Episode 18 (2180.07.30)
by Shawn Hagen (1997)
Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.
Opening Credits--same as before
"We're here," Tern said. "I think."
"Looks pretty empty," said Ree, looking over Tern's shoulder.
"There's a lot of noise on the com channels," Emiko said.
"Could be back ground radiation from the star."
"And it might not be," Juan said. "Let's take a look around."
"Emiko, passive scanning only, see if you can find a concentration of noise, then direct the antenna array towards it. Where are they supposed to be?"
"According to Steven the system has six planets, the Alincourts are orbiting the forth one out."
"Let's go and see what's there," Tern brought the ship around and headed into the system.
"I think I got something," Emiko said.
"Listen closer and find out."
"Hai," Emiko said, entering the commands.
After a while Ree left the bridge, then Emiko turned the sensor duties over to Juan and left as well.
"What is it that interests you about these Alincourts?" Tern asked.
"Reputed to be a family of geniuses, robotics and computer experts. They've been out alone for a good long time. If Steven is to be trusted, and I think he is, they have survived out here. That says a lot about them. If they have been working on taking Solingen down then they probably have quite the set up. Useful to the Starblade Battalion, and to me."
"So you are hoping to get some money out of this then?"
"You're assuming that they will want to throw in with us. For all you know when they hear about the USSA, and what it has been doing, they'll throw in on Solingen's side."
"I don't think so."
"Call it a hunch."
"I hope this hunch pays off."
"They usually do. I got something."
"Definite communications. Very low power."
"Near the fourth planet."
"Do you want to go closer?"
"Soon. First let me just check these communications."
"Worried about something?"
"Just wandering into a secret base maintained by either the USSA or Solingen."
"I thought you trusted Steven?"
"I do. To a point. Why take a chance?"
Tern nodded, then waited while Juan worked.
"Okay, none of the transmissions match anything that is standard to the bad guys. Move us away from here."
"Don't you want to get closer?"
"Not until I've knocked. Steven told me that they seem to be pretty security conscious. The way I see it, the farther we are away from them when they finally notice us, the less likely they are to simply start shooting at us."
"I don't earn seven figures for nothing."
"That seven figures," Tern asked as he brought the ship about, "is that annual or monthly."
"Depends on the month."
"No wonder so many people think you're an arrogant bastard."
"I am an arrogant bastard," Juan told him. "Go with your strong points."
Tern smiled slightly as he opened the engines up. "How are you going to be seen?"
"High powered, active scan. Should light up their security boards like a Christmas tree."
"What if it doesn't?"
"Then their security is not very good and I doubt they are the people we are really looking for."
"Okay. So, when?"
"In about ten minutes," Juan got out of the seat. "I'm going aft."
"Going to tell everyone what is up?"
"That, and that they might want to get on a vacc suit, just in case someone starts firing."
"Pretty funny Juan," Tern said. He looked back over his heat back. "That was a joke wasn't it Juan? Juan? If anything happens to my ship, and on the off chance we survive, you'll regret it."
"How long till they notice us?" Diane asked from behind Juan.
"Let's find out," Juan said, activating the sensors.
"I would think it would take someÉ" Tern started.
"Unidentified craft, you have entered a controlled area of space. Identify yourself within one minute or we will treat you as a violent intruder," came over the radio.
"Pretty fast once they know you are here," Tern said, setting the com system to broadcast. "This is The Sloop John B., a private spaceship, registered out of Gravesend."
"Sloop John B. what is your purpose here?" the voice asked.
Tern looked over at Juan. Juan shrugged his shoulder. "Sight seeing," Tern said.
"Sight seeing?" Juan said softly. Tern shrugged his shoulders.
"Sloop John B., a small craft is approaching you. Maintain your position and do not take a hostile posture. The craft approaching you will scan your ship and will cause no harm. Do you understand?"
"Understood. We'll be waiting."
"We will contact you soon."
Tern waited for several seconds to see if anything more was coming. "Well," he said, looking over at Juan. "That didn't go horribly. Yet."
"Do you think that was a real person?"
"She had an interesting accent."
"French, I think."
"So, do we sit here and let them call the shots?"
"For now. I would like it if our initial meeting is as friendly as possible."
"No hostile posture, that leaves us just hanging."
"Their area of space, their rules. I think I've just picked up their scanning craft," Juan told him.
"That was fast," Tern said, taking a look at the sensors. "Pretty small."
"If I had to guess I'd say it was a remote."
"At least it can't have much of a weapon system. Of course if it is a remote, they might have thousands of the things, just floating, powered down, nearly impossible to detect until they hit you."
"Pleasant thought," Diane said.
"We'll have to wait and see," Juan said.
"The moment we shut the scanners down we'll probably vanish from their screens. If not we can also jam them."
"I'll admit there is a certain chanciness to it."
"Rover is here," Juan said.
"Rover?" Diane asked him.
"Good name for a guard dog as any."
"It's giving us the once over. Pretty powerful sensors on that thing."
"Anything about us that might alarm anyone?"
"Other than the stealth stuff, not really."
"Sloop John B.," the radio came to life. "What is your business here?"
"We wish to discuss a business proposition," Juan said.
"Who do you represent?"
