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Captain Caspian sat in her office. Every Captain designed the interior of their office to fit their personal style. The left wall had been replaced with a bank of full-length windows, so she should look out into the space around them. Behind her was a mural of the El Empire’s capital planet of Emperern and its surrounding star systems. She sat in a high-backed black leather chair behind a curved, glass-topped desk outlined in chrome.
To her right, Rev. Flynn relaxed in her sitting area. It was a space designed for more informal conversations than sitting across a desk from each other. In the sitting area there were two large black leather chairs and a sofa. A low glass-top table with chrome trim was in front of the sofa. On the wall opposite the sitting area, was a drink serving counter. Captain Caspian enjoyed the professional, if somewhat impersonal, look and the effect of space, lots of space.
Captain Caspian looked up as her intercom buzzed.
“Sam is here to see you,” reported the Security Elite officer outside her door.
“Send him in.”
The door slid open, and Sam walked in. His eyes took in the room. It was certainly not what he had expected a captain’s office to look like. Standing, Captain Caspian motioned to the sitting area.
“Have a seat, Sam,” she said in a friendly tone.
Sam went over and sank onto the sofa. As Captain Caspain came over to the sitting area, she asked if Sam would like a drink, which he politely declined.
As she sat down in the other chair, Captain Caspian said, “I’m sorry for asking you to come up here when it’s so late, but there are important things we need to discuss.”
“No problem,” replied Sam.
“As you know, we have returned to Tergonta. We believe the machine that the U.R.’s destroyed was not the real TTT. We need to search for the real one.”
Rev. Flynn added, “It is probably in the same general location. It would not make logistical sense for the U.R. to spread out their operations too far, especially since they seemed to be afraid of your people.”
Sam shook his head, “They were not afraid of my people. It was the Black Faces they were afraid of. They are vicious and trying to exterminate my people, the White Streaks. They don’t believe we are a pure race.” He almost spat the words out. The bitterness in his voice could not be hidden. “They attack anyone who isn’t a Black Face.” He paused, “But you might be right about the U.R.’s keeping their operation tight.”
“Did you see any sign of large machinery or equipment?” asked Captain Caspian. “It would have had to been well-hidden for our scanners not to find it, perhaps in a cave or underground?”
Sam shook his head, “I don’t know that area too well. I had only been undercover at the Black Face’s military compound for a couple of weeks when they captured you.”
“Would you be willing to act as a guide for an exploration party?” asked Captain Caspian.
Sam hesitated, “If the Dasf catches me, I will be killed.”
“Our party will be armed, and we will have air support if needed,” said Rev. Flynn.
Sam shook his head again, “Not air support. That would just signal the Black Faces to our location. You need stealth and a pathfinder.”
“The location of White Streak villages is always shifting because if the Black Faces find us, we will be destroyed. The pathfinders are the ones who constantly search out new locations that are suitable for our people. They would have excellent knowledge of the area where you want to search.”
“Do you think a pathfinder would be willing to help us?”
“Possibly. I might be able to talk one of them into it, especially if you gave them something they wanted.”
A hint of suspicion crossed through Captain Caspian’s eyes, “And what would that be?”
“We need to have the threat of the Black Face’s eliminated so that we can settle in one place, build towns and cities, and enjoy life. Always being on the run and hunted is no way to live.”
“It is not U.A.F. policy to arm fractions in a war,” said Captain Caspian firmly.
Rev. Flynn added, “But neither is it our policy to see innocent civilians harmed or killed.” He glanced at Captain Caspian, “Remember the Garmashe Solution?”
Captain Caspian shook her head, “I’m not sure that applies here.”
“In any case, we can investigate the situation for ourselves and provide a certain level of protection for innocent civilians.”
Captain Caspian nodded, “Would that be enough? If there is evidence of an attempted genocide we would, of course, become more actively involved.”
Sam thought, and then he said, “I think I could persuade Jokar to help under those conditions.”
“Will it be a problem finding your village?” asked Rev. Flynn.
“No,” said Sam, “I can find it, but if they see your ships flying about in air support, they will melt into the forest, and will certainly distrust you even if we find them.”
Captain Caspian considered, “It is not wise for a landing party to be on a hostile planet without air support - which, in most cases, includes three squads each of Flyers and Battle Shuttles.”
“That won’t work,” said Sam adamantly. “Stealth has to be the keyword, plus not even I could overcome the distrust that would surely build.”
Captain Caspian rose and went to her desk. She scrolled through reports on her computer until she found the one she was looking for.
She looked back at Sam, “I have a request here from Squad Leader Stormer… you remember him?”
“A request to do some training with his new pilot, Pvt. Janet Goodwin - whom you also met. He wants to give her practice flying under atmospheric conditions. This requires two trainers. It would be just the three of them… on a training mission… is that acceptable?”
Sam considered, “It’s still dicy, but I think it would work if they were not directly over our location.”
“Good. I’ll assemble a Probe team.”
Captain Caspian smiled, “Nothing happens that quickly. It will leave in three days.”
Sam nodded as he rose. He shook the hands of Captain Caspian and Rev. Flynn, then departed.
When the door closed behind him, Rev. Flynn turned to look at Captain Caspian, “That almost sounded like you intended to lead the Probe Team.”
“I need to be where I can assess situations instantly.”
“No, Captain,” said Rev. Flynn, respectfully but firmly. “The Operations Manual is specific. This is a highly volatile situation. You cannot place yourself in harm’s way. Your job is in the Captain’s chair, commanding the operation and everything else going on around it.”
Captain Caspian knew he was right, but responded with a trace of defiance in her voice, “I led the team to board the U.R. Death to rescue Dr. Kana.”
“I did not approve of that either. And the U.R.’s were almost able to take control of the Courage partly because of that decision.” He paused. Then he continued, “Besides, you need a skilled negotiator leading the Team.”
A sigh escaped Captain Caspian’s lips as she looked at her friend and co-captain. Of course, she had to put her responsibilities and the safety of the Courage above her personal choices. Still, she didn’t have to like it.
“OK, you win. You will lead the Probe team. Sam will give you as much intel as he can before you leave. Pick your team, at least half of which should be Security Elite.”
Rev. Flynn nodded, “I could have that done tonight. Why the three-day delay?”
Captain Caspian smiled as she touched her communicator. “Stormer,” she said.
A few moments later, Stormer’s voice answered, “Yes, Captain?”
Quickly she explained the position of the Probe Team. Then she said, “I want you to put Pvt. Goodwin through intensive simulator training over the next three days, especially in air-to-ground surveillance and attack. If the Probe team needs back up, you three are going to be it for at least 20 minutes.”
When she ended the call, she turned back to Rev. Flynn, “It’s probably a good thing I’m not going. I’m feeling a little sick. I’m going to have to see if Dr. Kana can give me something.”
Rev. Flynn nodded before leaving the office. He knew if Captain Caspian admitted to feeling sick, she really did not feel well.
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