Episode 19 (2180.08.02)
by by Shawn Hagen (1997)
Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.
Opening Credits--same as before
Juan stared at the people sitting around the dining room table. Avery, Jannette, David and Louise Alincourt. The elder members of the family, and the ones who had been stonewalling him since the negotiations had begun.
The were talking softly amongst themselves, discussing the last offer he had made them. Juan hoped that they would take it. He had given them everything, he was loosing on the deal in a major way, but he really did not mind. The more he had learned of the Alincourts, the more he was sure that they could be of great help to the Battalion.
Several long minutes later, Jannette turned towards him, the rest fell silent. "Monsieur Varris, your offer is quite generous."
"I hope it is to your liking."
"I'm sorry, we have to refuse."
Juan stared at them for several seconds, wondering if he had heard right. He stood. "We've been going around in circles for almost three days now. At first I thought that you had good business sense, were just trying to sweeten the deal for yourself, perfectly understandable. Now, I don't think that is the case anymore. From the day we started you had no intention of agreeing to this, didn't you? Didn't you!" Juan slammed his fist on the table top. The four people across from him pulled back slightly.
"We're sorry..." Avery began.
"No. No more excuses. Now, I think you want this. You are just sitting on all this great stuff, and you would love to enter the market. I can see it. Your children, you have to hold them on a tight leash. So tell me, why?"
"It is very complex," Louise said.
"Monsieur Varris, we would prefer not to talk about it," David said.
"I can help you," Juan told them. "It is what I do. I get product moving. I make people happy. You've got the product. I can hook you up with people that will reimburse you for working with them. It is a great deal. Now why don't you want it?"
"There is more going on here than you understand."
"I know that! Explain it to me. I've been bouncing around here with only half the picture. I think you want help."
"He's right," Josephine said, walking into the room.
"Josephine!" Louise said. "Listening in on conversations is not polite."
"I'm sorry, mother."
"So, are you going to tell me?" Juan asked her.
"You haven't met my Uncle Philip yet have you?"
"He is the one that brought us out here, well, I wasn't born at the time, so not me."
"I know the story. He left to form a corporation to challenge Solingen."
"Yes," Josephine nodded. "And that is why we can't help you. He will not let us."
"He won't let you?"
"It is his feeling we are not ready yet."
"So why not just tell him to go to hell and just go with it?"
"There is a problem with that."
"That is enough," Josie David said. "This is not something we need to talk about."
"We have to. Monsieur Varris deserves an answer."
"Give it to me then."
"We all have great respect for Uncle Philip. He is a very intelligent man who was the driving force behind everything we have done. It would not be easy for any of us to disobey him. That is part of it."
"What is the other part?"
"Remember when I told you that when our AI started acting up, explosives put within it were triggered to shut it down?"
"And the two factories we destroyed?"
"There were powerful explosives charges put in those factories when they were built. Spoilsport charges, so my Uncle calls them. They are present in every construct."
"And he controls them," Juan said.
"And if you disobey him, he'll kill you all."
"Of course not, Monsieur Varris," Jannette said angrily. "He is not a monster. We would probably have at least a day to evacuate. He would not kill us."
"Just destroy everything you have built."
"As you can see, we have a slight problem," Josephine said.
"So what does he want? Why won't he let you start selling all this?"
"He says we are not ready yet. That we don't have enough power."
"Enough power for what?"
"We are not entirely sure. He says we have to be bigger than Solingen."
"You don't have to be bigger than Solingen to take them on. You've got a strong base here. Increase your work force, get a bit more capital in here, and you could start chipping away at their market share in a few months. Give it a few years, you'd have them on the ropes, if you played the game right."
"We know this, but still, he says we are not ready."
Juan stared down at the table top for a time, deep in thought. "Does he ever say anything else?" Juan asked them. "What does he think of Albert Knox?"
"He doesn't like him at all," Josephine said. "He hates him."
"I want to see him, now," Juan said.
"Impossible," David told him. "Philip has left strict instructions that he is not to be bothered. He will not see you."
"Can you take me to him, Josephine?" Juan asked, ignoring David.
"Yes, but I don't know if he will see you."
"I can but try. Let's go."
"Come this way," Josephine left the room. Juan was close behind her.
"He is a fool," David said. "Does he think he can convince him when his family could not?"
"Is there any harm in letting him try?" Louise asked.
"Well, once he is sure that there is no chance, he and his friends will leave," Jannette said. "I will miss the new faces."
"He knows something," Avery said.
"There was a look in his eye, he knows something. He is sure of himself."
"Don't be ridiculous Avery. What could he know?"
