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First pages

Chapter One

“I’ve got it, Tech Sergeant. Thank you, anyway.”

Lieutenant Princess Brielle Sinclair turned down the fourth offer of help with a sigh. Aware that her new assignment was intended to introduce the formerly all-male crew of Servicemen to the capabilities of women, especially in positions of command, she shouldered her custom-made duffel and cycled through the airlock of Shuttle Bay 5 while the other recently assigned crewmen were still sorting theirs.

Her squared-off duffel was too heavy for her to jog, but she gripped the straps and leaned forward enough to march as if in training. After forty meters to the lift to Deck Three, she trudged through the gently curved corridor another fifty meters before reaching Berth 318.

Sweating from the effort, she wiped her hand on her pants and found her cabin door already programmed to her palm. Two men were sitting on the bunks, but they rose at her entrance. One she recognized. “Vasileyev? From boot camp?”

The blond man began to bow, but at Brielle’s negative hand gesture, he tugged his bangs as if tipping a hat, instead. “Good to see you, Sinclair.” He gestured to the wavy brown-haired lieutenant. “This is Dave Troxler, your new bunkie. He asked around to see if anyone knew you, so I’ve been filling him in.” He moved to sit on the other bunk as her new bunkmate scooted to one side.

She nodded toward him. “Nice to meet you.”

Her momentum from turning enabled her to sling the duffel off her left arm and onto the bunk with her right. She hooked her boot under a handle to open one drawer beneath it. After unzipping the duffel into two halves of 80 x 40 x 100 centimeters, she checked for the access panels and lowered one half into the drawer, where it fitted precisely. She deposited the other half into the second drawer.

She swung into her bunk and drew the standard computer, on the end of an armature, from its place flush with the wall. Once she keyed a message to her parents, she forwarded the new details of her assignment to the Imperial Palace, to be sent to her cousins Alea and Devon, wherever their ships would be.

After replacing the computer in its cubby, Brielle examined the other accoutrements in her bunk aboard the newest Galaxy-class cruiser that her father and uncles had redesigned for the Service of the Empire of Sinclair Demesnes. Everything in the recesses was just like the technical vids Father had shown her: emergency water and ration cubes, zero-G belts, and the long EVA suit’s cabinet and emergency O2 tanks above her, waiting for her personal suit.

Legs still on the bunk, she leaned over to open a drawer beneath her, unzipped that half of her duffel, and drew out a fresh uniform, underwear, and her toiletries kit. Five paces across from the entry was their personal refresher unit, and she had its door open before realizing the other lieutenants had been silent the entire time.

She paused to regard her new bunkmate. “Just ignore me if you’re uncomfortable. I’m not here for anyone’s purpose but my own and the Service’s.”

Vasileyev nodded, but Troxler still looked uneasy, so she entered the ‘fresher and firmly shut the door.

After throwing her clothes in the sonic scrubber, she contemplated her shoulder-length, dark blonde waves, wondering whether she should get them shorn in a typical military burr for this new assignment. Since that would display her special nav headset implants, one behind and just above each ear, it might be good to show everyone she was a cyborg right off. If they needed to know, they would ask about it. She took a shower and pinned her hair up.

Troxler was reading on his bunk when she exited the refresher and stashed her now-clean uniform, but he put his palm pad down immediately. “You aren’t gonna leave girl things lying around, are you?”

“Not where you should find them, no.” She glanced at the clock above the door. “I should report to the captain. If you’re not here when I get back, I’ll message you my schedule.” He seemed to parse that, although he gave no acknowledgment, so Brielle left.

As soon as she entered the bridge, her heart fluttered to see the wide window and viewscreens above six station chairs. Two paces in, she glanced at all the other stations around an area twelve times more spacious than her previous flight deck. It thrilled her to know she was an heiress to this miracle of design efficiency.

She approached the conn to salute Commodore Lord Duane Redgrave, captain of the Royal Python and a distant relative of her stepmother. “Lieutenant Sinclair, reporting for duty, sir.” She ignored the sudden stares of everyone around the deck.

