Admiral’s Throne Snippet 3
I’m going to throw a cover concept for the next book up on the Multi-Sector Patrol Fleet facebook group so I thought why not throw up another snippet chapter while I was at it!
Chapter: Gone Fishing
Events take place 2 years after being exiled from the Spineward Sectors
For the hundredth time today I cast my line into the sea and slowly reeled it back in.
This was the life. Mornings and evenings spent with Akantha and the children, well at least when she wasn’t holding court. A five year backlog for a newly created queendom will do that to a woman.
I know. I’d been dragged into enough courtly functions, mostly against my will, that I’d practically become an expert I thought with a grimace. On the plus side attending Messene’s court and practically being strong armed into learning the local dialect were distractions enough from the main reason I was no longer riding a starship and fighting the good fight.
On one hand it was liberating to have all the free time and no longer be fighting for my life. On the other the people of the Spine no longer seemed to care that they didn’t need one Jason Montagne or his Multi-Sector Patrol Fleet out on patrol protecting the space ways from pirates, bugs and stray warlords. In short no one missed me and if I was being honest that was a bigger blow to my ego than I’d expected.
Which was still fine, if it continued to give me more family time and the first chance I’d had in years to enjoy myself, it just… stung.
Closing my eyes I leaned into the wind and felt the cool, stiff breeze on my face. Well, okay, maybe bracing or even downright chilly would be a better word and it was something more than a breeze but with the sun warm on my face and the thick thermal jacket and shades I’d wisely come equipped with it would do.
Cast and reel, reel and cast, then rinse and repeat before doing it all over again in one endless series of repetitive motions, all taking place as I thought of absolutely nothing at all. This was the life. The brass ring I’d fought for all those years ago. No one’s life at risk, except my own, and no one to berate me for not doing enough for them as I focused on properly casting the hook and line where it needed to go and on the movements of my body as I reeled it back in, nothing more and nothing less.
Pure bliss. The brass ring. Whatever you called it, it was all mine. No lives rested on my decisions, save those of the sea creatures I was hunting and since they liked to snack on hapless tourists and snatch wayward children straight off the beach, given half a chance, I couldn’t care less about them. Looking at it a certain way I wasn’t taking the day to play hooky and go fishing, rather I was performing a lifesaving public service!
A legend in my own mind or at least so I kept telling myself… when I was thinking of anything at all, which I most decidedly was not, I firmly reminded myself as I drew the rod back over my shoulder and prepared to cast.
Taking a deep breath, the stiff sea breeze the heavy with the scent of salt filled my nose, and the only cares I had were those the world threw at me and the one’s I chose for myself. Nothing more but certainly nothing less.
A man couldn’t ask for more.
A loud zing as something took the bait and ran, dragging the line from my reel away with it, sidled up to my moment of Zen, rubbed its head against my legs like an insistent cat and called for action.
There was a breach as a giant creature broke the surface of the sea throwing itself in the air.
The distant roar that accompanied this rise rose above the general clamor of sea waves hitting the large spur of rock I was perched atop an the entire ocean seemed to go crazy.
Breaking out off the salty sea water the sea monster on the end of my line screamed defiance and within less than a second entire hunting pods or family groups, I wasn’t entirely sure which it was and didn’t really care enough of find out, of giant sea monsters went crazy.
Something a little less than one hundred of the monsters jumped and writhed on the surface of the water, attacking anything and everything in sight, if it got too close or just in easy reach each-other.
Riding the fishing pole with my entire body mass I simultaneously worked the reel for all I was worth as I tried to fight the giant twenty foot long sea monster on the other end of line to a standstill.
Below me there was the sound of a loud crashing and one of the a multi-tentacled sea monsters threw itself at the base of cliff beneath me and… promptly bounced off the force fields I’d had installed to keep them from collapsing the rocky ledge or even worse climbing up to get me.
Just another day on the sunny beach of Messene City, I smirked.
Leaning back as my two ton test line continued to zing-zing-zing away from me, I forced the tip of my fishing pole up as I walked back. One. Two. Three steps and the back of my legs hit the chair.
“I’m going to haul this one in. See if I don’t!” I cheered as another sea monster took aim at the creature I’d just hooked and as if turning on a time and now my monster was running back toward me.
