I'd like to send a big thanks out to everyone who has sent me notes of encouragement, especially Mellanie, and Lucy. A thank you to Toni and Diva for supporting and helping me get this part to where it can be posted. A note of thanks to Shary for pointing out something I had overlooked. Comments and constructive criticism are very welcome at: email@example.com My prayers and thoughts to all those in New York. My relatives are safe and sound, thank god, but a few were awfully close.
"Are you certain?"
"I'm sorry, First Guardian, but there's no doubt. Once we knew what markers to search for, the results are irrefutable."
Emily closed her eyes and fought back the urge to scream. She took in a deep breath then nodded.
"Thank you, Dr. Weaver. Keep an eye on Julie."
"Of course, First Guardian. She asked to speak with you when you commed me for the results."
"Tell her I'll talk with her later. North Star's Chief Medical Officer will be coordinating the search for these markers in our database, please make certain to contact him. I want a list of anyone who turns up with them."
"Not a problem. Will we be checking the lists from the Re-gen centers as well?"
"Yes, Doctor, we will. I want any other of the General's creations tracked down before they can cause any problems."
The middle-aged doctor nodded slowly, although she was frowning. The former civilian doctor finally gave in to her urge to speak out, and Emily sighed as she started to give the First Guardian a piece of her mind.
"First Guardian, I don't think that these creations as you call them, would be a threat unless they had been trained to be. I won't pretend that I understand completely what the Bak'ra did to the genetics of these people, but they're brain structure isn't affected much. It's beyond anything we could do of course, the Bak'ra always were ahead of us in the biological sciences. The markers should be relatively easy to screen for now that we know what they are."
"Doctor, we can't afford to run that chance. I want them found, and then we will decide what to do with them on a case by case basis if need be."
Southern Cross' Chief Medical Officer nodded, but she looked fairly pissed off.
"As you wish, First Guardian. Are you certain you don't want to speak to Guardian McGrath? She really wanted to talk to you."
The edge of anger was palpable, even through the com channel.
"Thank you, Doctor, but I'll contact her when I have time."
Emily cut the channel before Southern Cross' doctor could reply. Swallowing against the urge to find a corner and vomit, the First Guardian swiveled her chair to regard the view ports in her ready room. North Star was in a geo-synchronous orbit over Southern America. Southern Cross wasn't far away on a similar orbit, but the angle was wrong for her to see the other Guardian-Class ship from where she sat. Of course she was keeping a close eye on it through her ship self's sensors. She forced herself to admit that she didn't know if she could trust Julie anymore.
"What do you want to do?"
That wasn't a question that Emily wanted to answer, and she shook her head once more.
"Hell if I know, Angwar."
Her Provost had been present throughout the conversation with Southern Cross' doctor, and he was looking at her with something entirely too much like worry.
"You can't keep ignoring her, Emie, it's been four days now."
"I'm not ignoring her, Angwar, I've just been busy trying to figure out what to do with her."
Judging by the look on her Provost's face, he believed that answer as much as she did.
"The other Guardians are waiting for you to decide what to do with her you know."
Which, Emily sighed, was a not so subtle way of pointing out that she couldn't keep avoiding the problem. As much as she would dearly love to, she couldn't hand this one over to someone else. As First Guardian, the call on this one was firmly in her court.
"I told Dr. Manito to be ready to use Cynaomarist."
Blue eyes which were dark with turmoil, flicked up to look at her Provost's reflection. The look of shock on his face was telling.
"I take it you don't agree with that course, Angwar?"
Her voice was perfectly controlled, and only someone who had known her as long as Angwar had, would have detected the slight edge to it. The Provost licked his lips and decided it would be a good idea to proceed carefully on this one.
"Emie, she's been working with humans her entire life, she didn't know she was made by the Bak'ra. Are you certain you want to remove her completely from control of her ship self just because of that?"
The First Guardian's voice was ice as she swiveled her chair once more to face him.
"She's one of them, Angwar. One of those things, one of the one's who destroyed our planet, and killed our race. How can you sit there and tell me that I shouldn't remove her from control? By all rights I should shove her out an airlock!"
Swallowing, Emily leaned back, forcing her hands to stop trembling and reeling herself in. She'd been shouting by the end, and it took her a few seconds to get herself under control.
"Emie, look at me. I'm your Provost, and I'm also your friend. Don't do this to her, or yourself. She can't help where she came from, but that doesn't change what she is."
"What is she, Angwar? Do you know? Do you really know what she is? Can we risk her turning on us when the Bak'ra show up? Are you willing to risk this world on that?"
Angwar stood slowly, a flicker of what she thought was sadness crossing his face. It was gone before Emie could figure out what it was though.
"She's still, Julie. That hasn't changed, no matter what has happened. She's a Guardian, Emily, she took the oaths, and passed every requirement she had to. If you remove her from duty, what message is that going to send?"
"It will send the message that I hate the Bak'ra, which I do, so I don't see any problem with that."
Angwar straightened to attention, saluted and stalked out of her ready room.
"If you say so, First Guardian."
The doors slid closed behind him before she could get in the final word. This time she let the anger sweep up over her, and flung the pads from the top of her desk. Several bounced off the other bulkhead with a satisfying crack. A wordless scream of rage at the fates that would let her fall in love with someone who she wanted to hate with all her heart.
Pounding her fist against the bulkhead didn't do much other than give her bloody knuckles. Lady Windstar, First Guardian, second in line for the Imperial throne, slid down the bulkhead of her ready room and raged against it all. The deaths of those she had been supposed to protect, her world, her people, and now her love.
Julie stared at the main holo tank and sighed. Four days of being ignored by Emily hadn't helped her mood at all. The other reason for her depression she simply ignored all together.
I guess I should be happy I'm still a Guardian.
"Message from Guardian Command."
"I'll take it at my console."
Of course the fact that Emie's got her Honor Guard keeping an eye on me might have something to do with that. Who wants to bet that they have Cynaomarist on them?
Leaning back in her crash couch she let her bond with her ship self deepen. It would have probably been quicker to just call up the message on a screen, but she wanted to feel a bit of pride in something at least.
It wasn't that large a message, and it wasn't even specifically addressed to her. Sorting through the incoming com traffic she located the one flagged for her attention and quickly removed the encryption code.
The coming online date for the global shield is pushed back another two weeks? Emie must be really happy about that, she's even called for a Guardian assembly in two hours.
