Episode 38 (2181.01.15)
by Shawn Hagen (1998)
Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.
Opening Titles - As Before
A holographic systems map was projected into the very centre of the room. In the middle of the laser light globe was the Primus system. The other systems were shown as well, bright white lights within the soft blue of the globe. Not surprisingly Earth was not shown. It was too far away from the Pleiades to be included within the star map.
Current SAC movements were tracked within the globe. Information was brought in by Jagers every few hours. The display was updated and copies sent to the various departments within the ODF that would need it.
Placide stood near the globe, staring into its depths. With a small control unit she could zoom in on areas within the globe for better examination.
Faraday came up, like a bubble rising to the surface of a pond. It pushed the other information aside, letting her see a miniature representation of the planet. The only forces around it were ODF, though they were not marked. Placide had a private file that recorded where all the ODF ships were.
She zoomed out, as it were, looking at the entire system. There was some SAC movement, not much though. Small ships, mostly cutters, passing through the area of space. Scouts. When the SAC was finally going to hit the planet, to take it away from the colonists, that was the big question.
She changed settings, this time bringing the system around Pleiades Gamma to the fore. More SAC ships were arriving there every day. The shipyards at Gamma 4 were constantly busy, repairing the damage to the ships that had already been in service throughout the cluster.
The shipyards in Earth space had been very busy over the past few months, but no one had suspected how busy. Jager scouting missions into Earth space revealed that the system was still very well protected. How many ships had they built? No one in the ODF military was quite sure.
The USSA's population was still much larger than the colonies and they had used that in their workforce.
Placide looked through all the systems, seeing no changes from the last time she had done so. SAC activity in the system had dropped off markedly over the past few weeks. They were building up for something. An invasion of Faraday. That's what everyone thought. It was funny that a world that was not even colonised was going to be the site of the battle that would determine the future of, well, everything in a way.
Placide was still examining the systems when she heard someone call out her name. "Commander Strazza."
She turned. Standing up on the walkway that went around the room was an officer, a naval captain, and two guards.
"Yes," she said, keeping her voice calm, even. She had been expecting them for an hour now. Obviously the intelligence people were a little slower than she had thought.
"We have orders for your arrest," the Captain told her.
Everyone in the room had been secretly watching what was going on, but when the word 'arrest' was spoken, their attention was obvious.
"I see," Placide said. She started towards the stairs, looking unconcerned. "Lieutenant Jacosby."
"Yes ma'am," a woman called out as she stepped up to the stairs.
"You are in charge here until I come back, or until a new CO is appointed. Do you understand?"
"Good. When the next report comes in update the map then send it onto the Grand then began up the stairs. The Captain looked a little doubtful as he watched her walk towards him. Hers were not the actions of a guilty woman. He wondered if a mistake had been made.
Placide saluted him. "Captain."
"Commander," he said, returning her salute. "Come with me." When on the of the security men stepped forward with a pair of handcuffs he waved them off. "There won't be any need for those."
"Did you not understand my orders?"
As the four of them were heading out of the office Jacosby called out, "We'll be waiting for you Commander." She saluted. Everyone in the room followed suit. Placide turned, returned their salutes, then was gone.
"You have loyal people," the Captain said after a moment.
"They are just returning what I gave them," Placide told him.
"Well, I'm sure this will all be worked out very soon. There was probably a mistake."
"I think so as well," Placide said, referring to something different than he had.
They walked down to the end of the hall, attracting a number of stares as they went, to the elevator. One of the guards pressed the call button and a moment later the door opened. They entered the car, the guards arranging themselves on either side of the door. The Captain pressed the button for the lobby.
Placide waited until the doors had closed, then she reached up, pulling at the lapels of her jacket, as if to straighten it. Her fingers pressed a small switch that she had hidden under the material. A moment later a powerful, yet ultimately harmless, sedative was leaking out of a capsule that she had hidden in her pocket earlier.
The Captain succumbed first, followed quickly by the two guards. She was immune having given herself the antidote earlier.
From inside her jacket she pulled out a small device which she plugged into a slot underneath the floor buttons. The first thing she did was to mark the elevator as being under repair. On all the floors a small, red light lit up, telling people that that elevator would not be working. As she sent the car to the subbasement she told the monitors that it was actually going to the roof.
A moment later the doors opened to the dark, quiet hallways of the subbasement level. Placide locked the car down, then exited the elevator. The doors closed behind her, locking tight. She had about twenty minutes before what she had done would be discovered. It should be more than enough time.
As she walked along the dark hallways she placed the first of a series of link calls.
Placide's escape had gone unnoticed for almost thirty minutes. It was maintenance people who, trying to figure out what was wrong with a faulty elevator, that discovered her handiwork. After that things had progressed quickly and there was an all out alert for her.
That might have been effective, if not for the fact she was no longer in the city, and no longer on the planet.
After the SAC's attack that had destroyed the Long Rider, things in the space around Solingen had been a little confusing. It was therefore not surprising that no one gave much attention to the new battleship that broke away from its moorings and slowly moved away from the planet.
Later, the controllers on duty would point out the official flight plans that they had received, the clearance and the memo telling them that the battleship was being taken out for early test flight.
By the time the battleship had reached a point where it could shunt, the searchers in the city had finally conceded that just maybe Placide had managed to get out.
Emiko shifted to the side, letting Conaly's sword cut through space. She swung her own sword around, forcing the Marshall to abort his attack to block.
"You're better," he said, pushing her back.
"Thank you," Emiko said.
Conaly moved forward, stabbing out with his blade, then kicked her legs out from under her. Emiko hit the ground hard, but she kept a hold on her sword and was about to kick herself to her feet when she felt the tip of Conaly's sword press against her neck. "Better, but you still have a lot to learn."
"Wakatta(I understand)," Emiko said.
Conaly took the sword away. He held it up and the blade pulled back into the handle. Then he reached down to give Emiko a hand up.
"You're too nice," he told her. "In a real fight there are no rules. How many times have I told you that?"
He nodded. "And yet it does not sink in, and don't apologise."
Emiko who had been about to apologise, was about to apologise for that, then closed her mouth and nodded her head.
"I think that is enough for today."
Emiko nodded. She opened her mouth, then closed it. She opened it again, then closed it once more.
"What is it?" Conaly asked.
"I was wondering if I could," she stopped. "If I could practice with your sword?"
Conaly looked at her for a moment. "Why?"
