Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Forty

Notes: Only a happy reunion to go, I think. Because of course I've got to draw this out! Enjoy some political machinations and people knowing things they shouldn't. And by people, I mean Garrett.

Title: Reformation: Chapter Forty


Chapter Forty

“There’s fighting in the Senate.”

“What a shame.”

“Open fighting. Just fists so far, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone pulls a weapon or sets their bodyguards on another senator before the morning is done.”

Garrett shrugged. “You can’t expect me to be bothered by any of this, Sigurd.”

Admiral Liang’s sharp, knowing gaze stayed fixed on him. “I wondered if you had any idea how far you wanted to see things fall, in the end. Political chaos is inevitable, now that Alexander’s demise is being broadcast on every holo station.”

“And evidence of his perfidity,” Garrett added. “You’re the one who helped me dig that up and make it public. Everything they’re reporting on about the dark fleet, the money laundering, the attacks on the Fringe—that’s all coming directly from your investigation. If you were really all that concerned about instability, you would have waited until someone else had consolidated power to release that information. I wouldn’t stop you either way.”

Sigurd inclined his head. “I know. And timing-wise, if we’re going to prevent another regime from springing up among the former president’s followers, it had to be now. But you can’t simply run away from the mess you helped make.”

“Watch me.”

“Settling back on the Fringe isn’t a long-term plan, Garrett, especially not now that the planets’ legal status is unclear. There will almost inevitably be power plays made out there that the fleet can’t respond to. There will be interplanetary war, every pirate or Drifter with enough people and ships making a play to increase their status, not to mention conflicts between the planetary governments themselves.”

“It’s a good thing that what’s left of the Fleet is out here already then, isn’t it?” Garrett drawled. Jonah snickered next to him, and he resisted the urge to smile. “And that they’ve got you as their commander in chief.”

“I don’t command the entire navy.”

“But you do have ultimate authority over the Academy and its cadets, who are doing the patrolling out here. The rest of the fleet might be powerful, but it’s scattered. You’ve got a nexus of power recovering at Pandora, and better yet, you’ve got the children of people in positions of power. Nobody’s going to move against you with this kind of leverage, and while Alexander’s dark fleet might have been a trial for Federation forces, no real pirates or municipal navies will be able to muster anything like that level of offense. You’re the king of the Fringe.”

“I don’t believe in monarchies.”

“Well, I hope you believe in a benevolent dictatorship, at least for a while, because that’s what I’m putting you in position for.” Admiral Liang’s gaze narrowed, and Garrett hastened to explain himself. “It’s got to be you. You already know that. There’s nobody else in the entire government who comes close to your level of trustworthiness, and your reputation is unassailable. And so are you. You have no family, no children.” And I know why. “Your work is your life. You want the best for your cadets. Well, that’s going to be whatever treaty or reconciliation you can hammer out of those hardheads in the Senate, and you need to act fast, while they’re panicked. Their fortunes are falling, their lives are chaos, and who knows if they even have any legal authority anymore? They’ll listen to you. They have to.”

“Perhaps for now. By next week I could be dodging assassins of my own.”

“You’re not that easy to kill.” It was the closest Garrett could come to being totally blunt, and he appreciated Sigurd’s simple nod of acknowledgement.

“And why should I let you fly off into the sunset and leave me to fix this mess without your help? You have a lot of influence here. You’re the architect of this dismay. You should have a hand in cleaning things up.”

“I can’t.” He couldn’t be any more honest. “I—I can’t. I almost lost everything already, I don’t even know if—” He couldn’t say it. “I’m not saying I’ll be gone forever,” Garrett said. “But I can’t stay right now. I have to be with my family, I have to make sure they’re okay and get them somewhere safe to recover.”

“Where do you have in mind?”

“Somewhere beyond the reach of the Federation, diplomatically speaking.”

Admiral Liang’s eyes widened slightly. “Perelan? Will they accept your presence?”

