Science Fiction

Spooky Action at a Distance

By

This book will launch on Mar 6, 2020. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒
Synopsis

Lieutenant Naiche Decker has finally found a home aboard the UDC starship, Lovelace. With the Eternals war behind her, she’s looking forward to life as an explorer rather than a soldier. But her latest adventure – exploring a quantum entanglement – proves to be the most dangerous mission she's ever faced. Aiding her in this quest are her friends, CO Con Kennedy, and canine companion Kayatennae – as well as a remarkable Quantum Drive ship that links directly into its pilot’s brain. Complicating matters are an arrogant rival pilot and a race of mysterious aliens whose intentions are as murky as the waters they live in. Naiche will need all her strength, cunning, and skill to rise above these challenges and rescue her stranded comrades before they're lost forever.

The Space Between

“There is fiction in the space between

The lines on your page of memories...

There is fiction in the space between

You and me” – Tracy Chapman, Telling Stories


"I hope you know what you're doing," Con said, as the view screen showed them speeding towards a thicket of jagged crimson rock spires in Centauria’s Kādivi Valley.

"There's a first time for everything," Deck answered while adeptly weaving in and out of the obstacles at a blistering pace.

“Is there a good reason you need to be going this fast?”

“The best reason of all – I’m trying to break the record for this course.”

With a skeptical glance at the power indicator, Con admonished, “Really hard to beat anything when you run out of fuel. And you still have the Devil’s Eye to get through.”

“You worry too much; those indicators always leave a little in reserve.” She tapped the transdermal ship link on her forehead. “Besides, she’s telling me she wants to make it.”

“Uh...the ship actually talks to you through that thing?”

“Oh yeah, we are as one.”

Kennedy looked at the Blue-Heeler lounging in-between them on the floor. “Kayatennae, you may have a rival for best-friend status.”

“Don’t be silly; nothing could replace Kay. Besides he’s not my dog; he’s a—”

“—Corpsman, third class, yes, I know.” Con gripped the panel, warning, “Watch out for that—”

“I see it,” Deck said, deftly steering the ship under the stone outcropping. “I knew about it long before you did.”

“Because the ship told you?”

“Yes.”

“I’m not sure I like the idea of putting my life in the hands of a Nav-unit.”

Sailing through a canyon just above a raging orange river, with barely a meter to spare on either side, Deck countered, “It doesn’t work that way. Your life is still in my hands.”

“Oh, much better!”

Minutes later Decker was skimming through the long, narrow tunnel, known colloquially as the Devil’s Eye. With both daylight and the course record in sight, she assiduously ignored the low fuel warning the ship was giving her. Suddenly all the lights on the control panel went out and the cockpit went dark. She exclaimed, “Son of a bitch!” and then looked at Con, lamenting, “Not good.”

“Does this mean that—”

“Yeah, we’re fucked.”

A booming voice echoed in the cockpit. “Who’s in here?”

Deck relaxed slightly upon hearing the question. “Maybe not so fucked after all.” She stripped off the transdermal link and hopped out of the pilot’s seat, smiling broadly at the imposing figure of Commander Pika Kelekolio. “Sir, good to see you. It’s been much too long.” Her smile faded as she recognized Lt. Commander Talako Jacoway at his elbow.

Deck nodded at him. “Commander Jacoway.”

Jacoway sighed and snapped, “I might have known it was you.”

In the meantime, Kelekolio had advanced into the Astronautics Lab and engulfed Decker’s proffered hand in both of his huge ones. “Naiche Decker! You haven’t changed a bit.” He chuckled as he thumped her on the back, saying, “Not in any way. If you wanted some time on the simulators, Deck, all you had to do was ask.”

“Not on the QNS-beta simulator, Commander,” Jacoway said. “I would never have given such permission. Which is why I’m assuming Lieutenant Decker has been breaking in—”

“I didn’t break in!” She grinned at Kelekolio, explaining, “You haven’t changed the code since I was a cadet, sir. It’s still your grandmother’s birthday.”

“I’ll be damned,” Pika proclaimed, his tattooed face alight with glee. “You remembered that?” He said to Jacoway, “I’m sure Deck did your simulator no harm, Tal. No need to make a global case out of this, is there?”

“It needs to be reported to her commanding officer, at the very least.”

