Chapter One: Indira

Captain Dejar rounded the corner with a scowl marring his usually kind face. I had been listening to the quiet hum of the ship as we maintained orbit around Mars, but Dejar’s heavy breathing was enough to shake me out of my reverie.

“Captain,” I nodded, falling into step with him. He returned my greeting with only a grunt of acknowledgment. Undeterred, I carried on.

“I was wondering if we are going to meet soon,” I said. “I’m anxious to know our next steps.”

He said nothing in response. I bit my cheek to quell my rising irritation. I followed him, not realizing he was walking to the quarters he shared with Kalyn until he stopped before the doorway.

“It would be unwise to follow me further,” he growled. I took a step back.

“Apologies,” I muttered.

I turned on my heel and walked away. I heard the door to Dejar and Kalyn’s chambers open. From inside, I could just barely make out the muffled sound of Kalyn crying. My heart broke for her.

It was only natural that she’d be so distraught. Her mother had helped organize the most devastating attack the Terran System had ever known.  

Weeks ago, we’d discovered that Kalyn’s mother, Adastria, had helped arrange the destruction of the Persephone Station as some kind of twisted first act of an alliance with the Dominion. Adastria wanted the Terran System to be included within Dominion space and was willing to offer up her own daughter’s life to do it.

When that was discovered, Kalyn was crushed. It took some time, but she rallied. Returning to the Terran System was tougher for her than it was for the rest of us, for obvious reasons. She didn’t see Adastria as her mother anymore. She saw her as an enemy and a threat.

All of us onboard the Rogue Star figured that Adastria had already betrayed us, and the Terran System, once so it couldn’t get any worse. How stupid of us.

Kalyn recovered from the shock of her mother’s betrayal once, but couldn’t do it a second time. Not when her mother was responsible for so many lives lost.

I fought the urge to turn back at the sound of her soft sobs. Dejar quickly closed the door. I lingered in the corridor for a few moments, unsure of what to do.

In the end, I decided to go to the dining hall. Most of the Persephone women convened there since all of our rooms were too cramped to be good for anything other than sleeping.

I entered the hall to find clusters of silent and furious women sitting at empty tables. There was usually an endless stream of food coming from the kitchen. Right now, there was nothing.

“We need to do something,” I blurted because I could think of nothing else to say.

Maris barked out a dry laugh. Xyla looked at me with dull interest before a glower took over her features again.

“The captain hasn’t given orders,” Aryn said. “There’s not much we can do until then.”

“Bullshit,” I groaned. “The captain and our commander are just as shaken as we are. We can’t rely on them to give orders right now.”

“There’s a little thing called the chain of command,” Maris said. “We follow it for a reason.”

Maris was the last person I’d ever expect to reference respecting a chain of command.

“Besides, the captain’s made it clear that we’re going after the Dominion,” Lynna piped up.

“We have a single ship,” I exclaimed. “Going after the entirety of the Dominion is a fool’s errand at best and a suicide mission at worst.”

“If you want to get the captain in here to speak, go for it. Until then, I’m not doing anything without orders.”

“Kalyn is in no position to give orders and the captain is going to let his anger get the best of him,” I argued.

“No one is saying you’re wrong,” Shenna said as she absentmindedly petted one of her creatures. “We’re all shaken. It’s difficult to get organized when our leader is just as shaken as we are.”

I tapped my foot as my mind raced to come up with some kind of solution. I couldn’t take another day of waiting around for something to happen.

“Kalyn is our Commander.” I perked up as an idea came to me.

“Very good,” Aryn smirked.

“Commanders always have a second-in-command. Kalyn never elected one,” I went on. “Kalyn’s second-in-command could make decisions for her while she’s indisposed.”

“Why don’t you do it?” Lynna suggested.

“I’m not qualified,” I stammered. “Kalyn’s supposed to choose her second. What about Shenna? Or Aryn?”

“Kalyn’s not speaking to anyone but Dejar right now,” Maris pointed out. “Dejar is ready to combust at any moment. And they don’t have the presence that you do.”

“Let’s speak to Aavat, then,” I said. “He’s the First Mate. He’s allowed to make decisions in the captain’s absence.”

“He’s not technically absent, though,” Shenna pointed out.

“He’s absent enough,” I replied. “Shall we speak to Aavat?”

The Persephone women agreed. I couldn’t help but smile. Finally, something was happening. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. I’d be happy with that for now.

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