Episode 36 (2180.12.13)
by Shawn Hagen (1998)
Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.
Opening Titles - As Before
The Starblade Shoal looked festive. It was not that anyone had made a conscious choice to make it look so, it just did. Redding had ordered most of the Blades back into base, holding them ready for specific missions. The many ships, reflecting the light of the sun, their armour plates rolled back, revealing the armour glass windows, seemed to be covered in twinkling lights. There were also the space constructs, covered with navigation lights, that added to it.
While Christmas had lost much of its religions significance over the years, actions from the twentieth century had made it an unofficial holiday of peace. The USSA and Solingen had an unofficial cease fire in effect. Redding had chosen to follow suite. His people needed a rest, a chance to relax.
He knew that the cease fire would be broken, was sure of it. There was nothing he could do about it though. Even if there had been he was not sure if he would stop it. If the two sides wanted to fight far from civilian populations, that was fine with him. A lot of soldiers would likely die, and he felt bad for it. There was only so much the Battalion could do.
The Battalion would enjoy some time off and the holiday was a good time for it.
Of course while most of his people were resting, he was not.
He had been going over all of the reports on the Midnight Sun operation, trying to piece things together. While the mission had been very successful, it had not been as successful as he might have wished.
They had destroyed a part of the Midnight Sun's operation, but how large of a part he did not know. That was one thing that they had not accomplished. They did not have much new information on the terrorists.
"What about that Woton cruiser?" Redding asked Juan.
"Turned out to be a fake. A very good fake, but still a fake."
"So you don't think the ODF is supplying them with equipment?"
"No. There equipment was a mix of military surplus, from both sides, a very few pieces of new equipment, and a lot of modified civilian equipment. It suggests a lot of money though."
"Any idea where that came from?"
"No. Someone wiped the computer systems in the complex, most often with assault weapons."
"So that's it?"
"We've got as much as we could in the time we had. The Midnight Sun is good at covering its tracks."
"I'm going to send all this information to law enforcement agencies on both sides. Maybe they'll be able to do something with it."
"Sounds like a good idea," Juan said. "Anything else?"
"No, that is it."
"So, going to Ree's party?"
"You know, I've been asked that a few times. I'm getting curious. Why is an invitation to this gathering Commander Maxil has arranged such a big item?"
"During her relatively short career in the ODF she picked up a number of reputations. One of them was that she threw the best parties. The legend has grown."
The Clear Floor had started out as dingy, little bar, of a sorts, on board the Nebula Spinner. It had been a joke when it had first been set up by an entrepreneurial little man who otherwise did scut-work for the Nebula Design team.
It had improved over the years, a little, but it was Juan had bought a controlling interest that it had really become something more than just a place to drink where the floor looked out into space.
Ree had closed it down, with Juan's permission, two days before the party so she could get everything ready. Of course that had meant passing her official duties off to Epiphany, but she knew she could get away with it.
The party looked to be a success, if only judging by the number of people who tried to crash it. Not that they had much luck. Stationed at the door were four rather large men whose characteristic twitching suggested the abuse of muscle builders.
Some people, who had realised that they would never get invitation, had found another way to attend. Waiters and waitresses, carrying trays of drinks and finger foods moved through the crowd. If sometimes they took longer breaks than were strictly necessary, sampled their wares or simply joined in on the dance floor, Ree did not mind. She had more than she needed for just such an occurrence.
While bouncers, decorations, wait staff, food and plenty of alcohol helped, she thought her real crowning achievement was the band. As it turned out Tess Belin could indeed sing and play. Quite well.
The people backing her up were not quite in her league, the drummer was in fact rather bad. Tess carried it off very well though. While Ree truly loved the Arrow, she was thinking that the woman would be much better off putting all her energy into her music.
Ree looked about, making sure that all was right. As the hostess she had a certain responsibility to see that everyone enjoyed themselves. It was after all the point of the entire affair.
She moved off through the crowd, saying hello to people she knew, which was most of the crowd. She had crossed the dance floor when she spotted Redding sitting at the bar, a certain space around him. She was a little surprised to see him there, though she had of course sent him an invitation. He did not look like he was enjoying the party though. She was going to have to change that. An unhappy CO tended to have a negative effect on gatherings.
She walked across the bar and took a seat beside him. "Buy a girl a drink Admiral?" She flashed him her best smile.
Redding laughed softly. "I thought the drinks and food were free."
"They are, but I needed an opening line. I thought you'd appreciate one that is of your generation." Ree's smile took on a wicked aspect.
"I don't think anyone is that old."
"Enjoying yourself Admiral?" Re asked.
"Of course," he said politely.
"You don't look it."
"Basically. I suspect that part of it is the loneliness of command and all that."
"If you mean that commanding officers should not be drinking themselves incoherent with their subordinates, then yes."
"No one said you had to drink yourself incoherent."
"I thought that that was the plan," he gave her a wry smile.
"Perhaps for some. For most it is just a chance to get to interact with people and have some fun. What do you drink Admiral?"
"What do you have?"
"Considering Juan had taken a personal interest in this bar, everything."
Ree turned and got the bartenders attention. "Scotch, the good stuff," she said.
"The good stuff?"
"There has to be good stuff."
A moment later the bartender put a tumbler of scotch in front of Redding.
"Now Admiral," Ree said, reaching out and grasping his hand. "I want you to take this drink," she moved his hand and put it around the glass. "And I want you to wander about this room, meeting some of the people who work for you. It is good for morale. So I've been told."
"A very powerful argument," Redding said as he got up from the bar. "Is there anything you don't do well?"
"Lots of things. I just don't do them so no one knows. For example, never ask me to cook for you."
"I'll remember that. Commander, thank you to the invitation to this gathering."
"You are welcome Admiral. Enjoy yourself."
Redding nodded, then turned and walked away.
Ree smiled after him for a moment, then left the bar herself, making her way to the entrance. The number of uninvited people was beginning to grow. She would send most of them off to other gatherings that were taking place throughout the spinner, and a few, the very attractive ones, she'd invite in.
The space around Faraday was quiet. A few days before the Colonies had launched another small land and grab raid. The SAC ships in orbit around Faraday and in the system were used to the pattern.
While some speculation had placed Faraday as the most important target in the war, things had not turned out that way. For the most part little of importance happened on or around Faraday. The occasional raids by the ODF were almost a welcome relief to the crews of the SAC ships.
When two battle fleets shunted into the system, and a small unit dropped its cloaks almost right on top of the SAC ships, they knew that things had changed.
It was a very brutal, and very short battle. The Chain Gang led the attack, taking twenty five percent casualties in the first two minutes, but managing to deal out more damage than they took.
By the time the two battle fleets arrived, Infinity force-with its new ships and something to prove-and Malachi force-with its new carrier-the battle was mostly over. The SAC ships were in retreat.
No time was wasted in congratulations, those would come later, if they succeeded. There was still work to be done.
Defensive satellites began going up around the planet. They were large weapon platforms, each with enough power to seriously harm anything up to cruiser size. Much farther out from the planet Probability Anchors were put into place.
Specially constructed landing ships had put down on the planets surface in several locations. Engineering suits moved out and began digging in. The construction process moved along at incredible speeds as defensive positions were assembled and huge, planetary guns were built. For the first time the Crystal Chime trees were used in Pleiades weapon construction. The conductive materials in the rail guns all used the wood of the tree. It had been considered fitting.
While all that was happening, as Faraday was fortified by the ODF, they waited for the SAC counter attack. It did not come. Not that day at least.
