Danielle walked into the meeting and smiled at every woman sitting there. “You guys were amazing. I never could have accomplished this without you. Every male left is on board with the changes. So, let’s make sure we have an action plan for everyone,” she said as she sat down. They spent the next two hours reviewing every female in the Fleet.
“Okay, so everyone is situated except one person,” said Danielle.
“Who did we miss?” asked Emily.
Danielle smiled at Erica.
“Me?” she asked. “I am happy being a teacher.”
“Actually, you aren’t a teacher,” said Danielle, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a gold insignia. She then placed in front of her friend.
“What’s this?” Erica asked as she picked it up.
“You are now officially promoted to Fleet Educational Coordinator. You will be responsible for all the adult training programs and certifications, as well as the curriculum and teacher credentialing for the children,” said Danielle.
“Sweet. I can put my PhD in Education to work and don’t have to pay off the student loans,” she said chuckling. She attached the insignia to her collar.
“Congratulations,” said an accented female voice.
All eyes went to the woman standing at the door.
Danielle eyed her for several long seconds before she said, “What can we do for you, Zoya?”
“Well, I need a job. I didn’t think you would let me be a Strategic Manager anymore,” said Zoya.
“That would be correct,” said Danielle. “You caused too many problems being in a position of authority. What do you want to do that doesn’t require any?”
Zoya blew out a deep breath. “My training is as a nuclear physicist.”
“No. What else?” asked Danielle, glaring at the woman. Like she was stupid enough to put her in charge of a nuclear reactor.
“I like to garden and sew,” said Zoya, dropping her eyes to the floor.
“Gardening is a hard no. There are too many opportunities to cause issues with the food supply or the liquor supply,” said Danielle. She turned to Esmee. “You willing to supervise her?”
Esmee looked to Zoya for several long seconds. “Zoya, I will be willing to give you a chance, but if you cause trouble, even once, you are done. You willing to accept those conditions?”
“Yes,” said Zoya, nodding.
“All right. Hour two, tomorrow on deck 11a and I will get you started,” said Esmee.
“Thank you,” Zoya said before turning around and leaving the conference room.
“Is this going to cause you problems with the rest of the team?” asked Danielle after the door closed.
“They will freeze her out for a while. If she behaves, they will eventually include her. She screwed so many people over. I will keep the bloodshed to a minimum,” said Esmee.
“Okay. Ask for help if you need it,” said Danielle.
“Will do,” said Esmee.
“Emily, Bogd will do your flight status check at hour eight on the flight deck. And Jada, you have a desk in the tech center with Silas. There should be plenty of room. Can you start the nutritional database we talked about next? I finally talked Celeste into helping determine if the nutritional needs are being met to ensure healthy babies. Apparently she is happy with her mate now,” said Danielle, checking off items on her tablet. “Okay, last item. The Medical Corps starts training this week. Erica, can you get the materials out to them? I want the first three chapters read before we meet in three days” said Danielle.
“You got it. I will do it first thing,” Erica said.
“Oh, you also have an office in the Training Center. Jareth can work as an admin if you need one,” said Danielle.
“Got it,” she acknowledged.
Alright everyone, lets get everyone in their new roles. Contact if there are any problems. Hopefully, we won’t have to meet until next the next scheduled time,” said Danielle.
There were murmurs of agreement around the table as everyone dispersed.
As Danielle headed to her next meeting, she kind of missed having her shadow. She would have to call him later just to check on him.
* * *
As Danielle leaned against the wall of the transport tube, waiting for it to take her to her floor, her stomach growled loudly. The woman standing on the other side of the tube gave her a frosty look.
“I guess I forgot to have lunch again,” she said, shrugging. The transport stopped, and she got off without saying goodbye. She doubted that the woman noticed. She walked down the hall to her door. She stepped in her suite after waving her arm and stopped in her tracks. There was color everywhere. She stepped back and looked at the small placard next to the door. It was the right suite. She stepped back in and set her tablet on the counter. “Hello?”