“At ease.” Hand to his chin, the captain regarded her warmly. “I’m sorry about your grandmother.”

“Thank you, sir. I’m sorry they delayed your new personnel over my attendance at her funeral.”

“We just got back ourselves. Shall we talk in my ready room?” He gestured to a small door off the bridge and escorted her there.

Brielle refused the seat and stood at parade rest throughout his lecture, which included several pointed comments on the sex codes, established when she and Alea had qualified for the Service five years ago. Her cousin, Emperor Matthieu, had devised them to emphasize the professionalism of Service warships. They only really consisted of one guideline, discretion, and one rule, non-fraternization within one’s particular command.

Captain Redgrave, however, had expanded upon them. “In particular, I don’t want any men dragging after you and moping because you don’t love them like they love you, or some such nonsense,” he grated with finality.

“Not to worry, sir. None of my partners have ever mentioned our encounters outside the bedroom. Also note: I said bedroom, not bunkroom. I don’t bed anyone while on board the ship.”

Captain Redgrave tried to stare her down, but she had on her ‘neutral gaze’ face. He finally turned to his computer, described her schedule, and sent it to her computer code.

When she asked about the other navigators, he briefed her at length. Three of the eight were Royal, probably the ones with whom he had attended Grandmother’s funeral. “Remember, five are specialists, and they’ve had six months on the Royal Python, so be sure to follow any suggestions they make.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” She wondered why he had morphed from professional back to personable; perhaps it was because she had refused a seat, but showed she would give him no problems.

Instead of dismissing her, he regarded her a moment longer. “Lieutenant, I’d like to speak off the record. Would you care to have a seat, now?”

Blinking in surprise, Brielle finally nodded and seated herself, wondering what he could possibly have on his mind. “Yes, sir?”

“I would like to know why you have a navigation headset, and particularly one that needs implants.”

“I’ve been hypersensitive to ships that use or carry radionuclides moving through wormholes since I was thirteen. Grandmother and my cousin, Grace Sinclair-D’Angelo, worked with former wormhole navigators and the Imperial Science Institute to devise the implants in an attempt to minimize my suffering. But they made me even more sensitive on a subtle, subconscious level such that I can feel my way through wormholes.

“Although I doubt anyone not wearing a headset will notice, I can navigate through a wormhole quite efficiently, multiplying the energy skimmed into the power matrices. I was assigned to the Python specifically to improve its energy performance, now that Sinclair Enterprises has six months of data on the new engine designs.”

“To what end?” He put his hand to his chin again, head tilted in thought.

Brielle’s eyes widened. “You are asking why saving time and energy is important?”

“Basically, yes. If a system is working at 95% efficiency, why strive for 100%?”

She chuckled. “Well, relying on the computer is more like 70% to my 100%, but as I said, if you aren’t wearing a headset or watching the data, you probably wouldn’t notice. I can perceive and act intuitively, instead of crunching through all possible candidate solutions like a computer.”

Brooding, she admitted, “My last assignment was a courier vessel, and the other two pilots didn’t seem to care. I wonder if I’ll get any responses of envy from the others on board?”

“Not if I can help it. Still, I don’t understand why you were given implants.” Frowning, he seemed determined to know, so she laid it on the line.

“To distract me, and to keep me sane and productive.” As all his attention riveted upon her, she tried to keep her description as short, and voice as level, as possible.

“After five years of marginally-effective treatments for severe reactions to those radioactive ship transits through wormholes, I had my ovaries removed when I was seventeen, well before I qualified for the Service. It was a devastating decision, and the Imperial Palace physicians have been fertilizing the eggs they get for optimal cryogenic storage, but I threw myself into Service training just to avoid thinking about it.

“Having them removed halved my physical reactions, and the implants halved them again. Since the implants were derived from the old wormhole jump headsets in the first place, it seemed natural to make them work for a newly designed headset. Grandmother always said if something doesn’t work on three or more levels, it’s almost not worth doing.” Her eyes stung briefly with unshed tears that she hastily blinked back.