"The Starblade Battalion, but I suspect that would not mean anything to you."
"We will be sending a pilot craft to you. You will follow it in. If you deviate from the course you will be fired upon. Do you understand?"
"They seemed to invite us in rather quickly," Diane said.
"Maybe they have heard of us."
"So I just follow this pilot craft?" Tern asked.
"It's what they want."
"We seem to be giving up more and more to these people."
"I think we will be all right," Juan told him.
"But you can't be sure of that."
"If you had wanted a safe life you would have never built this ship."
"Worse comes to worse, I'm sure we can disappear."
"Worse comes to worse. Here's our pilot, prompt aren't they?"
"Anything special about it?"
"Small, doesn't look like it would be crewed. Has a respectable weapons array."
"Don't do anything to make them nervous."
"I'll fly relaxed."
Tern smiled, then waited for the pilot craft. It halted just off his bow, then spun about, presenting its aft to him. When it started moving, he was right behind it.
"Looks like they are taking us to the central area."
"Is that because they are supremely confident, or stupid?" Diane asked.
"They're playing a game," Juan said. "Bringing us in, watching us. If I had to make a guess, I think they want us to think they are not that bright about security."
"They want to make their opponents sloppy."
"That's what I think."
"Or they are just a bunch of engineers with some really big guns who figure they control the situation no matter what happens," Conaly said. "Not stupid, but over-confident. Trusting too much in their tech."
"That could be true," Juan said. "I guess we will find out shortly."
"Think you can get these people on our side?" Conaly asked Juan.
"I think I have a chance."
"That's a trade secret."
"I can see why Diane wants to arrest you."
"Is it because of my boyish good looks?"
"I think he means that you are really annoying," Ree told him.
"Did I miss the announcement? Is it gang up on Juan day already?"
"You don't come off very well as a victim," Diane told him.
"So no one will feel sorry for me? Alas, I am bereft of friends."
"Juan-san, kawaisoo (poor Juan)," Emiko said.
"I knew at least one person on this ship had a heart."
"Please," Ree shook her head. "Emi-chan would feel sorry for a Midnight Sun terrorist. She doesn't count."
"Thank you," Emiko said.
"Now, if we are going to feel sorry for anyone it will be for Emi-chan," Ree said. "You just can't get much more pitiful than our little Emi-chan."
"Can I get transferred to another team?" Emiko asked, sounding a little flustered.
"No," Juan told her. "I can give you a skiing villa if you want."
"Why would I want a skiing villa?"
"Someone's got to want it."
"I'll take it," Ree said.
"You don't deserve it," Juan told her.
"But I've always wanted to learn to ski."
"Our pilot ship just got a friend," Tern said.
"Anything special about it?" Juan asked.
"I think it's manned."
"Someone wanted to get a closer look at us."
"Good or bad sign?"
"Don't know. We'll find out eventually."
"What do you think I'm worried about?"
For a time no one said anything, they just waited and watched. Diane, Conaly, Epiphany and Emiko left the bridge after several minutes. Ree moved in between Juan and Tern so she could better see the sensor readouts.
"I think that is our destination," Juan said, pointing to a object that had just entered their sensor range.
"What do you think it is?" Ree asked.
"Too small to be any sort of colony or factory. Maybe another ship," Tern told her.
"That other craft is speeding up, still on the same course."
"Should we follow it?"
"No, I don't think so."
"Sloop John B.," the voice came over the com. "You will dock with the jetty point ahead. Your tube will be lit up. Do not deviate from course."
"Understood," Tern said.
"Jetty point?" Ree looked at Juan, then Tern.
"Small docking facility I guess. A place to check us out without letting us get too close," Juan told her.
"So they don't trust us."
"Not yet, but give it time."
None of them said anything more as Tern followed the pilot craft. As they got closer to the jetty point they could make out features. It looked a little like a starfish, just one with four extra arms. As promised, one of the arms was brightly lit up.
"How big is it?" Ree asked.
"Four hundred meters across," Tern said.
"Doubt it needs to be much bigger."
The pilot craft suddenly shot off, turning sharply, heading back out into space. Tern decided he was no longer supposed to follow it and continued on to the lit up docking tube. It was a fairly simple design with a universal mount.
He swung his ship's bow ninety degrees around, using micro thrusts to line the airlock up with the docking tube. Once everything was positioned correctly, he began to slow the ship. The range finder's display was beside the velocity indicator. With only a few meters left he almost brought the ship to a complete halt. With a slight jar, the ship made contact with the tube.
"Magnetic clamps activated," Tern said, then stopped as a loud, banging sound echoed through the ship.
"They just locked us in, didn't they," Ree said.
"They did," Tern shook his head. "Sounds like they used a clamping system. Probably made a mess of my paint job, maybe damaged the stealth coat a little."
"Don't complain until we've made friends," Juan said.
"I'll try to control myself," Tern activated the com system. "This is the Sloop John B.. We've docked, now what?"
"Sloop John B.," A male voice came over the radio--the accent similar to the female's, "All passengers will exit your ship. Do not bring any weapons with you. Please come to the center of the jetty."
"He sounds like a bureaucrat," Tern said.
"Well, we have out instructions." Juan got out of his seat.