Spartak came out of their bedroom at the same time Bethany came out of hers.
“Do you like it, Mom?” asked Bethany, bouncing with excitement.
Danielle looked at Spartak and asked, “Your doing?” as she smiled at him.
“Yes, but I had help from lots and lots of elves,” he chuckled. “I couldn’t do much with the carpet, but the throw rugs help.”
“How did you get the walls painted so fast?” she marveled, looking at the light blue walls in the living room and the light yellow in the kitchen.
“Like I said. Lots and lots of elves,” he repeated. “Is the yellow right? There weren’t a lot of choices.”
“Yes,” she said, giving him a hug.
“See. I told you,” said Bethany smugly. “Artist, remember?” she said, pointing at herself.
Danielle laughed. “I never argue about color with her. I always lose.”
“Got it,” he said.
“What is that amazing smell?” asked Danielle.
“It’s Saucy Sheets,” said Spartak, proudly. “It’s from my home planet and one of my favorites.”
Danielle walked into the kitchen and opened the oven door, taking a deep breath. She grabbed a potholder and pulled the shelf out. “Oh, it’s lasagna!” she said. “It’s one of my favorites, too.”
“Lasagna,” he repeated, testing out the word.
“It’s actually Italian. Tastes the same with either name. I can smell the garlic and spices,” she grinned.
“Well, get washed up. I will serve,” said Spartak.
“I could get used to this,” said Danielle as she headed to the bathroom.
* * *
“You sure?” asked Cullen, squinting at the screen.
“Affirmative, sir. It has been destroyed,” said the navigator. “It was just on the edge of our radar. If they had attacked in another six hours, we wouldn’t have seen them coming with the planet we just passed. They could have easily hidden until it they were right on top of us.”
“Damn. And things have been so quiet the last few weeks,” he groused. “Are there inbound craft coming this way?” asked Cullen.
“Affirmative. Looks like about twenty on the radar,” said the navigator.
Cullen tapped his console and conferenced Spartak, Evgen, Areson, and the other ship commanders within a few seconds. “The Kleponia has been destroyed and we have about twenty inbound craft.”
“Scramble Squad A on each vessel to engage and Squad B to protect,” ordered Spartak. “I will wake Danielle to get the Medical Team ready. Alert Jada and Silas. I will there in a few minutes.”
“Aye,” said Cullen. He then turned off the monitor and sent out the scramble alert. After alerting the tech team, he turned on the ship-wide comm. “This is Cullen. Battle lockdown. I repeat, battle lockdown. This is not a drill. We have an inbound threat and have scrambled our warriors. Medical Personnel report to your assigned stations. Cullen out.” He blew out a big breath. It had been months since they had to do this for real.
Areson arrived a few seconds after the announcement. “Are the squads clear?”
“Not yet. They are launching now,” said Cullen, relinquishing his chair to the Commander.
“As soon as they are, get the shields online,” Areson ordered as he took the helm.
“Commander, the defender stations are ready and the cannons online,” said Tagd, working their checklist.
“Hopefully, they won’t get that close,” said Areson.
* * *
“Danielle,” said Spartak gently as he roused her. They had only been asleep for a couple of hours.
“Huh?” she said sleepily.
“The Fleet is under attack. The Squads are scrambling. Cullen already alerted the medical personnel to their positions,” he explained. “I have to go.”
She sat up and hugged him. “Please be safe.”
“You, too. Bethany should stay here,” he said.
“I will have her stay with Erica. She will worry about Bogd,” said Danielle. She kissed him quickly and got up to get dressed.
He watched her head into the bathroom and sighed. Time to keep his family safe. He headed to the command deck.
A few minutes later, he arrived on the bridge. “Status!” he barked before the door to the bridge had even closed. He stalked over to the command chair as Areson listed all the current actions. As soon as the ship’s Captain vacated the chair, Spartak climbed in.