Captain Redgrave must have noticed, for he gentled his voice. “Can you describe these reactions you still have?”

“I understand things at a subconscious level that most people don’t. I can’t always verbalize them right off, but when I do, I can usually tell where they came from. For example, I might look at a ship and feel uncomfortable about it, and blurt out an hour later that it needs a stress test on the entire hull, which usually leads to discovery of metal fatigue in some critical part or panel.”

“Are you saying you have psychic powers?” The captain appeared to be holding back laughter.

“No, sir.” She contemplated him a moment longer. “Grandmother’s stargate science is based on wave forms different from electromagnetic waves. These waves get warped through matter, which is how the stargate scientists mitigated the Grossman nuclear meltdown in 624.

“I’m particularly sensitive to them, especially when I’m wearing my headset, and I even helped them with that mitigation effort, since I was able to tell them when a certain radioactive element had completely decayed. Even to this day, I can sit in orbit above a planet and tell where their major nuclear weapons plants and storage depots are; I just don’t lose my stomach over radioactive interference anymore.

“Because these waves are everywhere, I’m learning to understand how things feel. I can tell if a person is ill, because their illness warps these waves in certain ways. And since my ovaries have been removed, I don’t have the hormones and the emotional reactions they cause. As a result, if I suffer any emotional extremes, I know it’s something affecting my ability, and try to figure out what.”

“Ah. Remarkably useful, that.” He eyed her with great interest, now. “How do you inform others of what you discover?”

“I usually phrase it neutrally as, ‘I wonder if...?’ or some such. I did have a code with Captain Olivier, if you would care to use it. ‘The Family line’, implying I might have news of secret developments only Imperial Family insiders would know. If you want me to consider a situation, just ask if I have heard anything recently about it on the Family line.”

“Very good.” His eyes wrinkled above his smile as he clearly stifled a laugh. “I just had an unfavorable metaphor snap into my mind.”

“Please, don’t tell me about setting your bloodhound on a trail.”

His jaw dropped before the laughter burst forth. “I thought you just said you weren’t psychic.”

“I’m not, but my family really laid it on thick with the jokes for a few years. Though they stopped when I got neutered.”

She realized that was the first time she had ever said that word aloud in reference to herself, and without an emotional reaction. Perhaps she was healed, six years later.

Captain Redgrave’s laughter had disappeared; now he gazed at her with solemn pity. “I’m sorry for your plight.”

She shrugged. “It isn’t too bad. Since there are much higher cryo-revival success rates with fertilized zygotes than with ova, the physicians just keep track of the contributors they use, out of habit, I suppose.

“I figure I’ll have children via gestation chamber someday, with plenty of embryos left over if other Imperials have problems. What matters is my Service, and there I can offer my best.”

“Indeed. I recommend you tour the ship until 15:00, which will leave you plenty of time to sleep for your watch at 25:00.” He rose and held out his hand.

Brielle took it. “Aye, sir. Thank you, sir.”

◊◊◊

Brielle’s first stop on her unscheduled, unresearched tour was Deck Six, the Supply Deck. She browsed the commissary while practicing her memorization skills, noting the small, non-standard porn section in her passing scan of the aisles. A few men moved back toward it after she had passed, though several positioned themselves to stare at her as she completed her circuit of the store.

She got that haircut from the junior barber, who had trained on-planet; he convinced her to try a snazzy wedge hairstyle as a few enlisted men stared and murmured to each other. Her new style looked almost like a buzz, though the top was longer than usual, flopping gently toward the side and over her forehead.

The barber had been careful when shaving around her visible implants, asking what they were for. “Sorry, Imperial secret.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” At his stunned look, she reassured him and asked about his hours, and he finished the haircut while gabbling how he would look up beautiful styles that would cover the implants yet provide fast access. She thanked him and left, passing a dozen men now loitering around the tiny, open barbershop, hoping they would all spread the word that her implants were not to be mentioned.

