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War of Retribution: Soliace Campaign

War of Retribution: Soliace Campaign

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War of Retribution: Soliace Campaign

490 pagine
6 ore
Mar 29, 2014


Following the UESF victory over the Zerens at Tyndareus, the war grinds to a halt. But the war between the Soliace Regime and the Stalfin Consortium still rages; spilling into surrounding regions.

With the Stalfins on the verge of defeat, the UESF faces a difficult decision: aid their longtime allies and wage war against the Soliace, or do nothing and stand alone.

Meanwhile, in the Unclaimed Territories, Captain Silaltera and his forces are ruthlessly carving a path of destruction on worlds suspected to having sympathetic ties to the Koshna’ell. And the discovery of the Zeren dreadnaught under construction in the Tordren Core system puts pressure on the UESF.

As Captain Gabriel Lyons settles into his new role within the UESF, dark secrets from his past are revealed, forever altering his life.

Mar 29, 2014

Informazioni sull'autore

Matthew G. Lawson currently resides in Fairborn, Ohio. He lives happily with his wife and and two sons.

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War of Retribution - M. G. Lawson


Bral Uul; representative, (male Naeschyun)

Dominick Sardis; advisor, security director (male Human)

Douglas Jefferson; commander, (male Human)

Dyn’Gato; leader (male Soliace)

Edwin Caine; advisor (male Human)

Etairos; military governor, Eru (male Bfessian)

Emil Erhart; lieutenant general, van de Kamp (male Human)

Exthru; priestess (female Bfessian)

Fel’Tora; commander, Endi’Ka’Tor (male Soliace)

Firae; pirate, Eru (male Bfessian)

Gabriel Lyons; captain (male Human)

Giopertani Augustus; major (male Human)

Glenn Jackson; admiral, (male Human)

Kal’Tan; commander, Terotan (male Soliace)

Kaysica; bodyguard (female Bfessian)

Katarina Konstantiniova; rear admiral (female Human)

Kelly McClaren, commander, Shepard (female Human)

Kerat Rimali; mercenary (male Human)

Leena Malani; senator (female Human)

Natasha Nichols; master sergeant, Gagarin (female Human)

Marcus Overton; rear admiral, Wasp (male Human)

Mordicai Scharwenka; captain (male Human)

Pallahn; admiral, Endi’Ka’Tor (male Soliace)

Pel’Rais; pirate, Eru (male Soliace)

Peter Lassiter; doctor, (male Human)

Rick Jackson; fleet admiral (male Human)

Radre; engineer, Eru (female Bfessian)

Rhett Montgomery; lieutenant commander (male Human)

Semyon Zhukov; vice admiral (male Human)

Sigfa Uul; contractor (male Naeschyun)

Silaltera; captain, Terotan (male Soliace)

Stacy Wallace; senator (female Human)

Teodor Sjøgren; doctor CSX (male Human)

Ti’Kell; mercenary, El’Mes’Ka (male Soliace)

Tu’Lan; ensign, Endi’Ka’Tor (male Soliace)

Vertaun; regent (male Soliace)

Xerchan; bodyguard (male Zeren)

Zeftka xuraffe; unknown (male unknown)


April 09th, 2087

Annapolis, Maryland

A round of applause echoed through the room as Commander Lyons entered. He shook his head, a look of embarrassment and disgust on his face. He hated all the pomp and circumstance for nothing more than doing his job. Jack, who followed close behind him, on the other hand, loved the attention. That was fine by Gabriel.

It was a relief to be home, that he had to admit. His next job, much to his dismay, was going to be paperwork. That was always interesting since those files would never see the light of day unless the media found out what he did or some stuffy senatorial oversight committee needed to investigate a mission and that would generally undo everything he had done.

