Episode 24 (2180.10.15)
by Shawn Hagen (1997)
Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.
Opening Credits - Same as before
"This is intolerable," Harold London said. "How could this have happened?"
"I don't care how it might have happened," Barnabas said. "What I want to know is what we will do about this."
"We have to revoke her shares, they were obviously obtained illegally," Harold said.
"Can you prove that?" Albert asked.
"It is obvious isn't it?"
"Obvious does not matter. What we can prove matters."
"So we just take them away."
"Is that a precedent anyone here wants to set?"
No one said anything. Even Harold quieted, realizing just what he had suggested.
"There is not much we can do about this."
"We can ask some questions," Richard said. "Just who owned that stock this Miss Miya has obtained?"
"A very quiet investigation points towards Midnight Sun involvement," Albert said.
There was a small outburst in the room, people wanting to know how such a thing could happen.
"Enough," Albert said. "It happened. The Midnight Sun managed to hide their large ownership by keeping the shares scattered."
"And giving you control to vote those shares," Barnabas said.
"Many people give us control to vote their shares. Do we ask who is giving us that power?"
"We get no where blaming the Chairman," Richard said. "Can we do anything about this?"
"No," Albert said. "An attempt to take away her control of those shares, if we could do it, would generate too much scrutiny. We cannot allow that. It is not in any of our interest that anyone finds out that the Midnight Sun had some influence within our board. Are we agreed?"
Everyone agreed, but Albert knew he walked a fine line. If needed, everyone in the room would sell him out to protect themselves. If that happened he would never again control Solingen.
"As for Miss Miya, she has so far chosen to abstain from all votes. If that changes, we will deal with it."
"If she makes requests for information," Richard said.
"True, but seeing as we are at war, and she is a very new member of the Solingen board, it would not be remiss of us to agree that she only be allowed to exercise her privileges as a share holder in person."
The people in the room gave it some thought. It set a precedent, but one they could control. People began to voice their agreement.
"I take it we are agreed then. Ladies, gentlemen, we have a problem. Some where out there is someone who knows us very well. He or she is playing this game very well. I'd like to know who this person is, as I think we all would."
Again there was agreement from around the table, everyone agreeing. Albert did notice that Laura Donsen seem preoccupied about something. He wondered what she knew.
"Want to tell me what happened at Martin's Point?" Caroline asked Redding.
Redding tapped his fingers on his desk, not looking at her. "What have you heard Miss Mason?"
"Not too much. From what little I have heard the ODF is saying they stopped the SAC from doing something bad. No word from the SAC's direction."
"A small SAC force occupied the colony sight on Martin's Point, they needed the location, and they were basically welcomed, the adult colonists are all Earth space born."
"And the ODF did not want SAC forces occupying that piece of real estate and decided to move them."
"Yes. Unfortunately, neither side cared too much about the two thousand plus civilians." Redding shook his head. "That's unfair. Both sides did what they could to ensure minimum casualties among the civilian population, but could not offer too much. Neither side trusted the other enough."
"So, what did you do?"
"Field Commander Ryuzaki took Light Blade and arranged for the evacuation of those Civilians who wished to leave. Both the SAC and the ODF co-operated, for the most part, and casualties were kept to a minimum."
"One thousand, six hundred and thirty seven civilians evacuated off planet. The SAC garrison was completely destroyed and those civilians that remained are likely all dead. The ODF suffered minor losses. They have not garrisoned the planet."
"So they killed everyone and just left."
"They had no need for a base on the planet. They just wanted to keep the SAC away from it, for now at least."
"Nasty," she said, taking a few notes. "Any thing interesting going on that I should know of?"
"Some of our allies are expressing uncertainty," Redding said after a moment. He did not like being so forward with such information, but the truth was the best way to deal with Caroline.
"The Outworlds right?"
"I've heard a few rumors. Just a bunch of high up worriers whose worry is trickling down. Just needs some standard damage control."
"I know. I've already taken steps."
"Sorry, you're the last person who needs that kind of advice. Anything else."
"Things continue as usual."
"I'd like to talk to those people who dealt with the nukes."
"They have not been fully debriefed yet, and there are aspects of that mission that remain confidential at this time."
"I would think I have 'need to know'."
"Not at this point."
"You're hiding something from me."
She looked at Redding for a moment, then nodded. "You've played straight so far, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. I would like to find out everything that happened as soon as I can."
"You will Miss Mason. It benefits the Battalion that this story comes out, but not at this point."
"Well, that is everything I need to know then," she got to her feet. "Thank you for your time Captain Frost."
"Have a good day," she told him as she left.
Khamul looked over the report Shingo had given him. It was well written, with plenty of linked notes. He was left with few questions.
"You do not know what occurred at that asteroid."
"Give me an idea."
"The ODF have kept a tight lid on all this. They are not even admitting to the explosion, though that was pretty obvious. It might have been an accident, but I doubt it."
"Does it represent a weakness we can exploit?"
"I do not think so."
"Your report is excellent. Once your ship has been re-supplied I want you to continue with your mission."
"Yes sir," Shingo stood-having a little trouble in the one and a half gravities that the carrier's crew sections were rotating at-and saluted the Admiral. He waited until Khamul had returned it then turned and walked from the office.
"Sir," Jackie began hesitantly. "May I ask you something?"
"What?" Shingo said, looking up at her.
"A lot of our work, we're spotting for attacks."
"What is going to happen?"
"That depends," Shingo shifted slightly, laying a report on top of the kotatsu. "Right now no one wants to hit any of the planets in the cluster with nuclear weapons, which is what we would have to use to take out the important targets. If the ODF fleet can be whittled away, we would be able to go after those targets with conventional weapon in surgical attacks."