She finally found the gym, sensibly tucked alongside the medical commands, and stared longingly at the weight training equipment. But it was almost 13:00, so she should really have lunch instead before checking to see if her helmet and space suit had been unpacked from the supply shuttle yet.

Pulling herself up an emergency tube for four decks to the Captain’s Wardroom sufficed for a minimal upper-body workout; she jogged the rest of the distance for some cardio training. Lined up along the corridor with the other lieutenants awaiting permission to enter the wardroom, she nodded politely to her neighbors, who wordlessly eyed each other.

As Captain Redgrave passed by with his executive officer, Commander Stanley, he paused upon seeing her in line. “Would you care to join me, Your Highness?”

It took her all of three seconds to think this through. “Captain, I would, but I don’t think singling me out for special treatment will help me with my fellows. I’d be more than pleased to be treated as a regular junior officer.” She saluted, he nodded, and they entered the wardroom. Instead of ignoring the endless stares, she stared back at one neighbor and then the next, eyebrow cocked in defiance.

At the second table, Brielle ate with her usual elegance, while some of the lieutenants ribbed some of the new ensigns about their table manners. One ensign cracked, “It’s not like I’d ever be invited to the High Table.”

“You’d be surprised,” Brielle responded absently before taking another bite. Silently cursing herself for butting into the conversation, especially with the need to explain her comment, she let the tension build as she finished eating it. “There’s no telling who might get invited to a private dinner with the Imperial Family, though I admit state dinners tend to have civilized guests.”

“Tend to?” The lieutenant sitting diagonal to her had the name Gottlieb, S. across his tunic’s front pocket; she wondered whether he was High or Low Royal, how distant a relative to her, and how many other Royals were on the ship besides the captain and three of the pilots.

“Yes. State dinners often celebrate people who have attracted Imperial attention for their contributions to our society. Granted, the officers are exquisitely polite, but when the Agricultural Institute Innovation Awards feature Southeast Continent farmers known for embracing biodiversity, the invitees can get pretty excitable. If they excel at farming, you can’t expect them to excel at social graces or table manners, too.”

Relieved to hear their mild chuckles, she resolved to keep quiet unless asked a question. That happened during dessert, as the nearest ensign asked, “Why did you choose the Service, Your Highness?”

“Why did you?” She dug into her ice cream as the entire table quieted down. Another spoonful later, she amplified her remark, since they all seemed to expect it.

“As the interface between the Empire and the galaxy, the entire Imperial Family represents service. I don’t think there’s a single deadbeat among us; we’ve all chosen careers, mostly in service to the Empire, the Family, or our people.

“I joined the Service for a lot of reasons, but primarily because I want to know my Service matters. My stepmother Leah was a teacher for several years and always said the most difficult part of the job was in not knowing how effective she was, as in whether her students used what she taught to better their lives. Whereas I know my flight skills matter at every moment of every trip, as well as merely sitting in orbit.

“And when your cousin is also your Emperor, who was also a pilot in the Service and takes a very personal interest in your flight skills? Well, I can flat guarantee you, I don’t make any mistakes, because being taken down by Matthieu over a miniscule error is like being flayed alive.”

She flashed a wry grin and earned more chuckles, hoping that would generate sufficient sympathy in them, instead of her being a castrata cyborg.

◊◊◊

Brielle wrestled her extra-vehicular activity suit into its recessed overhead cabinet, which had a small outer ledge to wedge each quarter before buckling the straps to hold it in. One touch of the recessed emergency button would make the panel drop; a swipe of the finger against four smooth buttons would release the buckles, dropping each segment like a caterpillar.

She finally attached the ship’s O2 hoses to the suit’s tanks. Built into the back of the shoulders, they gave the suit a hulking appearance, as if all Servicemen were muscled like bodybuilders.

Troxler came in just as she settled her EVA helmet over her navigation headset and mask. He sat on his bunk and watched her run quick checks of all the controls.

As she began fitting everything back into her emergency cupboard, she casually remarked, “You keep staring at me like I’m some kind of exotic animal or something. I assure you, I’m a regular person, as normal a mix of confidence and insecurity and weirdness as anyone.” She snapped the final panel in place before turning to sit on the bunk, facing him squarely.