The mission he just returned from was one of those missions; like most of his, was best left unknown to the public. He and Jack just spent over a month in Zanzibar, Tanzania tracking down Abasi Ndassa, a known terrorist in the NAR, New African Rebellion. This was a growing terrorist organization that was establishing a strong foothold on the continent and threatening the fragile peace the Earth Coalition created with the local governments. It was a group that needed to be dismantled at any cost.

It took days to find Ndassa, and then a week to determine his routine. Drones could have done the same thing, but he never trusted them; especially the ones that were controlled by another agent halfway across the world. Ndassa wasn’t a leader in the NAR, but a courier that traveled between the cells to deliver messages. To Gabriel, that was even better. It meant he had information on all the cells and not just one.

Once he and Jack had found the best place to capture him; in this case a café where he ate every morning before hopping in a cab and heading to a warehouse on the outskirts of the town, they planned their mission.

The actual grab and go went off without a hitch. Ndassa was always alone and, in accordance with the terms agreed upon to by the Tanzanian government, the local authorities didn’t intervene.

Jack had to make the grab. Gabriel, with his tall frame, light hair, blue eyes and pale skin made him stand out too much, especially in this area of Zanzibar. He was forced to observe from a distance. Jack on the other hand had a darker complexion and he grew a beard specifically for the mission. Under a black kofia and kanzu, Jack blended perfectly with the native population.

When Gabriel gave the word, Jack moved in. He didn’t do anything fancy, simply approached Ndassa as he sat at a round metal table outside the café, made some small talk and then proceeded to show Ndassa his credentials. It was then that Ndassa made a break for it. He couldn’t run past Jack, nor could he attempt to cross the four lane road that ran next to the café. His only choice was an alley that ran perpendicular to the main road between the café and block of retail shops. That was the plan. Jack made sure to set a tripwire down that alley and it worked like a charm. Once Ndassa was down, Gabriel moved in and helped with the detainment.

Now the terrorist was in the hands of the interrogators, something Gabriel would normally partake in and enjoyed doing, but the director wanted him and Jack back to the States. So here he and Jack were back in Annapolis at an EC annex at the United States Naval Academy.

Assistant Director Marcus Hopper, in a sleek all black suit and matching collarless shirt stepped out of his office as the two men approached. The bright lights overhead reflected off of his smooth bald head. Gabriel couldn’t help but wonder if he took the time to buff and wax. Next to him was a young man, sharply dressed in a crisp new uniform.

Congratulations, Commander, job well done.

Gabriel felt out of place for a moment. He didn’t have time to change before his flight so he had been in his black BDU’s for nearly two days. They were filthy and he was too. He was in desperate need of a shower.

Thank you, sir. Jack here did most of the work, he said, patting his partner on his shoulder. Dust floated off the material. He truly didn’t mind giving Jack the credit, and in fact he preferred it. Jack was a good agent, a little brash, but he was young; in his early twenties. If anything, Gabriel hoped he would be able to train him to be a better field agent. Perhaps the best the EC had. Certainly the potential was there.

Right, Hopper said, not convinced of Gabriel’s comment. He shook both their hands firmly, and then turned his attention to the young man by his side.

Commander Lyons, let me introduce you to Agent Kyle Jackson. He’s one of our newest recruits, scored top of his class in the academy. He’s going to shadow you on your next assignment.

A pleasure to meet you, sir, he said, saluting sharply. I’ve read nearly all your reports that weren’t classified.

Gabriel looked the young man over. He was easily in his twenties with sandy blonde hair that seemed to already be receding and a similarly colored mustache. Like most of the people in the agency, he was shorter than Gabriel, but did carry himself with a confident swagger.

He gave Jack a sideways glance and grinned. He knew what was coming; Gabriel had done the same thing to him when they first met.

First, never salute me, especially in the field. Second, don’t look so sharp, you look like a rookie and that makes you an easy target. He grabbed the young man by the collar and undid the top button and then ripped off the bright gold insignia pins. Third, he started, reaching for the young man’s name patch on his chest. With one quick tug, he pulled the Velcro piece of cloth off his uniform. You have no name in this organization. If you want people to remember you; find another profession. Follow those three rules and you might live long enough to meet your grandchildren.

