Episode 4 (2180.05.13)
by Shawn Hagen (all around rapscoundrel and ner-do-well.) (1997)
Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.
Juan led Emiko through the streets of Zanzibar again, much to her distress. She had acquired a simple, somewhat unobtrusive, filter mask which helped with the smell. The dark gray jacket she wore was woven of ballistic fibers and she had a rather large pistol in a shoulder holster. All of it had been pressed upon her by one of Avatar Shiva's people. It seemed she was already drawing stores from the newly formed Starblade Battalion.
"Here," Juan said, leading her towards a heavily fortified building. Emiko followed and did not say anything.
The doorway was in a deep recess. The door itself was an armour plate. Juan turned to a call box and placed his hand on the palm scanner. "Juan Varris," he said aloud. "Here to speak with Diane Vichy."
"What is your business?" a voice asked.
Juan waited. After almost two minutes the door opened up. Juan turned and walked through, Emiko close on his heals. As soon as they were in the door closed behind them
"Stop," a voice commanded. "Put you hands up and make no sudden movements."
Emiko put her hand into the air, noting Juan did the same. A moment later bands of light began to cross their bodies as they underwent a scan.
"Please remove your weapons and place them on the floor in front of you. All your weapons."
Emiko took the pistol from the shoulder holster. She was sure to move slowly. While nothing had been said about what might happen were she to make any sudden moves, she had little doubt it would be bad.
Juan took a pistol from inside his coat, another from a wrist holster, two throwing knives from a holder on his other wrist, a fighting knife from the small of his back, and another pistol from an ankle holster. When he looked up he saw that Emiko was staring at him.
"What? It's Zanzibar after all. You can't have too many weapons."
Emiko just shook her head.
"Please. come inside," the voice said as a door in the far wall opened.
Emiko followed Juan through the doorway. The next room was quite different from the one they had left. Where that had been empty and sterile, this one was warm, full of furniture and plants. Juan looked around then walked towards the back of the room. Emiko noticed several people watching them as she followed after Jaun.
"Diane," Juan said. "How nice to see you again."
Emiko leaned around Juan to see who he was talking to. There was a woman seated at a small table, a plate of fruit in front of her. The was wearing a loose pair of pants, black slippers and a tank top. Her short brown hair was long in front, her bangs partially covering her left eye. She was taller than average and well muscled. She was also very attractive.
"Juan, and the terrorist from Earth," Diane said, looking at both of them.
"That's been my line up to now," Juan smiled. "I'm impressed."
"The official lines are down, but some information still gets through. I take it that the charges against her have been exaggerated."
"That is so."
"They are lies," Emiko said.
"I'm sure that some of them are. What do you want Juan?"
"I suspect you know. Why else would you be on Zanzibar?"
"Best place to observe the criminal element."
"Please Diane, you don't have to come to Zanzibar to cruise for trouble. It finds you often enough. Mind if we sit?"
"Please," Diane said.
Juan pulled two chairs close to the table for himself and Emiko. "Emiko Miya," he said when they were seated. "This is Marshall Diane Vichy. She has the highest fatal arrest record in all of the Pleiades. She is rather famous. Diane, this is Emiko Miya, recently a high school student in Tokyo as well as a hacker. Now, as you know, a wanted terrorist on Earth."
"Yoroshiku onegaishimasu," Emiko said.
"Emiko-kun," Diane said. "Since we are doing introductions. Juan Varris. Firmly in the gray area of legality. Only luck and a very good lawyer have kept him out of prison. He is good at what he does, though."
Emiko looked between the two of them. She was almost certain that Diane did not care much for Juan but Juan did not seem to return the sentiment.
"She's arrested me three timesÉ"
"Four," Diane said.
"I refuse to count that time you pulled me over for speeding. She has arrested me three times, and I have managed to escape serious charges all three times. We have a bit of history."
"You're going to make a mistake one day," she smiled.
"Be that as it may, you know that a war will start soon. Right now both sides are digging in, strengthening their defenses. Soon they will start ripping into each other and a lot of people will die. That's why you are here. You've heard that maybe someone might be trying to do something about it."
"Maybe," she said.
"Can we talk?" Juan asked.
"Here's as good as any place."
"SCC, Jager, Charybdis, Ravagers, for now. We'll probably soon start adding SAC and ODF. Numbers are small right now, they will increase. We're going to stop this war."
"Give me some names? I know Avatar will be involved with this, but who else."
"Doesn't mean anything to me."
Diane smiled. "Him I know."
"This is for real, Diane. We need help. I'm putting together a team. I need you."
"Your a bastard, Juan. You are also one of the people I think could do this. I'm in."