"Do you think that the Marshals will be happy about leaving their weapons behind?" Ree asked as she pushed off the console, floating back towards the bridge exit.
"I don't think either of them really needs them," Juan floated after her. "And if anyone can hide a weapon on themselves, those two can."
The interior of the docking tube was rather bland, covered in a thick, soft, gray material. There were handholds set in the wall, and a single pull line that ran through the middle. The Sloop John B.'s crew had grabbed hold of the pull line, letting it pull them towards the center of the jetty.
In short order they were approaching the end of the tube. The line went into the wall at the end, and below it--to Juan's perspective--was an open doorway.
He released the line, pushing off slightly, and floated through the door way. Behind him the rest did the same, joining him.
They found themselves in a large, round space, covered by the same gray material that had lined the tubes. There were eight other openings into the room. Other than that it was empty.
"Now what?" Juan asked, slowly floating across the room.
"We wait," Diane suggested, grabbing a handhold and getting her feet against a firm surface.
"For how long though?"
"Not long," Someone said, loudly, with a laugh. The owner of the voice came through one of the other entryways, grabbing a handhold as soon as he entered, jerking to a halt. "I am Daniel Alincourt. Welcome to our system. Now," he released the hand hold and pushed himself towards the floor--or ceiling--of the room, "Let us talk."
Daniel was a tall, thin man. His hair brown hair was cut short, his eyes were brown. He wore a light gray, skin suit.
"About what," Juan asked, twisting himself around so his head was pointed towards Daniel's head.
"Please, Monsieur, can we talk like civilized men, instead of like chimpanzees?"
"Should I be insulted?"
"If you wish to be Monsieur, though that will be your choice."
Juan kicked himself off, twisted about, then landed beside Daniel. In a short time the rest had joined him.
"May I have your names?" Daniel asked.
"Juan Varris," Juan said after a moment.
"Marshall Diane Vichy."
"Marshall Conaly Sharp."
"I am pleased to meet all of you. Madame Miya, I know you from your broadcast. It is a pleasure to meet you."
Emiko stared at him for a few moments, unsure what to say. She settled on, "Thank you."
"May I ask exactly what your purpose is?"
"I take it you know of the Starblade Battalion and its goals?" Juan asked.
"We are here representing the Battalion. We would like to enter into a partnership with the Alincourt family."
"You need our help," he said.
"It is an interesting offer. There are of course problems, but perhaps we could speak of such things in a more comfortable place. We should go to the colonyÉ"
"Daniel," came an angry shout. A shape flew into the room, moving very fast. Diane's hand slid under her jacket, Conaly flexed his arm slightly, his whip sword was propelled into his hand. The shape, human, hit the far wall, tucked, kicked off, and landed right in front of Daniel. Her landing was a little off though and she ended up floating back into the air. "Daniel, they're mine," she said angrily.
The newcomer was a bit below average height, and had a waifish quality to her. She wore her brown hair long and had brown eyes. It was not difficult to see the similarity between her and Daniel. She also wore a skin suit, but hers was a bright red, with black striping.
"Josie," he laughed. "I know how much trouble you have with docking. You wouldn't want them just standing here, waiting, would you?"
"You're an idiot!" she snapped, looking down at him.
"Excuse me," Juan said. "We're yours? You'll have to excuse me, but such a statement does not make me feel easy about this."
"I'm sorry," the woman managed to twist around so she could look back at Juan. You see MonsieurÉ," she stopped, then looked back at Daniel.
"Varris," Daniel said, looking bored.
"Monsieur Varris," she turned back to look at Juan.
"Here," Juan said, reaching up to give her a pull down. "My neck is getting stiff."
"Merci," she said, landing on the floor, bending her knees slightly to absorb the force. "You see Monsieur Varris, we do not see too many visitors here. In fact we see almost no visitors, one of the problems of living so far out," she flashed him a smile. "As a result, the few times we do get visitors we all take turns meeting them. As it so happens, this is my turn," she shot an angry look over at Daniel.
"I think our last guest hardly counts," Daniel said.
"Tough," she shot back, then turned her attention to Juan again. "I've come here to ask you some questions. Now, what do you wish that you come here?"
"They are hoping to gather some support for the Starblade Battalion, Josie," Daniel said, looking a little smug.
"Thank you Daniel," she said frostily. "Why don't you leave now."
"But of course," he said, making a mocking bow towards her. "If you run into any trouble, just call for help. Adieu," he said, kicking off from the floor, floating backwards towards one of the doorways. Josie stared at him the entire time, making sure he was actually leaving.
"I must apologize about that," she said to Juan and the others once he was gone. "My brother can be a very annoying person at times. Now, we haven't been properly introduced. I am Josephine Alincourt. I am very pleased to meet you."
"You know Juan," Ree said. "These are Marshal Diane Vichy, Epiphany Clarris, I'm Ree Maxil, that is Marshal Conaly Sharp, Tern Roarke, and Emiko Miya."
"I am very please to meet you all. Tern Roarke?" She looked thoughtful. "You wouldn't happen to be related to Andre Roarke?"
"He's my father. Why?"
"My uncle often has spoken of him. I am sorry to say he does not seem to paint a flattering picture of your father."
