Episode 12 (2180.07.05)
by Shawn Hagen (1997)
Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.
"What do you mean you are taking control?"
"I mean exactly that, Mr. Vazen, I am taking control of this installation. You are relived of command," Commander Roslin told him.
"This is a civilian instillation," Kyle Vazen told the ODF officer, there was tone of desperation in his voice. "You have to leave, now."
"Mr. Vazen," the young ODF officer turned on him. "I have no choice but to remain here. Until repairs are completed on the Apple, this is my base of operations."
"But you have made us a target!"
"That is unfortunate. We will do our best to protect you."
"Skipper," a young woman called from the end of the hallway.
"What is it?"
"Two SAC cruisers speeding right towards us."
"You'll have to excuse me Mr. Vazen," the Commander said as he turned away from him and started down the hallway.
"This station cannot take any sort of attack. You have to leave!" Kyle screamed at his back.
The Commander said nothing, just continued on.
The cruisers Alerbeth and Unicorn, with their attendant battleriders, were part of the SAC Cipotek battlefleet. They were on detached duty, currently scouting areas in the cluster for ODF presence. On the bridge of the Unicorn, Captain Elizabeth Jared looked at what they had found.
"I take it that that is the station," she said, looking at the spindly structure presented on the bridge's, main screen. The station was a series of interconnected geodesic balls with several rotating sections.
"According to the records it is just a survey station. They are doing a thorough examination of this entire system," her first officer told her.
"Why is an enemy warship docked there then?" Lieutenant Commander Powel asked. He was their Gaian Warden.
"Because it is a warship I suspect," the Captain said. "Hard for a civilian station to stop one from docking."
Powel gave her a hard look, she returned it. When it became obvious that Powel did not intend to break it off, she looked away first. Let him think he could intimidate her, it ultimately gave her an advantage. "Tell the Alerbeth to hold back, then move around to its rear. Make sure that they keep the battleriders spaced out as much as they can. We'll go in straight, but slow. I want the Alvin and the Simon ten kilometers to our port and starboard respectively."
"Aye Captain," Commander Dark said.
"Why don't you just go in their and crush it?" Powel demanded.
"Because it is a civilian station, and because with their cloaking device, the ODF could have a much larger force out there," she told him. She sounded as if she were speaking to a dull child. "Lieutenant, send a message to that cruiser and station. They are to stand down and prepare for boarding. I have no desire to fire on them, but I will if I have to."
"Yes ma'am," her communications officer told her.
"They aren't falling for it Dan," Lieutenant Commander King said.
"Unfortunate," Commander Roslin told her. "Retract docking clamps, all ahead full. All weapons fire on that cruiser ahead of us."
"Yes sir," several people said at once.
"Let's hope that Commander Douglas is paying attention."
"I don't think that cruiser is as damaged as it looks," Commander Dark remarked.
"News flash. Evasive actions, fire on that cruiser, tell the Alerbeth to hold back for now."
"They're firing on us," someone yelled. A moment later the ship shook.
"Hit to the under hull, minor damage," the Midshipman at damage control said.
"Returning fire," her weapons officer called out.
"An object just appeared five kilometers to Alvin's port," the Petty Officer at sensors said. "ODF cruiser, Wotan Class."
"Tell Alvin to concentrate fire on that ship, Simon moves in close to us," she ordered. "Tell the Alerbeth we might need them."
Commander Roslin ignored the shaking of his ship, the hits they had taken were minor. He realized he could not win this fight. The best he could hope for was to inflict some serious damage on the SAC ships before running. "Engines ahead full, straight at the cruiser."
"Sir?" The young woman at the controls asked even as she followed out his orders.
He smiled. "Relax. I have no intention of ramming that thing, but I want the other Captain to think otherwise. Keep firing."
Kyle watched the battle from one of the observation stations. It was all so silent, eerily so. He watched the two ODF cruisers close in with the SAC ships, firing on them, taking a few hits. The other SAC ships were coming in from behind, but he doubted that they would arrive in time. He did not think that Commander Roslin intended to stay long.
Suddenly the floor shook and alarms started to whine.
"What happened?" he demanded.
"We took a hit. Ball 5. Damage control has already sealed that section off."
"What about the crew in there?"
"Who hit us?"
"One of the SAC ships. They missed their intended target."
"Get rescue crews in there as soon as you can. If anyone is alive they'll need help soon."
Out in space Commander Roslin's ship passed extremely close the to the SAC cruiser. The SAC cruiser moved away from the other ship, over correcting, giving the other ship a clear escape route. Kyle watched as the two ODF ships made a run for open space.
"The Alvin is leaking atmosphere, engines down."
"Tell them to sit tight, get the Simon in close to provide protection," Elizabeth said.