"How do you know he's telling the truth?" Emiko asked. She had agreed readily enough.
"Juan is not stupid enough to lie to me."
Juan nodded. "I'm not. The last thing I'd want to do is give Diane a personal reason to not like me."
"What is the plan?"
"Can you find me Tern?"
"I should be able to."
"Think you can get him and John B. to Arcadia in two days?"
She snorted. "You're not asking for much," she said sarcastically.
"Tight time frames."
"I can do. As much as I hate to say this, it will be expensive."
"I'm not surprised. Here, you can draw from this account," he told her, handing her a credit card. "I hope you don't mind but I already keyed that to your thumb, palm and voice print, retinal pattern and DNA type."
"Other than doing so without my consent is illegal, no. How much is on it?"
"Two million credits."
"Two million. Why do things small?"
"This organization has more money than I would have thought."
"They've started issuing war bonds."
"This is your money, isn't it?"
"I was saving it for a rainy day," he smiled. "It's pouring, Diane. And if we win, I get it back, plus one percent compounded yearly. Not the best rate, but I'm a sucker for a good cause."
"Watch out for this one Emiko-kun," Diane turned to look at her. "Just when you think you know how he's going to dodge, he pulls something like this."
"What can I say," Juan smiled. "We are on a tight schedule. I will see you at the Second Arcadian Spinner, docking bay 3F."
"I'll be there."
"Let's go Emiko," he got to his feet.
"Take care," Diane said. "It is beginning to get a little crazy out there."
"Take your own advice," Juan said, heading back the way he had come.
"Watch your back Emiko-kun, dangerous cluster out there and Juan's luck only extends to himself."
"Let's go," Juan said.
"Sayonara," Emiko said, running to catch up to Juan.
Diane watched as they went, then got to her feet. She had a lot of things to do and not much time. She picked the credit card up from the table, flipped it into the air and caught it with a swiping motion. "You bastard," she said, smiling.
The altar, the altar was a simple black slab of stone, balance upon one stalagmite that had been cut for that purpose. One each of the four corners was a candle, each identical down to how far they had burnt down. In the middle of the altar was a holoprojector. Above the black stone danced small projections of Earth, Mars, Solingen, Telluria, Hammersmith, Fourwinds and Arcadia. They spun about each other, an eternal, complex ballet, seeming to never repeat itself.
There were only three people in the cathedral, though it could hold thousands.
A young woman, pretty but for a guantness about her. Her black hair hung in a braid down her back, on her forehead was a tattoo of a Midnight Sun. She stared wide eyed at the altar, her attention rapt on the dancing planets.
Standing just to the side of the altar was a man of average height, with long pale blonde hair, thin braids just behind his ears. His eyes were a piecing gray, and they never left the young woman. He had an angular face, hard planes that were somehow beautiful.
"Child, look at me," he said, his rich voice filling the cathedral.
"Yes, Nemyss," she said, shifting all her attention onto him.
"There is no god," he told her, walking toward her. "Or if there is, he or she has no concern for us." He reached down and gently cupped her chin, tilting her head up so that he could look into her eyes.
"Everything ends. Everything dies. Humanity should have died. We had grown proud, and strong, and that was what doomed us. That was proper. Yet we survived. Some might call that a testament to human spirit. I call it an insult to what was right. What should have been," he looked down into her eyes, tightening his grip a little to reinforce his words. He could have broken her jaw if he wanted to. He did not.
"Yes," she said breathy. She was shivering ever so slightly, but there was a smile on her face.
"Humanity will end. There is no way to escape that. Every species has its time and we are living beyond ours. We are the best, the proudest and I will not have us destroyed by a pitiful virus, or some other mindless thing. Humanity will die, and it will be destroyed by itself. That is the only fitting way for us to go."
"Yes," she said, and she might have fallen forward if not for the man holding her up, with his hands and his eyes.
"We are living in Mappyo, the end of time. We are the few lucky ones that will see this. Humanity ends now, as it should. We live and die, especially die, to see the end. We are blessed."
"Yes," her voice was but a whisper.
"Remember that my child," he told her, grabbing her shoulder with his free hand, pulling her to her feet. "We are blessed for we are here for the end and we know it. We know it because we will bring it about. We don't need a god," he looked into her eyes, putting both hands on her shoulders. "We are gods!"
"Yes," she said, her frame shaking, tears running from her eyes. "Yes!"
He leaned forward and kissed her on her forehead, his dry lips brushing the tattoo. "Go now. Do what you must. And know that all will join you in whatever lays beyond soon enough."