She'd been hoping for something a bit more personal, or something that even had anything to do with her at all. No new orders at all, or even a note from Emily. At least she would sort of be able to see Emily at the assembly. With a mental sigh she filed away the memo in her ship self's computer files. Sinking deeper into the bond she spread her consciousness through her ship self's computers. Her sensors became her eyes, and she reveled in the sights. The Earth lay suspended below her, and she couldn't imagine a more beautiful sight.
Emily, smiling after we kissed, her eyes the most perfect blue.
Well, perhaps she could imagine a more beautiful sight.
Even further into the bond she sank, feeling less and less of her organic body. The Type-Fourteen Guardian-class ship that was her ship self was the newest thing in Imperial engineering. Her thoughts brushed across the shield generators, which would protect her during battle, and she gazed in wonder at the massive fusion generators that were the heart of her ship self. The thirty missile tubes, and eighteen plasma launchers, mounted on each of her broad sides were a grim reminder of what her ship self had been built for. The bow of her ship self though, that was where she paid the most attention.
The hammerhead design of her ship self was what set the new generation of Guardian-Class ships apart from the old cigar-shaped ones. The large gravitic lance mounted in that hammerhead was the core of the ships new weapon systems.
Her engineering crew was still working on a few of the bugs, and she noted that they had pulled number 14 missile tube entirely. If she really had wanted to, she could have taken an even closer look at what they were doing, but she trusted them. Lieutenant Sanders, her head Engineer, was as far as Julie was concerned, a miracle worker. The woman was built like a Scandinavian goddess, but she knew what she was doing.
Once again she returned to her sensors, and scanned the area surrounding her ship self. North Star hung like a jewel against the darkness of night, a scant four hundred kilometers away. The cigar-shaped ship was a beehive of activity. Julie knew that if she looked at herself she'd see the same flurry of shuttles going to and from the surface bases, which dotted the Earth. It just seemed more impressive watching them surround the long length of North Star.
The sight brought her a fierce stab of pain and fear. Pain that she could be so close to Emily, and yet so far away. The fear was for what would happen to the fragile Earth that lay suspended below her. Before the loneliness could drag her under, Julie retreated into her flesh and blood body.
"I'll be in my ready room, Mr. Webster. You have the con."
The young man in charge of the com station blinked in surprise and then rose hastily as he eagerly answered.
He was one of those people who would have had glasses before the Re-gen treatments, and Julie had to smile at his exuberance. It had been a while since she'd felt that enthusiastic about something.
Since New York you mean.
Julie had no trouble at all ignoring the little voice in her head as she made her way to her sanctuary. Only it wasn't hers alone anymore. Clarice silently followed her through the doors from the Command Deck. A silent reminder that Emily didn't think she could trust her. It was a reminder that hurt the most.
"Help yourself to something to drink, Clarice."
"I'm on duty, Ma'am," came the apologetic response, one that Julie had been anticipating. With a weary shrug, she sat behind her desk and eyed the com unit perched on its black surface. She had a little less than two hours before the Guardian conference was to be called. For the last four days she'd filled her time running combat drills with her crew and learning as much about her ship self's capabilities as she could. Now she just felt drained and alone.
"At least take a seat, Clarice, or are you afraid I'll try to lock the doors and take over control of Southern Cross from here?"
The Marine looked slightly sheepish as she lowered her slight frame into one of the chairs along the back wall. The Marine was definitely not as small as Julie, but she wasn't anywhere near the height of the First Guardian. Still she managed to look quite impressive in the combat gear she carried around all the time.
"I don't think you'd try that, Ma'am."
"Well, that makes one person at least. Stop calling me Ma'am. You're making me feel old, Clarice."
"Yes Ma... I mean, Guardian."
Julie smiled a bit at that; it was better than Ma'am at least. Since there wasn't much else to occupy her at the moment, Julie turned her full attention to her silent shadow for the last four days. Clarice had been the only one of Emily's Honor Guard that had accompanied her to New York, to live through the experience. She didn't look much the worse for the wear.
"You're Tiri by descent, aren't you, Lieutenant?"
"Yes, Ma... Guardian."
"Look, how about you just call me Julie ok? The Guardian thing just sounds weird when you say it all the time."
Gray eyes seemed to hold a hint of amusement in them as the Marine nodded in agreement.
Feeling a bit more at ease than she had all day long, Julie smiled back and settled into her chair. If she couldn't enjoy herself with Emie, then damn it; she'd at least make a new friend.
"How long did you serve as the First Guardian's Honor Guard?"
"Since before the war. I was stationed as a Marine on North Star when she was newly bonded. From there I was promoted to Honor Guard when the war started."
A shadow passed in those gray eyes and Julie nodded in understanding. She'd seen that look on every Tiri she'd talk to about their war against the Bak'ra. They all carried survivors' guilt, in one form or another. Having witnessed the destruction of your entire Empire does that to you, I guess.
"Wow, you've been an Honor Guard for over sixty years?"
Holding the same job for that long was something most human's pre-Tiri wouldn't have understood. For the Tiri, who thanks to their Regeneration treatments, could live to a comfortable three hundred, it was just a fraction of their lives. Humans would start to think like that eventually, but it would take time. For now most of them hadn't grasped the fact that with all the Re-gen Centers that the Empire had opened, they could live to nearly three hundred and fifty if they were lucky.
"I've always been satisfied with my job. It's a great honor to be chosen to protect the First Guardian."
Clarice correctly interpreted Julie's puzzled glance towards her rank symbols.
"If I had been promoted past what is now called a Lieutenant, I'd have had to take on other duties."
"Do you mind being assigned to me then?"
If the Marine wanted to go back to her duties with the First Guardian, Julie would take it to Emily herself if need be. She wasn't going to be stuck with a babysitter who didn't even want to be there. The answer though, surprised her. Shaking her head, Clarice straightened slightly in her chair.
"No, Ma'am. I believe that protecting you," she stressed the protecting part, "serves the First Guardian just as much as if I were to be at her side."
Julie stared at her in confusion, scrunching up her nose in thought.
"She cares for you, Julie, if she didn't you wouldn't still be a Guardian."
The redhead's green eyes darkened and she pushed her chair back from the desk. The fact that a Marine was telling her how the First Guardian felt was enough to make her feel uncomfortable enough, but on top of everything else, it just left her feeling angry.
"You can't know that, Clarice. If she cared for me she wouldn't have pretended I didn't exist for the last four days!"
Clenching her teeth, Julie willed herself to calm down. Yelling at the Marine wasn't going to solve anything, and might just undermine the tenuous bonds of friendship she'd thought had started to form.
"Ma'am, Julie, you were made by people that she, that we all, hate with our souls. It won't be easy for her to accept that."
