Episode 14 (2180.07.14)
by Shawn Hagen (1997)
Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.
Opening Credits--same as before
Platt City ignored members of the Midnight Sun. It was the best way to deal with them. They did not, as far as anyone could tell, pursue their agenda of humanity's complete extinction on Zanzibar. Most people just crossed to the other side of the street when they saw them coming.
No one really noticed anything odd in the several members of the Midnight Sun who were closing on the Warrens. Few of Platt city's civilian population knew that the Warrens were of any real importance, though everyone had noticed the increase in activity in the warehouses.
At the perimeter fence one of the Charybdis, an old man, watched a thin woman approaching him. He noted the tattoo on her forehead and put his hand down on the butt of his pistol.
"What do you want?" he demanded.
The woman looked at him but said nothing, she just kept walking towards him.
This is too weird, he thought, drawing his weapon. "Okay, just stop right there." When the woman kept walking he brought the weapon up and fired a warning shot into the ground several centimeters from her feet. "I said stop," he ordered, bringing the pistol up, aiming at her head.
She finally stopped, two meters from him. "Why are you afraid?" she asked.
"Because you're a member of a psychotic death cult. Now just turn around and go away."
"What's up?" the man heard someone yell from behind him.
"Nothing," he yelled, not taking his eyes from the woman in front of him. He could hear running, the sound of others approaching, drawn by the gunfire.
"Are you afraid to die?" the woman asked him.
"I'm in no rush. Now why don't you just get out of here before I have to put a bullet in you."
"I have business here," she said, then started walking towards him again.
"Crazy..." He pulled the trigger.
The woman was jerked back as the round tore into her skull. A moment later the explosives she had hidden under clothing went off, spraying the area around her with tiny ball bearings. The man who had shot her was dead almost the same time she was. The others who had been approaching were killed or wounded by the flying metal.
Other cultists moved out from behind cover and began running towards the Warrens, passing through the breach in security that their fellow member had made.
"How many dead?" Avatar asked.
"Ninety seven. One hundred and thirty seven were wounded," his aide told him.
"Damage to the buildings?"
"Severe. A number of the suicide bombers made it close. We started moving our people out at the right time, it looks."
Avatar nodded. The Starblade Barracks had been relocated to a more secure site, the Warrens had been near closing. "All members of the Midnight Sun on Zanzibar are to be killed if they are found. Leak all the information we have on the Midnight Sun to both the SAC and that ODF."
"Yes sir," his aide said, then left the room.
The leader of the Charybdis leaned back in his chair. He had made a mistake in ignoring the Midnight Sun. Too dangerous and too fanatical to ever be reasoned with. He had always thought that their true goals were hidden, that ultimately they could be treated like any other group. Now he knew better. They were true to their stated goals it seemed. Complete and utter destruction of the human race.
The Battalion had a new problem to deal with. It looked like the Nemyss had declared war on them.
There had been numerous press conferences in the days that had followed Emiko's broadcast. At Sydney University there was one that the press had been waiting for. Auden Dominica had come forth to answer the charges brought against the Gaian movement.
She stepped up to the podium, the clothing perfect, as always, the almost trademark, gold rimmed spectacles in place. She looked out over the crowd of reporters, then turned on her mike.
"Before we begin, I'd like to state that I will not answers questions best put to government bodies. I will only deal with that which concerns the Gaians. First question."
"Miss Dominica," a young woman stood up. "Is there an Inner Council within the government controlled by the Gaians?"
Auden said nothing, as if she was thinking about the question. In truth she was reading the information being projected on the inside of her lenses, finding out about the woman who had asked the question. "Monique," she said, using the woman's first name, "conspiracy theories have been with our race for a very long time. We seem to enjoy creating them and we seem to be prepared to believe them. There is no Inner Circle. It is just a well thought out story, put forth by our enemies in order to weaken our resolve."
"What about the plan for the ecopolice state?" an older gentleman asked, standing up.
"Charles," she looked at him, locking her gaze with his, knowing he thought that no one could lie to him looking him in the eyes. "we put that plan forward ourselves several weeks ago when we realized that the colonists had no intention of protecting the planets they live on, as their behavior has shown. They have simply thrown it back at us, claiming it to be a secret agenda. They are lying. And `ecopolice state' is a very harsh term. All we wish to do is protect those planets."
"So you are saying that this Starblade Battalion is in fact an ODF blind?" a woman asked.
"May I ask your name?"
"Linda Douglas, New York Times," she said.
"Well Miss Douglas, that is not really for me to say. If you asked if that is what I believed, then yes, I do believe that the ODF is behind this. If you are asking me if I know it, no, I don't. I would think Fleet Intelligence could best answer that."
"Dominica-san, if what you say is true, why was Miya Emiko-san labeled a terrorist?"
Auden looked at the man who had asked the question. She did not need her glasses to identify him. She had met Ota-san a few times before at Takako's. "That is a good question," she said. "One that I wish I could answer. A number of agencies are looking into that right now. My own personal belief is that Miya-san is being used."
Takashi gave her a smile which told her he did not believe her for a second.
He asked no further questions, but she saw him whispering to the other reporters around him and they asked questions that were problematic to answer. She kept her calm, and answered everything the best she could. It was important that she undo as much as the damage as she could. They were in the crucial point.
When it was finally over she excused herself and left the stage.