“Consider it done,” Con announced, as he emerged from the simulator, accompanied by Kay. He nodded at the group. “Lieutenant Commander Conroy Kennedy, at your service.”

“I see,” Jacoway said. “Then perhaps you’d be so good as to give me the name of your—”

“Commander Nils Lindstrom. His IM designation is—”

“I’ll look him up.”

Kelekolio stepped in between them saying, “I don’t believe we’ve met before, Kennedy.”

“No, sir, we haven’t,” Con replied. “I opted out of Flight as a cadet.”

“You did all right without it though. I’ve heard plenty about your exploits on the Lovelace.” Kelekolio leaned down to give Kayatennae a pat on the head. “And his....” He looked at Decker confirming, “This is Lovelace’s famous Search and Rescue dog?”

“He is indeed.”

Kennedy said, “I finally get to thank you for gracing my Tactical-Front squad with one of the best Micro-craft pilots ever.”

“You were Deck’s CO at the front, too?” Kelekolio winked at Decker, while saying to Con, “I’m not sure if I’m more envious of your luck or your endurance.”

His dark brown eyes alight with mirth, Kennedy answered, “I think a combination of the two is the most appropriate reaction, Commander.”

“Well, I wish I had time to buy you a beer and hear the stories, but I’ve gotta be going. Got some student exercises to program.” He turned to Jacoway who had been visibly fuming during that genial exchange. “It’s up to you, Tal, if you wanta report a coupla war heroes for a bit of harmless fun.” He strode away, directing, “Lock up before you leave.”

“I will, sir. Though I strongly suggest changing the entrance code!” Jacoway called after him. He faced Naiche and Con in silence for a moment before scoffing at her, “Still using sex and your surname to get by in the UDC, huh, Decker? And I hear daddy’s now running interference for you, too.”

“That was simply Commander Kelekolio displaying his usual comradery and good humor.” Naiche tried to resist tacking on a personal observation, but she didn’t try hard enough to remain silent. “Though seeing how completely lacking you are in both of those, I’m not surprised you didn’t recognize them.”

“Are you forgetting I’m your superior officer, Lieutenant?”

“No, sir. That’s the only reason you’re still standing after that ‘sex and surname’ crack.”

Jacoway appeared indifferent to the implied threat, but his response dripped with disdain. “Is physical violence your answer for everything?”

“It has always served me well. Especially at the front. But I know prima-donna fighter pilots never had to learn anything about that.”

Tal’s hands balled up at his sides and he seemed to be struggling for a reply. At last, he crossed his arms and observed coldly, “Your late mother would be so proud of your self-proclaimed bellicosity.”

Naiche felt Con stiffen beside her and surreptitiously nudged his shoulder with hers to let him know it was okay. She knew Jacoway was aching for her to lose it, for an excuse to report this infraction without looking small-minded. She instinctively gripped the moonstone locket around her neck with her right hand. One deep breath, then another enabled her to reply with relative calm, “Yeah, maybe I’m not a diplomat like my mother, but she’d still take comfort in knowing I never resorted to a low blow.”

Jacoway opened his mouth and then closed it, finally drawing himself up to his full height – which was barely an inch taller than Decker – to say, “I believe you know the way out. Now would be a great time to use it.”

When they were clear of the Astronautics Center, Con asked, “What Jacoway was insinuating back there about you and Kelekolio.... You two were...involved?”

“Yeah, in my fourth year. Well after I was done with Flight basics,” she assured him. “A brief but memorable liaison.”

“Uh-huh. And what’s the deal with Jacoway?”

“He’s just some asshole I had a couple of Astro-nav classes with. We didn’t…umm…we butted heads. A lot.”

“Oh no, he’s not another secret relative of yours, is he?”

“No! Yuck, why would you even say that? You thought he was Chiricahua?”

“No. Now I just automatically assume you’re related to anyone you have a long-standing and mysterious beef with.”

“You met the man – do you really think me having a problem with him is mysterious?”

“I still wanta hear the whole story.” When Deck didn’t respond, Con insisted, “Now.”

“Okay,” she sighed, “the whole story’s kind of long and convoluted, but I can give you the bottom line upfront.” Naiche headed over to a low stone wall surrounding one of the many gardens dotting the Uniterrae Defense Corps Academy campus. She parked herself on it, cross-legged. Con followed and sat next to her, stretching out his long legs. Deck glanced around before explaining, “Jacoway’s people are part of the One Nation Consortium—”

“Isn’t it the One Nation Collective?”