"Captain, do we follow?"
"No, let them go. Tell the Alerbeth to move into a defensive position.."
"You are not going to follow?!" Powel exclaimed.
"I am not going to follow," she told him. "I will not lead us into a trap."
"You are letting those criminals get away."
"I'm aware of that."
"Captain, I must protest this action. You have orders to engage the enemy."
"Mr. Powel, you may leave my bridge now," she did not look at him.
"You can walk off my bridge or be carried off."
Powel stared angrily at her back, he was almost shaking, then he turned stiffly and walked off the bridge.
"He's not happy," Dark said.
"My heart is breaking," Elizabeth said. "Launch our mecha, and some of the reconnaissance units. I want to be sure there is nothing else out here. Get that station on the line and see if they want some help, and tell them that I am sorry we shot them."
"That was not so great," Commander Abel said from the small screen. She was on the bridge of her cruiser, twenty kilometers to the Apple's port.
"We can't always win. I'm happy that we only took minor damage and shot up one of their battleriders."
"You don't dream big enough. Think the station will be all right?"
"I really don't like using civilians as screens."
"Duly noted. I'll try not to do it again."
"So, we heading home?"
"Got any better ideas?"
"Home it is then. Are any of those SAC ships following?" he asked his sensor operator.
"No. They are sitting tight."
"I think the best thing about our cloak is how it has our enemies worried about what is not there as much as they are worried about what is there."
"Well, that was interesting," a young man said from Kyle's side.
"And it will happen again."
"Don't gloat, Samuel."
"I'm not gloating."
"You are. Can you get us out? Solingen is more than willing to let us sit out here with our asses hanging out."
"All of us. None of my people are happy about being out of here."
"That makes is easier. We'll just take the entire station."
"The entire station?"
"Trust me Kyle. The people I work with are very good at this sort of thing. We'll have you out of here and to safety before any other ODF types want to use you as a blind."
Kyle sighed. "I hope these people are all you promised."
Emiko waited outside of one of the meeting rooms in the Nebula Works spinner. Juan was seated across from her, his head back, asleep. He had been busy with his fledgling company, or so he said.
She did not know why she had been called to the spinner, though something was up. Thunder Blade was preparing for something, it was just that no one knew what that something was. The rest of the Sloop John B.'s team were on the spinner as well, but no one else had been called to the meeting.
She forced her hands to stop fidgeting with her skirt and took a deep breath. She felt like she was in trouble somehow. She wished Ree was with her. Juan had not been able to ease her fears, even when he had been awake.
The door to the meeting room opened and Juan was instantly alert, looking like he had been that way always. It was a good trick.
"They'll see you now," the low ranking aide said.
"Great," Juan got to his feet. "Come on, Emiko."
Emiko took a deep breath, then followed after him.
Jesse and Redding were the only people Emiko knew in the room. Redding nodded to her as she came in. The aide showed her and Juan to their seats. They were seated at the far end of the rectangular conference table.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," Jesse said, "been busy."
"No problem," Juan told him. "So, what's up?"
"We're going public," Jesse said.
"I'm sorry our time table has not met with your expectations Mr. Varis," Redding said.
"Well, no jokes here," Juan said to himself.
"Thunder Blade will be handling this. Your team will be playing an important part in this as your ship will be able to get in close to the target undetected."
"What is the target?" Juan asked Redding.
"A Jovian hyperweb relay station."
"It was. It's now considered a military target and has the defenses one might expect."
"I guess you want most of the opposition taken out in ways other than combat."
"That is what we were planning, but you can discuss those plans with Captain Blackhand later. That is not why you are here."
"We want Emiko-san to be our spokesperson," Jesse said.
"Atashi?" Emiko asked, putting her finger to her nose.
"Could work," Juan said at the same time.
"You're the best choice," Jesse told her.
"But I can't do it."
"Why not Miss Miya?" Redding asked her.
"Well, don't you need some sort of military person?"
"We've already discussed this Miss Miya. We've considered our options, what we are trying to do, and we have decided that you are the best choice for this mission.."
"Because people will like you," Juan said.
"That's it exactly," Jesse nodded.
"It is not the militaries, or their leaders, that we need to deal with, but the people. The people who will be asked to sacrifice for a war they don't want. For them, you are the best choice."
"And you'll probably be able to bring in the military types as well.. Even if you don't, we have plans made," Jesse told her.
"I can't do this," Emiko said.
"Miss Miya, I am not asking you to do anything that difficult. All you have to do is tell the people what we want, tell them what you want. I need you to do it," Redding said.
"There are no 'buts' Miss Miya. This is an order. You have it in you to do this, as far as I am concerned you can do it. You will do it. Is that understood?" Redding's voice took on a sharper tone.
