Titan went to his desk and pulled up Carver’s contact information.
Ten seconds later a projection of Commander Carver appeared, floating over Titan’s desk.
The commander ran a hand through his hair and sighed with annoyance. “Another problem?”
“Maybe a small one. Captain Caryll opted to leave Enclave for her another housing option.”
Carver shook his head. “Not a problem. She has an apartment. It’s well shielded.”
Titan hesitated. “Sir… was…” He sighed in frustration, not sure how to explain his concerns.
Carver looked tired, and his attention kept shifting from the monitor to something else in the room. Probably Genevieve Silar.
“Sir, if she’d been one of my crew, I wouldn’t leave Caryll alone tonight. She wasn’t just angry. Her defensive shields were up, she was taking things hard. And I know Yeoman Lee was out of line. I’m fully aware of that. But…” He shrugged.
The commander motioned for someone to join him, and sure enough the young Silar lieutenant slid on his lap wearing little more than a pink night slip.
“Lieutenant,” Titan said politely, keeping his gaze pointedly on his commander’s face.
Carver had a steady lover who’d probably be his wife by the time the year was out, he didn’t need to rub it in. Besides, pale pink was an atrocious color on Silar. She needed a steel gray or copper red, something martial.
That could be filed under the list of things he would never, ever tell anyone.
“Gen, do you think Selena was acting abnormal tonight?” Carver asked.
“She was cranky, but she wanted to go somewhere in Tarrin proper, not Cargo Blue. That’s it,” Silar said.
“You don’t think she was upset by what Rowena said?” Carver asked.
Silar shook her head, tossing bright red curls that caught on the commander’s bristles.
Titan squelched a surge of jealousy. It had been a long time since he’d had someone to hold that close.
“Selena’s heard all that before. From everyone,” Silar said. “She’ll be fine. But, if the guardian is worried, I’ll contact her. Would that make you happy?”
“I was doing my due diligence,” Titan said. “If you believe Captain Caryll is in a good mental state, I won’t worry about her.”
“Selena’s never in a good head space,” Silar said. “She doesn’t have a crew and she spends more time at work than with her friends. That’s not healthy. But it’s not new either. You’ll see, she’ll be dancing at Cargo Blue next weekend. Unless it’s shut down by then.”
“Captain Caryll mentioned that problem too, sir. We may need to consider allowing more passes for people to leave Enclave.”
Carver held up his hand. “We’ll worry about that later. Are you going to check on the Lees?”
“As soon as I’m done here, sir,” Titan confirmed.
“May I make a suggestion?”
“Find a reason to spend the night with the Lees or at the office. If your crew sees your face right now, we’re going to be filing incident reports and reprimands for the next month. Not that you can’t request a reprimand for Captain Caryll, she was out of line, but once we go down that road it won’t end.”
Silar looked offended. “She had every right to punch Rowena! It’s not Selena’s fault Sciarra got in the way of her fist.”
Titan pressed his lips into a thin line. “I don’t want a fight with the Carylls, sir. Even if there is only one of them.”
“Thank you,” Carver said. “Have a good night. Tell Rowena happy birthday from us.”
“Yes, sir.” That was a lie, but a polite one that would keep the peace. He closed the transmission and stared into the darkness and the vanished Selena Caryll. In another world, in another fleet…
It was a silly thought. They’d all made their choices years ago and now he had to live with his.
Seven hours later, Titan rested his head on his desk with the overhead light off and remembered why he never went partying with Rowena if he didn’t have the next day off. Even with his nanites working overtime he had a hangover.
There was a light knock at his door. “That brutal?” Carver asked.
“Good morning, Commander.” Titan tried to stand up and gave up as the room spun.
Carver snickered. “I went drinking with Rowena once. My first year at the Academy when I’d made the flight team, she invited me over. Were you there? Baular was. A couple of Lee officers.”
“I remember three days of a drunken blur,” Titan said. “Mal -ancestor’s keep him – brought something over from his dad’s private collection. I don’t remember what it was.”
“Golden fire? Gilted sun? Something like that?”
“Gilted Sun Whiskey from the first continent.” Titan sighed fondly at the memory. “Now I remember. Mal had welts on his back for a month when his parents found out. It was a museum piece. One of the last bottles from the first wave of colonization.”
“Ancestor’s keep him.” Carver sighed. “He wasn’t always a bad man.”
