military decision,” Jake said. “We can’t afford the time your government will add with bureaucracy.”
“I agree, Captain Valent,” Admiral Rice said.
“I’m wondering,” Stephanie said. “I heard something about attacks, and the need for increased internal security.”
“We’ve been bombed five times since we left our home territory. The attacks came from within,” Jessica said. “The first one killed more than half of our house representatives, and the third one took out almost the entire Admiralty along with the previous Prime Minister and his aides. I got lucky, I was aboard a ship supervising patrols. Order spies are definitely aboard the station and we suspect they have rallied small groups who believe politics ruined Freeground, so we’re taking extra measures in all the critical areas we can protect. The wormhole generator was hit once. We still haven’t finished repairing the mass capacitors or the connections between them and our primary reactors. It’s slowing our recharge rate down and reducing the effectiveness of our wormhole generator. We have less than three percent of the jump capability that we entered the nebula with.”
“How long would it take for you to make repairs?” Ayan asked.
“With the materials we need and a full shut down, approximately nine days, but it would almost completely restore our systems.”
“I’m guessing the Commodore aren’t allowing for the shut down time?” Jake asked.
“You have a good grasp of the situation here. As it is, the best thing you can do to help is give us directions, make sure the jump route is safe and watch for safe harbours along the way.”
“That, we can do,” Jake said.
“I’ll lead an expedition and get every pilot I can working on it,” Minh-Chu added.
“There has been a lot of political shifting, so I have to ask,” Ayan said. “Is your military command structure stable?”
“You can take any information or question to me,” Jessica Rice said quietly. “The fleet is with me, the Commodore believes that she’s in control of the station, but there are a lot of people who believe the laws that took her out of retirement to command are antiquated, that she’s incompetent. They don’t have much faith.”
“So, the faith is in the fleet.”
“Exactly. Civilians feel trapped, a lot of them are months into military training, following the desire to help, and a few recruits are training out of fear. They want to feel empowered, and that seems to be the only way to do it legally. We’re running into trouble, with hundreds of freshly trained military personnel who don’t have a place because we don’t have the ships. I think people are afraid of how the dynamic will change if the Triton and Revenge are too close for too long.”
“We need people in Triton Fleet,” Ayan said. “Ships aren’t the problem, manpower is our biggest issue.”
“Don’t let anyone hear you say that. The Prime Minister, the Commodore, most of the people who run things on the station are worried about losing more people. We’ve gone from millions to less than three hundred fifty thousand in less than a decade. It feels like the Freeground Nation will be gone by the end of next year. If people realize they can resettle in the Rega Gain system, that might actually happen.”
“What do you want to see happen?” Minh-Chu asked.
“I’m a military animal,” Jessica said, looking to Minh-Chu at first, then to Ayan. “I’ve sacrificed a lot to be excellent in my field, maybe too much. There are so many people who would lose their direction without Freeground Fleet. We need to join a worthy organization with good leadership. The Commodore thinks that by claiming Tamber and Haven Shore, she can keep the Freeground Nation and the Fleet together. I just want what’s best for our people, and if that means joining Triton Fleet instead, then that’s what has to happen. I’ve seen large military organizations break up, Vindyne’s fall was a disaster for hundreds of worlds. Military ships with trained crews became marauders, raiders who preyed on the people they were paid to protect. I shudder to think of the loss a dissolved Freeground Fleet could do. One of our ships could hold a small station hostage, or run as a pirate for years, and I know that there are some young captains that would see that as their best option if they didn’t have a greater organization to depend on. I can only speak for myself and the nine ships under my command, but we’ll join Triton Fleet if you can show that you’re organized and poised to make a difference in this war.”
“I’ve seen the plan for the Academy we’re building with the British Fleet, and we have a shipyard. With people training, a growing community on a planet with a stable environment, and ships on the way, I know we can offer your people what they need.”
“I look forward to seeing that for myself, but the journey to it is long yet,” Jessica said.
“Time for us to get to work,” Jake said. “Unless anything else needs to be said.”
“Not for now,” Ayan said to Jessica. “Thank you for helping us negotiate here. We’ll talk soon.”
“Good,” she replied. “I have to return to my ship.”