The Pleiades take over of Faraday had made the news four days after it had happened. There had been rumours, but they were just that. When USSA spokespeople made the announcement it added fuel to the fire. Reporters were asking everyone who might know what was happening, what their opinion was.
Emiko had not been left out of that, though few reporters could get really close to her. She had ignored any questions that had been put to her. The truth was that she really did not know what to think about the Faraday situation. She did not know what the USSA might do. She did not know what the Pleiades' forces were doing. She did not know how the Battalion might react.
Her silence was attributed to a number of things, but no one suggested ignorance. That was too easy an answer.
Getting out of Sydney had helped. As her mother had promised, they had returned to Japan for the New Years holiday. While a number of reporters wanted to speak with her in Japan as well, they were most polite about it. Most of them had accepted her negative response well enough. A few had not, but they had been dissuaded.
Late New Years day, with the setting sun colouring everything red, Emiko was given anonymity by the crowd.
The surface of Tokyo was one huge park, slowly being restored to what the Historic Trust thought was a pristine condition. The forests were coming along nicely, and most of the streams that ran through the area were clean enough for some fish to live in. Dirty air was still a threat, blowing in from other parts of Japan, or across the Sea of Japan. Most of the people carried breathers tucked away in their kimonos, or in a pocket. Air samplers, disguised as jewellery, were another popular item.
There were few buildings above ground. The terminus stations, poised above the entrances into the Geo-Front were the newest. The rest of the buildings, like the Emperor's Palace, the Meiji Shrine, and the Zozo-ji Temple all had great historic value.
During the New Years holidays much of Tokyo's population made trips to the surface to visit the shrines. All were beautiful, built in traditional ways, often to traditional plans. The Historic Trust had been criticised that it often choose to rebuild the sites larger than they had been originally. The Historic Trust countered by saying had the original builders had the space they now enjoyed, they would have made them larger as well.
Emiko loved visiting temples and shrines, but during the New Year she was driven to it. There were so many people about, the Miko, shrine maidens, in their red hakama and white kimono, the fireworks, the food, the cold, clean air. It all drew her.
That night she was with Alice, who enjoyed everything as much as Emiko. Together they pushed through the crowds, purchased good luck charms, and Hamaya, evil destroying arrows, on which hung small, wooden plaques. On the plaques were painted snakes, for the year. They drank warmed sake that was offered them and purchased slips of papers on which divinations were written. They both read their fortunes, then tied them in little bows on the bare limbs of one of the trees in the shrine.
As Emiko finished twisting her paper about the limb she stepped back. The trees limbs, and the limbs of other trees, were covered in the twists of paper, almost making it look like it was blooming. She smiled, then went off with Alice to do something else. The something else was the purchase of ema bearing snakes, on which they wrote their hopes for the new year before hanging them on a rack outside of one of the shrine buildings.
As Alice finished tying off hers she looked over at Emiko and laughed.
"I'm just glad you are here."
Emiko smiled as well, tying off her ema, on which was only written 'peace'. "I'm glad I'm here as well."
Alice looked about. "Do you know there are people following us?"
Emiko nodded. "My bodyguards."
"Well, kind of a combination bodyguard, tender. They are around to make sure I don't run off."
"Emiko-chan is very important." Alice laughed.
"I don't want to be."
"Come on," Alice reached out and grabbed her hand. "Let's go sit down." She pulled Emiko across the court yard, dodging people as she went, to a low stone wall far in the back. Emiko let herself be dragged along and concentrated on not dropping the hamaya or any of the other charms she carried. The bells on the hamaya rung out, but the sound was lost in all the noise.
Alice let go of her hand just before they reached the wall. She bent over and brushed some dirt and grit from the top, then took a seat. Emiko copied her. Their kimonos were warm, but the breeze still managed to get into the them and Alice shivered slightly. She moved closer to Emiko for warmth and a little shelter from the breeze.
"Emiko-chan," Alice said softly. "What happened?"
It was the first time Alice had asked about anything concerning the war, and what part she had played in it. Emiko also knew exactly what she was asking, having had expected it. Having wanted Alice to ask it. Now that she had, Emiko suddenly did not feel like saying anything.
"You can tell me, can't you?" Alice asked, sensing Emiko's unease.
"I met someone one," Emiko said softly. "I fell in love."
Alice was about to say that was wonderful, but something about Emiko made her hold it. She had often talked about love with Emiko, and both had had their crushes, but this seemed different. There was more to it.
Emiko was silent for a time, her finger gently playing with the hamaya, and the things tied to it. "He died," she said.
It was not what not what Alice had expected. She did not know what to say. All she could do was lean a little closer to Emiko and put an arm across her shoulders.
"He died Arisu-chan," she said again, her voice breaking. "He's just gone and I miss him so much." Emiko turned, letting the things in her hands drop to the ground as she put her arms around Alice and hugged her. "I loved him so much, and now he is gone."
Alice held her friend tight. She did not have the words, but she could at least be there for Emiko.
In the busy shrine few people noticed the two girls near the back, one crying softly. Emiko's security people saw, but were too busy to really give it much attention.
The train was crowded but Emiko and Alice had managed to get seats. People were packed in tightly, the crowd that had earlier travelled to the surface of Tokyo were now returning to their homes.
Alice as asleep, her head resting on Emiko's shoulder. Emiko was awake, though tired. She would have been hard pressed to sleep even if she had not thought that she should stay awake. Her mind was too full of thoughts about Tern, and her past, and her future.
She was glad she had told Alice what had happened. It had helped a lot. She just wished she could have told her mother. There was still a gulf between them, it was mixed up with feelings of betrayal, Emiko was sure of that.
Sitting in the train, staring straight ahead, Emiko wondered if she and her mother might ever bridge that gulf.
Emiko was still wondering about that when the train pulled into Alice's stop. Emiko woke her and watched as she pushed her way out of the train. She turned on the platform and waved goodbye to Emiko. Emiko waved at her as the train pulled away from the platform.
A short time later she was pushing her way out of the still crowded train. Once she thought that someone had grabbed her in a rather intimate and most unwelcome way, but the touch was only there for a moment, and then she heard someone mutter an apology. The train was crowded after all and things like that happened.
The air outside was cooler, fresher. A cool breeze blew across her face. The air within the huge cavern that houses Tokyo was kept constantly moving by a series of fans, and to a small extent displacement by vehicles. She stood there after most of the people had moved off, taking deep breaths of Tokyo's air.
It was a unique mix that she had not found anywhere else. The rock that surrounded them seemed to imbue it with a slight mineral taste, and then there was the subtle hint of machinery from the fans that moved it. It mixed with ozone and incense, with flowers and people, with thousand of other scents that said home to her.
Sighing, Emiko shook her head, then started towards the exit. It was very late, or very early, and she wanted to take a long, hot bath before going to sleep.
When she reached the apartment she found her mother was still not home. Emiko wondered what she was doing, but was too tired to give it too much thought. She went to the bathing room and started the tub filling before going to her small bedroom to undress.
Earlier that evening she and Alice had helped each other dress, now she had to contend with the kimono by herself. Getting it off was easier than putting it on though. The obi was the most difficult part to remove, Alice had tied it in a very decorative and complicated bow. Once she had it untied thought the rest was each enough.
She hung everything carefully so it could be folded up and put away properly, later. From her bed she grabbed a bathrobe, put it on, and went to take a bath.
Knocking on her door woke her. Emiko pushed the comforter from over her head and looked at the clock on her desk. A little after nine.
"Emiko, asagohan da (breakfast)," her mother said as she opened the door.
"Hai," Emiko said then yawned.