"I don't see the ODF fleet getting any weaker."
"Not as things stand now. Their cloaking device gives them an incredible tactical advantage. When they choose to hit us, they can come out of no where, taking us completely by surprise, and do incredible damage before we can respond. They don't need to fight us in stand up battles."
"And if this war is still going on a year from now?"
"We'll have probably hit at least one of the planets with a nuclear strike. I don't doubt that We will also have made attempts to take one of the major planets. If we do that, it will be costly, to both sides. I'm not really happy about either of those options. If we do our job well enough, we might be able to find a weakness that we can use to end this all, with minimum loss."
"What about the Starblade Battalion?"
Shingo paused for a moment. He was certain that she was a plant, keeping an eye on him, just in case. He wondered if her question was pure curiosity or if there was something behind it. "I respect the Battalion for what they are trying to do, but they are wrong. It's for the best if the colonies are brought under Earth control."
She nodded. Shingo wondered if she had needed reassurance for herself, or about him. He wished he could just bring it out in the open, but they were intelligence operatives. They kept secrets. He did not want to offend her. "When will we be ready to leave?" he asked, changing the subject.
"We should be completely re-supplied in two more hours."
"Then we set out in two more hours. I want to get a look at the Loki system."
Emiko did not like the jacket. It was not the colour or the material-a silk like product from one of the many insects on Organon-but the shoulder pads. They felt odd and she kept pulling at the jacket, not sure it was hanging right.
The suit she wore had been a gift from the Director of Organon, Joanna Rem. It was by her request that Emiko had come to the planet. According to Captain Frost the people needed some reassuring and she was the best choice. Emiko was not so sure of that.
"Are you all right?" Joanna asked as they walked through the halls of the government office. "You look a little tired."
"I'm fine," Emiko said, trying to keep the nervousness out of her voice.
"Relax, just answer their questions."
Emiko nodded and wondered how she was supposed to answer their questions. She had been given a number of briefings and information, but she did not know if it was going to be enough.
Joanna opened a door, leading Emiko into a conference room. Sitting around a rectangular table were a group of men and women. The members of Organon's governing body as well as a few from Athanaeum. They watched her as she came in, Emiko was not sure how to read their looks. She felt sure that Juan would know exactly what they were thinking. He would easily handle them. She was in over her head.
"Since I have decided that we should lend our support to the Starblade Battalion all of you have come to me with a number of questions. As you have requested, I have arranged for a member of the Battalion to come here and answer those questions. Ladies, gentlemen, this is Lieutenant Miya. Lieutenant, the floor is yours." Joanna walked to the table and took a seat.
Emiko was not sure what to do for a moment. Standing there with a stupid look on her face was not the right thing. She moved forward, almost as if she had been pushed, and took her place behind the podium at the head of the table. She swallowed to moisten her throat. "Your questions."
"Miss," an older man with thinning hair began, then he paused. "Lieutenant Miya, why are you here? Why not someone like this Captain Frost?"
"Captain Frost's schedule keeps him very busy. If he had time to be here I am sure he would be."
"So why you? Why not someone a bit more experienced?"
"I have been a member of the Battalion since it was formed," Emiko told him, her voice even. "Captain Frost has told me that he has every trust in my ability to answer your concerns."
"So you speak for him?"
"In a few matters. I cannot make any agreements on his behalf though."
"Will that not be a problem?" a woman asked.
"I don't see why. You only requested that some questions be answered, not that any agreements be made."
"Lieutenant Miya makes a good point," Joanna said. "Perhaps we should get down to the business of this meeting."
"Fine," the man who had first spoken said. "What are the Battalion's real plans?"
"To stop the war," Emiko told him.
"No," a woman said. "What is your real agenda?"
"To stop this war and ensure that another one like it does not happen. Everything we do and will do is to end the war and save lives."
"I don't believe that," the man said.
"Why not?" Emiko asked him.
"There is more to this. There has to be more."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, this must be about power. You are going to set up a government afterwards, or so you have said."
"We are not doing this for power, though nothing I say will make you believe otherwise I think." She paused, trying to remember all the advice Juan had given her. "That does not really matter. What matters is what is happening right now."
"Mr. Franklin," Joanna said. "While I appreciate your concerns, they get us no where. Whether the ultimate goal is power or peace does not really matter to me, nor should it matter to you. If we reject the Battalion we will have to either throw in with Solingen or the USSA. Going it alone is a loosing proposition."
"I suppose what you have to ask yourself," Emiko began, reciting the words Juan had given her. "is if you want to live under Solingen's laws or the USSA's laws, or try something new."
"Solingen's benevolent rule is anything but," a young man wearing a bright red suit snorted.
"The USSA is not a prize either," the woman who had spoken earlier said.
"Then you don't have much of a choice do you," Emiko said. It sounded a little harsh to her, a little too aggressive. Juan's notes had sent her in that direction though.
"No need to rub our noses in it," Mr. Franklin said.
"I'm sorry," Emiko said, not quite certain what he meant.
"What does the Battalion want from us," a woman who had not spoken before asked. She was a middle aged woman, large, in the way of Sumo wrestlers, with a no nonsense look about her.
"Your support. We need food and medical supplies, two things which the Cronus system has in abundance."
"So you want us to just give you these things?"
"We will be issuing war bonds in lieu of payment. Admittedly, they will only be of value if we win, and the return on them is very low. Not at all a good investment really."
"Your not inspiring me with any great desire to help."
"We will also help you maintain a flow of goods off and on Organon and Athanaeum. I believe you have seen a drop in the number of vessels visiting the planets and in your consumers."