Takashi watched as Auden walked off the stage, leaving the room. Most of the other reporters were packing up and getting ready to go. From the sounds of things people were doubtful about some of the answers they had been given, but no one was saying they thought Auden was lying.
"Score one for the ice lady," Takashi said softly as he got to his feet, slinging his bag over his shoulder.
He left the room through the far exit, deciding not to visit the buffet that was being laid out for the press. While Takashi had never come out and said it, he suspected that people thought that well fed, slightly drunk, reporters tended to be kinder.
Halfway down the hallway someone grabbed him from behind, spun him around, and slammed him into the wall.
Takashi found himself staring into the very angry eyes of Makoto.
"Makoto-san," he said, trying to keep his voice light. "Hisashiburi desu ne (long time, no see)," he said.
"Hisashiburi ja nai (don't give me that)," Makoto said, slamming Takashi against the wall again. "You were making Emiko work for you. Steal that data."
"That is a serious charge Makoto, I hope, for our friendship's sake, you can prove it."
"You use my sister to steal data," Makoto banged him against the wall. "You get her in trouble," he slammed him into the wall yet again. Takashi's head banged off the wall. "And you actually bring up the word friendship?"
"Do you have proof?" Takashi demanded, feeling a little dizzy.
Makoto pulled him forward, obviously ready to slam him back again.
"Commander," someone said, stopping Makoto. Both Makoto and Takashi turned to see Auden standing at the far end of the hall. "You cannot just attack the press, Commander, even if they deserve it."
"Are you suggesting something?" Takashi asked.
"I am not suggesting anything Ota-san, simply stating a fact. Commander, if I understand it, you have work to do elsewhere, is that not correct?"
Makoto released his hold on Takashi and moved away. "Yes ma'am. I apologize for my behavior." He turned his full attention to Takashi. "Gomen na sai, Ota-san," he said, bowing deeply. Then he straightened and walked away.
"It seems you have lost a friend," Auden said walking up to Takashi.
"For now. Maybe this Starblade Battalion exists and is telling the truth," he looked at Auden. "Even the most radical Warden might change his mind once he or she finds out the truth."
Auden looked at him for a moment, then nodded. "That is true."
"Can I ask you something off the record?"
"You can, I don't promise to answer."
"Redding Frost was a friend of yours, was he not?"
"I will not answer questions about my personal life or anything concerning the Rangers."
"Ota-san, might I ask you for something?"
"Go for it."
"Report the facts as you know them, not what will give you a better story."
"Are you calling my integrity into question?"
"Many reporters seem more concerned with attracting readers than the complete truth. In a time like this, we do not need reporters who behave in such a manner."
"I'll remember that, Dominica-san."
"Good," she told him, then turned and walked away.
Takashi watched her go, then continued the way he had been going before Makoto had ambushed him.
As president of the Board of Planetary Directors, Barnabas had been in the spotlight the most over the last few days. After several formal press conferences he had scheduled one aboard the `Stardust Memoirs', his yacht.
There were only six reporters there, he had chosen the best in the cluster for the conference.
"Okay," he said, smiling as he took a seat at the front of the cabin. "Let's talk."
"Mr. Richter, does this Starblade Battalion exist?"
"That we are not sure of. I know, that sounds like a smoke screen, but we really can't be sure at this point. For all we know this is some sort of trick by the USSA."
"And what about Director Vels' statement?"
"Director Vels simply said what she thought the truth was, which is why she is not to be punished in any way for her actions. That she thought it was the truth does not make it necessarily so."
"Is it true Solingen simply wants to gut the cluster?"
"Solingen is a business so of course they want to make a profit. And it is also true that the draconian state we lived in while under the thumb of the USSA did limit their, and everyone's, profit. Look at this planet though. We've been here for more than thirty years, and is it gutted? You also have to remember that Solingen GmbH has helped the colonies in a number of ways, but they do not exercise control over the Planetary Board of Directors."
"So this war is about colonial freedom?"
"Exactly. Earth was trying to tell us how to live, how to work, they'd probably tell us how to breathe if we give them the chance. I don't care about the profit, I care about our freedom."
"What about the mass defection amongst the Jagers."
"As far as I know those are just rumours. I'm not the person to answer those questions, it is more of an ODF matter."
"If this Starblade Battalion actually exists, how will you deal with it?"
"If it exists, if it exists like we have been told, which I doubt, then we might try to negotiate with them. We are right, and if we could make them realize that, a force like the one this Miss Miya claims to represent would be a worthy ally."
"What do you mean by, `if it exists like we have been told'?"
"A force made up of both sides, and the outsiders, which I guess would be the pirates and such, seems highly unlikely. I think that this is a much smaller force, who, for whatever reason, are trying to make us jump at shadows. They claim to have hit both the SAC and the ODF, but I think it more likely they are just claiming credit for sabotage done by both sides."
"And the assassination list? A number of those people in the Cluster have been killed or have disappeared. All of them had what might be called anti-Solingen, or anti-Confederation stances."
"Good point. I would like to say that that is completely false, but I can't. I have been told there are several investigations going on right now. Of course we have to ask ourselves, how hard would it be to kill people, then blame it on someone else."
"I don't know Mr. Richter, how hard is it?" Caroline Mason asked.
Barnabas had been hoping the woman might stay quiet. He had not even wanted to include her but if he had excluded her most people would have seen the whole conference as a farce. "Yes, touche," he said.