Troxler’s uncomfortable gaze turned bitter. “I don’t want to be your bunkmate.”

“Take it up with the XO. Do you want my schedule now?”

Taken aback at her abrupt dismissal, he nodded and reached for his palm pad. As she described her 3rd watch duties, five days on and two off, he set the palm pad aside. “That’s the same as my schedule, although I have a minus-two-hour offset and have Day 2 and 3 off, instead.”

Brielle glanced at the clock. “Since it’s 14:37, I suppose we should get in a sleep shift.”

Opening one drawer, she drew off her tunic, leaving her in a standard-issue camo tank top. She left the drawer open, laying the tunic out ready-to-hand on top of her duffel, then took off her boots and set them ready to step into in seconds. She lay back against the pillow, drew her arms across her midriff, closed her eyes, and sighed.

When she realized she hadn’t heard any movement from Troxler, she turned her head to regard him, still sitting in the center of his bunk. He radiated anxiety, which she felt as a thick tickle in her abdomen. “I swear to you, I’ve seen a man and couldn’t care less what you look like. If the fellows ask about me, just tell them I am all business and want to be treated like a regular guy.”

Once she nestled her head in her pillow again and drew one arm across her eyes with another sigh, she heard him undress and turn out his lights. Unconcerned with his anxieties and greatly anticipating her watch, she was asleep in another minute.

◊◊◊

Troxler woke her up, banging around in the refresher before he showered. Since his watch began two hours before hers, Brielle rolled to the side and tried to get back to sleep.

Once he left, she decided she had better set a regular alarm. After reading and messaging Father and Alea back, she secured her new computer account on the Python with a few hacking tricks Aunt Denise specialized in, especially an alarm that would blink a small icon instead of blaring a sound when someone tried to hack her database. Satisfied, she put her computer away, dressed for midnight watch, and headed to the wardroom.

Rations for the midnight watch consisted of a crock keeping the meat warm, with an assembly of fruits, breads, and salad fixings. She made up a huge salad, carefully apportioned the meat, and selected an apple and a pear for dessert before sitting with three other lieutenants, none of whom she had met yet. “This actually makes for a better breakfast than breakfast rations,” she commented offhand, earning a few snorts.

“Yeah, when I’m in a hurry, I’ve been known to eat emergency ration cubes. And regretted it. My name’s John.” Gentryman nodded in her direction as Marc Lennox and Jorge Valdez introduced themselves to her.

Brielle asked immediately about their assignments, listened carefully, and asked further detailed questions.

“But, why are you so interested in all this?” Jorge asked near the end of the meal.

“If something dire were to happen on my watch, the captain would probably be asleep, and the deck officer might not know who he could draw upon to help. As a pilot, I would be in a position to contact you if the situation didn’t call for general quarters.”

Marc’s forehead crimped in confusion. “Wouldn’t that be the duty of the comm officer?”

Brielle’s breath caught in a hitch before she gave a bark of laughter. “I’ve been thinking in terms of my courier assignment, where I was the only pilot on my watch and ran the comm, too.” The men laughed. “Thanks for the reminder. I can see this assignment will be loads different.”

“Yeah, especially the politics of working with all the egos,” John murmured, eyeing her closely. “I don’t know if you’ll have it better, or worse, being Imperial.”

Nodding acceptance of that datum, and happy he felt comfortable enough to say it in the first place, Brielle bid her fellows a good day as Valdez headed to Ops, Lennox to Sick Bay, and Gentryman to Engineering. She patted her tunic pocket to check for her headset, a sleek silver affair that ran from implant to implant and magnetically engaged a hidden port recessed in her skull under the scalp on the underside of her occipital bone.

The doors opened to a dimmer bridge and Commander Beau Hartford, the 3rd officer, in the captain’s chair. After glancing at the fresh weapons officer near the lift, standing over and getting briefed by the two on the watch, Brielle reported to Hartford at the conn.