"That's okay, I don't like him much either."
"I seem to have lost the topic of conversation. Now, you are interested in getting us to aid you in your war. Is that correct?"
"Yes," Juan said. "Can I ask how you know about us?"
"We do get information from the cluster, in a very slow fashion. We heard about you and the war last week. In fact, we have already been talking about the possibility of aiding your organization."
"That's good to know," Juan said.
"Well, we are still talking about it." She paused. "There is no reason to stay here. Would you like to come to colony proper now?"
"You seem to be very trusting," Diane said.
"Does it seem that way to you Marshall?" She looked over at Diane. "I can understand that. In a way, we are trusting. The few guests we get are one of our few forms of entertainment. Still, we have scanned your ship," she stopped for a moment. "I was very impressed with the stealth modifications made to the surface. PerhapsÉ" she stopped again. "but that's for later. As I was saying, we have scanned your ship, and you, and see no insurmountable threats. We are taking a chance, but a small one I think."
"I'm sure you would rather take your ship. If you don't mind, I was hoping you would let me ride with you."
"I don't think it is a problem." Juan looked over at Tern who nodded. "We'd be happy to give you a ride."
"Merci," she smiled. "I hope I don't seem too forward, but I design small ships, similar to your Sloop John B.. I'd truly like to see more of it. The initial scans showed some interesting things."
"It was built to some rather exacting specs. There is a lot of technology on her that is cutting edge," Tern said. It had been a while since he had met someone who could truly appreciate the beauty of his ship.
"You must tell me about them," she said, her face lighting up.
"Perhaps we can go now," Diane said.
"Yes," Josephine said. "Please, we have so much to talk about."
The O'Neil colony was one of the bigger ones Juan had seen. When he said as much, Josephine told him that it was fifty kilometers long and six kilometers in diameter. Around it were several other orbital constructs, Josephine told them they were factories. Near one of the factories were a long string of ships.
They were beautiful craft, they passed close to them so Josephine could show them off. They were streamlined craft, with the lines of a shark. On the rear was a rounded, triangular tail, stretching up, twice the height of the ship, looking a little like a dorsal fin, or a sail. Almost all of them looked to be under construction, the ones closest to the factory just a support frame.
"How did you do this all?" Juan asked as they left the ships behind. "There can't be that many of you."
"My uncle is a robotics expert, among other things. We started with a handful of general duty bots, and some heavy construction bots. From there we expanded."
"They must have been some bots," Ree said, staring that the holo screen in the middle of the salon.
"Well, at first we had an AI coordinating them, that added to their effectiveness."
"An AI?" Emiko asked.
"Had?" Epiphany looked away from the screen.
"Well, we knew that an AI might present some problems, or my parents, aunts and uncles did. When they built it they added some small, explosive charges to it, just in case. Two years ago when it started acting a little twitchy, it was given a lobotomy of sorts. Unfortunately it had managed to transfer itself so we had to destroy two of our factories to completely purge it," she sighed. "One of those factories was the small ship facility. I haven't been able to do much work since then."
"What do you do now that the AI is gone?" Juan asked.
"Well, most of the major work has been completed, so we don't really need it. Of course, things are slower. That is why the destroyed factories have not been rebuilt yet. We really do need a greater population."
"So why don't you just put out a call? I'm sure many people would come."
"I'm sure they would Monsieur Varris, but my Uncle won't allow it."
"It is just what he wants. We are not completely sure why, but his word is law."
"Sounds sort of despotic," Juan said.
"I suppose it is, but he is the head of the family."
"So what do you do now?"
"We continue to work, to design and build ships. We have also expanded into other products, robotics of course, computers, various zero-G materials and a number of other things. Right now we are more concerned with research and development than anything else."
"But you would like that to change."
"As I understand it, you left to build a corporation that would be able to challenge Solingen. I think you have it, or at least the basis."
"My Uncle thinks differently. We trust him."
Juan nodded. "Well, where are we going now?"
"The cylinder. That is where our living and guest quarters are. My parents and some others will want to talk to you, ask you a lot of questions. After that, assuming they are happy with your answers, you will have a chance to make your proposal. I hope you can stay for at least a few days."
"I will probably take at least a few days just to make my proposal," Juan told her.
Akira stood beside Tess, staring at the Arrow's frame. It looked a little lighter, more open. Most of the structural material had been replaced by stronger, lighter, and more expensive metals.
"You think it will work," Akira said.
"Uh huh." She was not focused on him.
Akira shrugged his shoulders, then waited.
"We're ready to go," someone shouted. "Power feed started. Everything in the green."
"Begin second stage," Tess said. A moment later powerful motors in the ceiling began moving the cables mounts, pulling the cables as far from the Arrow as they could. Several cables were released, spooling back into the winch units.
Tess looked down at the remote in her hand, checking the readout. Everything looked good. "We're go," Tess shouted, activating the transformation sequence.
Everything went quiet in the room. Unlike the last time Akira had watched there was no squeal when the Arrow began to change shape. He watched as the upper and lower legs came together, encasing the knee joint, the arms began to fold in, the nose section on the back began to move up, the rear of it encasing the Arrow's head.