Obviously feeling that she had pushed the conversation as far that way as she could, Clarice tacitly switched the topic.
"Can I ask you something?"
Frowning as she replayed the last little bit of their conversation, and wondering why she'd gone off so quickly, Julie nodded in mute agreement.
"Why don't you have a Provost? I understand that the other human Guardians who graduated with you have picked theirs."
Spinning the com console around on top of her desk with an idle flick of her wrist, the redhead shook her head. It wasn't quite as easy a question to answer as she'd been hoping for.
"I was going to, but I have a problem trusting people like that. Emily, well, you know how she is. She inspires people to trust her, and to give her their best. I just double checked on what my chief engineer was doing, because I wanted to make certain she wasn't messing up, even though she's better at fixing things than I am."
Both of them shared a smile at that, having seen that particular brand of charisma at work.
"The First Guardian does do that, Julie, but people trust her because she trusts them to do their job."
A pale brow lifted at that.
"So you think I should trust my people to do their jobs and that will somehow make them trust me?"
"Do you know your command staff?"
Julie hesitated slightly at that, she'd started to get to know them. Then the entire chase after General Whittecker had started, and she'd lost more than just training time.
"Somewhat. I lost time when I went after Whittecker with the Major."
Clarice grinned wryly and leaned forward slightly, as much as she could with the full combat armor.
"Julie, you have the makings of a great Guardian. Despite what you might think, your people respect you already, and it's not far from respect to trust. Webster nearly worships the ground you walk on, and your Chief Engineer isn't that far behind. Your Tac Officer is just surly by countenance I think, and your Chief Medical Officer's just a bit stuck up. Even I don't know why your Head Sensor Tech acts the way he does, but your Helmsmen is good enough."
Somehow Julie rather thought that if they knew she was taking advice from a Marine, her instructors at Plattsburgh Air Force Base would have had an aneurysm. The Marine in question though was making a lot of sense.
"Like just now, when you put Webster in charge of the con, that made his day."
Julie chuckled at that and sat up a bit, easing out of the slumped dejected stance she'd been in.
"We're in geo synch orbit, what could go wrong? I'm in the ready room, even a tech could handle being officer of the watch right now."
"That's not the point, the point is that you trusted him to do it."
For the first time in four days Julie realized she was rather hungry. The low rumble of her stomach complaining sort of punctuated that fact.
"Clarice, I've got another hour or so before I have to link up for the Guardian session. I think I'm going to grab something to eat."
"That might be a good idea, Guardian."
"If you weren't my Honor Guard, I'd swear you were teasing me, Clarice."
"That's what I thought."
Rising from her chair, Julie felt a bit of the depression ease off. Things didn't look quite so bad now.
Now if I can just get Emie to look at me like I'm not some kind of monster.
"Clarice? You're sure the First Guardian still cares about me?"
Her Marine simply chuckled and followed after the Guardian, rejoining the other three Honor Guard members who had waited outside of her ready room.
"As you all know, the last of the Orbital Forts came online approximately twenty four hours ago. A test start up of the planetary shield was to take place this afternoon at fourteen hundred hours. That test was delayed because we have a sticky situation to deal with, and for once, I actually have to pay attention to political matters."
Muted chuckles followed that comment, and the First Guardian smiled easily. For security reasons a gathering of every Guardian was not possible. It would have made far too tempting a target, even more so than the newly formed Imperial Senate. Thus the virtual meeting, it wasn't as secure as a face to face meeting, but anyone who could hack into a room with over a hundred gathered Guardians was very good indeed. Suicidal, but very good.
The virtual meeting was complete with a large amphitheater and, Emily thought dryly, awful seats.
"Political ramifications aside, we have a problem, people. As you all know, the Planetary Shield is our last line of defense in protecting the Earth from Bak'ra attacks. Unfortunately, once the shield is activated, everything in low Earth orbit is going to be incinerated."
Mary leaned forward in her seat with interest as the virtual holographic display behind the image of the First Guardian activated. The hundreds of active communication and spy satellites in what the Tiri considered low Earth orbit whipped around the slowly rotating Earth. It was a cool image and Mary wondered if there was anyway to get that large a holotank installed on Trinity.
God that would look so great in my ready room, just think of the games I could play on it.
"Hey, Julie, do they make any of them that big?"
The redhead glared in response and Mary just shrugged, slumping down a bit in her seat.
"Wow, someone got up on the wrong side of the deck."
"Shhh... Emie's talking."
"Yeah? So what? She's not listening to you is she?"
Despite what Mary totally considered a valid point, she sighed and returned her attention to the First Guardian. Like every other Guardian, she'd heard what happened in New York, and frankly, the young hacker was worried about her friend. Glancing at Julie out of the corner of her eye, she couldn't help but notice how closely she was listening to Emily. The First Guardian had Julie's complete attention.
Yeah, except Emily's looking anywhere but at Julie. Damn, no wonder Julie's in a funk.
The First Guardian was still talking and Mary focused back on the events at hand.
"Nearly every government on Earth have spy sats and communication sats at jeopardy here. Which means that if we go ahead with firing up the shield, which we must, they are all going to go insane. Birk, whom you all know as the head of the Imperial Engineering core, is trying to design a way to move those satellites but trying to attach a tractor beam onto them would crush them. I wanted to raise this point to see if any of you had any suggestions that we may have overlooked."
A wave of murmuring swept across the virtual reality conference room, as Guardians discussed ideas with those next to them. The First Guardian herself waited patiently, obviously giving people time to sort out their thoughts. Mary took the opportunity to look at her friend once more.
"Hey, Julie? You ok?"
The slight shrug she got in return wasn't exactly a reassuring answer.
"Yeah sure, just been having one of those weeks, ya know?"
"Hell yes, I know. Julie, no matter what, you'll always be my friend ok?"
A smile formed on Julie's face and Mary did a mental shout for joy at getting a reaction. The somber green eyes lit up and even though it wasn't a physical hug, it was darn close to it as Julie leaned over and wrapped her arms around Mary in a brief squeeze.
"Thanks, Mary, that means a lot."
"So you got any ideas about this stuff?"
Mary waved a hand towards the First Guardian below, knowing Julie's discomfort with public shows of affection. The smile dimmed, but at least Julie's green eyes didn't turn so somber again.
"The satellite problem? I don't know, the governments are just going to have to accept that we need that shield up and running. They're going to have to write them off and find other ways to route communications. I could care less about their spy satellites."
