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It was very quiet in the huge, dimly lit room. The Advanced Tactical Training Course's main lecture hall boasted the second largest holo tank of the Royal Manticoran Navy, and the rising, amphitheaterlike seats facing the tank seated over two thousand at full capacity. At the moment, thirty-seven people, headed by Admiral Sir Lucien Cortez, Fifth Space Lord, and Vice Admiral The Honorable Alyce Cordwainer, the RMN's Judge Advocate General, sat in those seats and watched the tank intently.
The image of a tall, strong-faced woman floated in it, sitting erect and square-shouldered yet calmly in her chair, hands folded on the tabletop before her beside the white beret of a starship's commander. The golden planets of a senior-grade captain gleamed on the collar of her space-black tunic, and she wore no expression at all as she faced the HD camera squarely.
"And what, precisely, happened after the task group's final course change, Captain Harrington?" The voice came from off-camera, and a blood-red caption in the holo tank identified the speaker as Commodore Vincent Capra, head of the board of inquiry whose recommendations had brought the audience here.
"The enemy altered course to pursue us, Sir." Captain Harrington's soprano was surprisingly soft and sweet for a woman of her size, but it was also cool, almost remote.
"And the tactical situation?" Capra pressed.
"The task group was under heavy fire, Sir," she replied in that same, impersonal tone. "I believe Circe was destroyed almost as we altered course. Agamemnon was destroyed approximately five minutes after course change, and several of our other units suffered both damage and casualties."
"Would you call the situationdesperate, Captain?"
"I would call it ... serious, Sir," Harrington responded after a moment's thought.
There was a brief silence, as if her invisible questioner were waiting for her to say something more. But her detached calm was impregnable, and Commodore Capra sighed.