The Honor of the Qween
The cutter passed from sunlit brilliance to soot-black shadow with the knife-edge suddenness possible only in space, and the tall, broad-shouldered woman in the black and gold of the Royal Manticoran Navy gazed out the armorplast port at the battle-steel beauty of her command and frowned.
The six-limbed cream-and-gray treecat on her shoulder shifted his balance as she raised her right hand and pointed.
'I thought we'd discussed replacing Beta Fourteen with Commander Antrim, Andy,' she said, and the short, dapper lieutenant commander beside her winced at her soprano voice's total lack of inflection.
'Yes, Ma'am. We did.' He tapped keys on his memo pad and checked the display. 'We discussed it on the sixteenth, Skipper, before you went on leave, and he promised to get back to us.'
'Which he never did,' Captain Honor Harrington observed, and Lieutenant Commander Venizelos nodded.
'Which he never did. Sorry, Ma'am. I should've kept after him.'
'You've had a lot of other things on your plate, too,' she said, and Andreas Venizelos hid another—and much more painful—wince. Honor Harrington seldom rapped her officers in the teeth, but he would almost have preferred to have her hand him his head. Her quiet, understanding tone sounded entirely too much as if she were finding excuses for him.
'Maybe so, Ma'am, but I still should've kept after him,' he said. 'We both know how these yard types hate node replacements.' He tapped a note into his pad. 'I'll com him as soon as we get back aboard
'Good, Andy.' She turned her head and smiled at him, her strong-boned face almost impish. 'If he starts giving you a song and dance, let me know. I'm having lunch with Admiral Thayer. I may not have my official orders yet, but you can bet she's got an idea what they're going to be.'
Venizelos grinned back in understanding, for he and his captain both knew Antrim had been playing an old yard trick that usually worked. When you didn't want to carry out some irksome bit of refit, you just dragged your feet until you 'ran out of time,' on the theory that a ship's captain would rather get back into space than incur Their Lordships' displeasure with a tardy departure date. Unfortunately for Commander Antrim, success depended on a skipper who was willing to let a yard dog get away with it. This one wasn't, and while it wasn't official yet, the grapevine said the First Space Lord had plans for HMS
'Yes, Ma'am. Ah, would you mind if I just happened to let slip to Antrim that you're lunching with the Admiral, Skipper?'
'Now, now, Andy. Don't be nasty—unless he looks like giving you problems, of course.'
'Of course, Ma'am.'
Honor smiled again and turned back to the view port.
She twitched her shoulders, and Nimitz scolded gently as he dug his claws deeper into the padded shoulder of her tunic for balance. She clicked her teeth and rubbed his ears in wordless apology, but she never took her eyes from the view port as the cutter continued its slow tour of
Half a dozen work parties paused and looked up as the cutter ghosted past them. She couldn't make out expressions through their visors, but she could imagine the combination of exasperation and wariness some of them would wear. Yard dogs hated to have a captain peering over their shoulders while they worked on her ship ... almost as much as captains hated turning their ships over to the yard dogs in the first place.
She swallowed a chuckle at the thought, because while she had no intention of telling them so, she was impressed by how much
The cutter curled back up over the hull, crossing diagonally above the after port missile battery and the geometric precision of Radar Six. The long, slender blades of the cruiser's main gravitic sensors passed out of sight under the lower lip of the view port, and Honor nodded in satisfaction as her chocolate-dark eyes noted the replacement elements in the array.
All in all, she was more than pleased with how
She made a mental note of a scuffed patch of paint above Graser Three and felt a tiny smile tugging at her lips as she contemplated the rumors about her next assignment, for the alacrity with which Admiral Courvosier had accepted his invitation to the traditional recommissioning party suggested there was more than a bit of truth to them. That was good. She hadn't seen the Admiral, much less served under him, in far too long, and if diplomats and politicians were normally a lower order of life than pirates, it should at least be an interesting change of pace.
'You know, that young man has a really nice ass for a round-eye,' Dr. Allison Chou Harrington observed. 'I bet you could have some fun chasing
'Now, Honor,' Dr. Harrington looked up at her with a deadly gleam in those almond eyes so much like Honor's own, 'all I said was—'