"Yes sir," Emiko said, not wanting to make him angrier.
"Good," Redding nodded, forcing himself not to smile.
"So, what exactly will she be saying?" Juan asked.
"Who we are, and what we plan to do," Jesse told him. "We are the Starblade Battalion, we are going to stop this war, remove the powers that forced us to this place and put a new government in place."
"No one would take me seriously," Emiko said as the grandeur of the statement sunk in.
"They will," Redding told her, "because you will believe it, and you will have the entire weight of the Battalion behind you. Remember that. People will sense it."
Emiko stared at everyone in the room. She could not believe that they all thought she could do what they wanted. Who was she? Just a girl far from home, in over her head.
"Miss Miya, you can do this," Redding told her, sensing her fear. "The only one who does not believe in you is you. I've read the files about you, I know what you are capable of when you have to be. You can do this."
"Trying is good. Succeeding is better."
"We'll give you everything that we want you to work into what you say," Jesse told her. "We even have some speech writers who can help you."
"Yokatta," Emiko said.
"Relax," Juan told her. "This is going to work out fine. It will help with the book deal as well."
"Just joking, kind of."
"Thunder Blade will be leaving tomorrow," Redding said. "You are dismissed."
"Yes sir," Juan smiled as he got to his feet. Emiko was still sitting, looking a little out of it. "Emiko," Juan said, lightly kicking her chair.
"Yes sir," Emiko stood quickly.
"Good luck," Jesse said as they left the room.
"If she throws up on camera, that will not be good," Redding said.
"So we have her coffee spiked with gravol," Jesse said.
"Still with me, Emiko?" Juan asked.
"What?" Emiko looked up at him.
"You're going to have to relax."
"Relax?" Emiko said, perhaps a slight hint of hysteria in her tone. "Easy for you to say, you won't be talking to twenty billion people!"
"Look at the bright side, at least you don't have any acne, well, not now."
"Oh, thank you," Emiko said. "I needed another thing to worry about."
"I think any beauty expert will tell you that worrying is a bad thing to do."
"I want to die," Emiko said softly.
"Careful what you wish, Emiko, this is a war we are in after all."
"You wanted to see me?" Tess asked as she walked into Akira's office.
"Yes I did Belin-san," he said, "Have a seat." He waited until she had sat then said, "I'd like to know why you rejected all but one of the people I sent you."
"Well, first I'd like to thank you for sending them to me. I mean, Dr. Krown's work is almost legendary and the others are well also known."
"So why reject them?"
"When I told them what I wanted to do, showed them the plans, they all said it was impossible."
"I take it Mr. Lyons did not share their opinion?"
"Jeremy said he thought it was brilliant and could not wait until we got it working."
"You know Mr. Lyons has not even completed university yet?"
"He told me. His father made him leave so he could join his family when Nebula Works left. He knows his stuff, though."
"He should," Akira told her. "He was always underfoot."
"I chose him because he believes in this project. The others would have spent as much time telling me it was impossible as they would helping me. I think I will have to go with younger people for this."
"Belin-san, you will need all the help you can get. The more experienced the people you have on your team, the better for you."
"That is one way to look at it. I was hoping that you might act as an advisor when I needed some help."
Akira looked at her, then shook his head. "Where are you going to get the rest of the people you need?"
"Jeremy knows a few, and there are some Charybdis who can help. By the end of the week I should have all the people I need. I expect to have the frame built in three weeks. I will have the suit ready by the deadline."
"I think you are taking a chance Belin-san, but I will allow you to continue as you wish."
"Thank you Ryuzaki-san," she told him. "Oh," she reached into her lab coat's pocket and removed a disk. "This is the cockpit design that I plan to use for my Arrow. You might want to take a look at it. I think you'll find it interesting."
"Thank you," he reached across the desk to take the disk.
"Is there anything else?"
"If you'll excuse me then," Tess got to her feet.
"Good luck with your design," he said by way of a dismissal.
"Thank you," Tess said as she headed out of the room.
"What do you want to say," Kenneth Stac asked Emiko.
"Wakranai," Emiko said.
"Not a good answer," the reporter told her.
"You write something for me," Emiko said, taking her chin off the back of her hands, sitting up straight.
"I can't tell you want to say."
"Please," Emiko begged.
"Miss Miya, you have to use your own words. I can help, but if you try to say my words it will fall flat. Now, how do you want to start?"
"Friends, Romans, country men, lend me your ears."
"Not bad, but I think you can find a more suitable quote to steal."