Her mother closed the door as Emiko threw the covers off herself. She swung her feet down onto the carpeted floor, then got to her feet. She buttoned up her pyjama top, then left her room. Her first stop was the bathroom before going onto the kitchen where her mother had laid out bowl of rice, some fired tofu and natto.
"What are you going to do today?" her mother asked as she sat down.
"I don't know. I think Arisu-san wants to do something, she'll probably call me." Emiko sat down opposite to her mother.
"I heard from your father last night."
"Really?" Emiko asked brightly as she reached for her hashi, chopsticks.
"He said he was fine and he missed us."
"What about oniisan?"
"I have not heard from him lately, but I'm sure he is all right."
Emiko nodded, smiling.
"We'll have to return to Sydney tomorrow."
Emiko's smile was gone. "I'll be ready to go."
"Don't you like Sydney?"
"It's very nice," Emiko said after a moment.
"What about the school?"
"I like it, and the students, but when we are in Japan," Emiko paused. "It's like everything never happened, almost."
Takako stared down at the food in front of her. She picked up a piece of tofu, put it in her mouth and chewed. She swallowed. "It did happen though."
"I know. But I can pretend that it did not."
"That still doesn't change that it did happen," Takako said.
Emiko nodded. She turned her attention to her food for a few minutes. Finally she looked up again. "Kaasan?"
"Yes," Takako looked at her.
Emiko was about to tell her about Tern, but the memory of that list, of how she had given it to Redding, flashed in her mind. She could not say it. "Is there anything you want me to do before we leave?" she asked instead.
"No," Takako shook her head. "You just enjoy your last day here. Make sure you are ready to go tomorrow."
Emiko nodded, and turned back to her food.
Takako watched her daughter, wondering what she had been about to say. There was something separating them and Takako was not sure what it was. She did think it might be her fault though.
After dinner Emiko returned to her room. She looked around and decided she was going to have to clean up a little before leaving. The first thing to start off with would be the Kimono. She had to get that back into its box.
She made her bed then lay the kimono on it so she could fold it. Once done she put it into its storage box. She placed all the accessories in with it, except for the obi which she wanted to properly fold. In laying it out she noticed a bright yellow square standing out from the dark material.
It was stuck to the material with tiny barbs and it took her a moment to free it. She looked at it, something wrapped within yellow foil. From the size and feel of it she was certain it was a data chip. Unwrapping if from the foil she found out it was indeed a data chip.
She placed the chip on her desk, then continued with the obi. Once she had it folded up and in the box, then the box sealed, she turned her attention to the chip. It was a standard model, nothing out of the ordinary.
From her luggage she removed her computer. She plugged the chip and accessed it. It was, not to surprisingly, protected by a password. If the Battalion had sent her the chip then they expected her to know the password. She thought about if for a moment then entered 'Starblade'. It was incorrect. Probably too obvious anyway.
She entered several more names, places, and code words, all of which were incorrect.
Emiko sat back and thought about it. Who might have placed the chip on her? Probably a Ravager. They were still on Earth, and could get almost anywhere they wanted. Some of them could at least. She tried to remember the previous evening, anyone she might have seen. After a moments thought she entered 'Grey' which was also incorrect. She thought a moment longer, then entered 'Match'. That was it.
Smiling at her cleverness, and wondering if Match had indeed planted the chip on her, Emiko began to read. Contained on the chip was all the information she needed to get off the planet, if she so chose. Nice information to know, but she was not quite ready to leave, not yet. There were still a few things she had to look into, and other things she had to arrange.
Several days after New Years and the actions at Faraday were still in the news. What the Colonies were doing there had still not been released to the press, but everyone had their own opinions. The most accepted story was that the whole planet was being stripped bare, its entire ecosystem in the process of being completely destroyed.
A lot of people wanted to know if anything would be done about it. The USSA and the SAC were being very quiet about it.
There were a lot of questions. Only a few people had the answers. One of them was Emiko.
She was awoken to her alarm, several data screens coming on at once, presenting the latest news. Emiko sat up in her bed, yawned, then swung her legs out from under the covers. She sat on the bed for a moment, then looked around at all the screens. No big changes, though the SAC had just commissioned a carrier with great a great deal pomp and circumstance a few hours before. The 'Azrael'. A small screen within the screen gave her a likely translation. An angel from Judeo/Christian literature. The Angel of Death.
Emiko groaned softly as she padded out of her room, making her way to the bathroom. She hoped the name was just some fluke and not an indication of the state of mind the SAC in general was in. Azrael, a brand new carrier, Legend Class Beta. She had read the specs on them. More weapons, tougher structure, redundant systems, everything that had been perceived wrong with the Legend Class improved.
In the bathroom she had installed more screens. Painted liquid crystals on the mirror. Invisible until she activated them. They appeared on all four corners, leaving the centre of the mirror free for its original purpose.
After relieving herself, and brushing her teeth, she left the bathroom-the screens going off behind her-and returned to her room. From her closet she took her school uniform and laid it out on her bed. From her chest of drawers she removed a pair of panties, a half slip, her bra, and a pair of socks, laying them out.
The screens were still playing information that Emiko paid an offhand sort of attention to. There was nothing that important there for her. More speculation with little fact.
She left her bedroom again, making for the kitchen. Her mother was not there but there was a note on the fridge monitor. It was flashing so it would be noticed. Her mother had left early and would not be home until late. Emiko sighed and cleared the message, then switched the fridge screen over to news.
There was rice in the rice cooker, the thermos kettle was full of hot water and in a moment bread was toasting in the toaster. Emiko took a pitcher of orange juice-it was made from real oranges, terribly expensive-and poured herself a glass which she put on the table. After returning the pitcher to the fridge she left the kitchen and went back to her room.
She stripped off her pyjamas and then shoved them into a dirty clothes bag. She would have to do a load of laundry tonight, she thought. She put on her undergarments, and the slip, then sat down in front of her vanity and brushed her hair out.
Once her hair was taken care of she got up and finished dressing. The blouse, its tie, the skirt and then the jacket. She sat down on her bed to put her socks on. Reaching over the pressed the remote and all the screens in her room went blank.
As she got to her feet she grabbed her briefcase from the chair her uniform had hung on. As she walked out of her room she was looking through it, making sure that everything she needed was there. On the way out she shut off the light.
The toast popped up a few moments after she had entered the kitchen. Emiko dropped her briefcase by the table and went to work. The toast, dry, went onto a plate. Some rice into a bowl, and a cup of tea. She placed them on the table by her orange juice.
A she sat down she removed her hashi from a small vase at the centre of the table. She had heard that a long time ago hashi were made from wood, and were disposable. She had a hard time picturing such a wasteful situation.
She ate quickly, alternating between the rice and the toast, with sips at her green tea. When she was finished the meal she drank the orange juice. Once finished she gathered up the plate and things and took them to the sink. She gave them a quick rinse, using the minimum amount of water, then put everything into the dishwasher, except for her hashi which she wiped clean and returned to the vase.
After taking a look at the kitchen clock she ran to the bathroom to brush her teeth once more, then was on her way out of the apartment, grabbing her briefcase as she went. The apartment did not have a proper genkan, but her mother and she treated it as if it did. She pulled on her shoes, then left the apartment, locking the door behind her.
A short elevator ride later and she was walking out of the building.
Off to her right she saw a tall man in a dark suit. Deeter-so he maintained-Jones, one of the security people watching her. She waved at him and he waved back. She liked Deeter, he was friendly, and interesting. He also liked to play Go, and while Emiko was not very good at the game, she at least knew the rules.