Yes sir…thank you, sir, Jackson said. The quiver in his voice showed that Gabriel’s remarks and attitude was unsettling.

Come along, Kyle, Hopper said, trying to hold back laughter. Commander; debriefing in one hour. Shower and eat while you can.

You got it, boss, Gabriel replied. When Hopper and Jackson were gone, Jack spoke out.

Why didn’t you just pull your gun out on him?

Gabriel smiled, You of all people should know I save that for the first lesson in the field.



Admiral Pallahn fiercely gripped the cold safety bar that surrounded the raised platform at the front of the bridge. His white knuckles standing out like the firelight flies against his pale green skin.

The entire ship vibrated from stem to stern. Every piece of metal that wasn’t bolted down rattled and even those that were secure trembled under the stress. Even his teeth vibrated against each other. He clenched his jaw shut.

He wasn’t worried about the ship. He knew the engines could run hotter than normal for an extended period and he knew the structural integrity of the ship could sustain stress as well. For his crew, however, he didn’t know how much they could take. Aside from a select few, most of his current crew were new transfers, too green for his liking during a time of war. And with the Endi’Ka’Tor on the frontlines, green troops were more hazardous than the enemy.

Given the current situation his crew was holding up better than he predicted. Of course, if he had his choice right now he would choose not to be in this situation. He stared out into the blackness that surrounded the ship. The pinpoints that were stars streaked by at an amazing rate too numerous to count and too quick to identify. In the near distance the twin stars that made up the Isidore system controlled by the UESF twinkled brightly. He knew the eyes and ears of the Humans monitored the entire situation.

It was ironic, he thought. For years he envisioned himself in this situation, leading the Endi’Ka’Tor into this system, but not under these circumstances. The ship jolted violently. The admiral lost his balance collapsing on the bar. It was a recent addition to the ship and he was thankful for it. He looked up just in time to see a bright purple energy beam steak past the bridge and dissipate in the distance. Too close.

As he lifted himself to his feet, he felt the hands of someone else assisting him. Normally he would be offended by the gesture as it would be a sign of weakness, but this time in this situation, he didn’t mind. Once to his feet he turned to see Commander Fel’Tora.

Excellent timing, Commander, he said.

Yes sir, the young commander responded. Pallahn quickly promoted Fel’Tora shortly after the Soliace invasion of the Stalfin. His skill and dedication to the admiral and to the Soliace Navy were commendable. Of course, it helped that Silaltera left the ship, followed shortly thereafter by Lieutenant Ti’Kell. This necessitated the need for a qualified senior staff. Ever since Fel’Tora helped to uncover the plot by Silaltera to destroy the Endi’Ka’Tor, he was the only officer that Pallahn could trust.

An alarm sounded from the closest engineering station. Both the admiral and commander took off toward the sound. Each strained against the pressures of the ship. Even with the inertia dampeners running at one-hundred percent there was a slight push toward the rear of the vessel. They staggered to the station, bracing against the console.

Admiral, that last blast knocked out one of the cooling stations in the starboard engineering room. Temperature is rising across the boards. If we don’t slow down and take the cores offline we’re looking at a catastrophic explosion.

That too close shot was obviously closer than he thought.

The admiral weighed his options. There was no chance to enter hyperspace; doing so now would leave them too vulnerable and would probably vaporize the ship. He cursed the designers of the Seleni class starship for not being equipped with a stern chaser or mines. If that were the case, he would have disposed of his two Stalfin pursuers long ago. There was also no chance to launch fighters at this stage either; they would be destroyed as soon as they left the launch bays. That would be a waste of life and materials.

The Stalfin were not inept at fighting. The war over the past year proved that. Swarm tactics is what they call it. There were only a few capital class vessels in the Stalfin armada, certainly nothing that compared to the size of the Endi’Ka’Tor. However, what they lacked in size they made up for in numbers. Scores of picket vessels hunted in multiples of four with devastating effectiveness.