"I don't know," Avery smiled. "But I think he is about to bring about a change of sorts. As he said, he gets product moving."
"You are dreaming," David said.
"Perhaps," Avery got to his feet.
"Where are you going?" Louise asked.
"To take a look at the ships plans. We are going to have to modify the structure if we are to convert them into warships. Perhaps we will have to come up with a completely new design."
"You actually think he will do it," David sounded a little surprised. "What do you know?"
"Know?" Avery started towards the door. "Nothing really. Just an old story, and a name from a long time ago. We will see soon enough," he said over his shoulder as he exited the room.
"What does he know?" Jannette asked. "A name from the past?"
"Perhaps he has a point," Louise said.
"We will have a lot of work to do if we are to start production soon. I think I'll make sure the construction programs are functioning as they should. We all have things to do I suspect." She got to her feet and left the room. Jannette and David looked at each other, then they also stood and walked from the room.
The electric jeep bounced over the bumpy trail. Juan had noticed that there were no real, paved roads within the cylinder. While he supposed some people might enjoy grass covered roadways, he would have much preferred smooth asphalt.
"Where does your uncle live?" Juan asked Josephine.
"The manor house you were in, where the meetings were taking place, is his. That's his official, as it were, residence. He does not spend much time there now."
"So that manor house is his. And the others?"
"All the elders, well, that's not quite the word. The adults in the family, the ones who played a large part in getting everyone out here, each set up their own house, for their family. Think of it like sub-clans within the family. It was decided not to build much more after that, the houses were too big as it was, and still are. There is a desire to have this entire area in a wilderness state."
"So why doesn't he live in his house?"
"Probably because it is so big. He never married, he doesn't have any children. If it wasn't that the place serves as official offices, there would never be anyone in there but him. He spends most of his time in a small workshop he built."
"What does he do there?"
"Research, and keeps us sharp. Calls someone in every few days to grill them on their work. It can be rather unpleasant. He is a very harsh taskmaster. A brilliant teacher though."
"You like him don't you?"
"As much as he can make me feel like screaming, or crying, or both, I love him. He can be very kind, and he is always interested in our work and helping us get things perfect. Why do you think you can get him to agree with you?"
"I've made it my business to know everything I can. Information, and what I do with it, is the basis of my success. I think I have some useful information."
"Can't tell you."
"Okay, so why now. Why didn't you do this when you first got here?"
"I didn't know that my information was of any use."
"So why do you think it will be of use now?"
"Because of what you and the others have told me."
"I see," she paused. "I think."
"Don't worry about it."
"Can you tell me about the Battalion?"
"If you saw the transmission, then you know most of it."
"There has to be more."
"A lot of that is not mine to tell. We're a diverse group. Some people want to help those in need, others have a grudge to settle, some are in it for personal gain, others want to be on the edge and a number just drifted into the battalion."
"Why are you with them Monsieur Varris?"
"A little of all the above reasons, I guess," Juan said, then smiled. "Personal gain is an important one."
"And yet your last few offerings obviously left you in a bad state."
"Well, take a loss now, make a greater gain later."
"I think you are nobler than you think Monsieur Varris."
"If you are looking for a knight Josie, I'm not it. Marshall Conaly is the type to strap on armour and enter the lists."
"From what I've seen, I think you all have your knightly side."
"You are a romantic."
"Perhaps. Can you win?"
"That's a tough one. It all depends on what you mean by winning. An ultimate military victory is unlikely. We can slow them down, keep then from killing too many civilians, but that is it. A political victory though, that we may be able to pull out of the hat."
"I hope you succeed."
"With your help, things look better."
"I hope you don't really need our help. The truth is that I don't think you will be able to convince my uncle to help you."
"We'll see," Juan told her, sounding supremely confident.
Josephine looked over at Juan, but he did not look as if he was going expand on that. She turned back to he road and did not saying anything else until they were approaching her uncle's workshop. "There it is," she said.
Juan looked at the building, a little surprised to see a building with a water wheel. It looked like the old grist mills he had seen pictures of.
"Why the water wheel?"
"My uncle likes it."
"You have to make the water flow in the rivers, right?"
"It would be funnier if he had the wheel hooked up to a generator."
Josephine nodded as she slowed, then stopped the jeep. "You can go in."
"If he wants to talk to you, he will. I can't help you," she smiled. "I'll be waiting out here."
"Right," Juan got out of the jeep.
"Think I'll need it?"
"Don't count me out Josie," Juan told her as he walked towards the mill. He stopped at the door and knocked. The door was not latched very well and swung inwards on the first rap. "Hello?" Juan called as he pushed the door fully open so he could enter.
