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Home of my tech rants, free programs, and a story or two…

Space 2315, Peace… Chapter 1

The Allied Colonies for Freedom’s President John Renalt walked into the office of the Presidential Mansion in Tehran of former Iran. He’d never seen the inside of this office; few really had including President Christina Crow. There were many presidential mansions throughout the world, and each President of the Human Federation had a choice of which of the presidential mansions that they would live in upon taking office. Some even chose multiple ones, rotating through the different ones every six months to a year, depending on their tastes. Christina Crow chose the one that was in Tehran.

When the recent emergency had passed and martial law was lifted across Terra and Mars, Crow was no longer in emergency lockdown and could choose where she wanted to go, rather than having the military place her somewhere. When they’d done it, it had been for her safety, but she vastly preferred her present accommodations over that of the quarters she’d enjoyed aboard Defense Platform Alpha in orbit Terra. The stateroom she lived in after the Army insisted she leave Quebec was lavish, for an orbital fort, but they weren’t a spot on anything that could be built on a planetary surface.

When she’d finally had a choice of where she would live as president, she was given a virtual reality tour of the cities where the presidential mansions were located in. After seeing the beauty and majesty of Tehran, she couldn’t help but to choose that city and that mansion where she, as President of the Human Federation, would live. The city had come a long way since the days of the Islamic Republic of Iran and was now a flourishing, progressive city that reveled in its pre-Islamic Republic Persian heritage. Everywhere one looked you could see the old Persian influences, both in the city’s architecture and how people dressed. The clothes seen on the streets were modest and brightly colorful which matched the majestic parks full of flowers and trees from all over Human Space that dotted the cityscape.

Every morning she found herself standing at the windows of her stateroom, just staring out at the sun as it glistened on the many buildings that she could see in the city that surrounded the mansion. The only thing that really ruined the landscape of the city was all the military equipment that stretched out before her, but she figured that she couldn’t do a thing about that. She was the president after all, she needed to be protected. In time that military equipment would be removed, or at least better concealed so as to not spoil the breathtaking views of downtown Tehran.

It had been only a week and a half since she set foot in the mansion, she had just finished making the place her own. Her office was on the first floor of the mansion and since it had been many years since that mansion had been occupied it took a lot of effort to get the place cleaned up and decorated. Just a couple of days ago she had met with interior decorators to plan for what she wanted her place of residence and presidential office to look like. Once those plans were put into place, she remembered the flurry of activity to decorate the place for they knew that this day was coming, the day that she would formally start using said office. It just so happened that that day was also the day she would be signing a peace treaty.

As she stood in the office, she remembered back to when they were in the late stages of rebuilding the government for it had been a rocky road. Getting all the system governors together in one place to establish a new Senate was an arduous task, nobody seemed to want to cooperate which made an already tenuous situation even worse. It was only after a Congress was finally established that all the various other departments of the government could finally be reestablished, many of which were headed up by their once deputy directors.

John smiled as he approached President Crow with an outstretched hand. “This place is indeed,” he looked around the room, “magnificent.” She took his hand and shook it as newsies began taking what seemed like thousands of pictures. “I can’t remember the last time a president chose this mansion.”

“Well,” Crow said as she walked towards the transparent aluminum that served as the windows of the building. “When I saw it, I fell in love with the place.” She turned around to face John. “Let me welcome you, Citizen… I mean President John Renalt.” She knew she said it that way on accident, but for a long time the Human Federation hadn’t recognized the ACF as a sovereign nation-state. “Sorry about that,” she nodded as she nervously blushed.

“No need to apologize,” John said as he held up a forestalling hand. “I imagine there’s a lot both sides will have to get used to now that we’re separate. Especially us, since now my administration has the long and arduous task of creating a brand new star nation out of whole cloth. And already there’s competing elements in my government that all want a piece of the pie. When we were fighting the war it kept them all focused on simply surviving the war, but now? God, I could strangle some of them,” he finished as he shook his head. Crow nodded her head in agreement and a little sympathy. He then looked to the woman who was standing next to Crow, he didn’t know who she was for they had not been formally introduced yet. “And you are?”

“I’m President Crow’s Chief of Staff, Lisa Spencer. I also happen to be the wife of the vice president, Mark Spencer.”