"Solingen has been working at destroying our credibility," the young man in the red suit said.
"I'd say they have succeeded," Emiko said, once more confrontational.
"And you can help?" the large woman demanded.
"Yes. As I said, we will move goods off your planet and bring others in, as well as money. We have arranged for the Charybdis to distribute your medical products within the cluster and for the Ravagers to do the same on Earth. A number of your products are both more effective and cheaper than the equivalents. They will sell."
Emiko could see that the offer took them by surprise. They had not expected the Battalion to do things that would help them. "You currently don't do too much business with Earth do you?" Emiko made her question sound innocent.
"No," Joanna said. "The war kept us from making any inroads into that market."
"Then this will help you, won't it?" Again, the innocent tone.
"Yes it will," Joanna smiled, as if the thought had just occurred to her. Of course she was the one who had told Emiko to ask that question.
"Okay," a thin man with a goatee said. "You can make up for the products we give you..."
"I'd say more than make up for," A young woman wearing a very low cut top said.
"As I was saying," the man glared at the woman. "Material wise we are fine. What about military resources. What will you need?"
"Your militias will fall under the command of the Battalion, but for the present they will remain on sight, to protect this system. It is possible that we will need them elsewhere in the future though."
"And that just leaves us unprotected," the man with the goatee said.
"If any attack is directed at you. Our intelligence suggests, beyond pirates and the Midnight Sun, you do not have to worry about being attacked by either the USSA or Solingen."
"Are we supposed to just accept that?"
"I don't see why not. The USSA, while not completely pleased with the hunting on Athanaeum, does not consider it to be a very large problem. They will not waste the resources on you. Solingen might like to do so, but they do not have the resources to make such a move with the SAC ready to exploit any weakness."
There were some quiet murmurings from around the table as people talked about what Emiko had just said. A lot of them were nodding and looked relieved.
"I have heard Solingen is building up their military strength," the goatee man said. "What happens when they have resources to spare?"
"We hope the conflict will have ended before then. Such a build up would take at least a year, possibly two. But if that is the case, we ourselves should have more resources of our own to answer with."
"Just what are your numbers?" the woman with the low cut top asked.
"I'm not allowed to say," Emiko said. "I'm sorry."
"Don't you think we deserve to know?"
"What I think on the matter does not really matter. I have my orders."
"I have been briefed on the Battalions resources," Joanna said, interrupting the other woman before she could respond. "I feel they are adequate."
Joanna's remark seemed to have the desired effect. Emiko realized how much the people trusted their Director.
"I would like to know," an old man at the far end of the table-he was the oldest person there-said. "just why you are part of this battalion?"
"I guess," Emiko paused. "Because I really have no choice." She paused again. "And it is the right thing to do."
The answer seemed to please him and he asked no more. Emiko was not so fortunate with the others.
They had more questions, but they all boiled down to the same thing; 'What do you want from us and what will you give us?'
It went on for almost three hours before Joanna finally called the meeting to a close and escorted Emiko from the room. Out in the hallway Emiko began to take off her jacket, then stopped, worried that there might be perspiration stains on her blouse.
"That went very well," Joanna said, sounding happy.
"Do you think so?" Emiko was not so sure.
"It is their job to be nervous. They have reason, but sooner or later all of them will realize this is the only, well, the best way to go."
"I think you could have chosen better to speak to them."
"Perhaps, but I didn't want you for them."
Emiko did so. She noticed that almost everyone they passed was looking t her. Some tried to be discreet about it, but a few stared openly. Emiko felt her face grow hot.
"They needed you here. You have the right image. Personally," she dropped her voice so only Emiko would hear it, "I think your just a little too good to be true, but maybe you are. Maybe you are just an ordinary girl who was swept into events you have no control over. The majority of people on this planet, and all the planets, feel exactly the same way. Seeing you is good for them. They think, 'if she can survive it, so can I.' It gives them hope and I'm all for that."
Emiko did not know what to say, so she said nothing. Joanna did not try to start the conversation up again. She just led Emiko to her quarters and then left.
Emiko locked the door behind her then walked to her bed and fell face first onto it. "Kowai wa yo," she said softly.
Ree turned the control on the left side of her chair slightly, watching as the representation of the Arrow responded. She pulled back on both controls, sending the suit into a climb. "I love this set up."
"It does make for easier control," Tess said, looking over some blueprints. "Gives us a nice edge. Fairly simple idea as well."
"I like it. The way it is all set up, everything easy to reach, adjustable controls, and the response time," Ree used her right index finger to initiate the transformation. She watched as the Arrow's representation took on its fighter mode. "Is just great."
"Glad to hear you like it." Tess looked up from her blueprints and smiled at Ree.
"I want to fly this thing."
"We're making some final checks on it, and I have to go and see what Dr. Emila Roberts has come up with."
"She's built the interceptor unit right?"
"Yes. The big unveiling is today, in about twenty minutes in fact."
"Can I come?" Tess asked, shutting down the simulator.
"Sure. I don't think anyone will mind."
"When tomorrow?" Tess stood up.
"When do the tests start tomorrow?"
"Works for me."
"You really are interested in flying this thing aren't you?"
"All you've let me do so far is walk it around the bay a few times and initiate a transformation sequence while it was all trussed up in the harnesses. I want to see what it can really do."
"Well, if the computer simulations are right, we already know what it can do," Tess told her as she put away her work.
"If you believed that you would not have head hunted me to test it."
"True enough. I need some one who can push the Arrow to its limits and survive."
"I'm your girl."
"Let's go," she started across the floor.
"Tess," Ree fell in beside her. "Mind if I ask you a question?"
"What's with the name?"