The interior of the mill was mostly one large room. The ceilings were high, the many windows letting in light, he could see the wooden axles and gears turning, driven by the water wheel. The walls were covered in plans, models and various things covered the tables in the room. Their were also many book shelves, so stuffed full that the books spilled out onto the floor. And near the far wall, sitting at a desk, was the man he had come to see.
Juan could not tell much about him, other than he was big, and he had white, wild hair. "Excuse me," Juan said as he picked his way across the room. "I was wondering if I could speak with you, Mr. Alincourt."
"About what," the man said, his voice gruff. He did not turn to face Juan.
"I suspect you know why I am here."
"I have been kept informed. We are not interested in helping you, Mr. Varris."
"So I have been told."
"You must think highly of yourself if you think you can change my mind. My family has not been able to do so."
"Well, I keep a few cards up my sleeve," Juan had moved so he was in front of Philip. He was a handsome enough man, though old. He wore a thick beard that was as white as his hair.
"I am not interested in helping you, Mr. Varris." He finally looked at Juan.
"I see," Juan said, looking around himself. On the table beside him was a model of a ship. "This is nice."
Philip looked at him for a few seconds, a puzzled look on his face. "It is a design my nephew, Daniel, is working on."
"Very beautiful. Very big."
"It is to be our flagship."
"It doesn't look like a military craft."
"It is not a military flagship," he said, sounding a little angry. "It is a luxury liner. An economic flagship. It will be a sign of our power!" He returned his eyes to the work on his desk. Juan could tell he had just been dismissed.
"Ah, I see," Juan said looking back at the model. It was long, with gentle curves, on the aft were two large pods, all gentle curves-Juan guessed they housed the engines. Mounted on either side of the pods, looking a little like a set of wheels, were rotating decks. Raising from the aft section, looking a little like the bridge tower of an old, Earth warship, was a bridge tower, Juan guessed.
"You know," Juan said, looking up from the tower. "It doesn't matter how much power you have, no matter how large your fleet is, even if you completely take over Solingen GmbH, she will never love you."
Philip's head snapped up. He stared at Juan, he was shaking ever so slightly. "What!?"
"She will never love you. I'm sorry."
Philip looked at him. His eyes were searching Juan's face. For almost a minute he said nothing, then, "You have her eyes you know, but that smug smile, that is all his," he spat.
"Be careful, that sort of talk could get you sued. Mr. Knox does not appreciate such rumors."
"The man is a dog!"
"A rich dog."
"Why are you here?"
"For the exact reasons I said I was here. I have only recently realized why you are holding your family back. I came to tell you to forget it. She doesn't love him because of his power, or his money, or anything like that. She just does. It is rather sad."
"It is horrible. He never deserved her."
"But he got her. And you couldn't stand it."
"I though she cared about his money."
"She was never that shallow."
"No," Philip said sadly. "She never was. How is she?"
"Well enough. I haven't seen her for almost six months. She's started playing golf."
"I see. Did she...does she ever speak of me?"
"Sometimes, as an old friend. She once told me she thought you would have made the better father."
"And that was all?"
"That was all. She does not regret loving him, or the time they had together."
Philip closed his eyes, slumping down. "Have you ever loved someone who didn't love you?"
"No," Juan told him.
"You are very lucky."
"I wanted to think that all I needed was power, but, I think I knew that would never matter."
"He could live in a ditch, or he could own the entire galaxy, she would love him either way."
"I hate him."
"Well, it might not matter to my mother if he lost everything, but it would matter to him," Juan said.
Philip looked up, staring at Juan. "What are you saying?"
"You can make your family happy, and you can get a bit of revenge. You will also be able to help save many, many lives. It might not be what you wanted, but it is something."
"It is. Tell me Mr. Varris, what is in it for the Alincourts if we join with you."
"Fame, a chance to showcase your works, and a thirty percent share of Eleventh Hour Industries, which, with the Alincourt's support, may become the first name in mecha and starship construction."
"Only thirty percent?"
"It's all I have left."
"It is an interesting offer."
"I think so."
"I would like some exclusive contracts with this new government you plan to form, say ten ship designs, guaranteed."
"It sounds reasonable. Of course I can't make that agreement, though I can push for it. Say five."
"We can work with that. No guarantee on the ship's types."
"At least two warships."
"I can push for that."
Philip nodded, then looked back at his desk top. "I love her, you know."
"There are areas where even the best of Factors cannot be of aid."
He got out of his chair, standing up straight. "Come along, Mr. Varris, we have to speak with the rest of my family, and we're going to have to bring things up to speed if we hope to help your Battalion in any sort of timely fashion."
"After you Mr. Alincourt," Juan said, stepping aside.