Now instead of taking the line faster than I could reel it back in, I had the opposite problem and it was all I could do to take the line back in before it snagged on something else!
“Yee-ha!” I screamed, thumb guiding the line as I reeled the slack in and tried to guide my monster away from a third sea-monster leaving a V-shape in its wake as it charged toward my catch with sideways pulls on my pole.
I jerked and tugged on the reel and for a moment it looked like I still had a chance at landing the thing when the other monster put on a burst of speed and slammed into its side.
Blood started to fill the water as the two leviathans tore into each other and I worried for my hook. I only had a dozen of the things. Once they were gone I had to give up and go home for the day.
For a minute I thought all was lost and then my sea beast pulled itself away leaving a trail of blood behind as it went. It was going in the wrong direction but a few tugs of the pole later and it was headed back on a course parallel to the shore.
“Work it baby! We’ll have some sea steaks tonight,” I said using pole and reel to bring the creature closer to the shore, all the while ignoring the incensed creatures slamming themselves against the force field blow me.
Ever closer to the shore swam my limper and it was finally to the point I was actually starting to feel hopeful.
The last gauntlet was still ahead but I could feel it, this one was a keeper, a winner in other words with the will to survive!
Placing the butt of the pole into the holder on the right arm of the chair, I fumbled around for the blaster rifle attached to the holster built into the left arm. Once the sea monster got close enough I was going to have to fight for my dinner with the rest of the beasts. Which was why I needed make sure the power cell was in and the rifle was ready to go.
I had just thumbed the blaster rifle active and returned my attention to the pole when I heard the sound of a throat clearing behind me.
I ignored it in favor of reeling in more line.
“I hate to interrupt-” started someone, a man by his voice.
“Then don’t,” I cut in determined to ignore whoever it was especially considering I was pretty certain I recognized who it was. Not entirely certain understand but…
Several minutes of blessed silence followed. I half thought whoever it was had taken the hint and left for greener pastures when out of the blue my ‘non-conversational’ partner decided to make another sally.
“What are you doing out here? If I may be so bold,” he eventually asked.
I immediately tensed up. I couldn’t help it. Hearing that voice confirmed things and now I knew exactly who it was. I also had no intention to catering to whatever his desires were. This was my free day and I was out fishing.
I deliberately un-tensed. Never let them see you sweat was part of my motto.
“Why here?” he prompted and I could just imagine him looking down at the vicious sea monsters below my rocky spur, all of them eager to kill and eat me.
“What can I say I’m sitting on a beach earning twenty percent,” I said flippantly. I’d heard it in an old holo-vid about some bank robbers and it sounded cool so I decided to run with it.
“Some beach you have here, Admiral,” he replied.
I nodded breezily.
“It really is. It makes the saying about how it’s not what you’ve got that’s important it’s wanting what you’ve got really mean something,” I said more than willing to fill the air with random noise and mindless platitudes all day long if that’s what it would take for him to give up and go away.
Nothing to see here, I silently instructed projecting my desire to be left alone out into the ether, just another broken down sedentary fisherman working to bring home the bacon so the family could have a fish fry later on tonight.
“Surely you want to do more with your life than sit here killing mindless sea monsters for sport,” he said.
“I don’t know. It may like its all fun and games but I’m still performing a public service,” I said seriously, meanwhile visious 18 or 20 foot serial killes threw themselves at the cliff face in an attempt to eat me
“Dragging in sea monsters?” he asked gravely.
“Someone’s got to do it,” I nodded, “these things will eat people right off the beach and it’s not like this is my full time job. I’m a family man now, with kids and responsibilities and all that. Did I mention the kids they could use a second mention? I can finally give them the time they deserve. It’s actually a relief in many ways,” I riposted.
“How so?” he asked.
“Why because they actually seem to appreciate it when I do something for them,” I deadpanned.
There was a pause as my latest sally was digested.
“Is this really what you aspire to? Hunting down killer sea monsters with rod and reel,” he stressed after another break in the conversation.
“Well Judge,” I said wryly, “I used to aspire to a great deal more. I was even willing to lay down my life for those hopes, dreams and aspirations. Life, liberty, the Spineward Sectors and all that rot,” I continued blithely, “but as you are well aware my actions were not much appreciated and I was exiled to my wife’s rocky, unpopulated planet the moment it became politically expedient to do so.”