That is how Pallahn and his crew found themselves in this situation. The Endi’Ka’Tor and two destroyer escorts were providing protection for a small supply convoy near the frontlines when they were ambushed by twelve of these swarm ships. His small fleet managed to destroy several enemy vessels, but ultimately odds were not in the Soliace favor. Pallahn did everything he could to ensure the safety of the convoy using the Endi’Ka’Tor to physically shield the escaping freighters. Only two out of the original six made it out of the combat zone safely, which Pallahn considered a success given the circumstances. With both of the destroyers turned into hunks of burning, twisted flotsam, Pallahn vacated the combat zone as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, his only viable exit point was into UESF space which ultimately led him into this situation.

Sir, Fel’Tora started. What are your orders?

Slow to a stop and power down the engines.


Follow my orders. There was a sudden shift in gravity as the Endi’Ka’Tor dropped out of its high-speed pursuit. He turned briskly away from the engineering station and made his way to communications. He knew what was going to happen next.

We are receiving a signal from the Stalfin commander, Admiral, the communications officer predictably stated. Pallahn took position in front of a holoscreen that sat atop the console. A pixilated image of a Stalfin consolidated to crystal clarity on the screen.

The screen was only large enough to view the alien from the chest to the tips of its long pointy ears. Its fur was soot colored with patches of gold and white scattered asymmetrically. Two crimson-ringed black eyes set back on its long snout. Pallahn actually admired the Stalfin. Unlike most of the savage aliens in the Unclaimed Regions, the Stalfin had finesse. It was almost a shame their demise would fall upon Pallahn.

I am Primary Queelss of the Stalfin Consortium, surrender your vessel immediately.

Primary Queelss, I am Admiral Pallahn of the Soliace Imperial Navy, we concede to your request, it was hard for the admiral to utter those words. The primary snarled showing a long row of teeth. It was clear to the admiral he knew who his prize was.

The surrender was hard for his crew to hear as well. All frivolous motion and sound ceased. The sudden capitulation of the admiral shocked Fel’Tora probably more than the other bridge crew. He had never known the admiral to give up so suddenly. He assumed he would blow up the ship rather than have it captured.

We are extending our lower docking struts. You have my word you will receive no interference from my crew. I will personally meet you there. Pallahn finished.

My second will be leading the boarding party, no tricks Admiral Pallahn. Queelss out. The image faded and the communication ended.

Immediately Fel’Tora rushed to Pallahn’s side. Admiral, you can’t . . . Pallahn cut him off with the simple gesture of holding up two fingers.

Position of the two enemy vessels? Pallahn called out, keeping his gaze fixed on the blank screen.

They both seem to be on a tangent to the docking struts.

Good. He knew the Stalfin ships didn’t carry a lot of troops and both vessels would have to dock in order to secure the Endi’Ka’Tor. Weapons control: slowly power up the ventral cannon and rotate it one-hundred eighty degrees with a forty-five degree declination.

Fel’Tora could now see the admiral’s plan. It had merit, but also risks. The ventral canon was the most powerful weapon on the ship, but it was a weapon primarily used to lay waste to planets or stationary targets. It was slow to fire and lacked a sophisticated tracking system to target fast moving ships, but soon the Stalfin vessels would be stationary. Then there were the risks.

Sir, if we destroy both those vessels in close proximity to ourselves, or worse while they are docked . . .

I am well aware of the risks, Commander, but unless you can give me a safer solution in the next thirty seconds I suggest you prepare yourself.

Fel’Tora stood firm next to the admiral. He knew the comment by the admiral was a challenge; sure, he could strap himself into a vacant station as the other bridge crews were doing, but he dared not lose respect from the admiral.