“They will if their ambassador has anything to say about it. They’ve already got Claudia and the girls. It won’t be permanent, but it’ll give us space to breathe and recover.”

“I suppose it will.” The admiral sighed. “Go, then. Take your well-earned rest, but I want you to maintain a channel with me. If you vanish off the face of the universe, I’ll assume the worst and come after you, even if it causes an interplanetary incident.”

“I understand.”

“Then good luck, Garrett. Tell Cody I’m disappointed he and Tiennan won’t be attending classes any longer, but that I understand.”

“Well, I’m not sure that Ten—”

I am.” He cut the connection, and Garrett sat back in his chair with a loud exhale.

“Well. That went better than it could have.”

“A lot better,” Jonah agreed. “Wouldn’t have surprised me if he kept a few ships in reserve just to send after you and escort you back to help him deal with this clusterfuck.”

“Sigurd Liang is an expert at dealing with clusterfucks, he doesn’t need my help.” Garrett’s eyes unfocused a little bit as he thought about it. “I managed to track him. Did I tell you that? Found evidence of him throughout the centuries, new names and new jobs after his wipes, but a lot of it’s the same. He’s always a stand-up guy, and he’s always competent at whatever he puts his mind to. He’s dealt with rebellion, revolution—hell, he’s led a few of them himself. He might not remember the details, but so many years of experience will come through for him. He’s going to be all right, and whatever he hammers the Federation into after this, it’s damn sure going to be better than the mess we had before.”

“Is there anything you can’t plan for?”

“Too much.” Garrett checks his comm again—it doesn’t matter that he would have heard it going off and dropped Liang’s call in a hot second if it meant getting through to Pandora—but there was nothing. He was in his private ship, and the comm system didn’t come with the bells and whistles that would get him more immediate contact with Pandora. From his official quarters, he would have been patched straight through to Jezria. Without them, he was one of what was probably a very long queue, especially since it looked like the Fleet really was using the planet as a place to refit, and taking up most of their bandwidth at the same time.

Garrett sighed. Soon. He’d be there soon, and then all this waiting would be over and he’d know whether or not it was worthwhile for him to keep…going. He was so tired. Fuck, he was so tired of everything, and he still didn’t know what he needed to. His husband, his son, his father—were they even alive? Odds were good that at least someone had survived, but Garrett wasn’t sure that someone would be enough for him at this point. It had to be everyone. He needed everyone, or else he might as well fly his ship into the nearest star with no one but his hallucination for company.

“No, darlin’.”

“No what?”

“No, you’re not gonna do that.”

Fuck, I forgot he’s not real. He can actually read my mind. Garrett chuckled. Because he’s all in my mind. Only in my mind. “How would you stop me?”

“I’d find a way. For now, though? You need some sleep. When you wake up, you’ll be that much closer to Pandora.”

That was a good thing. So why was he dreading it so much? “Okay.”

“Good.” Invisible hands helped Garrett over to his bunk, the autopilot keeping everything on the ship running smoothly. “It’ll be all right. Promise.”

“You can’t promise.”

“How ‘bout you let me worry about what I can and can’t do?” Gentle lips pressed a kiss to his brow. “Sleep, sweetheart. Sleep.”

Garrett did.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Thirty-Nine

Notes: Aw, some father-son bonding time. Only Jonah might not be thrilled to hear exactly how Cody and Ten got to Pandora. Maybe, just possibly, not thrilled.

Almost done!

Title: Reformation: Chapter Thirty-Nine


Chapter Thirty-Nine

Jonah had never thought that being rescued would feel anticlimactic, but that was before he got a handle on exactly what his only child had been doing for the past few weeks.

They were rescued before the night had finished, and his conversation with Cody had been put off out of necessity—the kids had been tired, they’d needed to sleep, and Cody had been beside himself about Lacey while Ten had grilled Lt. Reyes about their friends. But now they were back in The Box, sitting in the hospital waiting room to get an update on Lacey’s condition as soon as her surgery was done, and it was all Jonah could do to keep his voice from bouncing off the rafters of the damn place once his kid started speaking.