"Yes Nemyss," she said, bowing deeply as she stepped back. "It will be done."
He nodded and watched her go. In a short time she was lost in the shadow.
"Grendel," Tauutus said, turning around to face the other man.
"Yes Nemyss," Grendel Misti said, stepping close. He was a thin man, average height, with a thatch of straw blonde hair and small blue eyes.
"This war that is coming is for us. We will be there to reap the produce of this seeding. It is for us and us alone. You know that?"
"Billions will die in the war. More will die after it."
"I have heard disturbing rumors. Rumors that some think to stop it."
"As have I, Nemyss."
"Our efforts have been hampered as of late. This war renews us. I will not have it end."
"Find out what you can. Find out who these dreamers are. They will be destroyed. I have no place for them."
"Serve me well in this Grendel. Fail me, and I might not let you die," he told the man, then turned and walked off. The shadow soon swallowed him up.
Grendel did not move for a time as he fought to control his fear. 'I might not let you die'. The words terrified him. The Nemyss had done that before. Locked those who failed him into cold sleep boxes, mounted with solar panels for power, set in a stable orbit around a young sun. The thought of those millions and millions of years, not being able to die, it truly terrified Grendel.
He would not fail. Those that wanted to stop the war and death were fools. They did not see the times for what they were. They did not understand the power. And yet he would give the fools a great gift. He would let them die.
"You're not going to die," Juan told her. He was taking deep breaths himself but did not seem as bothered as she was. "Take another hit."
Emiko brought the small oxygen cylinder to her mouth and took a deep breath. She felt better right away but knew the feeling would fade.
"How can people live here?"
"You get used to it. And for a place this beautiful, you put up with a lot," he told her as he walked towards one of the bridges.
Emiko followed, looking around. When she did not feel like she was drowning in the low pressure atmosphere, she was impressed by the huge trees. She had heard of Arcadia, it was considered the jewel of the Pleiades by the Gaians, but seeing it was a different matter entirely.
The trees, they were huge. Many were 2000 to 3000 meters at the base, and stretched up high into the sky. They were not bothered by the humans that made their homes in the branches. Research suggested nothing short of a nuclear blast could harm on of the huge trees. Through the openings in the canopy she could see the sky, blue and tinged with gold. Every now and then she would spot one of the huge Arcadian Dragons flying through the branches. It was a fairy tale world.
Then the low air pressure would get to her again and she would be feeling miserable. Seeing Arcadia made the empty place inside of her that missed Tokyo recede a little. She wondered if she could get used to the atmosphere?
"Here we are," Juan said, shaking Emiko from her thoughts.
Emiko looked at the building he was pointing at. She was reminded of the plantation houses she had seen in history texts, from the time before the American civil war. Juan went on while she just stared at it. The stone, well they looked like stone, columns at the front entrance stretched up the entire four story height of the house.
She shook her head and blinked, then saw that Juan was almost at the steps. She ran after him, regretting it instantly because of the thin atmosphere, and caught him at the front doors. They were opened almost as soon as Juan reached them. Juan stepped through, Emiko at his heels.
"How can I help you sir," a young, very pretty woman, wearing a tuxedo asked him.
"I'd like to speak with Kareen Maxil," Juan said.
"Who shall I tell her is calling?"
"Of course Mr. Varris," she said. "Let me show you to the lounge."
The woman led them to a comfortable room just past the foyer. The furnishing was dark woods a leather. A large bar, topped in what looked like marble, took up most of the far wall. No one was there when they entered but shortly after the woman who had greeted them left, another young woman, this one in a maid's uniform, brought them coffee, tea and sandwiches.
"What is this place?" Emiko asked.
"I think you might say it is a brothel."
"Baishunyado," he said, trying the Japanese.
"I know what brothel means," Emiko said, her face flushing. "What are we doing here?"
"This is were Ree works."
"Being paid obscene amounts of money to have sex with very wealthy gentlemen."
"She's a prostitute?"
"I think she might prefer escort or courtesan perhaps."
"She is one of the best HA pilots there is."
"Then what is she doing working here?"
"She can't fly military suits. She won't fly anything."
"If she is the bestÉ"
"Blackballed. No one even slightly legit will touch her. She won't work with pirates or SAC. Not much choice."
"Why was she blackballed?"
"Not my story to tell."
Emiko waited to see if he would add anything else. When it was obvious that he was not going to she turned her attention back to the food in front of her. She did her best to try to forget that she was in a brothel. She was not having much luck. She found herself wondering what might have happened on the couch they were sitting on.
The woman who had first met them showed up to save Emiko from her growing sense of discomfort that was about to make her leap from the couch. As it was, she used the woman's entrance to calmly stand.