Tess shifted her eyes from the remote to the Arrow, watching both as best she could. A low squeal began to sound, but none of the stress monitors showed any problems.
The entire suit began to pitch backwards, the arms had completely folded in and the wings were snapping up into place. The nose was almost fully forward. The front of the suit was to become the top the fighter. By the time the craft was suspended parallel to the floor, the nose had locked into place, everything was complete.
Suspended from the ceiling was a fighter.
The cheer went up a few moments later, Akira adding his voice to the others. He was a little surprised when Tess turned around and hugged him.
"We did it!" she shouted. "We did it!"
"Omdetto (congratulations)," he said to her.
Tess released him and turned back to the bay. "Everyone! Listen up!" she shouted, and then had to repeat herself several times to before the bay quieted. "Tonight, we'll crack open several cases of champagne and hose this place down with it, but that is for tonight. We still have work to do. Jeremy!"
"Yea boss," he called out, laughing.
"Run this through the sequence about fifty more times, back and forth. After you got that done, if no problems come up, increase the speed of the sequences, see how fast you can get it, but don't let anything go into the yellow. After that, full examination for stress damage, micro fractures, and the like."
"Right. Where will you be?"
"Doctor Ryuzaki and I are off to see the unveiling of the new HA Dr. Lars' team has finished."
"So, the HA team wins the race."
"They are only the first," Tess told him as she grabbed her jacket. "We'll be the most innovative. If all of today's testing goes well we'll put the power plant in tomorrow and start working on the armour."
"I'll have everything ready."
"Good. Shall we go Dr. Ryuzaki?"
"Please," Akira said, walking towards the doors.
Edward liked a bit of spectacle. He had everyone in a glassed in booth above the design bay. The bay was completely dark, the light from the room reflected off the glass so all the people inside the booth could see was themselves.
"Ladies, Gentlemen," he smiled. "I would like to present the Star Blade Battalion's new HA design. I give you the 'Myrmidon'."
The lights came on in the bay, illuminating the suit that stood there. It was a large unit, but still a little shorter than other HAs were. It's head looked like some fearsome charicture of a demon, until one realized all the eyes were actually spotlights. It's left arm was partially hidden by the shield it carried. In its right hand was a rifle--the weapon had a long, thin, tapering barrel.
A cannon, almost as long as the suit was tall, was mounted on the suit's left shoulder, swung forward, pointing at the booth.
Edward gave them some time to take the entire weapon system in, time to wonder about some of the other features. He was not too much of a showman, but what he was showing made up for that. "Let us begin with the basics. The suit below you is 18 meters in height, and weighs in at 75 tons. Its ground speed is 90 kilometers per hour, and it can reach a flight speed of 453 kilometers per hour. Just to give credit where credit is due, we have Miss Belin to thank for the flight system."
"It's primary weapon is the rifle in its right hand. The rifle is a type 1, Roberts type, plasma rifle."
"An energy weapon?" someone asked.
Edward nodded. "May I ask that you hold your questions until the presentation is finished. Now, as I was saying, the plasma rifle is its main weapon. This weapon has penetration and damage comparable to the Crossbones' rail rifle and the GRM-14, so no problems there. We also have an unlimited ammunition supply, or unlimited as long as the suit's power plant is still functioning.
"The cannon you see on the left shoulder is similar to the Manticore's main weapon, though ours is not a rapid-firing weapon. It is more accurate though. The lack of automatic fire makes it more stable, and it can be fired with just the support of the weapon mount," as he spoke the cannon began to track back and forth, then swung back, folding behind the suit in its storage position.
"Other weapon systems include four heavy missiles in the left side of the torso, and forty, long-range swarm missiles on the right side. We have also given it a rather unique melee weapon."
Below them the suit smoothly locked the rifle into a set of clamps on the rear of the shield, then reached over its right shoulder. A moment later it pulled forth a battle ax. "The ax as been designed not only to cut through armour with ease, but it is also balanced for throwing.
"Again, I owe thanks to Dr. Roberts for the anti-missile system, which, like the rifle, is energy-based. The cockpit design is a gift from Miss Belin, as is the armour. Now, I'd like to move this down to the floor where we can take a closer look at the suit, and I can point out more features. After that I will take your questions. Later today we will be having a demonstration of the suit's capabilities. Now if you will follow me," he started towards the door.
"What do you think Dr. Ryuzaki?" Tess asked as they followed with the others.
"It's an efficient design, quite well thought out. I've already seen the specs, and some of the testing that Dr. Lars has already performed. I suspect it will give the ODF and the SAC quite the surprise the first time they face it."
Auden opened the door to her lab, taking in a few of the subtle changes that had taken place since the last time she had been in it. She had been busy with Circle during the past few weeks, there was so much to do. As a result she had not been able to do any research.
Takako had been a great boon in keeping her research up to date. Her lab was changing slightly, but in a good way. Takako was sitting at the room's only desk, her attention focused on something on the desk.
Auden crossed the room quietly, curious to what Takako was doing. It was some sort of display screen.
"Busy?" Auden asked.
Takako looked up quickly, a little surprised. She relaxed once she saw it was Auden. "Just taking a little break."
"Just some photos," she said, moving back from the screen.
