“Spartak,” he barked, answering his band.
“A woman was stolen from her suite,” growled Chatura.
“What?” said Spartak.
“Gregorius said some red-headed woman popped into their suite, touched Seraphine, and popped back out again. The teleporter did not show any traffic,” Chatura growled. “Return her immediately. She is with child.”
“I will get back to you,” said Spartak.
He then tapped his band and barked, “Contact Grennady.”
“Yes?” said Grennady.
“Were you contacted for medical assistance?” asked Spartak.
“Some female was complaining of stomach pain. I told them what to do,” he said. “The teleporter is down.”
“Did you check her bio-monitor,” asked Spartak.
“No. They didn’t say it was emergent,” said Grennady.
Spartak just hung up on him.
He looked up at Evgen. “We saw nothing did we?”
“Nope. Somehow they have complete control. I got to tell you, I am impressed,” chuckled Evgen. “It’s one way to show us that they are more than capable.”
“Can we see the bio-monitor?” asked Spartak.
“I haven’t tried,” said Evgen, taping his tablet. He looked at the last entry and smiled. “Baby girl, born six minutes ago, was just added.”
“Danielle,” said Spartak, both awe and irritation in his voice.
“You know she had help,” said Evgen.
“Yes, but she took a huge risk going aboard the Kleponia with Chatura after her,” Spartak growled.
“If you had just mated her when I suggested,” started Evgen.
“She said later!” Spartak thundered. “I will not act like Chatura.”
Evgen nodded his head.
Jareth carried a document into the office and handed it to Spartak. “This just popped up on my printer.”
Spartak read through the document, his face becoming more thunderous by the second. He tapped his tablet and barked, “Contact Chatura.”
“Yes,” Chatura said as he came on screen.
“You failed to mention that Seraphine had been beaten so badly it threw her into early labor, and then the child was a risk for dying because the placenta was partially ripped away from the mother!” shouted Spartak. “Do something about Gregorius or I will!”
“How do you know this?” demanded Chatura.
“They sent the medical report to me. Seraphine took several hits to her abdomen,” snarled Spartak.
“That’s just the females making this sound like something else,” Chatura snarled back.
“This is the unbiased machine evaluation!” he shouted as he shook the paper in front of the screen. “It was forced to do an emergency cesarean to save both of their lives,” said Spartak. “Her mate, Gregorius, violated our prime directive by putting a mother and child in jeopardy. Impose the sentence or I will,” said Spartak. “If you refuse to do your job, I will find someone who will!” He hung up fuming.
* * *
“How are they doing this morning?” asked Talia.
“Both are good. We were able to get the placenta to detach, and she kept her uterus. The baby is feeding well,” said Danielle. “Strong work by everyone.”
“Do you think the other Kleponian women are ready to be approached?” asked Talia.
“Can we try Bimala first?” suggested Emily. “She and Seraphine were close. She will know what happened.”
“Jada, can you put her on the big screen?” asked Danielle.
“Yep. Coming up,” she said cheerily.
“Danielle? Oh, my goodness. It is so good to see you. Thank you, thank you, for coming for Seraphine. Is she okay?” asked Bimala in a torrent of words.
Danielle told her what had happened and explained that a week ago she would have died because she and Maria had no training on the machine then.
“We called Grennady,” Bimala said. “He said to have her rest and drink plenty of water.”
“She needed so much more than that. She and the baby are good now. Has anyone else been hurt?” asked Danielle.
“A couple of black eyes and fat lips. The men are just getting out of control,” she groused.
“This is part of what we are trying to change. Lives are at risk. Her mate should have never hit a woman, especially a pregnant one,” said Talia.
“We have a solution for you, but if you take it, there would be no going back until this is resolved,” said Danielle.
“You mean disappear like you guys did?” asked Bimala.
“Yes, but you guys would leave your ship. Is that something you guys can do?” asked Danielle.
“I thought we couldn’t do anything our mate forbid,” Bimala asked.
“Well, here is a dumb question. Did your mate forbid you from leaving the ship to hide on another?” asked Danielle.
“Well, no,” chuckled Bimala.
“Exactly,” said Danielle. “Our goal is to get them to change their thinking. We are not second-class citizens. We are not theirs to hurt. We can make a contribution, whatever that contribution may be.”
“Let me do a temperature check. Can you call me back in six hours?” asked Bimala.
“Yes, we can. But it is essential that none of this get back to the men,” said Danielle. “If they know we are coming, we will have a problem getting you out.”
“Understood,” she answered, and the screen went blank.
* * *
“Not every woman was willing. I realized early on that the older mates were more indoctrinated and would not make waves. There are sixteen of us who will go to each female willing to do this to check on her,” Bimala said, using air quotes. “You can lock on to her when we notify you the coast is clear.”
“How many do you think?” asked Danielle.
“Out of 2502 mated females, about 850 are willing,” said Bimala.
“Okay, that is doable,” said Talia.
“It will work better if you can talk to them in a closed room, and then we teleport you to the next location. It will take longer for the men to know their mate has disappeared. They must come with just the clothes on their backs. We will take care of the rest,” said Maria. “We need to get as many out as we can before all hell breaks loose.”
“Send me an email with the names. We will start in an hour,” said Danielle. “Mark the ones who are doing the collecting.”
“We will be ready,” said Bimala. Her screen then went dark.
“We will head back and get ready to receive them,” said Circe. Gusta, Shonda, and Sinni nodded.
“We will move you four, and you, Maria, to the next floor as we fill each. We have enough destinations mapped that we can handle this,” said Talia.