"Miss Maxil will see you now," she said.
"Thank you," Juan said, getting to her feet.
The woman led them into the house and up two flights of stairs. Every time Emiko passed an open door she averted her eyes for fear of what she might see. The woman leading them saw her doing so and hid a smile behind her hand. On seeing that Emiko felt her cheeks grow hotter.
The woman stopped in front of a door and knocked. "Miss Maxil, your guests are here," she called.
"Show them in," a muffled voice said.
"Please," the woman opened the door for them. Juan smiled and entered, Emiko followed. She heard the door close behind her.
The room she found herself in was large, and it had huge windows that looked out over a huge expanse of canopy. It was quite beautiful, but not quite as beautiful as the woman sitting up in the bed. Another young woman, in a maids uniform, was buffing her nails.
"Juan," she said. "What a pleasant surprise. Have you finally decided to part with some of your money, or," she looked at Emiko, "are you bringing me a gift?"
Emiko felt her cheeks grow even hotter, though she would have thought that impossible not so long ago. She was very much out of her element. Sex was just a mystery to her.
"No, sorry. I'm here on business."
"Janet, could you leave us for a time," Ree said to the maid.
"Yes Miss Maxil," she gathered up her things, stood, then left.
"Can we talk?" Juan asked, walking over to take a seat on the foot of her bed.
"Really Juan," she laughed. "If there was even the rumor of this place being bugged our business would dry up instantly."
"Stupid question. Okay, here it is. I've joined a group of people who want to stop this war. I need an HA pilot for my team. You're the best. You'll be going after SAC and ODF. Want in?"
"You have to ask?" she threw off the covers and swung her feet out of the bed so she was sitting. The short nightgown she was wearing did little to conceal, but Emiko doubted it was meant to. "What did you get me?" she asked, sounding excited.
"Nothing as of yet."
"Idiot," she said. "If you had a suit ready I would have probably would have," she paused. "Well, let's say you would not have forgotten it anytime soon."
"I'm sure we'll get you a ride soon enough."
"It can never be soon enough for me," she said, lying back on the bed. "It has been over a year. I dream about them you know," she sat up and looked at him. "The best kind of dreams."
"You scare me a little," he told her.
"I'll scare people a lot more, if they get into my sights," she said, smiling.
"We'll be linking up with the rest of the team in about eleven hours. Can you be ready to go by then?" he asked as he stood up.
"I could go now."
"I won't rush you," he said, opening the closet. "I'm sure you'll need plenty of time to pack all your things," he pulled an item of red silk from the closet. "Very fetching."
"Do you want it? I think it is tasteless."
"Red's not my colour." He let it go. "Can you keep Emiko company for me?"
"Where are you going?" both Emiko and Ree asked at almost the same time.
"Just to talk to an old friend."
"I'll make sure she doesn't get into too much trouble."
"I should be back in two or three hours."
"I'll be waiting," Ree said.
"Later Emiko," he said, leaving the room.
Ree smiled, staring off into space. It had been so long since she had last flown. She had made herself stop thinking about it, the only way to deal with it. Now she could think about it again and she realized how much she had missed it. She could not wait to feel the confines of a HA's pilot seat, the controls in her hands, the sense of power it gave her. She was back.
She suddenly realized that Emiko was just standing by the far wall, looking everywhere but at her.
"We haven't been properly introduced have we," Ree said. "I'm Kareen Maxil.
"Miya Emiko desu. Dozo yoroshiku," Emiko said quickly, bowing.
"Well Emi-chan, it looks like we will be working together. We should get to know each other. Come, sit," she patted her bed.
Emiko stared at the woman and the bed.
"I won't bite," Ree laughed.
Emiko realizing how rude she was being stepped forward. She walked over to the bed and took a seat beside Ree.
"Well, if you haven't guessed, Juan wants me because I'm a very good HA pilot. What is your specialty?"
"Computers, mostly," Emiko said. "They kind of got me in trouble," she said, deciding to bring it up right away. If she did not she was sure that Juan would say something sooner or later. "I stole some data that was a little too important."
"Where are you from?"
"So, an Earther," Ree said. "Good planet to be one on, well, maybe not in your case."
"Why aren't you flying anymore?" Emiko asked her.
"Juan didn't tell you?"
"He said it wasn't his story to tell. Of course he seems to like telling my story."
"That's Juan for you. My story," she slid closer to Emiko and leaned up against her. "Well, let's see. I was always fascinated by HAs. Was piloting them by the time I was twelve. By the time I was seventeen I was flying in Solingen's Militia, then the ODF when it was created. That was when the bad thing happened."
