Chapter 8
Conspirators
Location:
ESS Ticonderoga, Martian Sphere
Date: Tue 21 Apr 123
Time: UST 1208

Commodore Frazier waited in the Captain's Mess for his appointed guest. The door opened and a petty officer walked in and stood at attention.
"Captain McCormick, sir."
Following the petty officer was an Air Force captain.
"Thank you, Petty Officer," the Commodore said. "You're dismissed."
"By your leave, sir," the petty officer replied, doing an about-face and exiting the room.
"At ease, Captain McCormick," the Commodore said. He motioned to the chair opposite to him. "Take a seat."
Taking his seat, Captain McCormick said, "So you're the Skipper, are ya?"
"Right on the money, Captain."
"So, ah, why'd ya call me here?"
The Commodore folded his hands and said, "You know when NIS picked up Colonel Harold last month?"
The thought of the incident brought an immediate reaction, but the Captain was guarded as he asked, "What about it?"
"He's been thrown into the Icebox."
Captain McCormick rose from his seat with a start.
"What!? What the fuck!? I'm gonna kill those sons-a-bitches!"
"Calm down, Captain."
"Why the hell should I be calm!? If they can throw a goddamned Hero a' the fuckin' Union inta the Icebox, you sure as hell ain't safe, sir."
"Listen to me, Captain," the Commodore said forcefully. "The battle group's just received orders to head to the Frontier."
"So? What's this gotta do with Cav?"
"Pluto's on the way."
Captain McCormick balked, "Ya expect me ta just wave as we fly by or somethin'?"
Quickly growing exasperated, the Commodore said, "No. For God's sake, let me finish."
Though he'd whipped himself into a fury, the Captain was able to rein it in with surprising ease.
"Continue," he said.
"I owe Colonel Harold my life," Commodore Frazier said. "Everything I have is thanks to him. Hell, most the damn Union owes him their lives after he killed the Hades. I'm going to pay back that debt by breakin' him out."
Incredulous, Captain McCormick asked, "How the hell ya plan on breakin' him outta the Icebox?"
"It's not so much me as it is you."
"Me?"
"You're qualified to fly Tigerhawks. Their stealth capabilities are hard to crack, even with our own most advanced sensors. There's a control station on Charon that acts as a backup in case local control of the Icebox's systems is lost for whatever reason. I need you to hit that control station. There are people on the inside who'll disable the systems on-site to cover the extraction."
"How's all that gonna work?"
"We have friends in high places lookin' out for us. But we've got enemies in high places, too. If this thing goes FUBAR, I'll disavow any knowledge of your mission and I'm counting on you to do the same."
Captain McCormick eyed the Commodore warily and said, "If this is some kinda trick, Skip, I'll personally visit a world a' hurt on ya."
"If this is a trick, Captain, I'm afraid we'll both be dead before you can get the chance."