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By the Horns (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 5 - By the Horns[]

TCS Samantha Calderon''
Station Three, Taurus System, Hyades Cluster
Taurian Concordat
November 20th, 3025

“Our drive damage aside, Protector Thomas,” Helena briefed the Protector, his heir, and their staffs—along with the senior members of the TDF military, “our problem is that no one here has produced NAC shells or Capital Missiles in centuries. I’ve got twenty-seven Class 25 Naval Autocannon on the Samantha Calderon—with a total of one thousand, three hundred and fifty units of fire. Fifty salvos, gentlemen. My missile magazines are even shallower—three hundred and sixty missiles, just thirty salvos all told for my twelve launchers; forty of those missiles are nuclear tipped.”

She paused and then she nodded. “Of course, given our probable opponents and the decline of technology, that is sufficient to wipe out any invading force—provided that the attackers are considerate enough to come to Taurus since I can’t go after them. Now, I do have eighteen Naval Lasers—a mix of 45cm and 55cm—and a dozen Naval PPCs, neither of which require munitions, but compared to my main guns those are small fry. The flak-belt,” and she smiled slightly, “won’t do more than kiss a capital ship, but serves well against fighters, small craft, and DropShips. I’d imagine they’d do just as well as JumpShips . . . if you revoke that silly rule that Commodore Mendoza told me of, the one where Jumpers are out of bounds and safe from attack.”

She waited until she was certain that everyone present understood, and then Helena sighed. “But the single largest problem that we are facing is a simple one . . . my people are tired,” and as she spoke, Helena Vickers looked every day of her sixty-seven years. “We have—most of us—fought for the past two decades,” and she smiled slightly, “to us at least, in the most brutal war ever fought by humanity. We knew we were leaving our loved ones behind, but Protector, we are bone-weary and in serious need of some time to unwind our levels of stress.”

“And you will have it, Admiral Vickers,” Thomas answered her. “Despite what some of my advisors might think, I have no intention of starting a war—but your presence here cannot be concealed . . . and I fear that soon enough others may start one with us. A war that will come about because they fear us possessing your ship while they have none of their own.”

Thomas cocked his head, and he considered, and then he nodded. “But that is months down the road, and this vessel is going nowhere until her drive is repaired—if we can make those parts you so desperately need. They may have to be hand-made, until we can get a factory up and running, Admiral.”

And Helena winced at that. Thomas chuckled grimly. “Don’t worry, we will be inspecting every part with a micro-meter—you won’t get sub-standard parts from Taurus, Admiral. In the meantime, I think that you—and your crew—could use some rest. Marshals Grenadine and Calderon,” he continued, nodding at the two senior officers, “have advised me that just granting liberty to your people is a bad idea—something about being able to de-stress in a controlled environment before being released into civilian society.”

“They are right, Sire,’ Helena answered. “Some of my people are so wound up that they are ticking time bombs . . . they also need counseling, many of them.”

“They will receive it,” Thomas decreed. “As it just so happens, there is a medical delegation from the Canopians on Taurus—a psychological delegation. The Canopians have the finest healers—physical and mental—known, Admiral. They will make certain your people get taken care of,” and Thomas frowned, “and we have also taken measures to ensure that none of your folks are abducted and spirited off world.”

“Is that a credible threat?” Helena asked.

“It is a possibility,” replied Henri Jouett. “One that we cannot dismiss lightly. Admiral, you must understand that your knowledge of technological systems—your crew’s knowledge—is something that any of the Successor Lords would kill for. None of them are above abducting one or two of you and interrogating them for everything they know.”

“That is later, Henri,” Thomas said sadly. “For now, I would like to invite the Admiral and her senior officers to dinner this evening—at the Protector’s Palace. We have much, much more to discuss, Admiral Vickers.”

“Indeed we do, Sire. Starting with the issue of . . . pay,” and she smiled as Thomas winced. “Don’t worry, Sire. We aren’t going to clean out the Treasury, but my people deserve to be taken care of.”

“You have my word on that, Admiral,” Thomas snapped, and then he waved his hand in apology. “They are loyal Taurian citizens, and we take care of our own. Always.”

“Good enough for me, Sire. Now,” she said as she stood. “I believe that you and your staff wanted a full tour of Saucy Sam here.”

Saucy Sam?” asked Thomas.

Helena laughed. “It is a long story, Sire, and rest assured. The boys and girls could have named her a LOT worse.”

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