"Mr. Richter, I've looked over the files that were tagged to that broadcast and I they all seem genuine. Now, you've made a lot of noise about how dirty Earth has been, yet you want to just brush aside the accusations against you and the Board and Solingen. It seems obvious that you want to have it both ways, and that is wrong. Now, would you care to elaborate on the projects on Jane's three and five, Merope seven, and Wild two?"
"What about them."
"Well, as soon as you cut ties from Earth all four of those planets, which Earth had declared off limits, saw a huge influx of men and materials for exploitation. Now, why spend so much money on that when you could be spending it on defense?"
"All those projects are important to the war effort, which is why I can't say anymore about them."
"The war effort?" Caroline asked incredulously. "Please. The only thing of any interest on Wild two is a rather cute, mink-like animal with the most gorgeous fur I have ever seen. Now, while I admit that our soldiers need to be warm, there are a lot of other options beyond fur to make jackets out of."
That got some laughter. Barnabas steeled himself and nodded. "Yes, very funny. As I said, I can't go into detail due to security reasons."
"Thanks then," Caroline got to her feet.
"Are you going, Miss Mason?"
"Yea, I've heard all these lies before and can't stomach anymore. Good day," she turned and left.
Barnabas watched her go, glad to be rid of her, but the damage had already been done.
Caroline walked out onto the deck, then stretched. She strode across the deck and down the boarding ramp onto the dock.
"Hey, Carol, what's up?" one of the reporters waiting on dock shouted. "Is it over?"
"It is for me Glen, it is for me."
"Why?" another asked.
"Same old tired lies. I think I'm going to get the whole truth."
"By joining this Starblade Battalion. They seem to know the real score. Later," she told them, leaving them behind.
The reporters looked at each other, then back at the yacht.
"I think I just found a better story," an older woman said, walking away from the rest, following after Carol.
A few more followed a few seconds later, then a few more, until half were gone. The ones who stayed looked at each other, wondering if everyone had just gone crazy.
The Thunder Clap cut its speed as it approached the two spinners. They had arrived in the Rocinante system and had been cruising towards Zanzibar when they had been given new coordinates, deep within the nebular gas cloud.
The Sloop John B. sped up, passing the Thunder Clap, making for the docking bay of the second spinner.
"So where did this thing come from?" Tern asked Juan.
"Good question," Juan said.
"I think that's the Adder Spinner," Diane said, leaning over Juan's shoulder.
"I hope not," Juan said.
"I got stock in Adder Mining."
"Tough break," Diane told him.
"Emiko," get up here," Tern called. "Your turn."
"Why do you get the easy flying and I always have to dock?" Emiko asked as she floated into the cabin.
"Because you don't learn much flying in straight lines. Juan, clear out."
"Excuse me," Juan said, vacating the seat.
"Okay, this is real easy. That sucker has a lot of space given over to its docking bay."
"With all the cargo ships coming and going they'd have to," Diane said, looking at Juan. "It was a mining instillation."
"Why must you torture me, Marshall?"
"Because I couldn't arrest you."
Emiko ignored the talk and lined the ship up on the landing beacons. A short time later she had the ship locked down in its docking cradle and was powering down the engines. Diane and Juan left the bridge.
"Very smooth," Tern told her.
"I don't know about that. It felt a little bumpy."
"Well, what do you expect, you don't have a datalink. Makes a big difference. Tell me Emiko, just why don't you have a datalink?"
"Never wanted one," Emiko said, running the ship through a post flight check.
Emiko looked at the controls for a time, then up at Tern. "You know the history behind cybernetics, how people went insane?"
"That was back when they were cutting away live flesh and putting dead metal in its place. Things have changed."
"I know that, but still..." Emiko paused, thinking about it. "I can't forget that. It is like a specter in the background. I never felt like taking the chance. Also, I can't help but feel it might make me somehow less human, like it might take something away from me," she said softly, as if she was thinking out loud. "And then there are the nanites."
"What about the nanites?"
"You've got these tiny little robots running around in your body, doing this and that. What if they make a mistake?"
Tern looked at her, then began to laugh. "You're joking?"
"No," Emiko said, a little angry.
"But that is stupid."
"Fine," Emiko said, getting to her feet.
"Wait, Emiko," Tern said, reaching out to grab her hand. "I'm sorry."
Emiko looked down at him, and at his hand holding hers. She was suddenly very conscious of his skin against hers. "It's okay," Emiko mumbled, dropping her gaze to the floor.
"I shouldn't have made fun of you," he said, still holding her hand. "It wasn't nice. I mean, we all have our little superstitions and beliefs. They might sound odd to others, but that doesn't make them that less meaningful to us. I won't mention it again."
"Listen," he said, releasing her hand. "I've got to look the shunt drive over and could use some help. Want to give me a hand? I'll give you a crash course on drive maintenance at the same time."
"Okay," Emiko said.
"Good," he got to his feet. "Let's go."
The first thing Juan was presented with on exiting the boarding tube was a small man in baggy overalls.
"Ship name?" he said.
"What?" Juan asked.
"Your ship's name."
"Not mine, but the Sloop John B."
"Thunder Blade, we're Team 6."
"Hey, Juan, I've been meaning to talk to you about that," Ree said, passing over his head. "Team 6," she said when she landed. "It's boring. We got Team Cutlass, and Team Silver, and Team Bounty, and we're stuck with Team 6. Can't we have a better name?"
