About the Book
Jordan Bowers, a Terran Intel agent, finds herself on the wrong side of her own government when Helena “Dray” Draybeck gets into serious trouble, more than either of their families can rescue Dray from. With everything to lose, Jordan gambles on a secret mission to Novan space to pull in an old old favor.
On the other side of the galaxy, Terran clone, Kay, finds herself in uncharted waters as a civilian and girlfriend to one of the most important political figures in the Novan government. When family dynamics prove too much, she jumps at a chance for a risky mission into Terran space, a mission that turns her world upside down, and makes her question who she is, and what really matters to her.
THE SIGHT OF Varsha station expanded in the shuttle viewport from what looked like a gigantic metallic cephalopod devouring Navy ships, to a gray and black wall of plates dotted with docking rings and locking grapples. Jordan Bowers unlatched her safety harness before the shuttle engines finished their final short burst to dock. As the only passenger on the ride up from Mellick, the mineral-rich planet that stocked Varsha Station, she had no one but the shuttle pilot to glower at her for breaking regulations, and he was busy locking the rings to the shuttle dock and filling the connecting tube with human-safe atmosphere so they could disembark. Jordan floated above the hatch, waiting for the green beacon to indicate it was safe to open the hatch.
“We are docked, Captain,” the pilot said. “If you would allow me to unlock the hatch?”
The beacon turned green. Jordan grabbed the latch in one hand and gave it a hard twist. The hatch swung inward. “I was flight lieutenant on the Rubicon II for six years, soldier. I can handle a hatch.”
Fifteen years of Catholic Universalist meditation and the best she could do was grouse at a pilot for not moving fast enough for her? She blamed Dray, Dray and her damned Draybeck stubbornness.
Jordan swung through the opening and launched herself through the connecting tube to the matching open hatch on Varsha. She landed on the plasteel grating, adjusting to station gravity as she stepped through one more hatch to come face to face with yet another junior officer, this one in the deep blue of the Terran navy, the color she used to wear. Jordan straightened her black Terran Intel uniform and nodded at the officer’s crisp salute.
“Welcome to the Varsha, Captain. The X.O. sends her regrets, but I’ve been ordered to escort you to your quarters.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant, but I prefer to go directly to the dry dock where the Rubicon is under repairs.” She knew exactly where she’d find Dray. Why waste her anger on the innocent when she could vent directly at the source?
“This way, Ma’am. The Rubicon is on A-pod.”
Jordan followed her escort through the dock entrance, past the Bay Y-13 sign. Her come link, synced to Varsha, showed it was late second-shift, 21:00 hours station time. The station corridors the officer lead her through still buzzed with activity, a mix of Navy and shipyard personnel that tried not to get caught staring at her black uniform. Intel personnel gave regular military the creeps, but today it just added one more layer to her irritation.
“Is this your first time on Varsha, Ma’am?” her escort asked as they walked through another drab gray corridor.
Play nice, she told herself. “Yes, it is. I was stationed on the Rubicon up until last year, but she never needed full dry-dock repairs during my tour.”
“The Rubicon took quite a beating, that’s for sure. But Varsha’s seen worse. We’ve got three other ships from the Chagos mission here as well. It’s been busy, I can tell you.”
They stepped into an elevator and he pressed A level. “Varsha has the latest vacuum robotics. On any other station, the Rubicon’s repairs would take a year. We’ll have her back on active within seven months.”
The elevator took them up, and then it was a short walk to the railcar that would speed them down the length of the pod. Her guide continued his chatter. “Varsha has eight extendible pods, each of which can handle up to three of the largest ships in the fleet. All three of the Chagos ships are on this pod, but the Rubicon is the largest, so she’s out on the edge.”
Jordan heard the dull thrumming of ship building before the railcar doors opened. The stench of dirt and grease accosted her as soon as she stepped out. Unlike the station center levels, which were set up similar to most Terran orbital stations, Varsha’s A pod was visible through a protective shield. The pod was a vast open shell that hosted the three Chagos ships of different tonnage. A maze of oxygenated catwalks surrounded each ship, with the pod otherwise open to the vacuum of space.
The vast distance between ships was an odd perspective, especially given the tiny dots that must be the robotic mechanics buzzing around each ship.
She locked her eyes onto the gray exterior of her former home. “That’s some serious damage.” The hole in the aft hull must have cost the most in human collateral, but the craters where the attack drones should have been was likely the hit that cost Dray the most.
And that’s where she saw the familiar close-cropped blond hair and disheveled blue uniform on a woman staring out a catwalk porthole at the ship.
“That will be all, young man. I can find my way from here.” Jordan barely acknowledged the officer’s final salute as she marched across the enclosed pod base and up two ladders to reach her target. A shipyard worker sidestepped to get out of her way, but she wasn’t sure if it was from the uniform or the expression on her face. Two-and-a-half weeks of interstellar transit and an extra six hour wait for a shuttle up from planetside made for a very cranky Intel captain, very cranky.
Dray turned an instant before Jordan arrived. The scar tissue and swelling around her left eye knocked some of the wind out of Jordan’s anger. She’d read the medical reports, but Varsha was on a strict audio-only communications stream. This was the first time she’d seen what that Chagos mission had cost her wife. Two blue eyes stared back at her, but only one was still biological.
Dray wrapped her in a tight hug. “I thought I was meeting you on Mellick?”
Jordan accepted the quick kiss and pushed to separate them. “So did I, Helena Draybeck-Bowers,” she said over the background noise of repair work surrounding them.
Dray winced at her full name, but her smile hardly wavered. “Guess I should have met your flight, eh?”
“Mellick might be a dry rock, but at least their facilities beat this. And any sensible First Lieutenant would still be in rehab, not already back on station, making a nuisance of herself.”
Dray tapped her collar, widening that same pesky grin. Jordan looked down to see the newly stitched gold leaf added to the blue uniform. “You made Lieutenant Commander after all.”
“Compliments of the mission. The hospital visit also gave me the chance to upgrade my hardware.” Dray tapped her temple, where a small incision was visible just inside the hair line. “Promotion and selected for the latest implant prototype. There’s only five of us in the program.”
Jordan pinched the bridge of her nose. “That’s great. Can we go to our quarters now, before my head explodes from all this noise?” Talk of implants in public always made her edgy.
“Oh, sure.” Dray took her hand and led the way back down to the railcar.
When the railcar doors shut, Jordan let out a long sigh and smiled for the first time. “I am glad you’re still in one piece. Watching that mission from Intel reports was a nightmare.”
“Mostly in one piece.” Dray tapped her scarred eyelid. “Novan Intel was one step ahead of us the whole mission. I nearly took out their precious gene bank with a drone attack, but they got those damned Black March troops through our blockade. Then the Rubicon was hit on our exposed planet-side from the gene bank defense grid. That pretty much took me and my drones out of the fight.”
“And should have kept you in rehab.” Jordan stifled a yawn. She hadn’t slept in over twenty hours and it was catching up to her. “That’s what a sensible person would have done.”
Dray grinned as the railcar doors opened onto station central, the head of the Varsha cephalopod where every human lived. “You didn’t marry a sensible person.”
Jordan shook her head. “But you did. Now find your sensible wife a decent meal and a place to sleep, please.”
Dray kissed her again, for real this time. It didn’t melt all of Jordan’s anger, but it helped, it certainly helped.