A bit further down the street from Deeter was a woman dressed in casual clothes. Francine Brand, a reporter who was keeping up on Emiko's story. She often thought that Francine was Battalion or Ravager related. She, and a few other reporters, seemed to be there to remind the USSA that if she, Emiko, were to ever disappear, the people would know about it. She did not wave at Francine as Francine liked the think she was very subtle and hard to notice.
Emiko went to the bike rack in front of the building and began to unlock her bicycle. It was a fairly expensive sports bike, with disk brakes, internal gears, and was shaft driven. After unlocking it she pulled it from the rack, gave it a look over, then strapped her briefcase to the rack above the rear wheel.
She got on, and after a moment of adjusting her skirt, she was pedalling off, steering towards the bike lane.
Behind her Deeter would be getting into his car to follow her, Francine might or might not. It would depend on whether she had any other story to cover.
It took her nearly ten minutes to get to the school. She was arriving with the last of the morning crowd. Emiko knew that she would not be late, but she would be cutting it close. She said hello to a few girls that she knew as she rode to the bike rack, and hello to others who were locking up their bikes.
The bike locked up, she removed her briefcase from the rack and walked into the school with the tail end of the crowd. The school had an old history, evident from all the pictures and trophies and other pieces of memorabilia on shelves and hung on the walls. The building itself was fairly new though.
Emiko walked into her homeroom with several seconds to spare. As the first of the bells rang, she sat down at her desk. At the front of the room Geraldine Huxley, the class president, closed the door. She was a rather sever looking young woman who did not like anyone, though for the most part the feelings were returned.
She began calling the roll, her tone suggesting that she wanted someone not to be there so she could mark them down as absent. Emiko was not sure why she bothered calling the roll when she could just look around the room and see who was not there. Emiko figured it was some sort of power thing.
Once she finished they had a few minutes before the teacher would come in.
"Emiko," Doris Howe said, turning to face Emiko. "Did you do last night's homework?"
Emiko smiled and opened her briefcase. From it she removed what looked a little like an old fashioned lap desk. It was in fact a school computer. The casing was rather beautiful, with wood trim and brass fasteners. Emiko guessed the casing was nearly twenty years old, some previous students had even carved, faintly, their names and the dates they had attended the school into the wood. The internal components on the other hand were reasonably new.
With the stylus, she called up the menu she wanted, then the assignment from the night before. She handed the computer to Doris. "Here you go."
"Thanks," Doris smiled, taking the computer.
Emiko watched as she used a fibreoptic cable to connect Emiko's and her computer. Supposedly such connections were impossible, to prevent just that sort of thing. Any student who could not figure a way around it probably did not deserve to graduate.
She watched at Doris worked, thinking about her, and the other students in the class, and the school. She was thinking about Alice and what she had said to Auden and her mother some time back.
There were a few, fortunately very few, students who did not like her, thought of her as some sort of traitor to Earth. There were a few that idolised her. Most of the student body treated her like any other student they did not know very well. She had friends, but she did not have the same connection to them that she had to Ree, or Alice.
"Thanks," Doris said as she handed Emiko back her computer.
Emiko nodded as she took it. She saw Geraldine giving her and Doris a spiteful look. Emiko ignored her. Geraldine gave everyone spiteful looks if they were doing anything she thought was wrong.
The door to the classroom opened and Mr. Malone, their teacher, walked in.
"Good morning class," he said in a thick accent. The first time she had heard him speak Emiko had not been sure what the language was. "So, everyone here?" he asked, looking over at Geraldine.
"Yes Mr. Malone," she said, smiling. There were a few whispered giggles at that. Mr. Malone was the only person, as far as the class was concerned, that Geraldine liked. She had a bit of a crush on him, so Emiko had heard.
"Good. All right, let's review yesterday's homework. Doris, care to tell me what you got?"
Doris nodded and stood up. As she was getting to her feet she looked over her shoulder and gave Emiko a quick smile that said it all.
The school day went as any other. After her homeroom class she headed off to gym, never one of her favourite ways to spend a class period. Still, after several months in the Battalion the physical exertion of gym class hardly bothered her. Then it was math where her teacher commented on her excellent grades.
A number of her teachers had told her they were not sure how she would do, adjusting to a new school, a new country, and after missing so much class time--for reasons politely not mentioned. She had surprised them all by doing extremely well, top five percent of the school. It made her mother happy.
Lunch came after that and the school's cafeteria was not much to talk about. Emiko sat at a table with some friends, showing them pictures from her recent trip to Japan. She was scrolling through the display pad, looking for some earlier pictures of her Alice and the others when a image of Ree came up.
"Whose she?" Doris asked.
"Kareen Maxil," Emiko said after a moment.
"Is she a model or something?" Kate Mann asked. "Do you know her?"
Emiko laughed. "All too well, and no, she is not a model. She's a pilot."
There was a moment of silence at the table, the girls there knew Emiko did not talk about what had happened when she had been with the Battalion.
"Anyone else?" Nicky Buloxi asked.
Emiko did not say anything for a second, then tapped a key. Another picture of Ree, this time with Epiphany.
"Were all the women you knew beautiful?" Kate asked, sounding a little put off. She was a plain girl.
"I don't remember," Emiko said, deciding not to mention the fact that Epiphany was not even a women, by the strictest definition. "That's Epiphany Clarris."
"Weird name," Redemption Clark said.
"You're one to talk," Doris told her. "I like her jacket."
"Everyone did," Emiko said.
"Who else you got in there?"
Emiko tapped again, this time a picture of Juan. "Juan Varris."
"He's cute," Redemption said.
"Does he have any money?" Nicky asked. She was the group's social climber.
"Depends on the day. Usually yes." Emiko wondered if she should be doing this. After all, she was giving away the names of people in the Battalion. She had never told anyone else, and now she was simply sharing it with these girls.
"Got any pictures of anything really cool?" Kate asked.
Emiko paused for a moment, then began flipping through the stored pictures so fast that none of the other girls could make anything else. She stopped a picture of herself, standing in front of her Arrow in its plane form. It was quite a good picture, she was sure that anyone in SAC Intell would not mind getting a look at it.
"Wow," Kate said.
"What is that?" Redemption asked.
"Looks like a plane to me," Doris said.
Emiko realised that she might be showing off. She tapped another key and the pictures jumped back to the most recent ones of her with Alice. "Just a plane," Emiko said.
"Can't we see more of those?" Doris asked.
"There's not much more to see that is really interesting," Emiko lied.
"Well there has to be something else. Even just images of another planet would be interesting," Nicky brought up.
"And the people who live there," Redemption said.
"There is nothing that interesting," Emiko said, a tone of finality in her voice. She turned the display pad off.
The other girls looked a little uncomfortable. They felt they had just stepped over a line, and also, something about Emiko's demeanour unnerved them a little. She had, as far as the rumours went, fought in the war. She had probably even killed people.
Emiko could sense the shift in mood at the table and was once again reminded of the fact she did not quite fit in. She wished she had just shown them some more, harmless pictures. It was too late for that now.
"I've got to go and study for that test next period," Emiko said, a convenient reason to excuse herself. "I'll talk to you later."
"Right," Doris nodded. "Later."
Emiko smiled, then gathered up her things and got to her feet. "Bye," she said. trying to sound cheerful. Then she left.
Emiko walked the halls, heading towards the library. She did have a test next period, that was true, but she really did not have to study for it.
She found a quiet corner in amongst the books, found something she wanted to read, then waited for the lunch period to end.
She wrote her history test the next period, finishing it with time to spare, and to check her answers. She was confident of a good grade. After that it was her science class where she managed to overheat the contents of a test tube and blow powdered sulphur all over her lab partner. No one was hurt, everyone thought it was funny, and Emiko had to endure a short lecture about safety in the lab.