"No," Juan said.
"You are so boring. Come on Epiphany, let's go and have some fun, see if we can get lucky."
Epiphany gave Juan an apologetic look, then followed after Ree.
"You know," Juan said. "Most of the time I'm fine with Epiphany, she's just another of my team, and a good pilot, but sometimes, I just can't figure it."
"Do you mean exactly what `getting lucky' would mean for her?" Conaly asked.
"Yea. Bother you as well?"
"Not really," Conaly told him.
"What about you Diane, what do you..."
"Excuse me!" the small man said. "I was not finished."
"What?" Juan looked at him. "Sorry, please continue."
"Who is your team leader?"
"I am," Juan said.
"Do you have a name?" the man said, putting a pause between each word.
"Yes I do," Juan told him.
"Could you tell it to me?"
"He's Juan Varis," Diane said.
"Thank you," the man said. "Cabins have been set aside for all your crew Captain Varis, you should be able to find them easy enough."
"Captain?" Juan asked.
"Captain?" Diane said.
"Well, actually, considering we're more of a naval unit at this point, I suppose Lieutenant Commander."
"Look at this," Juan said. "You go away for a couple of weeks and the next thing you know your nice little social club has become an army," Juan shook his head.
The man looked at Juan for a moment. "I'm Master Petty Officer Klark, I run the docking bays."
"Good to know," Juan said, walking away from the man.
"You'll have to excuse Juan," Diane said. "He's not very bright."
"I believe it," the MPO said, then turned and walked away.
Diane smiled, then ran after Juan. Conaly watched her go, then went after Klark. He had been around enough to know that the senior NCO's tended to have the best information.
"I wonder what I am supposed to do now?" Juan asked, looking around.
"Got me," Diane said.
"Diane," someone called.
Diane turned to see Marshall Wright walking towards her.
"Glad to see you got back."
"You joined up?"
"A couple of weeks after Waikiki. Fell into Storm Blade."
"You have any idea what has been going on lately?" Juan asked her.
"What about this spinner."
"This was the Adder Spinner, until we liberated it."
"How?" Diane asked.
"The spinner was always a target of claim jumpers, pirates, that sort of thing. With the war they, Solingen, couldn't give it the protection it needed. Pirates started moving in on it and they needed help."
"Which you gave," Diane said.
"We did. After it was over we offered them a chance to join up. As that seemed much better than sitting around, waiting for the next group of pirates to show up, they fell in with us."
"How did you get the spinner here?" Juan asked.
"Got this old freighter and jammed it into the port where the spinners drive would have gone, if Solingen had not removed it. Worked well enough, though that freighter is never coming out now."
"They moving all the personnel up here?" Diane asked.
"That's the plan. This toroid used to hold the warehouses for all the raw ore and processed metals. All that stuff was cleared out and they moved the prefab housing blocking from the Warrens up to here."
"What about the refinery?" Juan asked.
"They haven't decided what to do with that yet. Why do you ask?"
"Juan owns Adder stock," Diane said. "Probably worried about his investment."
"The refinery is valuable," Juan said. "but I suppose I don't have too much say in the matter. Do you know where command and control is?"
"Still on that asteroid, where ever it is hiding. I can show you the way to the administration section if you want, they should be able to help you figure things out."
"Thanks," Juan said. "Just what I need."
It had taken Lilith some time to figure out exactly what was going on, to talk to the right people and get her bearings. Once she had all the information she called a meeting of all her senior command staff. The command officers of the Thunder Clap and the leaders of all her teams had come together, after a time, in a large conference room in the Adder spinner.
"Okay, let's discuss the basics. As of ten minutes ago, the Cronus system is with us, and Aldersgate is falling our way, they just need to be convinced. Fourwinds owes us for helping them with a little problem a while back, but they aren't coming over as fast as we would like. Kender is trying to go one way, and others in his senior cabinet want different things. Not our problem.
"On other fronts, about ninety-five percent of the Jagers turned their backs on the ODF, most of them have come or are coming our way. The Rangers have seen about seventy-five percent of their people take off on them. We're still not sure how many will end up with us, but right now we got about twenty percent of them.
"Add to that civilians, members of both the SAC and the ODF who have thrown in with us, and others, we have seen a very large increase in our numbers. Before you all start getting happy about that, it was impressed upon me that we are still weak man out in this little conflict. No head to head fights for us. Our MO hasn't changed, we still hit fast and get out of the area faster, but we will paint some sort of identifying mark on our ships. Before you ask me, no, they haven't decided what that identifying mark should be. Questions?"
"Equipment?" Roger Fell--team Cutlass' leader--asked.
"Want to be a bit more specific," Lilith said.
"Okay. Almost every Ranger and Jager team drags in a cutter and a suit. With the arm-up on both sides, those cutters and suits are near military specs, but a cutter is still a lightweight ship. That's about it for the heavy stuff. Food, drugs, raw materials, we're golden. Manufacturing capabilities, they have been increasing since we started this thing. Given a little time, we'll see some rather amazing increases in our stores."
"People?" Donner said from the far end of the table.
"As in what will they be worth?"
"Rangers and Jagers are a good bunch, they know their job. The SAC and ODF people that have drifted our way, same thing. The civilians? Who knows. I think we, Thunder Blade, will see a slight increase in our overall numbers. We'll have to train a few of them."
