Episode 13 (2180.07.11)
by Shawn Hagen (1997)
Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.
Opening Credits--same as before
The Jovian Relay station had once been a boring assignment for government employees. Now it was a boring assignment for SAC personnel. Only the mech pilots maintained any sort of vigilance, and that was mainly because they were rotated off the station to something else regularly.
The Ravager plant was less than impressed with the situation. She was one of the best infiltration people the Nationals had. She had gone places that would shock the USSA if they were to ever find out. She was a ghost.
All that skill was being wasted. She could be walking around with a big gun and a sign around her neck that said 'I'm a Ravager' and she was almost positive no one would notice. It was so depressing.
She looked around to make sure that the area was clear, then overrode the lock to the communications room. It was so easy. They had not even bothered to upgrade the security measures on the station.
She pushed the door open, slipped into the room, then pulled it closed behind her.
"Hey, are you supposed to be here?" the young man in the room asked her.
"I'm new to the station," she told him, winking. "Major Collins told wanted me to meet you. He'll be here shortly; told me to go ahead."
"Oh," he said, getting out of his chair. "I'm Master Seaman Quin Malory," he said, extending his hand.
She took his hand, triggering the small hypo concealed in a wrist sheath. "I'm a Ravager," she told him.
He gave her an odd look, then fell to the floor.
"Idiot," she said softly, stepping over his body. She sat down in the chair and began to work.
"That's going to be a pretty tough piece of flying," the Ravager, a young man named Dave Mirks, said to Tern.
"No problem," Tern told him. "How long till we go?"
"Three more minutes, if everything goes to plan."
Tern nodded and placed his hands on the controls. He was cloaked, and parked two kilometers off the station's north pole. He looked at the plans that were displayed on one of the secondary screens. He was going to dock the John B. on one of the spokes, close to the central cylinder. It would be harder to see there and gave the team a good insertion point.
The docking was going to be very hard, some might say impossible, but Tern thought he could do it. The hard part would be to make contact without crashing. Fortunately the John B. was a very nimble ship.
"Everyone ready back there?" he looked over at Dave.
"Strapped down and ready to go."
Tern nodded. Things were going to get a bit rough until they docked. Any one not strapped down was going to be bouncing off the walls.
Tern ran diagnostics on the ship's systems, making sure everything was as it should be.
"We're go," Dave said a few minutes later as a light lit up on his personal com system.
Tern said nothing. He just hit the thrusters and was diving straight down at the spinner.
Under his control the Sloop John B. slid, NOE, down the main cylinder. He was only a few meters above it's surface, flying in a spiral, heading for the spoke he wanted. When he reached the area where the spokes joined the cylinder he pulled away from the cylinder, turning the ship's keel ninety degrees. Then he braked, at the same time firing the ships keel thrusters.
The spoke was coming up from under him, moving very fast. He had to match it's velocity precisely, then slow down, letting it catch up, then matching again. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, hear it in his ears. His breath was coming in short gasps, adrenaline filled him. No one had ever done what he was doing, he was sure of it.
A soft jolt ran through the ship, it took him by surprise. He was almost too late in activating the docking clamps.
"We're visible now," he said. Docking with the station had nailed the ships location down firmly in Einsteinian space.
"Shouldn't matter," Dave said, undoing his restraint. "Unless someone looks out a window. I don't think they would believe what they were seeing anyway. That was an incredible piece of flying."
"Thanks," Tern said.
Dave pushed himself out of the cockpit, grabbing handholds to pull himself along. Being attached to the spoke had given the John B. a very weak gravitic pull towards its nose. Tern hardly noticed it, but he watched as a drop of sweat from his forehead fell slowly towards the instruments. He hoped no one would ever ask him to do that again.
The four Galliards simply did not have much of a chance. Ree had put together a team that had twice their number. Epiphany, Diane and the pilots from Team Cutlass gave them 8 units. They hit fast and hard. Diane accounted for two in the first few seconds of battle. Ree was impressed by Diane's style. She moved in, kept her suit steady, and let others fire quickly and miss while she took her time with each shot. It was a surprisingly effective strategy.
One of the pilots from Team Cutlass took out another and Ree blew the last apart with a shot from her cannon.
"We're clear," she said over her radio.
The rest of the suits fell in behind her as she set a course for the station.
Lilith walked through the station's corridors, Grey beside her. They had complete control of the facility, only two fatalities on their part. Three of the stations personnel were dead. Unfortunate, but unavoidable.
They reached the main communication room which was incredibly busy. Ravager and Charybdis media-piracy experts were getting everything up an running, laying the groundwork so they would have complete access to the entire net when the time came.
The two women watched the activity, understanding very little of what was going on, but they did not need to.
"Grey," one of the Ravagers called. "We got a problem."
"What is it?"
"We can't break the coding they put on the main relay channels."
"Can you bypass them?"
"Yea, but it will take time, and we might not get one hundred percent out of the bypasses."
"Wait," Lilith said. "Calytons!" she called out.
"What?" A young man with bright red hair stood up from behind a console.
