Lynda Stokes noted Aguire’s dismay on com
screen, but Paul Poluka reassured him, “Don’t worry. I’ll make some calls and
find out if there’s anything to it.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
When the call ended,
Lynda’s father turned from the dinner table and snorted, “So, if you do
nothing, that bastard Fisher may solve our problem for us.”
A flash of offense
appeared on Paul’s meaty face and Lynda muttered, “Papa! He’s Paul’s friend.”
“Of course.” G.J. Stokes continued in a more
sympathetic tone. “It was a bad joke. Nobody should get stuck under Fisher, but
really, Paul, you can see that Aguire doesn’t fit into our plans.”
“I’m not going to leave
Aguire under Fisher’s command, G.J.,” Paul said. “If he doesn’t come with us,
then I’ll see to it he gets command of the Livingston, which is what he wants
and expects anyway. But I still think Aguire should be my first officer on the
Paul was being unreasonable. He’d been in a
bad mood ever since arriving at the Stokes estate in Napa Valley and Lynda thoughtlessly
joked about how his shadow looked like a bowling pin. She’d never guessed he
could be so sensitive about the weight he’d gained since she last saw him three
years ago. He still looked good in his dress-gray uniform; still the surrogate
big brother she needed since her own brother Gentry disappeared in the Zone a
Her green eyes shifted to
her father. Has Papa changed much in the last three years? His hair was white
now, instead of salt-and-pepper, but his bright green eyes still had a gleam
that betrayed his sharp mind.
She knew she’d changed,
going from eighteen to twenty-two she finally developed some feminine curves
that she’d waited so long for—longer than other girls.
Now she realized that Paul
hadn’t said anything about how she looked, and it annoyed her.
Paul sat down at the
dinner table while her father drained the last drops from the wine bottle into
Paul’s glass, saying, “Lynda’s gone over Aguire’s records, Paul. In fact, she’s
gone over the records of thousands of officers to see who might be a threat to
us, and José Aguire got a very bad score.”
“Score?” Paul scowled.
“This isn’t a game. And how can anyone go through thousands of personnel
records? Did you just have a computer read them, Lynda, or did you actually
study any of these people?”
Lynda scooped up another
bottle of wine from the bar and gave it to Paul to open.
“Actually, I did some of
both,” she told him. “In Aguire’s case I read all his records and I agree with
the computer—he’ll never choose to commit treason against the New Federation.
Instead, he’ll have us arrested.”
“Not Aguire.” Paul fairly
shouted, then caught himself and continued more calmly. “You can’t tell
anything just from records. You’ve got to meet the man. Get to know him, like I
“You’ve got to appreciate
how serious this is, Paul,” G.J. said. “The old government was bad enough for
us to abandon everything we have on Earth, but this New Federation is worse.
This crowd can arrest you at breakfast and pass a death sentence before lunch.
Lynda and I reserve the right to veto any officers you choose for the new
“Tell me, Paul,” Lynda
said, “when you were in deep space and heard about the fall of the old
Federation, what did you do?”
“I immediately returned to
Earth to preserve the illusion of loyalty, and also because I knew we couldn’t
wait any longer. I used those five months to speak with each crewman and get a
feel for how they might accept turning renegade.”
“You talked to all of
them?” Lynda asked.
“Well, no. I already knew
some wouldn’t go along with it.”
“Did you talk to Aguire?”
Paul looked down at the
table. “No, but you need to meet him.”
“Maybe we will. Papa will
be teaching your new crew at the Academy, and I’ll be helping him.” She looked
at her father and saw he approved of where she was leading. “Tell Aguire that
it’s not certain yet what his future will be, but that he should take the
Paul nodded slowly, his
right hand touching his collar, fingering his captain’s insignia.
“Yeah. Um, in the meantime,
someone else will have to get the promotion he was expecting.”
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