"The name. I heard some of your team were vying for a name with a bit more flash and you had a major class hissy fit over it."
"Hissy fit?" Tess looked over at Ree, smiling.
"They also said you threatened to walk and take all your goodies with you."
"They," she stressed the word. "Whoever 'they' are, are exaggerating somewhat."
"But you are hard on the name?" They walked through the bay door and into the halls.
"Long story. Just trying to make up for something."
"Just an old, old story. The beauty of engineering. The stupidity of politics. The fear of an evil empire and its assassins. That kind of story."
"It might of been, had it not also been about the death of a dream. I guess I wanted to capture the power of that dream, the fuel the power of it into my design."
"I've got a little of the old blood in me," Tess smiled. "They say my great, great, great, a couple of more greats, grandfather was the seventh son of a seventh son."
"My weirdness is hereditary."
"Well, at least you come by it honestly. Mine is mostly feigned."
Tess smiled again. "You like flying don't you?"
"I live for it."
"I'm that way with my music."
"I've heard you can carry a tune."
"And then some."
"No false modesty. I like that."
"I thought you would."
"My reputation preceded me."
"How could the reputation of the best pilot in all of human space not precede her?"
"I sometimes ask that myself. You know, there is an SAC pilot out there who actually has a personal score to settle with me. You'd think she would realize how futile it is."
"Things like that get me up in the morning. Hey, do you know anything about Doc Ryuzaki's suit?"
"Nothing. He's been keep a tight lid on it. His team refuses to talk."
"When do we get to see that?"
"A few days. It seems that I will be the last one to get my design into production."
"What about that fighter?"
"I might beat that, but only because work on it will not start until tomorrow."
"That's when Doctor Roberts starts it."
"She's handling the interceptor and the fighter. Looks like she has the speed area covered."
"I like to think I beat her to it."
Ree laughed. "We'll show them what a true combat unit can do."
"I certainly hope so. Get your pass ready. We're entering secure territory again."
"My," Ree said as she fished through her jacket pockets for her pass. "You'd think we were in some sort of military design center."
Dr. Roberts had set the unveiling ceremony in her main workroom. Her suit stood in the center, illuminated by several banks of lights. To the sides of the room were a few other suits, in various stages of completion.
The suit had the thin profile of other interceptors, a design built primarily for speed. It was a little shorter than the suits the ODF and SAC used, and it looked a little lighter. The head had a smooth face with only a slight hint of features. There were two eyes, hidden in the shadow cast by a helmet like brow.
It's obvious armament was the plasma rifle it held cradled in both arms. On the left arm was a buckler like shield.
"What do you think?" Ree asked Tess. They stood in the crowd below the new suit, looking up at it.
"No obvious missile racks."
"I don't think it is carrying much in the way of missiles, like the rest of us. The shows about to start."
Ree craned her neck, looking where Tess was. Dr. Roberts was circling around the main group, making for a raised platform at the foot of her suit design. The talking died down as people watched her. She climbed the steps and turned to face everyone.
"Ladies and gentlemen," she called out, quieting the last pockets of conversation. "Thank you for coming today. I would like to introduce you to the Loviatar." She made a grand gesture, indicating the suit behind her.
"As you have no doubt noticed, it is armed with a standard plasma rifle. I hope to replace that with a Mark 2 version I am working on right now. It will have a bit more power and range, but that is for later.
"Within the shoulders are a set of simple counter missiles, they will augment the laser pod in the head when necessary. Also, there are 5 missiles within the torso which should serve when it is facing other suits.
"For in close fighting, I have tried something new."
There was a sound, metal sliding over metal, and from the inside of the Loviatar's right wrist a steel whip slid out.
That brought some laughter from the crowd, a little of it sounding uncomfortable.
"What's up?" Ree asked Tess, sure something was going on that she was missing.
"Rumor has it that Dr. Roberts is a bit of a sadist in the bedroom."
"Oh," Ree said, smiling. "At least she has a sense of humor about it."
On the platform Emila gave her audience a little time to talk amongst themselves, letting them have a little fun, and letting a few have extra time to feel nervous.
"While certainly not a standard weapon, you should not discount it. It will cut right through the armour of a Vigen, and it can be used for entangling attacks. If you don't realize the value of that, my test pilot ripped the rifle out of a Draken's hands when it went by at speed."
The sense of amusement died down at the people on the floor considered what she had just said.
"Added to that, the whip is connected to the suits power plant. It can deliver an electrical shock directly into opposing suits and more importantly their pilots. If it does not kill them, it will probably leave them unable to act for several seconds. I'm sure you can appreciate the effect that will have," she smiled at the assembled crowd.
"It is faster than both the Vigen and the Zephry, and can match the Vogel. It also matches the maneuverability of both the aforementioned interceptors.
"With Miss Belin's armour and control system, it should be more than a match for the other interceptors, and will perform admirably in its role.
"In an hour I will be giving you a demonstration of the suit's capabilities, but until then, I will be answering any questions you have," she smiled then stepped down from the platform.
"She handles it almost like it is a cocktail party," Tess said.
"Got to like her style," Ree told her. "I wonder if I might get a chance to take that thing for a spin."
"You'll like the Arrow more," Tess said, her tone a little too sharp.
"I never said I wouldn't," Ree smiled. "I would just like a chance to take a spin in that thing. Pilot's curiosity."
"I see," Tess said. "Sorry."
"I'm your test pilot. It is the one sort of relationship I'm mostly monogamous with." She stopped, looking at something over Tess' shoulder. "Look, there's Mr. Shiva." Ree pointed towards the Charybdis leader.
Perhaps it was Ree's action, or maybe it was something else, but he turned and walked towards the two women.
