"I still don't understand why you didn't notify me, Clarence." The Captain of the Coloratura gazed steadily at Dr. Shiva, who was stood in the captain's office shifting uneasily from one leg to another. "Nor do I understand why you didn't remind him to notify me, Ms. Avernon."
"I... I never gave it a thought, Captain," said Dr. Shiva. He looked down at the carpet, rich burgundy Axminster. "The message was for Empirical Storm Troopers; I assumed that you must have agreed to the requisition--"
"No, I did not." The Captain didn't shout, but his firm voice quelled Dr. Shiva. "And because of this, requisition as you so delicately phrase it, we are going to have to change our plans and visit the Northstar yards for refitting and restocking three months early. In case either of you are being as dense now as you were when this order came in, that means that the crew will see three months less profit from this trip."
"Captain, I think--" Lindsay tried to find an excuse, but shrank back into silence under the Captain's stare.
"The time for thinking, Ms. Avernon, was when you received the message about the EST. Now, I suggest, is not a time for you to be thinking."
"Yes, Captain," said Dr. Shiva looking up now. "What's done is done. As I believe you are aware, there are one hundred and fifty Empirical Storm Troopers awakened and gathered in the Deployment Bay awaiting orders. I was under the impression that you would be aware of their orders, if not actually providing them. I am not sure how long they will remain there, or remain patient, without their orders."
"Very good, Doctor. That is a status report at least. How much experience have you had with the EST?"
"Five were created on the Nanny Vice when I served there, Captain. They were briefed immediately after being awakened, and deployed thereafter. There was no delay in the receipt of the orders."
"And now there is," said the Captain. At last he stood up from behind his desk, a tall saturnine man well suited to his uniform. His clean-shaven face wrinkled into a frown, the only indicator that he was well over forty. Otherwise he looked youthful, maybe not even out of his twenties. "And this is a problem. Where did the original message come from?"
Lindsay activated her wrist-band and requested the message providence from the AI logs.
"Tight-beam pulsed laser from the Jean D'Arc," she said.
"Really?" The Captain's frown intensified. "The Jean D'Arc has been out of communication with us over radio channels for the last hour. We'd projected a transmitter breakdown, but that of course wouldn't affect the comm-lasers."
Dr. Shiva looked troubled. "If there's sabotage, then it must be related to whatever the EST are for," he said.
"We don't know that," said the Captain, "but it's certainly a valid hypothesis. So Doctor, since it looks like there are going to be problems getting orders for the EST, what do you suggest we do?"
Both Lindsay and the Captain looked at Dr. Shiva expectantly.