“Understood. How far out are they?” Spartak asked.
“25 parsec, Sir,” answered Adriel.
“Bring up the long-range view so we can see how it’s going,” ordered Spartak. The front monitored displayed the fighter ships engaging the larger crafts. The fighters were inflicting significant damage.
“Shouldn’t there be more of them?” asked Cullen.
“Yes, there should be,” said Spartak.
“All departments report,” Spartak ordered after pressing the com button.
One by one they came on, giving a green status. Until Danielle. “What do you mean there are casualties?” Spartak nearly shouted.
“I am fielding reports across the Fleet of people collapsing while clutching their heads. I keep dispatching medical. In every case, their vitals are stable ad they are either unconscious or have a raging headache. Did you forget to tell me about any special skills these things have?” asked Danielle.
“Uh,” stammered Spartak.
“Uh?” snarled Danielle. “That is not an answer. Do they?”
“We have had occasional reports of people passing out, but the grays have to be close,” said Spartak.
“I have 83 people affected across all five ships. How close are these things?” demanded Danielle.
“They are 25 parsecs away. They shouldn’t be close enough,” said Spartak.
Before he could continue, everyone on the bridge heard a decidedly female voice shout, “Like hell you will, you son of a bitch!”
Everyone turned to stare at Jada, who was pounding madly on her keyboard.
“What is going on?” demanded Spartak.
“Give. Me. A. Minute,” ground out Jada. She kept pounding away.
A couple minutes later, she said over her shoulder without looking away from her screen, “They are closer than 25 parsecs. They just tried to teleport onto us, the Nandoria and the Vanamur. They have to be closer.”
“Did they get aboard?” asked Spartak.
“No. I disrupted their signal and disincorporated their nasty little asses. The teleport pads can only be initiated or receive with consent of the ship captains,” said Jada.
“Start scanning for them. They either have a new shield type or they are hiding behind one of the three moons we are passing,” said Spartak. “I got to go, Danielle. No ship-to-ship teleports for right now.” He switched to a ship-to-ship communication to relay what was going on.
“Silas? Can we bounce the scan off of the planet and catch the backside of the moons?” asked Jada.
“I don’t know. I have never tried it,” said Silas, tapping something into his tablet. “It is patchy, but I am getting something behind the second moon. It looks like a hole in space.”
“Klausen, you have the smallest ship. Can you navigate behind there and deal with them?” asked Spartak.
“On it,” Klausen answered. The sound of a battle alarm started right before the connection terminated.
“Scramble Squad C to assist. Warn them that the Regista is back there,” ordered Spartak. He then noticed Adriel pressing his fingers against his temples. “Adriel? What’s going on?”
“My head is killing me,” Adriel bit out.
“Cullen, relieve him,” Spartak ordered. The second-in-command jogged over and took the navigator’s seat. Adriel dropped into a sitting position, leaning against the radar station. He continued to press against his temples and rock softly against the pain.
* * *
A few minutes later, a bright explosion appeared to halo the moon.
“Regista, come in,” said Spartak over the comm.
There was silence returned.
“Regista, come in,” Spartak asked again. “Crap,” Spartak muttered.
“Commander, Regista, here,” came back Klausen’s voice. “We got them. They didn’t have time to go into hyperdrive before we blew them apart.”
“Excellent. Can you sweep around the other moons and the back side of the planet? Let’s make sure there are not more of them lurking,” ordered Spartak.
“Understood. Regista, out,” responded Klausen.
“Squads A and B are returning, Commander. There are no more ships within radar range,” said Cullen.
“Understood. Have Squad C escort the Regista,” ordered Spartak. He surrendered the command chair to Cullen and then helped Adriel to his feet. “Call you if you need me. I’m going to take Adriel to Sick Bay to see if he has injuries,” said Spartak, helping Adriel to the transport tube.
“Understood,” said Areson sat down in the command chair.