“Yeah, whatever.” Naiche drew a deep breath and then continued, “He claimed my band of Chiricahua are isolationists—”

“Well, in a manner of speaking—”

“We are independent! There’s a difference.”

“That’s it? That’s the whole problem between you two?”

“Isolationist was one of the least patronizing things he said about my people. He claimed that our ways are archaic...and that we’re dying out. So, one day I showed up at an off-campus talk he was giving to some local Ndee about the Consort— Collective, talking about how First Peoples are better off as one, extolling everything that his band of Choctaw had gotten from being part of it.”

“And?”

“And I asked him a question. ‘Do you speak Choctaw?’”

“Doesn’t seem so bad.”

“Well....” Deck drawled, with a slight smirk. “It was probably the way I asked it. ‘Chahta imanumpa ish anumpola hinla ho?’”

“Let me guess – that’s Choctaw?” When she nodded Con asked, “Did he know what you asked?”

“Nope.” Naiche snickered as she explained, “He said he didn’t speak Chiricahua. I had to enlighten him to the fact that he couldn’t even recognize his own language – let alone speak it.”

“Deck, you humiliated him – in public.”

“No, I made a point! That the Collective is a farce – if you’re everything: Navajo, Cherokee, Choctaw, Osage, Paiute – then, you’re nothing!” She added, more calmly, “Humiliating him was merely a bonus.”

“Remind me never to get on your bad side.”

“When it comes to you, I don’t have a bad side.”

Kennedy smiled at her assurance and ventured, “Let me take another wild stab here. That one course record you’re so determined to beat? Does Jacoway hold it?”

“Yep. No one else has even come close. And every freakin’ time I try—”

“You flame out?”

“Yep. But I’m getting closer. I just need some more time on that damn simulator.”

“Tell me you’re not gonna try again. No, let me make that an order. You are not going to try again.”

“Don’t worry – I couldn’t even if I wanted to. Knowing I was at it, he’ll lock it up tighter than his own ass.”

“Will he guess what you were up to?”

“He will if he looks at the data.”

“And how ticked off will that make him? Enough to rat us out to Lindstrom?”

“I don’t know.” Naiche rocked her head slowly from side to side as she considered the question. “Could go either way. I’m sure he doesn’t wanta look petty, but he’d love making trouble for me.”

“Wait, was he one of the fighter pilots you and Ato were jawing with that one time? In that bar on Neruda?”

“Yeah, he was one of them.”

“Didn’t it almost come to blows?”

“Almost...but then they backed down.” With a short laugh, Deck elaborated, “Peacocks not being big on hand-to-hand combat.”

“Just great,” Con groaned.

“Oh, what’re you worried about? If he turns us in, you’ll get three minutes of tsk-tsking from Lindstrom while I’ll get three days of scolding from Ricci.” Her tone switched to a sing-song mimicry of her father. “‘We’ve talked about this, Naiche. I’m disappointed in you, Naiche. I expect better from you, Naiche.’” She ran her hand through her long brown hair and mused, “Maybe it would be better if I just told him myself.”

Kennedy cocked his head, stating, “But Jacoway might not say anything. You think it’s worth the risk?”

“If I can catch Ricci in a really good mood, it might be.”

“You ever replace his grappa?”

Decker winced slightly. “Not yet.” When Con shook his head in exasperation, she explained, “That stuff is expensive!”

“No shit! Probably why he was so pissed.”

After a moment’s reflection, Deck exclaimed, “Hey! He’s seeing Stein tonight. I’ll tell him tomorrow morning.”

“I’m not following you. Why tomorrow morning?”

Because he’s guaranteed to be in a good mood. Sex puts everyone in a good mood.”

“Yeah, but what if they’re just having dinner or something?”

“You’re hilarious.”

“What?”

“He doesn’t hang out with Admiral Ball-buster for her pleasant company.”

Con laughed, retorting, “For your sake, I hope you’re right about this.”

“Yeah, me too.”

***

Early the next morning and fresh from their run, Decker and Kay bounded into the quarters she shared with her father, Captain Matteo Ricci. She saw Ricci standing at the galley kitchen’s counter, pouring a cup of coffee.

