Authors: Andrew Beery
The Catherine Kimbridge Chronicles #7,
Copyright 2016 by Andrew Beery
Kindle Edition, v1
I’d like to thank my wife Lori and my two daughters, CJ and Jackie, for putting up with me while I wrote this seventh book in the Kimbridge series. Any similarities between people in this book and my immediate family and friends is purely intentional. Of course, I wouldn’t be much of a pastor if I didn’t acknowledge God – to Him be all the glory!
NOTE from the author
This release of Kimbridge #7 is a lightly edited draft... A fully edited version will be released as soon as it is back from the editors. One of the advantages of KINDLE is the ability to update... It allows readers to get access to a book they have been waiting for sooner (and cheaper) than might otherwise be possible. Please help me control my production costs and my editors by posting any corrections, missing words, wrong words, etc. to my Facebook page setup for that purpose... The direct link is here...
The Catherine Kimbridge Chronicles is a serial adventure. It is highly recommended that the books be read in chronological order.
The Catherine Kimbridge Chronicles #7,
Chapter 1: Pirate King…
Personal Log: 2486 was the year the Galactic Coalition branded me a traitor. Sadly I concurred with their assessment. I still commanded the
taskforce but we were renegades. Our goal was a simple one: Restore the GCP
Sharn Dragos walked through his front door and whistled. He had known the Heshe android was strong but to be able to tear hull-metal from its hinges… now that was impressive. He’s love to add her to his collection but there was that bothersome moral issue – she was a sentient being.
By any definition, Sharn Dragos was a criminal. He had been the
leader of the Talus Pirate league for some thirty years… ever since he had wrestled control from Grunt Eckhart. Grunt was a monster. His ambition began and ended with plundering the weak and helpless.
In many ways Sharn Dragos was the antitheses of his predecessor. Although he looked to be a mere forty or so years of age, Sharn Dargos was considerably older. His life was seemly perpetual. He had seen things in his time that caused him to value the universe differently. Life in its purest and noblest form allowed beauty and love to flourish. In his mind, those things that denied beauty and love this opportunity, were antithetical to life and must be resisted with all one’s strength.
Sharn Dragos had seen priceless treasures and artifacts destroyed by fanatical regimes with little regard for the beauty those regimes desecrated. On Earth in the time of Christ, it had been the Romans ravishing the conquered lands of their empire. Later it had been the Muslims in the Holy lands. Later still, it was the Nazis in Europe… and then in the early 21st century it was the Taliban and ISIS… radical Muslims destroying the treasures of Asia. Sharn Dragos had lived to see it all. The story was repeated on countless worlds over countless years. On Rigal it was the Nafarites. On Tempas Prime it was the Army of Doubters. On the Hupenstaii home world it was Na’tar the Brutal.
For this reason, Sharn Dragos had made it his mission in life to protect beauty. Whereas Grunt had captured and plundered ships indiscriminately, Sharn was very intentional about the targets he allowed his men to go after. He had his own very well financed intelligence network. If an unescorted or poorly protected ship was known to transporting something especially unique, he would send his men to attempt to intercept it without the loss of life. His men would receive the lion’s share of the common goods: food, liquor, gold etc. His cut was always the art.
Those items that were especially noteworthy were added to his
. Such items were carefully researched and cataloged on his personal planetary retreat, a world called
He had a team of renowned archivists. They were the best at their craft that money could buy. Once cataloged, the items were put into protective stasis.
Unfortunately, Sharn Dragos needed to spend most of his time running his empire from Talus IV. Pirates were a rough bunch and they required constant supervision or they tended to revert to their old ways. This was why he had not been on
had paid its visit. In truth, he was not upset by the robbery. He had known it was coming.
Surveying the damage to his home, he saw potential. It was time to recruit the young woman who had brutalized his front door. In truth, he was less interested in her than her husband but Sharn knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the one would not come without the other. Further, his quest to recruit the couple was doomed if he could not find a way to secure her cooperation first. She was the key to his ultimate end.