The admiral noticed Fel’Tora’s resolute and smiled from the corner of his mouth. It had paid off in promoting him. The last time Pallahn had to give a warning, Commander Sil’Altera scurried to the nearest seat and strapped in like a child on an anti-grav ride.

Admiral, the two Stalfin ships have almost reached the docking struts.

Weapon status?

Fully charged and ready, the weapons officer responded.

We have hard contact. Fel’Tora said, monitoring the Stalfin vessels on the closest display. His eyes turned to the admiral, along with all others on the bridge. Pallahn’s visage was stoic. If he had fear, it was buried deep within his disciplined eyes.


The ship rocked gently as the twin barrels of the cannon fired independently of each other. That was nothing compared to what was to come.

The stern of the Endi’Ka’Tor lifted off its stationary position nearly thirty degrees as the two Stalfin vessels erupted into gaseous fireballs of debris and death. Large sections of the ships not instantly incinerated either scraped against the hull or embedded themselves deep creating havoc aboard near those areas of impact.

On the bridge, both Pallahn and Fel’Tora felt a sudden sensation of weightlessness that ended quickly as they landed hard against the cold metal floor. Conduits and computer stations exploded in a successive sequence from the rear of the bridge to the front. Everyone shielded their faces as best as possible, but the unprepared took the full brunt of the explosions. The lights flickered on and off; even the emergency lighting system wasn’t immune to the damage. Then all was quiet.

Pallahn attempted to lift himself from the deck floor. His right shoulder burned as he tried to support his weight, but the pain was too great and he collapsed back to the deck. For a moment, he laid in the silence. His eyes scanned the bridge as best as they could. At the station closest to him, he could see the limp hand of an officer still at his station. Dead.

What have I done?

He contemplated the thought, trying to justify his actions, weighing the results versus the risk. Of course, lying on the floor didn’t help him assess the total situation. If the bridge were in this bad of shape, the lower decks that took the brunt of the explosion must be a disaster. He needed to find out. He made another effort, stronger than the first, to lift himself off the ground. The pain was intense. Tears formed in the corners of his eyes. Then the effort became less and he realized two sets of hands were helping him up, those of a deckhand and Fel’Tora.

Are you alright, sir?the commander asked.

Yes, aside from my shoulder. He looked around the bridge. Only a few lights were working, highlighting the blanket of dust that hung around the ceiling. Crewmen were dashing from different parts of the bridge extinguishing small fires. He looked at Fel’Tora. A large gash about his right eye was trickling green blood down the side of his cheek, but the commander seemed not to mind. What is our situation? Pallahn asked, struggling.

Main power is offline, we’re running on batteries. We have multiple hull breeches on the lower decks and casualty reports are still coming in. Hyper dive is offline, as are weapons. We do have some engine power, however. Fel’Tora responded.


That actually seems to be working. In fact, we have been receiving a signal from the UESF demanding we leave their space immediately.

Pallahn laughed slightly. His ship and crew certainly wouldn’t be a match for even a UESF transport ship at this moment. But if they had been monitoring the situation from a distance they would know he couldn’t leave the system immediately.

Commander Fel’Tora, set course for the nearest Soliace repair facility and request any tugs in the vicinity that may be able to assist us, best speed. Pallahn began to make his way toward the back of the bridge, limping slightly. His knee ached almost as much as his shoulder. There wasn’t time to go the infirmary. A full assessment of damage needed compiled and a list of repair assignments prioritized. Before entering his office, he turned back.

Commander, he called out.


Send a message to the UESF fleet. Inform them we appreciate their lack of intervention on their allies’ behalf. We hope that we can count on this throughout the duration of this war.

Fel’Tora smiled. With pleasure, sir.


The United Earth Space Fleet Headquarters sat majestically on the Chesapeake Bay. Formally the United States Naval Academy, it was and is an institution that molded some of the most notable military figures of the world.

