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BLUE HORIZON 1261

— by Ted R. Blasingame

Chapter 6
The Master Plan

 

The lift came to a stop at the eighty-sixth level of a downtown Alucara skyscraper. The doors opened and Samantha Holden stepped out into a pastel blue corridor where mirrors divided sections of the wall every three meters. The Border collie turned to the left and walked to the third inner door from the elevator. She waved a magnetic cylinder at a small metal disc set into the panel and heard a set of tumblers cycle the lock. The door slid aside and she walked inside her apartment.

She tapped a control and soft lighting illuminated a comfortable apartment that was decorated in simplicity, despite the polished wood floors, marble counters beneath a high ceiling and expensive drapes over the large windows. She had lived there for the past five years, several floors below the corporate offices of Holden Pharmaceutical.

Samantha walked across the room and opened the drapes, revealing a dizzying vista of nighttime city lights far below. She was mentally tired, having been out all day to several local Holden Pharmacies with an audit inspection team, and then the meeting with Merlin and his partner over dinner, only to have her request to join their crew practically thrown back in her face. Afterward, she agreed to a follow them out to the Alucara Spaceport to see the freighter they were preparing for their new business for a tour. Then she spent over an hour entreating them to accept her application in exchange for a new computer system for the ship without which they wouldn't be able to operate.

When that didn't work, she even offered to buy the ship from them, have its systems upgraded, and then put them on it as its captain and crew to make deliveries for her father's company. If the Blue Horizon belonged to Holden Pharmaceutical, the board of directors would be more likely to give her less trouble with the thought of her going along with them.

That idea was shot down almost as soon as it had left her lips. Merlin didn't want to work for another company, plain and simple. It had been his plan to be his own boss, with others working for him.

"A working, healthy computer is just as important to the operation of a starship as its engines," Samantha had told them both. "I can serve as your ship's computer technician; you already know I'm qualified. Let me go with you!"

It seemed the harder she tried, the more resistance she faced, but then Merlin surprised her. With his and Jiro's resolve worn down to practically nothing due to their desperate need of a new computer, he told her that he would accept her offer, but only if she could fulfill one obligation.

"Name it!" she had said. "Whatever it is, I'll do it!"

"I do not want you to ignore your duties — neither do I want an heiress on the run; I've seen that movie too," the wolf had replied with a tired smirk. "I want you to talk to Master Tristan about your wishes. If he then contacts me to give his blessing, then I will accept your application as a member of my crew."

That condition was a blow to her enthusiasm. She knew there would be even stronger opposition from her Silloni master. Although she was an adult and no longer fell under the legal authority of her adopted parents, she still respected them and often sought out their wisdom. Samantha Holden possessed a strong will, but she would never be able to strong-arm Master Tristan into giving his blessing — not that she really wanted to.

Merlin knew her well enough to know that no matter what she offered or how much she pleaded with him, the real negotiation would have to be with her Master. She stopped and actually smiled at herself. To anyone else who listened in to her thoughts, they might think she was a slave to someone on Quet, an ecologically devastated planet where slavery was legal, but on Sillon, Master was an expression of utmost respect. Tristan didn't own her as property, even though he had adopted her into his family, but as a former regent and a surrogate father figure, she respected his opinion above all others.

It was he that she would have to convince that joining the wolf's crew was the right thing to do for her, and she knew it would probably be the most difficult task she had ever been set to do.

Samantha sighed audibly. She loved Merlin in many different ways, but he was not going to make this easy for her. What made it worse is that she knew he was right. If she was going to abandon her current lifestyle for a career out among the stars, she'd better do it in such a manner to retain her close family ties. She had to have their support.

The Border collie tapped her Com unit to life and called up the Holden receptionist desk, which was staffed around the clock to handle incoming calls from other time zones and the other worlds of the Planetary Alignment.

"You have reached the Alexandrian headquarters of Holden Pharmaceutical; how may I direct your call?" answered the voice-only response.

Samantha recognized the perky tones of a receptionist she knew well. "Good evening, Riana," she said.

"Good evening, Miss Holden. How may I be of assistance?"

"I need you to arrange an encrypted tachyon communication with the Dragon Loft on Sillon, please. I need to speak with Master Tristan."

"Yes, Miss.  I will buzz you when the connection has been established."