"We're here," Akadi said as the cutter shunted into the system.
"Well," Jesse looked over at Steven.
"Head in, they'll get in touch with us."
"Attention unknown craft," the com came to life. "You have entered a controlled area of space. Identify yourself and your reason for being here or you will come under fire," a male voice said.
Jesse looked over at Steven. Steven walked to the com station. "Hey, this is Steven Wright, remember me? I've come back with a few friends and, well, you wouldn't happen to have had any more visitors would you?"
"Monsieur Wright, welcome back. That is not your ship."
"No, it's a friends."
Jesse stepped forward. "This is Jesse Ryuzaki, captain of the 'Kitsune'," he paused. "We are with the Starblade Battalion."
There was silence for several seconds. "Kitsune, you have clearance. I'm sure Mr. Wright can direct you to the colony."
"I can do that," Steven said.
"See you soon Kitsune. Control out."
"That was easy," Jesse said.
"Well, I've been here before, but, I think you made a bigger impression on them."
"Juan?" Akadi asked.
"I don't doubt it. Give us the directions Steven."
Sometime later Jesse was staring at the colony and the other orbital constructs. "I don't believe it."
"I told you," Steven said.
"I apologize for doubting you. Where are we supposed to go now?"
"Let's see," Steven activated the com. "Kitsune to control, awaiting instructions, over."
"Kitsune, please approach the colony, enter through the main docking bay, control over."
"Understood, out." Steven looked over at Jesse. "Ready?"
"Let's do so."
The Kitsune came around, its engines flaring for a few seconds. The directional thrusters fired, lining it up with the large docking bay-its opening almost a kilometer long.
"Can you believe that they built this?" Jesse looked over at Akadi.
"Before I saw it, no."
"If we can get them to help us...."
"It would be a major plus," Akadi nodded.
"If Juan's already got us that help..."
"You'll have to decide whether you want to kiss him or kill him?" Akadi suggested.
"Well, kiss is not the right word." He turned to look at Akadi. "Do you want to kiss Juan?"
"I never said that."
"You suggested it."
"Well, he is cute, in a shifty sort of way."
"I like it when you get jealous."
"Entering the docking bay, lined up with orientation lights, loosing speed."
"Okay," Jesse turned his attention to what was happening. "What's the set up?"
"They've opened a shaft below us, standard set up. Lot's of clearance, we can drop right into it."
"Full stop, then send us down, half a meter a second."
The Kitsune came to a full stop, then the dorsal thrusters were fired for a moment causing the ship to fall. They entered the shaft easily and above then a huge set of doors closed above them.
"They got a catch net below us."
"Their show then. Power down."
The Kitsune fell into the steel netting, sets of docking arms swung out to lock onto the Kitsune. They were lowered down the shaft towards the skin of the colony. Several members of the crew gently floated to the deck as the ship began to be effected by the colony's gravity.
"We've got atmosphere outside."
"Clean?" Jesse asked.
"Good to hear it."
The Kitsune was jerked around as it was suddenly moved to the side. "We've entered a bay of sorts. Couple of ships there, the Sloop John B. is one of them.
"This is the place."
The ship shook again, then stopped moving.
"We're docked, and there is a greeting party out there."
"Let's go," Jesse said.
They exited the Kitsune to find a group of three people waiting for them. One was Juan, the other two were a young woman and an older man.
"Welcome to the Alincourt Cylinder," Juan said, he smiled broadly.
"Juan," Jesse stepped forward. "Give me fifty good reasons why I shouldn't hit you."
Juan gave it some thought. "I think I can only manage about thirty-eight."
"Not bad, butÉ" Jesse hit Juan in the stomach.
Juan made a gurgling noise as he doubled up. In the lower gravity he seemed to fall in slow motion.
"Monsieur Varris!" Avery said.
"I'm all right," Juan gasped. "I take it you're not happy about me going off like this," he looked up at Jesse.
"Sometimes Juan," Jesse reached down to give Juan a hand up, "you're too smart for your own good."
"Heard that before. Nice hit."
"So, what have you got?"
"Jesse, I'd like you to meet Avery and Josephine Alincourt, representatives of the Alincourt family. Avery, Josie, this is Jesse Ryuzaki, the Battalions Field Commander, among other things. In case you are wondering, we are friends. I've just upset him."
"You're understating the situation," Jesse told him, then turned to Avery and Josephine. "I apologize for what just happened. I'm not sure what Juan has told you, but I hope that I might be able to convince you to aid us."
"Monsieur Varris had already negotiated a agreement between us. Oh, it still needs to be worked on a little, but that should not take long," Avery said. "We can talk about hat later though. I'm sure that you and your crew would like a chance to rest up."