"Security? What sort of background check is being done on all these new people?" Juan asked.
"As good as we can do. That's another thing. I know I can trust all of you, and you know you can trust all of your people, or you know who's shoulder to look over. Ultimately security will be at a grass roots level as it were. You get someone new, you keep and eye on them until you figure you don't have to. Simple, right?"
"As if we needed more work," Sherri Collins--team Saber's leader--said.
"So if we get a couple of new people assigned to us, they are possible security risks?" Roger looked over at Lilith.
"Not always, but, to a certain extent."
"So what are we doing now?" Donner asked.
"Hurry up and wait. Maintenance, training, getting to know the new system and all that. Right now the higher ups want to see exactly how the wind is blowing before committing themselves to anything. Of course, we are on an hour's notice to move if we have to. Let your people get some R? but be sure you know were they are."
Lilith looked around the room, but no one said anything. She gave it several more seconds then, "Okay, you know what you have to do, get to it."
"Yes ma'am," Donner stood up first.
"Dismissed," Lilith said, then left the room.
It did not take Emiko long to notice all the people looking at her, talking in hushed tones and often pointing at her. It was beginning to make her feel very self-conscious.
"What's up?" Tern asked her.
"Everyone's looking at me."
"You seem surprised. Not so long ago you made a speech that was sent to almost every human being alive. Of course they are looking at you."
"Oh," Emiko said, realizing he was right.
"Don't let it worry you."
"I don't recognize a lot of these people," Emiko said.
"You did well," he told her.
"If we have a lot of new people, it can probably be traced right to you."
"I'm not sure what to feel about that."
"I'd be pleased," he told her. "Wait one."
Emiko looked up at him, wondering what he meant, then realized he was taking a datalink call.
"Juan has called a meeting to give us a run down on what is happening."
"Yokatta," Emiko said, glad someone was going to explain it to her.
"Let's go," Tern said, using his datalink to get a map of the spinner.
Shingo stood near airlock number two, waiting for the boarding tube to pressurize. Several guards had charge of Daniel and his co-conspirators. The attempt had come much like Shingo had expected it. Julia had expected it as well, one of the reasons it did not get very far.
He looked over at Julia. She stood near the lock, looking at no one, appearing completely indifferent to what was going on.
Soon after they had arrived in the Gamma system she had been ordered to turn command of her ship over to her XO until an investigation could be made into certain charges that had been brought against her. Someone on the ship must have gotten in touch with the base as soon as they shunted in.
Shingo was not too surprised. Many of the crew, while not willing to join a mutiny, would still be uncomfortable with what had happened.
The red light above the airlock door went out, replaced by the green. A moment later the outer hatch opened. A squad of guards from the shuttle entered and took charge of the prisoners. Once they had been escorted aboard, Julia followed. Shingo waited a moment, then left the ship, floating through the boarding tube and into the shuttle.
It took a few minutes to get everyone strapped down and secured. Then the shuttle cut free and started its descent towards Gamma 4 and the base.
Shingo stayed by Julia's side as they were escorted through the corridors towards the offices of the high ranking staff. Finally they were brought in front of the base commander's door. The young Lieutenant knocked first, then opened the door so they could enter.
Inside the office Admiral Murakami sat behind his desk. On the couch were Captain Mass and Admiral Mars.
"Sir," Julia said, saluting Admiral Murakami. Shingo snapped to attention a step behind her, saluting as well.
"At ease," Admiral Murakami said. "Take a seat," he told them, indicating the chairs in front of his desk. Once they had both sat, he began, "This is not a formal trial, all I want are some truthful answers. Do you understand Captain?"
"You discharged, dishonorably, two of your crew members. Is that correct?"
"Yes sir. Ensign Kate Lewis and Seaman Lucien Camoou."
"Both expressed an inability to follow SAC doctrine in the coming war."
"So you discharged them?"
"Yes sir. I do have the authority to take such action if I feel is necessary, section 8G, subsection 5 of the legal code of the SAC."
"I know the rules Captain, I helped to write them. Don't quote them to me. Did they express these feelings before or after the broadcast?"
"After, though Seaman Camoou had been written up for conduct unbecoming a member of the SAC two weeks before."
"And what will they do now?"
"I can't say for certain concerning the Seaman, but Ensign Lewis stated her intention to find and join the Starblade Battalion."
"Fuck," Captain Mass said. "And you actually just let her walk away?"
"Enough Captain," the Admiral warned. "I'm conducting this interview. Captain, tell me, you do realize that this Battalion could just be a front for the ODF?"
"That is possible."
"Yet you let two of your crew go to them. Why was that Captain?"
"If I had refused to let them leave, they both would have tried anyway. At that point I would have had to arrest them. They would have been court-martialed and the penalty for desertion during wartime is usually death."
Admiral Murakami said nothing for a time. "I respect your loyalty to the members of your crew Captain, but I cannot let this go. You knowingly sent two members of the SAC to what might very well be an enemy. Ensign Lewis was a member of SAC intelligence with mid level clearance. Do you know what kind of information she could take to an enemy?"
"I understood that when I discharged her Admiral. I take full responsibility."
"Captain, I'll give you one more chance to change your story, or make anything clear that you think we might have misunderstood. Do you wish to do so?"
"No Admiral. I do not."
"Captain, I am placing you under arrest, exact charges will be prepared later."