"Transferred to Infinity Force commanded by General Falkirk London," there was certain sharpness to her voice when she said the name. "Political appointee, major idiot. We were supposed to be hitting this pirate base, Falkirk thought he had a great plan, ignored Pitt when he tried to tell him how things were. I was supposed to take my battalion in on point. It was suicide. I told him. He disagreed. I shot him."
"You shot him?"
"In the leg. Flesh wound. Got him off the bridge. After that everything went perfectly. Then there was the court martial. It was only that I was right that kept them from giving me the death penalty, which is what Falkirk and his high up buddies were pushing for. They just gave me a dishonorable discharge, pulled my papers, that sort of thing. Falkirk's friends ensured that no one would touch me after that," Ree smiled. "I'm back now."
"Why is it easier to breathe here?" Emiko asked. It suddenly occurred to her that she had not used the oxygen cylinder since entering the building.
"Positive pressure air generators."
"You're uncomfortable with me leaning up against you aren't you?"
"A little," Emiko said.
"Emi-chan, you must learn to relax," she said, then stood up. "I got to go talk to my boss. I'm going to send someone on in here to pack some of my things. If you see anything you like in what's left, feel free to take it."
"Do you really shoot him?"
"With his own service pistol. Don't worry Emi-chan. You'd have to be incredibly stupid before I would shoot you."
Emiko watched as she left the room, then fell back onto the bed to stare up at the ceiling. What had she got herself into? Still, it was better than being a prisoner on Earth. She thought. Telling herself that she would just rest, Emiko closed her eyes. A short time later she was asleep.
"We've both been busy Mr. Douglas."
"Well, so what are you doing here?"
"The war brings me."
"Nasty business that," he sucked air through his teeth. "We of course are seriously considering an alliance with the USSA. It is for the best. I just have to convince that idiot Sandringham of that."
"Do you really think so?"
"Of course. Look at this world," he indicated the view out his window. Think of what the likes of Solingen might do if they had their way."
"Not too much," Juan said. "after all, this place offers more as a tourist attraction then as a raw materials world."
Fred's only reaction was to blink.
"What are you here for?"
"Just testing the waters," Juan smiled. "I think I'll be off now."
"Wait, did Solingen send you?"
"Fred," Juan said, sounding hurt. "Do you think Solingen thinks that much of me? I'm just here to say hello to an old friend and see what it happening."
"You could be of great help if you decided to help us. Can't you see that the USSA is right?"
"Not really. Good bye Fred," Juan said as he walked out of the office.
Fred watched Juan go and wondered what he was up to. With Juan things were never simple. He knew much more than he ever let on and was always two or three steps ahead of everyone else. A great help if he was on their side. Not on their side, though. Fred sighed and reached for his phone.
"Afternoon," Juan said as he sat beside her. "Where's Emiko?"
"Upstairs, in my bed, dead to the world. Tired girl."
"She's had a busy few days."
"I guess. A bit high-strung, but nice."
"Yea. What are you reading?"
"The files on her computer."
"Ree," he said disapprovingly.
"Hey, she could have left it off, had it locked down. Someone said there were no accidents. I think she wanted me to read it."
Juan shook his head. "Anything interesting?"
"Oh, this proposal for a Gaian Eco-Police state is interesting. Kind of like how a horror novel is interesting."
"Quite the plan."
"I think I'd beg to be let back into the ODF if it would give me a chance to stop this."
"Well, you don't have to."
"She's also got a diary in here. Nothing juicy mind you, but interesting. This is one brave girl."
"So I've heard."
"You'd never get me to go out of an airlock without protection."
"She blew herself out of an airlock to get to a ship. Not her idea, but she had to press the button."
"I don't think so. When everything is as bad as it could get, she's the one I'd want on my side."
"I think she deserves it," Ree shut the computer down and closed it up. "So, what do you say you tell me a little more about this deal, and we can talk here before you ask."
"We got an SCC Ranger meeting up with a Jager after the battle at the rings. They both decide that no one really wants the war and decide to stop it."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that. They bring in more of their respective sides, the Ravagers from Earth, the Chayrbdis, a few others, bring them together and forge an alliance."
"Sounds a bit out there."
"It was a bit out there; I saw it happen."
"Not many, not right now. They expect more."
"What exactly will we be doing?"
"They've got a basic plan hashed out. They are going to build up a base of people, mostly people on the outside for now, they'll take whoever they can get though. After that, start making as many friends as they can. Help whoever they can. Get some rumors started. They'll cash in on those when the go public. That's when the expect a lot more support to come in."