He was doing his best to either be ingratiating or pick her up, but she maintained a professional demeanor and offered him no clues as to his success. He dismissed her, and she hastened to meet the two pilots, intent on their consoles. “Sinclair, reporting for duty.”

Commodore Lord George Lynx, a gruff, grizzled man in his mid-fifties, welcomed her with a bare nod. The younger pilot quickly slapped and tapped a few data displays, faintly outlined in blue light, before virtually jumping up and handing his seat off to her. “No problems this run. Welcome aboard, Sinclair.”

She thought she detected immense relief, as if he had been working under extreme duress. “Thank you,” she glanced at his stripes and nametag, “Lieutenant Commander Killian.” The man didn’t race off the bridge, but he didn’t fool around, either.

She slid into the seat, signed in, then removed and settled her headset into her cyborg terminals before turning to the commodore, her new C.O. “My first assignment was shuttling equipment to Marabelle for six months, and my previous one was piloting the SDC-26 for two and a half years, so any orientation you can give me would be very welcome.”

She must have said exactly the right thing. With a fake grin and glittering eyes, Commodore Lynx, quite possibly the oldest man aboard ship and who ranked with the captain, proceeded to lecture her over the maneuverability of the Python as if she were in her first training cycles. Since any graduate of the Imperial Protocol Academy had been thoroughly schooled at listening politely, she let the words register in her conscious mind as she checked readouts and let her subconscious mind bathe in the soothing ocean of those mysterious stelluric wormhole waves, amplified by her headset.

Commodore Lynx abruptly asked, “What is the headset for?”

“It amplifies and enhances my skills. After gathering data on it for three years, Grandmother decided the Service should offer headset implants to all new pilots, to have more data on this new headset design.”

His arrogant frown backed an admirable sneer. “What, are we not performing our duties adequately?”

“You are, indeed. But ships haven’t needed separate norm-space and wormhole navigators for thirty years or so, since the stargate scientists published their textbook and the computers took over. Whereas these implants make swimming through a wormhole ultimately efficient, and the gains registered in the energy plants can’t be ignored.

“There are suggestions of less wear-and-tear on the craft overall, though Father and Stefan would prefer a greater sampling, naturally. I wouldn’t be surprised if Engineering didn’t get the additional command to archive their entire database after every jump for however many years I’m aboard. Which will probably be two years, after which I’ll see service on a ship of every class, I’m sure.”

Since she had alternated between checking the ship’s cruising data, logging emergent data for calculating escape routes on the side, and looking him straight in the eye, she hoped she had minimized the swaggering one-upmanship of mentioning various Imperial Family members and their critical scientific goals for the Service as a whole. By Lynx’s current bitter expression, he would rather be taking her down in some egoic pissing contest, flaunting his expertise and her ignorance.

To offer him at least that much strutting, she asked about the staggered duty schedules he had assigned the pilots. Commodore Lynx had put a lot of thought into his small, elite command, with the four most experienced pilots’ watches overlapping the five of lesser experience.

In addition, the senior pilot officers had one day off for every four, whereas the juniors had five on and two off, with the combination of pilots only repeating every twenty-eight days. Each pilot had a primary watch, but their first day back on duty would be an early watch. With twelve days of seven pilots and four days of eight, the supernumerary pilots were assigned to shuttle duty and maintenance when they weren’t needed to cover a senior pilot’s extra day or two of liberty.

Commodore Lynx decided, “Set up the jump from Rendel to New Rome. I want to verify your expertise and efficiency claims.”

“Certainly, sir.”

As she set up the permissions, calculated the mass and energy requirements, consulted with other pilots over their gravitic slipstreams, checked the positions of ships fore and aft, and maneuvered into the wormhole’s flight corridor, she exulted at immersing herself in her duties and the wormhole energies, grateful the commodore didn’t dislodge her from that buoyant sea of joy with speech. The jump point station team briefly hailed them, checking the Python off its list, and Brielle guided the ship into the wormhole.

