Chapter 30:

The Fleet from Pluto, Part Two

Red Storm Over Ganymede


**Tristan**

After my talk with the First Minister, Captain Marduk lent me a workstation to plan our assault with Isul.

“I need to find out if Grace is still in command of her fleet. If she is, we’ll possibly have access to disarmament codes,” I said as I rubbed the balls of my hands in my eyes in an attempt to cheat sleep from claiming its prize. I turned to Captain Marduk, “How good is your surveillance of the Empire’s shipyards?”

The sphinx-shaped man considered my data with a scowl. “We keep drone codebreaker telescopes in far orbit of both the Republic and the Empire. It’s simply a matter of finding the right data streams to tap into.”

I pushed aside the chilling implications of what he said. The idea of being spied on by not only the Republic but the Collective as well sent shivers down my spine, but hopefully that could now be used to our advantage.

“Once you’re in, Isul and I can guide it to the appropriate files,” I said.

Captain Marduk’s chair swiveled around as he requisitioned control of the satellites from the Voice of the Collective, who rapidly approved our request.

Once we had access, Isul set the cloaked satellite’s receiver to access the military database on the orbital drydock that the Regina One had been moored in. He alone interfaced with the satellite’s feed, and I could see that faraway look in his eyes as he sorted through terraquads of data in search of Grace’s ultimate fate after she allowed us to escape.

“She’s not on the decommissioned list,” Isul finally said when his eyes focused once again on me for the first time in over an hour. “But she’s not in command of the Regina One or the Ganymede Fleet either.”

I stroked my chin. “So she’s likely not dead,” I said with a visible sigh of relief. Grace’s fate had weighed heavily on me, especially considering what had happened to Winnie while she supported me. “Can you go back in and find more information?” I asked.

“It’s not like plugging into the Jovian central database,” Isul replied. “I’m working in a subtly different program language, with unfamiliar machinery. Imagine walking through heavy gravity while looking at where you’re going through a pinhole. That’s what trying to find information this way is like.”

I turned to Captain Marduk, “Is there any way you can speed up the process?”

He shook his head. “Isul would need an access port for our systems from the Voice of the Collective, which is unlikely to happen. I could link up to him, however, and help translate the language barrier at least. Free up some processing power for Isul to navigate the captured data.”

I turned back to Isul, “Are you okay with linking up to Captain Marduk?”

He nodded. “It will certainly go faster.”

They set to work, now both deep inside the datastream that returned from the cloaked satellite. I soon grew tired of watching them work, and set my sights on organizing the attack pattern to maximize our effectiveness during the assault.

I brought up images of the space surrounding Ganymede. I didn’t want to do too much damage to the orbital drydock. We would need that to repair ships after this scuffle was over. But the orbital weapons platforms could be destroyed without too much fuss. They were placed in even orbit around Ganymede as a final line of defense against invasion. If we took them out, the Collective’s cloaked ships would have a clear line of assault to get to the dome that housed Catamitus.

We would have to enter through the spaceport, however, and then travel from there to the palace. But once we breached the spaceport, Catamitus stellar control would no doubt alert the royal guard, and the spaceport would be surrounded by every available soldier. There was a chance the military would deploy the Centurions to stop us as well.

But it was a risk we had to take if we were ever going to topple the false Emperor. Nona Regina would have to be detained, as well as the clone and Lashell. My stomach twisted in knots as I thought of facing Grandmother again. I wasn’t sure I possessed the resolve to take her down, but what choice had she left me? It was that or die in obscurity, far from home, without honoring the legacy of my parents.

And the legacy of the Tristan who had come before me.

What I wouldn’t give to view his memory map. Before, when I thought he and I were one in the same, I didn’t want those memories. They represented what I could never gain back. But now that I knew he and I weren’t the same person…I wanted to get to know him better. I longed to know the ways we were the same, and the ways in which we were different.

But I would never know. Our Grandmother had killed him, whether by murder or by accident, and while I couldn’t live the life he had left for me, I could live a life that honored his memory.

My reverie was broken by Isul and Captain Marduk surfacing from the datastream. “We found her, Tristan,” Isul said with relieved sigh.

I practically jumped up out of my chair, “Where? Where is she?”

“After she ‘failed to capture the traitors,’ Admiral Nichols was demoted to captain and sent off to head the fourth Saturnian fleet,” Isul said.

I sucked in a breath. Grace had paid a heavy price for helping me; the fourth Saturnian fleet around Enceladus was the smallest in the Empire, only three ships. It was a far, backwater posting from the prestigious job she had left. Another thing to remedy if I ever regained the throne.

“Can we make contact with her? Let her know we’re alive?” I asked, the hope bleeding into my voice.

Captain Marduk shook his head. “Not just yet. We’ll have to be in Jovian territory before we can send messages that will reach her ship.”

I nodded. Even if we couldn’t speak just yet, just knowing that Grace was alive and still in command of a ship bolstered my spirit. “We’ll need her to help coordinate our attack, so please let me know the moment we can make contact.”

The Captain nodded in assent. “Of course, Prince Tristan. We want this operation to succeed as much or more than you. Any chance at ending the Empire’s draconian policies regarding my species is a chance I’m willing to take.”

I smiled, grateful for at least one of the Captains being willing to extend a tow cable in friendship and not leave me adrift. I took the Captain’s paw. “It’s a goal I’ve wanted for a long time as well,” I replied, as I gave Isul a meaningful look.

Steward McOy
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Makech
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Frontz
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Miao Miao
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