“‘Cry Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war, that this foul deed shall smell above the earth!”, shouted the mechpilot standing on a chair in the midst of the recreation center. Groans and chuckles, accompanied by admonitions, filled the room. Aiden Simeon smiled at the camaraderie among the mech pilots even as he rushed to find Captain Warrant.
As he approached the duty desk, an imposing woman with a tattoo of a star on her neck shouted above the others, “Shakespeare! If you quote anymore ancient, irrelevant poetry, I will throw you out an airlock.”
The dramatic pilot bounded off the chair and ran at the desk. “Ancient, it may be, Sweet Briar, but never irrelevant.” The lanky man then turned his eyes on Aiden like he’d seen a bird of prey do, in a zoo. He draped one arm over Aiden’s thin shoulders. “Young Aiden, you look like a man with a poet’s soul. What say you?”
“Um,” Aiden vacillated, hoping for rescue. “I’m more into the hydraphase poems.”
Making a sound of absolute disgust, the pilot replied, “That modern trash is nothing. The youth of our galaxy is in severe decline.”
Briar returned to her duty roster and didn’t look up as she warned, “Shakespeare, Airlock.”
He smiled charmingly at the red haired woman on desk duty for the evening. “Obviously, you can’t be saved.”
“Shut up now, and you can.”
Laughing, the man rejoined his group and the rowdy sounds of soldiers with some down time on their hands flooded the room. “What is it, Kid?” Briar asked.
Aiden grimaced at the nickname that had appeared to have stuck. He would be called Kid when he was forty at this rate. At least, with this bunch of soldiers, he would. “Leggit sent me to find Captain Warrant. He’s needed in her office.”
Briar brushed several twisted red braids back out of her face and pursed her lips. She rolled her eyes up to the ceiling. “Kid, if he ain’t killing things, he’s upstairs in the lab.”
Aiden smiled. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
With one last annoyed look at Shakespeare’s still raucous group, Briar went back to her work.
Aiden climbed the stairwell, and pushed a button to gain entry. A buzzer rang out, and the door hissed to the side. The lab seemed relatively quiet, as he made his way into the efficient, but comfortable space, that housed all three scientists and, at the moment, the unit Captain.
Aiden realized he didn’t know which room belonged to the Captain and his new wife. He would have to just start knocking on the doors. He went to the most likely door, the one closest to the doctor’s office. His tentative knock sounded extremely loud in the large, vaulted area contained by very few walls, and tons of highly technical equipment behind glass partitions.
Disheveled and shirtless, the captain answered the door on a yawn. “I hate to wake you, Captain.” Aiden said, “but the commander needs to see you. She’s requested you come to her office immediately.”
A female voice groaned inside the room. “God, you just got home two hours ago.”
Captain Warrant turned an indulgent smile toward the speaker, and nodded at Aiden. “I’ll get dressed, Kid,” he said.
“I’ll just wait out here.”
Hopper nodded, and closed the door.
Aiden couldn’t help being fascinated by the lab. He walked over to a half-wall filled with specially treated glass that kept things, like bacteria and nanites, more in than out. Dr. Nooni waved at him, though it was hard to be sure it was her in the decon suit. It was strange to him how everyone seemed down about the war, except this Dr. Nooni. When she’d first arrived, she snapped at everyone, but, since the discovery of the alien ruins on Alcatraz, she’d been nearly giddy. People were hard to figure sometimes. Hopper had told him once it was because the woman felt vindicated, though he didn’t know what that was about.
He turned at the sound of the captain’s approach.
“You interested in archeology, Kid?”
He laughed. “Not even a little, sir.”
“I know what you mean,” Hopper smiled back. “Hard to believe that’s where we go for intel this time around.”
Aiden looked at the captain. “You worried, sir?”
He took a deep breath. “I’m always worried, Kid. Burden of command.” He clapped Aiden firmly on the shoulder, and said, “Let’s go.”