"I thank you for the offer, but I think we should talk now," he looked over at Juan. "I need to know exactly what arrangements," he stressed the word, "Mr. Varris has made and how our two groups might be of aid to one another."
"Of course Monsieur Ryuzaki. Will you come this way, we'll show you to the quarters we have set aside for you and your people first, then we can talk," Avery said.
"Thank you." Jesse followed after the man a moment later. Akadi fell in beside him, Juan walked on his other side.
"Tell me Juan, just how well do you come out on this?"
"Directly, I break even."
"Eleventh Hour Industries has the potential to be worth a huge amount once it merges with the Alincourts, which should happen in a week, I think. I can't wait till they meet Tess."
"I'll expect a nice birthday present from you," Akadi said to Juan.
"I like her Jesse, she has the right attitude. You could have got a nice birthday present, but after hitting me, you're off my list," Juan told him.
"My life is over," Jesse said.
"Careful," Tern said, watching what Emiko was doing.
"It handles so, so, well, icky," Emiko said, using one of the words Ree had taught her.
"It handles like a dream," Tern told her. "You're just too used to the John B.. This is a five hundred and ninety meter long ship, basically in the cruiser class. You ever flown a cruiser before?"
"I still haven't even driven a car yet."
"I'll take that as a no. Well, if you ever get behind the wheel, figuratively speaking of course, of a cruiser, you'll soon realize that this ship handles like a dream. Now give it some more speed and correct your course a little, about three degrees to the starboard, and half a degree down."
"Okay, so it handles like a dream. It is still a big ship and I can't get it to do exactly what I want."
"It will take a while to get used to it. Be grateful, few people get a chance to learn on a ship like this."
Emiko looked over her shoulder at Juan. He was staring at the screen, a contented look on his face. As Emiko turned back to the controls she realized why Juan wasn't the type to stay with anyone. He loved ships, and cars, and all kinds of vehicles. Well, she amended, perhaps love was too strong a word, and it was not the vehicles themselves that were the object of his desire. It was what he might do with them.
New places to see, new things to do, records to break, he was always looking forward. He might love someone, but they could never hold him.
She thought she should be sad with the realization, but she was not. She liked Tern, she liked the way he was and would not change it. Their relationship might not last forever, she was almost positive it wouldn't, but she did not mind that. He was fun to be with, and he was kind and gentle, and a good friend.
"Increase your angle of attack," Tern said.
Emiko did as she was told.
"This is a tricky maneuver, but a useful one. If you are not worried about your fuel situation, I wouldn't bother using it, but if things are tight, it might be just the thing you are looking for."
"It's funny," Emiko said.
"I can fly mechs, and starships, but I don't know how to drive a car."
"I can teach you if you want."
"That's not it, though I wouldn't say no to driving lessons."
"We'll get around to it soon enough."
"Fine, but that's not it. I just think it is funny that I don't know how to drive a car, that none of my friends can drive, than I'm not even old enough or a license for several months in Japan, but I can pilot a starship."
"You're not really a Starship pilot," Tern told her. "You still need navigation and shunt navigation. Get those, and you could get your papers."
"Okay, but you know what I mean?"
"Yes. It's the nature of war. You train young people to do what needs to be done."
"I don't think I really need to know how to plot a shunt."
"Sure you do. A qualified shunt navigator can write their own tickets, as it were. If we had the time I'd teach you how to pull one apart and put it back together, but we don't have that sort of time, not right now."
"I guess I'll have to make do."
"Watch the angle of attack, you keep dipping the bow too low. The last thing we want to do it make contact with the upper atmosphere."
"This ships not made for reentry is it?"
"No, and that's part of the problem, but you'd be fine as long as we only brushed the upper atmosphere, a little minor damage at most. The main problem is your trying to slingshot around this planet to build up speed, not perform an airbrake."
"Right," Emiko said, correcting her course a little. "I think these ships would be better if they were capable of re-entry."
"They weren't really intended for it. Comfort was the primary concern when they were designing these things. Josephine tells me they have plans for a bit more of a rough and tumble ship that will be capable of making planetfall. For now, comfort and luxury are the key words. Perfect."
"Your approach. Keep it up."
"Hai. How did you get use of this ship?"
"I asked Josephine if I could borrow it."
"Lending out starships seems a bit odd."
"The Alincourts are a bit eccentric, but I'd expect that from anyone who decided to pack up and head of to create a utopia."
"They kind of had one, until we came."
"Utopias can't last Emiko. I suspect it was over before we showed up, we just were responsible for them realizing it."
"That isn't much better."