“You what now?”

“Snuck on board the Drifter ship,” Cody repeated, looking a little nervous. “Only we didn’t really sneak, Jack helped us out.”

“Of fucking course he did.” And Jonah was gonna have some words with Jack, that was for damn sure, and the man better be damn happy they were separated by a million miles of space when they did because otherwise Jonah would punch him in the fucking face. “And then you…what, disabled it?”

“Disabled its hygiene systems, really. That’s all,” Ten said, like that made it so much better.

“You disabled a ship with thousands of residents—”

“Only two thousand and fourteen,” Ten offered.

“Like I said, thousands of residents, in hostile space, while a battle was going on, so you could fly down to a storm-covered, besieged planet on a modified—” Jonah had to force himself to say the next part “—hovercycle. A fuckin’ hovercycle.”

“But the design was sound.”

“Obviously, or the two of you wouldn’t be here, and Ten?” Jonah took a deep breath and looked at his son’s significant other. “I need you to either be quiet right now, or go take a walk. What happens next is between me and Cody, and he needs to speak for himself.”

Ten frowned. “You should be nice to him. We came here to rescue you, after all.”

Jonah made himself nod. “I get that. I know both of your hearts were in the right place. But that doesn’t mean that what you did was okay, and again—this part of the discussion doesn’t concern you, so actually?” He stood up and held his hand out to Cody. “We’ll take the walk. You stay and keep an ear out about Lacey.”

“It’s fine,” Cody said softly, and only then did Ten finally relax. On any other day, it would have made Jonah smile to see them looking out for each other like that. Today was not any other day, though.

Jonah spread his fingers, and after a moment, Cody reached out and took his hand. He led the way down to the hospital greenhouse, its plants wan after days without light or water, and manually locked the automatic door behind them.

“I know I shouldn’t have come, but I was worried about you and Garrett wanted to ship me off someplace safe instead of letting me help look for you, and I knew I’d never get a place with the other cadets in the fleet,” Cody started before Jonah could get a word in edgewise. “And Jack was there, and he was willing to help and so was Ten, and so I did it. And we made it safe, and you’re all right and I’m all right, so everything is fine!” He sounded a little desperate. “Isn’t it?”

Jonah sighed. “Let’s unpack that a little. You were upset because Garrett wouldn’t let you come to Pandora. Did he tell you why?”

Codys jaw tightened. “He said it was political.”

“Right. Because like it or not, we married into a family of politicians, people tryin’ to make the ‘verse and the Federation a better place for people on the Fringe. So he told you that, and you got upset. What did you do next?”

“I found Jack and—”

“No, bucko. What did you do next with your father?” Jonah was pushing a little hard, he knew it, but a push was what his kid needed right now. Cody was young and clever and he’d gotten so incredibly, amazingly lucky, but he was also a natural and a political target. He could be the breaking of their family, if Jonah let him get away without thinking about consequences.

“I told him…I wanted to come and find you. Be part of the fleet, and he said no. Even though Darrel and Grennson—”

“Who are MIA for now,” Jonah interrupted. “As is your grandfather, Miles. But yeah, keep going. Even though your friends got to come.”

“And he said…I was too important.” Cody’s voice had gone quiet.

“Uh-huh. And you said?”

“I said that…that you should be his first priority, and that you’d want to know we cared enough to look for him.”

Oh, Cody, really? “And he said?”

“That you’d want me to be safe, and that he was sending a shuttle for me.”

“And?” Because Jonah knew his husband, he knew how his coms usually went.

There were definitely tears in Cody’s eyes now. “And he said that he loved me.”

“And what did you say?”

“Goodbye.” Cody bit his bottom lip. “I didn’t tell him I loved him back. I should—I should have done that.”