She had never experienced the chaotic whites, grays, and blacks that the training vids had shown. For her, wormhole energies were a bright array of colors, streaming in elegant weaves. With reds the heaviest gravity loads, to be avoided at all cost, she always followed the violet rays for the sleekest, most efficient route, darting among the ever-changing wormhole events like an otter cavorting down a water slide.

She was humming softly to the not-quite-music of the energy fields when they exited the wormhole and got a verbal check from the jump point beacon team on this side. “Roger,” she replied crisply before cuing off her microphone by tapping the headset above her right implant.

She glanced over her station for the beacon switch, but remembered she didn’t have ship communications duties anymore, so she turned to the commodore. “How do you notify Comm to release any messages?”

Commodore Lynx turned his head and spoke to one of the men manning stations along the back wall. “Good to go.” A man acknowledged him, and he turned back to Brielle with a wry smile.

“Thank you,” she said immediately, wondering why he was smiling, though it was at least a genuine smile this time. “Since you seem keen on evaluating me, shall I continue?”

At his nod, she turned to the 3rd officer. “Destination?”

“Feren, then Marcelle. We’ll be investigating an incident between Marcelle IV and the Beryl Brooch.” He regarded her absently and returned to working on his palm pad.

Brielle turned back and evaluated the airspace while calculating the energy requirements to get to the wormhole to Feren. She set her bearings, took a mere 3.8 minutes to dive 22.53˚ askew -44.824 and accelerate from the standard wormhole velocity of point 15 cee to point 45 cee, then notified the Ferenese jump point beacon crew of their intent to jump in the window provided 5.23 hours hence.

Once those tasks were done, she went back to calculating and documenting emergency escape routes, the ever-needed standby assignment of pilots. This was performed in the Training database, completely separate from the entirety of ship command, to keep any calculations from negatively affecting actual cruising data or settings. Instead of getting bored with three- to eight-hour stretches of coasting, it kept the pilots focused on emergent data, already documented by the computers, by making them continuously project potential crises. Documenting pre-emergency procedures, simply called pre-emps, had saved time in a crisis for many a pilot, as well as consequences in the after-action report.

If the trade fleet now breaking from New Rome orbit were to obstruct her path to the Ferenese wormhole, possibly delayed from jumping by up to an hour if the jump point team had just jumped into the Feren volume, she would dive down-and-outward 10 light-seconds and loop the wormhole. She hoped that would give them enough time to jump by then.

It would also save fuel with attitude mods instead of a reverse thrust, which would draw energy from the mains. She noted that all this was made more difficult because the Python had no joysticks and was a thousand times more massive than the SDC-26 she was used to, a ponderous monster compared to a sleek racehorse.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Eva Caye can handle a gun, tat lace, build a rocket stove, teach teenagers critical thinking, and gorge on campfire-burnt marshmallows. Always pushing for a life without limits, her motto is, 'There Is No Box'. Ability is the tenth book in the To Be Sinclair series (one is #6.5), featuring the greatest ruling family in the history of the galaxy, with two prequels in the pipeline. Eva lives with her husband and two marvelous mutts in a century-old farmhouse in Louisville, Kentucky.

Q. Why do you write?
A.
My major principles are: women are as tough as men; pure 'good' vs 'evil' is extremely rare; both science and romance are behind everything we do; and you should never give up hope because there is always a way. I like to see if I can surprise, astound, and impress myself, as well as the readers!
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
"Know thyself" and "The unexamined life is not worth living" by Socrates are the two greatest maxims ever. Brielle explores the depth of her being, and constantly thinks about self-improvement, which leads her to become 'senior officer material'. We should all have mental/spiritual/physical goals.
Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
I dedicated this book to Holly and Alex Dillman. Wounded by an IED and now paraplegic, Alex works, drives, kayaks, does bike marathons, and plans to teach his upcoming baby skydiving! Holly has been with him through thick and thin, and there's nothing they can't do when they set their minds to it.

Next in:
Romance
Harry Seven
History may repeat, but will their love?
The Secret of Everdon Manor
When there is no escaping the past...
Love Redux
A marriage on the rocks, a friend discovered.