"Thank you."  Samantha disconnected the line and walked to her kitchen. She opened her refrigerated cooler, pulled out a bottle of sparkling water and took it back with her to the plush chair before her Com terminal. She set the unopened bottle on the desk and then sat down to await the connection. She rubbed her weary eyes, knowing that she probably should have waited until the following day to attempt this particular conversation with Master Tristan, when both she and her brain were more rested, but she didn't want to put this off. She harbored a likely irrational fear that Merlin would be resourceful, find a way to replace the computer system on his own, get his crew and ship stocked, and then be off out into space before she could find a way to convince Tristan to let her go. She had little time to waste.

Samantha closed her eyes and rested her head back against the seat. Arranging an interplanetary communication could take time, depending upon stellar interference and orbital positions.

A melodious tone startled her and the Border collie opened her eyes in a flash. She glanced at the clock as she reached for the terminal, noting in surprise that a half hour had passed since leaning back in her chair.

"Yes?" she asked after tapping a control.

"I have the connection you wanted, Miss Holden," replied the perky voice. "Local time on Sillon at the Dragon Loft is eight sixty-three in the morning."

"Thank you, Riana. Let me thumb in."

"Yes, ma'am."

Samantha pressed her thumb to a biometric scanner pad on the corner of her desk. There was a brief pause and then the video screen came to life, thanks to instantaneous transmission of tachyon communication. A tiny gold star occupied a spot in the lower right corner of the screen, denoting an encrypted and secure channel. Once she'd thumbed in, not even Riana could eavesdrop.

Filling the screen was the gentle face of a black equine male with a pearly spiraled horn protruding from the forehead above large brown eyes. The Silloni wore a local style slate-grey suit over a broad frame, but the individual appeared relaxed and casual.

Sillon was an oceanless world, the most distant member of the Planetary Alignment, and because its primary inhabitants resembled mythical creatures of legend, a touch of whimsy by their original genetic engineers, the Silloni were usually treated with either respect or awe by the other worlds. While their cultures and technologies were often considered alien, the unicorn-like people were no more or less advanced than those of the other PA worlds. They had their good points and bad, the innocent and the corrupt, but the terrain of their planet boasted the most beautiful and luxurious landscapes; despite the three-month journey at fastest LightDrive speeds to get there, it was often visited as the ultimate vacation spot in the galaxy.

There were two planets within the Goldilocks Zone of the Mytha star system, each of them having developed their own unique cultures, but only Sillon had joined the Planetary Alignment and actively taught its peoples the Standard language. While the distant world was governed by a monarchy, the indigenous population didn't use surnames to account for their sense of person and personality. Tristan didn't need a family name to distinguish himself among his people, although the title of Master had been bestowed upon him out of respect.

 "Good Morning, Daughter," the unicorn said in the rich tones of an accented voice. "I am pleased to start my day with you!"

Despite the mental and physical weariness, Samantha gave him a loving smile. "Good morning, Master," she replied cordially, "Although it is late at night where I am, practically tomorrow morning, in fact."

A look of concern crossed the equine face. "To call me at such an hour is not like you, unless your reason is important. You sound and appear as if you are in great need of rest. I am happy you called, but let us get down to business and resolve your problem so you may get some sleep."

Samantha nodded and reached for her bottle of water, her mouth having suddenly gone dry. The container had sweated as it had warmed on the table, leaving a wet ring, but the drink was still cool on her throat. Tristan waited patiently for her to gather her thoughts.

Knowing she could put it off no longer, Samantha began speaking, telling him everything. 

* * * 

"No, absolutely not. Your father would have never approved of such a venture."

"Master, I loved my father and respected him, but he can no longer make decisions for me. This is something I have decided for myself."

"This is not a decision you can make!" the former regent said firmly. "Derek Holden invested everything in his business and his family. He was successful with his business. Are you to tell me, young one, that he failed with his family?"

Samantha's eyes flashed, but she did her best to hold herself in check in front of one whom she respected greatly.  "I am not a failure, Master, nor would my father think so; it pains me to think that you do," she said in an even tone. There was sudden look of surprise in the Silloni's eyes, but she continued before he had a chance to reply. "I am self-sufficient and reliable in everything I set myself to, but I want a richer life than simply sitting in an office signing papers for decisions I wasn't even consulted for. My skills are underutilized, no matter whose daughter I am. I have more to offer than a bloodline and family name. Despite my lofty position, I have been unable to talk the board into letting me use my skills within my father's company where they would matter, and perhaps, make a difference. I want to live, and I want challenges, but I can't say that I'm doing either right now."

