Prosperous: Chutes & Ladders

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Chapter 25

TRU AND AMANDA ENTERED THE CONFERENCE ROOM, FINDING JACKIE AND THE senior staff had already assembled. Jackie called the meeting without speaking to him first, but when she added the Paskian ship data was translated, he decided he’d wait until after the meeting to remind her how ranks worked.

They sat around an octagon table in the center of room. A double-sided monitor rose from the center of the table and had the left to right, top to bottom, language of the Terallians displayed on it. Tru and Amanda took their seats between Zalet and Ag. Tru looked at the senior officers sitting around him, and realized it was the first time they had all been in the same room. Next to him sat Commander Ag, beside Ag was the senior helmsman, Second Lieutenant Jason Partini. On his left was senior science officer, Chief Warrant Officer Equ’Haglef. His Cargo Chief Master, Lieutenant Rueben Sanchez sat opposite Tru, staring blankly at the table. Next to Rueben sat Jackie and Q’al. On Amanda’s right, calm and reflective as always, was Zalet.

“You uncovered something, Ipaton?” Tru asked.

“Yes,” Jackie and Ipaton answered.

“Commander Ipaton broke the passwords,” Jackie added, “but I’m the one that translated the data and found the information.”

Amanda muttered something unintelligible and Tru looked at her. She was glaring at Jackie, who was returning it with her own look of death.

“Ladies,” Tru said.

Amanda looked away. Jackie’s eyes moved to him.

“Why aren’t you presenting this, Commander Ipaton?”

“He can’t translate Terallian,” Jackie answered.

Tru held her eyes. Her defensive behavior was about to get her in a lot of trouble.

“Commander?” Tru asked.

“I can’t. Ensign Rhoades needs to present it.”

Tru nodded. “Were the Terallians a faction?”

“No,” Jackie replied. “We were attacked under orders from Emperor Lixu, and I believe this will continue until there’s a war, sir.

The room became so silent that the distant drone of the engine could be heard. Tru sat back in his chair as his mind replayed the premonition of the cannon exploding. He had seen the Paskian ship change into a Terallian Battle Fleet raider, so did that mean Jackie was right?

Amanda smirked, shaking her head. “You’re expecting us to believe that all Terallians are involved in this? Including Emperor Lixu?”

“Yes. There are several references of direct orders from the Terallian Fleet Command and signed by Emperor Lixu.”

Amanda stood. “I’ve heard enough. Gracie, transfer Ensign Rhoades to the brig for insubordination!”

“Wrigley, sit down,” Tru quietly ordered, “and belay that order, Gracie.”

“Captain—”

“Allow her to defend her position. Sit down.”

Amanda sat down, but glared at Jackie.

“Ensign, what led you to this belief?” Zalet asked.

Jackie tapped the controls, pulling up a document on the double monitors. “Gracie, translate this, so they don’t think I’m lying about it.”

Confidential memo. Attention all Battle Fleet captains and supervising officers. Orders are as stands. All dismembering and disemboweling videos of Merchant Raitor captains and first and second officers are to be compiled. Terallian Wraiths will be waiting at the convergence coordinates. Expect orders from Fleet Command to withdraw to Merchant Raitor space and proceed. Emperor Lixu has ordered that any Terallian failing to comply will result in the immediate execution of your first born, youngest offspring and first two spouses. All supervising officers are to report any resistance immediately.

“So, XO, should we stop the next Terallian ship we come across and ask if they quarter or fillet First Executive Officers?” Jackie taunted.

Amanda rushed out of the room. Tru didn’t go after her, even though he knew he should.

“How much of the database and communiqués have you translated, Jackie?” Tru asked.

“There’s thousands. I’ve only translated the ones sent to a Captain Amidien.”

“Do they all make similar references?”

“Most of them.”

“We’ll be within range of a com buoy in four days. I need the entire database—”

Tru looked back when the door opened. Amanda walked in with a cloth and spray bottle in hand. She pushed between Zalet and Q’al, spritzed the tabletop, and started wiping. Jackie giggled. Tru shot her a dark glare that silenced her.