John slowly nodded his head. He thought it to be strange that the wife of the vice president was her chief of staff, but he figured that when the government had been wiped out a few short months ago, Crow needed people that she could trust to rebuild the government with quickly. He stepped forward and offered his hand to which Lisa Spencer graciously accepted and she shook his hand. All in all, things were off to a great start. But now that the pleasantries were done and over with, it was time to get to what he was sent there to do.

“I guess you know why I’m here.” Crow nodded her head. Everyone knew, but John had to say what he was about to say for those reporters that were in the room. This was the part of politics that Crow hated; the appearances and all the formalities that went with it. “I’m here to officially bring peace to our star nations.” He paused as he looked away from the cameras and nodded in Crow’s direction. “Though, I’m more than happy to admit that it wasn’t all my work. I’d like to extend a huge thanks to President Crow,” he then looked down as he took hold of her hand.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without her. No one has worked as hard as she has to bring this peace to fruition. It’s been an absolute pleasure working with her. We could’ve been caught up for weeks or months in trying to negotiate a settlement, but that would’ve been detrimental to both sides. I’m glad that I, President Renault, could negotiate freely and in good faith with President Crow.” If that wasn’t a deliberate attempt on Renault’s part to imply that others would’ve stretched out peace talks for as long as they could President Crow didn’t know what would be. Some could’ve used the continuation of the war, even with an armistice in place, to justify expenditures using the wartime taxes that had been levied.

Those taxes, unfortunately, would likely have to stay in place to help rebuild the nation’s infrastructure that had been destroyed in the war including all the warships that were destroyed during the war.

In the final battle which had ended the war Admiral Moore’s First Fleet had attacked the Tau Ceti Star System in a daring lightning raid. Her fleet had charged into the system and blew away the understrength defense fleet, whose ships had been pulled back to the Sol System to defend it. Her fleet’s escorts also ran down every freighter and ore hauler they could catch, putting prize crews aboard them and shepherding them back to the hyper limit so they and their cargos could be turned over to the ACF.

After securing the system Moore had launched kinetic rounds at every military and industrial installation in orbit or on the surfaces of Tau Ceti’s planets and moons. She had the decency to issue warnings and give time for evacuations to be carried out, otherwise the cost in human life would’ve been astronomical. Instead, all she’d done was reduce several trillion credits worth of industry to so much craters and junk. It would be years before Tau Ceti was built back up to its prewar status.

Her fleet had originally been on target to attack Sol, but somehow the ACF had gotten word that the Human Federation was able to deploy a hyperspace sensor net that could see into hyperspace out to a distance of several light hours. Nothing could enter the Sol System now that wouldn’t be seen, giving the defenders ample time to intercept. If Crow could have it her way she’d have said sensors installed in every star system and damn the cost. She knew that the Vonosh Empire was out there and anything that could give the Human Federation a chance to know if the Vonosh were coming was worth it in her mind.

Crow blushed slightly as Renault said that about her. Those who knew Crow would say that one of her biggest character flaws was that she didn’t know how to take a complement. She was a rather modest person, sometimes she took modesty a little too far.

“Thank you,” Crow smiled, “President Renalt.” She paused to squeeze his hand. “Unlike what John said, I can’t take all of the responsibility. For you see, without John’s help we also wouldn’t be here. Today’s momentous occasion has been brought about because of the work that the both of us have tirelessly worked towards for these last two weeks.”

Crow quickly darted her look to her chief of staff. It was a slight gesture, nothing more than a sideways glance; not even noticeable had you not knew what to be looking for. Thankfully Spencer got to know many of Crow’s needs and was able to predict what she wanted with nothing more than a glance. That was after all the job of the President’s Chief of Staff; to know her needs before Crow even knew that she needed it.

And so, Spencer motioned for the two Zaltaens that were standing off to the side to come into the frame. Christina turned away from John and faced the two Zaltaens with an outstretched hand to which the two aliens took hold and shook it in a very human-like way. She then turned to face the camera again. “I’d also like to take the time to recognize the role that the Zaltaens played in this occasion. If it weren’t for these two ambassadors,” she paused and shook her head. “I don’t know where we would be today. Perhaps we’d still be trying to hammer out a peace treaty. These two represented the neutral third-party that we needed to bring about an end to this war.”

“Likewise,” John said as he stepped forward to shake hands with the two aliens. “I’d also would like to extend a gracious thanks to our Zaltaen allies. For, like Crow, I do indeed believe that without them I also don’t know where we would be today.”