Tristan peered out of the connection at her for a moment. "Let me talk to the board," he said with a nod of his head. "Perhaps I can persuade them to set you up to lead whatever department within the company you prefer so that you may be more beneficial to all."

Samantha shook her head. "My requests have fallen on deaf ears and rejected for far too long," she replied. "If you force them to place me in a computer lab now, they will do so grudgingly. No, it's time I moved on to do what I want to do."

"You are the heir of Derek Holden…"

"…which means I am nothing more than a figurehead," the Border collie retorted. "I may be near the top of the so-called corporate ladder, but I'm more restricted than someone who merely works in the mail room! Sure, I can afford to eat well and dress nice, but what does it matter if I am not happy? I would rather have my mother and father back and live a simple life than have all the credits in the galaxy!"

The black unicorn shook his head in frustration. It had been a while since he had to deal with a rebellious family member.  "Mister Sinclair missed his calling," he said. "If he was able to so completely convince you to abandon your duties to join him on a common freighter, he should have been a politician."

"Merlin didn't convince me of anything, so leave him out of it!" Samantha exclaimed. "He was against the idea from the start, for the same reasons you are!"

"Then he is smarter than I gave him credit for," said former regent. "You should listen to him, just as you should listen to me. The daughter of Holden Pharmaceutical does not belong on an interstellar cargo hauler. She belongs where she can be safe."

"Master," the canine said, trying to keep a growl out of her voice, "Holden Pharmaceutical will run just as efficiently without me warming one of its seats. You have overseen the interests of the company as specified in my father's will since he died, working through Mr. Willamette, who has represented us both at board meetings. You two were doing this when I was going to the University and you still work together to keep operations running smoothly. You don't need me to sign paperwork — that job was created just to give me something to do within the company simply because of my name. Let me go, please."

Tristan rubbed his eyes wearily. "How do you think the media will react if they find out you are running away from—"

"I am not running away! I simply want to do what I want to do — for once!"

"You know that is not possible. If you will only think this through—"

"Everyone thinks I am the 'media darling'," Samantha interrupted yet again in frustration. "If the media wants to make something of it, don't tell them I am quitting and joining the circus. Let them think I've decided to spend some of that money I'm sitting on and have gone traveling around the Planetary Alignment!  I will stop in at every Holden Pharmacy I am near and put in an appearance for public relations' sake, if you want."

Tristan held up a hand. "For the sake of argument, if you were to go and to use that as your cover story, what would keep you safe from those who would try to apprehend you and ransom you to us for millions? With public knowledge that the Holden heiress is out there for the taking, someone would be following your every move."

For the first time since the conversation began, Samantha smiled. It wasn't a wide grin, but the smile reached her eyes and the corners of her mouth curled up in amusement. "With years of Silloni martial arts training, I think I can hold my own in a fight," she replied calmly. "You saw to that yourself."

Tristan nodded. "This is true, but what of your friend, Mister Sinclair?"

"He can take care of himself. He was a Dennieran combat pilot and he also happens to be a Grand Master fencer. Additionally, his partner, Jiro Brannon, is also a military veteran."

"It appears you have plenty of appropriate responses to my concerns, but I still do not think you are aware of what you could cause by going on such a venture."

"I am aware that the media has never been right about me," Samantha scoffed. "They think I'm a spoiled little rich girl who always gets her way. The last time I got my way was when you agreed to send me back to Alexandrius for my education, and that was only because you agreed with my reasons. Yes, Sillon has great universities of its own, but to take my place in my father's business, I needed an Alexandrian education. Despite that, neither my name nor my money has let me have my own way; it has been more of a hindrance than a benefit in most cases. I can afford all the material possessions I could ever want, but what I want, no one will let me have. My father's company is worth billions of credits across the Planetary Alignment, yet I have no power. I'm nothing more than a high-paid office clerk!"

Tristan stared at her for another long moment. He had never been aware of these feelings she had apparently harbored inside for years, and he suddenly felt regret that she had been forced to live so strict an existence. The young canine woman he faced across the light years was strained with disappointment and fatigue, and she appeared as if she might slide out of her seat at any moment. Part of that appearance might be due to the late hour at her location, but he could see the deep-seated pain and frustration in her sad brown eyes. He swallowed unconsciously, finally nodding.

"What of your friend, Mister Sinclair?" he asked in a solemn voice. "You said that he was against you joining him and his partner in their fledgling business."