Once classes were over she returned to her homeroom for any final information that had to be given to the students, and then it was off to the Kendo club.
Out of all the clubs and extracurricular activities in the school she had chose Kendo. It reminded her of home, and she felt she owed Marshall Sharp that she at least continue to practice.
She was very good at it too.
The Kendo sensei knew it too. He had seen in Emiko a surprising amount of talent, and he had the feel that to her it was not just an after school activity. While he was careful to never say anything about it, he suspected she had used live steel in fights that had mattered. He suspected that she had within her the ability to master the sword.
Being a teacher he made sure she had plenty of chances to achieve that mastery. His favourite game was setting up Emiko against a line of the other students, one, two, sometimes even three at a time. It was good for the other students, sparring with someone of Emiko's talent, and it was good for her, as it pushed her, hard.
Emiko was not really aware of her sensei's way of thinking. She just thought he was a cruel person, though he was easier than Marshall Conaly had been.
Two hours later it was over. Emiko took a long shower, then turned down an invitation to go and do some shopping. She told her friends she had homework and other things to do. True enough.
The school was nearly empty by the time she was leaving it. Again, she was in the tail end of the crowd, watching as everyone went off.
She spotted Jaquline Ferst, another of her security people, and waved at the woman. Jaquline did not wave back, she even pretended not to see Emiko. Emiko was not sure if the woman did not like her, or was just very professional. I'll probably never know, she thought as she unlocked her bike.
The ride home was uneventful. She locked up her bike, said hello to a few of her neighbours, then went up to the apartment.
Inside she found a note from her mother, displayed on the fridge screen. She did not think she would be back until very late. Emiko deleted the note after she read it, then went to her room where she changed into some more comfortable clothing before starting on dinner.
She was almost finished when, as she had been expecting, the doorbell rang. She looked around to make sure nothing was going to boil over or catch on fire, then went to the front door. She checked the security monitor, then opened the door.
"Konbanwa, Commander Kirkland," she said.
"Good evening Miss Miya, may I come in?" John Kirkland asked.
"Of course," she said, bowing slightly.
The commander entered. He was about to just walk into the house, but a sharp, subtle glance from Emiko made him stop. Looking apologetic, he took off his shoes first.
"Would you like to have dinner Commander, I'm sorry, but my mother is not at home right now."
"Dinner would be fine," he told her. "And I am sorry to have missed your mother."
Emiko nodded, then led him into the kitchen. It was almost a ritual that had John feeling a little off stride. Ever since he had begun questioning Emiko he had the feeling that she was the one in charge.
He sat at the table, eating a good meal, not great of course, but better than what he might expect at the mess. The girl had made miso soup, tempura and sushi. As they ate they talked about recent events, construction that was going around the Zenith, and a number of other things. John waited until the meal was over and Emiko began clearing away the dishes to start on business.
"Miss Miya, could you tell me who helped you get off Earth all those months ago?"
"My name is Miya Emiko, I was a Lieutenant and I'm..."
"Sorry you don't have a serial number," he finished off for her.
"Yes," Emiko said, rinsing off the dishes.
"Tell me Miss Miya, do you know what agreement you are basing your answer on?"
Emiko paused in her work. "Not really," she said after a moment.
"It's called the Geneva Convention, and it concerns, among other things, the treatment of prisoners of war. It is also a convention that has not existed in any form for over a hundred years."
Emiko turned away from the dishes and looked at him.
"Yes, one hundred years. You see, the original signatories of that agreement found out in the early parts of the twenty first century that most of their opponents in war saw no need to follow such an agreement. Also, the corporate powers that began to have more and more power, did not care much for the agreement. It was almost always more efficient to just torture prisoners. So after all that, the agreement just sort of collapsed. There is in fact, at the current time, no agreement in place concerning the rules of engagement."
"So, I don't have to tell you anything at all?"
"Yes, but if I want, I can torture it out of you. I won't, for two reasons. One being that would be barbaric, and I would not do so. The second being that if you show up with even one bruise on you, the press will have a field day."
"So as long as the press is interested in me, I'm safe?"
"If that was true do you think you'd have round the clock security? There are some people in the military and the government who would not mind risking press problems as long as nothing could be proven. They would not be adverse to using less than pleasant ways to get you to tell them what they wanted to know. Do you understand the point I am trying to make?"
"Yes, but I still can't tell you anything."
John groaned. "Okay, how about this. Why is the Battalion doing nothing about what is happening on Faraday?"
"What would you have them do?" Emiko began putting the dishes into the dishwasher. "There is no civilian population on Faraday, therefore they do not have to protect them. Are they just supposed to attack the ODF forces to save the SAC from having to do it?"
"Well they've certainly bloodied our noses several times."
"The bloodied more than your noses," Emiko told him, using the same phrase, though she was not entirely sure what it meant.
"Do you think they could remove the forces from Faraday, if they wanted to?"
"Well," Emiko began, than stopped. "You weren't trying to get information out of me were you Commander?"
"Yes, that was the plan. I see if did not work."
"Well, I guess I'll have to try again."
"Thank you for a most lovely dinner Miss Miya," he said as he got to his feet.
"You're welcome. Let me show you out."
Emiko showed him to the door and then said goodnight. She watched as he walked down the hallway before closing the door. She felt a little sorry for him, he tried so hard after all. Shaking her head Emiko walked to her room.
She looked around, then gathered up her uniform and carefully hung it on the closet. She picked up her dirty clothes hamper and took it the washer that was tucked away in a small closet near the bathroom. Once she had everything in the wash she returned to her room.
Opening her briefcase she removed everything from it. She made three piles of things. One of school property, and two of her things. She then walked around the room, picking out bits and pieces of her life and adding them to the smaller of the two piles. By the time she was finished it was the largest.
She sorted through the things, taking a few objects out, putting them aside. She wanted to travel light. Once she had it all arranged she found a carryall, brand new, and began putting things into it.
Getting up she wandered around her room once more. Finally she stopped at the small table beneath her window where her two swords lay. She bent down and picked them up, feeling their weight. She found the tube that she had brought them Earth in, still packed with its foam. She placed both swords into the tube, then placed the tube with her bag.
Emiko looked about her room once more. She had everything she wanted. Just a few more things to do.
She went into in to her mother's room next. It was a little bigger than the one she used, and had a much bigger closet. It seemed a little more cluttered, there were also some clothes scattered about. She guessed her mother was a little too busy to keep everything sorted out. Emiko took a few minutes to gather up the clothes, put them into the clothes hamper, and straighten out a few odds and ends.
Finally she sat down at her mother's desk and took a piece of cream coloured paper from the top of a pile. It was handmade paper, with a certain thickness and texture that her mother liked, even though paper was, when you got right down to it, somewhat wasteful. Emiko could understand her mother's choice in using it though. She herself liked it.
She placed the paper down on the desk's blotter, then opened her mother's writing case. A brush, some ink, and she started writing. It was a simple note: "Mother, I'm sorry, but I have to leave. I hope you can understand how important this is to me and leaving is not something I do Lightly. I hope you can forgive me. I love you. Emiko."
Emiko looked the note over, wanting to say so much more, but she still did not have the words for it. She cleaned up, packed the brush and ink away, then got to her feet. For a moment she stared down at the desk, and the note on it. She reached for another piece of the paper and looked at it.
With quick, practised movements she began folding the paper. After a short time she placed a paper crane on the desk, above her letter. Then she turned and left.
