What, you ask, is an interquel? I made it up, for a segment that isn’t exactly a story but fits between earlier and later books. I was trying to use this as the end of a short story, where it did not fit. The location in “Story-timeline” is right, but it’s not a good ending for a short story. So the bit below comes after the Vatta’s War group, and not too long before Cold Welcome–sequel to one, and prequel to the other. Thus, interquel. (I might’ve called it a side-story but it’s not a complete story.)
Why now? Because I finished the main run-through of the page proofs earlier today.
Location: Space Defense Headquarters in Greentoo, a station orbiting the Moscoe Confederacy’s second habitable planet (for some definitions of habitable).
Characters: Ky Vatta, whom you know already. Ky, as you know already, is short, dark, very athletic, and intense, originally from Slotter Key, about 29 years old at the time of this fragment. She comes from a trading family with interstellar connections. Jen Bentik, to whom you are about to be introduced, is taller, light-skinned, in her forties, native of Cascadia Station, daughter of one of the Commissioners of Cascadia, spent 97% of her life on Cascadia Station, with only short visits down to the planet. She was in the Cascadian military. Now…
Ky walked down the hall to her office, dreading the piles of paperwork that would be waiting for her. Messages pinged her skullphone: invitations, questions, demands. Surely they knew she’d just arrived. She hadn’t even had time to get to her desk. She turned into her office suite, nodded to Pat at the reception desk (how ridiculous to need a reception desk!) while holding one finger to her ear, universal signal for an ongoing skullphone call. Pat made a hand motions that meant something, but she didn’t stop to find out what. On into her waiting room, and then into her own office.
To find an older woman in a crisp new Space Defense Force uniform sitting in her chair, working on her files. Ky stopped short. The woman looked up, but did not rise. Reddish brown hair, perfectly coifed. Pale skin expertly made up, but the woman was older than Stella–forty-something, Ky guessed. Gray eyes. Before Ky could say anything, the woman spoke.
“Ah, Admiral Vatta, you’re back at last. I’m Commander Jenaaris Bentik, Commissioner Bentik’s daughter, re-assigned from Cascadia’s militia to Space Defence Force as your aide. I have your workflow all organized now.” Enough emphasis on “now” to be a discreet insult. “These are ready for your signature.” A graceful hand indicated which stack. “These need an immediate decision.” Another stack.
“I didn’t ask for an aide,” Ky said, as mildly as possible. “Who appointed you?”
“But it was clear you needed one,” Bentik said, still sitting in Ky’s chair. “And I was available when the request came through. I have the paperwork and the filing system under control now.” She rose from the chair, finally. She was taller than Ky, like most Cascadians. “We should be able to clear much of this by the end of the day.” She waved an offer for Ky to take the chair.
Ky blinked: the sheer effrontery of the woman. Maybe this Bentik woman was older, and her father might be whoever he was, but that didn’t give her a right to treat Ky like a naughty child who hadn’t done her homework. Ky was, after all, the boss here…the admiral. “I have other duties at the moment,” she said. “Calls it would be rude to leave unanswered.”
Bentik’s brows rose, her mouth opened, then closed again.
“I will work on these papers when I’ve finished with the calls,” Ky said. “If I have time to complete some of these before the end of the shift, I’ll let you know, so you can put these in the mail sack.”
Bentik didn’t take the hint; she stood there looking annoyed.
“Excuse me,” Ky said, with an edge to her voice. “The first is to Cascadia’s head of security and he has indicated it must be a secured line. I will let you know when I need you.”
At last Bentik moved to the door, slowly, as if being dismissed was something that happened to other people. When the door closed behind her, Ky let out a long huff of air and sat down; the seat still warm from Bentik’s occupation. This, she thought, is not a good start to a smooth working relationship.