"You called?" Another young man said; he looked exactly like the first.
"Get over here," she said.
"Twins?" Grey asked.
"Yea," Lilith nodded. "These are John and Jim, don't ask me which is which. Each of them only has three quarters of a brain..."
"Hey," one of them said.
"So they are pretty dull by themselves, but together they are pretty good at their job. Crack the code on that main relay."
"Yes sir," one of them saluted.
"My pleasure," the other said.
Grey watched as they walked off. "They're kind of cute, you know."
"I know it, and so do they. Arrogant little gits."
Grey laughed softly as she watched them walk off.
Emiko looked at herself in the mirror. She did not see someone who was supposed to win over the masses. She saw a scared girl. She closed her hands into fists and pushed her knuckles into her closed eyes. After a moment she looked up at herself again. No change.
"Baka!" she said loudly, banging her fists against her forehead. Why had she agreed to go through with it? She still didn't know what she was going to say. In front of her were several speeches, none of them what she really wanted.
She didn't know what she really wanted.
Picking up one of the speeches she had written, Emiko looked it over, flipping through the pages. It wasn't right. She put that one aside and picked up another.
"Emiko," Epiphany called.
"Come in," Emiko said, putting the speech down.
"Captain Blackhand wanted you to know that they will be ready to go in about twenty minutes."
"Thank you," Emiko said.
"You seem a little upset," Epiphany said, closing the door behind her.
"I don't know what to say," she turned completely around on the stool so she could face the other woman.
"What do you want to say?" Epiphany asked as she closed the door behind her.
"Well, a lot I guess. I just don't know how to say it."
Epiphany walked over and picked up one of the speeches, looking it over. "This doesn't sound like you."
"I don't want to sound like me. I want to sound like someone who will convince people the Battalion is right."
"That might be your problem," she put a hand on Emiko's bare shoulder. "I think Captain Frost and the others chose you because you are the type of person people like. I think they wanted you to be yourself."
"But I'm just ordinary."
"Almost everyone is just ordinary," she smiled down at Emiko. "Don't think about talking to everyone, just pretend you are talking to one person, a friend, someone you want to understand what you have done and will do, and why."
Emiko said nothing for several seconds. "Just a friend."
"It will probably help."
"Thank you Epiphany-san."
"Don't mention it. I better let you get dressed," she took her hand off Emiko's shoulder and walked towards the door.
Emiko watched her go, the spun on the stool to look at her reflection once more. "Okay," she said to herself. "Ganbarimasu (I'll do my best)."
Standing up, she walked to where several garment bags were hanging. What she was to wear had started quite an argument, so she had been told. Some people thought she should be in a military uniform, others had argued for casual clothing. Someone even thought her school uniform might be the best choice.
In the end they had decided that a suit would be the best. Of course that had led to more argument about the exact type of suit. Emiko had been present for some of those. While she thought arguing about her clothing was a little ridiculous, it did make sense, in a way. How she presented herself would be important.
She unzipped all the garment bags and gave each suit a look over. She chose the black one, taking it from the bag and hanging it in the closet. The jacket was single breasted, no padding in the shoulders and the skirt was long, going down to her ankles.
Ree had taken her shopping while they had been in the Saturn Colony. The Ring Cities were a bit of a fashion Mecca, and since the Battalion was paying, Ree had seen nothing wrong with Emiko improving her wardrobe.
She had opened another of the garment bags, and was looking though the blouses there when someone opened the door.
Emiko turned to find herself facing Grey Redmond. She did not know much about the woman, besides gossip. The one time she had met her she had found the Ravager leader intimidating. Now, in the room, with only the two of them there, the feeling was magnified. The tattoos on her face, her blue, green and red striped hair, were part of it, but it was mostly the way she carried herself. It screamed danger to Emiko.
"Wearing that?" she asked, looking at the slip Emiko was wearing.
"No," Emiko said quickly, pulling the garment bag to cover herself.
Grey looked at her then laughed. "Oh please," she shook her head. "You might make a nice pet, but you're not my type."
Emiko felt her cheeks grow hot and she let go of the garment bag. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
"Yes," Grey nodded and laughed again. "There is something you can do for me. You see Emi, you don't mind if I call you Emi do you? Well you see Emi, I got this problem."
"What is it," Emiko asked, going back to looking through the blouses. She chose a soft pink, silk blouse with a peter pan collar.
"You're not a Ravager."
"I know," Emiko said, putting the blouse in the closet with the suit.
"Well, that's the problem. You can't expect all the Ravagers to join us if they are not being spoken to by a Ravager."
"I don't know what to do about that," Emiko said, turning to face the woman.
"Oh, it's easy. You join the Nationals right now, then you are a Ravager. When the leaders of the other clans ask me, ?hey, the bit of fluff on the net, she a Ravager, someone we can trust', I'll be able to say yes."
Emiko stared at her for a few moments. "Okay," she finally said.
"Good. I like you Emi. You got guts. Now, for the initiation."
"Well, first there is the beating," Grey said as she walked up to Emiko.