The ancient intelligence known as the Oracle had advised him in those earliest days in Egypt that he would meet a woman of impossible strength but that it would be her mate that would be of more value in Sharn’s enterprises. In the two and a half millennia since, he had devised a series of tests seeking to identify the couple to whom the Oracle referred.
They will beat down your door when you are not home
, the Oracle and said. That had been scant days before the massive alien ship had departed from Sekhet-am taking the Oracle with it.
Sharn had known since the day he placed Bud Faragon’s stasis chamber in his collection that the time would come when it would be retrieved by those capable of reviving the Admiral. Sharn was absolutely convinced the resulting chaos would be good for his empire. He was also convinced that their little corner of the universe would be seeing some much needed changes. He had worked very hard over the last several decades to make sure all the right players were in place. In the end, he had to admit… It was good to be king!
Elder Trifano hopped awkwardly towards the exterior patio of his home on Worldview Station Six. In low orbit around the Hupenstanii homeworld, the station had been his home for much of the last one hundred years. His joints ached. His once luscious green iridescent plumage was now mottled and gray. High overhead another series of stations orbited his home world. These stations were not inhabited by Hoppers. They stood like hammers ready to fall at a moment’s notice. The GCP defense platforms existed for the sole purpose of denying space to any who ventured beyond the orbit of the Worldview stations.
His eyes, as sharp as ever due to the excellent Hupenstanii health system looked out longingly at the stars. He had dreamed of reaching for those stars once. That had been before the accident that had condemned his entire race to isolation. A disease, created in the lab, had infected his entire race.
It had no effect on the Hupenstanii themselves but it was deadly to most of the member races within the Galactic coalition. That made his people carriers.
It was doubly frustrating because the disease his people now carried had never been a subject of study in the lab accused of leaking it into the general population. A lab he had worked at for his entire career… a lab he was now in charge of. For the last eighty years they had been working on an eradication program. At first, the so-called Galactic Coalition had been helpful; but as the years went by the help had been less and less useful.
Trifano was beginning to suspect that the GCP was less interested in finding a cure than in simply keeping the Hupenstanii isolated. Even communication into and out of the system was highly regulated… ostensibly to prevent radical factions from utilizing the disease vector as a weapon against the GCP. It made no sense to Trifano and at his age he was growing impatient. They had a solution… if only the GCP would provide the needed resources.
Cat looked up from her data pad. The last several days had been exhausting. The battle for Mardarus III had taken its toll, emotionally and physically. It was clear to her that the Galactic Coalition of Planets had devolved over the last several centuries. Their clear mandate to serve and protect the peoples of the Coalition had become diluted and watered down to the point of non-existence. The Grand Senate had become a forum for self-aggrandizement and greed. It seemed to exist to protect mega corporations and was beholden to no one except their own ambitions. If it took her to her last breath, she would see the GCP fixed.
The data pad contained a breakdown of the repairs that the
was undergoing. Her Heshe-enhanced systems could do most of the work but even they required raw materials and careful planning to make sure they were not repairing a power system before they repaired the electrical short that caused the failure. It made for tedious work but it had to be done if the
was to rendezvous with Admiral’s Melbourne and the newly revived Bud Faragon.
The door to her office beeped.
“Enter,” she said absently. Her internal encounter unit’s AI had already alerted her that Commander Ben First was coming to see her.
The D’rlalu cyborg entered her office. He had reverted back to his six-legged D’rlalu canine form. In an earlier life he had held the supreme title of
First of the First
– which meant that he had been his people’s leader. Those days were lost in the distant past. Recently he had made a concession to his human compatriots and had adopted a formal last name. In homage to his past (and Cat suspected no small amount of good-humored ego) he had decided that his surname should be
. Cat had to admit it was refreshing to see her friend back in what was his more natural state.
He held a data pad of his own in his right fore-hand. “Greetings Admiral,” Ben said as he padded into her office. “Our two guests and their families are onboard.”
The two guests where operatives that worked for Admiral Sherry Melbourne. Sam Eddington and Richard Rhins (a.k.a Rhino)
Cat smiled as she nodded at her friend. “I see you are in dog mode today.”