Both Zaltaens smiled at that before one spoke up. “The Queen of Zalta extends her personal compliments to this occasion. She’s very glad that the war is over and she hopes that all of humanity can march forward in peace.” Crow and Renalt noticed that the Zaltaens hadn’t mentioned anything at all about the Vonosh Empire or the fact that Zalta had been working with the ACF. They were too polite to say so.

What their queen hadn’t said in her formal remarks was that a humanity at peace was one that’d be better suited to stand with Zalta against the Vonosh. And at this point in the Vonosh-Zaltaen War, her people needed all the help they could get. There were rumors floating about the Zaltaen’s various intelligence services about a reserve fleet that the Vonosh had, one that could easily tip the balance of the war against the Zaltaens. They didn’t know where the reserve fleet was or what it was doing or why. The only real evidence that pointed to an actual reserve fleet were the expenditures the Vonosh made in their budget for their space navy. The budget was larger than could be accounted for with the warships the Zaltaens knew about, so that money had to be going somewhere. If not into more warships, then where? And if there were more warships, where were they?

The newsies started taking pictures again. Crow really did wish that they would stop doing that already, she already had way too many purple spots in her vision from all the flashes of their cameras.

“I, and my counterpart,” he darted his eyes to Crow, “President Crow, are here to officially bring an end to this bloody civil war that has gone on for far too long.” He paused in his speech to put an arm around Crow and then continued. She wished he hadn’t done that. It wasn’t like they were close enough for this level of physical contact, but literally brushing him off would send a poor image. “This war has killed far too many of our sons and daughters and I along with President Crow,” he paused again to nod in her general direction before he, thankfully, removed his arm from her shoulders, “am here to put an official end to it with what I hope is the start of a lasting peace between our two star nations. For far too long have we been fighting; father against son and son against father.” Crow’s eyebrow raised slightly as she remembered that that little bit came from Luke 12:53.

Crow hid a smile at his last sentence. She continued on as if it was on cue. “As my counterpart from the Allied Colonies for Freedom said, this war has gone on for far too long. Let this be a day of celebration for our two peoples and most importantly, never let war come between us ever again.” John nodded his head.

Both President Crow and John Renalt walked across the room to where a desk was situated. It was a massive desk, almost as big as the official presidential desk, but not quite. They sat down behind it in two high-backed chairs that put forward the idea that the people sitting in said chairs were of importance.

John looked out across the desk for on it was the official document in an equally official blue leather book of sorts. It was like many of the folders that official documents that she had signed were contained in. As he read the document, he nodded his head; it had an almost poetic feel to the document and the since it was an actual honest-to-God piece of hardcopy paper, instead of just another datapad, it felt more real to him.

He picked a pen up and marveled in how intricate the pen was. It wasn’t some cheap pen. He smiled as he twirled it between his fingers. The pen had a nice heft to it; not heavy, but not so light as to feel like nothing in one’s hand.

He brought the document towards himself and began to write his name. As he put the pen down he then looked up from the document as the newsies began taking pictures again, it was like they knew exactly when to start taking pictures again. “With my signature on this piece of paper, I formally announce my government’s promise to this peace.”

He slid the document over in front of President Crow as the newsies began taking pictures again. She looked at the document and to where John signed his name and formally signed the treaty on the line to the right of his. When she finished signing it, she picked it up and if she thought that the newsies were bad with their cameras before, what they did now was blinding. They all came close to them sitting at the desk as Crow held the document up and they took what had to be millions of pictures.

After the photos were taken the two signed a second copy of the treaty that would become the Human Federation version of the treaty. It didn’t at all make the second copy less legitimate than the first copy but both star nations needed a version of the treaty to be all nice and legal.

As the reporters stopped taking pictures, John stood up. “Today, with the signing of this document let my nation no longer be known as the Allied Colonies for Freedom but from this day forth, we call ourselves the Allied Colonies of Humanity!”

Bernard Hernandez seethed with anger as he watched the signing of the peace treaty on the television. “That FUCKING traitor!” He threw the glass that he was holding to the ground, shattering it to several pieces. “Peace! I didn’t want peace! I wanted the Human Federation to burn to the FUCKING ground!”

A member of the Muagi clan looked to him as he shouted at the television. “God damn you, President John Renalt! You could have sent wave after wave of ships to bomb them all back to the FUCKING STONE AGE! But what the fuck did you do? YOU SIGNED PEACE!!! God damn you to fucking hell you FUCKING traitor!” He stood up and kicked the table that was in front of him sending shattered pieces of glass and broken pieces of wood everywhere. “YOU STUPID FUCK! You could have flattened them all, you could have KILLED them ALL! But no, like a STUPID FUCK you signed peace!”