Admiral Murakami pressed a button on his desk. A moment later the door opened and the Lieutenant who had shown Shingo and Julia to the office stepped into the room. "Yes sir," he said, saluting the Admiral.
"Take Captain Carmin to the brig. Captain, you are dismissed."
"Yes sir," both Julia and the Lieutenant said at once. Julia stood and saluted the Admiral, then she turned sharply, and marched from the room.
"You may go now Captain Mass," Admiral Murakami said.
"Yes Admiral," the Captain got to his feet and walked out of the room. On the threshold he turned and saluted.
"Khamul, mind letting me talk to Shingo for a while?"
"No," he shook his head and got to his feet. "Be on my ship in four hours for a debriefing, Shingo."
"Still on for poker Kenta?" Khamul asked.
"I'll give you a chance to win some of your money back."
"See you then," he said, then walked out of the office, closing the door behind him.
"Well," Kenta looked at Shingo. "What the hell is happening?"
"Some of our people don't like this war."
"That I know. Why does a respected and decorated Captain do something like this?"
"She's testing you. She's not about to start arresting or killing members of her crew just because they feel they cannot follow current SAC orders. A year ago there would have been no problem had she done something like this."
"A year ago, we weren't at war."
"Some might argue that now is the time where we have to stay true to ourselves."
"Some might. What part did you play in this?"
"I let it happen."
"So did most of the crew. What I want to know is if you are likely to desert?"
"Don't tell me what I want to hear Shingo. You are one of the best field officers I have. If you think you might decide to desert I need to know. This is off the record. You slip away in the next few days, I won't stop you."
"This is exactly what Julia is in trouble for."
"I don't plan to make a big production about it and I will lie."
"I will stay. I swear, on my honour."
"Good. Then we can talk. This Starblade Battalion, an ODF front?"
"I can't say for sure, but if I had to give an answer right now, I'd say no."
"You believe what they said?"
"I didn't say that sir. Just that they are not working for the ODF."
"I want you to figure these people out. I'm transferring you to a task force, you'll command it. Effective immediately is your promotion to Captain. I can't spare you too much in the way of people or material, but I'll get you what I can."
"Thank you. Admiral, may I ask what will become of Captain Carmin?"
"If I can get my way? I'll call what happened stress-related. She'll spend a few months in a hospital, then be demoted and rotated to a non combat position of little importance. I don't think I'll get my way though."
"They want to make an example of her," Shingo said.
"We saw a huge desertion amongst the Rangers a few days ago. There were not so many within the other branches of the SAC, but there were some. We suspect that a lot of commanding officers did the same thing as Captain Carmin did, let people go who wanted to. They just did it quietly."
"So, what will they do?"
"I suspect that when all is said and done she will be facing the death penalty."
"Don't try anything stupid, Shingo."
"I have already sworn to serve the SAC and you. I will not be leading a rescue party for the Captain, but someone else might."
"That I know. You are dismissed Captain."
"Yes sir," Shingo said as he stood. "Sir, why was Captain Mass here?"
"He wanted to be present. He'll probably be the court-martialing officer."
"Wonderful," he shook his head.
Meridian 2 was the home of a small colony of eight hundred people. The planet had been classified as having a very fragile ecosystem and the SAC had invaded, as it were, and had taken over the management of the colony. Their plans were to eventually move all the colonist off planet but it had not been decided where to move them.
While the Confederation had protested the action as a war crime, they did nothing more. Meridian 2, while beautiful, offered little of value.
Grendel had come to the planet four days before. Within a few hours he had formulated and implemented his plan.
He had contaminated the water supply of the SAC garrison and the colony with old time drugs. The two hundred SAC soldiers were getting a cocktail of combat drugs as well as a rage jumper. The colonist were just getting the rage jumper.
Grendel had watched the anger building on both sides, the small clashes that had occurred. He had waited until it reached the level he wanted, until things were set to go the way he wanted.
An hour earlier he had killed three of the SAC soldiers, leaving their butchered bodies where they would be found. Now the soldiers, fully kited out, had entered the village, looking for the people who had killed their comrades.
He was not sure what started it. Perhaps one of the colonists, or maybe one of his plants had, but suddenly there was the sound of gunshots, then explosions, then it all broke loose.
The soldiers were angry and pumped up on combat drugs. The colonists were just angry, their flight responses dampened while their fight response was heightened. It was simply a massacre. The colonists stood no chance faced against the armoured soldiers and their military class weapons. They did not retreat though. They stood fast and died.
Grendel smiled slightly, and shifted around a little. His excitement made his position a little uncomfortable. He was recording it all, as were several other people. When the tapes got out it would enrage the people of the colonies. Such a simple and elegant plan. He hoped the Nemyss would be pleased with him.
After a time the carnage below him began to subside. Most of the colonist were dead, there were few targets left for the soldiers anger. For a time he thought they might turn on each other, but discipline prevailed and they marched back towards their fortified base. In a day or two they would realize exactly what they had done, but for the time being their consciences were cushioned by the drugs.
He turned over so he was lying on his back, then took a small playback unit from his pocket. He turned it on and watched, once more, the broadcast that the Starblade Battalion had sent out. They were fools, he thought, thinking they could stop the Nemyss' war. They would just be destroyed, like all those who thought to stop the Midnight Sun.