"Because it is," she paused, then her skin flushed. "Kakkoii(cool)."
Conaly looked at her for a moment, then smiled. "I'll just make sure that you can't kill yourself, or anyone else with it." He did something to the handle. "You can't activate the cutting mode now." He handed her the weapon.
Emiko took it carefully, then stepped back to put some room between her and Conaly. The weapon felt just like a heavy, piece of metal in her hand until Emiko turned on her datalink. She almost dropped the weapon then, it was like something alive in her hands. She stared at the blade for a moment, then sent the blade out until she was holding a dagger in her hand. She extended the blade some more until it was a sword.
"It's heavy," Emiko said. "But the blade is so thin."
"The material is very dense, flexible and responsive to the tiniest signals. I'm still not sure how he built it."
Emiko said nothing, she just stared at the blade for a moment, then she turned away from Conaly. She snapped the weapon out, letting the blade extend as she did. It was difficult to think it flexible, but after a moment it was. The blade snaked out along the floor, then snapped up. With a flick of her wrist the blade was coming back towards her. She held her hand up high, planning on having the blade encircle her, like a shield of sorts. That proved beyond her limited abilities and instead she hit herself, subjecting herself to a nasty shock. It was lucky that the blade could not cut her or she'd be probably be dead.
"Itaii wa yo," Emiko said, rubbing a red mark on her arm. She let the blade retract and handed it back to Conaly. "I guess I need a lot more practice."
"Do you think?" Conaly asked, one of his few moment of true humour.
The Marshal walked away from her, playing with the hilt for a few seconds. Then he turned around and lashed out with the blade. It extended past Emiko, cutting a few strands of hair as it went by her face. Emiko stood still. On the other side of her head the blade flashed by, having curved behind her.
Conaly did something with his wrist and the blade dropped, wrapping around her upper arms. Obviously the blade was not set to cut or she would have lost her arms. "With practice, the only person you have to worry about hurting is someone you want hurt," he told her. Then he let her free and the blade pulled back into the hilt. "Master a normal sword, then maybe you can work on this."
"Are you free?" he asked her.
"Yes. In a few hours I have to help Ree-oneesan with some training, but until then I'm not doing anything."
"Good. You can help me with a class I have to teach."
"Atashi?" Emiko asked, putting her finger to her nose.
"Yes you. As amazing as it may seem, you are a little better than some of my other students. I have no idea how that could be mind you, but it happened."
"I guess you're just a very good teacher," Emiko said, smiling.
"I would not have thought anyone that good of a teacher," he said gruffly. "Come on, we have things to do."
"I'm sorry that it happened," Redding told Placide as her handed her a cup of coffee.
"I knew that I would be caught eventually. They'd realise that things had been leaked, and they would begin looking at who had access to that information. I'm just surprised that it took so long."
Redding was about to point out that she had been trusted too much to be a suspect, then realised that was the wrong thing to say. "We're glad to have you here. Something good came out of it. Have any plans?"
"I thought I'd take command of my battleship."
Redding smiled. "Claiming the second biggest ship in the Battalion. Impressive."
"Look," Redding said as he activated the holo projector. Above their heads the Alincourt carrier took shape. "Diamond Class, expected to be finished in three days. One thousand, three hundred and sixty two meters long, a beam of one hundred and ninety meters, at its widest. Covered in Miss Belin's armour, everything in on the cutting edge."
Placide could not help but be impressed. She had never seen such a beautiful ship. It looked long, the bow section coming to a point. Just behind the bow were a set of short wings with, what looked like flatted sphere set in them. The hull widened slightly, but was still slim for most of its length. The last third got wider, the full one hundred and ninety meters. There On the stern there looked to be two sets of wings, one coming off the hull's top and one set on the bottom. On the tips of the bottom wing structures were pod like structures. Set into the bottom wings were structures similar, though larger, to the ones set in the front set of wings.
Set beneath the ship was a large, secondary structure. A huge weapons pod.
"What are those sphere like things?"
"Rotating crew decks."
"A little open aren't they?"
"The Alincourts would not be dissuaded. They say that Miss Belin's armour will protect them. They also feel that no one is likely to be in their quarters during combat."
"Why did you let a bunch of civilians design that ship?"
"As if I had a choice."
"Okay, so the rear wings, the top one look like they hold engines."
"Right. They also offer some protection to the crew decks on the lower wings. Notice how they angle down, the tips of the upper wings actually end below the lower wings."
"Nice. So, what are the pods on the lower wings?"
"The bow wings, what are they for?"
"They contain some of the mecha bays. Suits launch along the ship's path of travel, and can be recovered at the rear of the wing at the same time."
"Clever. Is it battle worthy?"
"We'll know when we take it into battle."
"So we have carrier. What are they calling it?"
"Isn't that the name of your ship?"
Redding simply nodded.
"Isn't having two ships named the same thing considered, unlucky or something?"
"I don't know if it is unlucky, but I have been informed my ship has been retired from active service. The carrier is my new command."
"Since when do they tell Admirals what to do?"
"What could I do? Tell them 'no'? What other ship am I going to command?"
"Well," Placide paused. "Congratulations?"
Redding smiled and shut off the projector. "I guess I don't have much right to complain. It is a ship that any Captain would kill to command. Enough of that for now. I'm calling the senior staff together to discuss what is happening, and fill you all in on a number of new situations that have come to my attention. We'll be meeting in two hours. If you want you can use this time to rest up."
"Thanks." Placide got to her feet. "What I really want is a shower."
While he often thought that no city on Earth, or beyond it, could truly match Tokyo, Takashi did enjoy the outdoor cafes that lined the gardens around the Sydney Zenith. It was a clean air day and the portable cafes had sprung up along the paths. A cart which contained the basics needed to make coffee, tea and a few other things, tables, chairs and wait staff, it was surprising how portable it all could be.
He had found one that was up high, overlooking the ocean. On such a day, with the sparkling waves like white highlights on a filed of dark blue, on could almost forget how polluted that water was.
He drank his coffee and worked on a number of stories that needed to be completed in the next few days. He was thinking of getting the paper to transfer him back to Tokyo. While there was still a lot happening he was not sure if he really needed to be in Sydney any longer to take advantage of it.
"Mr. Ota," he heard someone say.
He looked up, a little surprised to see Auden Dominica standing over him.
"Dominica-san, enjoying the day?"