“Boy, good thing you included the ship on the bio-monitor,” said Jada.
“Can it handle this many changes in such a short time?” asked Danielle.
“Sure. Piece of cake,” Jada smiled.
An hour later, they started the teleport hopscotch. With two of them doing the teleporting, they were able to keep everyone moving.
“Oh, shit!” said Bimala, panicked. “Her mate is banging on the door. Bring me over there as soon as she is where she needs to be. Hurry!”
Talia locked on her band and teleported her right into Danielle’s suite.
“Hello,” said Danielle.
“Did we get everyone?” Bimala asked.
“Yes, we did. She was the last one. 866 plus eleven children,” said Talia.
Bimala blew out a relieved breath.
“Good job at staying calm. You took the tougher cases,” said Danielle. “Talia, check the chatter.”
* * *
“Chatura, I understand they are angry about their mates,” said Spartak, trying to get a word in edge wise.
“This is unacceptable,” snarled Chatura.
“We are still trying to find where the servers are. The server room is offline and powered down. Back tracing has failed. The fire doors have been engaged and cannot be reversed without blowing a hole in a structure on every ship. A hull breach very well could kill us all,” growled Spartak. “And since you are being all accusatory, did you solve it for your ship?”
“No,” Chatura growled back.
“I might as well say this because you don’t seem to want to, but perhaps we need to consider negotiating. You are the last holdout. Their demands were not excessive. The females only want a choice,” said Spartak. “And to stop being beaten.” he added.
Chatura just growled at him.
“You knew at some point the customs of your world were going to have to change,” reminded Spartak.
“We will not change,” snarled Chatura.
“Then we are in for a long siege,” sighed Spartak. “Which reminds me, is that bastard dead?”
“Gregorius is in custody,” said Chatura, hedging.
“I expect to see his execution broadcasted throughout the Fleet. That is a direct order. If it is not done in the next ten hours, you are going to force me to cut your vessel from the Fleet. I will not have insubordination,” warned Spartak.
“You cannot do that!” shouted Chatura.
“Yes, I can. You will be in violation of the terms of your rescue. They have removed the females from your vessel,” Spartak reminded him. “We really don’t need your males. You only offer three dozen warriors and they cannot get off of their flight deck.”
“Neither can you,” Chatura said snidely.
“Yes, but I have battleship weapons. You don’t,” said Spartak, turning off the tablet. He chuckled at thought of how much Chatura was swearing at the moment.
* * *
Spartak opened up his email program and started typing.
To: All Fleet Senior Staff
Re: Kleponia Potential Banishment
This is to make all senior Fleet staff aware that I have notified the Kleponia and its leadership that they have 20 hours to carry out the execution of Gregorius for the near beating death of his mate, Seraphine, and of her newborn girl child. I ordered his execution yesterday. Due to his failure to complete the order, I have expressly ordered him to complete it immediately, broadcasting it Fleet-wide within the next ten hours, or his vessel will face banishment from the Fleet forthwith.
He hit send. Things had to change. He wanted Danielle back and she wouldn’t come back unless it did. He held no illusions that she and her band of rebel-rousers were monitoring the email traffic. It was what he would do in their place. He looked up at the security camera in his office and tapped his fist against his heart as he bowed his head. He then looked straight into the camera again to let her know he was sincere.
“He looks so sad and pathetic,” said Bethany.
“He looks like he misses you,” said Erica.
“This is not about him and me. If anything, I hope we survive this,” Danielle said. “I basically hijacked his Fleet,” she muttered.
“With help,” said Erica.
“I hope he sees it that way,” said Danielle, grimacing.
“He hasn’t taken flamethrowers to the fire doors yet,” said Erica.
“Do we even have those aboard?” asked Bethany.
All three laughed.
* * *
“Did you see this?” asked Thosad.
“Yes, I saw it,” snarled Chatura.
“Are you going to comply?” asked Thosad.
“He is our cousin,” said Chatura, glaring at his brother.
“Who nearly killed his mate over having to eat red lentils a third day in a row. He was taught the same thing we were: that females are meant to be cherished,” said Thosad.
“Father never taught that lesson. Every lesson he gave involved his fists just as Uncle Klam used his,” said Chatura. “Gregorius knows just as I do how to keep a female in line. Maybe if you had spent less time wrapped in our mother’s skirts, you would know this.”
“And maybe you would have learned more if you had spent more time listening to the lessons. Spartak will not back down on this. He cannot,” said Thosad. “You made this about insubordination of his orders and not about how we discipline females.”
“This is my ship,” Chatura growled.
“If he expels us, there will only be no unmated females for almost 1400 males. We will never have mates,” said Thosad. “There will be bloodshed.”
“We can rescue humanoids just as easily as the Fleet can,” snarled Chatura.
“You are forgetting more than one important detail, as usual,” said Thosad.
“And what would that be?” snarled Chatura.
“One, we will have almost no protection if they banish us. We have only 37 pilots and craft. You are sending us all to our death if the Grays attack,” said Thosad, his voice getting louder.
Chatura just grunted.
“Two, we do not have control of our ship. If he turns us loose, we have no way to do anything. We cannot protect ourselves or even feed ourselves anything other than red lentils. Do you actually think your arrogance is going to win?” shouted Thosad. “It may be your ship, but it is not your Fleet. It’s Spartak’s.”
“It isn’t even his,” growled Chatura. “The females have taken over.”
“Exactly. You will get more mercy from him,” said Thosad as he crossed his arms over his chest.