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Authors: Kindal Debenham

Eagle (Jacob Hull)

BOOK: Eagle (Jacob Hull)
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Eagle

By Kindal Debenham

Eagle

by Kindal Debenham

©
Copyright 2013

All Rights Reserved

Cover art Lorenz Runwe

To learn about upcoming titles follow us at
www.wanderingleafpublishing.com

 

Acknowledgements

I am grateful for the chance to thank the wonderful people who have helped me to put this book together. Amber Cushman has once again been an incredible editor, and her contribution to the story has really made it that much better. It has been a great opportunity to continue to work with her throughout the series. Lorenz Runwe was our cover artist this time, and he did a terrific job. Honestly, there would have been no way to finish this book without his willingness to help. I owe him a lot of gratitude for his help, and he did a wonderful job creating the artwork for
Eagle
. Thank you both for everything.

My family has been a constant source of inspiration and support. I don’t think that I could have done this without them, and I want them to know how important they are to me. Caleb, Cassidy, Kaileen, you’re the best. I’m lucky to have a brother and sisters like you. Mom, Dad, I’m glad I got the chance to have such wonderful parents. Honestly, I love you all.

Then there’s Emily, who’s always been there for me. I’ve never known someone more supportive and loving than you, and I have been fortunate to have someone who has been as willing to go the extra mile for me. Thank you for reading every draft and going over every plot twist with me. Everything I’ve managed to do, I owe to your encouragement, advice, and sacrifices. Thank you.

Sera, my daughter, has
earned her own bit of gratitude. She’s been an inspiration and a challenge all in one, and I am looking forward to the chance to read my stories to her. She’s the best daughter anyone could hope for, and I am grateful for the chance to be her father. Hopefully her new baby brother, Marcus, will be able to keep up.

Finally, to all the people who have given so much in terms of friendship, enthusiasm, and especially patience, I want to thank you for being there. The past few years have not been gentle, but you have all been there for me, and I owe you my thanks for everything you’ve done. I’m fortunate to have such people in my life, and I look forward to sharing more stories with all of you. Thank you.

Dedication

To my family, who have been the best source of love and inspiration I could ever hope to have.

And to my wife, Emily, who has been with me through good times and bad, and who has never stopped encouraging me to write.

Chapter One

Jacob Hull, Admiral in the Celostian Navy, brooded over the image of his new flagship. The
Eagle
was moored in New Vermont’s main shipyard. It was the last ship of its class after the carnage at Tiredel, and the effort to rebuild it had become a morass of delays and accidents. Unless things changed soon, the rest of the fleet wasn’t going to be enough to stop the Oduran military from destroying the Celostian Union completely—and even with this ship, he wondered if the Navy could stop the enemy from simply overrunning the Union. He frowned deeply at the thought.

Then Captain Naomi Al-shira smacked him on the back of the head, jolting him out of his reverie. “Snap out of it, Admiral Hull. We’ve got work to do.”

Jacob rubbed at the back of his head and sent her a wry look. “You know, I don’t think you are allowed to hit a superior officer like that, Captain.”

Al-shira arched an eyebrow at him. “Well, my superior officer shouldn’t spend so much time looking mopey, sir.” She looked around. “Besides, I’m not seeing anyone running to correct me.”

Chuckling, Jacob glanced around the compartment. It was one of the briefing rooms aboard the
Knight
-class cruiser
Galahad
, which Captain Weir had been more than kind enough to clear out for Jacob's use. After the destruction of the
Badger
at Tiredel,
Galahad
had acted as Jacob’s command ship until the
Eagle
could be finished. Weir’s ship was one of the few assigned to Jacob’s personal command, and it was rather obvious the curmudgeonly man was looking forward to seeing Jacob transfer off of his ship now they’d finally arrived at the yards.

At the very least, Jacob knew the room was secure. The Marines assigned to his security detail had gone over it with a fine-toothed comb, making sure no explosives, eavesdropping equipment, or other threats were hidden there. It seemed like a lot of fuss for a cramped room with a single table and a projection unit, but if things went well, it was likely such fuss was something Jacob was going to have to learn to live with.

He returned his attention to Al-shira. “You know, I could just have someone come and arrest you. Who would take the word of a mere captain compared to the High Admiral?”

Al-shira smirked. “You aren’t the High Admiral yet, Hull. Still need to be confirmed, remember?” Jacob felt his mood sour a little further at the reminder, and she laughed. “Oh stop it,
Admiral
. We both know the referendum is a formality. You’ll get the job eventually.”

Jacob snorted. “I wish I was as certain about it. We have quite a few people trying to keep it from happening. No referendum, no High Admiral, remember?”

She sobered slightly, and laid a hand on his forearm. “Don’t worry so much, Jacob. We’ll find a way.”

He
gave her a level look. “Easy for you to say. At least
you
don’t have to hear the Union tearing itself apart over your qualifications as a commander.”