"Yes, but that is not what I am here about."
"Oh? Well, do have a seat. Would you like something, coffee, tea?"
"A black coffee would be nice."
"Excuse me," Takashi called to one of the waitresses. "Two more coffees."
"Right away," the waitress said.
"So Dominica-san, what are you here to talk about? Would you like to give an interview?"
"No. I'm here to talk about that piece you did on Emiko."
The waitress came by and put two cups on the table, then she was gone.
"Are you actively working against the USSA?"
"I don't think so."
"I find that hard to believe."
"Don't you think people deserve to know the truth?"
"You are not selling the truth, even if you knew what it was. How can you be so certain that Emiko Miya is right?"
"I trust her judgement."
"I just do."
"So, on the word of an eighteen year old girl, a confused eighteen year old girl, you choose to risk Earth."
"I don't see how I am putting the planet at risk."
"Don't you? You have, to a certain extent, single handily, thrown doubt upon the governing bodies of the USSA. At a time of war do you not think that is dangerous?"
Takashi took a drink of his coffee. "Maybe," he finally said. "But leaving a corrupt government in power is just as dangerous."
"And now you think that the USSA is corrupt?"
"In some ways."
"Mr. Takashi, I think you are making a mistake. Your drive for fame has blinded you to some things."
"I'm not doing this for fame," he said, starting to get a little angry.
"So, this is your crusade for truth?"
"And what about the people who get hurt?"
"What is this all about Dominica-san?"
"I would like you to truly think about all the stories you have written since this all began. I want you to ask yourself if you have been completely honest. You have gained quite a following." She picked up her coffee cup. "Do not lie to them."
"Dominica-san, you have just called my integrity into question."
"Do you have any integrity?"
"What are you defining the truth as Dominica-san? What really is the truth? Or what you want to be the truth?"
"I could ask the same question."
Takashi stood up. "Good day Dominica-san. I will cover the bill."
"Consider what you have written Mr. Ota," Auden said to him. "Consider the implications of that."
"And if I don't? Will I suddenly disappear one night?"
"Doubtful Mr. Ota. I doubt you and Makoto will ever be friends again. How many more friends are you willing to lose?"
"I guess we'll find that out one day."
"And what if Emiko ends up dead?"
"I did not send her away."
"You did not stop her either. You gave her the perfect out as well. You have to take some responsibility for that."
"Perhaps I do, but when it comes to accepting blame, I'm not alone."
"But are you really willing to accept the consequences for it all? When this is over and a few years have past, people will begin to look back on it all. Are you confident of your place in history?"
"More confident then you deserve to be. Now if you will excuse me Dominica-san." He walked away from her.
Dominica remained at the table, finishing off her coffee. She did not think it likely that she could convert him, but she was fairly certain that Takashi Ota would not be so forward with his stories. For a while at least.
While Emiko had managed to spend some time with all of them, the briefing Admiral Frost called them to was the first chance she had to be together with all of them at once. Juan, Ree, Conaly, Epiphany, Diane and herself were all seated at the far end of a conference table. At the head of the table was Redding.
"A few days ago Lieutenant Miya brought something to my attention," Redding started without preamble. "Lieutenant, would you care to tell me what you told the others?"
Emiko was a little surprised, but after a moment she stood and told all assembled what she had told Redding when she had returned. Once she was finished she sat down.
"Thank you," Redding said to her. "I've been looking over the Lieutenant's research and I think this requires looking into. Finding a connection between the Inner Circle and the Midnight Sun would be of use to us. Lieutenant, where do you think we might find proof of this?" He looked at Miya.
"Doctor Melan's private offices."
"I agree. He also lives there, so it gives you a chance to speak with him directly, if you need to."
"I take it we're being sent on a mission," Juan said.
"Yes. I think the Lieutenant has all the information you need. I leave the rest up to you. You will have access to everything you need."
"Well then," Juan got to his feet. "We best get to work."
"Okay," Juan said. "This is the Bahn/Zai spinner, a big, five ring monster. For anyone who does not know, Bahn/Zai built this to show off. It's a 'hey look how big our office building is' sort of place. The majority of space on the spinner has been rented out, though Bahn/Zai offices are scatted throughout all five rings."
"What do they do there?" Conaly asked.
"It's mostly and administration type place. There are some research offices, but they do theoretical research only. The over all effect is that general security is pretty minor."
"Where do we find Dr. Melan?" Diane asked.
"The fifth ring. He's set it up for his own comfort. During business hours it rotates at half a G, other times, at a tenth. A number of other elderly, rich people have also bought space in that ring. The important part is that they are rich, and each of them have their own security. It makes that ring one of the more secure spaces on the entire colony."
"We can deal with the security," Diane said. "How do we get there? Walk in through the front door?"
"I thought about it, but the place is mostly business related. Outsiders tend to be noticed. Plus it would limit the gear we could bring. I was thinking we take the John B. in. Drop the team off on the cylinder, then the ship waits to extract. The team goes in. heads to ring five, and gets the job done."
"It's workable," Diane said.
"Getting the John B. in that close without being seen, that might be hard. No one will see it on sensors of course, but there is still the possibility that someone will look out a window," Ree said.
"A chance we'll have to take. If we put the sun between us and the colony we'll be harder to see."
"What about the team that goes in? How do you want to set that up?"
"I thought we'd use PAFS, Shinobies to be exact. They are stealthy and small enough to fit through the service corridors of the Colony. They will also allow us to carry the ordinance we need in case this gets messy."
"When do we go?" Conaly asked.
"Two days. We'll run some drills, get everyone checked out on the equipment, make sure that this will work."
"The Admiral wants this fast."
"Well then," Diane got to her feet. "Let's go and track down the PAFS."
Redding was occupying his office, as he liked to think of it, working on a hundred different things. Across his desk were scattered a number of EO and display pads, each containing some vital piece of information to the war effort, or anti-war effort.
He was just beginning to consider who best to put in charge of equipment distribution when his aide called him on the intercom.
"Yes," Redding asked, not looking away from the display pad.
"Commander Varris wishes to see you."
"Send him in," Redding said as he put aside the pad.
A moment later Juan walked. "Thank you for seeing me Admiral." He closed the door.
"So, what is it you wish to see me about?"
"I wanted to tell you that we'll be ready to go tomorrow. Everything is going well."
"You want this information on Dr. Melan bad don't you? You actually need it."