“Yeah, bucko.” Jonah felt like his heart was splitting in half just listening to it secondhand. How much had it affected Garrett? And then sending a ship, and learning that his son had run away… 


“But I wanted to be with you! I had to make sure you were safe!”

“And you know I always want you around, and I’m so happy to see you it hurts. But what hurts worse is knowin’ that your daddy—the one who helped me raise you, not the one who abandoned us when you were a baby and didn’t give a shit about either of us for years—knowin’ that he looked for you, and he couldn’t find you. And he was lookin’ for me, and he couldn’t find me. And then Miles was sent away, and so were the boys, and there was nothin’ he could do but keep working, all alone, and hope that all of us were still alive.” Jonah shook his head. “You think that felt good to him?”

Cody had a hand pressed to his eyes now. “No.”

“You think that maybe he’s the one who felt abandoned? You had Ten, you’ll probably always have Ten. I had Lacey, even when she wasn’t wakin’ up, and I had other people to handle after a while. Miles had Darrel and Grennson, but Claudia and the girls weren’t with Garrett. Wyl and Robbie weren’t with Garrett. Nobody was with him. Nobody’s with him now.

“And we still can’t raise the interstellar coms,” because it took a while to get the generators back up to full capacity, and coms for people who weren’t in charge were low on the list of priorities, “so he doesn’t know we’re okay. He doesn’t know we’re safe. He’s got a whole lotta nothin’ but hope and fear right now, and I hate that he’s got to deal with it alone.”

Cody’s shoulders were shaking with the force of his quiet sobs, and Jonah unfolded his arms with a sigh. “C’mere, bucko.” He held his son and kissed the top of his head and tried to make sense of everything he was feeling, the good and the bad. There was joy there, pure joy at having his boy with him and safe, at Lacey being fixed up, at the battle being won. But there was worry too, and sorrow, and anger, anger at circumstance and fate and even at his son, for leaving Garrett swinging like that. Jonah knew his husband, he knew him well, and if Garrett was getting through this completely fine then Jonah would eat his damn boots. “I love you. I know you thought you were doin’ the right thing, and who knows? Maybe that’s what it’ll turn out to be. But I wish you’d trusted your dad a little more.”

“He’s going—to be—so angry at me—”

“Nah, probably not.”

Cody shrugged helplessly. “Maybe he should be an-angry with—with me!”

“Maybe, but he won’t be. He’ll be happy you’re okay. And that I’m okay. And that’s all he’ll say about it, which is why I’m the one talkin’ to you right now, son.” Jonah pulled back just far enough to tip Cody’s chin up. “Because you’re part of a family, and it goes beyond you and me. Okay?”


“Good.” Jonah squeezed his kid tight again, then let him draw back. “How about we open the door before Ten decides to hack it, and you can tell me some more about your time on the ship. Did you remember much of it?”

“Not really.” He shrugged. “But Grandma was still a raging bitch.”

“Well, time can’t change everything.”

Friday, June 16, 2017

Happy Day!

It's my birthday, so I want to tell you all real quick: thanks for being awesome! You keep me writing and give me something to look forward to, and I hope for another happy year of interacting with you. And next year will be a weird one, what with the kiddo coming, so...yeah. Thanks for being there, one of the best gifts I could have is knowing you all :)

It's also Pride weekend in Denver, and Father's Day weekend here in the states, so...omg. Lots of celebrating going on!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Thirty-Eight

Notes: We're so close to the end! This one is a little bittersweet, but that's what happens when you wage intergalactic war. Next time, we'll bring some people together instead of tearing them apart.

Title: Reformation: Chapter Thirty-Eight


Chapter Thirty-Eight

It was satisfying for Garrett, in a rather dark and shadenfreudian kind of way, to see every single one of his official lines of communication absolutely clogged with people wanting to talk to him. Senators, lower-level politicians, interplanetary business leaders—Garrett went down the list of pending contacts and took great pleasure in ignoring all of them. He didn’t have to care, not right now. He’d done just about all the caring he was capable of. With the news coming in that the siege of Pandora had broken, that the pirate fleet was completely destroyed, and that—tellingly—President Alexander was on his way off of Olympus for a distant sightseeing tour, well…it all added up to a whole lot of pandemonium. And that was what Olympus deserved, after the advantages they’d entrenched for themselves for so long.