Mary, who had some fond memories about hacking into a few of those spy satellites, wasn't about to argue that point at the moment.
"Too bad we just can't use the Orbital Forts to route communications for them."
Mary had already looked into that, and the dedicated communication suites just wouldn't be able to handle the volume they were talking about as well as coordinating the defense of the planet.
"You know... that's a good point."
Looking at her friend in surprise, Mary blinked in shock as Julie stood up from her seat and called down to the front.
"First Guardian, I have a question."
The shocked blue eyes that looked up towards Julie, and the silence that spread through the hall, showed that Mary was not the only one to be surprised by the sudden outburst.
The flicker of emotion was quickly gone as the tall raven-haired woman down below nodded regally.
"Go ahead, Guardian McGrath."
Only being Julie's housemate throughout their training as Guardians allowed Mary to see the small flinch at that, and understand its cause.
"I was wondering, First Guardian" the slight edge on the title was not lost on the woman below, "what is happening with the sensor platforms the Tiri put in orbit when they first arrived?"
It took everyone a second to figure out what Julie was talking about. When the Tiri had first arrived on Earth, over sixty years ago, they had undertaken several large works. The sensor sphere out beyond the orbit of Mars was one, the construction of their underground bases on Earth was another. They had also put into high orbit around the Earth, dozens of stealth sensor platforms, for keeping an eye on the humans they were trying to save.
"The orbital sensor platforms?"
Even as she spoke, the platforms appeared on the holographic image behind her, circling the Earth at a higher altitude than the majority of satellites that were shown.
"I believe they are being tied into the orbital defense network to augment the orbital stations."
Mary grinned and wished she could manage to make a virtual piece of gum without anyone noticing. The First Guardian was speaking directly to Julie, and it looked like the two of them had forgotten anyone else existed. They sure as hell aren't looking away from each other.
"Couldn't they be used to reroute the communication duties that the satellites are doing at the moment? We could even tie in the governments to use the sensor suites if we really wanted to, with limited access of course."
A general chorus of agreements and questions as to how that could be done rose from the assembled audience. The First Guardian didn't look like she noticed as she kept her eyes locked with Julie's. Ever so slightly she nodded.
"Yes, I think it could be done. That would certainly get most of the pressure off of our diplomatic core. Thank you... Julie."
It took a noticeable effort for the First Guardian to say that. Mary bit her upper lip and watched the two of them stare at each other until Julie slowly sank back down into her seat. The First Guardian looked away, cleared her throat and brought up another point.
Mary leaned over and whispered to her friend.
"Way to go, Julie!"
Julie winked in return and smiled proudly.
"I've noticed they always think about building new things before they think about adapting old things to serve a new purpose. Must be a Tiri thing. Shhh, Emie's talking about the ground troops we're being assigned."
Mary rolled her eyes and sunk down into her seat again, muttering.
"You are sooooo gone."
Thankfully, Julie didn't hear a word. Absently wondering how she could find someone to feel that obsessed about, Mary paid attention to the First Guardian again. Listening with considerable more interest as the Emily went into describing the Bak'ra ship which was being taken apart piece by piece from its hiding place under New York city.
"Well, what do you think, will it work?"
The short, by Tiri standards, rotund man squinted as he studied the diagrams before him. Rubbing the arm that he had only recently had reattached, Birk nodded slowly.
"Yes, it could... Yes! I think it will."
Emily resisted the urge to tell the man to stop yelling, she was only five feet away from him. Birk, no matter what he did, he did it with enthusiasm. Something, which on her best days she found a bit odd, today she just found it annoying.
"Yes, First Guardian?"
"If you spit on me again, I'm going to break your other arm."
"Ah, sorry, First Guardian."
Wiping off her arm, Emily resisted the urge to smack the smaller man. He just rubbed her completely the wrong way.
"How long would it take, Birk?"
"Oh, well, lets see here. Well, we could change the emitters on the platforms themselves. Anyone who wanted to use them will have to realign their satellite dishes, as well. Figure we could have the platforms changed over by the end of the week, and we'd be good to go after that."
The end of the week was five days away, and Emily needed that shield up and running as soon as possible.
"You have three days Birk, get your people moving. Have Lorin strip people from ship construction duties if you need to, but get it done. I'll tell Winston, and he'll have the diplomatic core start setting it up earth side."
Birk stared at her as if she'd gone insane.
"Three days? But, I mean, there are over forty platforms in orbit!"
"You better get moving then hadn't you, Birk?"
Taking the non-too subtle hint, the engineer gathered his data pads and left in a huff. He reminded her of nothing so much as a waddling duck dressed in a uniform.
Hopefully that's one problem out of the way. Now only three hundred others to deal with before I can get some rest.
For what felt like the hundredth time that day, Emily ignored her impulse to contact Southern Cross and find out how Julie was doing.
Sea green eyes...
They destroyed my world...
Red hair that seemed to shimmer under the sun...
The Bak'ra use Tiri as a source of food...
She's one of the brightest people I've ever met...
They are the enemy.
I love her.
The litany continued, on and on, over and over again cycling through her brain as she argued with herself. The result was the same as it had been for the previous four days, the First Guardian leaned back in her chair and tried to ignore her pounding headache. Her temper was short, she'd nearly ripped the head off her com officer this morning, and it had been a struggle to resist pummeling Birk.
I need a distraction.
Straightening, she reached for the first data pad she could get her hands on and started reading the report.
Perfect, a report on President Fairchild.
General Whittecker's files had provided no end of embarrassments for the President of the U.S. Once Winston had leaked selected parts of those files to the world press, something that reminded Emily of a feeding frenzy took place.
One thing you can say for Whittecker, he kept a lot of records.
Records which specified the private arrangements which had been agreed upon by a certain Senator Fairchild before he accepted the offer by then Presidential candidate Blake to run as his Vice-Presidential candidate. They also traced the large amount of money, which had gotten Fairchild his seat as a Senator. Emily could just imagine how tempting it would have been to be offered the position of Vice-President on a silver platter. Even more, how it would have been to have a chance to be President. She knew Fairchild's kind; they lived for power, and how much more power could you get than the President of the U.S.?
Other than being a Guardian of course.
Emily smiled wanly at her own little joke and scanned through the rest of the report to the attached findings at the bottom. Whatever the results of the upcoming impeachment hearings, President Fairchild was a lame duck. He couldn't authorize a stamp without being hounded by the media now. There was no way he was going to survive the upcoming Presidential elections.