"Miss Maxil," he nodded at Ree. "Miss Belin, what do you think of the competition?"
Tess smiled. "The Arrow is better. Eleventh Hour Industries will be set to turn a huge profit when the war is over."
"That is good to hear. Mr. Varris tells me the same thing, but he lies well."
"And I don't?"
"Mr. Shiva," Ree said, "what do you think of the new suit?"
He turned his attention to Ree. "I have no opinion as a pilot as I have not flown it yet. As a businessman, it is a promising design. As for the name, if my encyclopedia database is correct, Loviatar was the Finnish goddess of pain. Good day ladies. Miss Belin, I'll be looking forward to seeing the Arrow unveiled." He nodded to them, sort of a bow, then turned and walked away.
"I think Dr. Roberts is slightly insane," Ree said.
"At least she didn't call it the Sade, or something like that."
"Let's get up close, I want to get a better look at that thing."
"We've got the time."
The two women joined the crowd of onlookers, looking up at the suit, walking around it so they could see it from every angle. Both were looking towards the catwalks, thinking to get a look at it from a higher vantage point, when Emila left a group of people she had been talking to and approached Ree and Tess.
"Tess," she said, smiling. "I would like to thank you for all the help you have given me implementing your designs."
"It was not a problem Dr. Roberts. I owe you thanks for your help with the Arrow's energy weapons."
"I'm glad I could help you as well,." She turned towards Ree. "Miss Maxil, I hear you are testing Tess' suit."
"You've heard right," Ree told her.
"You know, I had hoped to get you as my test pilot, but unfortunately you were not around at the time." She looked straight into Ree's eyes, a slight smile on her face. "I would have liked to have you working for me."
"Alas, there is only one of me," Ree said, smiling. She had the a feeling that she would have normally associated to meeting a member of a large predator, species in one's bathroom. Emila was quite an attractive woman, though she showed her age. There was something matronly about her.
"Well, perhaps next time."
"So Tess," she took her eyes from Ree. "When will you present your suit?"
"Hopefully in a few weeks. Ree tells me that she can shake it out and find all the faults in short order."
"I'll be looking forward to seeing it. I have to go now ladies, hopefully we can talk later," she looked the both over, then walked away.
"Well," Ree said. "That was interesting."
"You know, whenever she looks at me, I get the feeling she is trying to decide the best way to make me cry."
"I knew a woman like her once. She was younger, and did not radiate quite the self confidence, but close. Once she got her hooks in, she never let anyone go."
"Well, I think I'll avoid getting close."
"I'm almost tempted. I respect her drive. Who is her test pilot?"
"Catherine Noveel. She used to fly with the Rangers."
"I know her. Is she around," Ree asked, looking about the room.
"Over there," Tess said.
Ree looked the way she was indicating. She spotted the woman in a far corner, wearing a dark skin suit and a flight jacket. She was talking quietly to several other people.
"Now that's odd," Ree said.
"She was a much more flamboyant and outgoing person when I knew her. She seems to have calmed down a lot."
"Maybe Dr. Roberts has been training her," Tess joked.
The two women stopped talking, then turned to look at each other. Ree laughed first, followed by Tess a moment later.
"I think I will stay far away from the good Doctor," Ree said.
"Good plan. Come on, we might as well make our way to the observation post. We'll want to get a good seat."
Auden looked over the data then shook her head. She looked up at the others sitting at the table. "This will not do. None of it will do."
"We are having a number of problems," Commander Roberts told her.
"You are always having problems. I seem to remember at one point being told that we could have the entire cluster taken in less than a week."
"The colonials were underestimated."
"Then overestimate them this time and react to it," Auden told him.
"We are having difficulties," he said, sounding uncomfortable. "The Economic Council has not okayed the funds we need."
"The Economic Council is nothing."
"That may be so, but Minister Brashal is adamant on this. The war has been much more expensive than we thought it would be. The replacement cost of Battlefeet Kinkade, the training of new personnel, the sabotage we have suffered, all have driven costs up. The Minister claims that the funds we are requesting are extremely wasteful and needed for other things."
"Minister Brashal obviously needs to be dealt with," Auden said, an edge of finality in her voice.
"The Minister is only doing what he thinks is right," Takako said from her place near the end of the table.
Auden looked across at her, shocked to hear her agree with the Minister's policy.
"It is the Council's job to ensure that there is minimum waste. Unfortunately war is wasteful. Perhaps someone should speak to him and make him see that."
"A wise suggestion," Auden said, sure she knew where Takako was going. "Would you like to speak to him?"
"Me?" Takako sounded surprised. "I was thinking of someone with an actual position within the government. I suppose I could though."
"Good," Auden smiled slightly. "Commander, if we get those funds, how long till we can take the cluster?"
"Our analysis reports that we should have the strength to do so within six months. We will have enough people and ships to wage a very aggressive campaign in the Cluster as well as protecting the Sol system."
"Six months is too long."
"If we wish to protect this System, then we have to wait six months."
Auden looked at him for a time, weighing his words. "Then in six months I expect you to start this aggressive campaign. Soon after that I want the cluster under our control. Make sure Admiral Romanov understands that."
Ayves Brashal's offices were in a far away corner of the Sydney Arcology. Takako suspected that he had moved them there so he could have more space. His office suite was rather lavish, with several separate offices and a conference room. For as long as she knew Ayves he had enjoyed his comfort.
"The Minister will see you now," his secretary-a pretty young woman-said.
"Thank you," Takako said as she stood up. She spared the young woman no more attention as she crossed the outer office and entered Ayves' office.
"Takako," Ayves said, meeting her just inside the door. "It's been a while."