Getting out of the building was not as difficult as some of the security people watching her might have thought. They had cameras on all the ways in and out of the apartment, in the elevators, the exterior entrances and exits and a few more scatted about. There were none in the apartment though.
She could have dealt with the cameras by simply setting up a loop, but that was too obvious. It would be picked up in seconds. Instead she activated the reality editor she had downloaded into each camera a week before. It was a simple, selfatonamous programs. With the help of a sophisticated pattern recognition program it would remove her from a transferred image. She would, in effect, be gone from the camera's reality.
She checked a few things out, sent a few last messages, then packed up the computer and put it into her carryall. The bag over her shoulder, the tube with her swords in it strapped into place, she walked from her room. After putting on a pair of shoes at the front door, she left the apartment.
For a moment Emiko hesitated. This was fairly extreme. She was not even sure if she would ever be able to come back. After a few seconds she turned and locked the door. It was time to go.
"I'm glad you came," Emiko said to Takashi as she took a seat across from him.
"Of course I came. I get a cryptic message from you, suggesting you might be able to give me an exclusive interview, what did you think I would do?"
"I'm glad you came anyway."
"So Emiko-chan, what is it you want?"
"I'm going to be leaving in a few hours."
"I see. How?"
"I don't want to go into detail."
"The less I know, the less I might say?" He smiled at her.
"I would not want you to have to lie if anyone decided to asks you questions."
"Okay, so what do you want me for?"
"I'm worried my mother might make another announcement."
"You got to admit, that was very clever of her."
"Okay, so you want an interview, can do." He reached down and placed a bag on the table. "We'll give it the sort of punch you want."
"What do you mean?"
He did not answer right away, instead he opened his bag and removed several things that looked like cloth swatches. "Get some emotions into it."
"These are pick ups. I heard you are wired now. True?"
"Okay, you just put these onto the pickups, probably in your hands I'm guessing, and we can get an emotional trace on everything. Kind of like a mind song deal. This way people will know your emotional state in relation to the questions. Kind of adds another level of authenticity to it all."
"I see," Emiko said, picking up two of the swatches. "I just have to turn my datalink on." She used her tongue to activate it.
"You have an on/off switch for your datalink?"
"Makoto was right. You are a weird little girl."
"He never said that!"
"He did. Now calm down, I don't need you throwing a tantrum during this thing."
"Ijiwaru (meanie)," Emiko said softly.
Takashi set up the recording equipment, placing it on the table. A waiter came by but Takashi shooed the man away, telling him they would order later. The waiter left with a put upon look on his face.
Emiko placed the pickups over her palms and waited for Takashi to finish.
"Okay," Takashi said as he finished up. "Let's get this started. You relaxed?"
"Relaxed. Ready to go. Are you ready?"
"Yes," Emiko said, nodding.
"Okay, cameras are on, recording stuff is recording, let's go. What is your name?" Takashi sounded calm, professional.
"Just for the record."
"All right Miya-san, can you tell me what you are planning on doing?"
"I'm going to return to the Starblade Battalion."
"Yet you have only recently returned from the Battalion. Why did you leave them?"
"It was suggested that the Battalion might have been holding me against my will. I returned to disprove that claim. I was there of my own free will. I left of my own free will."
"I see. Yet you are returning?"
"Yes," Emiko said, a little confused.
"Are you returning of your own free will?"
"How do you know?"
"Pardon??" Emiko looked confused.
"Well, maybe you are not returning of your own free will. Perhaps you were brainwashed."
Emiko was about to get angry at the line of questioning, she had thought Takashi would help her, not grill her. Then she paused and calmed down. He was asking questions other would ask. "Maybe I am," she said. "I don't think I am. Who can say. Perhaps it was brainwashing on the USSA's part that brought me back to Earth. How could I even be certain?"
Takashi smiled at her and she knew she had said the right thing. "Okay, so why are you going back to the Battalion?"
"Because I am certain that they are in the right. That's not to say that the USSA is wrong, or the Colonies, but neither in completely correct."
"Care to explain?"
"The reasons for this war are much more complex than what happened at Faraday. That was just an indication of what is going on below the surface. The USSA does not trust the colonies for a number of reasons. The Colonies do not trust the USSA for many of the same reasons. Victory by either side will not deal with those concerns, just hide them for a time. It will all happen again."
"But the USSA might be able to exert such control on the colonies to make sure that it does not."
"There is too much freedom. The Shunt Drives allow us, humanity, to go anywhere. The USSA knows of the largest colonies, and a number of smaller ones, but they don't know about them all. What will they do if fifty years from now they are presented with the same problem?"
"A good question."
"They'll be right back where they started, more fighting, more killing. The Colonists are an independent minded group by their very nature. They are never going to take kindly to being told what to do."
"So you are saying the USSA is the blame?"
"Not entirely. The USSA and the Gaians have every reason to worry that planets' ecosystems may be harmed by the colonists. There is a level of greed out there, unhampered by thoughts of protecting ecosystems that will lead to the damage of worlds. It had happened already. Still, war is not the answer."
"Is there an answer?"
"The colonists and their leaders are perfectly able to protect the planets they live on and other planets, with a little help and a little understanding from the USSA. Farmers and ranchers know how valuable the land is. They don't need Gaian Wardens telling them that. They don't need to be threatened with imprisonment. The could use a little help, politely offered."
"Okay, but what about people who don't really care about the condition of the land, like miners and industrialists?"
"There are of course going to be some problems with certain individuals. There are going to be people who put financial gain in front of economic concerns, but that is no reason to assume everyone will. That is what the USSA is saying though."
"So how do you handle the few?"
"Well, perhaps to begin with, if you stop scaring the people who do care about the environment, they might be willing to tell you about those who are causing damage."
"Are you talking about the Gaian Wardens?"
"I see. So the Battalion can strike a balance between maintaining people's freedom, and at the same time protecting the environments of countless planets?"
"I can't say yes or no to that question, but I can say that the Battalion looks like the only power that would be willing to try."
"To this end you wish to help them?"
"So that is why you are returning?"
"What are your feelings towards the USSA?"
Emiko did not say anything for several seconds. "I think they are wrong to a certain extent."
"And the Starblade Battalion?"
"I won't say they are perfect, and the ultimate answer to the problems we face, but at this time they are the best choice."
"And that is why you are returning to them?"
Takashi nodded. "Well, thank you for the interview. Is there anything else you would like to say?"
"I hope that neither my family, nor my friends see this as a betrayal to them."
"Thank you," Takashi said, turning off the recorders. "That's it."
"You asked hard questions," Emiko said as she peeled the pick ups off her hands.
"They had to be asked. This isn't even the interview I'd like to do, but I figured that you had limited time."
"When this is all over, I want a few days of your time, at least."
"I'll see what I can do." Emiko smiled at him as she got to her feet. "Thank you for coming and doing this for me. And thank you for saving me back when it all began." Emiko stepped back from the table and bowed deeply.
Takashi shook his head. "Don't worry about it."
"I have to go now." She gathered up her things.
"I will," Emiko said, then she left.
Takashi watched at she walked away, noting that his best friend's little sister had grown up quite a bit. He wondered if he and Makoto would ever be friends again.
Emiko had never been in a Love Hotel. She had certainly heard a lot about them, and she had walked past a great number of them, once even peeking into the lobby of one with Alice and some others. That they had spread throughout the world, and into space colonies, had surprised her a bit.
That a Love Hotel had been chosen as a meeting place did not surprise her. Discretion and privacy were the watch words of a Love Hotel and she could think of fewer places better for staying hidden.