"Yes," Grey smiled, then slammed a punch into a very surprised Emiko's stomach. Emiko fell forward and Grey caught her. "You don't take a punch very well. No matter. Okay, we'll say the beating has been done, mainly because I don't want to mess you up before you go in front of the camera. This is a pretty minor beating, when I joined they damn near killed me. Don't tell anyone I went easy on you, bad for my reputation," she forced Emiko back and then sat her on the stool. "You all right?"
Emiko was gasping for air and could not talk.
"Okay, so you're in. Now, we'll take that you have proven yourself to the clan as a given. So, at this point normally we would give you some cyberware, but as I understand it you don't care much for that. You're a weird Ravager kid."
"Sorry," Emiko finally managed to gasp out.
"Don't worry about it. Still, we have to give you a bit rougher look."
"Do we have to?" Emiko asked between the deep breaths she was taking in.
"We do," she told Emiko, reaching into her pocket. She pulled out a weird device, a plastic block with a syringe like plunger and a grove in the far end. "Ever wanted your ears pierced?"
"Too bad," she grabbed a handful of Emiko's hair to pull her close and slipped the groove over Emiko's earlobe. "If you struggle, this is just going to hurt and get messy," Grey warned. "This is all sanitary, and I've done this before."
Emiko forced herself to stillness. The Ravager nodded and pushed the plunger down. Emiko winced as she felt the needle put a hole in her ear lobe.
"Now that wasn't so bad was it," Grey said, releasing Emiko's hair. "Just three more times."
It was over quickly, with a minimum of pain. She had three holes in her left lobe, spaced closely together, and one in her right. Grey took three small gold hoop earrings from her own ears and slid them into Emiko's left ear, then put a sword earring in her right.
"Perfect," Grey said, stepping back to admire her work. "You also got a few nanites that clean that up and make sure you don't get infected."
"Thank you," Emiko said, doing her best to keep any sarcasm from her tone. She wondered what the woman might do next?
"Relax," Grey reached over and slapped her on the shoulder. "You're a member of the Nationals. Now get some clothes on and make the people believe you." That said, Grey turned around and walked from the room.
Emiko waited until she was gone, then got up and ran to the door, locking it. She turned around, putting her back to the door, and leaned into it, letting out a deep breath. "She's crazy," Emiko said softly. She looked at her reflection in the mirror across the room for her. The light caught the metal in her ears, little points of light.
Actually, Emiko thought, pushing off of the door and walking towards the mirror, it wasn't so bad. She turned her head, looking at each lobe. It kind of made her look, well, maybe a bit less respectable. Not in a bad way, just a bit more on the wild side. Maybe that was a good thing. She giggled softly. Her mother was going to hate it when she saw the earrings.
"I don't understand it anymore," Emiko said, walking to the closet, pulling out the blouse she had selected, taking it off the hanger, then putting it on.
When she was finally dressed she appreciated the earrings even more. The suit might have looked just a bit too serious, but the jewelry helped to tone that down. She finished it all off with a red ribbon around her neck, tied in a bow, and a jade broach that brought out the green flecks Andrew had put in her eyes.
She looked at herself once more in the mirror, brushed out her hair, then turned and walked form the room.
"Good timing," John Clayton called to her.
"Thanks," she told him, walking towards the set that had been put together for the broadcast. There was an open frame, glass topped desk, with a starscape behind it and little else.
"The black suit, I knew that was the best," Ree said, coming up behind her. "What's with earrings?"
"A gift from Redmond-san."
"Not bad, though a bit out of character."
"Oh well," Emiko shrugged her shoulders.
"You ready," one of the Ravager techs asked her.
"Ready as I'll ever be, I suppose."
"Okay, sit down, we have to get the lighting set up."
Emiko walked around the desk and took a seat, pulling her legs in close to the chair. She was glad she had gone with a long skirt.
"Okay," another tech said, "here's how it will work. We're going live, but with a twenty second delay, that's not for you."
"What is it for?"
"We'll need a little time to tag things, piggyback the right files. We'll be sending them out when you mention something, so don't repeat yourself, it will just make things look sloppy."
"Okay," Emiko nodded.
"You ready?" Lilith asked as she walked into the room, Juan behind her.
"We good to go?" she called out.
"Say the word, we control the audio, we control the video," another tech said.
"Then do it, we don't have all day."
"Okay, preparing to broadcast."
"We got a clear hook up with all necessary points, they won't be shutting us down anytime soon."
"Everything clean, we're ready."
"Twenty seconds to broadcast."
Emiko took a deep breath, and suddenly wondered what she was going to say. The things with Grey had chased that worry from her mind. She almost panicked until she remembered Epiphany's words. Talk to one person.
Emiko took nodded. She knew what to say, or more importantly, how to say it.
Five seconds, four, three, two, the woman counting down mouthed ?one', then pointed at Emiko.
Emiko stared at the camera for a moment, forgetting all the people out there, only thinking of one.