The Border collie rubbed her eyes and then looked back at him wearily. "He agrees that my skills would be greatly beneficial to his crew and the operation of his ship, but he refuses to even consider my application for employment unless I have your blessing to go." Moisture rimmed her eyes as she leaned closer to the tiny camera that broadcasted her encrypted image across space to her distant adopted father. "Master," she said in a small voice, "he needs someone with my skills, and I need to be able to use them. He is my dear friend, but more than that, he can provide me with a means to be happy in my life."

"Daughter, could you can be happy living on a vessel such as a cargo hauler? Each voyage you undertake will last weeks out into deep space where there will be no help but what you take along with you in the event of trouble. Even if you were attacked by freighter pirates and made a successful distress call to the Spatial Police Force, it would be unlikely they could be of any assistance in the time you would need them. Upon a freighter, your scenery won't change, and unlike the cruise liners you have traveled upon in the past, there will be no distractions of entertainment to keep you occupied in the long weeks between worlds. You may be friends with Sinclair and his partner now, but there will be no place to hide away from any of them when tempers flare. Even though you will likely enjoy your visits to each world and country where you land, you will have to endure the manual labor of loading and unloading your own vessel before you can enjoy such rewards. Is this the life you envy?"

"I agree that it won't be all flowers and perfume," Samantha answered with a nod, "but I will have a purpose, which is worth more than a lifetime supply of expensive clothing and shoes in my apartment closet. Master… I really want this. More than I have wanted anything else in my life."

The Silloni equine fell silent and closed his eyes, his hands clasped before him on the polished wooden desk beneath his elbows. Without looking at her, he asked, "Besides Sinclair, how many of his associates know who you are and what your heritage is?"

"Just him and his partner, Jiro Brannon."

"Are there any of your own peers who are aware of your recent association with Mister Sinclair and his vessel?"

"I've not bothered to tell anyone," Samantha answered, curious to this current line of questioning. "Truthfully, I have no close friends here in Alucara to confide in. I believe everyone is afraid of getting in close to the heiress."

"In this instance, I believe that is for the best. All right, Daughter. I will give you one year. That should be sufficient to allow you time to travel the Planetary Alignment and experience the life of a blue collar worker. Tell no one of the Blue Horizon. The initial cover story is that you will be returning to Sillon immediately at my insistence. The voyage takes three months in one direction, and you will be staying six months once you are here for family business. This should negate the possibility of constant stalkers while you are away. Following the expected three-month return voyage, you will show up back at the Holden corporate headquarters in Alucara, Alexandrius, ready to return to your duties. Would this be satisfactory?"

Samantha smiled and felt moisture from her eyes leak into her cheek fur. "Yes, Master.  I am sure that a year out in space will satisfy my thirst for adventure. When I do return, though, could you please arrange for me to utilize my skills within the company? If I return to a desk and pen to blindly sign memorandums, it won't take me long to become dissatisfied again."

"I promise to work on the board of directors to that end while you are away. It might be best if you travel under an assumed name and try to avoid places where your facial pattern may be recognized. Do not draw attention to yourself and stay away from the media. I will arrange to make sure you have continued access to your private funds. Even if you will be living amid lower-income folk, it does not mean you need to be creditless among them."

"Thank you, Master. You have no idea how much this all means to me." Samantha wiped the tears from her eyes and added, "I really want this. I was determined to go, but I wouldn't have done so without your blessing."

Tristan returned her smile. "You are more like your father than you know," he said. "While I still do not think he would approve, Derek himself was as stubborn as you are. Once he set his mind to something, it was practically set in stone that he would do it. It was such a mindset that drove him to heal Laura's illness when it seemed all hope was lost. However determined you may be, I am honored that you would come to me first before acting upon your plans. It would have divided the family otherwise."

"My family means a great deal to me," the Border collie replied, "whether they be of blood or by adoption."

The Silloni unicorn's expression became uncertain again. "I fear that the more difficult task is still to come," he said.

"Facing the board of directors?"

"No, daughter — telling Guinevere, and your siblings of your plans. As it was with my initial reaction, they will not be pleased, and it will be up to me to convince them to cover for your story. The board of directors must never suspect. Should they find out, there will be severe repercussions."

"Do I have to choose a completely new name?" the canine asked after a moment. "It may be difficult to respond to anyone talking to me if they call me something other than Samantha."