"I think it is. Now, close your eyes, and tell me what you think is happening."
"Just do it. Get to know how your ship feels, behaves."
"Okay," Emiko closed her eyes. "What should I be feeling?"
"Relax, feel it through the deck plates."
Emiko went quiet, trying to slow her breathing, trying to feel what Tern was talking about. "I think," she paused. "I think there is kind of a vibration, it's like it jars every few seconds."
"Okay, what do you think it is?"
"I don't know."
"Think, think how the ship is built."
"The tail section?" Emiko hazarded a guess.
"The verniers in it are not properly fixed. As they move about, they set up bad vibrations in the hull. Not a major problem, but something you have to think about."
"Because it can effect the way the ship behaves. If you take it into a turns and burns situation, you might run into trouble."
"Turns and burns?"
"Oh. So what should I do?"
"Get it fixed. If you can't do that, then keep abreast of the problem."
"Remember everything I told you about the slingshot?"
"Start on it now, and keep it on course."
"Do you like piloting?" Tern asked her.
Emiko said nothing for a time. "It's hard, but I like it. At first it was just something I had to do, but now I look forward to it."
"Could you live without it?"
"There is nothing else you could do that you would like as much as flying?"
"It's not so much about the actual piloting of the craft as it is the freedom. If you have a starship and the funds to maintain it, you can go anywhere. Give me a ship and a star to guide her by."
"Something left over from the days of tall ships. It has held up surprisingly well."
"What's a tall ship?"
"Old sea going vessel, with tall masts that the sails were hung from."
"They used to navigate by the stars didn't they?"
"Good. Watch your angle of approach," he said good naturedly.
"You should still watch it."
Redding looked the report over, the up at Akadi, then back down at the report. "Is this for real?" he looked up at her again.
"Sir, we are a fun-loving bunch, but this is not the sort of joke that we would pull just for laughs. Everything Jesse wrote in there is fact."
"You'll have to excuse me if I have trouble believing it."
"I had trouble believing it when I saw that damn cylinder. It's real though."
"How long since you left Commander Ryuzaki?"
"Eight hours. We burnt out of the Alincourt system, shunted, and here we are."
Redding nodded. "Get your people together, we'll be going back soon. If you want to take your cutter get it hooked up to the Thunder Clap."
"Right Captain," she got to her feet.
"I want you to brief Captain Blackhand, give her the basics."
"Right," she said, then left the room.
Redding looked over the report once more, then put it aside. He had a lot of work to do.
"Where's Jesse?" Juan asked as he came into the colonies command and control station.
"Still asleep," a young woman named Jacqueline told him. "He was very busy with all the talking."
"Get him up, he'll want to be there when Redding gets in. When did those ships shunt in?"
"About ten minutes ago. We are a bit worried, one is a warship."
"Let me see."
"Here," she brought the scans up on the main screen.
"The cutter is probably the Starblade. That big one on the right, that's the Thunderclap. The other one, I don't know. Probably a newcomer."
"They identified themselves as the 'Perth'."
"Don't know it. Got any info on it?"
"Almost three hundred meters, a lot of weapons, not much else."
"Probably just a new ship of ours, added as part of an honour guard or something. Or maybe they're just paranoid. Where will you be directing the Starblade?"
"Thanks Jackie, remember, get Jesse up," Juan said as he left.
Redding was still not sure what to make of the colony and its attendant factories. It was hard to believe a group of discontented designers might build it all, but there it was.
The Thunder Clap and the Perth had directed to dock at a small station about eighty kilometers from the O-Neil Colony. The Starblade was directed into it. Redding let his people do the work, not saying anything, knowing they did not need him stating the obvious. A short time later they were being swung into a docking clamp in an empty bay.
Empty but for a group of people standing on a catwalk. He picked out Jesse among them easily enough, as well as Juan. The others he did not know, members of the Alincourts he assumed.
"Karyana, come with me, the rest of you sit tight until we get a proper invite."
"Why me?" she asked as she followed Redding towards the airlock.
"Cause you want to be sure no one is doing anything too wrong," he told her.
When they exited the ship Jesse approached them. "Captain Frost, MO Karyana," he nodded to her.
"Commander Ryuzaki, please do the introductions."
"Yes sir. Captain Frost, this is Philip Alincourt, head of the Alincourt Family. Mr. Alincourt, this is Captain Redding Frost, leader of the Starblade Battalion."
Philip stepped forward. He had eschewed his usual, stained coveralls for a dark suit. His wild hair was neatly styled and pulled back, his beard had been trimmed. "Captain Frost," he said, extending his hand. "I am glad to get this chance to meet you."