"After that, they stop the war. Of course they'll be working to stop the war before then, but quiet stuff. Sabotage, theft, cutting supply lines, that kind of stuff."
"So if I steal an HA that would be a good thing?"
"Yes Ree, you can steal a suit if you want."
"Yes!" she said, slapping her hand against the top of the bar.
"After that they take the Solingen Board of Directors and this Gaian Circle out of the picture."
"As in, terminally?"
"If that's what it takes."
"I guess I couldn't expect something like this to be nice and clean."
"After that, they set up a new government."
"Well, that explains it."
"You would love the chance to be on the ground floor of a new government."
"Well, it does offer some interesting possibilities. But that is only a small part of it. I didn't know that they were planning to set up a new government when I threw in with them."
"Like there is something you don't know. Who else is in this marry band?"
"Heard of Diane Vichy?"
"Sounds familiar. Marshal?"
"Okay. Who else?"
"Why does that sound familiar. What, one of Andre's kids?"
"There is something else," Ree tapped a finger on the bar top.
"No," she looked at him, her expression say she did not believe it.
"Well, this is going to be interesting."
"It will be that."
"We ready to go?"
"There's a shuttle leaving in two hours. No rush."
"I'm going to wake Emi-chan," Ree stood and grabbed the computer. "Order what you want, it's on me."
"Thanks," Juan told her, watching her go. He turned around and caught the attention of one of the maids. "Think I could get a steak sandwich and a beer?" he asked her.
"How would you like the steak, what kind of beer and do you have an preferences for the bread?"
"I really like it here," Juan told her.
"Nemui da," she said, turning to bury her face in the pillow.
"Okitte," she felt gentle shaking.
"Hai kaasan," she said.
"That's cute," Ree said.
"Nanda?" Emiko turned over and opened her eyes, looking up at Ree. She sat up, then noticed she was not wearing much, and quickly pulled the covers up.
"MotherÉ" Ree shook her head. "I don't think anyone's ever called me that. Emi-chan ga Maazacon arimasu (Emiko's got a mother complex)," Ree said.
"Uso," Emiko told her.
"Sorry," Ree laughed.
"Why am IÉ" Emiko stopped. "Where are my clothes?"
"Over there," Ree pointed to a chair. "I thought you'd be more comfortable sleeping without them.
"Oh," Emiko said, something in her tone suggesting disbelief.
"Emi-chan, do you think I'd do that just to see you naked? Do you think I'm Etchi or something? Why would I do that, when I could just do this," she reached down and yanked the covers of Emiko.
Emiko screamed as she grabbed a pillow and moved it around so she could cover herself.
"You're blushing," Ree said. "All over to by the looks of it," she craned her neck slightly.
"Iyada!" Emiko yelled.
Ree laughed. "Get dressed, we'll be going soon," she told Emiko then walked out of the room.
Emiko sighed after a moment then put the pillow aside and got out of the bed. She was halfway to the chair with her clothes on it when Ree opened the door again and looked in. "If there is anything in my closets that you like, feel free to take it," Ree told her before closing the door. Emiko stood there after she had left, staring at the door for several seconds, waiting to see if she was coming back.
"Hazukashii," she said, trying to remember a time when she felt more embarrassed and failing to.
The trip to the shuttle port was uneventful. They took one of the cable cars that ran between the huge trees. Emiko spent most of the time pressed up against the window, looking out at the scenes that were presented to her. It was truly a beautiful. She'd have to write her mother about it. She had always talked about coming to Arcadia, to see it.
Then Emiko remembered why she was there. She moved away from the window. Suddenly she felt very lost.
"What is it Emi-chan," Ree asked.
"Nandemonai," Emiko said.
Ree doubted it was nothing, but decided not to press her on it.
The shuttle port was a huge platform supported in the upper branches of a particularly huge tree. Emiko stood on the escalator, looking over the railing. She forced her mind away from dangerous thoughts and just enjoyed the beauty of it all.
They were just heading to the departure gates when three people put themselves in Juan's path.
"Mr. Varris, we have orders to detain you," the man in the center said.
"Fred, you bastard," Juan shook his head.
"We also have order to take in any of your companions," the woman on the left said.
"Well this is just great," Ree turned on Juan. "Get me all fired up about flying HAs again, then kick it all out form under me by getting me arrested."
"Hey! This is not my fault. What do you want me to do anyway?"
"I don't know. All I know is that I'm not going to sit on my hands waiting. I've had enough of that."
"Could you continue this conversation down at headquarters," the man said.
"Shut up," Ree snapped at him. "And you," she turned back to Juan. "I want you to take care of this."