The lobby was very small, with only enough room for two, maybe three people to stand in there without crowding one another. When Emiko entered it was empty. On the wall opposite to the elevator were pictures of the various rooms that the hotel offered. All of them were theme rooms, and some of the themes were vaguely disturbing.
Many of the rooms were currently being used, their pictures dark, slightly vague. The ones that were not being used were brightly lit and clear. Emiko looked at her options. There was something very dark, with rough shapes, and a number of disturbing features. She decided to skip that one. Another seemed to be made up of mostly black, shiny rubber, or something like that. She's pass on that one as well. The last one looked like a nursery, which she did not think much of, but out of all her choices she decided that was the safest.
She pressed her hand against the lit picture and waited. Nothing happened. Suddenly feeling a little stupid, she turned on her datalink and was rewarded with a stream of information. It took her a few seconds to go through everything there, then with her free hand she removed a card from her pocket and slid it into a slot underneath the picture.
The transaction was completed, the funds transferred. After giving the computer a few last instructions, she removed the card from the slot. When she took her hand from the picture it went dark and vague, indicating a room no longer available. Behind her the elevator door opened. She turned around and walked in.
The elevator took her up, though she was not sure to which floor as it did not indicate that. It opened and she stepped out into a dark hallway. Most of the light came from the number plates on the door which were lit up. Her room was directly on her right when she came out of the elevator. She turned and used the debit card, which was now also her key, to open the door. It was dark when she opened the door, only the faintest amount of light allowing one to see vague shapes in the room.
Once she stepped in and closed the door the lights all came on. Privacy ensured, Emiko thought.
It looked exactly like the picture she had seen in the lobby, a nursery, but not for children. She dropped her bags to the floor then walked across the room, crossing through the oversized furniture. There was only one door in the room which led, as she had thought, to the bathroom.
The bathroom was in the same theme as the room. For a moment Emiko simply stared, then she sighed, made a mental note to never mention any of this to Ree, and walked into the bathroom.
A short time later, one need taken care of, Emiko walked back into the room. She looked around, wishing there was a couch, or a simple chair, but she was not that lucky. Looking at her poor choice of options, she walked over to the crib and sat down on the mattress, her feet on the floor. After a moment she lay back, her head almost hitting the far railings.
She laced her fingers behind her head and stared up at the ceiling, which was covered in cute, pastel bunnies. "This is kind of twisted," she said softly.
Takako sat at her desk, reading the note that Emiko had left her. Part of her was pleased at how well Emiko's calligraphy had come along.
She was not entirely sure why Emiko had left. Takako wondered if it had been something she had done, or more likely had failed to do.
"Oh, Emiko," she said softly, placing the paper on the desk. "I'm so sorry."
For a moment she thought that she would cry, then she pushed it back. She would have to tell the security people what had happened, start the search for Emiko.
After taking a deep breath Takako linked to the apartment's telecommunication's equipment and sent out the first message.
Emiko was not quite asleep when the knocking on the door brought her fully awake. She stared up at the ceiling for a moment, fully conscious of where she was, and yet at the same time a little confused.
She sat up, then stood up. Someone was knocking at her door. Since anyone official would not knock, she walked to the door and opened it. Standing outside was a woman. She was pretty, though thin, and she had short brown hair.
"I as sent to help you," she said. "My name is Pony."
"Please, come in," Emiko stepped aside so she could enter, then closed the door. "Is your name really Pony?"
"Who'd name their kid Pony? No, it's just a code. My real name is Chastity, which I shortened to Chas, in fear of anyone thinking my name was something I aspired to."
Emiko smiled, thinking that Ree would like her.
"Interesting room," Chas said, looking about.
"It was the most harmless of what they had to offer when I came in. I think it is a bit on the weird side."
"I don't know," Chas said as she tested the mattress in the crib. "It's kind of cute, in an odd way." She placed her bag on the floor then turned, sitting down on the mattress. "To each their own."
"Are we leaving now?"
"No, well be here for a little over an hour. We've got a window of opportunity opening up that should let us get you out of here, clean." As she said that she bent over and began rummaging through her bag. "Hope you don't mind waiting."
"No," Emiko said, though she did.
"Good," Chas said as she straightened up, removing a computer from her bag.
Emiko walked over to her bag and looked through it. After a moment she had what she wanted, a small case. Looking over at Chas she saw the woman had removed several other items from her bag and was setting something up. She decided to leave the Ravager in peace and went into the washroom again.
She placed the case on the sink counter and looked at herself in the mirror. It was while she was looking at herself she noticed the hinges on the mirror. She reached out and pulled the door open, revealing a cabinet. It was full of condoms and other such items, as well as a number of artificial penises moulded from plastic.
As she closed the door, pushing it until it clicked and locked, she did not feel as uneasy as she had before. Finally something she had expected in a Love Hotel.
She picked up and opened the case, revealing an ear piercing kit. The job Grey had done had healed up. Somehow Emiko felt that if she was going to meet the Nationals' Leader again, she had best look right. It was something from Ree that had rubbed off on her. Whatever you do, do so with style.
The piercer was much more sophisticated than the one Grey had used. It was pistol shaped, containing everything one needed to quickly and safely put holes into earlobes. After loading an earring into it, she lifted it up to her ear and began running the tip over her lobe. A green light blinked when the area was considered a good target.
She pulled the first stage of the trigger and felt a pricking sensation as tiny claws anchored the gun. A red light lit up. She pulled the trigger all the way. The pricking sensation went away as the area was anaesthetised, then a needle slid out, putting a hole into her lobe. She waited while an antibiotic was put into place, then the needle withdrew and the post of the earring took its place. The red light winked out, telling her it was over.
She repeated the process twice more on the one lobe, then once on the other. She examined the effect in the mirror and thought that she had done a good job. Emiko quickly packed everything away and returned to the room.
Chas was lying down, the computer on her stomach, a pair of VR goggles over her eyes.
Emiko did not disturb the woman, instead she put the piercing kit in her bag and closed it up. She waited to see if Chas might finish up what ever she was doing, but it did not seem likely. Bored, she began wandering around the room, looking at the furniture. It was all surprisingly well made, and sturdy. That surprised her a little, she would not have thought that quality would be that important.
It was during the search that she found the honour bar. When she opened the small refrigerator, she saw a display, showing how much money was left for the hourly rent and other things. It would be several hours at least before they were expected to leave. She looked at the cost of the drinks and other things in the bar and was a little shocked at how expensive they were.
Still, the card had plenty of money left on it in case there was trouble. She took a cola out of the fridge and watched as the money counter dropped. She closed the fridge and opened the cola. Emiko walked back to the crib and took a seat, careful not to disturb Chas. She took a drink of a very expensive pop. It was not even a brand that she liked.
Almost two hours after she had come to the room, Chas took off her glasses. "Time to go," she said.
Emiko was sitting on the other side of the room, her back against the wall. She had looked through the bookshelf and found a book she had really liked, when she had been about seven. Still, it held up remarkably well. "Now."
"That is basically the meaning behind its 'time to go'." Chas began packing away her computer.
"I'm ready," Emiko stood up and then put the book back on the shelf.
Chas was also soon ready to go. She slung her bag over her shoulder, and opened the door, looking out into the hallway. "Okay."
They left the room and took the elevator down to the lobby. Just outside was a limousine. The door opened as they approached. Chas hustled her into it and as soon as the door closed it was driving off.
"Last time I ran from Earth I was in the trunk of a car," Emiko said.
"You are moving up then," Chas said. She turned and knocked on the partition between her and the driver's compartment. The partition came down. "Everything set up?"
"As per your instructions," the driver said.
"Good. Follow the plan exactly."
"Will do." The partition went back up.