"Yes. I'm sure you know why."
"I've got a few theories. You know, Emiko is good, but she might be wrong."
"I'm aware of that."
Juan nodded. "It leads me to ask, is this room secure?"
"Can we talk, openly?"
Redding said nothing for a moment, then opened a desk drawer and pressed a button on the inside of the drawer. "We can now."
"Do you want this proof enough generate it if we don't find it?"
"Dr. Melan will deny it if we fake it."
"He'd deny it even if it was true. And if he is not alive, he cannot deny anything."
"You're good at this."
"Not one of my prized talents, but I understand how the game has to be played sometimes."
"You could do it?"
"No. We won't do that. It is the sort of thing that could come back to haunt us in a few years. Also, Miss Mason will be working with the information and I suspect she would catch a fake. We need her good graces and the only way to maintain them is to be completely truthful with her."
"I understand. I just wanted to give you the option."
"Thank you. And good luck."
Juan nodded, then left the office.
There was only one ship that might make Ree swear off suits, and that was the John B.. It was such a beautiful craft, and fast, so very fast. It was a ship that cried out to her to be wild with. It resonated in the very core of her being.
For that reason Ree was more than a little upset to be tailing a big, fat, slow freighter. She sat at the controls, bored out of her mind, starting up the freighters tail. Every now and then she was seized by the desire to activated the John B.'s weapons and see if she could not speed the big ship up.
There was a perfectly good reason for her course. The larger ship masked the already near invisible John B.. There was no way anyone was going to spot the small, black ship as it cruised quietly into the space around Earth. Ree understood it, but it did not make her happy.
"We're getting close," Epiphany said from the co-pilot's seat."
"Yay," Ree said sarcastically.
"How are we going to do this?"
"Pretty simple trick," Ree said, straightening in her chair. "When we get to this point here," she indicated their projected course on one of the screens. "We use a couple of quick blasts to get us moving towards the colony. Fat boy there will hide that, so even if anyone is looking they won't see anything. Then we approach the colony on its dark side, making us basically invisible. We'll cruise along, a meter or two above the cylinder, cutting our speed to almost a full stop. We'll have to make sure that we don't get hit by a spoke, but I don't think that will be too much of a danger.
"We dump the team, then swing about, and head back the way we come. We'll park the ship about two hundred klicks from the station and then wait for the team to ask for pick up. Simple."
Epiphany nodded. "Think there is any chance that we'll be spotted?"
"Yes, but it is not much of a chance. If we are, we'll have to get fancy. Hey, how are you and Dom doing these days?"
"Do you mean 'how' or 'what'?" Epiphany smiled wickedly.
"I know what you are doing, I want to know how it is going?"
"Well, after he got over the shock of my Christmas gift to him..."
"You have to tell me about that. Did you seduce him, let him get his hands down your pants, hating himself for it, only to get the surprise of his life?"
"I'm not going to tell you Ree."
"You're no fun."
"Be that as it may, our relationship is going along very well."
"I'm surprised he hasn't been going around, yelling at people, 'she doesn't have a penis you know!'" Ree said is a poor imitation of Dom's voice.
"He's not that insecure. He doesn't care what other people think, it is just his own opinion he is worried about."
"Is that why he bought you those string bikinis and those tight outfits?"
"Well, okay, maybe he is a little concerned."
"Personally I think he should have just accepted the guy guy thing and got on with his life."
"Some of us actually have some concerns other than pleasure."
"What exactly are you calling me? A hedonist? Or is it something worse?"
"Maybe I'm saying you'd sleep with Tauutus Shabatai if you heard he was a good enough lover."
"Maybe." Ree thought about it. "He'd have to be really good for me not to kill or turn him in afterwards."
"Have I ever told you that you are twisted?"
"Every now and again. Now if you want to talk about bad people, Albert Knox. There's a man I would toss aside a lot for."
"And then there is Miss Dominica, with those blue eyes of hers." Ree closed her eyes and smiled.
"She dresses well," Epiphany said.
"One wonders what else..." Ree started, then shook her head. "People I should not be attracted to. Let's get ready." Ree turned on the ship's intercom. "We'll be breaking away from the freighter in about a minute. We should be at the drop point in ten. Get ready."
The cargo bays of the John B. had been converted to handle PAFS even before that mission. Juan and Conaly were in one, Diane and Emiko in the other. It was Emiko's first experience with the small suits but she had taken to them easily enough.
The Shinobi PAFS were among the smallest units made. Primarily a spy unit, they were the prefect choice for the mission. They could have easily fit all four into one bay, but splitting them up made good military sense.
Emiko was kneeling in front of her suit, making a few last minute checks on her suit. She reached up and grasped the weapon held in the suits left hand, making sure it was ready. The weapon was a three barrelled mini-gun that fired ten millimetre armour piercing rounds. Underneath the rotating barrels was a plasma gun with a twenty millimetre aperture.
She suspected that it would be more than enough if anything happened. She was hoping that they would not need them.
"Ready," Diane asked her. She had just finished up with her own suit.
Diane nodded then began getting into her PAFS. Emiko followed suit and soon both were sealed into the Shinobies.
"We're approaching the colony, drop in about two minutes," Ree's voice came over their PAFS's radios.
Diane moved over to the lock controls and began to depressurise the hold. Once the air had been pumped out she shut off the lights, plunging the hold into darkness. A moment later the external hatch opened, letting in a little of the outside light. Emiko watched at the Marshal moved up to the doorway and stood near the opening.
Emiko approached and placed her suit's hand on Daine's suit's shoulder. "Have you ever done this before?"
"No. Something similar on planet once, but never this."
"It seemed so simple, those training runs we made."
"The real thing is always harder. You know if you make a mistake that you aren't going to get a second chance. Relax though. It is not as if we can possibly miss the target."
"I guess so," Emiko said, sounding a little more relaxed.
"Just remember, if push comes to shove, no hesitation. The enemy is not likely to make that mistake."
"And if they do?"
"Then they are certainly going to die."
Emiko was about to point out that they were not going to be dealing with terrorists, or even soldiers, but then realised that Diane was probably well aware of that. "I'll be ready."
A few minutes later Ree told them they were on drop approach. Emiko had moved to the edge of the door and watched as the colony's surface suddenly flashed below them. A huge expanse, whipping underneath them. It was also spinning, giving Emiko the feeling that the ship was moving on an angle across the surface.
