Zenith Jump Point
Galatea, Lyran Commonwealth
15 June 3038
Sir Henry Albern was frankly amazed at the speed which things progressed. Lady Alexandra contacted him that Saturday morning and told him she accepted the contract, provided a few articles were adjusted. He met with her later in the morning in her suite and agreed to increases in compensation. This meant one hundred percent for straight support costs instead of sixty, and fifty percent for battle loss compensation instead of twenty. He'd had instructions not to haggle much with any mercenary unit unless their demands were ridiculous.
From her suite they made their way to Galatean City's Hiring Hall where the updated garrison contract was readjusted and then signed by both parties. It was ratified and witnessed by ComStar's Mercenary Review Board, making it fully legal and binding. Every member of the Fighting Fusiliers was tremendously excited. They had their very first contract, making them bonafide professional mercenaries at last.
Sunday was spent packing and getting ready for the long trip to Kolovraty. They spent one last night at the Galatean Interstellar Hotel and then checked out just past dawn on Monday morning. Alexandra paid their unbelievably huge bill (and the bill for the DropShip crew's stay at the Mercenary Arms Hotel) and then took a hoverlimo trip to the Galaport, picking up Sir Henry along the way. He was quite intrigued by the eclectic group of warriors Lady Alexandra had gathered around herself. One of them even had a pair of pet kittens, of all things.
When they arrived at the spaceport there was no preamble or messing about. Captain Nicolas Forrester, a tall black man in his early thirties, was there to greet them in person, welcoming Sir Henry aboard Shearling. Their luggage was transferred to their quarters, and once everyone was secure the DropShip lifted off from its assigned berth the moment it had clearance, beginning the twelve-day trip to the zenith jump point where Distant Memory awaited them. The new members of the Fusiliers were equally impressed as Sir Henry with Shearling's luxurious quarters and living conditions. Ian and Sayuki, now a couple, took the officer's cabin originally assigned to Ian as their own. Cera of course returned to the one she'd turned into her usual mess, and Garadun moved into the cabin Alexandra had originally intended for him. Wasp and Stinger were happy with the increased space and a proper bed to sleep and play on. Laura, Marie and Sun-Lao were amazed to discover they each had a double-occupancy cabin all to themselves. Sir Henry was assigned the last officer's cabin, for which he was grateful.
Alexandra spent most of the next twelve days working. There were of course the usual practice sessions in the simulator pods, but now that the Fusiliers had a contract and Distant Memory a destination, there was money to be made. The JumpShip had docking collars for three DropShips and was only using one of them. Captain Hamilton had to plot a course across the entire Lyran Commonwealth, which of course meant making many stops at inhabited stars along the way.
Ferrying DropShips while on that route was a way of making additional revenue, something the Grosvenor family had been doing for generations. Alexandra was on the comm system at all hours, sending and receiving messages to and from the ComStar compound on Galatea, arranging bookings with civilian transport and cargo ships to take them between the stars. This would continue along the entire route as schedules were adjusted. The standard fee for one jump was 50,000 C-bills per DropShip, and Captain Hamilton announced that it would take eighteen jumps to complete their journey. That was an awful lot of money to be made, and making money was what most Lyrans did best. It was why Alexandra was so rich, why she spoiled her friends. Even taking in the cost of maintaining Distant Memory and Shearling, there was a lot of profit to be had.
"And this is the bridge," said Alexandra as she and Sir Henry came onto the marvel of Star League technology that was Distant Memory's bridge. The Fusiliers followed, with Sun-Lao, Laura and Marie gasping in stunned amazement.
"Well I never…" said Sir Henry, astounded.
"May I present Captain John Hamilton," she said, smiling. "Captain Hamilton, this is Sir Henry Albern, representative of his Grace, Duke Josef Sheridan."
"An honour to meet you, Sir Albern," said Captain Hamilton, shaking hands.
"The honour is mine, Captain," said Sir Henry.
"Good to see you again, Captain," said Jimmy.
"Likewise, Mr Han. Welcome aboard, everyone."
"I've never been on the bridge of a starship before," said Marie, in wonder.