Kenneth looked at the young woman and shook his head. Since he had been rescued by the Battalion he had been writing for them, doing what he did best. Now he was supposed to help Emiko figure out what she was going to say to the entire human race. It was not an easy project and it was made more difficult by Emiko's lack of faith in herself. "We have four days to do this in." "I know." Kenneth shook his head. "I think you know what you want to say, you just need to think about it. We could both use a rest. If you want some help, you know where to find me."
Emiko watched as he pushed his chair back and stood. "Sorry," she said.
"No problem. This is a hard thing to do. Give yourself a little break.. Later," he said, then walked away.
Emiko sighed, then stared down at the floor, out into space. She stared down at Saturn, watching the planet pass by. Then the rotation of the toroid took Saturn from her view and she was looking into space, at the far off starts, and the other planets of the system.
She stared at the Earth as it came into view, the planet looked so small from Saturn's orbit. She suddenly felt very lonely.
Getting to her feet, she headed from the lounge, walking across the transparent floor.
"Pardon?" Juan asked, looking at Emiko.
"I want to go home," Emiko said. "Just for a little while."
"Emiko, in case you haven't noticed, we are in the middle of a rather important operation here."
"And I'm not needed until the last moment. Please."
"I can't just let you go to Earth."
"Juan-san, I miss my home."
"Emiko, this is not just a simple trip you are talking about. You are wanted on Earth, remember?"
"I'll be careful," she told him.
"I think you should let her go," Epiphany said from across the room.
"What?" he looked up at the pilot.
"She wants to go home. Let her."
"Has that corset you wear cut off the blood supply to your brain?"
"I don't wear a corset," Epiphany told him, smiling.
"Than how can you think this is a good idea."
"Because she needs to be thinking clearly when she goes in front of the camera. I think Emiko needs to do something," she said, looking over at Emiko. Emiko nodded after a moment.
"Be that as it may, I can't just let her go."
"I'll take her," Conaly said, looking up from the pistol he was cleaning.
"Pardon," Juan looked at her.
"She wants to go home. I'll get her there and back, in time, safe."
Emiko looked at Marshal Sharp, surprised by his offer. "Thank you," she said.
Juan looked at everyone in the room, then finally shook his head. "Fine. Go. What's the worse they can do to me when they find out I just let you go to Earth. Probably just kill me."
"Thank you Juan-san," Emiko said, standing up. Then she bowed deeply.
"Yea, right," he shook his head. "Get out of here. You don't have much time."
"Come on," Conaly said, getting to his feet. "He's right, we don't have a lot of time."
"I'll just pack a few things," Emiko said, running from the room.
"Don't forget a weapon or two," Sharp called after her.
"Take care of her," Juan said.
"She'll be fine Mr. Varis. You have my word on that."
The SAC cruiser Bolon had discovered a commercial cruiser with Pleiades registration near a planet that had been ordered closed almost a year before. It was obvious that the cruiser had been on the planet illegally, probably mining the gold there--destroying the native life forms in the process.
They had chased the ship, had been getting close when an ODF cruiser had decloaked, putting itself between the cruiser and the ship. In saving the civilian ship, the cruiser had given up any advantage it might have had.
Both sides had launched mechs, though no shots had been fired. It was too close of a battle, and neither Captain wanted to start firing unless it could be avoided. They both knew that there would be plenty of chance for battle later.
In a Blitzen a pilot was listening the radio traffic between the two ships. He reached up and began to scratch the skin of his forehead, first lightly, then with more force, digging his fingernails into it. The patch of fake skin came away, revealing the Midnight Sun tattoo there.
He put his hands on his controls and began to take the weapons off safe. This was his time, he realized. The Nemyss had told them that they would all have a time. They would all get a chance to realize their purpose. To not take the chance was to be dammed.
He smiled as he fired off all his missiles at the SAC ship.
No one else was sure what had happened, all they knew was shots had been fired and the time for talking was over.
The man who had started it died, happily, a few seconds later as a Galliard blew his suit apart.
"How many suits do they have," Ree asked, looking at the holographic representation of the relay station. It was a small spinner, it's single toroid only a kilometer in diameter.
"They have four flights on the spinner. Three of those are composed of Galliards. The other one is made up of four Zephyrs. They also have two Manticores in case things get tough. That's 18 combat units," Titus Clay told them. He was one of the Ravagers, part of the Nationals.
"So," Ree said, "what's the drill?"
"Four flying at all times. Their patrol is fairly close to the station, they don't go more than fifty kilometers out."
"Other support?" Lilith asked.
"If they can get a call out, there are some battleriders attached to the Galileo spinner that could be on our asses in about an hour. There are also a bunch of other ships in the area that will join the party in time. The longer we hang out there the more that we have to worry about," Grey Redmond told her. The Ravager's council's leader had made herself part of the mission, all but taking over it. "That's not going to happen though," she said. "We will have complete control of that station before they know what is happening."