Chas turned around to face Emiko. "People are looking for you, but that's fine. What we're doing is staying right behind a line of search. It means slow going, but we are less likely to be found."
"Soon as we get out of the Zenith, we are fine. We have contingency plans, but I suspect we'll be able to just drive out."
"Just in case, you will have to look a little different," Chas said as she opened a compartment beneath her seat and removed a bag. "Simple disguise. Move over there, face the window."
Emiko did as she was told and Chas moved behind her. She began brush Emiko's hair, making it neat, then putting it all under a stocking cap. Then she took a wig of light brown, curly hair from the bag and placed it on Emiko's head. A little brush work, some pins, and it looked perfect.
"Turn around," Chas told her.
"Just some make up, give you a slightly different appearance."
Emiko let Chas work, every now and then looking into a nearby mirror. The make up was going on a little heavier than she had ever worn before. She did not have a lot of experience with makeup, but she had always been of the school of thought, less was more. It seemed Chas was more of a more is not enough school.
She watched as the makeup brought forth different aspects of her face, while others were played down. It made her look a little older, perhaps even a little more tired.
"Done," Chas said. "You know how to put in contacts?"
"More or less."
"Good," she said, handing Emiko a small case. "These will give you green eyes."
Emiko took the case and went to work, putting the contacts into place. Chas packed up the make up kit and returned it to under the seats. Emiko had just finished putting the lenses in when Chas waved a wallet in front of her face.
"What is this?" Emiko asked.
"Your new ID."
"Oh." Emiko took the wallet and opened it up. The ID said her name was Naomi Wallace. The picture on it looked remarkably like she looked now. She shuffled through the next two, a cash card and a passport without giving them much thought. It was the last card that stopped her. "What is this?" she asked, her voice creeping higher.
"That would be your prostitution licence."
"Because no one will look twice at you this way. I mean, you have a rich young woman, myself." Chas put a hand on her chest. "Her loyal chauffeur." She indicated the drivers section. "And a bit of entertainment." She made a grand gesture that ended up pointing at Emiko. "Who would ever suspect us?"
Emiko thought about it for a moment. "I guess it makes sense."
"Of course it does. Don't worry, we'll cruise right through the check points and be out of the city in a few hours," she said, sounding supremely confident.
As it turned out, Chas' confidence was not misplaced. They passed through all the checkpoints without any trouble. Even the final one out of the Zenith. The guard on duty came in, looked at all their ID-she gave Emiko a slight sneer when she saw the prostitution licence-and then let them go.
"It worked," Emiko said as the limousine drove out of the Zenith.
"Of course it worked," Chas said. "Want to get off my lap?"
"It was your idea in the first place." Emiko stood, hunched over, and moved to another seat.
The car kept on driving on the slightly bumpy roads, heading west. After a while Emiko took the wig off, then washed her face clean using the sink in the wet bar. The sun was just rising behind them when Emiko put a seat back as far as it would go, then went to sleep.
Ending Credits - As before.
Here's some more gear from Angel.
Mass: 5.5 Tn Cost: 1,33,867 Credits (133.9 CP)
Armed with 1 x nose-mounted Mk3 Gauss Gun, 4 x wing-mounted 1M Missiles and 2 x hull-mounted Shrike LRM Missiles or M5 bombs, this small fighter sees service on Militia units. It isn't a fast fighter, but its maneuverability is unparalelled. Able of taking off and landing on a clear space of one and half times its length, it's ideally suited to provide air support on planets without available airbases, or from hidden bases. Its AA missiles, altough amazingly accurate, aren't on the paper capable of breaching the armor of SAC Starfighters, but field records show they find weak spots on a Cavalier's armor about 50% of the times. Still, this fighter is best used for ground support against known targets, using its powerful Shrike LRMs for medium-range point attacks or its large bomb load for carpet or dive bombing. The only weapon of this fighter which raised complains from the pilots is the Mk 3M Gauss gun. Why Frontier Armaments decided to put a gun usually mounted on PAFSs or small chopters instead of the powerful chain gauss of the Vogel or a variant of the Viggen's gun remains something of a mistery.
Configuration: 1/5 Scale Fighter, MV -0, Flight MA 20, MP +33%
Servos & Armor:
Optional: Replace the Shrikes by a full load of eight 5M grenades (WA +0, 5K, Range 0, shots 8, 1 Kill, BR 2, 1:1 Scale) on each mount (same weight and cost)
Sensors & Subassemblies:
Mass: 2.9 Tn Cost: 543,667 Credits (54.4 CP)
Armed with 1 x Chin-mounted Tommy Machine-Gauss and 4 x Pylon-mounted Hellflame Missiles, this little attack helicopter is armed with a small load of the biggest missiles the ODF provides the Militias with, able to destroy a mecha from almost ten miles with a single hit. Still, its small payload and the SAC mecha's numerous phalanx and KKCMs forces its pilot to choose their targets carefully, and it needs a spotter to design its target from such a long distance. The front gatling, with a cyclic fire rate of over 6,000 rnds/min, and slaved to a highly acurate "look-and-fire" targeting helmet, is a fine gun, but the small caliber necesitated by the enormous recoil and torque yields a much lesser damage potential than most ODF Gauss guns.
Configuration: 1:5 Scale Rotorchopter, MV -1, Flight MA 13, MP +33%
Servos & Armor:
Sensors & Subassemblies:
Mass: 25.69 Tn Cost: 4,616,235 Credits (461.62 CP)
Armed with 1 x Chin-mounted Chain Gauss, 2 x side-mounted machineguns, multiple wing-mounted missiles and bombs, this heavy helicopter is almost the same of a HA at the hour of dishing damage, altough not quite at the hour of taking it, as its crews are told to remember. Armed with the same missiles and Gauss ammo as the standard ODF mecha and starfighters, this chopter creates little logistic problems and can fill on the "escort interceptor" niche of the ODF military doctrin on a pinch or drop a commando or PAFSs squad on a very hot LZ (or outta it) with the same ease as it fulfills its traditional gunship role.
Configuration: 1:1 Scale Rotorchopter, MV -1, Flight MA 12, MP +33%
Servos & Armor:
Sensors & Subassemblies:
This gun is the best gauss rifle ever designed. It is brilliant,
and its spetial ammunition is quite effective. It is also, since
the advent of the Roberts-type plasma rifle, a "dinosaur". Still,
there are many warriors who would choose to use as a secondary
weapon this gun, able of doing a huge one hundred and forty percent
the damage of a Roberts Type I rifle or a SAC GMR-14.
Weapon type WA Range Damage Shots Kills Spc CP BV Notes
Lyons Gauss Rifle +2 14 7K 20 7 5 55.3 3 See below
Gauss Ammo - - - 20 7,7 - 157.9 - AP, Scatershot
Notes: It would be much cheaper if this thing were designed to be used two-handedly by a HA, but as it is used one-handed by an Arrow the space eff cost rockets skyward. Mr. Lyons choosed a range just greater than the standard SAC and ODF guns', but adjusted the ROF after the soldier unit's guns, not after the Viggen's (since cost would have been prohibitive).
The main disadvantage of the gun is the e-n-o-r-m-o-u-s cost of the ammo; a full clip could cost about the same as the chasis of a GP mecha!
(As a point of comparison, the same gun with the 8 ROF and the tracer ammo Lyons dreamed of would have costed 1,692 CP!! Even Tess Belin raised objections on this particular project.)
Here is some more music suggestions from Keko
"Watashi wa anata no ane, soshite haha, soshite anata."
--Miyu Kyuuketsuki ga Yui ni itta
Shawn Hagen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On to chapter 37