Tristan shook his head with an amused smile. "As long as you stay out of the public eye, you can probably get by with just a different surname. I doubt the general public knows what you even look like, but if you meet up with anyone who inquires about your appearance, play it down as simple coincidence. There are, after all, many Border collies with similar markings. Admit no knowledge of the Holden name. In fact, if you are in need of any medication while you are out, it might be best if you do not even visit one of your father's stores. Go to a competitor. That would further throw off anyone who might be suspicious."

"That would be a good idea until I used my identification when making a purchase."

The unicorn looked thoughtful. "How long until your friend launches his ship?"

"Two weeks, at least," Samantha replied. "Neither Merlin nor Jiro were aware their flight computer needed to be replaced, so that will have to be done before they can take off. They don't even have a full crew yet."

"That will work to your favor," Tristan replied. "That will give me time to have my people establish an identity for you complete with a working background. I will arrange for instant transfers of whatever funds you need into a new account for that identity.  As soon as you have chosen a new name, let me know and I will set this into motion."

"Chase. Sam Chase," she said immediately.

"That was quick. How did you arrive at this name?"

Samantha smiled. "That was the surname of the first boy I kissed in grade school, about a year before I came to live with you." 

Tristan chuckled, shaking his head. "All right, then, Ms. Chase. I will get on it immediately."

"Thank you, Master," Samantha said once again. "However, I am so tired that I am about to go to sleep here in this chair. I will talk to Merlin tomorrow about our plans."

"Yes, it is time you rested. Give me Sinclair's contact number and I will tell him myself that you have my blessing," the unicorn said. "I will make sure he understands the gravity of the situation and is clear on what he is taking on by accepting. He and his partner will need to maintain the deception of the Chase persona for this endeavor to be successful."

"Good idea," the Border collie replied with a barely-repressed yawn. She gave him the Blue Horizon's registry calling code and then they bid goodbye to one another.

After the call disconnected, Samantha shut out the lights and padded softly toward the bedroom. Despite the late hour, she would clean up with a hot shower before sliding between the cool sheets of her bed. 

* * * 

Merlin Sinclair walked in through the door of the bridge on the Blue Horizon. The day had been long and partially frustrating. He'd enjoyed the movie he and Jiro had gone to see, as well as the dinner with Samantha, but her request to join his crew had been completely unexpected and had caused an evening of stress. Although he enjoyed seeing her again, he didn't want to dig up old feelings for her only to abandon them once more when it came time to launch his freighter. As the heiress to a billion-credit corporation that spanned just about every world of the Planetary Alignment, the notion of her coming along was unrealistic.

Unfortunately, she was tenacious and was successful in wearing down his resolve. In almost a panicked, last ditch effort to dissuade her from insane notions, he had appealed to her sense of respect for the one that had raised her. It was absurd to believe she had an iota of a chance to talk Master Tristan into letting her join the Blue Horizon on its voyages. He regretted setting the canine woman onto the equine dignitary, but felt it was for the best.

He went around to the various control systems to shut things down for the night. Without the engines running, there was no need to drain the system batteries any more than necessary for their daily cleanup operations.

As he reached the communication console, a chirp sounded from the board. Sitting down wearily in the seat before the station, he picked up a headset microphone and placed it around the back of his head, a tiny speaker near his right ear and the boom mike around near his lips.

"This is the SS Blue Horizon, PA registry twelve sixty-one," he said into the voice-only system after tapping a control. "What can I help you with?"

A rich, accented voice answered, "This is Tristan of Sillon. May I speak with Mister Sinclair, please?"

"Good evening, Master Tristan," the wolf replied, now fully alert. "I am Merlin Sinclair. We met here in Alucara a few years ago."

"Good evening, sir. I apologize for contacting you at such an hour, but I must speak with you on behalf of my daughter, Samantha."

"Yes, sir. I have been expecting to hear from you, and I must apologize in return for sending her to you."

"Captain, I know you have been an acquaintance of my daughter's for many years, and I am sure she is rather fond of you, but I must make known my disapproval concerning your encouragement of her current wishes."

"Encouragement?" Merlin repeated incredulously. "Sir, I assure you that I did everything I could to discourage her!"

"Yet you promised her a place among your crew if she was able to get my approval. With such a pledge, she stopped at nothing when she entreated me with her desires. She besieged me relentlessly!"

