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For descriptions of each episode, check out my Show Notes at the top of the page. This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real people or events is purely coincidental.

WARNING: Some of the language may be offensive, but no worse than you would expect in an R rated movie.

Special thanks to NASA for the image of the galaxy.


Chapter Two

     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.” Aguire said.

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 Hanno.”

 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 decade ago.

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 do.”

“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 ship.”

“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?” Lynda asked.

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 training anyway.”

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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