|A scene from Hybrid.|
Captain Elswick grabbed his orders and closed the door behind him. His visit with Major Reni had shaken him. What she’d ask was a serious breach of Alfiniaian law. They both could be court-martialed. He glanced down at his watch. He was ten minutes late for his briefing with his crew. This would be their last meeting before departure.
The chatter stopped as Captain Elswick entered the briefing room.
“Good evening,” he said, half smiling. He made no apologies why he was late. He hoped no one had seen Major Reni leave his quarters.
“We have exactly four hours before lift off. Let’s run through the schedule. Dr. Romas, let’s start with you.”
Dr. Romas, a short, robust man, stood up. He was a twenty-five-year veteran as an embryologist. Once the eggs were harvested his primary responsibility were the freezer tanks. Dr. Romas spread opened his briefcase, placed his report in front of him, and cleared his throat.
“All calculation, accurate, Captain. I’ve double-checked the liquid nitrogen. Full capacity, Sir. The embryology lab, sterile and ready.”
“Excellent,” the Captain answered. “Good work.”
The Captain leaned forward and pushed a red button. A six by six hologram screen burst to life, illuminating the entire room.
“This mission to Earth will be more of a challenge,” he said, pointing to the lower half of the screen. “We’ve been monitoring E/421 for several months. Its drifting path is dead center of our exit point, which could be a real problem for us.”
From the back of the room, Navigator Blaine raised his hand and cleared his throat. “Sir, I checked E/421 less than an hour ago. It's closer than originally recorded. We may have to delay our lift off time.”
Lt. Warnock’s jaw muscle knotted up. He was the crew’s rebel. He didn’t get along with anyone, but as a trained physicist he knew his stuff when it came to traversable wormholes. He interrupted Lt. Blaine. “Sir, the portal’s opening has its own time clock. There’s no variance with its window of 24 hours.”
“Why not use our new LD prototype, Captain?” asked Lt. Skyler. “Its beam could shift the E/421 asteroid to either side of the exit point. We only need a five mile clearance to exit safely.” Skyler was twenty-four, the youngest of Captain Elswick’s crew. He’d just graduated from Alfinia’s Royal Officers Academy with a degree in Quantum Mechanics.
“Good point, Lt. Skyler,” the Captain answered.
Captain Elswick had received a report on the new LD prototype, but it wasn’t scheduled for release for six months. “Lt. Blaine, get with Lt. Skyler after the briefing. Run the numbers. I’ll contact General Dalmar to request an earlier release.”
Lt. Blaine nodded. “Consider it done, Sir.”
During the last few minutes of the briefing, Captain Elswick eyes shifted to the darkened balcony. The door stood half opened with an outlined of body. He quickly recognized the female frame. Major Reni had joined their briefing. He hesitated, unsure of what to say or do. He braced himself.
“Major Reni,” his voice finally spit out. “Please, want you join our briefing.”
Major Reni stepped into the light. Her auburn hair fell in loose curls, framing her ivory face. She was stunning. Any male would have to be blind not to recognize her beauty. She maneuvered her body down the stairs with care, replicating the grace of her mother, the Queen. Major Reni no doubt was one confident and resourceful woman. She had carved out a superior career for herself.
The Captain’s crew stood and bowed. After all, not only was Major Reni a major in the Elite Army, she was a Princess.
“Thank you, Captain,” she answered. She sat down in the chair next to Skyler and motioned for the crew to return to their seats.
Skyler eased down into his seat and wiped the sweat from his brow. He’d never been that close to a Princess before. He closed his eyes, breathing in her lavender scent.
Major Reni’s slender fingers brushed her curls from her eyes.
“If I may, Captain,” she said, pointing to the screen. “This E/421 is the same asteroid my crew and I confronted six weeks ago. It’s big and it’s tough. Our systems calculated that something caused Jupiter’s gravitational pull to kick this particular asteroid out of the belt. It’s running wild. It’s been hard to monitor or even get a handled on where its heading. We’d installed the new LD prototype in my ship, but had never had the call to use it until then. We shot the beam into its lower south side. Luckily, our calculations were right. It nudged it just enough for us to accelerate our thrusters into jump drive, and we cleared an impact. It’s an extraordinary tool to have aboard you ship. I just wished we’d had it eight centuries ago. Get clearance for its installation, Captain. You’ll need it.”
For a moment, a frozen expression spread across the Captain’s face. He wasn’t aware that the new probe had been approved, installed or even tested.
“Thank you, Major Reni,” the Captain replied. “We appreciate your info.”
Major Reni stood and strolled across the room.
Captain Elswick eyes followed her. He swallowed hard. He’d never had his own female partner. His alliance to Alfinia ranked first priority.
Leaving a trail of lavender scent behind her, the crew jumped to attention like frighten rabbits as Major Reni passed.
Captain Elswick coughed, grabbing back his crew’s mental attention.
“Remember, no wine before the launch. If there’s nothing else, you’re dismissed.”
“Sir, there’s just one more thing,” Navigator Blaine said, standing up. “Do our orders still include Major Reni’s daughter?”
Captain Elswick’s composure wilted.