"I'll still have to deal with the four Galliards flying patrol," Ree said.
"So deal with them."
"Can we get some Galliards to take over once we've dealt with the patrol suits?"
"That could be arranged. Going to use them for the attack?"
"No. I want to be sure that they look nice and presentable in case anyone comes by."
"So, four Galliards and what else?"
"Suit wise? Nothing. I've already picked my team."
"When you take that station, how do you plan to deal with its personnel?" Diane asked.
"Drug who we can, kill who we have to," Grey said. "Got a problem with that, Marshal?"
"No," Diane told her, "as long as no civilians get killed."
"Not your people."
"Murder is still a crime."
"I'll try to remember that."
"Can you two put aside your verbal fencing for a moment," Juan said. "We have to put a fairly sizable team on that station. John B. will get us on top of it, but as soon as we dock, we loose the cloak. The stealth will buy us two or three minutes. We need a team that can go in fast and take care of problems."
"Already put together for the most part," Grey told him. "Primary targets are C3 and communications. We've got a few moles in place already to help things along. We will have complete control of the place within ten minutes."
"Then we just have to bring the links back up, keep that hidden, and make the broadcast. How long till they pinpoint us once we start transmitting?" Lilith asked.
"Fifteen minutes to an hour," Grey told her.
"Not bad. You have people who can handle the technical end of this?"
"About the same. I suggest we put them together and let them figure out their end, and to make sure that they can work together."
"Sounds good. Where's the kid who will be making the speech?"
"Taking care of some related business," Juan told her.
"As long as she is ready to speak when the time comes."
"She will be."
"Anything else?" Lilith asked.
"I'm sure we will think of something," Grey said.
"Then I suggest we stop talking and get to work."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Grey said. "This little powwow is over."
As everyone was getting up and getting ready to leave, Grey walked over to Juan and grabbed his arm. "Varis, I want to talk to you."
"I've been hearing some very interesting things lately."
"I'll cut the crap. I want a piece of Eleventh Hour Industries."
Juan smiled. "Cash, favors, or materials."
"I'll give you cash."
"Well," Juan put his briefcase back on the table and opened it up, "let's talk," he told her as he removed his computer.
Conaly stared at the huge cavern that opened up before him. He had heard of the wonder of Tokyo before, but he had never seen it beyond pictures. They did not do it justice.
The train passed into a tunnel and a moment later was slowing down as it entered a station. The Yamanote Plus line circled the entire city, every station it stopped at was served by at least one other line. It was the best way to get around the city, so Emiko had told him.
Emiko sat on the opposite side of the train, a few seats down from him. They were acting like they did not know each other, just in case anyone recognized her-not that there was much chance of that.
Emiko's hair had been dyed a light brown, her eye colour lightened with contacts, and she did not look too much like the picture that she was wanted under. She sat, elbow propped up on the sill of the window, chin resting in palm, staring out at the platform. Epiphany had been right, Emiko had needed to come home.
He sat there, seeming to see nothing beyond his newspaper but noticing everything. Several stops later Emiko stood up and pushed her way out of the crowded train. Conaly folded up his paper, stood, then went out another door, just getting out before it closed. His calm exit had nothing in it that suggested that he was following anyone.
Emiko was waiting near the exit as she told him she would, looking at one of the posters on the wall. When he got close she exited the station. He was behind her, but not too close. They exited out into Shibuya, a huge district on the floor of the cavern, bright and trendy. Emiko had told him that it was the playground of the young, that you didn't see too many elderly people there.
He watched as she stopped near a raised statue of a dog, pushing through the crowd to get close. She stared up at it for a few seconds, then moved away from it. Conaly took a round about way to get where she was going.
While Emiko wandered the area, Conaly kept close as he could, but did not follow her. He had memorized a map of the area and took other routes to be where she was going. Emiko was keeping her promise, going only where she had said she would. He wondered why the place was special to her?
After almost an hour she was heading back to the station. She bought a ticket and disappeared into the crowded building. Conaly followed her after a minute.
Alice slumped in her seat. She was feeling tired, but it was not a physical exhaustion. The war, the talk of it, her friends reaction to it, it was all making her so tired. She just did not understand it at all.
She wanted a chance to rest for a few days, but was not likely to get it. Even though it was summer break, she still had to go into school everyday for practice exams and club. Fortunately she could leave early.
"Ojouchan, atashi ni asobitai (Want to play with me miss?)" the person beside her asked.
Alice looked up, a little surprised that she had just been propositioned by another woman. She looked at the young woman sitting beside and was suddenly struck by the feeling she knew her. A few seconds later she almost fell off her chair she was so surprised.