A beeping in her ear told her that it was time to go. She leapt out of the ship, taking care as she did so. The colony was large enough to have a very weak gravity, but she could still easily launch herself into space. The suit had thrusters of course, but better not to use them excessively.
As Emiko was falling towards the surface, a little more than a meter below her, she locked up the suit's joints. A touch of the thruster controls and she was moving towards the surface much faster. Her feet hit, the ground seemed to slip from under her from a moment, then the magnets in her PAFS's feet locked her down.
She was put under a great deal of acceleration for a moment as she began moving with the colony. Above her the sky seemed to spin.
She waited, as she had been told. The colony's spin brought them out onto the sunlit side, the light seeming to blossom into existence. Emiko did not move even as she unlocked her suit's joints. The suits would be hard to spot, as long as they did not move. Then the rotation brought them back over into the dark side and Emiko began running.
The other's PAFS were around here, moving in the same direction as she. As soon as they were spun back onto the bright side they stopped, waiting. It was three complete revolutions before they reached the airlock.
Emiko plugged her PAFS's computer into the airlock controls. She overrode the security protocols first, then cut power to the interior lights. Normally bright lights would come on with the lock was open, a welcome feature. It was the last thing they needed.
The airlock cycled and the outer hatch opened. When the airlock entered the darkside again all four of them were inside and the airlock sealed before it was once again on bright side.
They waited for the lock to repressurise and the inner door to open. They were in the lowest levels of the colony, just on the inside of the skin. There was little there, just dark corridors, leading to equipment rooms, machinery, storage areas and the evacuation pods.
Emiko plugged into the first computer she found and hacked her way into the security system. First thing she did was plan out their route, then she altered all the security along the way. She put in new codes for the doors while leaving the old ones in place. She then put a reality filter on all the monitoring devices to cap everything off. It took several minutes but once she was through they were covered.
"Okay, we can go," Emiko told them.
The four PAFS moved off, covering the distance quickly. It was not long before they were at a spoke base for the fifth ring. They could have used the elevator, but chance of discovery was too high. Instead they climbed up one of the emergency, access tunnels. A tight squeeze in their PAFS, but they all made it up.
They all noticed the lesser gravity in the ring. It was different from being in microgravity and yet also different from being in a normal gravity range. They had to be careful as they moved through the service corridors or they would be bouncing off the ceiling. The toroids service corridors were much smaller than those of the hub and they had the squeeze through them, sometimes breaking off obstructions as they went.
The going was slow, and everyone was beginning to get a little on edge. The two Marshals were further burdened by the worry that if they were attacked they would be at a serious disadvantage.
Emiko led the group. Out of all of them she was the one most likely to know what could be safely broken to aid their progress and what had to be carefully eased out of the way. It was not easy work, she often had to split her attention between her computer, which was helping her decide what everything was, and whatever it was she was working on. It was beginning to give her a headache.
She was relieved when she reached the hatch that led from the cramped service tunnel and into the larger corridors. They were close to Dr. Melan's quarters now.
She opened the hatch slightly and sent one of the Shinobi's cameras out into the corridor. It was clear. She opened the door completely and stepped out into the hall. The other three PAFS came after.
"I'll take the lead," Diane said, moving off. Juan followed her and Emiko followed him. Conaly took up the rear. They continued up the corridor for a hundred meters, then took a right turn. Diane stopped before the next turn and used one of her cameras to look around the corner.
According to their intelligence Dr. Melan had a few guards stationed outside of his quarters. They planned to use gas to take them, but Diane was going to make sure that all was according to their intelligence before going forth.
Her PAFS held up a hand, making several gestures. The rest of them got ready to move. From a launcher on the PAFS's left arm two gas canisters shot out, bouncing off the wall and ricocheting into the guards midst.
Diane followed, moving quickly. The gas was very quick acting, bringing disorientation in moments and unconsciousness in seconds. Things could still go wrong though, and Diane had to be ready for that. The other three PAFS followed.
As it turned out there was little need for all the speed. The five guards were all lying in the hallway, unconscious. There was no indication that security had picked them up, and the gas was already reacting with the oxygen in the air, becoming harmless. There was nothing for the chemical sniffers in the colony's ventilation system to pick up.
Emiko moved up the to door and plugged into the controls. At first she had thought that it would be a simple matter to override the security and open it up. She soon realised that there was a very powerful computer behind the security and it was not going to be that easy.
"I can open it," she said after a minute, but I can't disable the security monitors. Anyone watching them will know the door opened, they might even be able to spot us."
"If anyone is watching," Diane said.
"We've come this far," Juan said. "We knew that there might be the possibility of a fight. The faster we do this, the faster we can get out."
Seeing that a decision had been reached Emiko disabled the locking program opening the door. The four of them entered the room and the door slid shut behind them.
Doctor Melan, for some reason, most likely paranoia, had only one entrance to his quarters and private offices. They were in a short hallway, to the left was the doorway into the offices, to the right the way into his living quarters. They had already worked out their plan. Emiko opened the door to the offices and went in with Diane following her. Juan and Conaly remained in the hall, ready to deal with any problems that might come up.
Emiko and Diane walked into a large, communal office. There were many desks, in lines, front to front. Dr. Melan's private office was at the back of the room. There were also doors that led off to conference rooms, storage and bathrooms.
"Do you know what he does here?" Diane asked after she had placed her PAFS's hand on Emiko's PAFS's shoulder.
"This is actually where he runs his charitable organisations. He does a little Bahn/Zai business here as well, but for the most part the company runs without his direct influence."
"Supports charity and terrorists."
"Suspected of supporting terrorists."
"Good line. Maybe you should be the law officer, or a lawyer."
"Is that a compliment?"
"I wouldn't think so."
"His computer is in his office."
"I'll wait here and watch your back."
Emiko nodded, even though Diane could not see it, then walked her PAFS across the floor. The door to Dr. Melan's office was locked, with an old fashioned physical lock. Emiko used the PAFS's sensors to scan the doorway, then reached out and forced it open. She slid her PAFS into through the doorway, gouging the paint and wood trim as she went, and entered the office.
It was almost as big as the common office she had just left, with three different levels, and a small garden. The carpet was thick and easily muffled the Shinobi's normally quiet footsteps. Emiko looked around, or actually the PAFS did under her command. The scanners picked out power lines and other things. Emiko traced several to a common point near the desk.