True to their word, the North Koreans had gotten Bernard Hernandez off of Earth and to the Corporate Republic of Sirius. After several months of being on the lam, he finally thought that nobody could touch him. He had been on Sirius for months now, living out a rather lavish life under the protection of the Muagi clan. He had the opportunity to have whatever wanted; be it food, drink, and much to his excitement… women. The Muagi clan practically showered him in luxury, it was everything that his old life had… and more. He felt safe. Little did he know just how close law enforcement was.

By all accounts, Bernard Hernandez was very much deranged. Even some of the Muagi clan who were protecting him saw it. And they were scared. Truth be told, not much scared the Muagi clan, for they were after all, a crime syndicate. Bernard Hernandez, however, scared even the Muagi clan… shitless. There were some things that even criminals didn’t do. And not only was Bernard Hernandez very much deranged, he was also a genius and when you mixed his special blend of derangement with genius, nothing good usually came about.

Bernard Hernandez was not unlike the Joker from the old Batman comics, only he was worse. For you see, unlike the Joker who thrived on chaos, Bernard Hernandez knew what he was doing. He didn’t cause chaos for the sake of causing chaos, no… he had plans that were methodically put into place. And that was what made him, Bernard, worse than the Joker.

The Muagi clan saw that Bernard Hernandez was a very dangerous man, even to them. They knew that if given the chance, he’d flip on them in a heartbeat. And so, someone in the Muagi clan tipped the FBI of the Human Federation off and informed them of his whereabouts. It didn’t take much to get said information. Oh… only just a bribe, a bribe of two hundred thousand Human Federation credits. Sure, it was a lot of money. A whole hell of a lot of money. But Bernard Hernandez wasn’t just any fugitive of the law. No, he was the most wanted man in all human space. He was wanted dead or alive. And for that, well… all it took was the right amount of money to make someone sing like a little bird.

And sing like a little bird, someone did. Someone sung in the upper ranks of the Muagi clan. Bernard would never find out who ratted him out, but he knew that if he ever got his hands on that person, that person wouldn’t be alive for very long.

It was the culmination of nearly a month of planning on behalf of the FBI of both the Human Federation and the now Allied Colonies of Humanity. Both the Human Federation and the Allied Colonies of Humanity wanted him, and they were willing to work with one another to do just that.

“FBI!” a shout at the door came and the door was broken down so fast and with such force that it came clean off the hinges. Bernard Hernandez turned around and went as white as a sheet as he saw none other than who he once knew as his closest confident, Alice Winfield. Only this time, she had unpowered armor that had FBI emblazoned on the front of it.

Eileen Maguire shouted. “Bernard Hernandez! You are under arrest for crimes against humanity!” Bernard Hernandez’s jaw just about hit the floor as she shouted that. All he could do was simply stand where he was, completely stupefied.

“Bernard Hernandez, you are under arrest!” Eileen Maguire shouted into Bernard’s ear as she clamped down her handcuffs around his wrists. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you?” Bernard was stunned, all he could do was simply nod his head.

And with that, Bernard Hernandez, the most wanted man in all human space, was arrested and taken into custody. FBI Agent Eileen Maguire then walked Bernard Hernandez out of the building to a cheering crowd of other FBI agents. Bernard Hernandez, however, was still too stunned to say anything. He thought he was untouchable. He wasn’t. He was now riding in the back of an FBI van.

John was speaking on TV. “…we call ourselves the Allied Colonies of Humanity!” He felt his comlink vibrate while someone walked into the room, came up behind President Crow and whispered something into her ear; she smiled as she nodded her head.

Crow stood up and the newsies stopped taking pictures. “I’m pleased to announce with the cooperation of the Human Federation FBI and the now Allied Colonies of Humanity FBI…” She nodded to John to stand up and continue. “Bernard Hernandez, the mastermind behind the most devastating terror attacks in recent history, has now been brought to justice. I have just been informed that he has been arrested in the Corporate Republic of Sirius thanks to the cooperation of both our star nations along with Sirius. We can finally sleep soundly knowing that this man, this most wanted man, is now under arrest.” The newsies started taking a thousand pictures. “Further investigations will be conducted and any and all coconspirators will also be brought to justice.”

