059-1108, aboard Golden Dawn, in hyperspace between Kupa and Belaya
--from the personal journal of Baronet Atopia Kesslering
I miss Olivia. I’ve grown used to having my little one sleeping beside me over the past couple of years, but she’s in a temporary tutelage with His Grace, Sector Duke Wymark Gascoyne, while I run a few loads of cargo between Belaya and Kupa. I keep telling myself that it will be good for her to focus on her studies in a stable environment that affords her the opportunities to meet and socialize with children her own age. She shouldn’t only be around adults all the time. She should have time to be a child before the responsibilities of adulthood and nobility are thrust upon her.
She seemed happy enough the last time I was on Belaya – bubbling with enthusiasm about her new friends and all the wonders of the Duke’s contragravity habitat. She even seemed genuinely excited about her studies – or was that because she actually had a real, live teacher? No matter; the experience is good for her.
And here I am, still wishing she was here in this claustrophobic cabin, curled up on my arm, snoring softly in the carefree dreams of youth while I gently stroke her hair and smile.
It’s been a while since I last wrote in this journal. Life’s been busy for me and mine.
Sir Winston and I are to be married later this year. It was funny – we sat down to have a serious talk on Emperor’s Day while the Dawn was bound from Leven to Belaya, and wound up trying to propose to one another. We’ve agreed that the ceremony will happen right after the Sector Moot. Since we’re both from the Imperial Navy, we’ve decided to have a Navy Captain preside over the nuptials.
After handing over both Kitara and the ring to Imperial Naval Intelligence, I had an audience with His Grace and his wife, Her Excellency Countess Dyota Effernelli. It was at that meeting it was decided that I might have to do something about the Ine Givar activity in this subsector. That’s how Oliva wound up being in tutelage. I’m glad she’s enjoying it, at least.
When the opportunity comes up, I may be asked to take leave of Belaya on short notice and barrel straight into harm’s way. It is better that Olivia not be here when I have to make the tough decisions and do the dirty work of the Imperium. She’s seen too much blood and death already.
I spent the first couple of weeks ferrying a honeymoon couple out to Xerxes, the ringed gas giant in Belaya’s star system. Carla and Charles Howell were suitably impressed with the majesty of the cosmos and the awesome beauty of that stately giant, and were wonderful guests. The rest of their entourage was considerably less so.
Belaya is ruled by the Church of the Instruments of Divine Will, which means that all of its citizens – all 23.8 billion of them – are parishioners, bound by its doctrines and rituals. Therefore, the best man Daniel Newcomb, and maid of honor Sandra Fisher, along with a chaperoning couple – Ruth and Clint Blackwell – were required to come along on the newlyweds’ honeymoon to ensure that all of the proper ceremonies and rituals were followed at their appointed hours.
From what I understand, the marriage was a daylong event where every participant was required to engage in a ceremony of ritual purification before the main event could take place. Once the vows were exchanged, there was a lengthy post-ceremony where the families were “bonded” to one another in an additional ritual that united the families’ resolve to keep the couple’s matrimony pure.
There were no less than fifteen rituals that had to be performed to sanctify the crew, starship and cabins before the happy couple could finally board the ship. And while Ruth and Clint were polite and friendly, after three days of their gentle, nagging reminders about what needed to happen next, I was ready to toss both of them into low berths for the duration of the flight.
Meanwhile, the best man and maid of honor were about ready to pitch one another out the nearest airlock. It was fairly obvious that neither one of them particularly liked each other very much. It boiled over shortly after we hit hyperspace on the microjump that carried us out to the fringes of the star system. John and Kim walked the pair gently but firmly back to their cabins and let the rest of the group deal with them. Fortunately, I didn’t have to get involved.
The fun started in earnest on the third night of our visit to Xerxes, when Valo called me up to the bridge in the wee hours. “Distress beacon,” he said while gesturing to a display screen, “from the INS Virtuous. She dropped out of hyperspace about thirty minutes ago. Tachyon readings from her are fluctuating, so her fusion reactor’s screwed.”
“Lay in a course to rendezvous with her,” I replied as I turned to leave the bridge, “I’ll wake up the rest of the crew.”
It took over four hours to get to visual range. All attempts to raise her on the comms had failed. In desperation, I sent John outside with a laser beacon to signal them. “Got their attention,” he commented after several long minutes. “They’ve suffered burnout damage from an ion storm in hyperspace. Their sensors and comms are out and their fusion reactor regulators are out of synch. The engineering crew has suffered electrical arc injuries and they’re requesting we send them a repair crew.”
“Let them know that help is here,” I replied. “Everybody suit up and grab a toolkit.”
I’ll give Samantha credit; she knows how to keep passengers entertained. She tied into our suit video feeds and ran commentary for the entourage while we worked to repair the ailing Navy Tanker and heal the injuries of her crew. Fortunately, I hadn’t forgotten much about how Navy ships were laid out, so I helped coordinate the repair effort with the ship’s commander, Captain Clayton Molander. I had sympathy for him – this was his first command and first mission, a convoy training exercise.
I got him to focus on solving problems rather than worrying about the future and who was going to catch the blame. I took some time later on and wrote an endorsement of his decisions and lauded his actions to save both his ship and crew during and after the incident. There’s no sense having one bit of misfortune haunting a career, after all.
The rest of the convoy started dropping out of hyperspace as we were wrapping up our repairs. Admiral Sabrina Vierling was in charge of it, aboard the INS Victorious, a battlewagon displacing over forty thousand tons. It took a bit of explaining what a civilian ship was doing this far out, but things were quickly sorted out after that.
The Admiral invited us aboard by allowing Dawn into her main docking bay and then took our passengers in hand so all of my crew could get some much needed rest. Later, we all gathered for a formal dinner aboard Victorious and Sabrina really laid out a spread for us all, in honor of the newlyweds.
The rest of the trip went splendidly and we returned to Belaya aboard the battleship and received a plaque from the grateful crew of Virtuous. We also got a full round of complements from the newlyweds and their guests on an unforgettable experience.
I’ve spent the cycle since then running back and forth between Kupa and Belaya. I purchased enough speculative cargo at a discount on Belaya that I had to rent out warehouse space to hold what wouldn’t fit aboard the Dawn on one trip, and then made a killing on Kupa and brought back a hold full of cargo and made another killing back on Belaya.
When I get this current load sold, I’ll have the ship’s mortgage over 90% paid off in less than two years! I couldn’t have dreamed things could go so well! But then, I’ve been aggressive and shrewd – driven to achieve my goals by necessity and opportunity.
Still, I miss my little one when she’s not around.
Oh well, perhaps I can trouble my fiancee for a little company, tonight...