“I like it. Roll it out,” said Spartak as he looked around at the group. “It is well planned and executed. How long will it take to train staff on the alerts?” he asked.
“Already done. We trained the EMTs from Earth already as well as several of Evgen’s team. There are at least five people per vessel,” said Danielle.
“Excellent,” said Spartak. He spun his head towards Jareth, who skulked in and whispered something in his ear. “Excuse me,” he said, getting up and following his Ensign.
Jada watched him go with a raised eyebrow.
“I have the next project for you,” said Danielle.
“Awesome,” said Jada. “It’s nice doing what I love again.”
Danielle looked at Silas. He nodded as he said, “She picks everything up quickly and is very easy to work with. What’s next?”
“I need a program that can take a written protocol, find the supportive materials in the archives by key word, pull it into the protocol subsection, and then let me build a certification test off of the content,” she said. “Here are the archive links and the protocols we have written so far,” she said as she sent them over.
“Are they all medical?” asked Jada, looking up from her tablet.
“No, there are several other disciplines also,” said Danielle. “we are bypassing years of formal training so this is essential.”
Spartak poked his head into the conference room and looked directly at Danielle. “I need you to come with me.” He then looked at Silas and Jada and said, “Thank you for doing that so quickly. Roll it out tonight.”
Danielle got up, grabbed her tablet, and followed him with Aengus right on her heels. He stalked to the transport tube and held the door for Danielle and Aengus.
“I have summoned all senior officers to the Flight Deck. They confessed to the crime and I will punish them. I am not sure how you will react, but I need you to keep from reacting or falling apart. Now is the time to prove that women can handle anything. It will be more conspicuous if you are not there,” he explained.
“Spartak, I saw what they did to her. You do not need to worry about me. They deserve what they are going to get,” said Danielle, locking eyes with him.
“The entire fleet will see this. I will not tolerate this kind of behavior,” said Spartak.
Spartak gave Aengus a meaningful look. They were both still concerned about how she would react. It was one thing to understand violence and another to see it right in front of you.
A few minutes later, the Fleet officers were lined up at parade rest in a wide semi-circle with the two perpetrators in the middle on their knees with their hands bound behind them. Spartak stood on the other side of the two men, glowering. Danielle stood between Evgen and Iosif as instructed. Spartak nodded at Jareth, who pushed a couple of buttons on a panel. “This is Spartak and I need your attention,” he barked. After a couple of minutes, he continued. “A few days ago, a woman was brutally murdered. Only a few officers were aware of it as we searched for the perpetrators. They have been found, have confessed, and the veracity device has confirmed their guilt. This Fleet has one purpose, and that is the survival of the humanoid species. The murder of a woman, not only kills her, but her future children, and their children. There is only one punishment for such a crime.” Spartak reached his arm out and grabbed the hilt of a large broadsword that Jareth held out for him. It made a loud humming noise as he pulled it from the scabbard.
Now she understood his caution.
Spartak stepped towards the first man. “Jolis Bowman, you are guilty of violating our prime directive with the murder of Sasha Ivanovich.”
The man looked up at him and swallowed hard.
Spartak swung his broadsword around as he spun on his foot and cleaved the criminal’s head from his shoulder. The head rolled several feet and stopped. The body remained upright for a few seconds before falling over.
Danielle blinked. Her heart rate sped up, and her mouth became very dry. She loosened her knees, so she didn’t faint. A live execution was not what she had expected.
Spartak then stepped over to the second man, who had started blubbering after seeing his partner beheaded. A puddle of yellow liquid appeared under him. “Hobar Sont, you are guilty of violating our prime directive with the murder of Sasha Ivanovich.” Spartak repeated the same action, yielding the same results. He lifted his face to the camera for the entire Fleet to see his thunderous expression. “If a crime of this nature occurs again, it will meet the same end. That is all.” He then motioned to Jareth, who ended the transmission.
Jareth walked over and handed him a cloth to wipe his sword.
“Thank you,” said Spartak. “Please have it sharpened.”
Jareth nodded and left the deck.
The officers disbanded as the cleaning people began working on the mess. Danielle stood there with her eyes glued to the two bodies.
“You okay?” Spartak asked gently as he rubbed his hands on her arms to sooth her.
She looked up at him. “Yes, just surprised. I have never seen a live execution,” she said.
“You handled it well,” he said.
“They deserved it,” she said, blowing out a big breath. “I will have to thank Talia and Lada.”
“I did already. They are also joining Evgen’s Fleet staff. You were right. They had skills we need,” said Spartak.
* * *
Danielle found herself in a laboratory near Medical 7b. Memories of Sasha flooded back as she stepped past the exam room she had used. She pushed the thoughts aside ruthlessly. She may not be able to do anything about what happened to her, but she could save other women from problems just as bad if what she suspected was true. Aengus took up his customary spot.
She looked at the two research biologists from Pelus she had snagged for this project. They both looked like any biologist she would have found anywhere in the US. She chuckled at herself for thinking they would look different. “Gustra offered your services for this project,” said Danielle, motioning for them to have a seat at the small conference table in the lab. “Neither of you is mated, correct?”
They both shook their head no.
“Perfect,” said Danielle.
Choko walked in and smiled at the group. “Am I late?” she asked.