It was early in the morning. A thick fog blanketed the city and throughout the valley. There was very little military staff on the premises. Only the custodial crews were in full force. The only exception was deep inside the complex where the upper echelon of the UESF military was meeting.

That is the fifth incident this month! Vice Admiral Semyon Zhukov said. His boisterous Russian voice boomed through the speakers on the holographic display that housed his stoic image. An identical monitor on the opposite wall held the visage of Rear Admiral Marcus Overton, newly promoted by his actions in the Mentag system. He protested the promotion, feeling that the loss of the Thor Heyerdahl did not warrant such merit, but Chancellor McAlpin and the High Command nominated him and the Planetary Senate approved the nomination. He had no choice but to accept.

Five tall black leather chairs sat at each table facing one another. High Commander Cosmo Worthington leaned to the side heavily in one of the center chairs, stroking his thick white beard. The chair matched his lean under his portly frame. Beside him sat Chancellor McAlpin’s aide, Edwin Caine. His scrunched face giving a permanent scowl. He was there to report the meeting back to the Chancellor. He hated being the lapdog, especially when traveling with High Commander Worthington. The two men did not see eye to eye, literally and figuratively.

At the head of the table sat Fleet Admiral Rick Jackson, pouring over half a dozen datapads.

We must take action, Zhukov continued. This war between the Soliace and the Stalfin is threatening our sovereignty. We must act, if not to support our allies, then to protect ourselves.

Admiral Zhukov is correct, sir. There are reports that the Soliace are becoming more aggressive in the Unclaimed Territories too, Overton said. Former colonies of the Soliace we’ve never heard of are petitioning for support and minor conflicts are spreading like wildfires. The Soliace are out of control.

I am well aware of those reports, Admiral Overton. Thank you, but we are not in a position to help anyone but ourselves, Admiral Jackson said. And I don’t believe the Planetary Senate would support another conflict. Am I right, Mr. Caine?

Caine snarled, You are correct, Admiral Jackson, in fact a majority of the Senate believes that the conflict with the Zerens is over and next month they plan on voting for an arms reduction. Their biggest concern at the moment is easing tensions with the Neutral League.

Preposterous! Zhukov shouted, his holographic visage flickering for a moment.

What about the High Command, what’s their stance on the issue? Overton asked.

Worthington leaned forward in the chair to speak, Most of us do not believe the conflict is over, but there are exceptions. A few of us are leaning heavily on the Senate to help the Stalfin, but we are facing stiff resistance. He glared from the corner of his eye at Caine.

We may not need to aid the Stalfin, a voice rang from the corner of the room. All eyes focused on Admiral Glenn Jackson walking briskly to the center of the room. His dark blue uniform laced in gold trim glistened under the bright lights. He held up a datapad as he approached the tables. Behind him followed General Drayson, reassigned from Chicago after the Soliace attacked the Stalfin.

We just received a report from the Stalfin Military Command; they believe they are facing defeat within a month.

Everyone in the room fell silent; the faint hum of the holo-projectors resonated through the room. The admiral and general took their seats across from the holo screens. Zhukov broke the silence.

A month? How is that possible?

I will defer to General Drayson. He has been studying the Soliace since their invasion began.

Truthfully, they should have fallen months ago, Drayson started, his deep voice commanding the attention of everyone in the room. "They’ve managed to hit some crucial supply convoys. The incident near the Isidore system was a result of one of those raids. We’ve identified that Soliace vessel as the Endi’Ka’Tor, commanded by Admiral Pallahn, their flagship and respective mastermind of the whole invasion."

Damn, if we had captured that vessel, we could have slowed their invasion almost to a halt, Zhukov commented.

"That’s truer than you realize. The incident should buy the Stalfins more time. The Endi’Ka’Tor was significantly damaged fending off the attack and will require several weeks of repairs. Soliace military regulations demand Pallahn be on the frontlines, and from what I know of him, he will not lead the campaign from any other vessel," Drayson said.

If we present this information to the Senate, perhaps this will force them into providing military assistance, Overton stated.