“Oh, stocks are plummeting,” Garrett commented, full of faux-sympathy as he watched the indicators. “Incidents of direct and indirect rebellion on Fringe planets are worrying Central System lawmakers. Confidence in the office of the president is at a fifty-year low. Shocking. So shocking.”

“You ain’t fooling anyone, darlin.”

“I’m not trying to,” Garrett said, not glancing at his hallucination. “This is what you reap when you sow so many seeds of distrust in governance. It’s time for the Central System to realize just how much they’ve been taking advantage of the Fringe planets, and how hard that’s going to be once the veil of administrative secrecy is pulled back. They had a long-term plan for either getting rid of them or putting them into positions of abject servitude, and they’ve failed. Ha ha ha.”

“Maybe you’d better take your meds now, honey.”

“No.” No, he couldn’t do that yet. Jezria had communicated to him, just once, letting him know that she had no news about Jonah yet. His father was missing as well. If Garrett lost the little comfort he got from his friendly, imaginary sweetheart and had nothing to fall back on, he’d lose it. He knew it; end of ability, end of mind, end of heart. It was bad enough he still had no clue where their son was. He wouldn’t be able to take it. He just wouldn’t. “Not yet. Not until we know something certain.”

“This isn’t good for you, Garrett. You know that. It’s been too long.”

“It won’t be much longer.” He spared Jonah a smile. “I promise. Things are happening fast now. Look.” He enlarged a hologram and projected it into the air. “That’s Raymond’s personal ship. He’s about to take off. Run, run, as fast as you can,” he whispered. “Fly away. You’ll be hounded out of the entire civilized galaxy once more of your towers start to topple.” He watched as the ship lifted out of its landing bay, engines flaring as it fought to escape the thick, cloudy atmosphere of Olympus. It was a powerful ship, and moved smoothly upward.

“What’s that?” Jonah pointed at the far side of the screen.

“It’s a…huh.” Garrett looked closer. “Space debris? Some sort of unauthorized spacecraft?”

“But look at its trajectory.”

“Oh.” Garrett’s eyes widened. “Oh, hell. What?”

“It’s on an impact course with the president’s ship.”

“He’ll evade.” Garrett watched the screen raptly as the ship shifted trajectories, then felt his jaw drop when he saw the unidentified object do the same. “Oh. Oh.”

“It’s following him.”

“It’s…more like modulating its fall into him.” Garrett ran scenarios in his mind even as he watched the ship continue to waver in its course, trying to find a way out from under the shadow of its ever-nearing impact. “What the hell is that?” Whatever it was, it had some complex and very complete shielding. If Garrett couldn’t get a read on it, then he wasn’t sure the capitol’s sensors could either. “What am I overlooking?”

“Someone who wants to kill President Alexander, I suppose.”

Jonah’s comment hit Garrett like a fist between the eyes. He frantically opened a private channel and sent out a call. Nothing…nothing…finally he got recognition, voice only. “Berengaria, what the hell are you doing?”

“I’m finishing this,” she said. She sounded perfectly calm—if anything, she sounded satisfied. “Raymond has to go away, permanently. Isolating him and tearing him down from his seat of power isn’t enough; he’ll only rebuild, especially with no clear heir or opponent. And you’re not planning on sticking around, are you?”

“No, but—”

“Then this is for the best.” She laughed a little. “He kept me like a fly in a web, like a sylph in a glass cage. But I made this cage my own, and now I’m going to show him what it feels like to have all choice in your future taken away.”