"Several years Brashal-san," she took the hand he offered.
"Ayves. Come, have a seat," he directed her towards the couch. "So, what brings you here?" he asked once they were seated.
"I've actually come, in a round about way, in aid of the SAC. They've been having trouble getting funding for the war."
"So," he said, sounding a little cooler. "that's why you have decided to visit. As I have explained before, we cannot afford to spend money as they wish. It is a simple matter of economics."
"You know, some people say that the Economic Council is just getting back for all the time they were marginalized."
"Ridiculous," he smiled at her.
"Perhaps. I've been looking at the Council's reports. I am very impressed with the work you have done. The government has been operating at a surplus for over ten years."
"We do what we can. That's one of the main reasons we are against this huge build up the SAC proposes. It would be extremely wasteful, and is not necessary. After all, if we followed the SAC's new plan, we would loose that surplus."
"We are at war. Being at war demands that we spend money to achieve victory."
"And the build up plan we currently are working under will ensure that the system can be protected, and that we can take the war to the Cluster."
"We will not achieve a decisive victory. We will not crush the ODF and Solingen."
"No, you will not. Perhaps that is for the best."
Takako looked at Ayves for several seconds, not saying anything. "That could be considered a dangerous way of thinking Ayves-san," she finally said.
He laughed. "Don't be so melodramatic Takako. What, are men in dark suits going to break into my home some night and drag me off?" He shook his head. "Really Takako, do you know how many people will be killed, how wasteful it will all be? As a good Gaian I have to work to ensure there is a minimum of waste during this war. Can we just forget about this?"
Takako said nothing. Before she had just thought that Ayves was being petty, that he really could be made to see the right way of thinking. That he was against the war, perhaps even an active member of some group, like the Battalion, had never occurred to her.
Fortunately she had other options, though they were not her first choice.
"Yes, perhaps you are right," she smiled at him. "I just had to try to do a favour for some friends. Sometimes I think I have too many friends," she shook her head.
"You can never have too many friends," he told her. "You just have to know which friends to listen to, and which to be careful around."
"That is very true. I'm sorry to have taken up your time. I'll leave now Ayves-san."
"Don't be ridiculous," he laughed. "Stay. It has been too long since we have been able to meet face to face."
"Thank you," she told him, settling back. "Do you remember when we first met?
"Of course. It was at the Embassy party your father threw. I truly thought it was going to be a terribly boring evening. I had no idea at the time that the Ambassador's daughter was such a beautiful young woman."
"You are flattering me," Takako laughed. "It was all so long ago."
"Not that long ago."
"More than half a life time for me."
"You'd never know it to look at you. It is too bad you are married."
Takako smiled. "I don't think so. You know, sometimes I think back on that night, and I am a little regretful I said no to you," she told him in a hushed tone.
"So am I."
"You must admit, for a seventeen year old girl, much of what you were suggesting sounded very extreme."
"And now, as an experienced woman?"
"Less extreme. As a more conservative person though, some of it seems, well, almost distasteful."
"I never thought you were a prude Takako."
"Oh, I'm not. In fact, I have done a lot of research since then, just out of curiosity. Met some people involved in such things. You know, some of them even knew you?"
"Really?" he laughed. "My reputation grows."
"Perhaps not a good thing. If such aspects about your life were to come to light, it could prove very embarrassing, perhaps detrimental to your career."
"Well, I don't see that happening," he said, then suddenly went quiet. He looked over at Takako.
"A very bad thing indeed," she said, as if she was thinking out loud.
"You wouldn't seriously blackmail me?"
"Whoever said anything about blackmail. No, I would never do a thing like that. I just follow my conscience and do what is right. The same as you I would think," she stared into his eyes. "If you think about something for a time, I'm sure you would realize the right thing to do." Takako lifted her wrist to check her watch. "I'm sorry. I'm running late. I have to go," she told him as she got to her feet.
"Of course," Ayves said, sounding a little distracted. "It was kind of you to come. You must come again."
"Thank you Ayves-san. I'll show myself out."
Takako was in the back of the armoured limousine that Auden had made her use, returning to the administration section of the Arcology when she got a secure, untagged link call.
<Moshi, moshi, Miya-desu.>
<Takako-sempai,> Auden sent. <How did you do it?>
<The Economic Council has approved the new budget.>
<I am very glad to hear that.>
<You are a wonder.>
<I just do my part Auden-san.>
<More than your part. I'll have to cut this call short. I'll see you at the lab.>
<Of course. Goodbye Auden-san.>
<Goodbye, and thank you Sempai.> She cut the link.
Takako leaned back in the lather seat of the car. That was one more problem taken care of. It seemed the huge problems were easy for her to deal with. It was the small ones that caused her the most consternation.
The alarms were wailing, though they would often break off or change their pattern. The lights were flickering and doors were opening and closing. It was a bit of a mess. Emiko was not that surprised, it would be some time before the secondary computers managed to take control of the functions the main computer had once handled.
Emiko grabbed a handhold and stopped her flight. She stared back the way she had come, listening for sounds of pursuit. She heard none. For a time she would have a little breathing space.
Looking down at the pistol in her free hand, she noticed that the action was back, the magazine and chamber empty. Baka! She thought angrily, letting go to the handhold as she ejected the empty magazine. She reached into her pack and pulled out a new magazine, then slid it into the weapon. She released the lock, the action slid forward, chambering a round.
As she returned the weapon to its holster, Emiko kicked off the wall. She still had a distance to travel before she reached the launch bay where she would meet with the Marshals.
She moved fast, taking advantage of the long, large corridors that drove through Calleon. She kept close to the walls, remembering what Diane had taught her. When she came to a branching, Emiko reached out for a handhold, using it as an anchor so she could swing around the corner without loosing too much momentum.