He listened to the girl, as she talked of what she wanted. She did not realize that the home she wanted to return to was death. Only in death was there peace. He hoped that she would die quick and painless. He knew the Nemyss wanted her dead. If he gave that job to him, Grendel would do his best to make her death clean and quick.
After a while he put the playback unit back in his pocket, then got up and began collecting his equipment. He was done there. It was time to leave.
Grendel and his agents had not been the only ones to watch the massacre from hiding, but the others had not enjoyed it.
"I think I'm going to puke," a young woman said, trying to stop herself from looking down on the village.
"Don't think about it," and older woman told her.
"They weren't supposed to do that."
"How could they do that?"
"I don't know."
"I can't stand this," she began to cry.
"Hey, Fender, clam down. You're useless to me like this."
"It's not your fault, or my fault. There was nothing we could have done."
"We were supposed to protect them."
"If Frost had thought that they were going to be massacred then he would have sent more people than just the two of us. We were here to figure out an evacuation plan, not to save them from a garrison gone crazy. Now I got to go down there, and I need you to cover me."
"You're going down there??"
"I have to. I need to get some blood samples, and some water samples. We need to know what really happened there because there is no way that professional soldiers would have normally done that."
"I'll watch your back," Janet Fender said, able to regain some of her calm.
"Good. Stay cool," Cobalt said, moving over the ridge, heading down towards the village. Janet took a deep breath, then followed after the woman.
She had a hard time keeping up with her. Cobalt had been a Commando before deserting to join up with the battalion. Janet had thought that her six months with the Ravagers had made her tough, but she was nothing compared to the woman ahead of her.
By the time she reached the village Cobalt was already out, amongst the dead, getting her samples. Janet moved into some cover, kept her rifle ready, and waited. After about ten minutes Cobalt was by her side, appearing almost as if by magic.
"Okay, now we go and check out the garrison," Cobalt said.
"What?" Janet asked. She had no wish to go near those soldiers, not after seeing what they had done.
"We got to," Cobalt said. "We need to have all the facts. Let's go. The sooner we finish up here, the sooner we can get the hell of this planet." Cobalt reached out to put a hand on Janet's shoulder, then was gone, heading off towards the garrison.
Janet swallowed to moisten her throat, then was moving after the other woman.
Emiko opened the throttles right up, sending the Galliard into a steep climb. Behind her were the two remaining Drakens, closing on her. She waited, watching the sensors, everything that Ree had taught her flashing across her mind.
Then her sensors flashed at her, the suits behind her had gotten a missile lock. She cut the thrusters right back, breaking rapidly, getting tossed against her restraining straps. Spinning the suit around, she opened up with the antimissile systems, flying directly towards the other suits. Take them by surprise, Ree always told her.
The suit shook as the missiles exploded around it, but none of them hit. Even as she was passing thought the cloud of detonating munitions, she was firing on the other suits. One went up in a ball of flame, but the other was firing on her. She jerked the suit up above it, twisting it about to make herself a harder target, at the same time trying to get a lock on the other suit.
She fired off a swarm of missiles at the same time the other suit did. Emiko lost track of the Draken as she climbed, trying to outrun the missiles. As they got closer she realized she could not get away from them. Instead she spun and opened up with the phalanx gun.
While she managed to take out several of the missiles, some still hit her, heavily damaging the suit. As she was shaken around she was sure that the suit would go up any second, but it never happened. Suddenly everything was still, and almost quiet, but for the alarms going off.
She had lost the left arm and leg of her Galliard, all her weapon systems were down and the power plant was not looking very healthy. She pulled the safeties then ejected the power plant before it could go on her.
Sitting back, she turned her attention to her sensors. She was alone in space, obviously she had managed to take out the other Draken. Now all she could do was wait.
The screen suddenly shut off as the hatch above her opened. Ree looked down at her. "You're kind of dead in space now."
"I know, oneechan," Emiko said.
"Still, not bad for two to one odds."
"You shouldn't have tried to run from those missiles though."
"Well, that's it for now," Ree moved away from the hatch. "Other people have the simulator booked."
Emiko undid the restraining straps, then climbed out of the simulator pod. Ree gave her a hand and pulled her out.
"Basically," Ree said as she led Emiko from the simulator room, "you just need to get faster, stop thinking so much. You got the moves. Some of them. Now you just need to do them without thinking about them."
"How long will that take?" Emiko asked.
"It depends on the person I guess. All you can do is practice. The rest will come in time."
"I'm not going to get a datalink, you know," Emiko said.
"So you have said."
"Then why bother teaching me this? Without the simulator assuming the datalink, I'd never have even gotten one shot off before they killed me."
Ree stopped and turned to look at Emiko. "Are you enjoying yourself?"
"Is it fun, Emi-chan?"
"Well, I guess."
"Like spending time with me?"
"Well, there's your answer Emi-chan," Ree smiled. "This gives us a chance to play together without anyone telling us we could be spending out time better. Now come on," she draped her arm across Emiko's shoulders. "Now, we'll go back to our cabin and I'll teach you more about sex."
"Oneechan, chotto baka," Emiko said.
"Yes yes," Ree laughed, directing Emiko towards the elevator.
A man stepped out of the corridor in front of them. Neither might of noticed him but for his disheveled appearance. He was walking towards them, though his attention seemed to be focused on something else other than the two of them. Emiko looked over her shoulder to see if there was anything behind them. There was nothing there.
"What do you want for dinner?" Ree asked her.
