Valor at vauzlee, p.1
Valor At Vauzlee, page 1
Copyright ©1999, 2010 by Thomas J. DePrima
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This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
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Cover art by Martin J. Cannon
To contact the author, or see additional information about this and his other novels, visit:
An appendix containing technical data pertinent to this series is included at the back of this book.
* * *
I want to express my deep appreciation to L. S. for her invaluable insights and suggestions during the original creation of this novel, to Ted King for his technical expertise and encouragement, and to Michael A. Norcutt for his suggestions and proofreading, and for acting as my military advisor.
* * *
This series of Jenetta Carver novels include:
A Galaxy Unknown
Valor at Vauzlee
The Clones of Mawcett
Against All Odds
Other novels by this author include:
When The Spirit Moves You
When The Spirit Calls
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Table of Contents
* * *
~ February 20th, 2268 ~
"18,000!" Chairman Andrei Gagarin snarled loudly and viciously at the fifteen council members seated around the orotund table. The violent life of a smuggler, slaver, and drug lord had given him a permanent sneer, and he exuded a minacious presence that the most expensive suits and assiduous grooming could never completely disguise. His vitriolic delivery, expelled with the force of a solar flare, rebounded off the smooth, unadorned walls of the spacious elliptical chamber and returned to again assault the eardrums of his fellow council members. A short man, standing no more than five-foot five-inches, Gagarin was nevertheless powerfully built. His barrel chest, short, coconut brown hair, and dark beady eyes were in no small part responsible for the nickname of ‘Pit Bull,' conferred upon him by intimidated subordinates. An obvious reference to the vicious and deadly canine species on Earth, it remained unspoken by anyone who wisely placed value upon their life.
"18,000!" Gagarin reprised just as loudly and vehemently. "Do you know how long it takes to recruit 18,000 employees? Do you know how long it takes to screen them? Do you know how much it costs to train them?" With each shouted question, his anger and vocal fever pitch seemed to escalate.
The massive Raider organization, constituted through unification of a dozen independent smuggling operations more than a decade earlier and growing steadily since its inception, had just suffered its first major setback. And that reversal of fortunes had been perpetrated by, of all people, a lone ensign in the Galactic Space Command; one operating without the knowledge or involvement of her superiors.
The meeting hall where the eighty-year-old pirate was again giving voice to unremitting anger with the responsible Spacc officer was as secure as the headquarters of any nation's intelligence service. Located in the sheltered industrial complex of a legitimate business conglomerate, a combination of the most advanced electronic jamming equipment and sound-deadening building materials available made eavesdropping on conversations, celebrations, and tirades conducted within the room, impossible. Each of the council members was believed to be a respected member of the conglomerate's executive pool, and in fact they were. The Raider organization, universally accepted as the scourge of the galaxy, had long ago begun wrapping itself in a cocoon of legitimate companies to hide its activities and give it the means to easily move large concentrations of currency. It even hijacked its own shipments occasionally, but never so much that bona fide insurers became overly suspicious.
No one suspected that each of the council members was, in fact, also a key figure in the Raider hierarchy. As members of the powerful Lower Council, they spent their days planning and coordinating nefarious activities and deeds that would be perpetrated throughout the known galaxy.
"Plus," Gagarin continued, thick blue veins in his massive neck standing out like lengths of nylon cord, "fifty-four of our warships were utterly destroyed, and dozens of snared and repaired passenger liners, cargo ships, shuttles, and space tugs were reduced to so much worthless scrap. I'm not even taking into account the two warships, along with another two thousand employees, which she destroyed during ship to ship engagements, nor the two battleships that she appropriated. Most significantly, our only base in that deca-sector of space was obliterated. Obliterated, people. Now, I want to know what you intend to do about it."
"Andrei, since the base, ships, and people have been either destroyed, captured, or killed," Councilwoman Erika Overgaard said, carefully pushing aside a small lock of platinum blond hair that had slipped down over her eyes from her expensively coiffed hairdo, "there's nothing that can be done about it except write it off as a business expense. We certainly can't recover anything of value from the detritus. As you've said, the assets are gone." At sixty-four, Overgaard was one of the younger members of the council. Her area of expertise was drug manufacture and smuggling.
