This one never quite worked out the way I wanted to, unfortunately. I wrote it up in hardcopy a long time ago (partly in response to somebody pointing out that basically all of the AW:P writeups I’d done had been Galacian) – half of it was written while waiting for a bus. The dialogue is clumsy and I don’t think I’ve integrated it very well into the prose.
I feel it’s better off published than simply left to rot, anyway. If you’re wanting to hear more from Rick Lloyd, P.I., then hang tight – Tretton City has not been forgotten!
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
Alexander refrained from commenting. Cassandra – Captain Mason, rather, since he ought to be proper with his officers – had been ooh-ing and aah-ing over the new fighter for months before its manufacture, and her infatuation with the machine had not grown any less over time. He shook his head and tut-tutted quietly as she turned her back to him to get a better look at the craft.
“Amazing, really,” she continued. “At first, I never thought we’d be able to crack the strength-to-weight problem; the guys over in R&D sure proved me wrong, hey? With a fleet of these, Bosca’s air force is smoked.” She turned around and gave Alexander a big grin. “Just think about it, sir! Guaranteed air superiority in every theatre! These jets are just too fast for the empire’s fighters to track. They’ve probably even got an edge on Galacian planes!”
Enough was enough, he thought. “Don’t tempt fate, captain. We’re too close to war as it is.” The junior officer caught herself at that – she hadn’t been expecting a rebuke. “It’s been the same story everywhere I look, Mason. Everyone’s going on and on about the cyborg threat. We’ve had generations of war with Bosca, shouldn’t that have taught you we won’t see any good coming from a fight with Galacia?”
She scowled at him. “I never suggested we start a war, sir! You’re well aware I’ve no patience for conflict that can be avoided.” The girl was right, of course. He gave a sigh and spread his hands to defuse the situation.
“I understand, captain. I just find I’m seeing warmongers everywhere these days.” She seemed mollified by this; at the very least, she was well aware of the politics going on in the capital.
“Yes, sir. I realise that the capabilities this new jet offers could be used to dismiss voices of caution. But still, sir… it really is a work of art. Is it wrong for me to appreciate that?”
Alexander grimaced. “Your place isn’t in the cockpit any more. You’re responsible for the whole third fleet, and part of that responsibility is not getting carried away by a shiny new toy.” A low blow, he realised. He tuned out her objections as they walked out of the hangar together, offering automatic responses. She was devoted to him, he was well aware – the girl had looked up to him for years – but devotion would get her and her men killed.
I need duty, not devotion.
He intended her to live through the war he had seen in Fielding’s briefings. If he had to break her heart in the process, then he wouldn’t shirk.