Dr. Cole emerged from their quarters carrying his datapad. The captain took it from her hand before pecking her cheek with a sweetheart’s kiss. She whispered something in his ear, prompting Aiden to move slowly away, giving them privacy. He couldn’t get far enough away to hear nothing,
“You will be careful,” the captain told her sternly.
Dr. Cole had a blinding smile, and that wasn’t an exaggerated statement. She looked like a fairytale princess in one of the books Tolly liked, Snow White. He’d heard that about Endavian women, but he’d never actually met one ’til now. They were, as a race, tiny and proper, and packed quite a punch for such a small package.
Dr. Cole was a perfect example of looks being deceiving.
“I will be just as careful as you are, Love.”
Aiden looked away as the captain stepped closer and whispered his admonishment intimately. Aiden blushed and walked toward the lab doors to stand waiting with his hands clutched behind his back, trying desperately to be invisible to the lovers.
With that same stern, worried expression, the captain joined him, and they left the lab. They passed through the crowd of pilots enjoying their down time, through the hatchway, and out to the concourse. The Commander’s office was just off the dock where Aiden worked on the Captain’s mech.
Aiden parted company with the Captain outside the admin offices, wishing him the best, and went over to his bay containing two maintenance drones that, for some reason, wouldn’t accept new protocols. The shiny dome of the diagnostic drone he’d peeled open, to reveal its wires and chips inside, waited there in the darkness of his own little walled in space. No one messed with his bay, and he smiled at the strictly organized mess. No one else would be able to work here.
Aiden felt most at home on the Launch Deck, with its constant activity and machinery in permanent need of being taken apart and put back together. He was good with the inner workings of the big machines. More than that, he was happy working on them. Each one was a puzzle to be solved. Digging through computer code and circuitry distracted him from thoughts of the past and the future, gave him another place to be in his head.
Grabbing a chair and turning it backwards, he sat and stared at the open drone, turning the problem over in his mind. The security protocols blocked the creation of new sub-routines. Why?
Aiden still sat, a standard later, with his hands on the back of the battered metal chair, staring at the circuitry, when he heard a soft knock on the clear, shatter resistant glass at the top of the wall. He turned in the chair to find Maggie behind him, shooting him a raised eyebrow.
She had short, straight hair, cut close, and delicate features, for a typical military woman, paired with rich caramel skin. The women of the company were definitely something out of the ordinary.
They gave no quarter. While Aiden found it admirable, he was man enough to admit they all scared the hell out of him.
Magpie was no different, but she was closer to his age, a twenty something who’d accelerated through flight school with the Lancers at a ridiculous pace, thanks to her natural ability.
“Aiden, Hopper’s going to catch you goofing.”
“He gets my process,” he said defensively.
“Your process?” she laughed. Aiden stood, going for his datapad on his nearby table.
“I have to study the problem.”
“From the chair? You become one with the drone or something?”
“Or something. What did you need?”
It was a testy reply because she’d really started getting on his nerves lately. Hopper called it sexual tension, but Aiden didn’t buy it. Maggie wasn’t in the market for anything, except getting first chair on a bird, and Aiden had way too much riding on his success in the Lancers.
He had mouths to feed. Danny, Geris and Tolly depended on him every day, and he wasn’t going to be the next one in this world to let them down. They’d all had enough of that already.
“My pilot can’t work out something in the missile navsystem. He asked if I could get you to look at it.”
Maggie was a gunner, and, if the rec room gossip could be believed, one of the best in the Lancers. In the unit, all the pilots had to earn their own bird. Maggie was young yet, inexperienced. Until she tested out, she still rode the guns, or second chair, if he was in the mood to annoy her.
Cry Havoc by Jolie Mason is available on January 20.
You can read Cry as a standalone, but, if you like romance, there’s a whole series in the world, starting with Home is the sailor, which is available free at most retailers. Cry Havoc is not a romance. It’s the story of four kids caught up in what could well be the last war of the universe. Happy Reading!