Auden circled around, standing beside Takako. She looked down at the screen, at a picture of Shingo and Makoto standing beside each other, both in uniform. "That was when Makoto-kun graduated from the academy isn't it?"
"Yes. We were so proud of him."
Auden reached down and tapped the scroll keys, moving backwards. There were pictures of Takako and her family, she noted how few there were of the entire family together. She stopped on a picture of Emiko, she guessed it was from her Senior High School Entrance Ceremony. "Have you heard anything from Emiko-chan?"
"Since she vowed to topple governments and stop wars?" Takako asked. "No." She frowned. "This is all my fault."
"You shouldn't be so hard on yourself," Auden told her as the took a seat on the desk. Takako gave her a hard look, but Auden was not moved. It might be rude to sit on desk tops in Japan, but they were not in Japan, and it was her office.
"I should. I made a mistake."
"Everyone makes mistakes," Auden said as she tapped the scroll key again. "You raised a very bright daughter. I may disagree with her stance, but I respect her drive. She is a lot like you."
"If only she had my sense."
"Perhaps she does. She is at a hard stage in her life."
"You are not going to blame this all on adolescent angst are you?" Takako smiled ever so slightly.
"Perhaps," Auden returned the smile, hoping her friend was feeling better. It seemed like a good time to make the proposal. "I have been thinking, Emiko-chan could be of great use to us if she were to join us. She could be convinced to help, don't you think? You could ask her to, perhaps."
"I don't think so."
"Are you sure? We could use a spokesperson like her."
"Perhaps, but I fear my daughter has become stubborn on this point. I do agree with you on the need of a spokesperson though." Takako took a EO pad from her pocket and handed it to Auden.
"Yuki Shizoku?" Takako read aloud. "That name sounds familiar."
"She was featured in several news broadcasts about my daughter. She has a very negative opinion of Emiko."
"Oh yes," Auden said. "I am sorry about that. We had little choiceÉ"
"No need to apologize. It was necessary, perhaps a mistake, but necessary. That is not important. Now, Shizoku-kun is young, intelligent and attractive. She has the proper opinions, and, if she gets into piloting school, will have the sort of job we can capitalize on."
Auden nodded, reading the information. "She could be what we are looking for. I would prefer Emiko-chan though."
"I don't think that will be possible Auden-san," Takako said. "If she was interested in being of assistance she would have returned by now." She went silent for a time. "It really is my fault."
Auden put the EO pad aside and turned her attention to the display screen, hoping to make Takako feel better. "She really has turned out to be a beautiful girl. I remember when she was young, such a clumsy child," she smiled as she began to scroll backwards again.
"She was," Takako smiled.
Auden stopped on a picture. Emiko was standing on a roof, in the Tokyo Geofront. It was probably the roof of the apartment. Behind her, on a drying pole, was a futon with a rather obvious yellow stain on it. Emiko had her arms crossed across her chest and was looking angry, and perhaps a little nervous. "What's this?" Auden asked.
Takako looked over at the screen and chuckled. "Emiko used to have the occasional accident until she was about fourteen." She shook her head. "That time I told her that she could just wait with her futon until it dried. I always suspected she was doing it for attention, much like what she is doing now." Takako smiled sadly. "My poor little girl. None of this is really her fault."
"You shouldn't be so hard on yourself, or her."
"I have to be hard on myself Auden-san. I should have been a stronger mother."
Auden shook her head. It was obvious the Takako had given up on her daughter, at least in some things. She on the other hand, saw how Emiko could be of great use to them. All they had to do was find her and convince her that the Gaian faction was the right one. Not easy, no, but everything was possible, if handled right.
She was going to have to use some of her resources.
Emiko sneezed rather loudly.
"Are you all right?" Tern asked her.
"Fine," she said, rubbing at her nose.
"Not catching a cold?"
"I think it might be all the pollen."
"It could be I guess."
They were walking through the garden maze. The interior of the O'Neil colony was almost completely covered by vegetation. The three sun strips were narrower than standard, and each was crossed by two land bridges two kilometers wide. It was almost completely green. The few structures in the colony were scattered about in a random way.
It was quite attractive.
"This is really nice," Emiko said, walking over to one of the stone benches. "Still, we have been here too long." She sat.
"We've only been here two days."
"But two days of doing nothing. We shouldn't be sitting here, like we are on vacation."
"Want to save the galaxy single-handedly?"
"That's not what I mean."
"Sometimes the only way to go forward is to stop and wait for a while," he told her as he took a seat beside her. "You know, in a hundred years, when all the forests have got some real size, this will be quite the place."
"If it has a hundred years."
"You are being a little negative."
"Why is it taking so long?" Emiko leaned against Tern, putting her head on his shoulder.
"That's just the way it is sometimes," he put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer. "Juan is trying to get them to go along with us. I think this is the first time he has run into hard cases that resist him so well," Tern laughed. "Every time I see him I think he is getting closer and closer to his snapping point."
"Look at this place," Emiko said. "They've built this huge colony, which has a population of a little more than a hundred people. They've got these factories, completely automated, able to build almost anything, and yet they do nothing. I thought they wanted to put Solingen out of business, and yet they do nothing. Why?"
"That is what Juan is trying to find out."
