Chapter 37 - Lynx

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Patricia wasn't worried. Terris had seemed a capable boy. Dawnhammer was a more than capable ship. Still, she was confused.

"So you're not human." She asked the woman.

"Not completely, no." Avis said. The small Gemini fleet held formation outside the viewport of her new command vessel. Only Avis had boarded and then, only after invoking Terris' name.

"And you build planets."

"Yes."

"And we're not in Terran space."

"No."

She leaned back, causing the old chair to creak. The Owl battle group was combat ready. The AI had seen to that. They were good at fixing things. Ships, engines, even people. Not one person had been lost under their care. They were an effective military unit and capable of everything they were tasked with. They had been a blessing.

She considered Avis. The woman was attractive. Pat wasn't known to be a woman who carried favor with unimportant concepts like style or fitness, but this woman made her self conscious of her appearance. She was speaking insanity, of course, but hadn't she said the same about Tyronden? Even now, he was drilling the pilots of her converted combat fleet. Days. It had taken the man a few days to whip them into shape, figuratively speaking. He was a natural leader and well versed in the subject of spatial superiority. And then, there were the AI. They were reluctant to divulge information, but she had heard enough.

Proximus. Haven. The Shield. Now a new Earth.

"When will he be here?" Patricia asked, resigned to the fact that there was a lot she didn't know.

"A few hours. The Prides have been disbanded and separated into three distinct fleets. You will merge your battle group with the combat wing and begin preparing to defend Earth."

"From what?"

"The Arians."

"Whose home world was destroyed. That's right. And they're coming to kill us all, are they?"

"Yes."

"If you can understand their language, why don't you broker a peace?" Pat asked critically.

"We can't get involved that way. We can't make changes, without knowing the risks. We can only act if there is no chance that our interference will cause a loss of life."

"But you're telling me to join a combat wing and defend Earth. I'll be killing in defense."

"The decision has been made. We are simply relaying information. You have two hours before Dawnhammer arrives. Have the ships in formation and hydrolocked for transit to Terran space. It was a pleasure meeting you." Avis stood and smiled a sickeningly perfect smile. As soon as she was gone, Pat called in the council. While waiting for them, she brushed her hair out and tied it back. In the mirror, she saw her years stare back. Her mouth was creased, her reddened eyes shrouded by bags and heavy lids. She needed sleep.

Not even in Terran space. She shook her head and waited.

-

The summit began as Haden had explained. The Snow Wolves, a delegation of three including Ezra, arrived at the same time as both the Wildcard leadership and the Pride commander for Shadow Cat.

Ezra was a solid and capable youth. During the ordeal in the belt he had proven a fit and uniquely gifted undercover operative. His actions saved the lives of hundreds, if not thousands. The Snow pack was divided into two groups. One, Ezra's team, would kidnap slaves and transfer them to a flight wing that would relay them to safe harbor. The team had become so efficient in their endeavors that they were seen as bloodthirsty savages even by Pride standards. The theft of 'property' was not only allowed, but encouraged. Prides put great stock in strength and Ezra's unit had shown that in excess.

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