"Emi-chan?" she said, staring at her friend.
"Shizuka ni, ne (quiet)," Emiko said, putting her finger to her lips. She was smiling. "Ojouchan, isshou ni, ocha o nomitai (Want to have tea?)," she asked.
"Hai," Alice said.
They got off at the next stop, leaving the station, and wandering along one of the roads until they found a kisaten. Alice said nothing the entire time. It was only after the waitress had brought them their drinks that she started to ask questions.
"Emiko, kono goro, nani o shimashita ka? (what have you been you doing?)"
"_Hi_, _mi_, _stu_ (its a secret)," she said.
"Emi-chan," Alice said, a touch of anger in her voice.
"Gomen ne, Arisu-chan, demo, honto ni himistu (I'm sorry, but it really is a secret)," Emiko told her.
Alice shook her head and took a sip of her drink. "What are you doing back here? You are wanted."
"I came to see you," Emiko said. "I've missed you."
"I've missed you too," Alice told her.
"I'm sorry I couldn't get in touch."
"What did you do?"
"I can't say right now, but you'll know everything soon. I promise."
Alice looked at her friend for a few seconds. "I better."
Emiko smiled. "You look tired."
"I am tired. You don't, you know. Hardly fair."
"I think I should feel and look tired, but for some reason I don't."
"Lucky you. You also look beautiful."
"Don't say that," Emiko said, looking down at the table for a moment. "How is everyone else?" Emiko asked quickly, to cover the silence and change the subject.
"Well enough I guess. Yuki is being a real idiot."
"Probably still happy about what happened to me."
"Yes," Alice said, sounding disgusted. "I really would like to punch her."
Emiko giggled. "I would like to see that."
"I'll try to get vid if I ever do it."
"They're fine. Busy, but fine. Can you stay long?"
"Figures," Alice said.
"I am sorry."
"Why did you have to go and do whatever stupid thing you did that got you in trouble?"
"I'm not really sure."
"I better go," Emiko said.
"Emi-chan, will you ever be able to come back?"
"I don't know. I hope so."
"Arisu-chan, I'm sorry I couldn't say good bye before. I think of you often."
"Me too," Alice said.
"Sayonara, Arisu-chan," Emiko said as she stood.
"Sayonara, Emi-chan," Alice said as her friend walked away.
"So now what so you want to do?" Marshal Sharp asked her. They were seated in an almost deserted car.
"See my mother," Emiko told him.
"Okay, then we leave."
"I understand," Emiko told him.
"Good," he told her, then moved several seats down.
They exited the train a few stops later, Emiko led him into an area filled with apartment buildings. She stopped in a small park, looking up at one of the structures. Darkness was descending on the cavern, the lights of the buildings beginning to come on. It was a lot like a star filled sky.
"That's my home," Emiko said, pointing at one of the buildings.
"Your mother going to be alone?" he asked her.
"I don't know," Emiko told him.
"Which apartment is it?" he asked her as he took of his knapsack.
"Tenth floor, fifth window from the right."
"Okay, here, this way," he led her to a bench screened by bushes.
"What are you doing?" Emiko asked.
"I'll just see if it is clear," he told her as he took something that looked like a headband from his pack.
"Just a little toy we use," he told her as he put the headband on. He moved the part on the right side of his head up, swinging what looked like a small screen in front of his right eye. "You don't really need the screen," he told her, "but I find it easier to understand what it is showing me."
"This," he pulled a strange object from his bag. A cylindrical part set atop what looked a little like an upside down, shallow bowl. The entire thing was no more than thirty centimeters long. "It's an eyespy."
"Surveillance drone?" Emiko guessed.
"Basically," he told her as he did something to the to the eyespy. There was a low hum and a few seconds later the eyespy floated out of his hands, into the air. "Kind of a miniature helicopter."
Emiko watched as the eyespy climbed into the air, then shot off towards her apartment building. "How do you control it?"
"For easy stuff like this, straight datalink," he said. "For more complex maneuvers you need a small remote control rig. Okay, near the window, those paper shutter things are closed. Switching to IR. Well, three heat sources in there, maybe a few more."
"I guess I won't go see her then," Emiko said sadly.
"Tough break. Maybe-" he broke off suddenly. "Damn," he pulled the headband off and shoved it into his pack. "Let's go."
"What is it?"
"Someone hit my eyespy, probably with a gyrojet. I suspect they'll be looking for the owner soon," he said.
"We should get to one of the big stations, like Shinjuku. It will be easy to lose them there."
"We'll have to get there first," he told her as he led her back towards the station at a quick pace.
Takako waited until Auden finished speaking with one of her security people. It was an indication of how things were when Auden had to bring security people with her to Tokyo.