Gagarin stared intently at Overgaard; long enough for her to begin to squirm slightly in her impeccable ten-thousand credit two-piece business suit. Gagarin could make you feel like a small child being taken to task by an angry parent, even when you knew you were innocent of any wrongdoing. Personal warmth was a descriptive term that would never be used in the same sentence as Gagarin's name, unless it was to aver that he had none.
"I agree," Councilman Bentley Blosworth said calmly, as he stared somberly into his coffee mug. "There's nothing to be gained here. You should be concentrating on your two upcoming operations." The seventy-two-year-old finally looked up as he took a sip of the black beverage. The introverted, hirsute-challenged, little man, whose specialty was bank fraud and money laundering, didn't fear Gagarin half as much as he probably should have.
"No!" Chairman Gagarin screamed. "I'm not going to simply write this off the books. Our losses exceed a trillion credits. I want the Spacc responsible to feel our wrath."
"I, too, am of the opinion that we should simply drop this matter," Councilman Arthur Strauss said. Unlike Gagarin, Strauss had the slick, polished look of a true business executive, or perhaps even a successful politician. He was tall and handsome, with a smile that could melt the hearts of most women. At sixty-six, his
"What do we know about her, Councilman Strauss?" Gagarin demanded.
"We've only just begun to develop a file on her. Although we begin collecting information on Space Command cadets who choose to follow a career in political science or intelligence while they are still at the Academy, and for officers selected to attend the Warship Command Institute as soon as such selection is made, we normally don't begin collecting information on other command officers until they at least attain the rank of Lieutenant. And we almost never pay attention to Engineering, Economics, Science, Medical, or JAG officers until they attain the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Anything our people might have gathered at Raider-One while she was being— ‘adjusted,' is gone. We know that she's an ensign, comes from a prominent military family, and is highly intelligent. Although she consistently placed at the apex of her classes in mathematics and science, she was ranked near the bottom of her class at the Academy due to reported indecisiveness. For that reason she was judged to be totally unsuitable for command. Apparently, even their intelligence people didn't feel she was worth a recruitment effort. She received our age prolongation process while she was our slave, and a substantial DNA rewrite. Although attractive to begin with, by the time the DNA changes have finished altering her body, she'll look like a goddess, and no normal man will be able to resist her charms. We expected to reap considerable profit from offering her sexual services at one of our resorts, and if the modification process was later found to be without— side effects, we intended to administer such modification to all future acquisitions."
"Don't remind me about that fool Arneu. He should have sent copies of his research documentation to headquarters at periodic intervals. If he had, the billions we invested in developing that science wouldn't have been lost when Raider-One was destroyed."
Gagarin had been looking forward to receiving the age prolongation and recombinant DNA processes himself soon, and had been working with genetic researchers to develop a model for his new body. He would be tall and handsome, like Strauss, and his new appearance would finally make him an acceptable candidate for investiture on the Upper Council. His dream had died with the entire scientific group at Raider-One, and he couldn't let go his desire for retaliation against the individual responsible.
"Where is this woman now?" Gagarin demanded.
"Our people on Higgins tell us that Ensign Carver has been posted to an insignificant position in an obscure area of their Science Section and assigned to study recently gathered data on a globular cluster. She presents no further threat to us."
"It doesn't matter. I want you to continue your investigation. I want to know everything about her."
"How deep do you wish us to go?"
"I want to know how old she was when she cut her first tooth."
Strauss nodded. "Maximum depth then. But if you must have your pound of flesh, I suggest that you wait a while. Wait six months or a year, until the public eye is completely off this little girl, and then arrange a simple accident. I'm a firm believer in that old saying about revenge being a dish best served cold."
"Very well," Chairman Gagarin said. "I can be patient for a while since she represents no further threat. You have your six months."
"It's your idea to wait," Gagarin said. "And in six months time, I'll either be reading about the unfortunate death of one Ensign Jenetta Carver, or we'll all be reading about the untimely demise of one Arthur Stephen Strauss, Deputy-Comptroller of MedZip Electronics.
Strauss effectively masked the loathing he felt towards the man. He certainly didn't underestimate the ability of Gagarin to make good on his threats. He decided that it was time to make some arrangements of his own.
* * *
~ February 20th, 2268 ~
"It's about damn time they acknowledged what you did," Lt. Commander Gloria Sabella, first officer aboard the freighter Vordoth, said from the comfort of her spacious quarters aboard ship. The Vordoth was presently floating, sans cargo, in a parking orbit around Higgins Space Command Base, itself floating in geosynchronous orbit around the planet Vinnia. After a harrowing and nearly disastrous trip through an area of space dominated by the Raiders, the freighter's crew was enjoying a well-deserved liberty while its next cargo load was being assembled. "Especially after putting you through the hell of that ridiculous general court-martial for destroying an enemy base without permission," the thirty-two-year-old Merchant Services officer added.