The strained relations between the Empire and the U.S. Government had eased considerably nearly overnight. The no-fly orders had been dropped like a, what is it they call it, ah yes, a hot potato. Things were getting back on track, but for once the U.S. was behind the rest of the world. Even the third world countries had a month long head start on the U.S. now.
The intelligence report on the two candidates was interesting, as was the in depth background searches that had been done on both. She read those with a bit more attention, still she found herself thinking often of a certain short redhead. The two main political parties, it seemed, had gotten sideswiped by the Imperial Senate elections, which had already been held. Neither had done a good job of getting candidates ready for those uniform elections.
Emily grimly smiled as she took another look at a different report. A surprisingly small majority of the Senators from North America were Democratic or Republican. Good, guess it's not only a two party system anymore. They better wake up to that fact real fast though.
The buzz from her com panel interrupted her thoughts. Flicking the pad back onto the desk top with the others, she pushed the accept button and raised a questioning eyebrow as her uncomfortable com officer looked back at her.
"Yes, Mr. Evans?"
"Uh, Ma'am, I have a com for you."
Blue eyes narrowed by a fraction of an inch as she took in the nervous behavior. Some of it was because she'd chewed him out earlier, but there was more to it than just that.
"It's a com from Southern Cross' Guardian, Ma'am. Guardian McGrath would like to speak with you."
It would be so easy to accept that com, to speak with Julie. She'd apologize for ignoring the younger woman for the last few days, and for ever doubting her. It would be so easy, yet so very difficult; too difficult for the First Guardian, for Emie, to even attempt. The dark place in her soul where her hate resided wouldn't let her.
The First Guardian stared at the view port behind her, taking in the silent beauty of the stars. Swallowing she continued, damning herself for taking the coward's way.
"Tell her that I'm busy."
"Ah, I mean, yes Guardian, the First Guardian is busy."
Snarling, she disconnected and stood, pacing behind her desk. She'd gone around having Webster make the com call for her, and had simply used her bond with her ship self to initiate the call. It wasn't as if Webster didn't have anything else to do at the moment, as the young man helped set up a tactical net between all of the recently bonded human Guardians. The last of whom had only bonded two days previous. The entire newly assembled Guardian fleet was scheduled to begin war maneuvers in two days.
Julie had high hopes that Emie would talk to her after the general meeting. The First Guardian had left so suddenly after the meeting that she hadn't been able to reach her in time.
The muted chime from the door to her ready room drew her back from those depressing memories. With a small nudge through the mental bond she shared with the ship, the doors slid open just as the Marine on the other side drew to attention. Julie smiled slightly at the sight. Clarice had stopped following her everywhere she went after their talk earlier, and Julie was finding that she rather liked having the Marine as a friend.
"Clarice, you don't have to come to attention every time you see me you know."
What might have been a swiftly gone smile crossed the Marine's face.
Giving up the battle for now, Julie waved her inside. When the Marine stayed where she was, the human looked at her questioningly.
"Your new Lance leader has arrived."
Each Guardian ship would hold a staggering thousand Marines. They weren't all front line soldiers of course, but it still shocked Julie to think about how many people that was. It was only a fraction of her crew number of course. The newly formed Imperial forces had stuck with the old Tiri way of defining their fighting unit strengths. A dagger was ten men, a sword was ten daggers, or a hundred men. While a Lance, was ten swords, or a thousand men. As she understood it, they'd adopted the same system for designating everything from men to Guardians.
"Already? We were just notified that our Marines would start arriving in the general meeting today."
"Shall I send her in, Ma'am?"
The woman who stepped past the Honor Guard into the ready room was no stranger, even in the new uniform.
Smiling the first true smile in what felt like weeks, Julie moved towards the taller, spiky blond and hugged the startled Lance commander.
"Good to see someone missed me, ugh, I think you broke a rib."
Julie laughed and ignored the slightly scandalized look on Clarice's face as she closed the doors to the ready room.
"Sit down, I'll get us something to drink. I think I have some wine if you want?"
"Water if you have it, I'm still on duty for another hour."
The red-haired Guardian made a face at Marine but got them both drinks. Still grinning, she took her seat behind the desk and saluted the ex-sniper with her glass.
"What are you doing here? I thought you were on your way to Mars Base?"
Shrugging, God, better known as Katya, took a sip of the cold water.
"Got into a fight with Winston. He wanted me to resign and come live at the palace. I told him to shove it and well, things went downhill from there."
"You are a very strange woman, you do know that right? Most people would jump on a chance like that."
Katya snorted, making a very unlady like gesture.
"Please, I haven't seen him at all since when we met with you at Longbow. He's always off running around the world fixing problems. I told him I'd resign my commission if I could go with him. He hemmed and hawed about that not being a good idea. So I walked out and put in a transfer. They had an opening for me here, so I grabbed my guys and took it."
"Hell yes, my sword is already onboard, they shipped up with me. The others will be arriving over the rest of the day."
Pale eyes narrowed thoughtfully as Katya studied the Guardian.
"You really didn't know I was onboard did you? Shouldn't you have sensed my drop ships docking with Southern Cross?"
It was Julie's turn to look a bit uncomfortable at that. She should have, that was true. She'd just been busy.
Thinking about Emily and trying to com her. Damn it!
"Yeah, well, I was trying to get in touch with Emie. She's avoiding me."
"Oh because of the whole Bak'ra engineered thing?"
Julie spluttered wine in surprise at that, and stared wide-eyed at the laughing Katya.
"Oh please, I'm not completely out of the loop you know."
Julie tried to get over the shock, she'd thought that only the Guardians knew about it. Most of them hadn't even seemed to care, taking the fact that the First Guardian hadn't acted as a good sign.
"Most of Imperial officers. I'd guess most of the better intelligence services on Earth do by now also."
Julie just blinked in astonishment.
"Oh come on, Julie, as if that changes who you are. You saved my life back in Plattsburgh, remember? I think I can trust you. Now what's this about Miss High and Mighty?"
Taking a rather large gulp of the wine, Julie waved a hand, trying to get her thoughts straightened out.
"She's pretty much ignored me since we got back from New York."
"So is it because of the Bak'ra thing?"
"Of course it's because of the Bak'ra thing!" Julie snapped, and Katya held up both hands in a placating manor.
"Alright, alright. I see that you're a bit on edge about it."
The redhead knew it wouldn't do any good at all yelling at God about it, but she came darned close anyway.
"Hey, did you get to see 5th Avenue while you were in New York?"
Green eyes rolled as Julie picked up her empty glass and returned it to the bar to be cleaned later.
"Katya, we touched down, I got into an elevator and we were taken prisoner. I didn't have the time."