"What is it?" Takako asked.
"We were being spied on, I think," Auden said.
"Some sort of small surveillance drone. It has been taken care of and steps have been taken to find out who did it."
"I hope they will find whoever it is."
"Yes. I wonder who they were interested in, you or me?"
"Auden-san," Takako said, smiling slightly. "Why would anyone have any interest in me?"
"Yes," Auden nodded after a moment. "What were we talking about?"
"You were telling me about your research."
"Yes. The abundance of life in the Pleiades Cluster is truly wondrous.. It is vital that we stop the expansionists from destroying it."
"Of course," Takako nodded. "Would you like some more tea?"
Takako picked up the small tea pot, removed the lid, then put it under the thermos/kettle's spout and pumped hot water over the leaves. She then poured the green tea into Auden's cup.
"I think I like the tea the most," Auden said, taking a sip.
"It was grown in the Kansai region. One of the first crops from the reclaimed land. Quite an accomplishment."
"It is. Sempai," Auden looked at Takako, "when are you planning on returning?"
"Well, not until Emiko-" Takako stopped suddenly.
"I'm sorry," Auden said, knowing how much Takako blamed herself for what had happened with Emiko.
"Don't be," Takako said, forcing a smile. "I think I'll return to research soon, but I just want to get everything cleared up first."
"Of course," Auden nodded. "We will all be glad when you do come back though. Your brilliance has been missed."
"You're giving me more credit than I deserve," Takako said.
"I don't think so," Auden smiled.
The woman standing in the mouth of the alley was completely unaware of anything being wrong up to the moment someone grabbed her around the neck. She felt a sting behind her ear, then suddenly her legs would no longer support her weight.. She was falling into blackness.
Conaly lowered her gently to the ground, lying the unconscious woman on the pavement.
"Let's go," he told Emiko, heading back the way they had come.
"What? But this will take us right to Shinjuku," she told him, looking down the alley.
"And she just dropped out of their communications net. They'll be sending people to plug this hole soon. Now come on."
"Oh," Emiko said, following him.
Conaly's path took them through the narrow spaces between buildings, over fences, through buildings and once even into the sewers. He moved fast and Emiko was hard pressed to keep up. She thought that he could probably move faster if she wasn't there. That thought spurred her to try harder.
Finally she could see the bright lights of Shinjuku at the other end of the alley they were moving through. Her first warning that something was wrong was Conaly stopping, his hand moving into his coat, then dropping to his left side, concealed by the shadow. Emiko heard a strange noise, but before she could give it any real attention a man stepped out of the shadow ahead of them. He was holding a gun.
"Don't move," he said quietly. "Put your hands on your heads and no one will get hurt.
"Do as he says," Conaly said, lifting his right hand, showing his palm to the man ahead of them.
Even as Emiko was placing her hands on her head she noticed Conaly's left hand had not moved.
Suddenly there was a sound, like a whisper. That was followed by the sound of metal ringing out, and a wet thump. Then the man ahead of them screamed, grasping his hand. It took Emiko a moment to realize he was holding a bloody stump. On the ground, between his legs, was his hand.
Conaly flipped his hand up. There was a soft rasping sound and for a moment Emiko thought she saw something like a metal ribbon, but it was gone too fast for her to be sure.
"Run," Conaly said.
Emiko did not have to be told again.
Auden got into her car, letting one of the security people close the door for her.
Whoever had been spying on her had got away.
The surveillance drone turned out to be a Solingen GmbH product, used predominantly by Solingen security, as well as several other groups.
It was quite possible that someone in the cluster was interested in her, for any number of reasons, but she was not sure. The man who had been wounded had said there had been a man and a young woman. He had not been able to say much about either of them, beyond some generalities.
She looked up at Takako's building. It was certainly possible that Emiko might have come back, but for what reason? She shook her head. The reason was obvious. She had always been amazed by how much Emiko had loved her mother, especially considering how Takako had treated her at times.
The girl was a problem, but only a minor one really. It was too late to stop the files she had stolen from getting out. All she could hope for was that the encryption would hold. If they didn't hold, well, she had already made contingency plans to deal with that. It was always wise to be prepared.
The Old City around Tokyo that had once been so terrifying to Emiko, no longer bothered her. She knew there were dangers in it, but they did not seem insurmountable. She was also with Marshal Sharp and that made a big difference.
Emiko stood by the window of the old apartment they were waiting in, looking out over the street. Beyond that which the stars provided, there was almost no light. Everything was strange and oddly shaped, cloaked by the darkness.
"Stop making yourself a target," Conaly said.
"No one is out there," Emiko told him as she turned around then sat on the floor.
"You never know."