No, they will see the futility of the situation, Caine repeated.

Does the Senate think the Soliace will stop when they defeat the Stalfins? Once they have shored up their defenses and supply lines they will attack. If not directly, then they will squeeze us economically and politically. Our list of allies is growing thin, Rick said.

Then perhaps we can petition the Soliace on behalf of the Stalfin to broker surrender. If we can get involved in the negotiations then we can ease potential tension when the time comes, Caine said.

Spoken like a true politician, Glenn commented, taking a seat next to his brother. Caine sat upright, snarled at the admiral, looking like he was about to leap across the table.

War is not always the solution, Admiral. If you hadn’t been so naive in sending Senator Malani and Captain Lyons on covert operations, not sanctioned by the High Command, we wouldn’t have to worry about the current situation with the Neutral League.

Enough, gentlemen, Rick interrupted. We cannot act without full support of the Senate or the High Command. And yes, despite the best efforts of my brother, there is still no evidence that the Soliace are in league with the Zerens. Mr. Caine, we need to know if there is a way to gain the support of the Senate.

Caine sat unyielding. He knew no one in the room or on the monitors liked or even respected him. He had the power. He had the ear of the Chancellor and the Planetary Senate and many in the Senate would follow his advice.

I will see what I can do. We may be able to convince the Soliace to start allowing some of our medical frigates and supply ships to bring aid to the planets already under their control, he said.

That doesn’t help the Stalfin Homeworld. Once the Soliace siege the system they will never allow the flow of supplies, Worthington said.

Perhaps we can smuggle weapons and personnel, create some trouble behind the lines. They would have to divert resources from the frontlines to quell any insurgency. That could buy us some time to muster support, Zhukov commented.

No, the Soliace would thoroughly search every vessel and I will not be privy to your incessant warmongering! Caine called out. Zhukov rolled his eyes through the holo-projector. Dealings with politicians and Caine were wearing thin on his nerves.

Mr. Caine, rest assured we will not smuggle weapons to the Stalfins. Please do what you can in the Senate to begin the relief effort, Rick said calmly. What of the situation in the Mentag system? What has the Senate decided to do in that matter?

The senate is still reaping the fallout from Senator Malani and Captain Lyons’ escapade on Tekot. We are fortunate to have staved off war with the Neutral League, but the Senate has no jurisdiction in that matter. That situation is between the League and the Zerens.

Preposterous, Zhukov mumbled.

Caine shot daggers at the holographic visage. I suppose your answer would be to bombard the planet to dust?

A couple TEPS should do the trick.

Gentlemen, Glenn interrupted. Mr. Caine, will you please relay our concerns the Senate.

I will do what I can, Admiral. Until then I have to go to the Neutral League and try to help clean up the mess your agents made. Caine quickly left his chair, grabbing the attaché case at his feet and storming out of the room.

High Commander Worthington lifted himself out of his chair. It moaned in relief as it no longer supported his weight. He straightened his bright red uniform. The two brothers stood appropriately for their superior.

I apologize for Mr. Caine’s behavior, he said. He has much spite for the military, a feeling I fear shared by a majority of the Senate. I will pressure my colleagues as well; if the time comes, the Chancellor can overrule the Senate. Let us hope it does not come to that. Unfortunately, the majority of the High Command believes the Zeren threat is over.

I was afraid you were going to say that, Glenn said. I’ll escort you out, Commander.

Once the High Commander and admiral exited the room, Fleet Admiral Jackson turned to the visage of Overton. Thank you, Admiral, continue the good work. I’ll be in contact soon. Overton nodded and the image dissolved. Admiral Zhukov, I trust you will not miss the rendezvous at the 61 Cygni shipyards in four days?

"I just finished my inspection of Victoria Station; we will be leaving within the hour."

As the doors closed to the conference room, the portly High Commander stopped and turned to his escort. Have you looked over my report? he

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