“What about your other brother?” Garrett pressed. “What about Kyle? He’s out there somewhere, and when he comes back he’s going to need family around him, someone to support and care for him.”

“The best thing Kyle could do for himself, and our family, is never return.” Her voice rang with sincerity. “I never believed in curses, but if any bloodline carries one, it’s ours. He needs to create himself anew, not rely on stale dogma and poisonous family connections. And if he does come back, I refuse to be a burden to him. I failed him—”

“You tried to save him.”

“But I failed him instead. You saved him, Garrett, you and your family, your friends. And I love you for that, but I can’t be of any use to him now, or to you. I refuse to be made into someone else’s pawn, no matter how much love they feel while doing it.”

Garrett clenched and unclenched his hands, desperate for something to do or say that could convince her otherwise. “You can still save yourself. Make a new life for yourself, take on a new identity. You can escape this!”

“I don’t want to.” She chuckled a bit. “I want to be with my brother. I haven’t seen him in person in nearly two decades, did you know? But I’ll see him now. And he’ll certainly see me.” A rising alarm sounded in the background of her feed. “Excuse me, I need to take his call.”

“Berengaria, please—”

“Be well, Garrett.” She ended the transmission. Garrett watched, helpless, as the ships moved inexorably toward each other, Raymond’s doing its best to evade but, ultimately, unable to escape. Less than a minute later, there was an explosion.

Less than a minute after that, the pressure on Garrett’s lines of communication tripled.

“We have to get out of here,” Garrett said quietly. His hands were twitching, but he could still make them work. He waved away the holoscreen. “Before they don’t let us leave.” He’d been counting on a vacuum of power in which to make his escape more felt, but not one quite this sudden or severe.

“Where will you go?” Jonah asked.


“You won’t be able to stay there, if you really want to be done with this. The Senate will call you back, you know they will.”

“I know.” Fortunately he had a backup plan. It was temporary too, but it would safeguard him and his family for a time…whatever was left of his family. “Come on. Let’s go while we still can.”

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Thirty-Seven

Notes: Shorter chapters as we careen towards THE END of this one! It's been a long haul, but the universe is changing and our darlings must change with it. A few more weeks and then...we'll see!

Title: Reformation: Chapter Thirty-Seven


Chapter Thirty-Seven

Jezria had settled into her chair to watch the battle play out between Federation and pirate forces with as close to a sense of equanimity as she was capable of. There was nothing she could do to help in any way—apart from keeping the Box’s shields up, which would at least ensure the pirates focused on the fleet and not civilians. Dr. Sims had worked miracles to keep the shield powered for as long as she had, up to and including sacrificing everything powering the city with the exception of the hospital. Over fifty percent of the population had withdrawn to shelters, and those would be self-sustaining for a time, but the people who had stayed were the ones that needed the most help. And there was nothing to be done for them but wait, and hope, and pray that the Federation fleet carried the day.

The fight was tense. More than once, someone else in the control room began to swear, their breath fluttering and their feet skittering nervously against the floor. Jezria dismissed them immediately. She didn’t have time to coddle anyone, least of all anyone on her staff. In the end, it was just her and Steven who stayed to see it out to the bitter finale.

And what a strange finale it was.

The fight had been back and forth, sledgehammer against scalpel, cat versus mouse for so long. Jezria watched as ships flickered out of existence, as pods careened to the surface of the planet, most but not all of them landing safely—not nearly all of them. She watched as the progressively-ferocious remainders of both fleets moved against each other, cold and clear-headed tactics going by the wayside as their captains became more desperate. And then—

There had been at least ten pirate ships less, she was sure of it. Her monitoring system’s designations weren’t as crisp through the shield, but they had done a decent job of tracking who was who. When half of the ships left in the sky suddenly vanished, no lingering flickers of power indicating a drain on their resources, just bam and gone in one brief burst of light, Jezria was initially suspicious.

“What just happened there?”

Steven was already looking into it. “I’m not sure. Our system is working fine, there’s no technical error. It appears as though they’ve been destroyed.”

