Chapter Sixteen: Fearless Leader

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"Is that your final judgment sir?"

Damian stood at the bridge of the ship, eyes fixated on on a swirling hoard of holograms. He closely examined the map in front of him, a sprawling layout of the entire sector. He quietly grabbed a chunk of blue light representing a small fleet, squeezing the shape between glowing fingertips and dragging it across the map. He repeated the motion two more times before pulling his hand back and pinching his chin.

"Captain?"

Damian didn't turn around. "Yes, this option should provide us ample support even if the enemy provides reinforcements. Send these plans to the council for further consideration.

A mousy ensign appeared in his peripherals. With a sweeping motion, a copy of the large hologram was made and shortly after condensed into a cube the size of his hand. With a salute, the ensign left, leaving Damian alone to gaze at the map.

A few minutes passed, the dull hum of the ship's engine filling the silent vacuum of space around him.

The announcement bell dinged. "Captain Ryker!" a voice came from above. "You have a meeting request from the Fleet Admiral. Please report to your private quarters for your call."

Damian wasted no time leaving the bridge and heading towards the captain's quarters. He passed a couple shipmen on the way, nodding singularly to each one as they saluted him. No matter how many times he insisted to not salute the captain during casual daily interactions, so many of the crewmen couldn't seem to grasp the concept. The sound of uniform boots echoed against the chrome hallways.

It didn't take long for him to reach his quarters. The door slid open to him as he entered and headed straight toward his study. He didn't even bother turning additional lights on.

Once he reached his desk, he tapped in his personal code onto the keypad. A holographic screen appeared, hovering about a foot over the desk. Shortly after, a three-dimensional bust appeared in full color. Fleet Admiral Jaxon was a square faced individual with jowls like a bulldog. His eyes were stern, but he didn't seem to be here for reprimanding today.

"Admiral," Damian saluted rather casually, "to what do I owe the pleasure of this call?"

The fleet admiral's expression remained unchanged. "Captain Ryker, you and I both know this is not the time for small talk."

The captain released his salute. "I like to think of it more as exchanging etiquette, but I see your point. Are you calling in regards to the plans my crew sent over?"

"I have."

Damian paused, but the admiral didn't answer. "And?"

"And I think it's reckless, absurd, and unconventional. But the rest of the council is enamored by it."

"Uh, thank you, sir?"

"These plans will be taken into great consideration in our final hours of staging. The council has been continuously impressed by your strategic abilities and mental fortitude, Captain Ryker. You have exhibited real prowess during your short time as leader of the SS A.N. Josefa."

The compliment caught him off guard, especially coming from Admiral Jaxon. "Oh. Thank you, sir."

"However."

That part didn't surprise him as much.

"I am the one calling you today because I am concerned that you do not realize the magnitude of this upcoming battle."

"If I may interject, sir, if you are suggesting that I am using the lives of Treatise citizens as mere cannon fodder for the sake of the mission, I take personal offense to that. I assure you as I take the lives of my crew very seriously, I make an effort to do the same with the crews of other ships as well."

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