"You'll never see the likes of Distant Memory, Miss Coriveau," said Captain Hamilton proudly. "She is the child of a bygone era."
"I believe it," said Laura.
"Captain, may we see our route, please?" Alexandra asked.
"Of course, my Lady," said Captain Hamilton and stepped over to the holotank. "Mr Calamy, show us our planned course, if you please."
"Vertically, sir?" Calamy asked, turning in his seat.
"Yes. First the entire Inner Sphere, and then the Commonwealth."
"Aye, Captain," said Calamy and tapped some floating holograms at his station. The holotank came to life, projecting a map of the Inner Sphere, including each of the Successor States and even all the assorted Periphery Realms, each in a different colour. Terra was located in the centre of the map. The Lyran Commonwealth, in blue, took up a huge portion of the northwest quadrant. Going clockwise, beside it in turquoise was the new Free Rasalhague Republic which until only four years ago had been a province of the Draconis Combine. Beside it and filling much of the northeast quadrant in red was the Combine itself. Below that in yellow in the southeast quadrant was the Federated Suns, the formal ally of the Lyran Commonwealth since 3028, when Prince Hanse Davion of the Federated Suns married Archon-Designate Melissa Steiner.
At their reception, which had been attended by every ruler of the Inner Sphere, he started the Fourth Succession War with the now infamous words: "Wife, in honour of our marriage, in addition to this morsel… I give you the Capellan Confederation!"
The two states would officially become the Federated Commonwealth when Hanse and Melissa's young son Victor eventually took the throne. Many people throughout the Inner Sphere were already referring to it as such, and the integration of the two militaries would be finalised in a couple of years; but they were still two separate states. Not to mention there were vast numbers of people on both sides who didn't agree with the union and refused to acknowledge it (Alexandra was one of them).
Opposite the Federated Suns and below the Lyran Commonwealth in the southwest quadrant was the Free Worlds League in purple. Sandwiched between the Free Worlds League and the Federated Suns was the now much-reduced Capellan Confederation in green. At its northern tip was the St. Ives Compact in pale blue.
The assorted Periphery Realms were outlined in light grey around the borders of the Inner Sphere, including the Magistracy of Canopus, the Taurian Concordat and the Outworlds Alliance. Even the Bandit Kingdoms were included, in dark grey.
Every single inhabited star was marked. There were hundreds and hundreds of them. Captain Hamilton let his audience marvel at the spectacle for a while, and then had Calamy switch to a map of the Lyran Commonwealth. Each system was represented by a glowing circle with its name below it, and there were blue lines of varying widths dividing the Successor State into different regions.
"We are here, at Galatea," Captain Hamilton supplied, touching the circle which immediately became dark solid blue. "Our first stop on our journey to Kolovraty is none other than Skye, the capitol of the Isle of Skye," he added and touched Skye, which became solid blue with a pale blue line connecting it to Galatea.
"Once there we will dock with Skye's zenith recharging station and recharge our main batteries. During that time two DropShips, a Mule class cargo ship, Lady Jane, and a Monarch class liner, Freedom of the Stars, will dock with Distant Memory."
"None of their crew or passengers will be permitted aboard Distant Memory," Alexandra interjected. "That's been my family's policy for generations."
"Quite so," said Captain Hamilton. "We will then jump to Seginus, here," he said, tapping another circle which again became solid blue with a connecting line. "We will give everyone an hour to recover, and then jump again to Chaffee, which is an orange giant. We will unfurl our jump sail and begin recharging our batteries. During that time Freedom of the Stars will detach and head in-system."
"We're getting a huge bonus for getting the passengers to their destination more than a week ahead of schedule," said Alexandra with a satisfied look.
"Oh, that's excellent," said Cera, beaming.
"Assuming it's on schedule, Ganymede Elegy, a Union converted to cargo hauling, will dock with us for transport to the next system on our route, Whittington. But if they're late then they get left behind. Distant Memory doesn't wait for stragglers."
"Excuse me, Captain," said Sir Henry after adjusting one of his magnetic shoes. "But did I understand you right? Did you say we'd be jumping two times in a row, here?" he asked, pointing to Seginus and Chaffee.
