Chapter 7

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We were fortunate the troopers did not join in the mutiny. They seemed to have the attitude that since the spacers had gotten everyone into the problem they would let the spacers deal with it. Until someone paid them and pointed them at an enemy, they didn't care. It didn't matter to them who that enemy was.

Sherman canceled all leaves and restricted everyone to their ships. Being stuck on The Battle of Kuzikos for the moment, Sherman assigned me to work with his new XO, a Fleet Sub-Commander Blaze. Together with Sherman and his other fleet officers, we contacted his ship commanders and their security officers and tried to put together a picture of the current state of the fleet.

Many crew members were demanding to be released, both from the ships and their contracts. Most owner-operator ship commanders were also prepared to walk away from the contract which they felt had already been broken. They claimed their insurance didn't cover illegal acts like trying to overthrow the Moiarchy, furthermore most of the policies were under-written by Cack companies. I contacted Phil and our fleet was in a similar position. There had been some suspicious activity among the crews, but no overt acts of mutiny.

Requesting that all disciplinary procedures be suspended, Sherman called for a fleet-wide conference. News of the mutiny had spread throughout the other fleets so all work ground to a halt as the crews of the other fleets logged into the virtual conference room as spectators.

I sat in a pod in Sherman's C&C and logged into v-space. I opened the major chat channels and set the output to text so I could monitor the response while I watched Sherman's speech.

Even Sherman's avatar looked tired and depressed as he stared down at the "floor", waiting silently while the active user count climbed. The chat channels were strangely quiet and the message logs halted as everyone waited to hear what he would say.

At last, he looked up at the audience and spoke. "I cannot tell you how disappointed I am at the way this expedition has turned out. You should know that when New Sparta exiled me, Shines Like the Sun took me in, offered me a position and even gave me ten-thousand Solarii to do with as I wanted. I could have retired to a resort world and spent my remaining days in luxury. Did I? No, I spent it on you. I formed the Consolidated Colonial Space Force and attacked the arthropods which threatened the settlers on Azul. Together, fighting for humanity, we drove the bugs from all the colonies of Nuevo Mundo.

"When Shines Like the Sun asked for my help, I brought you with me. After all he'd done for me, I was glad to help him, and I wanted you to share in that opportunity, for Shines Like the Sun is generous with his friends. But now you refuse to go any further and I face a terrible choice. Do I abandon you here to stay friends with Shines Like the Sun, or do I violate my promise to him and leave with you?"

Sherman paused and I could practically feel the tension in the crew in the absolute silence of the network. "Whether it's wise or not, I shall choose to stay with you."

The chat channels filled rapidly with excited posts.

"I would not let anyone say I led you all out into alien space only to abandon you and join the aliens," Sherman continued. "No, since you will not follow me, I'll follow you and endure whatever happens with you. Alone, I doubt I'm worth very much; together, we can still accomplish much. After all, I consider you my true home world, my family and my friends. I cannot leave you. That is a promise you can count on.

Sherman paused and took a deep breath as the chat logs scrolled past too fast to read. "At this point, I'd like to suggest we take a short break for an hour or so and let every man and woman think about where the fleet will go and what we will do. Discuss it with each other and let us re-convene so we can formally decide."

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