"You're spending a lot of time with Josephine-san," Emiko said, suddenly changing the subject.
"We have a mutual interest in ships. She had been quite demanding, wanting to find out everything she can about the John B. It has been all I can do to keep her away from the Shunt drive. Jealous?"
"No. Why do you call her the Sloop John B.?" Emiko asked.
"Just the name of an old song," he told her. "I named if for my Grandfather in a way. Crazy old guy. He was a goofy foot, taught me to surf and to drive. When I was old enough, we use to go out drinking, all night. He loved sailing, played that song way too much."
"He sounds very nice."
"He was. Never got along with my father. Happiest day in his life was when his wife left me everything."
"He died a month before the ship was done. I knew I wanted to name it after him, somehow. Went through his schooner one day, found the music, and knew what I wanted to call it."
"I like that story."
"So do I," he smiled. "Here, help me," Tern said as he moved Emiko so she was sitting across his lap. Once she was placed properly he tilted her head back slightly and kissed her.
Emiko returned it, being careful not to do too much. Tern was more experienced than she, so she let him direct it. She remembered what Ree had told her and slid her hands up to his shoulders, then gently massaged them.
The kiss seemed to last a long time. When they finally broke it, Emiko buried her face in his shoulder. He placed one hand on the back of her head, and put his other on her knee.
"I won't mind if you say 'no'," he told her as he slid his hand up her leg.
Emiko nodded against his shoulder, but said nothing.
It was sometime later that Ree was wandering though the garden, looking for Emiko. She had been told Emiko and Tern had been seen going into the hedge maze. After a time she found Emiko, sitting alone on a stone bench.
"Emi-chan," she called out, striding towards Emiko. "Where's Tern?"
"He got a call from Josephine, she wanted him to take one of their ships out for a joy ride."
"So why didn't you go with him?" she dropped down onto the bench.
"When he and someone else start talking ships, it is best not to get between them," Emiko said, smiling.
"WellÉ" Ree stopped. She looked around, then at Emiko. She leaned close and sniffed at Emiko a few times. Emiko, shocked by the behavior, pulled back slightly. Suddenly, Ree smiled. "You've been naughty, haven't you?"
Emiko dropped her head, staring down at her shoes. She was sure that she was blushing down to her toes. Still, hiding from it was not the way to deal with it, not with Ree. She forced her head up and looked over at Ree. "Yes."
"Oh, my little sister is finally a woman. Give me all the details. Tell me, tell me!"
"Oneechan!" Emiko said, backing away from Ree.
Ree slid along the bench, staying close to Emiko. "Come on Emi-chan, give me the dirt."
"It's private!" Emiko continued to slide back.
"It won't go beyond me."
"Tell me, Emi-chan!"
"Onee--" Emiko's voice was cut off with a small scream of surprise as she slid from the bench, falling to the ground. "ItaiiiiÉ" she said.
"Are you going to tell me, or do I have to get mean?"
"We didn't do much," Emiko pushed herself up so she was sitting. She looked up at Ree. "I guess you would call it 'petting'."
"What? Nothing more?! Emi-chan, you are not a woman," she humphed, sitting up. "Here you get me all excited with the way you are acting and it turns out you did nothing more than a couple of kids in their parent's house, worried that mom and dad are going to come back at any time. Boring!"
"Gomen!" Emiko said angrily.
"You should be," Ree said. "But I will forgive you."
"Arigato!" Emiko snapped as she stood.
"Are you mad at me Emi-chan? I can tell. When you snap at me in Japanese you are always angry. You are angry."
"And why would that be?"
"Oneechan no baka!"
"Did I ever tell you that you are cute when you are angry?"
"You know, I like English more. We have more swear words."
Emiko stared at her for a moment, then laughed. "I've learned a lot of them."
"Why don't you use them then. Be original."
"If I called you any of the things I've heard on the loading docks what you would do to me?" Emiko asked as she sat down beside Ree.
"Like a good older sister I would probably wash your mouth out with soap."
"Just this old punishment that parents used to pull on kids for using words they themselves used and probably taught the kid. It's kind of an old gag. Saw it on some old vid I once watched."
"Doesn't sound fun."
"Probably not. I wouldn't use it though. I would much prefer to play with your mind until you cried."
"Oh, mental abuse, so much better."
"So, how was it?"
"What Tern and I did?"
"No, dinner last night. Of course what you did!"
"It was," Emiko paused for a while. "Very enjoyable."
"I really liked it."
"Well, that is something."
"Baka!" Emiko said as she gave Ree a hard push, sending her off the bench onto the ground. She got up and ran, laughing. "Oneechan oni desu!"
Ree pushed herself to her feet and wondered why she had just been called a demon. Well, she was sure Emiko would explain it all to her once she had been caught and properly tortured. She sprinted after the girl.
Jesse dropped his kit bag on the ground and sat on it. "I'm dead."
"Want me to bring you back to life?" Akadi asked, moving behind him to massage his shoulders.
"Any time," he tilted his head back and smiled up at her.
"No matter what, you are always predictable. Your uncle looks happy."
"He should. We brought a bunch of his friends back with us."
"Are you happy?"
"Well, we stole some top designers from Singularity Works, which screws them up and gives us some more talent. I'd say it was a successful mission."