"My name is Emiko Miya," she said, "though some of you might already know that. You see, according to the USSA I am a terrorist, probably Midnight Sun," she stopped, smiling. "That is a lie. What I am, is a thief," she told the camera, suddenly wanting to laugh. That had been thrown at her so many times before, always making her a little embarrassed. Now, it made her feel a little proud as she claimed it for her own.
"So I am a thief. Why was I one? Because I needed to be? Because I wanted to be? Maybe a little bit of both, but mostly, I was a thief because it was the right thing to do. I stole information. I stole it so the people who had the right to see it could see it. So I was doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, or at least what I believe to be the right reasons."
"Do I deserve some sort of punishment? Possibly. Do I deserve to be labeled a terrorist, to be chased from my home, my planet, my family and friends?" Emiko asked, her voice raising a little. "No."
"So what was this information I stole? What was so important? What was the government so desperate to keep hidden that they were willing to do such a horrible thing to me? It was a plan for a ecopolice state in the Pleiades, a police state that would have crushed personal freedom, destroying ways of life, making entire planets miserable.
"There was more, of course. A list of people to be assassinated, more plans to take away the freedom of innocent people, and other things.
"Of course the USSA and the Gaian Council are not the only ones who are guilty of such crimes. Solingen GmbH, through the Planetary Board of Directors and the ODF, have embarked on similar plans. It is like there are no good guys anymore," Emiko said, sounding sad.
"In the past few months I have had a chance to learn more about my planet and the planets of the cluster. There are a lot of good people on Earth and in the system, and in the Cluster. People who never wanted a war, but think their leaders must be right, who have fallen victim to hateful propaganda, people who would take a peaceful option if they were given one.
"And that is what I am here to offer. I am a member of the Starblade Battalion. We have formed an alliance with members from both Earth space, and the Cluster, and those on the outside, in order to stop this war. We know there is no real point to this war, that there will be no real victors, but millions upon millions of victims. We will not let that happen.
"That seems like a powerful thing to say doesn't it? We will stop a war. How are we going to do it? Well, we have already started. We have been destroying the ability of both sides to fight this war. Members of both sides have come over to us. We are building a military force that will allow us to fight, to protect the innocents who might otherwise be killed in the fighting.
"But will that really allow us to stop the war? It will help, but in the end we don't think we will ever have a powerful enough force to destroy both sides, but that is not what we want to do. It would just result in more death, more suffering. Our true enemies are the powers behind this war.
"The Board of Directors at Solingen are to blame, as is an Inner Circle within the Gaian faction. They are the ones who want this war.
"Solingen wants unchecked expansion, with no care given to the planets they might destroy in the process or the people they might harm. The Inner Circle wants to crush humanity's expansion, to destroy freedom for the sake of planets' ecosystems.
"Do either of them represent what you believe in? They don't represent what I believe in.
"I am a Gaian. I believe that it is our duty to do our utmost to protect the planets we come in contact with. I also believe humanity needs to be free, to dream and explore and challenge itself. We have to expand.
"Can we do that and protect the planets we come into contact with? Yes. That is what almost all the colonists are doing. They are not children, foolishly destroying the worlds like our ancestors did Earth. They are responsible people who remember what happened to Earth, but instead of living in the past, they look to the future.
"And those of us who were born and lived most of our life on Earth, we know what we did to our planet, we know it should not happen to other planets, but do we need a war to ensure this? We shouldn't be telling the people of the Cluster what to do, but simply helping them. They will do the right thing; they may need a little aid, but they will do it.
"Earth should not see the colonies as being subservient. Nor should the colonies see Earth as a controlling body. We have to be able to work together, as equals."
Emiko stopped talking for a moment, thinking about what she had said, and what she still had to say.
"We will stop the war. We will remove the corrupt leaders from power so that they won't destroy us. To keep the resulting power vacuum from causing more strife we will put a new governing body in place. An interstellar commonwealth where no one planet will be held above another but all will be equally represented," Emiko smiled. "Are we not the best suited to form this new government? We are already made up of people from the entire scope of human space.
"We are the Starblade Battalion, and you know our goals. We have no secret agenda."
She stopped again, thinking. "I am fighting for all I have said, but there is another reason. I simply want to go home, to be with my friends and family once again.
"We are not asking you to raise up against your leaders. We are not even asking you to join us. All we ask is that you keep an open mind, and remember all I have told you, all you have learned. Don't believe the lies that both side will tell of us. When the time comes, do what your conscience tells you is right.
"Thank you," Emiko said.
"And we're clear," someone called.
"Okay people, let's get the hell out of here before someone figures out where we are," Lilith called.
Emiko sat behind the desk, not moving. She reached up and took the earrings from her ears.
"The holes will heal up if you don't leave them in," Grey said.
"They're not really my style," Emiko said as she returned the jewelry to the woman.
"Your choice," she said as she took them from Emiko. "Not bad," she said, then turned and left.
Emiko stood up, looking over at where Juan stood. He smiled at her and gave her the thumbs up. She hoped that he was not just trying to make her feel better.
"Come on Emi-chan," Ree said, leaning into the room. "We have to go and you still have to pack up all that clothing."
"I wasn't planning on taking it," Emiko told her.