"What was that thing you used in the alley?" Emiko asked him.
"Just a weapon," he told her.
"What kind of weapon?"
Conaly sighed and reached into his jacket, pulling something out. Emiko moved forward on her hands and knees until she was close enough to see. I looked like the hilt of a sword. "What is it?"
"Just something an old friend of mine made, a long time ago." A thin ribbon of steel, at least she thought is was steel, extended from the hilt. It formed a blade thirty centimeters long. He spun it around in his hand and drove it into the floor. Emiko thought it would break, or bend, but it sunk into the concrete.
"Sugoi," Emiko said.
Conaly said nothing, but pulled the blade from the floor. He spun the hilt about again, and the blade grew, almost a meter long. "The metal is controlled by coded pulses of electricity. Not a good thing to use when you are cutting through electronics, though the outer layer is insulated. The blade can be dull," he let it fall towards her. She tried to get out of the way but did not move fast enough. The blade hit her shoulder, but did not cut. "Or it can be sharp," he told her, swinging it up, cutting an old light fixture in half.
"It's like magic."
"In a way, I guess," he told her. The ribbon slid back into the weapon and he put it into his jacket.
"Could you..." Emiko trailed off.
"Teach me to use that?"
"You need a datalink," he said dismisively.
Conaly looked at her for a few seconds. "Maybe I can show you a few things, if you learn everything else I am trying to teach you."
Emiko nodded after a moment.
"Get some rest," he told her. "We still have a few hours to wait and you have to look rested for the cameras."
Emiko moved away from him, going back to where she had been before. She pulled her blanket around her shoulders and lay down on the floor.
"Marshal Sharp," she said after a moment."
"Thanks for taking me home."
"No problem," he told her.
Emiko smiled and closed her eyes.
Conaly watched Emiko as she slept. She was a good kid, he thought. Not really a kid though. A young woman, maybe growing up a bit faster than she should have. That was just one of the sad parts about the war.
He reached into his jacket and removed the whipsword, looking it over.. One of his secrets, the weapon, few people knew of it. He wondered why he had shown it to her? He wondered why he had agreed to teach her to use it?
You're an idiot Conaly, he thought.
Music-Roy Orbison's Blue Bayou
A room, tatami flooring, the shoji (rice paper window covers) are pushed open, as were the windows. A wind chime hangs in the window, the paper strip blowing in the wind. On the kotatsu (low table) is a picture album-which blows open as we watch. The camera angle shifts slightly so we can see the pages of the album.
First we see pictures of a younger Emiko with her family and friends. The wind blows the page over and we see similar on the next page, but Emiko is older in those pictures. A few pages later we start seeing pictures of Emiko with people from this story, more or less in the same order they have been introduced. A picture of Emiko and Match, then one of her with the Verees family, then one with Juan, and so on.
In the pictures we see her life, and through her the lives of the others, as members of the Battalion. Most pictures seem to have been taken in off hours, with everyone just relaxing. Some pages blow over before you can really see much of what it on the page, just impressions.
As the music ends, the last page blows over, and we see a picture on the back cover, not secured, of Emiko and the others for the Sloop John B.'s crew. Just as the last notes play, the picture is flipped over by the wind and the date, July 3rd, 2180, can be seen written in neat letters.
Description: 176cm, 70kg, 24 years old, brown hair worn to her shoulders, brown eyes.
Quote: "You don't mother the equipment, you scare it."
Notes: One of the only reasons Tess Belin was part of Team Buckaroo was her musical talent. She just was not that much of a designer, or so it appeared. Her ability to bypass blocks in the design process made her one of the Team's best kept secrets and more valuable members.
Mekton design was not her first love, but it was a field she was pushed into by her father. Joining the Battalion, and then Eleventh Hour Industries has given her a chance to realize her dream-or more to the point her father's dream-of building a suit.
She is a smart young woman who believes that machines work best if they are terrified of you. While most scoff at her ideas, it has been noted that some machines have started working quite well if it was just mentioned that Tess might look at them.
Important Stats and Skills: INT 8, TECH 8, LUCK 9, Compose 7, Sing 9, Mecha Design 6, Play Guitar 9. Datalink.
As my rulebooks are currently somewhere on the Pacific, I'll have to be a bit vague here.
The Eyespy is built with as a remote unit with a Lightweight torso; helicopter form (saving the need of putting in a thrust system), and has Striker Sensors, ASP, and three levels of Resolution Intensifiers; space efficiency as needed. It has a replaceable cell as a power source. Shake well and scale down to one twenty-fifth.
"Watashi wa anata no ane, soshite haha, soshite anata."
--Miyu Kyuuketsuki ga Yui ni itta
Shawn Hagen <firstname.lastname@example.org>