Examining the desk, pulling open drawers, breaking the lock on one, revealed a number of things, including a half empty bottle of gin and a automatic pistol. No computer though. Emiko scanned the area again, then lowered the suit, kneeling it down to look under the desk.
She got to her feet and put the PAFS's hands against it, giving it an experimental push. Nothing happened. She gave it a shove and heard metal creak, then break. Suddenly the desk swung easily out of the way. As it went a simple, mechanical device attached to the desk pulled a square of carpet from the floor. Below that was a plate of metal with a seam running down its centre.
Emiko knelt down, taking a closer look at it. After a moment she tore more carpet free, which was made difficult by the PAFS's hands. They were not made with carpet laying, or its reverse, in mind.
She traced two cables, then cut them both. One she plugged into her suit, powering it up. The two halves of the metal plates slid out of the way and a shiny, black cylinder rose out of the floor. While Emiko did not know if it had been designed to be so, she thought the entire thing very phallic, and in bad taste.
Like many computers it had no external controls. It was just a shiny, black cylinder, nearly two meters tall.
The chest plate of Emiko's PAFS opened, the slave arms unlocking. She undid the restraints and slid out, keeping her legs in the suit as she ran her hands over the material. At least id did not feel like rubber, she thought, more like polished stone, and it was slightly warm to the touch. She moved the suit around carefully. She was half way around it when her hands touched a contact spot. She linked herself to the PAFS's computer and went to work.
The architecture she found herself dealing with, while current, was not as state of the art as she would have thought. Then again, the layout of the data within it was very confusing. She suspected that Dr. Melan was the only person who could navigate it easily.
She settled into the system, getting a feel for it. Complicated, but she had a few programs that would deal with it. Stealth programs, quiet and clever, that could track down the information she wanted.
The first problem was one she had suspected. The data was fractured, scattered within the memory core. That each bit looked to be twined around another bit of unrelated data was not something she had thought of.
For a moment Emiko was stuck, her search programs were baffled by the system, unable to nail down the information she wanted. She cancelled the programs and switched to sensor programs, taking a closer look at the layout.
After a minute, a long time all things considered, she began to see a pattern emerging. It was going to be a little harder than she had thought.
Emiko shut down her datalink, she was going to have to do it her way. She took a contact pad from a small pocket in the suit and pasted it to the computer, connecting it to her computer. Shifting around she went to work, fingers on a keypad, watching the screen. The data made more sense somehow. She was looking at things much like they actually were, instead of being coloured by her mind.
The pattern became clearer, she knew it would. Dr. Melan's system had been very good, but it was ultimately something she could deal with. After altering her search programs she sent them out, watching as they wove their way about the data, matching the pattern already there, locking onto what she needed and sending it back to her.
Emiko watched as the data came in, just a mess of information, a puzzle to be put together. She smiled slightly as she went to work.
She had been at it for nearly ten minutes when something changed, the system began to actively work against her. For a moment she thought that she must have triggered an alarm, but that was not it. Someone was working directly against her.
Conaly and Juan were standing around, waiting. Juan had opened the front hatch of his suit to get some fresh air.
When an armoured shutter came down, sealing off the doors into the office section and the living quarters they knew something had happened. It was pretty obvious.
Juan sealed up his suit. Conaly switched on his com. <2, something happen?> he sent to Diane.
<Wait one on that 1,> she sent back. Several seconds passed. <4 says she did not do anything, but thinks the target is aware of us.>
<We'll deal with him. Get ready to move. 1 out.> Conaly turned his PAFS around to face the armoured shutter that cut them off from the living quarters. He brought the PAFS's weapon up, charging up the plasma gun. The lance of super hot plasma cut into the shutter, quickly burning through it. Conaly swung it around, like a knife, cutting an opening.
Juan waited close by until Conaly finished. When the plasma gun stopped firing he moved in, kicking at the shutter with his PAFS's foot. The metal plate was blown inwards by the force of the kick. Juan followed it, his weapon in the lead. Conaly was right behind him.
<Think a century old man can be much of a threat?> Juan sent.
<We'll certainly find out.>
They moved through the quarters, using the sensors in the PAFS to search as they went. Conaly picked up a life sign and went towards it. He turned a corner and was presented with a drone. It had wheels, each set on an independent fork like system. If it locked the wheels it could probably walk. Mounted on the drone was a machine gun. The weapon began firing.
The Shinobi weathered the burst well, taking only minor damage. Conaly swung the PAFS's weapon about, opening up with a spray of 10mm armour piercing rounds. The drone was ripped apart by the bullets.
<Think there will be more of those?> Juan asked.
<We'll find out,> Conaly sent as he moved forward.
There were no more drones, at least none that got in their way. Conaly tracked the life sign to a sealed door. He backed his PAFS up and charged it forward, crashing through the door.
Inside the room, looking only a little surprised, was Dr. Melan. He stood near a black, shiny cylinder, his hands on its surface.
"Step back from the computer," Conaly said through the PAFS's speaker.
Dr. Melan did as he was told.
<Cover me,> Conaly sent to Juan.
<I'm getting out.>
<I'm going to arrest him.> Conaly's PAFS opened.
<If he's been aiding the Midnight Sun he's a criminal.>
<This is not the time for that.>
Conaly did not answer. He exited his PAFS, removing a pistol from one of the storage pouches. "Harvey Melan, I'm arresting you for collaboration with know terrorists."
"And who are you to make such a charge?" Dr. Melan asked. His voice shook slightly, but all things considered he was very calm.
"I am a Pleiades Marshal."
"Then you are very far out of your jurisdiction."
"I don't think so," Conaly walked up to the man, spun him and pushed him against the wall. He was careful not to hurt the old man.
"What right does a Pleiades Marshal have to assault a citizen of the USSA, in USSA space?" the old man demanded as Conaly made sure he had no weapons on him.
"What right do you have to support a terrorist organisation."
"That is a lie!"
"We'll see." Conaly pulled Dr. Melan's arms behind his back and used a restraint band to secure his hands. "You'll have your day in court."
"Marshal," Juan called out. "We should be going."
"We will." Conaly released Dr. Melan, sure that he would not go anywhere, then returned to his PAFS. Once he was inside he moved close to Dr. Melan and gently picked him up in the PAFS's arms. He was very careful, doing all he could to make sure he did not injure the old man. <Let's go,> he sent to Juan.