"One of the best parts of my day was when I told off my supervisor in the Science Section," Lt. Commander Jenetta Alicia Carver said gleefully to the bedside com unit image of her best friend in this part of space. There was a definite twinkle in her azure eyes. "You should have seen the positively ridiculous look on her face. It was all I could do to keep a straight face."
"I can picture it. And I don't know why she's in the service to begin with if she's opposed to killing those murdering pirates. Doesn't she know that we're at war?"
"I think that her only interest is her astrophysics work, and Space Command offers the best opportunity to study in space."
"Maybe. Hey, we have to celebrate!"
"Okay, but not tonight."
"Why not tonight?"
"I have a date, sorta."
"What's a sorta date?"
"Commander Spence asked me to dinner a few days ago."
"At the mess hall?" Gloria asked jokingly.
"No-o-o; at a restaurant on the shopping concourse."
"So, stepping out with the handsome lawyer?" Gloria asked rhetorically in a teasing voice.
"Well, I have to eat dinner anyway."
"Of course you do, dear. You know that I'll want a full report afterwards?"
"Yes ma'am. Written or oral?"
"Oral will be sufficient."
"Want to go shopping tomorrow? I'll give you a full report then."
"Okay. What time?"
"I'll meet you at the shuttle dock at 1000 hours."
"I'll be there. And afterwards you'll come back here to the Vordoth for dinner and a little celebration with your friends."
"Okay, I look forward to it."
"Have a good time tonight, Jen."
"Thanks, Gloria. See you tomorrow."
Jenetta stabbed her right index finger lightly at the disconnect switch and then immediately recorded messages to her mom and dad, and each of her four brothers. She told them about her promotion, the medal awards, and about her new posting. She added that she hoped they would all be able to get together when she got back to Earth.
With her messages sent, Jenetta turned her attention to preparations for her date. As a result of the DNA manipulation performed on her by the Raiders while she was their captive, she continued to grow, and the dress uniform provided by Commander Spence for the court-martial had already been tailored twice to conform to strict SC regulations on length. Until a few months ago she'd been five-foot-four, but since then she'd grown almost two-inches. According to the doctors at the base hospital, her body was working overtime to complete the modifications programmed into her DNA by the Raider scientists. The genetic diagnosticians at the hospital lab predicted that she would eventually be just over five-foot eleven-inches tall.
Fifteen seconds in the InstaPress cabinet left the skirt and tunic of her dress uniform crisp and wrinkle free. She then excitedly attached her new insignia of rank to the epaulets, and her new command insignia to the collar. She took a step backward and smiled proudly at the gold inverted ‘V' that sat above a flame design o
After affixing the two ribbons from her medal cases onto the ribbon bar holder that she'd picked up at Central Stores on her way back to her quarters, she attached the holder to the uniform and again stepped back to admire the tunic as it hung from the hook on the closet door. "Perfect," she murmured.
With her uniform ready, the thirty-two-year-old blonde, who would for most of an extended lifetime not look a day older than twenty-one, took a leisurely bath. As she relaxed in the tub, she snacked on first an apple, then an orange, then a pear. Hunger was gnawing at her stomach and if she didn't take the edge off she'd be nibbling on the napkin or tablecloth while they waited for their food at the restaurant. Besides, a normal restaurant portion of food wouldn't sate her. The DNA changes that were modifying her body had given her the appetite of a teenager, or perhaps the combined appetite of two teenagers. She hoped that once the changes were complete, she wouldn't feel so ravenously hungry all the time.
After finishing her bath, and polishing off two more pieces of fruit, she fixed her hair and then worked on applying her makeup. The pigmentation changes programmed into her DNA were starting to make their appearance, so it took surprisingly little makeup to achieve the subdued look she desired. As time passed, it would take even less, and then none, unless she wished to either highlight some facial feature, or make her natural coloration appear more subdued. When she was satisfied, she finished getting dressed, applied a hint of fragrance, and left for the lobby in the Bachelor Officer Quarters. The chronometer on the wall opposite the elevator indicated that it was two minutes before 1900 hours.
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