"And someone managed to plant some rather big charges on some of Singularity's prototypes."
"Do you want a medal?"
"Yes. A nice shiny one."
"I'll see what I can do."
"Those were beautiful suits."
"The ones you blew up?"
"We'll probably have beautiful suits of our own soon."
"I've got to go report, talk to Redding, find out what is happening. You know, commander stuff."
"Have I ever told you how sexy you are when you are being responsible?"
"Well you are."
"Thank you," he pushed himself to his feet then reached down to grab his bag's strap. "What do you say my cabin, around 20:40?"
"Better make it mine. You never pick up after yourself."
"I'll bring the wine then."
"Good," she said as she grabbed her bag from the floor. She set off, then turned back. She winked, then blew a kiss before continuing on.
Have to find that white, he thought, heading towards the office section.
The small office suited Jesse fine. He did not expect to use it much. The past few hours had been spent catching up on everything with Redding. There had been battles between the ODF and the SAC, but still nothing major. A group of civilians being transported out of the Asgard system had been slaughtered. Redding suspected Midnight Sun involvement, but could not prove it.
He looked over the reports and the SOPs he was writing up. He still had a lot of work to do to get the Battalion up to the speed he needed. The new suits were coming along fine, the HA had already been completed. He had to decide which blade would see the first replacements. That was going to cause some problems.
As he saved his files he sent off a quick web-mail to his Uncle. He wanted a chance to pilot one of those new suits, see what they could do. He explained it in that he needed to find out what it could do if he was going to properly assign them. It sounded good, but the truth was he just wanted to be one of the first to put it through its paces.
Finished for the night, he packed up the few things he wanted to take with him. As he was heading for the door, someone knocked.
"Yea?" Jesse said, pulling it open.
"Jesse, been a while," Steven said.
"Steven? You're here?"
"Where else would I be? I'm one of the good guys."
"You're looking good. How long did you crash for?"
"Two, three days, something like that," he laughed. "I was a bit high strung when I got here. I think I upset one of your NCOs."
"Probably not one of mine. Did you need to see me about anything?"
"Just wanted to talk. Are you busy?"
"I do have plans for tonight, but I have a little time," he stepped back from the doorway so Steven could enter.
"Thanks," Steven walked into the office. "I found a number of things that your people might be interested in."
"Oh?" Jesse closed the door. "Little of this, little of that. I can't give you everything, I owe my backers first, but as some of my backers are with you, I suspect that things will work out."
"We should get Juan in here, he backs you, doesn't he?"
"Juan has always been generous, but he's gone."
"He took off to see the Alincourts. Very excited about it."
"Alincourts? You mean that story about the crazy family?"
"Yes, those Alincourts. They have quite the set up. Factories, a colony, lot of ships."
"This wasn't someÉ"
"I really saw them," Steven said, sounding a little upset.
"They had a manufacturing base?"
"Quite a large one."
"And Juan was interested?"
"He's going to buy them, or something. He's already done similar with a suit design."
"Never mind, I'll explain later," Jesse walked to his door and pulled it open. "Get me the coordinates for this place. We'll be leaving in a few hours."
"Sure," Steven said. "Why so excited?"
"Because he's ahead of me again, and I really don't like it."
Closing Credits--same as before
In Japan, the game of tag goes by the name of 'Onigokko'. Instead of being 'it' one is the 'oni'. So, if you are in Japan, and someone comes up to you, touches you, says 'oni', and then runs off, they might not be insane, but only playful.
The Myrmidon is a large suit, one of the fastest HAs of its kind. While lacking the larger missile complement of the Manticore and Blitzen, it does have the first energy weapon placed on suit. The alpha class armour, and the virtual cockpit are unique to the Starblade Battalion.
The Myrmidon is a 75 ton suit with a ground MA of 5, a flight MA of 14 and an MV of -3 (by virtue of the super charged power plant and +2 movement verniers. As with the majority of Starblade mecha the verniers and the thruster system are mated. The thrust/vernier system is divided up between the legs and the wing array). The head is medium weight, as are the arms and legs, the torso is light heavy and the four wing arrays are light weight. The heavy hydraulics take one space from each servo.
It has medium heavy Alpha type armour on each location.
The shield on the left arm with and SP of 9 and again, Alpha armour. It has a DA of -2.
The plasma rifle is 5 damage weapon, with a BV of 2, and held in one hand.
The head phalanx does 2 points of damage and is dedicated anti missile.
The battle ax does 6 points, and is armour piercing and can be thrown. With the servo bonuses it will do 8 points.
The four heavy missiles do 8 points of damage each.
The swarm missiles do 1 point and have extend range to 8. 40 missiles.
The cannon on the left shoulder does 10 points, fires HEAP rounds and the suit carries 10 rounds. +1 WA.
Light Heavy sensors and an ASP.
The only cockpit is in the torso and it also serves as an escape pod.
I haven't finished this suit yet, and might not. I just put together a rough outline. If anyone wants to put it together, go for it. I may still do so yet.
"Watashi wa anata no ane, soshite haha, soshite anata."
--Miyu Kyuuketsuki ga Yui ni itta
Shawn Hagen <email@example.com>
On to Chapter 18