Battle Cruiser

Battle Cruiser by B. V. Larson

Book: Battle Cruiser by B. V. Larson Read Free Book Online
Authors: B. V. Larson
kind eye in the group. My appointment to command tiny Cutlass was initially assumed to have been gained through leverage and nepotism. From their point of view, I was a rich snot from the Academy.
    The truth was my family would never have helped my career in the Guard, not directly. My father didn’t approve of it. He’d wanted me to fail. Service in space? For his heir? I was an embarrassment, a public relations disaster.
    But my crusty crewmen hadn’t understood the attitude of House Sparhawk. They’d assumed my commission had been arranged, rather than earned. I hadn’t made a direct effort to enlighten them. If they’d understood how my family really felt about the Guard, they might have disliked me even more.
    Despite the cold beginning, I’d managed to win them over and at some point over the years, and we’d bonded. We’d come to trust one another. Men who are forced to live in cramped conditions and depend on each other for a long period of time either go mad and kill one other, or they become brothers. Fortunately, we’d chosen the latter path.
    “What’cha got in the bag, Skipper?” Rumbold asked.
    As I was curious myself, I unslung the bag and opened it. I stared at the object inside, unable to speak for a moment.
    Of all the things I’d expected to find, for some reason, this wasn’t among them—although in retrospect perhaps it should have been.
    The object was oblong and tube-shaped. When I drew it out into the open, white mist drifted from its cold surface. It was smooth metal, identical to the first such tube I’d seen aboard a smuggler’s ship several weeks ago.
    “It’s one of those things , sir!” Rumbold gasped in recognition. “A tube like the ones that smuggler was transporting!”
    Nodding slowly, I stared at the object.
    How could such an artifact be so far out in space? And in such numbers? The sensors were now tracking hundreds of similar objects in the vicinity. I suspected they were all identical floating tubes.
    “A frozen embryo,” I said, checking the contents briefly before resealing the container. “There’s no doubt of it. But what’s an embryo doing out here in deep space, orbiting a comet?”
    Rumbold’s bloodshot eyes ran over the tube, but he didn’t reach for it. He stared warily, as if it were a venomous snake rather than an innocuous steel tube.
    I, for one, couldn’t fault his cautious attitude.

 
    -10-
     
    We withdrew a thousand kilometers from the object and reported our findings to Captain Singh aboard Altair . I described the injured crewman, the readings from the comet, and the inexplicable cloud of tubes floating in the area.
    Due to the vast distances involved, we had to wait for the better part of an hour to hear his reply. When the signal finally came through, I didn’t display it publicly as I suspected it might be bad for morale to do so. Instead, I put on a worn mind-link headset. Utilizing the twin implants inside my skull that stimulated my optic nerves directly, I watched as Singh’s recorded message was replayed.
    Singh slouched in his captain’s chair aboard Altair and regarded me with an expression of frank disgust.
    “Let me get this straight, Sparhawk,” he began. “I sent you out on a routine mission to investigate a rock and approve it for exploitation. Somehow, you’ve managed to get a crewman seriously injured during the execution of this simple task. Worse, upon discovering evidence of a small cargo of dumped goods, you made an emergency call and further wasted my time and strained the Guard’s budget.”
    He heaved a sigh and shook his head. His attitude was that of a parent speaking to a small child.
    I felt a natural urge to shout back at my superior, but I knew it was futile in several ways. For one, my words would take an hour to get to him. And even if he’d been able to hear me immediately, he was unlikely to listen.
    “Where do I begin?” he asked rhetorically. “Your lack of experience in these matters is

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