"Shame on you. We didn't spend all that time shopping just to leave everything here. Now go."
"Hai, oneechan," Emiko said, walking out from behind the desk. The tags that had been put on Emiko's broadcast made it hard to ignore. They were all high profile, emergency codes. Few people did not tune in as soon as the message came to them. Authorities in both Earth space and the Pleiades tried to cut the connection, but it was going through so many different channels they could not stop it.
Alice, like the rest of her class, like their teacher, stopped what she was doing to give her full attention to the broadcast. She was amazed when she realized it was Emiko. Her best friend, a data thief and now part of some fringe organization. She couldn't help but smile.
She listened to everything that Emiko said, giving some attention to the other messages that were piggybacked onto the main message. She saved it all to be examined, in detail, later.
When it was all over, when Emiko ended it and the broadcast stopped Alice turned around to face Yuki. Yuki was looking furious. Alice remembered how Emiko had told her why Yuki hated her. She waited until Yuki looked up, then caught her gaze. "Baka," Alice mouthed. Yuki scowled at her, obviously angry.
Alice smiled and turned back to the front of the classroom. She caught the eyes of a lot of her other friends. They were also smiling. "Emi-chan kakkoi, ne (Emiko is cool)," she said.
"Do you think the Gaian Council would have lied about her being a terrorist?" someone asked.
"No," Yuki said angrily.
"Do you think Emiko-san could have been a terrorist?" Alice asked.
"No," several people said.
"Then they must have lied."
"Minazuki-san!" their teacher said, obviously a little shocked that one of her students could question the government. Still, she sounded more surprised than angry and Alice guessed she was thinking the same thing.
"I think this Starblade battalion must be good if Emiko is with them," Alice said.
There was a banging from the back of the classroom. Yuki had stood up so fast she had knocked her chair over. She shot an angry look at Alice, then left the room, slamming the door as she went.
"You better be careful," someone said to Alice. "You might get labeled as a terrorist next."
It was probably meant to be a joke but no one laughed. Everyone was thinking about what had happened to Emiko, and how it could possibly happen to them as well.
Makoto's transport was approaching Deimos, the asteroid where the SAC shipyards were. It was where he was to take command of his new cruiser. He, like the rest of the crew, turned their attention to the message which had come over military channels, as well as civilian.
While he was shocked to find that his sister was acting as the spokesperson for a rouge faction in the war, he got over it fast. It explained what she had been doing on the station.
They wanted to stop the war? She wanted to stop the war? Emiko knew that every planet was precious. She knew the colonists were dangerous. She had to. And yet she said they weren't. Someone must have tricked her.
The data that had been attached to her transmission, the things she had claimed to have stolen, were they the reason she had been labeled a terrorist, forced to flee Earth? Would the Gaian Council really do that?
No, he told himself. Emiko was not a terrorist, but it was likely she was being used by someone who was. That made sense. She was a victim.
"Do you think it's true?" he heard one of the crew ask.
"Maybe," another replied. "This war makes no sense."
"What are you talking about?" Makoto snapped. "You both swore an oath of service when you joined the SAC. Do you honestly believe that broadcast? It might very well be a trick just to get us to stop fighting, so Solingen can rape the cluster as they please."
"Yes sir," one said, sounding a little frightened.
The other said nothing, just met Makoto's stare, the woman's body posture telling him what she thought. Makoto scowled at her, then went forward towards the bridge. He was tempted to report the woman to the Captain.
Captain Nigel watched the girl make her speech, but he was more interested in one of the packages that had come with the transmission. Redding, you crafty bastard, he thought, looking over the information that had been tagged with Ranger markers. There was also the assassination list. Frank's name was on it, and while Redding did not come out and say that Frank Talbot had been assassinated by the Gaian council, he certainly hinted at it.
He looked again at the image of Emiko Miya. Poor girl, he thought. Must have been hard to run, to have all those lies dumped on her.
"Caitlin," he called to his first officer. "You want to go to war?"
"Not really," she said.
"Feeling like fighting for this so called inner circle?"
"Think the crew feels the same way?"
"You have to ask Captain?"
"Let's get the hell out of here then."
"Where are we going?"
"Just head us out where we can shunt. I think Frost put a few clues in his message, I just need to figure them out."
"How many more do you think might be leaving?"
"Well, based on all the bitching everyone, including me, was doing, I suspect a lot of us."
"We're breaking our oaths. Treason?"
"Caitlin, history will decide that for us. All I know is that I did not swear an oath to any government that would set up some girl just to hide their dirty dealings."
Carter Jones sat back in his chair, considering what he had learned. Now he knew exactly what Tess was up to. He also knew now that the rumors of some sort of secret government were true. The inner circle, he mused.
What would Maria think of all this, he wondered. He would do what he could to throw some aid to this Battalion. He would have to be careful, he could offer the most help by maintaining his position. If Maria was thinking in a similar way...
He pushed the thoughts away for when he would have the time. In a very short time he expected to be very busy, dealing with the backlash from the Miya girl's speech. He would have to make all the right noises to show that he was still a staunch supporter of Earth. With this new twist it was likely that this Inner Circle might decide to go after him directly.