“No. Right on time,” said Danielle. She made the introductions, including that Choko was a virology specialist. Once she had their attention, she explained the project about the Kleponian saliva.
“So isolate what is different and then determine why it is poisonous to other males but not their mate,” said Ubril, the male biologist.
“Yes. We also want to understand why that different compound affects the woman’s free will. There must be some effect from the chemical in the saliva on the frontal cortex,” explained Danielle.
“Since that is what controls the cortical and subcortical regions of the brain, which in turn regulates attention, thought, and action,” said Sinna, the female biologist.
“Exactly. Choko is going to screen the saliva for viruses, bacteria, and protozoa so we cover all our bases,” said Danielle. She then told them about pheromone of the Brasik’s females. “We may have slight differences, so I want to check samples from each of the ten planets, both genders, mated and unmated, and if I can get parents to agree, I want to get pre-pubescent children of both genders. Here is the list of volunteers. We will get the Kleponians last. We must keep this project secret so we do not have any sabotage,” she said as she sent the list. “I will get the kids lined up.”
“So only male Kleponians and female mates of Kleponians, regardless of origin, should have this compound or virus or whatever,” said Ubril.
“What is our operating hypothesis?” asked Sinna.
“That the saliva effect of Kleponians is myth. Your job is to prove it beyond a shadow of doubt,” said Danielle.
* * *
Spartak came into Danielle’s office and plopped himself down in the guest chair across from her. She just watched him blow out a deep breath. “As expected, I am getting pushback on the changing roles of females,” he told her, giving her a pointed look.
“You knew this would happen. Any of it from females?” she asked, saving her work.
“No. Most of the complaints are coming from the mated males. The females I talked to about it, all voiced appreciation for the changes despite their mates bellyaching,” he said.
“The daycares have all spun up and have about fifteen percent capacity remaining in a little over a week. The women are using them and say their kids are excited to go. Basic medical training is in progress, we have mapped out core medical assignments, and most of the scientists and engineers are actively working in jobs they love. Any complaints from the male engineers?” she asked.
“Not a one. They have all said the females bring a unique perspective that is making things more efficient,” Spartak said.
“So its just a bunch of spoiled men complaining,” she asked. “How bad is the pushback?”
“Mostly from the Kleponia and Wanamoor. Chatura refused to let women work on his ship. Despite my warnings that he would get no further personnel unless he allows these changes, he refuses to budge,” said Spartak.
“You knew he was going to be a pain in the ass about it,” said Danielle, frowning.
“As a matter of fact, he said some things my translator refused to convert. I have put off dealing with him, but it looks like he is going to force the issue,” Spartak groused. “I reassigned the female engineers to the other vessels for now.”
“Any issues with that?” she asked.
“One. Most were just grateful to be doing something. Given that their pregnancy rate is even lower than the Fleet average, they have to be bored,” he said.
“What happened with the one?” Danielle asked, curious.
“The female wanted the assignment. Her mate said if she left, he was done with her. She apparently wasn’t too impressed with his threat because she moved to the Ceti Tau,” Spartak told her.
“Her mate, let her go?” asked Danielle.
“He did. Told her to get the fuck out. It was Chatura who had the fit. He tried to refuse, saying that she was a Kleponian citizen, and he had sovereignty,” said Spartak.
“Oh? And what did you say to that?” smirked Danielle.
“Told him to shut the hell up and that it was Fleet over Planet,” said Spartak. “I left him sputtering when I hung up on him.”
Danielle chuckled. “Was Chatura the only one with an issue?”
“No. Males all over the Fleet complain that their females are not taking care of home as they should,” he said. “It’s not a huge number, but they are loud.”
“You know, on Earth we don’t have automatic clothes cleaners or dispensers or venting systems that collect the dust. We have to run errands, clean houses, and commute to work and we managed it just fine,” said Danielle.
“I honestly think this is a control issue more than anything,” said Spartak. “It will blow over.” He got up and went back to his office.
* * *
An hour later, Evgen suddenly appeared at her office door and stalked into the office. He slapped his hand on her shoulder and grabbed Aengus’ arm after telling his band, “Transport.”
Bright lights and a cacophony of noise replaced the momentary blackness and silence in the hallway in front of her suite. “What the hell?” she screeched, seeing men in all kinds of uniform colors shouting various threats and pounding their fists on the door and walls.
“Bethany is in there,” said Evgen. “I have security coming.”
“She has got to be scared out of her mind,” said Aengus.
“Oh, like hell,” snarled Danielle. Before Evgen and Aengus knew what she was about, she had plowed into the melee and started tossing men away from her door. Anyone who fought her or came at her again, she knocked out and stepped over their bodies.
“Should we help?” asked Aengus.
“Hell, no. There is no force stronger in the universe than a mother protecting her child. She would wind up hurting us before she realized it,” said Evgen. “Let’s pull the unconscious bodies out of the way.”
Danielle made it to her door and ordered her band to unlock it and open it. As it did, a hand grabbed her ankle. She raised her leg and smashed it down on the man’s face, knocking him out. “Asshole,” she muttered. She hurried through the door and locked it down again. “Bethany!” she shouted. “Bethany!”
Her daughter appeared through the hallway door. Her tear-streaked face crumpled at the sight of her mother. Danielle just opened up her arms and she ran into them. She wrapped her daughter up in a tight hug and murmured calming words to her.