Whenever God used that tone of voice, Julie generally got worried. Turning around to look at the smiling Lance commander, Julie got a bit more worried. Licking her lips, she decided to probe carefully.
"We can go together and blow off Emily and Winston at the same time!"
That sounded promising, and despite her better intentions, Julie found herself already liking the idea, whatever it was.
"How would we go about that?"
"Simple, I get off duty in an hour. My second in command won't have a problem getting things settled for the rest of the day. You and I take a shuttle and we go down to do some shopping. I've always wanted to shop on 5th Avenue."
"They'd probably be angry if they found out what we did."
Julie felt compelled to put up the token objection.
"So? They both deserve it for pissing us off."
The blond had a point.
"Deal. See you in Shuttle Bay One in an hour?"
"Good, I love it when I great plan comes together. See you then!"
It occurred to Julie only after God had left that neither of them had talked about the arriving Marines yet.
"They did WHAT?"
Emily stared in disbelief at her older brother, who just nodded and shrugged.
"What can I say, Emie, they went down to New York, and I quote from the message Katya sent me, "To go shopping". That's all I know."
Emily covered her face with both hands. It wasn't enough that Julie would go planet side. But she had gone back to the city she'd been taken prisoner in no less than a week ago.
"Dear Maker, kill me now."
Winston didn't sound all that much happier as he agreed.
"I just got the note, I was in meetings with the European Union all day long."
One blue eye opened to eye the com panel.
"How long ago did they leave?"
"Six hours ago."
Emily felt the beginnings of a great headache coming on.
"Has anyone seen or heard from them?"
"I contacted Theo before comming you. He said that their shuttle landed six hours ago and that the six of them took a ferry ride over to Manhattan. What do you want to do?"
Emily eyed her brother darkly.
"What do I want to do? I want to go down there, find them, and yell at them until they understand how stupid it was to go off without telling us!"
"And how do you want to find them in New York? They're shopping, that's even worse than being held prisoner."
Winston did have a very valid point, and Emily sat back down.
"You sure they aren't in trouble? You know how Julie is. Even if our diplomatic relations with the United States is back on firm footing, that's New York City. Not exactly the safest place in the world to start with."
"With attracting Trouble, with a large T? Yes, I know very well how Julie is so don't worry, I'll let you know if I hear anything. Tell Katya I've been trying to get a hold of her all day long if you see them before I do."
At least the two of them took the Honor Guard with them. Clarice will be there, so I can hope she's keeping them out of trouble. God and Julie together in New York, dear Maker, I don't think I want to know what trouble they could get into.
The com went dark and Emily growled at it. When it failed to give her the answers she wanted, she strode out onto the Command Deck, waving people back to their stations before they had started to salute.
He knew her well enough to frown in worry as he approached the First Guardian.
"I want you to keep an eye out for a shuttle returning from Governor's Island to Southern Cross."
He looked a bit puzzled as she started walking towards the exit from the Command Deck.
She never even slowed her stride as she passed through the large armored doors.
"Where will you be?"
"On Southern Cross."
Angwar looked back at the rest of the Command Deck, catching the slightly worried looks North Star's officers were sharing. He didn't blame them at all. The tone of the First Guardian's voice boded ill for whoever had raised her ire, and he had a distinct impression he knew who that was.
"Jarris, keep an eye on orbital traffic. Let me know if any shuttles left off from Governor's Island and head to Southern Cross."
The sensor officer was a good steady sort, he didn't even bat an eyelash at the request.
Julie smiled brightly to those crewmembers that she passed in the corridors. The brightly colored shopping bags that she carried, as well as those that the other members of the Honor Guard carried, were testimonial to the shopping spree she and Katya had gone on.
She'd managed to spend a years worth of her pay from her time at Majestic in six hours of marathon shopping, but it had been fun. They'd hit every store that they could on 5th Avenue and then quite a few that weren't. It had been decadent, fun, and exactly what she'd needed to avoid the depths of a full-blown depression. Katya had taken her own bags, slightly less in number than those Julie had assembled, off to her own quarters. She'd done a brief check of Southern Cross's status on the way up, and assured herself that her ship self was in one piece. Other than that, Julie had managed to forget about anything to do with the Tiri or Bak'ra.
Well, nearly everything.
She'd found herself hoping to catch sight of a familiar blue eyes throughout the evening.
Clarice had suffered through the shopping spree in near silent martyrdom, as had the other three Honor Guards. Opening the door to her quarters, Julie stopped in shock as a voice from inside greeted her.
"So good of you to show up, Guardian McGrath. Clarice, you can put down your rifle, I'm not quite ready to shoot Julie."
Clarice had moved faster than Julie had thought possible, and had pulled the smaller woman aside, aiming her rifle into the room. The First Guardian sneered at the weapon and pointed at Julie.
"You and I need to talk. Now."
The angry commanding tone was not lost on Julie and she felt her hackles raise. Ignoring Emily for a moment, she waved the Honor Guard members inside telling a sheepish Clarice, "just put the bags down inside. I'll sort them out later after my guest leaves."
The two women said nothing as the Marines did as bid, and hastily excused themselves. Angrily, Julie grabbed one of the bags and stormed past the First Guardian, moving into the bedroom beyond, and dumping the contents out onto her bed. Feeling the taller woman move and follow, she whirled around and let a week of frustration and fear fuel her anger.
"How dare you barge into my quarters!"
The older woman laughed, a cold hard bitter laugh.
"How dare I? How dare you go back to the place that I just RESCUED you from?"
Green eyes blazing with as much fury as the blue ones staring at her had, Julie stalked forward until she was so close she could feel the heat of the First Guardian's body.
"How dare I? Who are you to ask me that? You haven't even acknowledged that I existed for the last week! Now you want to control my life when I'm not on duty? Screw it, First Guardian. My commanding officer doesn't get that option. Or were you worried that I was going to pass secretes to some Bak'ra who miraculously survived?"
Her verbal tirade actually made Emily step backwards away from the sheer blazing anger lashing out at her. The angry part of her, the part that felt lost and betrayed, lashed out.
"Is that what you were trying to do, betray us?"
Emily sneered, moving forward and forcing the smaller woman backwards this time.
"Yes Emily, that's what I was doing, throwing away the future of my planet! That's why I even brought along the spy you assigned to me and Katya, because I knew they'd go along with it."
Julie had run out of room to back up in her back against the wall. They were yelling at each other now, face-to-face.
"I didn't send her to spy on you."
"Oh no? Really, you could have fooled me! That's why she carries around some Cynaomarist right?"
