From Ghost Fleet: book 2 of the sci-fi Home World Series
The darkness was offset by the two glistening moons as they paraded across the night sky, their light casting a shimmering cloak over the starlight behind them. Below, the charcoal colored buildings of Fleet Main absorbed the reflected light from the rare, twin full moons. Fleet Main was planted on the outskirts of Galway, the most populace city of New Caledonia. With its placement negotiated in the formative years of the Home World alliance it had become the central core for the defense of the alliance.
Admiral Duley Connor was doing his best to clean up his desk before he retired for the night, and things weren’t going well. He was the command lead for three of the nine Home World fleets, and his were the most successful. They often had the lead for the heaviest Lorilon engagements and his Third Fleet was currently in the midst of the fight. He hadn’t received transmissions from Stuart Joseph in over three days. He leaned back and tossed his pen on the desk.
“Damn him.” Duley Connor had a distinguished career running breakneck up the ranks. He flew by officers who had more experience, more connections. But they weren’t always the right connections. On his way up he learned to work the system but along the way, he’d changed. He looked out the wall of dark windows into the night, his office overlooking the central pools of the ringed courtyard. He could see his reflection framed in the windows against the dark sky. He pushed his fingers through his thinning silver hair. Those heady days of running up the ladder were gone. Somewhere along the line with the glad-handing and deal making he became more of a politician in a uniform than a leader of men.
He pushed himself away from his desk letting his tired gaze fall on the orange moon of Mourne, her rocky reflection in sharp contrast to her pale sister Gullion’s soft light. Joseph was stalling. He was sure of it.
“What the hell is he waiting for?” Connor asked himself aloud. “Because he ignored my direct order.” A sharp knock on his partially opened door grabbed his attention, pulling his thoughts back into the room.
“What is it Mairead?” Duley turned his chair slightly, angling it toward his assistant. “I thought I told you to go home hours ago. It’s almost tomorrow.”
“I just needed to get some of my own work caught up too. Sir, a communique from Third Fleet, eyes only.”
“Really!” Duley’s eyes shot up in surprise. “About damn time!” He pushed himself away from his desk and stared at the huge com panel on the wall. The bottom of the glass screen was nearly pristine in its blackness except for the single red dot that pulsed twice in three second intervals. He was standing in front of the panel moments later. He placed his hand over the bio-sensor and the unit responded immediately.
“Connor, Duley. Authorization accepted.”
“Computer, open eyes only communication. Authentication alpha 3 zeta.”
Connor listened to the brief message in its entirety, his head down, his arms crossed. His longtime friend was hard to read even in person. A long distance communique made it even more difficult. As Joseph’s words fell away Duley reached out touching the now-black panel shutting it down. He turned and walked to the dark windows and looked up again to the celestial chariots racing across the night sky. Joseph was possibly the best fleet commander in the Alliance, and his friend, but now, he had no choice.
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