Glory and Empire - Ch 1

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But a squadron of specialized starships had remained. Her orders did not concern them specifically, but in a general sense, they made up the bulk of the secret portion of her mission’s parameters.

“Commander Lazarus, can you confirm the trajectories of the Terran vessels?” she asked her science officer.

“Yes, ma’am,” he responded crisply. The icons indicated in red on the master plot began to grow red tails that snaked across the display, showing the courses these ships had taken in the last hour. Traci did not like what she saw.

“It looks like they’re hunting for something,” Michael said as he studied the plot as well. It was always the duty of the first officer to provide a sounding board for his captain. The fact that Michael had once been a captain of a heavy cruiser made him more aware of this role and his appreciation of it.

“I agree. But since we are cloaked, are they looking for Valdi ships?”

“I don’t think so. Their patterns are more consistent with a general sweep, not a focused pursuit of something they would have seen. If I didn’t know better, I would say someone over there has a hunch.”

Traci took in a deep, cleansing breath and looked once again at the location of the hyperspace limit for Valdi A. It lay directly in the path of the Terran sweep, and they seemed to be making sure to pass near it periodically.

“That would be unfortunate for us, since their hunch seems to involve covering our exit,” Traci said.

She leaned back in her chair and forced herself to think. Was it possible that they were looking for her? It should be impossible for them to see her ship with the cloaking device on. All of the status indicators read that her ship was completely invisible. Still, it paid to take no chances, so she was keeping the ship on a very low velocity course, far out of the way of the sweeping ships.

Even more problematic for her was the fact that she had distinguished guests aboard. It was bad enough to have the chief councilor of the Orion clans aboard. Risking his life made her very nervous, despite the fact that she had insisted he not accompany them. But he had pulled rank, and now his presence was a serious complication, especially given the nature of her orders.

The inclusion of First Space Marshal Scott Pearson aboard for this mission was another complication. He was there purely as an observer (although he might insist he was more accurately a prisoner), tasked with confirming the identity of the Terran forces they were now observing.

“There they go again,” Michael said. She looked at the plot again and verified their course changes. The Terran vessels were moving away from the hyper limit in such a way as to provide her an opportunity to escape. They had changed course enough to provide her a very small envelope of time to get there before they resumed their search pattern. The problem was she didn’t trust what that pattern meant.

“They want someone to try to slip by them,” Traci said. “They’re baiting us.”

“Maybe,” Michael said. “But one of these times, we’re going to have to try. We have no idea how many days they can keep this up, or whether or not they are going to be reinforced.”

 “Stalemate,” she said.

* * *

 “There it is again, my lord,” Captain Llewellyn said. He was monitoring a direct feed from the scouting vessel Gryphon, recently detached from Battle Squadron Thirty-eight and specifically assigned to this mission. Although it seemed ridiculous to redeploy a full battle squadron to this little backwater system, it had proven necessary after their first survey missions had ended in utter failure, with the destruction of two scout vessels and a pocket frigate.

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