"Yes, Sir Albern. Distant Memory has lithium-fusion batteries, allowing us that option," he replied with a pleased expression.
Sir Henry was flabbergasted. "Good God in Heaven."
"I believe you told me it took you over five months to get from Kolovraty to Galatea. Is that correct, Sir Henry?" said Alexandra with a smile.
"Yes, five months and a bit," he said, sighing. "A hundred and fifty-nine days."
Alexandra's smile became a grin. "Captain Hamilton?"
"Assuming we keep to our schedule, using our lithium-fusion batteries and availing ourselves of all recharging stations along our planned route, we should have you and the Fighting Fusiliers touching down on Kolovraty in sixty-one days."
To emphasise his point he tapped and highlighted all the stars along their planned route, which in addition to the ones already indicated were, in order: Veckholm, Kockengen, Ginestra, Odessa, Summit, Kandersteg, New Exford, Bountiful Harvest, Yeguas, Great X, Blumenort, Zhongshan, Melissia and finally Kolovraty. The map of the Lyran Commonwealth showed a fairly direct line of connected dots along the border of the Donegal March, the largest March in the Commonwealth.
"Two months?" said Sun-Lao, vocalising everyone's amazement. "We're going to cross the entire Lyran Commonwealth in only two months?"
"Cool, huh?" said Jimmy, beaming. "God, I love this ship."
"And we'll do it in style and comfort," Cera added happily.
"His Grace will be thrilled we're getting back three months early," said Sir Henry, smiling. "I'll have to send him an update as soon as possible."
"Right, we have a schedule to keep," said Alexandra. "Captain, let's be underway."
"Yes, my Lady," said Captain Hamilton, saluting crisply before taking his place on the command deck. This was a momentous occasion and they were making history. Never before had Distant Memory transported a Grosvenor-led combat unit.
"Attention all stations! Give me a go no-go for jump," Captain Hamilton ordered, and in moments the bridge crew had given him the go-ahead.
"Mr Blakney, lock course into the nav computer."
"Aye aye, Captain, locking course into nav computer," said Blakney with more formality than usual.
"Mr Mowett, charge the K-F drive."
"Aye aye, Captain, charging K-F drive."
"Mr Mathews, are we clear and free to jump?" Captain Hamilton asked.
"Aye, Captain, we are clear and free to jump. All other vessels at zenith jump point are well beyond our jump zone."
"Course locked in, Captain," said Blakney.
"K-F drive charged and on-line, sir," said Mowett smartly.
"Sir, all systems are now on-line," Allen reported, giving him a salute. "The ship is ready to jump."
"Very good, Mr Allen. Sound the horn." At his order, the ship's horn sounded across the bridge and throughout the ship as well as on Shearling. It was followed by two more raucous blares. Captain Hamilton put his hands on the command deck's railing.
"Prepare to jump the ship… Jump!"
"Aye, sir!" Mathews acknowledged. "Jumping now!"
As had happened countless times in the past, power surged from Distant Memory's batteries into her Kearny-Fuchida drive's field initiator, which generated an expanding field of energy that spread out until it encompassed the entire vessel and its companion, Shearling. With an enormous burst of electromagnetic and tachyon radiation, a hole was created in space-time and the JumpShip was sent through hyperspace in the blink of an eye to arrive at the zenith jump point of its destination star, Skye, which lay less than twenty light-years away.
"Status, Mr Mathews," said Captain Hamilton.
"All boards are green, Captain. Jump completed successfully," said Mathews. "We are now getting transponder signals from numerous vessels."
"Mr Boyle. Please inform Skye's zenith recharging station that we wish to dock and use her facilities," said the Captain in a much more routine tone of voice.
"Aye, sir," said the young Able Seaman.
"I'll let you handle things from here, Captain," said Alexandra. "Thank you."
"A pleasure as always, Lady Alexandra," he said, bowing.
"Come, Sir Henry. I'll show you to your cabin," she said cordially. "Garadun, could you show Marie, Laura and Sun-Lao to their quarters, please?"
"Glad to," he said. "Come on, you lot. You're in for a treat."