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New Canaan Snippet #2 - Departure (con't) & Ascella

NOTE: This is an unedited sneak peek at New Canaan. No part of this may be reposted, or copied without prior consent.

 

Continued from snippet 1 (http://www.aeon14.com/members/stories/new-canaan-snippet-1-departure)

 

Sera had moved on to embrace both Nance and Cheeky at the same time, and Tanis stood by with a smile until Cheeky reached out and pulled her in.

“Finding you in that crate was the best thing that ever happened to us,” Nance said when they separated. “I know I’ve been…touchy…from time to time, but I want you to know I feel that way.”

“You guys finding me was pretty damn good for me too,” Tanis said with a laugh that the others joined in on.

She looked to Sera and saw that the smile wasn’t quite reaching her eyes. Tanis knew how hard it would be for Sera to send her own crew on a mission which she could not join—she felt the same thing for Jessica. Yet there here they were, ready to embark on a hunt across the Arm for a man who would help secure the future of the Intrepid and its colonists.

<You keep them all safe, Sabrina,> Sera said over the Link to the ship’s AI.

<Of course I will,> Sabrina replied. <You forget that I am invincible with these shields.>

<Don’t get cocky,> Cargo added. <Us weak organics have to leave the ship from time to time.>

<And some of us live in those organics,> Piya, Cheeky’s AI, added.

<I know, I know,> Sabrina sighed. <I’m just excited to fly again. I know how Thompson feels, we’ve been here too long. I need to roam the stars.>

“Then no overlong goodbyes,” Sera said and walked to the bridge’s exit. “Good hunting, and good luck.”

“We’ll see you soon,” Tanis added. “We’ll save the best pickings for you guys.”

“You better,” Jessica replied. “You guys are going to party for weeks when you make landfall and I’m going to miss it.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll leave the beacon one light-year core-ward of Ascella with New Canaan’s location,” Tanis replied. “Don’t be too late.”

Everyone gave their final farewells, and before long Tanis and Sera were back on the Intrepid’s deck. Sabrina lifted off its cradle and floated down its departure lane to the starboard side of the dock where a small bay door opened to let the ship out.

As the starfreighter slipped through the ES shield and into the blackness of space, Sera’s hand found Tanis’s and gripped it tightly.

“Go safely into that long, dark night,” she said quietly.

“Don’t worry, we’ll see them again,” Tanis affirmed. “I can feel it.”

 

 

ASCELLA

Edge of the Ascella System

 

The Intrepid drifted into the Ascella system at a sedate 0.05c. The ship’s trajectory would bring them close to the secondary star in the system, which they would use to brake to just one percent the speed of light, before their rendezvous with the FGT.

Or rather, the Transcend Diplomatic Corps, as Sera had informed her.

Though many of the people who colonized and ruled Transcend space were, in fact, the original Future Generation Terraforms and their descendants, only people who worked the FGT’s great Worldships continued to be known by that name. Tanis wondered if that was an indication of how they had drifted from their original purpose.

Sera told Tanis that their meeting with the Transcend Diplomatic Corps would, in fact, be with Hand agents—or at least some Hand agents; the Transcend government’s covert operations group, which guided the course of humanity within the Inner Stars.

Tanis examined the main holo tank on the Intrepid’s bridge. They still had weeks of travel through the Ascella system before they would arrive at the rendezvous, and Tanis put her worries about it aside.

Instead, she reviewed the fleet’s deployment as it drifted through space around the Intrepid.

Sera had assured her that the Ascella system was uninhabited, but Tanis wasn’t going to take any chances. They’d been caught with their pants down too many times before to simply float through an unknown system without their fleet deployed and ready for combat.

Her two heavy cruisers, the Dresden and Orkney were nearby, each only a thousand kilometers off the colony ship’s port and starboard sides. The rest of the fleet was arrayed in a wide bubble, ten thousand kilometers from the Intrepid. Except the Andromeda, which was, nearly a million kilometers ahead of the fleet.

For once, Joe was not on the warship. Rather, he was down in their cabin in Old Sam—one of the Intrepid’s two habitation cylinders—tending to their three-month-old daughter, Cary.

Tanis’s hand reached down to her abdomen at the thought of her daughter, the unconscious action still dogging her, even this long after her daughter’s birth. She spared a glance at herself, still surprised to see her trim form looking exactly as it had before she had become pregnant.

<Thank the stars for modern science,> she said to Angela. <I’ve seen vids of what it was like in ancient times…some women never managed to recover after giving birth.>

<Yes, yes, you continue to be the pinnacle of human genetics and nano-engineering,> her AI replied.

<Angela, If I didn’t know better, I’d think, that you think I’m vain.>

Angela snorted a laugh in her mind. <You’re the furthest thing from being vain when it comes to looks, dear, but you are vain when it comes to your prowess. You’re like a female tiger, all teeth and speed and rage. You can’t bear the thought of not being able to attack and kill prey on a whim.>

<I beg your pardon,> Tanis replied. <I’ve only been in one actual fight since Markus’s funeral on Landfall. I’m a very peaceable person now.>

<Sure, if you don’t count two massive space battles, then yes, you’re very peaceable.>

Tanis cast a glare at her AI in her mind, and directed her thoughts to Corsia on the Andromeda.

<How’s it look up there?> she asked the Andromeda’s AI.

It took a few minutes for the response to come back from the distant ship. <Clear so far, but there are a few candidates for the base that Sera warned us about. I’ve surreptitiously fired some nano scouts ahead to help triangulate any signals we pick up.>

Tanis nodded in satisfaction. There was no doubt in her mind that Corsia would locate what the watchpoint—the name Sera had given it—in the system. It was just a matter of time.

Her thoughts turned to where Sera’s loyalties would lie in the coming weeks. Her ship was gone; with it, her anchor in the world outside of the Transcend. Other than her friendship with Tanis, her ties to the Intrepid were weak. It was likely that the Hand would send people to whom she had close ties. Former friends, perhaps even family.

It would confuse Sera’s loyalties—maybe. Sera reminded Tanis a lot of herself when she was younger. Well, a much more sexually charged version of herself. But the sense of duty, of doing what was right? That was very familiar.

If only knowing what was right were an easy thing. When millions of lives hung in the balance, and valuable assets were at play, the right decision often became clouded by doubt.

Tanis looked over at the former secret agent and former freighter captain, who was very conspicuous in her artificial burgundy skin against the backdrop of uniformed bridge officers. Sera was speaking with Captain Andrews and Admiral Sanderson. Likely speculating on their upcoming rendezvous.

  Tanis took one last look at the holo tank’s display of her fleet and walked over to the trio, accepting welcome smiles as she joined their conversation.

“What’s the word,” Sera asked.

“Nothing yet, but if it’s out there, Corsia will find it.”

“Oh, it’s out there,” Sera replied. “I never came through Ascella myself, but I know the system, it’s one of a dozen that are used to move people out to the Transcend. A station here is SOP.”

“They’re going to be in for a surprise when the Andromeda appears on their doorstep,” Captain Andrews chuckled before realizing everyone was giving him appraising stares. “What? Do I always have to be stoic? I can take a certain amount of pleasure in bearding the dragon in its lair.”

“Dragon is right,” Sera nodded. “They’ll have a lot of ships here. Maybe not enough to pose you a serious threat, but enough to manage most situations.”

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