Peace was the headline news on all the news channels throughout the Human Federation. Richard remembered how the news was broadcasted to every single ship in the fleet. He remembered how the newsfaxes talked about it continuously, nonstop, for hours. There were political pundits that had been brought on air talking about what the treaty meant to humanity as if they could somehow predict the future. Some were even talking about whether President Christina Crow would be reelected with the signing of the peace treaty.

Some pundits called this the death of Crow’s political career but then there were pundits that indicated that many citizens were calling for peace long before the peace treaty was even ratified in Congress. Every pundit had a different idea depending upon what political party that they were affiliated with.

The Labor Party, which President Christina Crow was affiliated with, were singing her praises as the president who had what it took to end the war but if you asked the Conservative Party pundits they said that signing peace with the then ACF was a sign of weakness and that she should have told the then ACF to go pound salt. And of course, the Liberal Party had different ideas. Richard had to laugh as those affiliated with the Conservative Party probably weren’t out there fighting the war.

Sure, there was some war hawks among the ranks but scuttlebutt had it that even those up in the higher ranks of the Space Force were predicting that if the war were to continue and even if Human Federation were to win the war it would have been a pyrrhic victory. Winning the war would have damn near bankrupt the Human Federation. So yes, Richard had to laugh as the pundits that were affiliated with the Conservative Party simply kept going on and on about the virtue of the Human Federation and its valiant defenders.

But it really didn’t matter to Richard, the pundits could talk all day (while not saying much) because in the end it would be up to the voters on whether President Christina Crow would be reelected to the Office of the President. And a special election was a mere week away. Ballots were already ready, and President Crow vowed to let Democracy continue as it should.

There was also coverage of celebrations all over the Human Federation. People were partying in the streets and they had every right to do so, the war was over. But if you had to ask Richard, it wasn’t a time to celebrate; they lost the war. The newsies tried to spin it so that it didn’t seem quite so negative, but Richard knew spin when he saw it.

He couldn’t help but to think of all the sacrifices that the Human Federation had made over the last year of fighting, he couldn’t help but to think of all the people who had died. With the war being over now and no battles to fight, the deaths of those people who he knew came crashing upon him. And it wasn’t just him, there were many people on his ship that had the reality of war come crashing down around them.

People handled it in various ways. Some drowned their sorrows in copious amounts of drink, some people just swallowed their sorrows and bottled it up inside, some just holed themselves up in their quarters to deal with it on their own, and others took the invitation of various chaplains across the fleet to help to come to terms with what happened to them during the war. Richard was different. He had his girlfriend and Hoshi to turn to. That wasn’t to say that the three didn’t drink because they did, however it seemed more like therapy to drink with others than the drink alone.

With the war being over, he could finally get down to more important things in his personal life. If you asked other people, he and his girlfriend were as good as married what with how much time they had spent together but that didn’t change his mind. He knew that he had to marry Rachel in front of a priest and everything, it was after all something that Rachel had often talked about wanting to do and that it was something that he had been looking forward to for months. They did, after all, pick out wedding rings months ago the last time they were in port.

Just then his communicator beeped pulling him out of his thoughts, he tapped it and the sound of Rachel’s voice came over it. “Hey Richard! Where the hell are you? We’re saving you a drink in the lounge!” He rolled his eyes and spoke into the communicator. “I’ll be there in a moment!”

He then thought about how they both had gotten to know Hoshi more so since the day that she had revealed her true identity to the both of them. If anything, Hoshi had become family to them, and Hoshi was all too happy to return the feeling. Rachel wasn’t at all jealous for she knew that Richard didn’t have any siblings, she didn’t mind that he looked to her like a sister that he didn’t have. Hoshi didn’t have a family on Zalta, she had been raised by the Royal Order of Telepaths for as long as she could remember. So, for her to be a part of a family however weird it was, made her very much happy. Richard couldn’t remember a night that the three of them weren’t together since.

Richard stepped into the lounge and he frowned as he looked around. If general unhappiness could be physically manifested it’d be a dark cloud that hung above everyone’s face. If it didn’t know any better, he would have guessed that he walked into a funeral. The music was low, people weren’t talking much. Most were just staring into their drinks in morbid fascination. Those that were actually drinking were doing so quickly, as if to try and forget whatever it was that was making them drink. Richard had read stories of pilots in the early 20th century who’d drank themselves to oblivion after a flight mate had been shot down by the enemy.