Emiko knew the exact moment Dr. Melan stepped away from the computer. That was when everything got easier. She continued her work, getting all the data. Unopposed she finished quickly, copying everything that she thought would prove her suspicions about Dr. Melan. She had examined some of it, and it looked good, but she would have to give it all a thorough examination, later.
She pulled the contact pad from the computer, then slid back into the PAFS. After doing the restraints up she sealed the chest hatch.
Leaving the office she found Diane standing near where the doorway into the office section had been. Now there was an armour plate with a large hole cut into it. <I'm done,> Emiko sent.
Diane swung her PAFS around and walked over to Emiko. She placed a hand on Emiko's PAFS's shoulder. "Put a copy into my computer, just in case."
"Right," Emiko said, copying all the data she had retrieved and downloading it to the computer in Diane's PAFS.
<We should be going,> Juan sent as he entered the room. Conaly came in behind him, holding Dr. Melan in his PAFS's arms.
<Why are you carrying him?> Diane asked.
<He's my prisoner.>
Diane thought about if for a moment, then decided she had nothing to say on the matter.
<I have an idea,> Emiko sent. <Let's keep it private.>
The others moved close, putting all their suits in contact. "I think security will be gathering outside in a very short time," Emiko said, stating the obvious. "If we cut through the roof we'll avoid them." She took advantage of the fact they were all linked to download the data to Juan's and Conaly's suits as well.
"Sounds like a good plan," Conaly said.
"Let's go then." Diane broke contact and moved away from the others. She primed her plasma cannon, pointed it at the roof, and began cutting.
Conaly moved back to ensure none of the molten metal and plastics splattered on Dr. Melan.
Diane had not finished cutting when the area she was cutting fell in. The still uncut area acted like a hinge, and the circular plug fell down, swinging back and forth. Then the 'hinge' snapped and it fell to the carpeted floor with a dull thump.
Diane was already up through the hole by that time. <Clear,> she sent.
Emiko followed, then Juan, Conaly last, carrying Dr. Melan.
They found themselves in a theatre of sorts. It was probably some kind of conference room, with the large screen used for presentations. The room was dark, and empty.
<2, you take lead,> Conaly sent. <I'll follow, after that will be 3 and 4 brings up the rear. Think you can handle that?> he asked Emiko.
<Then let's go.>
Diane walked to the room's exit. She opened it slightly, just enough to get a suit camera outside. She examined the area, then opened the door fully and went out. Conaly followed behind her, then Juan, then Emiko. They were in the corridors, moving fast.
Alarms were going off, not surprising. Dr. Melan had triggered a personal alarm, and when they had started cutting through bulkheads, firing within the station, that had added to it. Emiko's reality filters were good, but could only do so much. And they had left the route she had planned out.
Security doors were closing, or closed, in an attempt to contain them. A burst of 10mm, or a blast of plasma, then crashing into them with a Shinobi moving at full tilt was enough to breach them. While not classified as a front line combat suit, the Shinobies were surprisingly hardy.
Diane made straight for one of the spoke points. It was an obvious destination and colony security was waiting, but they had not been able to bring up any heavy weapons. Diane came screaming at them, kicking in her PAFS's thrusters for that extra bit of terror inspired speed and firing the gas gun. As she expected most of the security troops broke their line. Those that remained were enveloped in a cloud of CS gas and smoke.
With the sensors in the Shinobi it was as if the smoke was not even there. Diane fired into it, aiming for areas close to her targets. The shrapnel kicked out by the rounds wounded the security people, but not fatally so.
She hit the elevator doors, ripping through them and into the shaft. The thrusters burned brighter as she flew along the shaft, towards the hub.
The others followed her, weaving through the groups of wounded and incapacitated security people. Conaly noticed the passage through the tear gas was not an easy thing or Dr. Melan. The old man was coughing hard. There was nothing he could do about it though.
She sped along the shaft, once shifting to another shaft to avoid an elevator car moving towards the ring.
Then there were out in the open area of the hub. While the colony was not designated as industrial, the central core was still a location of a lot of manufacturing. Some for the colonies continued existence, others for export.
In the micro-gravity huge tanks floated, each filled with liquid medium in which nano machines operated, building things. Most of the tanks were near the skin of the colony hub, leaving the central area mostly free for transport.
Waiting for them were two security transports and two PAFS. The men and women on the security transport were lightly armed and armoured, hardly a concern for the four Shinobies. The two PAFS were. Mastiffs, medium combat suits, configured for Heavy SWAT duty.
<Four, your with me,> Diane ordered. <We'll hit the PAFS. Two and three, move to fall back point A3. If we aren't with you soon, go without us.>
Diane did not wait to hear what anyone else thought. She just sped towards the two Mastiffs that were raising to meet her. She did not even look to see if Emiko was with her, assuming she would be.
As she expected, Emiko's PAFS fell in beside her, weapons ready.
Conaly knew why Diane had chosen for Emiko to stay, he was holding a prisoner. He spun his suit the opposite direction that Diane had went. Fall back point A3 was close by, and easily defended.
His and Juan's PAFS moved out, leaving the fight behind.
Diane shifted her thrusters wash about, getting a drop effect she had been hoping for. The Mastiff flew over her head, its fire shattering one of the floating tanks. Diane turned her PAFS, brought her weapon about, and sprayed the Mastiff with 10mm rounds. It had an effect, but was not enough to take the other PAFS down.
Her suit shook slightly as she came under fire from a group of security personnel. The light weapons were not a big concern, but given enough time they certainly could become so.
She let her lock on the other suit go and moved to a place that offered her cover from the small arms fire.
Emiko shifted her Shinobi about, burning fuel at a tremendous rate. The PAFS behind her kept on her tail, but could not get a lock. Emiko watched the suit behind her, and where she was going. At the time that was through all the tanks of liquid medium. She cut sharply around spherical tanks, using them as cover. Not that they provided much cover, but he other suit seemed to be wary of firing on her.
Emiko zipped around another tank, giving quick glances at her sensors. She suspected that Ree might be proud of her as she had no doubt that it was her finest flying to date. Then she saw it.
She spun her suit around, facing back towards the pursuing Mastiff. Her PAFS crashed, back first, through a tank, but she had expected that. She brought up her plasma gun and fired. The plasma exploded from the barrel, speeding towards the other PAFS. As she expected the Mastiff pilot was dodging the PAFS to the side, but Emiko's plan had never called for her to hit with the plasma.
