Story: Tenchi Muyo: Conquest (chapter 36)

Authors: Shanejayell

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Chapter 36

Title: Chapter 36: One's Own Honor 11

Tenchi Muyo: Conquest! One's Own Honor: Eleven

Eighth Fleet rested in space, though compared to sea navies of old it would likely only qualify as a squadron or more. Still, the numbers of ships were deceiving. Each one of these starships, the almost fluid hybrids of Washu's organic designs and Gryphon's traditional military tech, could unleash incredible damage, and together the fleet was nearly unstoppable.

'Too bad we're facing someone nearly as powerful,' Honor Harrington thought, the young woman standing on the bridge. Not too far in cosmic terms another fleet waited, a division of ships belonging to Jurai, one of the most powerful empires in space. Using their unique wooden vessels and Great Trees they had been an unbeaten military power for centuries.

"Bleek," Nimitz murmured, the large tree-cat crouched on her shoulder as around them the crew waited, tension hanging in the air.

"It's all right, Stinker," Honor murmured, scratching the 'cat's ears as she tried to breathe out some of her own tension.

Nearly four standard weeks ago Manticore had sent in Nagi as a diplomat, with full authority and instructions to negotiate a halt to hostilities on their behalf with Jurai. The flamboyant former bounty hunter had been instructed to stay in regular contact, but she seemed to have disappeared without a trace.

"Captain on the bridge!" a officer declared and Honor turned slightly, smiling as a dusky skinned woman left the lift and strode to her side.

Michelle Henke smiled, stopping at Honor's side. "Admiral," she nodded, eyes twinkling with subtle amusement.

Honor felt her cheeks color slightly. Command of a fleet required an admiral, according to Gryphon regulations, and to appease the old guard Ryouko had given Honor a field promotion to admiral before sending her out here. It was purely a temporary measure, but Michelle seemed to get great pleasure out of her lover's elevation.

"We just got in a message from command," Michelle handed over the datapad with a more serious look, "according to Jurai Nagi never even arrived."

"Which is a load of garbage," Honor answered softly, "one of our last messages from her ship the Ken-Ohki was that she had been contacted by Jurai's orbital forces."

Michelle nodded, her expression grave. "Ryouko has formally notified Jurai that unless we hear from our ambassador in the next day," she said, "we're resuming military operations against Jurai and her allies."

"We're ready, of course," Honor said, a bit of regret in her voice.

Michelle looked at her lover thoughtfully, keeping her voice down as she said, "You hoped for a peaceful resolution?"

Honor nodded slightly as she said quietly, "I don't enjoy this, though I do know it's all been necessary." She smiled wryly, "Though considering Manticore's been the aggressor so far, I'm probably not one to talk."

"Come on," Michelle led her off the bridge, the two entering into the captain's ready room. She waved Honor to a seat even as she called the steward for coffee for her and cocoa for Honor. "You're in a bit of a funk," she said gently, "what's wrong?"

"The latest casualty reports came in," Honor finally sighed.

Michelle winced. It was one of the things that she most dreaded about this job, the monthly report that might have old friends or comrades, classmates and comrades in arms on it. "Was it a friend or..." she asked softly.

"Alistair McKeon," Honor said softly, "he made captain shortly after the defense of Gryphon. I was the one who recommended him for independent command..."

"I met him," Michelle kept her voice firm, "and I doubt you were the only one to give him that recommendation." A faint smile, "He's a good man."

"Yeah," Honor took a drink. "He was out on anti-piracy patrols when they were hit by a group of Juraian sponsored privateers."

Michelle fought back a curse. As part of the ongoing war with Manticore Jurai had sponsored privateers to raid Manticore's shipping and to force them to divert military vessels to protect those ships and the innocents aboard. Making matters worse they had armed those pirates with modern weapons, increasing the threat many times.

"McKeon got the shippers away," Honor continued dully, "but there were more pirates than he had ships and he couldn't let them chase the merchants."

Michelle could easily imagine the scenario: a smaller band of ships fighting hard to cripple or kill their superior enemy, taking whatever damage it took to win. The tactical realities were brutal, with the loss of your ship almost a certainty.

"It's not that I don't want to fight," Honor's voice dropped to a dangerous purr, her eyes glittering, "it's that I want it too much." She swallowed, "A part of me wants to attack NOW, burn those bastards right out of space..."

"Bleek," Nimitz agreed, the soft hiss of the treecat echoing his mistress' rage.

"Honor!" Michelle put the command snap into her voice, the sort of thing you learned in officer training and never forgot. Honor jerked up, surprised out of her anger and Michelle sighed, "Jurai is fighting to maintain thousands of years of rule, Honor."

"That's no excuse," Honor growled.

"No, it's not," Michelle quietly agreed, "but it does make their desperation more understandable." She took a breath as she pointed out, "When we thought Manticore was going to destroy Gryphon we got pretty desperate, too."

Honor narrowed her eyes, "We never got that desperate."

"We could have, though," Michelle said firmly. She looked out the window at the ships floating there in space, "The ships we're facing our mostly manned by people like you and I, fighting for their king and country."

"So will anyone really get punished for any of this?" Honor asked.

"When we win," Michelle put the focus on the first word, "I know Ryouko won't let them get away with what they've done." She gave Honor a smile, reaching out to put her hand on hers, "Just don't lose your perspective, love."

"Thanks," Honor smiled back, her words echoed by a comforting sound from Nimitz.. It was interesting seeing Honor consciously readying herself to return to duty. It was almost as if she was donning some invisible captain's armor, readying herself for the coming battle.

"Ready," Michelle finished her coffee, rising to offer her hand.

Honor took it, rising gracefully, "Always."

The bridge was as busy as ever, status reports and communications from various ships in the fleet, internal matters to deal with and so on. Michelle moved from station to station, talking with her crew and checking the boards, her presence both gentle and commanding.

'Michelle really is a natural captain,' Honor thought admiringly, feeling oddly comforted by her talk with the other woman. She still felt the anger and grief, of course, but at least now she thought she could manage it well enough.

"Bleek," Nimitz teased, using one of his arms to tug a lock of her hair gently.

"Captain Henke," the communication's officer had a urgency in it that stilled all conversation across the busy bridge.

"Yes?" Michelle asked calmly.

"A message from Jurai command, text only," Mr. Webster reported. He took a shaky breath and said, "The Empire of Jurai formally announces the resumption of hostilities with the Republic of Manticore."

"Battlestations," Michelle ordered crisply, alarms going off across the ship.

"Mr. Webster, forward a copy of that to all squadron commanders," Honor commanded swiftly, "status is red! I want all our ships in a defensive formation five minutes ago."

"Jurai vessels are moving," tactical declared, "standard attack pattern."

"Wait till we close the range before firing," Michelle ordered crisply, "put the latest tactical imagery on the main viewer."

Honor looked up, watching the icons of her band of ships moving closer to the red marked Juraian ships, and was struck by a single thought. 'This really is it,' she mused, 'one way or the other, this is the beginning of the end.'

To be continued...

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