Behind them Emiko watched the spectacle. Her hand was moving slowly under her jacket. No one seemed to be paying her any attention.
"Like what?" Juan demanded. "Something like this?" he asked, snapping a kick out, taking the woman at the side of her head. He reversed the kick, driving his heel into the other man's shoulder. It was not a very powerful attack but it put his opponent off balance. As soon as his foot had touched ground his other lashed out, slamming into the man's upper thigh, popping the bone out of the joint.
At almost the same time Ree slammed her foot up between the other man's legs. He doubled over and fell to the ground. "I was thinking something like that," she told him.
"Effective," he nodded. He turned to look at Emiko, noticing where her hand was. "Shooting them was not an option."
"We've still attracted some attention," Ree said.
Juan nodded. With the arguing before, the fight, and the man with the dislocated hip screaming, a lot of eyes were turned towards them. "Follow my lead," he said, then knelt down by the woman. He searched her, removed her pistol, a wallet and her handcuffs.
Ree went to work on the man she had kicked.
"You may if you choose not say anything at this time," Juan said, handcuffing the woman's hands behind her back. "If you do choose to make a statement, you should be aware that anything you say at this time is admissible in a court of law. You will be provided legal counsel if you are unable to obtain it on your own."
Ree had to bit her lip to keep from laughing. It was so brilliant. She handcuffed the man's hands and read him his rights.
"What's all this?" a member of the ports security broke through the crowd that had begun to gather.
"Special agent Smith," Juan stood up, flashing the badge he had taken from the woman. "How many of there are you?" he asked, his tone filled with confidence.
"Well, there are five more officers close byÉ"
"Get them all. I need these three to be watched closely. Their colleagues might try to break them free and we can't let that happen. Do you understand?"
"Yes sir," the guard said, a little taken aback by Juan's brisk demanding manner.
"Don't believe anything they tell you. They have infiltrated high levels of our government already. Hold them here until my back up arrives."
"I will," the man said.
"You finished?" he asked Ree.
"Just about," she said, handcuffing the last man after having removed his pistol and badge.
"Then let's go. We don't have any time to waste," Juan told her, then turned to look at the security guard again. "If these three get away I will personally hold you responsible for the deaths they have and will cause."
"They won't get away from me!"
"Good. Let's go," he said, setting off at a quick walk towards the port. Emiko and Ree fell in on either side of him.
"How long will that last?" Ree asked him.
"Say about twenty to thirty minutes, maybe a bit longer."
"When does our shuttle leave?" Emiko asked.
"About fifteen minutes."
"Good timing. You sure that we have twenty minutes?" Ree asked as they passed through the doors leading into the departure area.
"What's for sure?" he asked her as he tossed the badge he had taken into one of the trash bins by the door. A security guard ran by them, not noticing them at all. "I'm fairly confident about this. Take Emiko into the ladies room, get rid of anything you shouldn't have and put your personal weapons into the screen bags," he told them. "I'll get the tickets. We'll meet at gate five. Hopefully we should attract less attention that way."
"Right," Ree said, veering off away from Juan.
Emiko wanted to ask Juan about what had happened outside but he was already walking off. She turned and ran to catch up to Ree.
"Do you know what that was about?" she asked Ree.
"Fred Douglas is the planet's president/manager. It seems he decided that things would be better off with Juan in custody. It if fortunate that he underestimated Juan. Don't let that business man exterior fool you. Juan is pretty ruthless when it comes down to it."
Emiko said nothing else and followed Ree into the ladies room. Ree went straight into one of the stalls. Emiko almost tried to go in with her but stopped herself and went into one of the other stalls.
Sighing, Emiko put the seat of the toilet down then sat. She reached into her coat and brought forth the heavy automatic she had been given. She took a look at the big gun, wondering what she was doing with it. Before leaving Tokyo she had almost never seen a projectile weapon let alone held one. Now she was carrying one all the time and had almost used it earlier.
She put the weapon in her lap then reached down and opened her carry on bag. From a hidden side pocket she removed the screen bag. She had been told that the fibers of the bag funneled scanning beams, be they X-ray or otherwise, around the contents. She put the gun in the bag then placed both back into the hidden pocket.
Putting the strap over her shoulder she stood up and left the stall. Ree was standing by the exit, waiting for her. They left together, heading for gate five. Juan was waiting for them. They passed through the security check and boarded the shuttle without any problems. It made Emiko a little worried about how safe all the flights she had ever taken had actually been. It seemed all to easy to get weapons aboard.
No cry of alarm had gone up by the time the shuttle lifted from the landing pad. Juan showed no concern as he worked on a computer. Ree was asleep. Emiko wondered if she would ever be able to attain that sort of detachment. She wondered if she wanted to.