"Mr. Alincourt, I bring official greetings from the Battalion," he said as he took Philip's hand.
"Please, we must talk, but not here. If you would like, we can provide rooms for the rest of your crew."
"Daniel, take care of it."
"I will, uncle."
"Good. Now, we have much to talk about. Come," he said, making a grand gesture towards an exit. "Great things will happen, I can feel it."
Juan sat at the table, trying not to look bored. He had already sat through the same conversation twice already. Redding asked the same questions that he had asked, that Jesse had asked, and Juan heard the same answers. Redding was learning the details of the deal that had been hammered out, asking for a few changes, but for the most part accepting it.
It was when they got to the final part that the first snag was hit. Redding did not look as if he could believe what was being said.
"Excuse me, am I to understand you want a guarantee, giving you contracts for the construction of eight new ship designs?"
"Yes. Two of those must be warships."
"I can't agree to that," Redding said.
"Actually," Juan said, "you can."
"Commander, Lieutenant Commander Varris, perhaps you'd like to explain to me what you are doing?"
"Getting two parties to a state where they can both work together. I'd say it is standard Factor work, but I'm not making anything off of it," Juan could see that he was pushing the limits of Captain's Frost's patience so did not continue on that track. "Captain, you are currently the head of the Starblade Battalion. When we do everything we have said, we will set up a provisional government, until we can hold elections, correct?"
"Now, in all probability you will head that government."
"That was never my intention."
"Who else can do it, sir?"
Redding was silent for several seconds. "Continue."
"That puts you in position to ensure that those who made great contributions to the Battalion's war effort are compensated for their donations to the Battalion."
"It will be one thing to honour the war bonds we have issued, which I think you as much as anyone know will be but a fraction of what was paid, but to give away eight ship contracts? I can't do that. The public will never allow such a thing."
"The public might surprise you," Juan said. "Though I doubt it."
"Captain Redding," Philip said. "I understand your concerns and problems, completely. You have to understand mine, though. My family have gone to great lengths to build what we have, we have worked very hard for a dream. Supporting you is a way to that dream, or it might be the end of it. I can give you fifteen of our 'Ruby' class ships, now. They are not combat vessels, but they are fast and agile and will serve you well. In a month I can give you ten more of the ships, fitted with armour and guns, Ten cruiser class ships, ships I can almost guarantee are faster and more maneuverable than what you opponents can field. After that, one, maybe two or three ships a month.
"The cost to my family will be crippling. We will use up our stockpiles, we will burn out a great number of our robots, and we will be giving our ships away. We will be destroyed, utterly. We will need contracts for new ships. It is the only thing that will save us."
"I understand Mr. Alincourt, but I can't just can't hand over contracts for ships I don't even know if we will have to build. Say, twenty five percent of the cost of the ships you give us in the first five years, another twenty five in the next five."
"That is something. We bid on the eight contracts like anyone else, but if we can come within thirty percent of the bid you would normally go with, you give it to us."
<Offer twenty percent,> Juan sent to him.
"Twenty percent," Redding said, at the same time thinking that thirty percent seemed fair.
"Twenty five," Philip countered.
<Done.> "Done," Redding said.
"Then were are agreed," Philip said happily, slapping his hand on the table.
"We are agreed that is what I'll fight for," Redding said. "I can't promise anything."
Philip laughed. "If you are in the position to fight for it, I'm sure you will win. Catherine, bring us glasses, we will drink on this."
"Yes Uncle," a young woman said as she got up from her seat at the far end of the table.
Juan stood out on the balcony, a tumbler of amber liquid on the railing in front of him. The exterior mirrors were no longer directing light directly into the colony; night had fallen. He traced the silvery path of a river, his head going back until he was staring straight up. Almost directly above him was a small lake.
"I hope they never have to stop the spinning," Juan shook his head. He picked up his glass and took a drink.
"Commander Varris," Redding said from behind him.
"Captain?" Juan turned around.
"I've been talking to the people in there, the consensus is that you are the only reason the Alincourts are willing to help us. Care to tell me why?"
"It's a personal matter," Juan said, leaning back against the railing. "Not really my place to say."
"Well, it seems I owe you thanks."
"Not really. I'm only doing my job, in an odd sort of way."
"Part of me wants to tell you not to do anything like this again. I won't, mainly because I doubt you'd listen, and because it is too useful to our cause. Don't let that got to your head."
"I won't Captain," Juan smiled.
"Good. Tell me, will Mr. Alincourt be able to live up to is end of the bargain?"
"Yes. He needs to."
"And the quality of his product?"
"Tern informs me that the ships they build are among the best he has ever flown."
"Where is Mr. Roarke?"