“By what? What would take that many ships out in such short order? If the Federation had weapons capabilities like that, they should have deployed them before they lost half their fleet!”

Steven spread his hands. “I can’t say, ma’am. They’re just—they’re gone.”

Jeslyn pursed her lips and thought about it for a moment. She thought, and thought, and then all of a sudden she chuckled. “Oh, I never thought that bastard’s paranoia would play so nicely in our favor!”


“What we have just witnessed, Steven, is the sealing of a potential hole in someone’s overarching plan. Of course he did it this way, of course he did. He would never send out a group that could potentially be turned against his interests.” Jezria’s mouth twisted slightly. “I hope the person in charge of those pirates had time to appreciate his master’s betrayal before his ship exploded out from under him.”


“Sabotage.” Jezria nodded decisively. “How delightful.” The communications light was glowing, signaling a call from one of the ships above. Jezria had ignored all attempts at contact between her command and the pirate vessels, but perhaps this was someone with a new song to sing. She answered it. “Jezria Dowd here.”

“Madam, this is Captain Obede of the Federation flagship Endurance. We request permission for our remaining ships to land in your port so we can begin repairs and send out search parties for our surviving crewmembers.”

“The Endurance is a Skyblazer, from what I understand. That’s not a typical flagship,” she noted.

“The Endurance is the biggest ship up here now, madam, and I’ve been in command for the past five hours.” And he sounded it, the poor man, exhaustion underpinning his voice. “We’re holding together, but we need some ground time. Can you accommodate us by lowering your shield?”

Jezria felt Steven tense, and she patted the back of his hand. “Prove to me that you’re on my side and I will.”

“That fight wasn’t proof enough?” Jezria let her silence speak for her. “Listen, I understand that you have reason to be suspicious. None of this has gone off the way it should have. Forces should have arrived to support you sooner, we should have come in greater numbers, and we should have done a better job of identifying ourselves when we first arrived, but we appeared in the middle of a war zone, madam. Our flagship was the Triumph, and her captain was General Miles Caractacus. After he went down—”

“Wait, Miles is here?”

“We think he escaped in a pod after his ship was destroyed, madam. All the more reason for us to get down as soon as possible and mobilize search parties. We’ve got a lot of people to pick up and the weather doesn’t look like it’s getting any better down there.”

Well, that was different then. “Transmit the frequency for your escape pods’ emergency beacons and I’ll begin sending out rescue shuttles immediately while you coordinate your landing, Captain.” After a deep breath, Jezria entered the code that would turn off the shields. “Welcome to Pandora.”

“Thank you, madam. I’ll be seeing you shortly. Obede out.” The connection broke, and Jezria turned to look at Steven, whose eyes were wide and curious.

“What does it mean, that Miles was leading the fleet?”

“It means that Garrett was out-maneuvered back on Olympus. He would never have approved his retired father leading an expedition like this.”

“Well, then what does it mean that the pirate ships were destroyed by someone on the inside?”

Jezria let herself smile now. “It means,” she said with a calm she didn’t really feel, “that Garrett got his revenge in some way. I can only hope that whatever our foe has planned next, he’s doing it a long way away from Garrett Helms.”

“Do you really think he’d abandon his position on Olympus, where he’s consolidated all of his power?” It was a bit foolish, discussing Raymond Alexander in such oblique terms when both of them knew exactly who was behind the attack on Pandora at this point, but Jezria knew that it paid to be safe.

“I think he probably doesn’t have a choice, at this point. Otherwise he would have rendezvoused with his protection. No, I imagine some very interesting things are happening back on Olympus. See what you can find out.” She pressed up from her chair with a low groan—lord, how long had she been sitting? “I’ve got to get ready to meet Captain Obede. Let Dr. Reynaud know we’re going to need emergency procedures at the hospital, and get everyone with a hint of medical training there to assist.”

“Understood, ma’am.”