“He looks like he’s running for office.” Commander Islington didn’t sound as enthusiastic as Commander Flynn. All of Jayce’s captains were watching the “coverage” of “President Baines” as he toured the blacked out southern streets of New Janice. With him was his own “entourage” consisting of officers and crew from at least four of the 808th’s ships. They were dressed for the occasion as well as could be expected, which was the key reason Commander Hunter had volunteered them all for this mission. If there was one Skywatch command capable of fielding a small group of people in costume with appropriate props who could vamp for hours in front of an audience, it was Privateer Assault Squadron 808.

“Good. Now we just have to hope our interlocutors buy what they see on the news.” Jayce Hunter had arrived in the Athena system first. She landed her ship near the city center and immediately used the planet’s secure communications facilities to alert the real president Baines and his party that the planet was likely to become the target of an enemy strike fleet. Naturally she did this in front of New Janice’s mayor, who became keenly attentive to every word out of Jayce Hunter’s mouth from that point forward. Disaster plans were quietly put into operation.

Minutes later, Hunter was busy monitoring Athena Four’s COMSAT array. Civilian satellites didn’t have secure channels that were available to non-military populations on their planets’ surfaces, so anything transmitted by the news media was viewable by any approaching ship with the proper receivers and communications knowledge. Hunter was banking on the probability the Jenner’s Star strike fleet had at least one advance picket somewhere in the system, and that whomever was monitoring those satellite channels was not only aware of the presence of “President William Baines and party” but was also aware the starship Argent was on station and recovering her star wing.

What the picket would not be aware of was the presence of the other 11 ships in Argent’s formation. Constellation was parked in a low orbit near Athena Four opposite LOS from the system edge jump gate. Minstrel and the rest of the privateer squadron were on station approximately ten million miles off the planet’s orbit with their ECM suites, cloaking devices and warfare scanners at full operation. Seeing Islington’s formation would require a picket to approach to suicidal ranges and perform all kinds of specialized sweeps, provided it even knew where to look.

Sai Kee was on the jump gate side of the planet, maintaining a synchronous orbit only ten degrees off the planet’s northern pole. The nature of planetary magnetic fields meant she would be undetectable outside half a million miles range. Argent, of course, was as obvious as a truck with a flat tire parked in someone’s dining room, but battleships weren’t designed to hide. It would be easy to explain having a capital ship assigned to one of the Alliance’s most important settled planets. That wasn’t likely to raise suspicions on the bridges of the enemy strike fleet.

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