It instead ripped into a tank in front of the other suit. Normally the liquid in the tank was stable, but no one had planned for a bolt of plasma to enter it. The plasma transferred a tremendous amount of energy into the medium. He effect was a very luminescent reaction.
Chemistry comes in handy, Emiko thought as she moved to get a new line of sight on the Mastiff. The Shinobi's sensors had compensated for the dazzle effect and Emiko had no problem acquiring the other PAFS.
She switched her machine gun to single shot and put a tight grouping of five rounds into the suit, lower part of the body. She hoped the pilot would not be killed and watched as the suit continued on its course, crashing through two tanks before hitting the interior wall of the hub.
A blast of light off to the side registered somewhere in Diane's mind, but she did not give it much attention. It did not count as a threat. The other pilot was probably not so focused as he, or she, flew right into her sights. Her PAFS lifted its weapons and Diane aimed very carefully. She put a single shot into the cockpit area, centre of mass, and watched as the other suit spun out of control.
Emiko's suit moved up beside hers. <Time to go?>
<Over time to go. Come on.> Diane's suit moved off, Emiko fell in behind her.
Fall back point A3 was a little used cargo airlock near the far end of the cylinder. It had been easy to reach, the area being virtually deserted.
<How long do we wait?> Juan asked once they had reached the lock.
<Three minutes, or the arrival of problems, whatever comes first.> Conaly let go of Dr. Melan, who looked ill.
The Doctor drew himself into a sitting position, breathing heavily. "You know," he gasped. "You'll never," gasp. "Never get away with this."
"We'll see," Conaly said as he walked his PAFS over to one of the lockers. He tore in open and removed a vac-suit. "Put this on unless you think you can handle vacuum." He pushed the suit towards Dr. Melan.
"And what if I don't?"
"Then I'll stuff you into an evacuation ball. It will be less comfortable, and not dignified."
The Doctor reached out and grabbed the vac-suit. Floating in the micro-gravity, he began to suit up.
<Something is coming,> Juan sent to Conaly a minute later.
<Two, that you?> Conaly sent.
<It's us. Ready to go.>
Conaly shifted his attention to Dr. Melan who was doing a check on his suit. <Yea.>
<Good. We're coming in fast.>
<Four, seal the lock as soon as they are inside,> Conaly sent as he turned his suit around to face the outer lock hatch.
Emiko and Diane flew into the lock, fast. Juan hit the close button. Conaly opened fire. The explosive decompression blew them all out into space. It was Diane who caught Dr. Melan before he could go spinning off.
<Eagle, this is 1. Beacon on, come and get us.> Conaly sent.
<Got ya 1, we're coming in fast.>
The four PAFS were riding their thrusters away from the colony, putting as much distance between it and pursuit as they could.
A minute later the Sloop John B. passed under them, then moved directly in front of them. It slowed rapidly as the hatches to the rear holds opened. Diane, with Dr. Conaly, and Juan drifted into one. Emiko and Conaly slipped into the other.
As soon as the hatches had sealed Diane opened the John B. right up. Everyone inside the ship felt the acceleration. The PAFS and Dr. Melan were pinned to the inner hatches. It was too much for the Doctor who passed out.
<Mission successful?> Ree sent.
<I hope so,> Conaly told her.
The John B. had easily lost what pursuit there was and was now on clear course away from the gravity well of Earth.
Emiko had been checking the data almost since she had boarded the ship. It looked like what they wanted. She would not be a hundred percent sure until she checked a few more things, but it was looking very promising.
"It looks good, or maybe bad, depending on your view," she told Juan.
"Score another one for us then."
"How's Doctor Melan doing?"
"Still in sickbay, Diane put him in a bed full of gel. It should ease the stress on him."
"Will he be tried?"
"If he survives."
"Death penalty, imprisonment, which is his case amounts to the same thing I think."
"He looks so harmless, so frail."
Juan smiled and reached out to mess Emiko's hair. "So do you."
Ending Credits New Song - Across the Universe (Bowie and Lennon version)
A close up of Emiko, she is behind a wind shied, driving. The camera angle swings around, pulling back. She is driving Tern's car, on a cliff side road above the ocean. The wind whips at her short hair and pulls at the loose blouse she wears.
The credits show up on the right side of the screen, superimposed over the sea and sky in the back ground.
On the left side of the screen pictures of the other characters are shown, but the almost blend in, in chameleon fashion, with the sky and sea.
This continues until the end of the song when the credits and faces stop.
Suddenly and Arrow comes up from below the cliffs, matching the car's speed for a few seconds.
The Arrow performs several rolls, then speeds off, climbing.
Emiko hits the brakes, twisting the wheel as she does do. The car spins one hundred and eighty degrees, coming to a complete stop. Emiko stands up on the seat, shading her eyes with her hand as she watches the arrow rocket away.
If you are wondering what this ship looks like, and with my description who could blame you, I am thinking of the Super Strike TA-29 from the Manga Version of Yamamoto Yooko. What a sweet ship, and Yooko is so kawaiiiiiii! Take away the raised, bridge like pod from the ship's stern and its a dead ringer.
With the title and everything you may be able to find an image of this beautiful ship on the web somewhere, or find the manga itself. Dragon Comics, story by Takashi Shouji and art by Youichi Kadoi.
Now, this ship makes a nice carrier, plenty of room for suits and fighter. Sad part is that the Battalion will not be able to fill its mecha bays anywhere near full.
In battle it is supposed to use its fighters for protection and offensive operations, like most carriers. As pointed out its fighter complement is not at full.
The Carriers used by the ODF and SAC also seem to do double duty as battle wagons, with big, scary guns.
The Diamond Class just did not manage that. It is covered with mekton scale weapons though, which makes it very difficult, if not suicidal, for mecha pilots to close on this girl.
There are also a few anti-ship weapons, but they are all fairly light, except...
There is a pod under this ship, which looks very ugly, which holds a big, honking cannon. Sort of your standard Anime big gun. Can be used accurately at extremely long range, though it delivers less power, or at shorter range (though still relatively long) on sort of a mega beam setting. Boom.
Comfortable cabins all around, new, new tech. Both the Battalion's and the Alincourt's flagship.
"Watashi wa anata no ane, soshite haha, soshite anata."
--Miyu Kyuuketsuki ga Yui ni itta
Shawn Hagen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On to Chapter 39