"Tess," he said, looking at her picture. "Things have certainly gotten complicated in the last little, while have they not?"
Admiral Romanov sat at his desk, hardly moving. His office bore a few signs of an earlier outburst. Now the anger was all drained out of him. Now he had to think.
How many people would believe that girl? How many would sympathize with her? Too many. Major damage control was needed. That was for other people to deal with. The military was his concern.
He knew he had soldiers who were not too sure of the war. He had given orders that anyone expressing views to the contrary of the accepted were to be dealt with swiftly, but with compassion. With the only other option that of letting the colonists gut the cluster, most fell back into line. Now that had changed.. Now they had another option.
He turned his computer on and called up the files concerning desertions over the past two months. It did not look that important, but considering what he had just learned, there was a pattern of sorts. Over ninety percent of the people who had deserted had been warned, in some cases charged, for insubordination.
Shive thought about it. He might be able to find the moles in his organization, thought it would take a lot of time and the entire investigation would be bad for morale. Morale. That was what he had to work on. He had to ensure that no more of his soldiers would desert. That would take some very clever propaganda.
He looked at the screen in his office, at Emiko Miya. He would have to find someone to counter that young woman, and he would have to play fairly. Trying to make her look bad would not do it. Attacks on her character would backfire on them. They would have to work carefully.
Campbell Hahn listened to Emiko's speech, and looked over the attached files, not really giving it much attention. He had known it was coming. He waited ten minutes after it had ended before picking up his phone and dialing a number.
"This is Hahn," he said when the call was answered. "I'm worried that we might see defection amongst the Rangers as most of them have expressed dissatisfaction with the current situation," he waited. "Yes, I'll do what I can. Goodbye."
Hahn hung up the phone, not worried about any of the deserting Rangers getting caught. As it turned out, most of the Rangers had been assigned to patrols farther out in the system while it was worked out exactly what to do with them.
Takako sat on her couch, staring a freeze-frame image of her daughter.. The changes to her face had surprised Takako a little, she doubted that those had been her idea. Emiko was not the type to care about that sort of thing. Her poor daughter. It was all her fault that she was involved in such a dangerous situation, saying such stupid things.
There was so little that she could do for her now. Her poor, poor daughter.
She almost didn't answer her phone when it began ringing, but finally she reached out and picked it up.
"Moshi moshi, Miya desu," she said, trying to sound normal.
"Takako-sempai," Auden said. "You saw the broadcast," not a question.
"I'm sorry about my daughter," she said. "Emiko-chan can be so foolish."
"We will have to do something about this, you realize."
"Yes, I know."
"We have a lot of damage control to take care of, and we have to ensure that the situation does not get worse."
"I'll do what I can."
"The press may come to you."
"I'll handle them."
"I'm sorry to ask this of you," Auden said, her voice sounding less sure than it had.
"Auden-san, don't be. Many people have made great sacrifices for the protection of this planet and others. Can we do less?"
"Of course not," Auden said, her tone confidence once again.
"Again, I'd like to apologize about Emiko-chan. It is my fault."
"Your daughter is a very intelligent young woman. She has just been misled."
"You are being too kind. I'm sorry that Redding is part of this."
"As am I," she said. "He will be dealt with."
"I should let you go. I'm sure you are very busy."
"Thank you Sempai. I'll call again when I can."
"Thank you Auden-san," Takako said, then hung up her phone.
She looked again at Emiko's picture. My poor daughter, she thought. I am so sorry.
"That girl is a traitor to the human race!" Daniel almost screamed.
"Get off my bridge now, Mr. Marcus," Julia said, not looking at the man, but over at Shingo.
"Get off my bridge now, Mr. Marcus," Julia finally turned her attention to the Warden. "Get off or I will have you removed."
Daniel looked like he might fly into a rage. Then, with obvious effort, he regained control of himself, turned about, and kicked himself angrily towards the hatchway.
"That might get you in some trouble," Shingo said.
"I'll let my record speak for me. And if I have to, I'll go join this Starblade Battalion," she laughed.
"Be careful about saying things like that," Shingo warned. "This is not the sort of climate to make such jokes."
"Things have gotten interesting."
"Much more complicated. At least I know the full truth about my daughter."
"She's a surprisingly good speaker."
"We're going to lose people over this. How do you want to handle it?"
"Desertion during wartime? I can kill anyone who tries and not worry about consequences," she looked around at the people on the bridge. Most of them were trying to look like they were not listening. "I can't do that to my crew though."
"If you don't, they'll send someone who will," Shingo warned.
"Perhaps. I think dishonorably discharging anyone who tries and putting them off the ship as soon as possible would be for the best."
Shingo looked at her, then shook his head. He knew that would be all over the ship within the hour. She was giving her okay to anyone who wanted to leave.
Daniel would go ballistic, and there were a few, thankfully very few, who would go along with him. They might see a small mutiny out of it. He suspected that Julia was quite aware of that. When they got back to Gamma 4 she would surely have her command taken away from her, perhaps she would be executed.