“I understand your anger and feelings of betrayal. But we were all placed in an untenable situation, Admiral. At least you had the power to impact the course of events, no matter how badly that attempt ultimately turned, ” Kong Pao said unhappily, “unfortunately the empire had us over a barrel and there was little we could do. They still do in many ways if you listen to CNN.”
“I try to avoid CNN,” I lied, I’d turned into an avid news hog the futher I’d moved from the levers of power, “too much fake news about me personally you understand.”
“That said supposing I were a man who aspired to something more than what I have here. You know a planet that needs me, a family that deeply loves me for my efforts and consistently fails to revile me. I might feel forced to point out that from a strictly military standpoint our situation back then was far from impossible. I might be compelled to say that seeing as how we had the Multi-Sector Patrol Fleet, Manning’s First Fleet, another full on fleet fresh from Sector 22 stationed on the border of Sector 24/25 and when factoring in Admiral Davenport’s orders to avoid serious losses to the Imperial 5th fleet. Well if we’d had anything resembling balls we had anything but an impossible situation on our hands but I digress,” I said turning and flashing a smile.
In my quick look I took in the distinguished asian looking man behind me, his clothes in disarray from the strong wind at the top of my fishing spot. Yep it was the Sector Judge.
“Thankful for all involved I have better things to do than reflect on those past aspirations and any resulting grudges I might be forced to feel, even seek justice or retribution for if I were to start looking backward instead of forward or any which way you might term it instead of being content to tending my affiars here at home,” I finished with a hint of frost in my voice.
“We can argue about justice as far as the day is long and I’ll add retribution isn’t justice and holding a grudge helps no one and nothing but we can agree to disagree,” Kong Pao said wearily,
“I know there is more here than the carefree fisherman I see before me. Unless what you’re trying to tell me is you’ve set aside all those warships you captured, along with your ambitions and left them to sit in orbit? That all those warships I saw on my way in system are carefully constructed illusions. Otherwise I’d have to say Tracto’s system defense force has never been so numerous or so strong.”
“If that’s a roundabout way asking if I’m a full time house husband the answer’s no. On the other side if I keep my hand in with the fleet, then let’s just say our expansion efforts haven’t gone as smoothly as I’d like but with time we’re getting there. Despite all the roadblocks the new government has thrown our way with their trade restrictions and embargos,” I said coolly.
“That’s… not exactly what I was asking but it is comforting, in its own way,” the Judge said letting out a breath and at my inquiring look he added, “at least I haven’t come to the wrong place.”
“Oh you’ve definitely come to the wrong place, Judge Pao,” I assured him.
“While I’m glad you find comfort in Tracto’s continued military expansion. You can kindly see yourself out. I’d say through the front door but since we don’t have one feel free to beat it,” I said turning back to my pole only to realize the line had snapped at some point while I’d been talking and only the self clamping holder built into my chair had kept me from losing the pole too.
“Blast it all! That was two ton test line,” I cursed.
“If you would just listen to my proposal,” started the Judge.
“Nope. Not interested,” I said.
“Admiral,” he tried again.
“I asked you to leave nicely,” I said flatly.
“The Spine is in trouble. I’m afraid-” said Kong Pao.
“You’re beginning to test my patience, Judge, and that’s not a very safe place to be. If the Spine wanted my opinion all they have to do is recind the order of exile,” I interrupted with a warning.
There was a pause.
“We need you, Jason,” the Judge tried a different track and I immediately tensed up.
Smoothly out my blaster rifle I aimed it behind me without looking where it was aimed, which brought an immediately and blessed silence.
“If you find yourself afraid it’s for all the wrong reasons, Kong Pao. The likes of you are not worthy of speaking my name let alone speaking to me. You’re a liar and a defender of liars and you spit on it and on me every time you open your mouth,” I said levelly, still not looking behind me.
There was a muffled gasp.
It was good to finally get that off my chest. I wasn’t to the point I’d actively search out a man like the Sector Judge who promised the moon and delivered the bitter ashes of dreams and broken promises instead but if he was foolsh enough to seek me out I was more than willing to give him a piece of my mind. I didn’t even really care if it was a fair comparison or not. I really didn’t at this point.