She flew around the corner and crashed right into a solitary member of station security who was coming the other way. They rebounded off each other with force, the rifle he had been carrying went flying off in a different direction from him. Emiko hardly noticed that, busy as she was trying to arrange herself. She was going to hit something very soon and wanted to be in a position to avoid hurting herself.
When she hit the wall of the corridor, she hit feet first, bending her knees to absorb some of the force, grabbing a handhold. In a solid position, she took the time to look around. The man she had collided with was around fifty meters from her, also grasping a hand hold. He stared at her, then looked around, spotting his rifle.
Emiko should have just drawn one of her weapons and shot him, but she could not bring herself to do that. Not yet. As he pushed off, making towards his rifle, Emiko did the same. They almost reached it at the same time, but Emiko was a little faster. She swept her hand out, hitting the weapon, sending it flying down the corridor.
She twisted around, mostly avoiding the man's attack and jerked to a stop, her hand on one of the holds.
The man had also got a handhold, stopping his flight. He kicked off again, giving up on the weapon, aiming himself at Emiko. She waited until his flight had him too far away from a surface that would allow him to alter his flight, then kicked off, passing close enough to him to lash out with a kick while denying him any return attack.
She was spun about by the force of the blow, but had expected it, used it. Once again she had solid surface under her. She saw the man, kicking off, flying down the corridor, going for his rifle.
Flexing her knees, Emiko sprung away, giving chase. Ahead of them, the rifle floated into a larger, open space that several corridors branched out from. The man went for his weapon, his eyes only on it. Emiko saw his mistake. He had moved away from any surface he might push off of and it would be several seconds before he was close to one again.
She used her arms and legs to speed her along, close to the walls. She flew under him just as he was grabbing the weapon, then twisted, letting her feet hit a wall. A moment later she kicked off, straight towards the man's back. He was slowly beginning to alter his orientation so he could fire at her.
The blade that Conaly had given her slid from its sheath, all the training she had received was taking over. She did not have much time to think about what she was doing.
She hit him hard, her blade slicing into his side, cutting though the soft armour wore. The force of the impact drove him back. Emiko floated along with him, ready to kick free when he impacted against the far wall.
Around her were globes of blood, leaking from the wound, floating in the micro gravity. She could see the man's profile, he was looking at her, one of his eyes locked on her. There was pain in that gaze.
They hit the wall fairly hard. Emiko heard bones break, a gasp of pain and then another as she pulled her blade free.
Emiko's eyes opened. She looked at the ceiling above her. It was still a day before she could leave Organon.
Flipping the sheet off herself, she slid out of the bed, putting her feet on the thickly carpeted floor. Her hosts had been very generous, she had been housed in one of the best suites in the best hotel in the city. She was looking forward to leaving, but she was not looking forward to the accommodations on the ships and spinner she would be returning to.
She ran her fingers through her short hair, pulling out the few tangles, then got to her feet. She padded across the room towards the bathroom, rubbing at her eyes.
Some time later Emiko left the hotel, walking quickly along the streets, avoiding large crowds. For the past few days Director Rem had been showing her off, it was the best way Emiko could describe it, letting people see her. She had been to parties and dinners, toured hospitals and factories, and met a lot of people.
She understood what the Director wanted and was glad to help her. People were scared and if being there helped to alleviate some of their fear, that was wonderful, but it was almost oppressive at times. Meeting people, giving them hope, as the Director maintained, made her feel responsible for them. She knew that feeling was wrong, but she could not help herself.
After the past few days she just wanted to be alone.
The hotel was near the edge of the semi-open arcology so it did not take Emiko long to reach one of the exit corridors. The corridor's length was broken by regularly spaced doors. Emiko had been told they were called 'bug locks'. While the insect life on the planet was mostly harmless, it was big.
The atmosphere of the planet was rich in oxygen and the air was clean, but it was also filled with some rather large insects. The arcology had many openings to the outside, but all of them were covered with a very fine netting. It helped to keep the insect population out, though it was not perfect.
Emiko exited the last door way, stepping out, onto a stone pathway. The red sun was huge in the mauve sky. She could see a dark cloud of the huge fliers in the distance, moving away from her. She was glad about that. The insects might not have a taste for humans, but she had already been hit by a fast moving flier the size of her fist and did not want that to happen again. It hurt and it was a little messy.
As she set of along the path she began to feel better. There were less people outside of the city, and the air was rich with the scents of the many flowers the planet was famous for. The floral scents were close to being overwhelming. On either side of the path the flowering plants rose almost a meter in height, a huge sea of blues and pinks on either side of her.
Ahead of her a long, snaky like insect, the size of her leg, crawled across the path. Emiko stopped, waiting until it was gone. Harmless or not, she did not like getting close to a bug that large.
There were not too many insects though. Harvesters worked the area around the arcology almost constantly, gathering up the insects, taking them back to the labs and small companies. She had been told the farther on traveled from the arcology, the more insects there were. She did not plan to travel very far.
The field of flowers she was traveling through began to thin out, the predominant plant becoming a creeper vine of sorts that covered the marshy ground she had moved into. The path way was raised above it. She walked along, taking the branches that led towards the forest.
In time she forgot about the things that were worrying her. Well, not quite forgot, but they seemed a little less important. The sun was warm, the air was rich with wonderful scents, and there were not too many bugs around.
She had come to one of the large clearings in the forest, a small park, when she decided it was time to go back. She would have to take the time to thank Director Rem and everyone else who had been kind to her, and there were some other things she had to take care of before she could leave.