"You're trying to force something, aren't you?" Shingo accused.
"Your SAC, the one you would swear loyalty to, would not ask you to kill your crew. You're forcing the issue."
"Perhaps," Julia said. "Are you finished your work on Zanzibar?" she asked, changing the subject.
"Soon," he told her. "A day or two."
"Anything interesting to report?"
"This and that. I think this Starblade Battalion has a presence down there and that the Charybdis are involved."
She nodded. "Get some rest. You could probably use some."
"Thank you Captain. Be careful."
"Don't worry about me," she told him.
"I am worried about you," he said, then walked off the bridge.
Albert Knox watched the broadcast, working hard to maintain his calm. They wanted to unseat him. They wanted to destroy the power base he and the others had built up and replace it with a commonwealth. They were going to stop the war. He banged his fist on the top of his desk.
"No," he told himself, regaining his calm. Anger was not the way to deal with the problem. Cool thinking was the only way to go.
So, there was a third power in the picture. Lacking the military might of the SAC or the ODF, but that was not this Battalion's main strength. The girl had asked the best thing she could from the people. That they not believe everything that was told them. The huge propaganda machine that had been built for this conflict might be for naught.
How many people had seen it? Everyone who had any sort of hyperweb access, so he had been told.
It had come over the PRCI links, backed up on all the others, impossible to shut down. Shiva had a part in it. He was sure of that. Damn pirate. He had made himself useful and powerful. The expense of digging him out, destroying him and his Charybdis had seemed too high not so long ago. Now he wished he'd paid the price.
No time for regrets of what was in the past. He had to take care of damage control now. The Starblade Battalion could do a lot of damage, but only if they had the chance. He would ensure that everything was done to minimize those chances.
Marion Verees sat on her porch, looking out over the roses. Emiko had liked them, she thought. The girl who had come to her house, wounded, frightened, far from home, had just thrown the entire order of human space into chaos. She smiled at the thought of it.
Of course it was not all funny. Daichi was packing, ready to rush off and help this new power. She had barely managed to keep Sam there, though she gave it until they heard that Daichi had become part of the Battalion, then he'd be running off to join up with his brother.
She had known that her children would leave, but she had never thought that she would loose them to a war. She wondered what Emiko's mother thought about her daughter's involvement with a military force. She wondered if she would spend late nights worrying about where her daughter was?
She could only hope that the Battalion kept its word and limited the amount of suffering. Her life had gone through a large number of changes in the past few months. She did not expect that she was finished with them yet.
She tilted her head back and looked up at the darkening sky, at all the stars. The air was so clear she felt she could see out into forever. In a way she could. There was a battle field out there, the vastest that humanity had ever fought upon.
As much as she feared what was to come-the fighting, the dying-part of her felt a call. So much was going to happen out there, she almost wanted to be part of it. She suddenly shook her head and got up from her chair. She had too many responsibilities to be thinking like that. She looked up a the stars again and said a silent prayer for the safety of everyone involved in the war.
Miki watched the broadcast and remembered what Juan had told her. Well, she knew what he was up to know. She remembered her promise as well. Juan had been asking for a lot. What she was going to do could very well cost her her position, and her freedom, just maybe her life as well.
She entered a few commands into her computer, then looked up to where the small camera was mounted.
"I am Miki Vels, I run Waikiki. Several weeks ago the Midnight Sun attacked this colony in an attempt to destroy all the Townships as well as kill everyone on the planet. They failed. It was the Starblade Battalion who saved this colony.. I, and everyone here, owe them our lives."
Miki took a deep breath, then shut off the camera. She entered a few more commands, sending the recording out on the PRCI channel. Hopefully it would get everywhere it was supposed to go.
Now all she could do was wait and see what sort of action the Planetary Boards of Directors took against her.
"Damn you, Juan," she said softly. "You owe me."
Joanna Rem sat in her darkened office, looking out over Organon. One of the huge insects--set against the mauve sky--flew by her window, its fragile-looking wing brushing up against the reinforced glass.
Since the war had started she had been trying to stay neutral, thinking that the safer stance for her planet. She had realized that there might come a time where she would have to make a choice between the USSA or Solingen. She had hoped for another option. Now she had one, but was, in a way, afraid to take it.
Throwing her planet and system behind the Starblade Battalion would make her a target of both sides, thought she suspected that they would be too busy to come after the system until one side or another side won.
She was worried about that, but she was more worried about what would happen if she were to join with either the USSA or Solingen.
The USSA had sent a few envoys to her. They had outlined exactly what conditions the planets of the Cronus system would be put under once they joined. Her people would lose most of their freedom.
Solingen was not much better. They would no doubt seize all the industry once they had the chance. Solingen had not been happy about the success the Organon industries were having.
She had little choice when she considered all her options. She got up and walked to her door, opening it. "Miss Jell, I'm sorry I kept you waiting. Please come in."
"Not at all," the woman said as she entered the office.
"I would like you to do a favor for me," Joanna said as she closed the door.
"What would that be?"