Al-shira grimaced, and with good reason. Jacob’s appointment to the rank of High Admiral had stirred up a controversy only rivaled by the court martial of the last High Admiral, Alan Nivrosky. Both the Federalists and the Independents had turned on him, and the one issue both parties seemed to agree on was the fact the referendum to confirm him as the leader of the Navy needed to be delayed. Neither party appeared willing to change its stance any time soon.

When Al-shira spoke, she seemed determined not to allow those facts to discourage her. “They’re just afraid, Jacob. After what happened at Tiredel, they’re looking for scapegoats. The flag officers at the battle were all killed, and the admirals who had stayed behind have all resigned in disgrace. You’re the last, big target both sides can agree to blame.”

“Well I’m glad they can manage to agree on something.” Jacob shook his head. “The Indies think I’m some kind of scheming, militaristic monster, and the Federalists—”

“Have Kenning.” Al-shira’s face hardened. “He was enough trouble when he was in the Navy, but now that he’s out…”

Jacob nodded. David Kenning had resigned from his post the instant he heard of Jacob’s appointment to High Admiral. Ever since, the man had been agitating against Jacob, whether out of spite or simple ambition it was hard to say. Either way, he’d managed to convince quite a few politicians Jacob was a bigger threat than even the Oduran League—as if Jacob was going to be worse for the Union than a hostile power with overwhelming military force.

Fortunately, though the Union-wide referendum had been stalled and delayed numerous times, Jacob still had authority over some of the Union’s forces—including the pull necessary to order the refit of the
Eagle
as a new central command ship. He turned back to the image of the flagship, studying the dreadnaught’s lines. “Do you think she’s ready, Naomi? Will the
Eagle
hold up under fire?”

Al-shira hesitated. “It does have the new armor layout, but I am worried about how easy it would be to flank and surround it. If we let the Odurans get to the ship’s DE sails…” She trailed off and shrugged.

Jacob grunted. “I know, but we didn’t have a choice. We’ll be surrounded no matter what we do—we can’t exactly avoid it when the other side has a dozen dreadnaughts to our one—but with a linebreaker design, at least we can hit them hard enough to make them pay.”

“I hope your presentation to the Admiralty Board is more than ‘let’s hurt them badly when they kill us’ Jacob.” Al-shira folded her arms and raised an eyebrow. “I doubt the other admirals are going to buy into that line of reasoning.”

“Don’t remind me.” Jacob shook his head. “At least they are finally willing to meet with me now. I thought they were going to keep stonewalling me until the enemy was coming down around us.”

“Which means you should be extra careful.” Al-shira gestured to the
Eagle
’s image. “If they agreed to meet you, especially onboard the new command ship of the Navy, you can be sure they have some sort of plan of their own. None of them are big fans of you right now, and I doubt your plans for a major offensive are going to change things.”

Jacob opened his mouth to reply, but a discrete cough alerted him that their privacy had ended. He looked over to the door to see an armored Marine at attention. “Yes, Corporal Patel?”

The Marine saluted sharply. “Sir, the Colonel is waiting for your arrival at the shuttle bay. He requested I convey a message to you, Sir.”

Jacob winced as he returned the salute. Knowing the temperament of the commander of his security detail, the content of the message was probably less than polite. The fact the hapless corporal had bracketed his words with “sir’s” didn’t bode well either. “Thank you, Corporal. What was it the Colonel requested you to tell me?”

The Marine drew in a breath and braced himself. “Colonel Ashford said, ‘I’m pissed as hell, and if that damn admiral doesn’t get down here right away, we’ll be leaving him here and he can find his own shuttle.’” Corporal Patel paused, his eyes fixed straight ahead. “The Colonel requested I use those specific words, Sir.”

Jacob looked sternly at Al-shira, who was trying unsuccessfully to smother her chuckles with her hand. The look backfired; the mirth on her face nearly started him off on his own burst of laughter. “Thank you again, Corporal. You can tell the Colonel we will be right there. He won’t need to leave us here.”

An expression of relief crossed the man’s face. Then he saluted a second time, waited for Jacob to return it, and then stepped out of the door.

As the portal slid shut behind the Marine, Jacob let out a sigh.
“Looks like life has caught up with us again, Captain. You’re still sure you want to come with me this time?”

Al-shira’s chuckles died away, and she gave him a measuring look. Then she stepped closer with a threatening gesture. “You’re not going mopey again, are you? The Marine’s gone, so you’re fair game again.” She reached up and ruffled his hair slightly, laughing softly as he flinched. “I started this whole thing with you, and I plan to end it with you. Remember that.”

Jacob ducked away from her hand and then straightened up. “All right then. Let’s go.”