Emily had no answer to that and she gritted her teeth in frustration.
"I sent her to keep an eye on you and protect you."
"Sure you did. You just cared so much about me that you were busy every time I tried to talk to you right?"
It was Emily's turn to back away from the incensed smaller woman.
"You don't understand!"
"Understand what? That you're trying to pretend I don't exist because," Julie's voice broke but she forced herself to continue, "I was created by them? Do you hate them so much?"
Emily's resolve nearly broke at the hurt look in those green eyes, but the memory of the fall of Tiri Prime put her back on the offensive.
"Them? The Bak'ra? The people who destroyed my world? I don't just hate them, I want to see them all die a slow painful death. I want to be able to watch them suffer like we've suffered."
The grief, anger and loss in her voice forced Julie backwards this time. A small corner of the First Guardian's brain, the one that had the annoying tendency to argue with her, wondered who was winning this fight. Emily ignored it.
Julie sagged back against the bulkhead behind her, the anger draining from her, and just leaving sorrow and a familiar aching loneliness.
"So you blame me for what they did to your world, Emie? Is that it?"
There really wasn't any answer that Emily could come up with for that one. So the First Guardian did the only thing she could think of to end an argument that was hurting her as much as the young human.
The kiss wasn't planned, hell it wasn't even supposed to happen.
Then somehow they were both pressed up against the wall, mouths hungrily pressed against each other. Emily wasn't certain who groaned first, but she didn't care. Her uniform was too tight and she was too hot. She desperately wanted to touch and caress the body molded against hers. When Julie cupped a breast in her hands, Emily gasped in surprise and arousal.
The taller woman slid her hands down the redhead's back, tugging the Guardian uniform open as she did. It was harder than she thought it would be, her hands kept misbehaving and stroking the smooth skin underneath. Julie's hands began to freely roam across her chest and stomach, stroking and learning. They were both panting by the time Emily stripped the uniform down off Julie's shoulders.
The sight was enough to make wetness flood between her legs and Emily could no longer even pretend to be in control. Cupping those perfect, lightly freckled breasts in both hands, she watched in fascination as Julie's eyes fluttered shut. The First Guardian was entranced by the red moist lips that begged for her attention, and she pushed the uniform down to Julie's waste.
"This is a bad idea... ah, oh god."
Emily didn't want to think about it, so she didn't even let Julie finish, sliding her hands down between skin and uniform, to cup the firm ass of the smaller woman. Sliding a long thigh between Julie's legs and tugging her hard against her leg. Emily could feel the heat between Julie's legs and it just served to excite her more.
In an unspoken agreement, they stumbled backwards through a doorway and into the bedroom. Collapsing onto the bed, Julie started to make swift work of Emily's uniform, even as Emily peeled off the last of Julie's. The body beneath was as beautiful as Emily had dreamed it would be. The scent of their excitement wafted in the air, and slick skin slid as they licked, kissed and explored.
Emie finally used her larger frame to flip Julie onto her back and pin her there as she captured a nipple. Suckling it gently, she grinned as she heard the groan of encouragement. Trailing down the toned stomach, Emily slid a finger through short curly hairs.
She is a natural red head...
That was her last somewhat coherent thought before sliding a finger through the wetness waiting for her. Curling upward and in, Emily moaned in pleasure as Julie spread her legs and arched upward into her touch.
She watched in fascination as her fingers, first one, then an added second, slipped into Julie. The liquid heat, which surrounded them, nearly pushed the taller woman over the edge. She was on the razor's edge of desire as it was.
"Yes, god yes, please!"
Julie arched upward, trying to meet her thrusts and Emily could wait no longer. The young human wasn't even certain who she was pleading with; all that she knew was that she was going to die if Emily stopped. Emily was beyond hearing words, only listening to the thrumming heartbeat, the slick sweat, the shift of muscles, in the body she was claiming. Lacing fingers with Julie, she planted kisses across the scorching skin, tasted the sweet sweat which covered them both, down Julie's naval and inner thigh. Then her mouth covered the bundle of nerves just above where her fingers thrust into Julie, and Julie screamed her name.
Clarice St. John tilted her head until the vertebrae in her neck realigned. With a pleased sigh she dumped the last of her armor onto the chair and began field stripping her side arm. Rifles weren't carried onboard ship unless she was on duty, but she was allowed to keep her sidearm with her at all times. Which was fine as far as she was concerned.
The priority beep of the com unit a few minutes later almost made her lose the induction coil. Muttering curses, she reached over and flicked on the screen, hoping that Guardian McGrath hadn't decided to go shopping again. She'd left the night shift of Honor Guards on duty after they had returned to Southern Cross. The Marine really didn't want to get suited up again this evening.
Clarice was more than a bit surprised to see Provost Angwar staring at her with an odd look on his face when the com unit powered up.
"Provost? Is there something I can do for you?"
She was wondering if he had maybe commed the wrong unit since the First Guardian was in Julie's quarters last she knew, arguing.
"As a matter of fact I think there is, Lieutenant."
Clarice raised an eyebrow and waited for the Provost to continue.
"What can I do for you sir?"
"Well, you see..." the Provost looked over his shoulder at the Command Deck of North Star and leaned closer to the video pick up, lowering his voice. "I think you should get up to Southern Cross's Command Deck."
She was already reaching for her pistol belt though.
"I believe that Emily and Julie have, ah, reconciled their differences."
The slightly embarrassed tone to his voice brought a confused look to her face and she shook her head, not understanding.
"I don't understand what you mean, Provost."
Looking more than mildly embarrassed this time, Angwar tugged a bit self-consciously at his uniform jacket.
"They have Reconciled their Differences and are now Together."
Clarice blinked at the odd way the Provost was stressing his words, and then blinked again when she understood what he was saying.
"Yes, together. So please, Lieutenant, if you would get up to the Command Deck?"
"Ah, I mean, yes Sir."
She shut the com unit off and grabbed her belt with a laugh. Good, so they were Together were they? They deserved it and about time they figured things out. Still, best that she get to the Command Deck and quickly. They were probably trying to figure out what all the strange readings they were getting were coming from.
The bond between Guardian and ship self was a two way one, and at least some of what Julie was feeling would be transmitted through her bond. Clarice just hoped that engineering was on the ball, or they might have a reactor go into emergency shut down after a sudden power spike.
Depending on how good the First Guardian was of course.
Clarice grinned wider and decided she might want to warn Engineering.