"I'm assuming that the Charybdis have some connections with this Starblade Battalion."
"We have connections with many groups," she said.
"Including the Battalion?" Joanna went back to her seat.
"I think we have some."
"I'd like to talk to them then."
"May I ask the purpose?"
Joanna smiled. She knew the Charybdis were part of the Battalion, she could feel it. "Tell them I want to talk about the Cronus system joining the Battalion. We can't provide too much in the way of military support, just our Militias, and of course the majority of those will have to remain in system for our own defense. We can provide food, medical supplies and people."
"I'll see what I can do," she said, unsuccessfully trying to hide a smile.
Ryu had flown into a rage as soon as he had seen the broadcast. He had torn the office apart, flipping the desk over, throwing his chair through the window, pulling the book shelves over and crushing anything that would break.
Sam stood outside the office, leaning against the wall, warning anyone away who thought to enter. His partner had lost it completely. The unfortunate part was that there was nothing he could do about it. The powers wanted Ryu running the show, which suggested to Sam they wanted Miss Miya dead.
If so, it was personal. There was no other reason to kill her. Obviously some higher-ups did not like the embarrassment she had caused.
Well, they are going to like this even less, Sam thought.
Placide watched the broadcast. Emiko had been the right choice. She felt that part of Emiko's success was hers, in a way. Hadn't she helped to convince Jesse that Emiko was one of the best choices?
Now all she had to do was wait and see what happened. She expected a large defection amongst the Jagers soon. She had played things differently then Hahn. She had used the dislike the Jagers felt towards her to her favour. She had made it quite clear to every unit commander she had spoken with that they were now part of the ODF's rece corps and she expected them to behave as military units.
Now that the Jagers had another option, one that Jesse was supporting, it was very likely most would take it.
What truly made things perfect was that the ODF High Command had ordered her to take such firm measures, thinking that they would work to bring the Jagers in line. Perhaps they might have, had the Battalion not formed.
She reached for her phone. Time to pretend she was trying to keep things in control.
Tauutus glared at the screen, at the girl on the screen. He had known that there was a faction that had hoped to stop the war, but that they would do something like this, that he had not known.
The war was the Midnight Sun's best chance to accomplish its goals, and now that war was threatened. He would not stand for it.
He would have to crush the Starblade Battalion. He would have to destroy it utterly before it became too large. He looked up at the girl on the screen. He would have to kill her. She was too dangerous alive. She had all the traits he saw in himself. She could move people.
She had to die, and as publicly as possible. With her death would come a sense of hopelessness. With that sense of hopelessness would come death. A complete and perfect circle.
Closing Credits -Same as Before
Description: 172cm, 75kg, 25 years old, black hair, brown eyes.
Quote: "Most of the continent's life forms are unique and should be protected."
Notes: Makoto was recruited into the Wardens soon after he completed his degree at Sydney University. He was a rising star in the field of Xenobiology and a staunch believer in the Gaian code. He is a well liked by most of the people he works with and has a reputation for even-handedness.
He is not completely sure about the war, but feels there are few other options that will allow them to protect the worlds of the Cluster. He does not consider the Battalion to be an acceptable third position.
Important Stats and Skills: INT 8, REF 8, BODY 7, Awareness 4, Xenobiology 8, Survival 5, Leadership 5, Mekton pilot 5, Zero-G 6. Datalink, Nanobodies.
Description: 190cm, 90kg, 49 years old, thin, graying blonde hair, dark brown eyes.
Quote: "You're under arrest."
Notes: Sharp's name is fairly well known in the Cluster, he was the first of the Outback Marshals and the one who defined what a Marshall was. He is a quiet man, serious, intense, though he is more open amongst friends. He does not give his friendship easily but once he does, it is forever.
He believes strongly in the rule of law, and Solingen's abuse of power has never impressed him, though he has never been able to get at the real movers and shakers. He has no family, few friends, and until recently only his job.
Important Stats and Skills: REF 8, COOL 8, BODY 7, MOVE 7, Awareness 7, Expert: Law 6, Shadowing/Avoid Pursuit 8, Teaching 8, Intimidate 7, Streetwise 6, Blade 8, HtH 6, Handgun 5, Rifle 5, Stealth 6, Mecha Pilot 3, Mecha Gunnery 3, Whip Sword 9. Datalink, Nanobodies.
As I mentioned my game books are out on the Pacific right now, so I can't give real stats on this thing. It is based on the weapon that the character Mazaku uses in the manga Seraphic Feather. It is really a munchkiny type of weapon, basically it can be used as a knife, sword, or whip, or a whip with sword properties. By wrapping it around a person, you can cut them for full damage in several different places, probably killing them right off as well as disarming them in the process by cutting their weapon in half. Or several people could be attacked at once.
It is a one-of-a-kind weapon and a minimum skill of 5 is needed to use it safely in combat (training is done by keeping the edge in the blunt mode).
"Watashi wa anata no ane, soshite haha, soshite anata."
--Miyu Kyuuketsuki ga Yui ni itta
Shawn Hagen <email@example.com>