Where was Kong Pao when I was exiled. Heck where was he when Empire invaded the Spine? Whistling in the bushes that’s where, while honest people like my officers and crew risked everything only to be given the back of the hand. I wasn’t ten klicks past done.
“Billions could die. Kill me if you have to but can you live with something like that on your conscience?” asked the Judge just not knowing when to stop.
I mean if a man pointed a blaster rifle at me I’d at least try something different even if I was stupid enough to keep trying.
“I’m pretty sure you felt compelled to ask yourself that very same question when you were asked to exil me and were okay with your answer at the time. You remember, when you voted to cast me away like yesterday’s newspaper,” I snarled turning around ready to take this thing to the next level.
“This is not about you! Can’t you see that? This is about the people of the Spine that you claim to love,” urged Kong Pao, “I’m not lying when I say without your fleet the death toll could rise into the billions!”
I openly scoffed.
“From what pirates?” I shook my head, “go ask the Confederation for help. That’s what you’re paying them for. In case you failed to remember I’m not in very good clover with that lot right now.”
“That’s a problem,” Kong Pao admitted, “but one that can be worked around-”
“Worked around!” I roared with fury, “if you think I’m going to throw away all the hard work and sacrifices my people have had to make over the past two years for some lame work around that’ll no doubt blow up in our faces just like every other work around you’ve offered us and for you of all people you’ve got another think coming,” I finished eyes hard.
After the Spine had rushed back into welcoming arms of the old Confederation without so much as a backward glance at what they were throwing away, many members of MSP had quite reasonably wanted to go home. Of course I’d let them and promptly lost at least half of my original crew.
We’d struggled to build back up and half the Border Alliance transplants decided they wanted to go back home too. I’d even lost half my ship captains! It wasn’t just the Border Alliance many of our early recruitment drives had sourced green personnel straight from more than a dozen non-border worlds deep inside Sector 25 who were more than happy to take the skills we’d taught them and take them home.
I was less sanguine about their losses but if they didn’t want to stay I refused to have them and now after all that men like Kong Pao had the gall to come to us, come to me, like they had some right to my service?
“Bugs, Admiral,” said the Judge snapping me out of my inner contemplations, “as you pointed out I’m the last person who should be here. I have no right to asked this, I know that but there are Swarms of them hitting or about to hit dozens of worlds,” said Kong Pao.
I paused and then stonily picked up my hookless fishing pole turning away. I wouldn’t be tempted with please against my better nature. Not by this snake oil salesman. Not anymore.
I’d worked hard to rebuild the Fleet and the Judge thought he could just whistle me up whenever he needed and toss me aside when done. Nope. Not on my wathc.
“We’re done here,” I said.
“Please just think about it,” he urged.
I gave a one finger wave over my shoulder as I put away the blaster rifle and walked away.
Kong Pao didn’t care how I’d had to consolidate and retrain entire ship crews after the war was over. How the MSP had been forced to fill its missing ranks with colonists, belters and tractoans, mainly more tractoans. The administrative headaches. The additional schooling time alone, needed by many of our Tractoan candidates, was a not insignificant expense in both time and money.
Even offering large bonuses and incentives to retain people hadn’t been enough. I’d been forced to ask Akantha for funds to set up a small academy where the locals could qualified for spacer before they were allowed to join the fleet.
I had more than 400 warships but could I crew them? No. He was whistling in the dark if he thought I could save the Spine with what I had on hand.
He should have known better, he probably did know better, which meant they really must be desperate but… Nope! I was not going there. I could come and I could go but I would not come and go on command like those little lap dogs the noble ladies of Capria so seemed to love.
The need to reorganize after losing half our original officers and crew to the news of my Exile had stopped my expansion efforts cold and we were only now recovering. Yet it was at this very moment. During the first big push of our recovery effors that he showed up? I didn’t buy it and what’s more I refused to let them whistle me up some trained performing monkey.
‘I’ the exiled Admiral everyone loved to hate was supposed to save everyone out of the goodness of my black heart, the very same heart they cursed as they spit in my face and offered me up to the imperials for death?
Something didn’t wash with this request, in fact it stank to high heaven and I refused to play along.
That’s the moment when I remembered I’d lost the fish which soured my mood even further. I’d been planning on eating that one too.
The Deposed King