"Do we have a choice?" Emiko asked, turning her attention back to what was in front of them.
"Kind of. There are a few cooks aboard who are running what might be called mini-eateries."
"Weird," Emiko said, wondering if she meant what Ree had said or the man in front of them. He was kind of weird. Maybe it was how it looked as if he was trying not to look at them. Something of both the Marshals' lessons came into her head. She watched the man, wondering why he was keeping his gazed focused on anything but them.
When he suddenly moved, his hand going into his jacket Emiko pushed Ree hard to the side, a moment later, she dove in the other direction. The bullets from his gun impacted in the wall.
Emiko had pulled the holdout from her waistband and had it aimed at the man, but she did not fire. Then he jerked back and there was a lot of blood. Emiko looked over at Ree who had drawn her own pistol. Smoke was coming from the barrel.
"Stay there," Ree said, walking towards the man, keeping her pistol pointed at the man's crumpled form.
Emiko covered Ree, watching as she approached the body. A few seconds later she moved around the body, giving Emiko a clear field of fire. Ree used her foot to prod the body gently, then followed up with a harder kick. A moment later she knelt down and took the weapon from his hand. "He's dead," she said, looking up at Emiko.
Emiko kept her pistol out and walked towards Ree. Ree was looking the body over, she brushed her thumb against the man's forehead, then a strange expression crossed her face.
"What is it?" Emiko asked. Behind her she could hear running feet.
"Bad feeling Emi-chan," Ree said, pinching the skin on the man's forehead and pulling. A moment later a patch of skin came away.
"What are you..." Emiko began to ask but stopped when she saw unbroken skin beneath, unmarked but for a midnight sun tattoo.
"I think," Ree said, throwing the skin away. "He was after you."
"Me?!" Emiko could not believe that. "Why?"
"I don't know, but I bet it has something to do with that broadcast you made."
"What's going on here?" one of the security people asked. "We heard gunshots."
"We have a member of the Midnight Sun here," Ree said, looking up at the man. "I want him identified and then anyone he was with brought to an interrogation room. Keep them all separate and keep this quiet. Do you understand?"
"Yes ma'am," the guard said.
Emiko looked at Ree, a little surprised by her manner.
"Sorry Emi-chan," she said, a little of her lighter manner returning. "We'll have to put off dinner for a little while at least."
"Hai, oneechan," Emiko said.
Closing Credits -- Same as before
Description: 180cm, 76kg, 26 years old, short, straw blonde hair, small blue eyes that make it appear he is squinting at times. Midnight Sun tattoo on forehead, also a tattoo of the sun on his left shoulder blade and the moon on his right.
Quote: "It will be done as you wish, Nemyss."
Notes: Grendel was a member of the SAC, a mekton pilot and commander of an entire squadron. He was in command of an attack on a terrorist base, that it was Midnight Sun was unknown at the time. While the attack was a success, Grendel and his entire team disappeared and no trace was found of them or their Mektons. Several months later Grendel was identified as the leader of a Midnight Sun attack on the London Zenith. Since then he has been identified at several of the larger Midnight Sun attacks.
Grendel is no longer the man he once was. He is driven to destroy the human race, all of it. He shows compassion for no one. The only emotion he seems to be capable of experiencing with any strength is fear, and only of the Nemyss.
Important Stats and Skills: INT 7, REF 8, BODY 8, Expert (Sedition) 6, Leadership 6, Handgun, 6, Rifle 6, Blade 5, Mecha Pilot 8, Demolitions 6. Datalink, Cyberoptics, Nanobodies, Boosterware, Skinweave, Cyberclaws.
Description: 182cm, 78kgs, 24 years old, long black hair, pale skin, brown eyes, that she does not smile often gives her a stern appearance.
Quote: "That's an order."
Notes: Lilith is possibly one of the best commanders the Charybdis have. She moved up quickly in the organization, gaining Avatar's full trust in a short time. Even before the war she had fought in several small engagements against both the ODF and SAC. She is a fairly easy going commander, when she can be. At other times she has no problem with letting everyone know who is in command.
Her main loyalty is to Shiva and her crew.
Important Stats and Skills: INT 7, COOL 8, EMP 7, LUCK 8, Awareness 5, Expert ODF and SAC battle protocol 4, Expert Tactics 6, Human Perception 6, Leadership 7, handgun 5. Datalink.
The Thunder Clap's origin is less than grand. It was one of the first cargo ships built after the colonists had reached the Primus System. During the next two decades the ship transferred ownership several times, finally ending up in the possession of a small smuggling operation. They upgraded the engines and shunt drive and used it for smuggling and running the occasional blockade.
It eventually ended up in Shiva's hands. He added weapons and some armour plate over the most vulnerable areas, then used it as a combat ship. In 2179 the ship was heavily damaged in a fight with pirates. Its engines and shunt drive were still good, so Shiva ordered a massive refit for the old ship.
What emerged from the ship yards was a cruiser that, while not a match for any SAC or ODF cruiser, could handle itself in a fight.
He turned it over to his most trusted and capable lieutenant, Lilith Blackhand.
The Thunder Clap has more in common with an ODF ship than a SAC ship due to the streamlining.
Stats to follow later, maybe.
"Watashi wa anata no ane, soshite haha, soshite anata."
--Miyu Kyuuketsuki ga Yui ni itta
Shawn Hagen <email@example.com>