"On a romantic cruise with Emiko," Juan said softly.
"He's with Emiko, giving her some pointers on flying the bigger ships."
"How is Miss Miya?"
"And the rest of your team?"
"They're all old campaigners, as it were. No one has to worry about them."
"We're going to have to work out a few more things soon," Redding told him. "I'll want you there."
"About two hours, I've already arranged it with Mr. Alincourt. I'll want you sharp."
"I'll stop drinking."
"Good man," Redding said as he turned around and walked back into the house.
Juan turned around again, put his elbows on the railing, and stared down at the garden below him. Things had gone fairly well, not quite as well as he might have wished--he was not making as much profit as he might have hoped. He was willing to accept that. He could get rich after the war was over.
Akira put on the ear protectors and the safety goggles.
"It's a little crazy in there," Jeremy told him.
"I'm sure I'll be all right."
"Sorry about all the alarms."
"I've accepted a certain amount of chaos from this project," Akira told him as he opened the door and stepped into a typhoon.
Earlier that day environmental sensors had detected a huge change of pressure and had tagged it as explosive decompression. After a short panic, and scrambling EVA repair crews to the site, they had found out the sensors had been mistaken.
Tess was testing the engines she had built for the Arrow.
Akira fought against the wind as he crossed the room towards Tess. She stood close to the engine, well, as close as was safe, her hair and clothes whipped about her. She had been at it for almost three hours now. The alarms were still sounding--no one had been willing to shut them down.
While he was incredibly annoyed about the whole thing, that was not the reason he had come to see her.
<Miss Belin,> he sent.
She turned to face him, <Dr. Akira, the test is going very vell. I hope to put the engines in the Arrow within two or three days.>
<Can you shut that down?>
<Waht?> She looked back at the engine. <Oh, sorry.> She took a small remote from her lab coat pocket and pressed a few buttons. Almost immediately the force of the wind began to drop off and the noise decreased.
Akira waited until things had calmed down a little, then he removed the ear protectors. "Thank you."
"Sorry about all the problems. We're doing a space test tomorrow, we'll strap this thing to a Vogel and see how much power it can put out."
"I thought that you were doing that."
"No," Tess frowned. "Dr. Mako wouldn't let me take this above a forty percent of its output."
"How are you and Reiko getting along?"
"Well, she is very good, and she believes in this project. I mean, when she just came up to me and told me that she was on the project, I knew she wanted to be part of it. Mind you, she wants to take control of it."
"She's a brilliant designer, and she has a lot of experience. She's used to being in control."
"I know, it is just hard to deal with. Still, I'm glad to have her."
"While this is good, it is not what I am here to talk about."
"We're moving the factory."
"I'm not sure of all the facts myself at this point. What I need you to do is get your workspaces secured and be sure all your people get their personal belongings secured. We have a meeting in three hours."
"This means I'm going to have to put tomorrow's test off."
"We'll try to make this move as painless as possible."
"Okay," she nodded. "I'll get it all done."
Akira nodded. "I'll see you in three hours," he told her, then turned and walked towards the exit.
Tess watched him go, then turned around to look at her engine, the powerful thrust system that was going to give the Arrow unmatched speed. She smiled as she approached, reaching into a pocket of her lab coat. She had given Dr. Lars a very nice design for his suit, but not her best. Of course she had only finished the best a few days ago.
She removed a small jar of paint and a brush from her pocket, looking at a flat place on the engine. As she unscrewed the cap she thought it was too bad she had left team Buckaroo. She could have made the Manticore one nasty piece of work.
That was the past though.
She dipped the brush into the pain, then painted a maple leaf on the engine. She stepped back, looking at her handiwork, then nodded. After capping the paint she put the jar back into her pocket. She wrapped the brush in a bit of tissue paper then put that in her pocket as well.
Before leaving the room she turned back to look at her engine once again. "History won't repeat itself this time," she said.
Ending Credits -- Same as before
Correction: In the last episode I said that the Starblade mecha will use alpha class armour. It was pointed out to me that alpha class will really make no difference. Having seen the errors of my way :) I'll change that. Starblade mecha will have beta class armour as the standard.
I'd also like to thank Mark Berger for sending me his mecha design, the 'Stormrider'. Nice craft. On that note, I've decided that I suck when it comes to designing mecha, game wise. So, from this point on I'm only going to provide rough outlines. Less painful that way. If anyone wants to hammer out some numbers for anything I introduce, the latest being the Ruby class liners for those keeping scores, go for it.
"Watashi wa anata no ane, soshite haha, soshite anata."
--Miyu Kyuuketsuki ga Yui ni itta
Shawn Hagen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On to Chapter 20