He got up and slowly approached Amanda, finishing his order, “I need the entire database translated by then, so have Gracie help you.”

Tru grabbed Amanda’s wrists, pulling her back.

“I have to clean the table!” Amanda protested, trying to pull away.

Tru held her, continuing, “Ensign Rhoades and Commander Ipaton, I need to speak with the senior staff and you two have work to do. Please excuse us.”

Ipaton obeyed, but Jackie stayed seated, holding his stare when he looked at her. Tru looked away to Amanda. He had to calm Amanda down first.

“Wrigley, what are you doing?” he asked.

“I have to clean the table.”

“What is it? What upset you?”

“The table. It’s filthy!”

Tru pulled the cleaning supplies from her hands, setting them on the table. He grabbed her wrists before she could grab for them. She started crying and almost hopping.

“Where’s the rock, Wrigley?”

She looked in his eyes.

“Your stone; where is it?”

“My quarters.”

“You keep it on you at all times from now on, okay? Let’s have Gracie transport you to your quarters to get it and come back when this table isn’t so dirty.”

Amanda looked at the cleaning supplies, starting to shake.

“Q’al, why don’t you help her look for her rock?”

She looked into Tru’s eyes. He smiled and her trembling stopped. Tru gently gave her wrists a squeeze, an unspoken word of reassurance.

Q’al walked up and Tru handed one of her wrists to him. Q’al slid his hand into hers, making her look down at their hands.

“Let’s go look for it, Amanda,” Q’al quietly said.

She nodded and Gracie transported them out of the room.

Tru turned to Jackie. “Perhaps you didn’t hear my order, Ensign. You have work to do and I need to speak with my senior staff.”

“Someone has to be here for the COM officers.”

“No. They don’t. Leave or I’ll have you removed.”

“I discovered this first! I have a right to stay!”

“This has nothing to do with who discovered what. You have an entire database that must be translated and quickly. We have to know what the Terallians are planning.”

“Sir, I have a right to—”

“There’s always another week in the Brig if you’re having a problem understanding your orders, Ensign.”

She clamped her mouth shut for a moment.

“FINE!” she screamed and stormed out of the room.

Tru sat down in the nearest chair, looking at the senior officers sitting around him.

“So we have deduced that Terallians are after Merchant Raitor captains and First Executive Officers, but we don’t know why with any certainty. They probably will discover we copied the database and they may try to stop us from getting it to Merchant Raitor. We are nearly a month from the nearest spaceport, and four days from the nearest communications buoy. I am open to suggestions as to how we’re going to keep this crew alive if the Terallians attack again.”

Reuben looked up at him. “Sir, do you think this does mean we’re going to war?”

Tru shrugged. “I don’t know, but right now we need to be prepared for another attack.”

“Well, can’t you get a premonition or something and tell us?” Ag asked.

Tru smiled, shaking his head. “It doesn’t work that way, Ag. If it did, we wouldn’t even be in this situation. For this, we’re going to have to rely on our instincts, training, and each other.”

Zalet spoke slowly, “Perhaps it would be a wise time for Commander Ag and his subordinates to re-evaluate how long Prosperous can stay in a hyper jump. In the event we may have to push the hyper drive to its limits.”

Ag nodded. “I agree. We should look into that.”

“We also need to figure out what to do if they board us,” Equ’Haglef said. “They’ll kill anyone on sight.”

“Should we arm crew?” Tru asked Zalet.

“No. They have defense training and I believe if we arm them, we could make the crew more nervous. However, I do think we should consider spreading arms across the ship. If we are boarded, it would be harder for Terallians to stop us if we don’t keep the weapons in one area.”

“Rueben, can you make that happen?”

“Yes.”

“We might also want to think about doing system checks on all the life boats,” Ag said. “Just in case.”

Tru nodded. “What else?”

They continued drawing out contingency plans. Tru kept his fears silent or admit how desperately he could use a premonition right now.
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