Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

8.

“Commander Andros,” came the call from Admiral Kalkar, aboard the armored freighter which was serving as her flagship, “what is the disposition of forces? Which Primoids are with us and which are against and who exactly is in command of what? Excuse me for asking.”

“Admiral,” said Rachel, “and I appreciate the battlefield promotion—!”

“No battlefield promotion,” said the Admiral. “You’re the senior fighter pilot among our defense team. To me, that makes you at least a Commander. And be aware that everyone in space is on your line now.”

“Okay.” Rachel took a moment. Clay saw her in her private feed to him, looking sideways at him as if they were still attached and not several kilometers apart. “Okay. So Tasmania and Greenland and Park’s wing and Kleiner and Santos have rendezvoused somehow and come here. That’s straightforward. The ones coming from Candy One, er, Candywan, that would be Li Zan’s Gamma Wing, and the Primoids with them would be rebels. All the other Primoids are presumably from the Primoid Center, whatever that is. Uh, Admiral, this is going to be the way star wars really are, okay? You’ll get these things where both sides are concentrating forces from all sorts of places. They still have more than we do, don’t they?” She looked at Clay. “Lieutenant Commander Gilbert, what do you have on that?”

“Right, Commander,” he drawled. “Okay, everyone, I have, let’s see: we have right with us two heavy cruisers, five Nonesuch Class escorts, three armored merchants, and three Primoid rebel cruisers, and 16 Ghosts and nine Primoid fighters. And coming in from two directions, we can add in three more Primoid cruisers, two more armored merchants, the cruiser Abstraction and ten Ghosts and, um, nine more Primoid fighters, so that would bring us to two heavies, twelve assorted cruisers, five armored merchants and 44 fighters. The Center seems to have a battleship, two battlecruisers, twelve cruisers and 45 fighters.”

“So they outnumber us,” said Admiral Kalkar, “but.” On a little square of the screen, she smiled. Clay imagined a beard, and that would be Captain Alfred Kalkar, who, he hoped and assumed, was in his real leather captain’s couch aboard the Tasmania, only about twenty light hours away now.

“But we are less outnumbered now,” said the trimly bearded captain of the Heavy Cruiser Miranda, “than we were the last two Battles of Bluehorse.”

“And we have Clay and Rachel,” said Daria.

“And we have Su Park,” said Clay. “We got this. I’m sure of it. It’ll be bloody, but we got this.”

“Or,” said the Admiral, “we got this, but it will be bloody. Do we have a plan? And just as important, can we disseminate the plan to, first, the people just arriving from far off, and second, our Primoid rebel allies? Miss Zane?”

“Angelica Zane here,” said Angelica, popping up on her own little bit of Clay’s screen. “Um, listen. We can coordinate. Right?” She turned and could be heard and seen having an exchange with the Primoids aboard their lead cruiser.

“This is going to be a challenge, Clay,” said Rachel.

“Yeah, but we got this, I tell you.”

“Okay,” said Angelica. “They think they’re ready. But one thing? They have been replaying the video from Earth. The Ngugma thing. All of it. It’s been quite the thing here, all through the trip and even now.” She turned away, then back again. “Yeah. It’s graphic. And you know what? The Primoids, you think they’re not emotional because you can’t tell, but they’re sickened by this thing. I’m serious. They are very upset. And concerned. So.”

“So?” repeated the Admiral.

“So. They think we need to send those videos, all of them, out to the invaders. They specifically want to send those videos. They’ve converted them for use on their technology, so is that okay? We can go ahead and send?”

The Admiral looked around among her own little knot of officers. “Yes, yes, of course,” she said. “Tell them to send away. Send them a hundred copies.”

Angelica turned and they could see a couple of Primoids behind her. She was waving her arms over her head. “Bluehorse, say, send, video, send, video, send, video!” she said loud and slow.

“Clay,” said Rachel.

“What?” he replied. “Oh.”

“Andros, Gilbert,” said Su Park on their screens, coming from a light day away. “You have made it back to Bluehorse. So have we. A lot has changed. I know it, but I know that things have changed that you know and I don’t. I just saw the news from Earth. We have news as well, not the same sort of news, but just as, ah, life-changing. You are no longer under my command: you are both, to me, commanders yourselves. I am so glad you are back, and so glad I and my companions, including Miss Kleiner and Miss Santos, are here as well. We will be with you soon, so be careful and make your moves count.”

She smirked as she signed off: same old Su Park. Clay and Rachel shared a sidelong smirk at one another: the official unofficial facial expression of Alpha Wing. Each could tell, again, what the other was thinking, because they both mouthed the words, “Best. Wing. Ever.”

Advertisements