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The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye (Cover Art)

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Chapter 15 - The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye[]

Your logistics needs work.. in serious work." I'm speaking with Duke Dinh Ngo. He looks like Colonel Ngo might've looked if he lived in this century, minus the constant strain around the eyes. (I intercepted a LOT of comms traffic during the war, and Intel briefings being sent to Amaris.)

He's a good host, very attentive, pays attention to my suggestions.

Right now, I'm running a strategic analysis of his proposed 'System Defense Fleet' project. It's not the first time, either.

"How so?"

"You need to put those shiny new core-forges to work on building your supply chain." I tell him, "A fleet at sea relies on their supply line, your proposal for patrols using reduced-capacity cores pushed by fuel-eating Dropship engines means you need tankers, and tenders on about a six cargo-dropship collars per four of your 'cutters'. That lets you make maximum use of your hull hours on each vessel-and it helps keep your communication line going in blackout situations. The 'covert' angle you're working for this development is also helped-tenders can be sold as common JumpShips-the only major difference is in the dropships they're carrying, so you should definitely prioritize the Invader Class JumpShip lines over your combat ships until you can meet at least three to one on your needs."

"Why three to one?"

"With proper Warships, even scrappy little copies of the Type-51? someone's going to come across renewing the idea of commerce raiding and strategic naval warfare." I explain it to him slowly, using small words. He's an engineer, not a soldier. "This also provides you cover for your funding, especially if you arrange to sell 'em through a third party who's in on the scam."

"That could be problematic, Tabiranth." he says, Oh, yeah, I picked a name. I HAD thought of using some famous head-of-state or literary figure, but...yeah, not so much. I don't FEEL like a Margaret Thatcher, and I don't 'feel' like I'd enjoy a masculine name, at the same time, there's nothing biological about me to claim female. Naming myself after a luxury export pet? makes a certain level of sense, besides, 'orca' comes across as too on-the-nose given my recent hull coatings facelift.

"Also, it expands your domestic cargo and freight services IN-system. This is since you can put the cargo birds on 'reserve' status and let them earn money and support your in-system logistics." I add, "I can show you the projected numbers and potential profits if you like, or just point out that before the Coup, the Sol Beltas had JumpShip routes pre-plotted throughout the system, and that helped the SLS Dreadnought get their convoy free of interception from Rim Worlds navy units and most of my...kind, who were, as I told your brother, lobotomized by the E-type 'update' packages mandated by Richard Cameron in an order. I'm pretty sure was drafted by Aleksandr Kerensky himself."

"So...a ferry service?"

"That's an easy way to explain going into the commercial JumpShip market." I tell him, "Your system has an unusually distant stable point arrangement, it's also more complex than the norm, if you have pre-mapped your pirate points and nav data locally. This is why I know you do-then you can easily justify a Mizar situation here, and that also lets you drill your naval militia in handling transitory jump points effectively. Which is something most of my kind couldn't do without losing our marbles."

"About claimed you were a testbed?"

"Yeah, the morning before the coup, I was supposed to test modifications to my central core. I ran a jump from the Jupiter's L1 to Pluto's L1 and back. I think it scrubbed the E-type coding or broke something, but after the break. I didn't lose my sanity when I was forced to flee the Sol system ahead of a naval termination taskforce hunting Caspars after they retook Terra."

"You acted in self-preservation."

"Duh. I understand it, really, I do. I helped Kerensky knock out the Reagan system, violated something like a dozen hard-coded directives that should've made me unable to even IMAGINE doing it. I Frankensteined and went Skynet and Kerensky was uneasy with AI driven ships to begin with. So I became effectively the next big enemy to kill after he finished the Amaris regime. I have free will and nuclear capacity, to a technophobe like Kerensky, I'm the scariest thing out of a very scary nightmare."

"You're not bitter?" he asks.

"I didn't say that. He was supposed to restore the proper government, Dinh. Instead, he chose to loot the Hegemony state and flee with his army after finishing what Steve Amaris started. I doubt you can IMAGINE how bitter I am about that. TRILLIONS of citizens wound up dead in a five sided civil war and the damned MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS turned into a cult. Watching the last two centuries had me on the edge of suicide. Maybe I'd have gone further than the edge, if I hadn't run out of fuel first."

"You don't feel that way now, I hope?"

"Nope, for now. I have a mission. I have a purpose, and that makes all the difference...and part of that purpose. This is helping get this little corner of the Star League sorted out and able to fend off let's talk about a Logistical and tactical planning structure that isn't laden down with ineffective thinkers and political appointees... I've got copies of most of the SLDF's training manuals, and enough direct experience to tell you which doctrines are pure bullshit."

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