"Yes, sir, that is exactly what she did with me earlier tonight. By sending her to you, it was my hope that she would have no chance at swaying you, and then the matter would be dropped. I am sorry you had to endure her barrage, but I am thankful that she was unable to wear you down as she did with me."

There was a long pause and Merlin suddenly felt a flutter in his stomach. He opened his mouth to speak, but then Tristan finally responded.

"Captain, I— uh…. I regret to inform you that neither of us was successful."

"What…? What do you mean?"

It was Tristan's turn to feel embarrassed. "Cap…. Merlin, son— I was unable to dissuade Samantha from her wishes. Although it is against my better judgment, I am granting my blessing for this endeavor."

Merlin swallowed, hard. "Uh, sir…" he began, "with all due respect to who you are and what you have done with your life and the responsibilities to your world, I know you have been in tighter arguments with political adversaries that were never able to sway you from your stand. How in the name of the Great Maker did Samantha get past your defenses?"

There was another long hesitation before the former regent of Sillon responded. "She got through me in the same manner as I assume she did through you – straight through the heart."

"Sir, you know that a freighter is no place for the heiress of a billion-credit corporation!"

"Yes, I am well aware of this, and so does she, yet she is still determined to go. Despite my efforts to forbid her to do this, she found a way to twist my resolve. And now that she knows she has won over me, she will hold you to your word to let her go along."

Merlin surprised the Silloni unicorn by chuckling. "Sir, I understand that she has no real power conducting business within her father's own company. Why is this?" he asked. "As easily as she turned us both on our ears, she should be running the show in her father's place!"

"It is possible she would be an effective leader over the company," Tristan agreed, "but then again, no one on the board of directors would be swayed by her tactics; none of them have hearts."

"With her tenacity," the wolf countered, "I think she could probably be a ruthless CEO."

"I must agree with you.  Perhaps in time, she will come to the conclusion herself and make a bid for control over her family interests, but at least for the next year, we should give her enough lead to get the wanderlust out of her system."

Merlin tilted his head. "The next year?" he repeated. "I don't understand the reference."

"Ah yes, Captain. As with most heated negotiations, there must be concessions on both sides. In exchange for the opportunity to go along with this madness, she agreed that she would return to Alucara in one year's time. This should prove plenty of time for her to miss her current lifestyle, although I suspect she might even wish to return after only a few weeks in your profession."

Merlin nodded in understanding, although he knew the unicorn couldn't see it. "I begin to see where this is going, although I still don't know how she's going to get the board of directors to agree.  Even so, there are bound to be stalkers once the media knows she is out on the town, so to speak."

"Precisely what I brought up in my conversation with her. However, I believe we may have a workable solution to keep stalkers and further related complications to a minimum."

Merlin listened with rapt attention for the next fifteen minutes as Tristan outlined the plan in succinct detail. It would be up to him and Jiro to maintain secrecy surrounding Samantha's true identity, and although the real words of a threat were never spoken, Merlin got the implied impression that he would be held personally responsible if anything disastrous befell the daughter of Derek Holden.

He and Tristan hammered out a few more details and then their conversation finally wound down. Merlin's voice had faltered from sheer fatigue, and the former regent recognized his exhaustion.

"Merlin," Tristan said at last, using the captain's personal name for the first time in the wolf's memory, "I place my trust in you concerning the welfare of my adopted daughter. I know the two of you had a relationship in the past, and I am sure part of that is what is driving Samantha's heart, so as one who raised her as one of my own family, I ask that you take great care of her. She need not be treated as royalty, nor as the heir to a corporation, but simply make sure she is safe from harm. Please."

"Sir, I plan to fulfill this obligation to my utmost ability," the wolf replied. "It is true that she and I dated for a while, but that was some time ago. I think we are both different people now than we were back then; I'm not sure that flame will ever be reignited, but I still care enough about her to make sure she returns safely to her duties in the agreed one-year period… if not sooner."

"Thank you, son. I will rest easier knowing she is in your capable hands, even if I know her own hands are quite capable. Once again, I apologize for contacting you on this so late in the evening there, but you should go now and rest. From what Samantha has told me, you still have much to do before your vessel is ready for launch. My people should have her false identity engineered with a plausible working background within a few days, but you should start using it immediately."

"Yes, sir.  I will contact you promptly if anything untoward happens in the meantime.  Good day to you, sir."

"Good night, Captain."

NEXT CHAPTER

Unless otherwise noted, all material © Ted R. Blasingame. All rights reserved.