She had been the commanding officer of Heart of the Galaxy for almost three years now, but walking onto the bridge still made Chieria Peltoren’s heart swell with pride every time. Heart of the Galaxy was the largest, fastest, most powerful ship in the galaxy, and the bridge reflected its greatness in every sweeping line and graceful curve. There was still a twinge of sadness in her thoughts whenever she remembered that the country she now served was not the country that had built this magnificent ship, but that was a small detail. The country she served now had treated her better in the past two years than her previous masters ever had.
“Status report!” she barked as she sat down in the command chair.
“All boards are green, Admiral,” announced her XO, Captain Ernain Lomor. Lomor was average height and rail-thin, with a shock of bright blond hair and striking green eyes. He’d been Peltoren’s XO for several years now, turning down at least two offers to command his own ship in order to stay with her.
“That’s what I like to hear,” Peltoren said with a grin. “Set a course for Hadramoris.”
“Yes, sir!” said the navigation officer. A few minutes later, the huge ship shuddered slightly and the view on the main display changed from the inky black void of space into the swirling kaleidoscope of colors that was subspace. Peltoren’s grin grew broader as she gazed at that mesmerizing sight. Heart of the Galaxy was on its way to the capital to take part in a very special ceremony. Ever since Heart of the Galaxy and its crew had defected to the Republic two years ago, Hadramoris’s best engineers and technicians had been hard at work reverse-engineering Galaxy and its systems in order to copy it. Today was the first fruits of that work: the test flight of the Republic’s own Starfortress, Iron Dragonfly.
It made Peltoren prouder than she could say that her ship and her crew had been invited to take part in this momentous occasion. With two Starfortresses, the Hadramoran Navy would be more than a match for any other fleet in the galaxy, and it wouldn’t have been possible without her crew. Defecting from one country to another had been a difficult decision, but it had been the right decision, and it pleased Peltoren immensely that her people had been willing to follow her this far, and that they could have made such a massive contribution to their new homeworld.
After about twenty minutes, there was a slight shudder, and the view on the display changed from swirling colors back into mostly black, although there was a large blue and green planet surrounded by starships in the middle of the screen. Hadramoris, the capital of the Republic. It had only been Admiral Peltoren’s home for two years, but she already felt more affection for it than she had for her old home, Numoris, the capital of Fangalin.
“We’re receiving a message from the President’s transport ship, Admiral,” said the communications officer.
“Put it through,” Peltoren said. A moment later, the face of the President of the Republic, Badadum Trilis, appeared on the screen. He was in his mid-50s, with short, dark hair that was just starting to go gray, a square jaw, and a winning smile.
“Admiral!” Trilis said, “How good to see you again! You got here just in time for the big show!”
“Happy to be here, Mr. President,” Peltoren replied, inclining her head slightly.
“Of course you are,” Trilis said with one of his famous smiles. “If it wasn’t for you, none of this would be possible.”
“To be fair, Mr. President,” Peltoren said, “I do believe that Admiral Lodimeur deserves more of the credit than I do.”
“You’re so modest, Admiral,” Trilis said, grinning. “Admiral Lodimeur’s defection was a momentous occasion for the Republic, but we wouldn’t be on the verge of launching our own Starfortress if you and your crew hadn’t come with her.”
“Fair enough, Mr. President,” Peltoren said with a slight smile.
“I knew you’d see it my way,” Trilis said with a wink. “Alright, Captain Fonzen and his crew are ready to go, so now that you’re here, we can get started.”
“Glad to hear it, Mr. President,” Peltoren replied, her smile broadening. Trilis gave Peltoren another roguish wink, and then his face disappeared from the viewscreen, replaced by the view of Hadramoris.
“What’s the status of Iron Dragonfly?” Peltoren asked her sensor officer.
“She’s spinning up her Nexus engines, sir,” the sensor officer replied. “Should be ready to drop in about five minutes.”
“Keep an eye on veritol output,” Peltoren warned. “I want to be able to start getting people out of there ASAP if anything goes wrong.”
“Aye-aye, sir,” the sensor officer said.
The next five minutes zoomed by slowly. Peltoren was about as excited and anxious as she’d ever been. If Iron Dragonfly successfully dropped into subspace, it would be a massive triumph for the Republic, and a huge step toward having a second battle-ready Starfortress, AND being able to mass produce them. If this test failed, well, one Starfortress was still more than any other fleet had.
“Iron Dragonfly is initiating drop!” announced the sensor officer suddenly.
“Come on,” Peltoren muttered under her breath as the massive ship disappeared from Galaxy’s sensors. She held her breath for what seemed like an eternity, although Dragonfly was only traveling to the edge of the Hadramoran system, a journey of a few seconds in subspace.
“We’re picking up Iron Dragonfly’s signal!” the sensor officer practically squealed in delight. “Right where they’re supposed to be!” The cheers that broke out on Galaxy’s bridge were almost deafening, and nobody was yelling louder than Admiral Chieria Peltoren.
“Yes!” she yelled, standing up and thrusting a fist into the air. “We did it!” She grabbed Captain Lomor and gave him a big hug, leaving him looking slightly dazed as she released him. Giving him a mischievous grin, she turned to the communications officer. “Send a message to Captain Fonzen and his crew. Tell them… Welcome to the club.”
To be continued…