He walked the rest of the way back towards his favorite spot, a secluded corner near the back of the lounge that many aboard knew to be his favorite spot. The other officers even made sure to keep that seat open for Richard and his entourage.

As he walked in he passed an ensign, tapped her on the shoulder and asked “Who died?” while trying to make it sound like a joke.

The ensign looked to him, a distraught look on her otherwise pretty face. “We lost the war! Don’t you get it?” She paused when she saw his rank. She then threw in the word “sir” as an afterthought.

Richard looked down at her, shrugged his shoulders and said. “Yeah, but at least we’re still alive.”

“Yeah but…,” she paused, unsure of how to go on, then just threw her drink back. After that she said, “We still lost. How? How could this happen?” Richard shook his head, having no words for her he walked away. He gave a look back to her to see her getting another of whatever she was drinking from the enlisted man behind the bar.

He pushed his way through the small crowd to this favorite drinking spot only to find Rachel and Hoshi already sitting there, looking into their drink of choice. Richard sat down next to Rachel and put a hand on her shoulder briefly and asked, “How much do I have to catch up on?”

She shook her head. “I told you over the commlink, we’ve been waiting for you.” She then passed a glass of single malt Scotch to him. “Now,” she nodded her head, “we can start.”

He took up the glass and put it in the air as she looked to him with a questioning look on her face. “Hey!” He exclaimed as he playfully jabbed her in her side. “I propose a toast to all of us who are sitting here,” he paused as he looked down and shook his head, “a great many aren’t with us tonight.” He then raised his glass, “So here I raise this glass to the three of us sitting here at this table. We made it out alive. We made it out unhurt. That is definitely something to drink to!”

“Here, here,” Rachel said as she raised her glass followed up quickly by Hoshi as the three clinked their glasses together and somberly took a sip of their drink. There was a moment of silence as the three of them paid their respects to those who had been lost, many of whom were their friends.

Richard raised his head from his lowered position and then looked around the table. “So, what is everyone planning?” He paused for he, himself, didn’t have any plans. He figured that like last time, he’d go wherever Rachel went; after all, their trip to Scotland was amazing and she was the one that planned it all.

Hoshi was the one who spoke up first. “Well, with the war over and all the Queen of Zalta has recalled all Zaltaen officers back to Zalta for some kind of, I believe for what humans call a shindig.”

“Speaking of which,” Rachel asked as she pointed at her, “I would’ve thought that all of you Zaltaens would have been called back before the war even started.” She paused. “And for that matter, how did you even get passed all of the screenings to even join the military to begin with. I remember all the tests!” She rolled her eyes in disgust. “Any test you could think of, they did it! I’m surprised they didn’t want a stool sample.”

“That’s a long story and one that I’ll tell you two some other time.”

Rachel pointed her finger at her. “Okay, but I’m going to hold you to that one. And you can bet on that!” Hoshi nodded her head in confirmation for she knew that she wasn’t going to escape that question, she knew Rachel too much to think that she would let her off the hook on that question.

“Undoubtedly,” Richard looked to Rachel as he shrugged his shoulders, “every fleet is going to be recalled to home stations, so that’s going mean one thing.” Rachel cut in as she slammed her hand to the table. “Nothing but refits, resupply and training drills. Not exactly the kind of stuff that I’m looking forward to.” He shook his head in agreement, he wasn’t at all looking forward to any of that.

“Say,” Rachel grinned. Meanwhile Richard thought to himself… There’s that grin again! What is she thinking? “Richard,” she slapped him on his back, “How much leave do you have?”

He began to think, it had only been a few days since he had logged into MyPay and there was a notice as soon as he had logged in that he was going to be losing some leave if he didn’t use some of it soon. “I’ve got eighty-five days of leave.”

“You got to use that now or you’re going to lose it!” She exclaimed. “Didn’t you get that red colored banner when you logged in MyPay? You know the one, that angry red banner that tells you that you need to do something.”

He turned in his seat to face her. “And just how much do you have there, Rachel?”

“I used some leave, so I no longer have that notice in MyPay,” She said as she took a sip of her drink. “I used some back during Christmas to see my mom, so I have sixty-five days.”

“And you’re telling me that I have to use my leave!” He exclaimed. “You have no room to talk! If we both have leave, let’s use it!” He reached into his pocket for his datapad. “I’m going to put in for forty days of leave.”

