Zero-Option

Lindsay Brambles


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From CHRONICLES OF THE EARTH EMPIRE series.

ZERO-OPTION by Lindsay Brambles

Introduction:

I wrote Zero-Option back in the eighties on a Commodore 64 using a great little wordprocessor called Paperclip. For a few years it just languished while I worked on other things, including what would eventually become In Darkness Bound (ISBN 1-4241-6560-1), my novel now available from PublishAmerica (www.publishamerica.com) and as of April 2007 in wider release to bookstores and online retailers like Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.
Zero-Option is about forty thousands words, which puts it in the novella category. I had thought of expanding it into a book, but in going over it I realized that would probably just make it bloated and weaken the story. Everything that needs to be in there is, and adding more would just be deadweight.
The story is essentially told from the perspective of Commander Nathan Imbrahim, but it is really about Captain Lhara Jhordel. The same Lhara Jhordel who is an ensign in my novel In Darkness Bound. This story you're about to read, however, takes place about four decades after events in the novel.
The original version of this story was submitted in competition at the 1989 Pinecone II Science Fiction Convention and won first place. As such, I think rather fondly of it, and despite the fact that some years have passed since then, I believe it holds up well.
If you enjoy this story I hope you'll check out www.freewebs.com/lindsaybrambles for information on In Darkness Bound. The latter is set in the same universe and once again involves Fleet. It's a war novel of the future and Lhara Jhordel figures prominently in it. Within the context of that story you get to see how she became the officer she is in this one.
This story and others, as well as several novels in various stages of completion (the sequel to In Darkness Bound is all but finished) are intended to create a sort of 'future history,' hence the Chronicles of the Earth Empire heading above. Whether they will see completion and publication will essentially be up to you, the paying public. It takes a lot of time and effort to write books, and though I get immense pleasure out of doing so, that does not, unfortunately, pay the bills. So I encourage you to read this story and hope you'll be encouraged to seek out and buy In Darkness Bound. If I can sell enough copies of that book I may be able to push on with getting out the next one°™providing my publisher considers it worthy of publication.
And now I leave you to Zero-Option. Happy reading.

Lindsay H.F. Brambles, Ottawa, 2007

1.
He realized he'd made an error in assuming the holos he'd seen of her were old recordings. An understandable mistake, given that the woman seated at the desk in the office seemed far too young to be the notorious Captain Jhordel. He stepped back a pace and re-examined the ID plate beside the hatch, then looked again at the woman who was engrossed in the contents of a com-link file. He would have believed her a junior officer but for the braid on each of her epaulettes: four silver bands on each shoulder to mark her rank as ship's master.
She was slight, to the point of almost seeming delicate, and looked as though she could not have been more than thirty. But rejuv could make a woman of sixty look half those years. Often there were telltale signs, but Jhordel had none of them. No faint discoloration to the whites of her eyes. None of the unusual blush to the skin. And her face did not have that pasty, fleshy, baby-soft look that some rejuvs acquired.
"Are you going to stand out there all day, Commander?"
He started, glanced up at her and blinked. She gave him a measured look in return, clearly sizing him up with that one quick survey. He cleared his throat and stepped forward. "Commander Nathan Imbrahim," he said, snapping off a quick salute. "Naval Intelligence."
He expected her to laugh and make the tired old joke about Naval Intelligence being an oxymoron. But she merely frowned and examined him again, more closely, thoroughly, and then seemed to dismiss him altogether. She turned back to the com-link.
"Sit," she said gruffly, not looking up. There was steel in that order; and it was immediately clear to him she was not the sort to countenance disobedience. So he sat.
Her voice, he noted, was thick, hoarse, like she had been inhaling smoke for a few hours. Or shouting. Probably from the drugs, he thought as he settled into the lone seat
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