Yes. I am back at work on Athena Lee book 10! I have 11 chapters in the hands of the Editors. That is 28,000 words. Right at about half the book is complete. I will roll on this and then jump back to The next Witch book. Enjoy!
The Martian Fourth Fleet was new. It was not part of the reserve fleet. They were the newest of the new in Martian shipbuilding technology. The Engineer in me could not help but rub my hands in anticipation. Each fleet in the Martian Navy took the names of one of the countries of Old Earth that settled it. It was in order of settlement. In order it was the United States, Great Britain, Italy, Australia, and finally Norway. Each successive wave of settlers brought their culture and beliefs with them. Mars was a very interesting place because of it. Fifth Fleet was still under construction but would have names based in Norse or Old Norse history or Mythology. The same could be said for the other four fleets. I had Wilson fill me in on Australia and some of its history. I wanted to respect the fleet not disregard it.
My security team almost didn’t fit inside the shuttle. I laughed as the officers and crew that were departing stared at the circus that was my entourage. To me it sounded like a the plot of a vid show or something. How to squeeze into a shuttle. Fortunately, we departed without incident.
“Do you know where we are going Athena?” Dar was looking out the one view port in the bulkhead.
“Grandmother said that Fourth Fleet had two Carriers. The Melbourne and the Sydney. Wilson told me they were named after cities in Australia. They are both ironically Colossus class. They participated in the fight against the Earth ship of the same name.They are credited with destroying the majority of the stray fighters in that conflict. We are going to the Sydney. It will be operating as the flagship of our little adventure. We have an escort of two heavy cruisers, a battleship, ten destroyers, and four squadrons of the new Martian advanced space fighter the Space Fury.”
“Who came up with that name? It sounds like it’s from a comic book.”
“Believe it or not school children. There was a contest. Wilson said it came from a historical record of one of the students. His great-great-great-great grandfather flew Sea Furies in a war against someone called the Reds.”
“Reds? Who or what are Reds? Aliens?” I started laughing at the look on Sergeant Carter’s face. I pointed at him.
“Do you believe in aliens Sergeant?” He looked down at the deck and murmured something too low to hear.
“What was that Carter?” Dar looked expectantly at him.
“Sorry, Ma’am. What I said was aliens don’t exist.”
I arched an eyebrow at the red-faced man. “Of course they don’t Sergeant. I believe you are an expert are you not?”
His head jerked up in surprise. His eyes grew wide at my smile. “I like to know who is guarding me Vince. It’s not in your records but I know about the little club you run.”
“Ma’am, I don’t know what you think…”
“Forget I mentioned it.”
I smiled and nudged Dar. She and I had been very surprised when Wilson’s minions dug up the information that the Sergeant was the leader and chief officer of Aliens Now, a website devoted to finding and communicating with little green men. Several of the other guards had surprises in their backgrounds too but Vince’s was the most otherworldly. I had looked at some of his evidence and a few things had some merit but none of the actual science checked out.
The fleet was parked in Phobos orbit near the fleet refueling depot. Our shuttle obtained clearance and approached the large carrier. As I watched two Martian Space fighters pealed off and returned to Mars. We had an escort and I didn’t even notice.
One of the pilots stuck his head inside the cargo area. “Ambassador Lee? The Captain want me to pass along the word that you will be piped over the side on the Sydney.”
I groaned. “Thank you Lieutenant…?”
“Thank you for the heads up Lieutenant Malcomes. Inform the Captain that I will be ready.”
Turning toward my entourage I shook my head. “My headache just became yours. We have until we dock to get shipshape to be piped aboard. Everyone get cleaned up and prepared. I would suggest instead of blues you go full-on combat prep. Lets give them a show shall we?”
Dar chuckled as she, like her troops, began digging into her travel cases and equipment bags. Being crammed like we were in a parts case we all managed to change without knocking each other out. Close quarters indeed.
I felt the slight bump as we exchanged weightlessness for gravity. I knew without looking that the shuttle had entered the hanger bay on the carrier. Mars had force shield technology on all their modern capital ships. I chanced a quick glance out the port and saw navy personnel in ships whites with the distinctive Martian red strip down the left side of the uniform.
Normal procedure was for a visiting Admiral to exit first followed by each rank of officer. I was not an Admiral nor was I technically Martian. I still represented Hong Kong. We would do this my way.
Dar was actually the first one piped aboard. The surprise on the Admiral and other officer’s faces was priceless. Old Navy men and women like it when tradition is followed. Too bad. Half my team debarked along with the CATTs before I stepped off to the sound of pipes. The were actual pipes, unlike the recording that the Old Imperial fleet used. The rest of my team brought up the rear.
As I stepped forward I could see some of the Admiral’s aides tense up. My protection team did look rather menacing. Dar and her six troops were dressed in their new Martian Special forces Shadow armor. They could hide almost anywhere in those outfits. Our planet didn’t have the tech yet but it was a gift. Each Marine was equipped with the latest Manderle assault rifle and carried their individual personal weapons. I was wearing one of the gowns grandmother had bought me last Noodlemass.
“Ambassador Lee, I’m Admiral Kanak. Welcome to the Sydney.”