 

Ashford, true to his word, looked furious. The Marine officer had not been nearly as impressed by Jacob’s promotion to admiral as Jacob might have hoped, but at the very least the Marine officer managed to clamp down on his temper for public occasions. Of course, while that meant Jacob was safe on the dock, he was certainly going to get an earful about the delay once he got into the shuttle.

As Jacob reached them, the Marines of his security detail came to attention. Ashford joined them in a stiff salute, which Jacob sharply returned. He thought the Marine muttered something before he stepped up to him. Given that it was Ashford, it was probably something better unheard. “We should be able to rendezvous with the flagship on time, Sir, as long as we hurry.”

The subtle hint was partially disguised in Ashford’s clipped tone, but Jacob recognized it for what it was. He inclined his head slightly. “Thank you, Colonel. We wouldn’t want to be late.”

Ashford growled something else Jacob only half-heard, but Jacob just strode past him and through the shuttle hatch. The Marines followed him, followed in turn by Ashford and Al-shira. As the Marine escorts cleared the rest of the shuttle for what must have been the thirtieth time, Ashford secured the hatch. Jacob settled into his seat, while Al-shira went forward to speak with the pilots. Still muttering curses, Ashford took up his normal position in the seat on the other side of the aisle. He speared Jacob with a hateful glare.
“Nice of you to finally make it, Sir.”

Jacob grinned at him. “You know, you should really try to relax, Colonel Ashford. All that stress could end up giving you all sorts of health problems.”

“As if I’m ever going to get old enough to enjoy them, with you around.” Ashford scowled. “You didn’t do a good enough job to kill me last time, so now you’ve dragged me back for a second go. So happy to be of service to you, Admiral.”

Without glancing back, Jacob knew at least a few of the security detail were already pale with shock. The Marines with him today were new, and many seemed to expect the potential High Admiral to be prone to towering rages; certainly
Kenning and all the rest had done plenty to build that image of an enraged enforcer. Yet Jacob had known Ashford for far too long to take offense. For all his bluster, Jacob could trust the man to do what needed to be done, and he would not have had any other Marine in the Navy watching his back now. Besides, he’d be damned before he started playing into Kenning’s hands.

So instead of erupting into a scathing tirade, Jacob shrugged. “Well, to tell the truth, I was going to leave you alone, but then Captain Al-shira told me I had to pick someone who was good at looking on the bright side of things. You
know, someone optimistic. Your name was the first that came to mind.”

The comment brought a chorus of half-stifled laughter from the rest of the security team. Ashford glared back at them for a moment and then turned back to Jacob. A well-buried hint of amusement played in those dark eyes. “Then I guess I’ll have to
keep my damn good nature from inspiring you to pick me the next time, now won’t I, Admiral?”

This time the laughter was louder, and Jacob grinned at the man. He looked toward the pilot’s cabin and saw Al-shira coming back to join him. “We’ll have to get to next time first, Colonel. What do you say we focus on that part for now?”

Ashford muttered something, though he sounded a bit less openly hostile than before. Al-shira gave him an amused glance before she settled into the seat on Jacob’s right hand. “The pilot said he’d get us to the
Eagle
in about thirty minutes. He planned a pretty fast transit.” She glanced at the others in the passenger cabin and lowered her voice. “He also said the rest of the Admiralty Board arrived a short while ago. They should be waiting for us when we get there.”

Jacob straightened his uniform. Whether he was ready or not, the time had come to face the people who’d been fighting him behind the scenes for months. He pondered for a moment, and concluded a thirty-minute flight wasn’t nearly fast enough.

 

“Welcome aboard the
Eagle
, Sir.”

Jacob returned the lieutenant’s sharp salute. “Thank you, Lieutenant Burns. Glad to see you again.”

The lieutenant smiled. Her face had been scarred by her near escape from the destruction of the
Badger
at Tiredel, but her expression remained cheerful all the same. “Glad to have you aboard, Admiral Hull. Captain Nivrosky sends his regards, sir.”

Jacob blinked. “Captain Nivrosky isn’t coming, then? I had expected him to join me in the meeting.”

Lieutenant Burns shook her head. “I’m afraid something came up at the last minute, Sir. Captain Nivrosky said it was another supply problem for a convoy headed to Tiredel. He said you would understand the importance of it.”

It took an effort not to curse. Leon Nivrosky had taken the position of Jacob’s chief of staff, and as a result he had to manage many of the logistical problems that would have otherwise made Jacob’s life a living hell. Jacob would have trusted few other officers with such responsibility, except perhaps Al-shira, and Leon had repaid that trust in full with his dedication. His help had been especially crucial, since Jacob’s official command area—determined, of course, by the agreement of the Admiralty Board—just happened to include the most troubled spots in the entire Celostian Union. All the same, it was incredibly frustrating to find his friend occupied in such minor details when there was so much riding on the result of the next few hours.
“Another supply problem? Did he say why it was so urgent?”

BOOK: Eagle (Jacob Hull)
12.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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