Rachel too took out her datapad and did the same. “All we have to do is wait for it to be approved.”

Richard chuckled a little at that before he went on, “It will be, trust me on that. The Space Force really hates it when people don’t get a chance to use their leave.”

“Why’s that?” Rachel asked. “It seems to me that if the Space Force can get away with not paying you they will. When you lose leave, you lose that pay.”

“Because if officers and sailors lose leave it usually comes back on the commanding officers to explain why their people were forced to lose leave,” Richard explained to his companions, falling back on his experience as an executive officer. “It makes for some uncomfortable questions from BuPers. The most typical answer they can give that’ll mollify BuPers is that a ship was out on exercises or something and that the crew couldn’t take leave. Sometimes that’s one hundred percent true, other times it’s not. BuPers can figure out when a CO is blowing smoke up their ass, but knowing it and proving it are two different things.”

“How can they not prove it?” Rachel began to ask, then waved her hand to indicate that he needn’t answer. “With everything Fleet Command has to process it’s no surprise that some things end up down the backassward black hole of degenerate data. I swear, one of these days humanity, with our incessant compunction to record every tiny detail, will eventually create a mass of information that would probably give even a black hole a stomachache.”

Hoshi spoke up. “So, what are you two going to be doing?”

Rachel shrugged her shoulders. “I rightly don’t know.” She took another sip of her drink as Richard looked to her for an idea. Usually, when they took leave Rachel was the one that made the plans for them, and in a way that disguised the fact that they were taking leave together. If it was up to him, they’d stay in some hotel and never venture far from the resort; he just didn’t have the creativity that she had. When the two were in Scotland she practically had to drag him out of the hotel room for all he wanted to do was sleep.

She couldn’t fault him for that though, the beds were amazingly soft when compared to the beds they had aboard ship but that didn’t at all change the idea that she wanted to get out and do something.

“How about coming to my world?” Hoshi asked. “You know, an actual alien world with actual aliens living on it?” She paused. “Well, maybe not the home world since its 1.6 Gs.” Besides, I can’t go back home. A bang of regret crossed her face but it was gone before they both could notice it.

“Oh my God!” Rachel nearly spit her drink out. “The only humans that can survive that are ones that have been modified for heavy G worlds. And even some of them can’t handle the bottom of a gravity well that deep.”

“There’s no way I’d take you two there. There’s another world, opposite the sun. We call it Zalta-4B.” Rachel looked on with anticipation. “It’s a sort of resort world, it’s kind of like Sirius but without the whole in-your-face-commercialism that you find in the Corporate Republic.”

“What’s to do on the planet?” they asked her almost at the same time.

“Well,” Hoshi thought. It had been a few years since she had visited the place, what with being in the Human Federation Space Force for nearly five Terran years. “There’s some seriously knocked out beaches, forests to hike in, cliffs to climb, mountains to ski down, perfectly good airplanes to jump out of, waves to surf, and a whole lot more. If you can think of something to do outside, you can do it there!” The two looked at each other as they both raised their eyebrows. “So basically, like Sirius.”

“Wait a moment!” Richard exclaimed. “Are humans welcome there?”

“Sure!” Hoshi exclaimed, very sure of herself. “There’s human consulates there from the different powers in space along with several human amenities like a shopping mall, restaurants, and other various human requirements. But, I do have to admit though, sticking to just the human stuff isn’t going to make for a fun experience; you need to get out and about among the natives.” She grinned suddenly. “And what better person than I,” she pointed to herself, “can you have to show you all about the place?” The two of them nodded their heads. “I’ll make the travel arrangements in the morning.”

“Wait a second.” Rachel paused as she put her hand on Hoshi’s before she could get up from the table. “We need to wait for our leave to be approved.” She looked to Richard as he nodded his head. “I know that there’s a good chance it will be, but I don’t want you to have to break the plans if our leave doesn’t get approved.”

“Good point,” Hoshi settled down. She was very much looking forward to playing tour guide to her two her best friends, and she’d gotten caught up in the excitement. Well, that and being about to see her home star system once again. She knew that she’d be required to take time to report directly to her superiors in the Royal Navy and the Royal Order of Telepaths, but those were issues she could take two or three days away from her traveling companions to handle.

“Is it just a resort world?” Richard asked.

Hoshi shook her head, “many of my people live there as well. It’s just more well known for being a vacation spot for my people.”

The three of them continued talking and drinking way late into the night.

Continue to Chapter 2…