“Hey, Pop, I’m glad you’re up. There’s something I wanted to talk...to...you....” Naiche trailed off as she realized that Ricci was wearing the same clothing that he’d left in the night before. “You’re just getting in?”

“Yes.” Ricci slid stiffly onto one of the navy-leather stools and hunched over his coffee. “And good morning to you, too.”

“Yeah, sorry, good morning.” She entered the kitchen and started scooping dog food into Kay’s bowl. As she placed the bowl in front of the dog she confirmed, “You spent the whole night with Stein?” There was no way to disguise the surprise in her query.

He looked slightly annoyed at the question. “Yes, I spent the night at Admiral Stein’s place. Is that a problem?”

“No, it’s just kind of...unusual. Isn’t it?”

“I suppose it is.”

As she helped herself to some coffee, Naiche ventured, “Bet there’s a story there.”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“Are you gonna share it?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Because you’re my father or because you’re my captain?”

“Yes.”

Naiche rolled her eyes and got a container of leftover chili out of the fridge. She could feel Ricci watching her as she stuck it in the auto-cooker and got a box of crackers out of the cabinet.

“Is that what you’re having for breakfast?”

“Yeah, you want some?”

Grimacing at the suggestion, Matt declared, “No, thanks.”

“Well, there’s not much else to eat. We didn’t get a food delivery this week.”

Ricci exhaled and swiped a hand across his forehead. “Oh, I guess our renewals ran out.” He raised his eyebrows at Naiche.

“Hey, don’t look at me. I’m just a boarder here. That’s not my name on the on the front door.”

“Well, Boarder, how about earning your keep by placing a request for immediate delivery?”

“Sure thing.” Decker pulled out her hand-held computer and started entering the order.

“Get three days’ worth.”

With deceptive nonchalance, she ventured, “Three days, huh? Guess you’re expecting us to ship out soon?”

“Pretty soon.”

“Which means this mysterious mission of ours—”

“Stop fishing. You’ll hear all about our mission when it’s fully approved. Then, and only then.”

Naiche heaved a dramatic sigh, but, recognizing the futility of further digging, she changed the subject. “You want me to have Mess send over a hot breakfast for you while I’m at it?”

“That’d be great. Get me my usual. A spinach—”

“—and provolone frittata with fried potatoes. I know.”

Ricci downed his remaining coffee and asked, “Now, what’d you want to talk to me about?”

“What?”

“When you came in, you said there was something you wanted to talk to me about.”

“Oh yeah...that. It’s nothing important. It can wait until you’ve....” Had a mood enhancer, she privately supplied. “Eaten.”

“Okay, then, I’m gonna grab a shower. Have Mess deliver that frittata in twenty.”

“Will do.”

Before Ricci made it down the short hallway to the bathroom, Decker heard his hand-held buzz and held her breath, hoping it wasn’t a message from Lindstrom. When he strode back into the living room and addressed the AI unit on the wall, “VICI, arrange a meeting with Commander Lindstrom in my office, 1000 hours,” her heart sank. She braced for the onslaught of a blistering lecture but Ricci continued, “And then set up a Lovelace senior staff meeting, in the adjacent conference room, for 1030 hours.”

“Geeze, that’s kinda over-kill, isn’t it?”

“What’s that mean?” He stared at her a second before clarifying, “I just got a message from Fleet Admiral Bindroo. Our mission orders have been approved.”

“Oh!” Deck quickly tried to hide her extreme relief. “Awesome. Now, can I have the details?”

With a sage smile and a shake of his head, Ricci turned back to the VICI unit. “Ensure that Commander Charani is available to meet with us at 1030.”

“What does Zache have to do with our mission?”

“You’ll be fully briefed at 1030 hours, with the rest of the senior staff.”

“You’re no fun,” she groused as Ricci headed back towards his shower.

He tossed back, “That’s definitely NOT what she said.”

“Oh – that you can tell me!"

About the author

Felicia started writing stories as soon as they handed her a pencil in first grade. She’s especially drawn to character driven tales, where we see people we recognize, people who struggle with their mistakes and shortcomings, acknowledge them, and use that knowledge to grow into wiser human beings. view profile

Published on March 03, 2020

Published by D X Varos

60000 words

Genre: Science Fiction

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