Ben lolled his tongue in what passed for a D’rlalu smile. “I don’t mind the human form but I miss the normal number of arms and feet. Four is just not enough when you have spent your entire life having six. Besides, now that my Heshe Nanites have been programmed for a rapid transition between both forms… and they are no longer disabled… I can pretty much switch back and forth at will.”
“Understandable,” Cat agreed. She nodded at the data pad. “Is that something you need to share?”
“Yes Admiral. WhimPy has confirmed he has control of the Mardarus system’s defense. He has also confirmed that several of his brothers have agreed to defend some of the other worlds that are under BCI interdiction. They will however not engage the BCI directly nor will they aid in the Hupenstanii situation.”
Cat stood and took the data pad from his hand when he offered it to her. She held both pads and glanced between the two. Finally, she nodded to herself and placed them both down on her desk. “I guess we have to do this the hard way. Engineering says we should be ready to get underway within the hour. I’m going to hold them to that. I’ll meet with Ken and then we’ll set course to rendezvous with Admiral Melbourne.”
Admiral Bud Faragon stepped onto the bridge of the strangest starship he had ever seen. It was the recently remodeled and upgraded
AM Brown Recluse
. Ostensibly a pirate vessel, the
was actually a covert ship attached to Admiral Sherry Melbourne’s black ops organization that operated under the unofficial name ‘Melbourne’s Maniacs’. The M&Ms, as they often referred to themselves, had no official designation within the GCP but there was no doubt the bulk of the crew was composed of military men and women.
The strangest thing about the
might have been her captain. Harry Bedmore was an alias for Captain Ricky Valen. Over the years the man had had many names but none suited him quite as well as his current guise. Bud suspected Ricky had always been a pirate at heart
. It was a good thing Harry worked for them as opposed to some other faction
, Bud thought to himself.
Harry turned in his command chair to look at Admiral Faragon as he entered the bridge. Any other officer in the fleet would have stood and saluted. Harry simply winked with a grin and turned back around.
“Helm, hoist the anchor and set the sails.”
“Aye Capt’n,” an impossibly young Lieutenant John Grissom answered cheerfully. “Anchor hoisted and sails unfurled.”
“Very good, Johnny my boy,” Harry said in a chipper voice. “Make course for Ceti Alpha-5. From there we will make the jump for Hupenstanii space.”
“We will reach the jump point in fifty four minutes sir,” Grissom replied by way of acknowledgment.
Bud stepped down to the bridge’s main deck so he stood next to the Captain’s seat. Harry looked up at him as the older man stared at the forward viewscreen.
“Penny for your thought’s Admiral,” Harry said softly.
Bud look back from the screen at his friend.
“I’ve been asleep for the better part of eighty years. The universe is very much different… very much darker.” He looked back up at the viewscreen. “I finally think I know what Cat felt like when you rescued her on Mars three hundred years ago.”
Harry followed the Admiral’s gaze to the viewscreen. The screen was currently configured to show the exterior star pattern as well as a secondary window with a tactical display of GCP forces and the various components of Cat’s
taskforce both at Mardarus III and a second group just outside of Hupenstanii space.
“Beg’n the Admiral’s pardon,” Harry said, “But I think there is more to it than that.”
Bud sighed. “I feel betrayed. Betrayed by the very organization I helped create. Worse, I feel responsible to the billions that have paid the price for that betrayal.” He looked back at the
captain. “How does one man make amends for all of that?”
“He doesn’t sir,” Harry said.
Bud smiled. He could count on one hand the number of times Ricky/Harry had called him ‘Sir’.
“He doesn’t,” Harry continued, “because he has Cat Kimbridge… because he has Sherry Melbourne… because he has Harry Bedmore… He doesn’t because he has a team with the same ideals and hopes and dreams and determination to make a difference. He doesn’t because he is not, nor has he ever been alone.”
Bud placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder. “You’re a good man Harry. I don’t care what your mother says.”