Lieutenant, junior grade, Daniel Webster looked around with something verging on panic in his usually mild blue eyes. He reached up to adjust the glasses that he no longer wore, thanks to the regen treatments. The nervous reaction didn't even register with him as he converted the motion to running a hand through his hair.
"Sir, Engineering says that they've got another power spike in number two reactor."
Webster was, unfortunately, the most senior officer on the Command Deck at the moment. The Chief Engineer was on her way, but she had been buried in Southern Crosses bow. It would take her at least another minute to get to the Command deck. The Engineering officer looked just as worried as Webster felt.
"Yuis, try to com Guardian McGrath again?"
Yuis, his replacement at the communications console just shook his head and tried again to raise the ships Guardian.
"Sir, we've got some weird readings coming from sensors."
The added report from the sensor tech didn't help and Webster rubbed at the sweat on his forehead. He was just a Junior Lieutenant! A communications officer even! He didn't know what to do, heck he wasn't even certain what was going on.
"Damn it, we're not supposed to be having problems like this in Earth Orbit!"
No one choose to answer his outburst, and he felt his cheeks flame.
The engineering tech peered closer to her readouts and looked back at him worriedly.
"Um, Sir? I don't know what's going on, but I've got another power spike. It's like the ship's reactors are getting ready to blow!"
Webster blanched at that, a fusion reactor going was not a good thing. He was just about to order General Quarters when the sound of the lift doors opening stopped him. He hoped, prayed it was someone more senior to him. The Marine's posted at the entrance to the Command Deck stiffened to attention as the lift's rider entered.
Webster could have cried in relief.
Even if Clarice wasn't part of the Imperial navy, she was senior to him at least. Despite himself he realized that the Honor Guard commander was quite attractive once you got her out of all the battle armor.
"Mr. Webster, are you having problems?"
Her tone was just the slightest bit amused and Webster licked his lips, doing his best to at least appear in control.
"I've got some problems Lieutenant, do you know where I can find the Guardian?"
The Marine smirked as she moved towards the Big Chair that he'd been occupying so peacefully a few moments earlier. The Guardians couch was right next to it, a reminder of who exactly controlled the ship.
"Yes I do, and you're not going to bother her about this. Power down the reactors to minimum power output and just ignore any of the odd readings on sensors, you might want to shut down communications also."
"Ah, Ma'am, what's going on?"
"I'll tell you when your older Mr. Webster. For now, why don't you get on that power down ok?"
Miriam, the Engineering officer, was the first to understand what was going on. To her credit she restrained herself to a small chuckle. Webster got it after he gave the order to power down. His blue eyes widened comically and he stuttered.
"The Guardians... she's, oh."
Clarice just laughed.
The smell of sex was heavy in the air, and Julie smiled lazily as she traced a finger across her companion's chest. Resting her head on Emily's shoulder she didn't even try to resist happily humming. When the shoulder she was using as a pillow shook, Julie poked the First Guardian in the stomach.
"Sorry, but no laughing is allowed. You are now my personal pillow."
"I am huh?"
"Oh yes, sorry Emie, this is your new lot in life."
"I guess I could get used to it. Maybe. What sort of bonuses do I get?"
Julie raised her head just enough to smile slowly at her friend, after brushing the hair out of her eyes. For some strange reason her hair was all mused up. Licking her lips she waggled her eyebrows.
"All sorts of things."
"How could I resist an offer like that?"
Happily, Julie snuggled closer, sliding a naked leg over Emily's and wrapping herself around the taller woman. The sheets had been tossed aside sometime during the past few hours of lovemaking, and she just couldn't work up the energy to go get them. Besides, the First Guardian made a wonderful heat source. A quick check with her bond to her ship self showed that they had another two hours before they had to get up. Just enough time for her to take a quick nap, she'd even closed her eyes and started to drift away when Emie's voice jerked her awake.
The words were nearly whispered and Julie wondered if she'd dreamed them for a moment.
"It hurt a lot when you wouldn't talk with me, Emie."
"I know, and I'm sorry, Julie. I just, I still have to work it out."
Julie closed her eyes and hugged her friend tightly. She'd wanted to believe that things were all better now, but of course that wasn't true. Burying her face in a thick mane of black hair she whispered, "please don't ignore me again?"
"I won't, no matter what, I promise we'll work it out together. This, you, means too much to me. I don't want to lose you because of it, Julie."
"Good, because if you do, I'm going to have to kick your ass, First Guardian."
Satiated blue eyes looked down at the redhead nestled against her with fondness.
Julie nodded and started to answer when she blinked at something she'd stumbled across in her brief check through her ship bond.
The First Guardian, Julie had discovered, almost purred when she was happy.
"Why did your Provost put through a priority communication to Clarice?"
Emily shrugged slightly, a gesture that caused Julie to slide her head a bit further down the First Guardian's body.
"Probably to go explain to your Command crew why their readings went wacky for a while."
The blood drained from Julie's face and she pushed herself up so that she could stare down at Emily's face.
"Oh God. You mean they know what we've been doing?"
The smirk on the larger woman's face was not comforting.
"Emily, tell me that they don't know what we've been doing all night!"
"Alright, but I would be lying to you, Julie."
Julie closed her eyes and covered her hands.
Emily touched her fingertips to Julie's chin and waited for the redhead to open her eyes.
"Julie, it's just one of those things you have to get used to. You don't have much control during... I mean, well, release. Sometimes there are even power spikes."
Julie groaned incoherently and burrowed back into the welcoming warmth, reaching down and dragging up a blanket this time to hide under also.
"I'm never going to be able to face them. I'll just have to get an entirely new command staff."
Emily chuckled and stroked her hair, waiting until Julie calmed down a bit.
"Don't worry, sweetheart."
They lay like that for a while, each soaking in the presence of the other. The pleasant tangle of limbs and not knowing where one person began and the other ended.
"I know who I want for a Provost."
"Good, about time. Who?"
"Clarice. I trust her and she knows what to do after being around you so long."
Emily placed a kiss against Julie's forehead and grinned. She was certain that Julie's choice was going to raise a few complaints, a Marine for a Provost? She was also just as certain that it was a good choice, and that Clarice would make a great Provost.
"She's a good choice."
"We've got an hour and a half until we need to get up."
The grin turned into a slow, sexy smile and Emily rolled them over until she was on top of the smaller woman.
Julie nodded and slid a hand behind the First Guardian's neck, drawing her downward. Just before their lips touched she murmured, "I wonder what we'll do to pass the time."
Emily grinned as they tasted each other on their lips.
"I have a few suggestions."
They showed each other quite a few over the next hour.