She turned and started back towards the city. She was just entering the woods, stepping into shadows beneath the trees, when something rose up beside her. Emiko was just beginning to move into a defensive stance when something hit her hard, knocking her back into the clearing.
Ryu had finally tracked the Miya girl down. It had not taken much to get to Organon, or to find her, but then things had become difficult. He wanted to kill her, but he did not want to die or get captured himself. It put him in an unfortunate position. He had thought he would have to wait for another time when he had seen the girl leave the arcology by herself.
He had followed her then, wanting her to be as far from the city as possible before he killed her. When he had seen her turning around and heading back, that was when he stuck.
When she entered the shadows under the trees, as her eyes were adjusting, he had attacked, lashing out with a kick. He was a little surprised when she managed to block some of the force. It did not matter though. She flew back into the clearing, landing hard on her back. He was sure he had broken at least one rib.
He moved quickly, not sure what he was going to do. He wanted to kill her, but he wanted it more personal than just shooting her, he wanted it to take longer.
She surprised him, kicking her feet down, springing up, dropping into a fighting stance. Ryu had once thought she was a professional, but he had changed his mind. She was a no one when he had arrested her, a petty criminal at best. Now, thanks to others, and, ironically himself, she had become something more. She was dangerous, in a grand sense. At that moment though, she was nothing.
Emiko sprung to her feet, trying to ignore the burning across her ribs. Something had snapped, she was sure of it. She hoped it was not too bad.
In front of her was the policeman who had arrested her in Tokyo and had attacked her when she had been on Zanzibar. He was more than a policeman though.
She waited for him to approach a bit closer, wondering if he was armed. She assumed he was. So was she, but did not want him to know that until she had the weapon out. She'd attack him, a feint, then draw the pistol and end it.
He was a meter away when Emiko brought her right leg up, snapping it out. She had no real intention of making contact, just something to make him move back a little, or block. He did neither though he moved forward and simply took the blow. It felt to Emiko as if she had just kicked a tree.
He grabbed her leg, twisted it violently, forcing Emiko to flip herself around to avoid having her leg dislocated at the hip. She felt him pushing at her, driving her forward. She ended up hitting the ground, on her stomach.
Emiko was about to push herself up when she felt something slam down against her shoulder blade, driving her back down to the ground. Her right arm was completely trapped under her. She had no way to get to the pistol she carried. Suddenly she was seeing the wisdom in the many weapons that Marshal Vichy carried.
Ryu stood over the girl, putting all his weight onto her, forcing her against the ground. He stared down at her, wondering what to do next. Was it too early to start breaking bones? He did not know how much time he might have, so he had to be quick, but he did not want to rush it either.
The girl had caused him a lot of trouble. She was a threat to the USSA, a threat to all it stood for. He did not like her father. Her death could not be quick.
Ryu realized he had become personally involved. It was a weak point, he knew that. He should just kill her and go. He would not though. So he was personally involved, so what? The girl was not a real threat. He did not have to worry. For once in his life he was owed the chance to mix a little business and pleasure.
He'd take as much time as he could. Looking down at the girl he decided he wanted to hear her beg for a while. It was not so much to ask for. He lifted his foot, prepared to drive it back down, perhaps even breaking the scapula, when she rolled out from under him.
She spun about on the ground, lashing out at his other leg, a sweep. It almost worked. Ryu kept his balance, shifted his other foot, planning on crushing her knee, when he noticed she had a pistol.
Emiko squeezed the trigger, the weapon discharged, the man stumbled back, a splash of red on the front of his shirt. She fired twice more, grouping the rounds close together, watching the man back away from her. Finally he fell backwards, laid out on the ground.
Emiko kept the pistol in front of her, kept it pointed at the man who had tried to kill her. She was breathing hard, wondering if he was dead. She moved as close as she dared and looked down at him. The red stain was spreading out on his front, soaking his shirt. He did not move. She brought the gun up, aiming at his head, squeezing the trigger. She stopped, unable to shoot him, not like that.
She took a few steps back, then turned and ran, heading back to the city. After a minute she began to call for help.
Ryu coughed, his eyes fluttered open. His chest felt like it was on fire, but the pain was fading. The nanomachines in his body were hard at work, trying to keep him alive. Giving him a chance.
The blood flow had stopped. The tiny machines were aiding his platelets, clotting the wounds. They were also carrying oxygen directly to his brain and the more vital of the internal organs, aiding the red blood cells.
Slowly, he got to his feet. He looked around. No sign of the girl. She had once more proved more resourceful than he had thought. He had made a mistake. He should have just shot her from a distance, but he could no longer do that.
She would die, and she would die slowly. He stumbled forward. There was a place he could hide, if he could get to it before anyone showed up. He could get help and get off the planet.
He would have his chance at her again. He would just have to be patient.
Emiko sat in the back of the ambulance, letting the attendant tape up her ribs. The damage had all been minor. She had been told not to worry about.
Ryu was gone though. They had found blood and signs of the struggle, but the man was gone. They had people out looking for him, and Emiko had given them enough information for them to get a picture that was being broadcast around the planet. It was a big planet though with a small population. She doubted they would catch him. She was certain he was too good.
She leaned back and let the attendant do as she pleased. Emiko's thoughts were on other things. The man she had stabbed, possibly killed in the asteroid, and the man she had ran away from without being sure he was dead.
Diane would have done something. Secured him for the police, or just killed him. Emiko had not wanted to do either at the time.
Closing Credits - As before
"We're here in the Engineering section of the USS Enterprise.
We have replaced the fine Dilithium crystals they usually use
with folgers crystals. Let's see what happens.
Shawn Hagen <email@example.com>
On to Chapter 25