“Best of a bad lot,” Titan said. “The Baulars were cruel to everyone, even their own crew. But a lot of the old guard were. It’s hard to know, in the thick of it, that what your captains and elders are doing is wrong. Until you have a good captain, you don’t realize what a bad one is. Mal – may the ancestor’s welcome him to the Lost Fleet- would have been a good captain.”
“Maybe,” Carver said. “He had problems.”
Titan shrugged. “We all had problems. We were barely adults. Nineteen, twenty years old and making choices that got hundreds killed. It’s a bit ridiculous when you think about it. Things needed to change and we thought it was the only way to go.”
“And now we change again,” Carver said. “That’s why you’re in the Starguard. And, that’s why I’m here.”
Titan raised an eyebrow.
“I saw your report about last night. And I wanted to say thank you, personally, and not as the commander. Selena’s a good person once you get to know here. So, thank you for letting things slide.”
He shrugged again. “If she’d accepted Rowena’s challenge, I might not have.”
“The hardest part of battle is having ammunition and a target, and not taking the kill shot,” Carver said. It sounded like he was quoting someone. “This was one of th-”
He stopped and his eyes glowed silver. “Can I use your wall screen?”
“Sure.” Titan pinged his commander with the code to use the wall’s teleconference screen.
An old, round-faced man with bright red cheeks appeared leaning far too close to the monitor on the other end. “Commander Carver.”
“That’s me,” Carver said.
Titan turned on the lights and shut his office door with a thought.
The round-faced man frowned at him. “And that is?”
“One of me men,” Carver said. Who are you?”
“Commandant Tyrling of the Jhandarmi’s Third Corp. I’m the sector commander for this area. Did you receive our message last night?”
Carver shook his head. “I haven’t sorted through the paperwork you sent yet.”
And Titan knew he never did. Anything sent over by a grounder was dropped in a file unopened.
“When you didn’t respond immediately I feared you’d ignored the memo. Hence the call. Our intelligence operatives believe someone has paid for an attack on one of your Starguardians.”
Titan winced at the fumbled name. The guardians were in the Starguard, but there were no Starguardians.
“Starguard, excuse me,” Tyrling corrected as if he was being prompted by someone off screen.
“Do you have any more information?” Carver asked. “The name of the target or the assailant?”
“Not at this time.”
“May we speak with your intelligence operative?” It was a fair request.
Tyrling shook his head. “Out of the question, I’m afraid. Our man is on a deep cover assignment. He only slipped us this information because it could destabilize the current truce.”
“Thank you for letting us know,” Carver said. “I’ll put Enclave on lockdown and make sure we reinforce the perimeter.”
Titan smirked. No one was getting through his shield. Not unless someone had hired Selena Caryll as a hitman, and somehow he couldn’t see No-Shot Selena taking up murder-for-hire as a hobby.
“We’ll update you if we learn more,” Tyrling said with a nod before closing out his monitor.
Carver grimaced. “This is not going to make Gen happy.”
“Was she going somewhere today?”
“No, but there’s a flyer race scheduled for this weekend and she was planning on entering.”
So was Rowena, now that he checked his schedule.
Grumbling, Carver dropped into the chair by the door. His eyes were unfocused.
Finally Carver came back from wherever he’d mentally wandered off too. “This is not good.”
“I know, sir. Especially since it means we’ll be denying requests to leave Enclave. And, after last night, we need a distraction.”
Carver nodded and licked his lips. “Okay…” He nodded again. “How much do I need to pay you to streak naked through Enclave?”
Titan raised his eyebrows.
“It’s be a distraction,” Carver said with his signature smile.
“Maybe you should ask Silar,” Titan said.
“Everyone’s seen Hollis naked. There’s no novelty value.” Carver stood and paced. “Do we have any other distractions?”
Titan mentally listed everything he’s used to keep junior officers from causing trouble out of boredom. “Mock battles aren’t a good thing right now. Sports won’t work. We could try a shielding contest.”
“No competitions,” Carver said. “We need something to defuse the tension, not start another war.”
“Options fail me.” Titan shook his head.
“I’ll go … find something. Rowena has better intel than anyone in the fleet, maybe she knows who would want an officer killed.”
“Fine.” Carver nodded. “Dismissed. Contact me as soon as you have something.”