"There it is," Juan said, pointing to a flat black, leaf shaped ship. There were no sharp edges the Emiko could see, it was all rounded. She guessed it was about sixty meters long and maybe ten or twelve meters in height at its highest point.
"I thought it would be bigger," Ree said, pushing herself up into the air, holding onto the railing of the catwalk they were on.
"So the legend let's you down," Juan laughed.
"What is it?" Emiko asked.
"The Sloop John B." Juan told her. "Tern Roarke's ship."
"It doesn't look like much."
"It's not supposed to. Let's go," Juan said, propelling himself along the catwalk, moving at speed. Ree kicked off the railing, soon catching up with him. Emiko settled for a slower, safer pace, more or less walking.
As Juan approached the ship he saw the hatch open and Tern come out. He was a man of average height, very handsome, his long black hair was pulled back in a pony tail. He wore casual clothing, dark colours.
"Tern," Juan said, smiling. "Good to see you again."
"Juan you bastard," Tern snapped. "Why did you have to send her?"
"What? Diane? I figured she'd be the best to find you. If I could have spared the time I would have come myself."
"Do you know for almost two days she has been sniffing around my ship, telling me next time she will get me."
"I'm not surprised. She really doesn't like it when good lawyers get you off."
"Excuse me," Ree said from where she floated a few meters behind Juan.
"Sorry," Juan said. "Tern Roarke, this is Kareen Maxil. Kareen is our resident HA expert."
"Call me Ree," she said, moving closer.
"Tern," Tern told her, extending his hand. "Why does your name sound familiar?"
"Last year I shot General London."
"I heard about that," Tern smiled at her. "You were treated fairly badly. At least, that is what everyone was saying."
"I tend to agree with everyone in this matter," she said. "Is it true what they say about this ship and you?"
"No, of course not," he smiled and gave her a conspiratorial wink.
"Now that you have met," Juan said. "The last member of our group is slowly making her way here," Juan pointed to Emiko who was still moving along the catwalk. "Emiko Miya."
"The terrorist, or accused terrorist, I take it. Diane told me about her."
"Where is Marshal Vichy?"
"Here," Diane said from the open hatch. She kicked herself out, twisted around, and landed right beside Juan.
Juan watched it all and wondered if an environment existed that might make her look clumsy, a little less like a deadly predator. Somehow he doubted it. "Glad you made it."
"So now what," Diane asked.
"We wait for Emiko, make the final rounds of introductions, then talk," he told her. "After that, we get down to business."
They were seated around the dining table in the galley, or in some cases floating. Juan looked around at everyone.
"Okay, I think we all know what is happening, what is at stake. I'm sure you have a lot of questions, and I've prepared some notes," he removed several disks from his jacket and tossed them gently into the air. The floated across the table. "They'll answer a lot of the basic questions."
"What's our mission?" Diane asked as she grabbed two of the disks from the air, handing one to Tern.
"We're going to Earth. This Gaian Circle wants a number of people dead. Emiko here kindly provided us with the list. We of course want them alive, mainly just because the circle wants them dead."
"Why us?" Ree asked.
"No reason. I'm sure that Grey's people will more be able to handle this work, I think it will be a cake walk for the most part. It is a good mission for us to work together on. Wide margins for error, a chance to learn each other's strengths and weaknesses. After this one, I think things will get much harder. This is our learning mission."
"What will we be doing?" Tern asked.
"What we all do best."
"What's the time frame?" Diane asked.
"We should leave in a few hours if we want to meet our timings."
"Where are we going?" Tern asked.
"Free Fall first. Then where ever we have to."
"So you don't have much more information on the mission," Diane said.
"Not right now. We can make concrete plans once we know what we will be doing."
"I'm going to give these notes a read," Tern said. "There are three staterooms you can use, the Marshal has already claimed one."
"Me and Emi-chan will share," Ree said.
Emiko looked at the woman and wondered if it was just not wanting to share a room with the Marshal or Juan or if there was something else to it. Ree made her very nervous.
"I'll be taking the ship out in an hour. I'll get us to Free Fall with plenty of time to spare," Tern said, floating out of the room.
"I'm not sure about him," Diane said to Juan. "He thinks life is a big joke. Things get hard he might just leave."
"Tern is in if for the fun and the thrill. He won't leave. He might complain a lot, but he will stay," Juan told her.
"I'm going to read your notes," Ree pushed herself away from the table. "I'll probably have questions later."
"So what do we do now?" Emiko asked him.
"Relax while we have the chance," he told her.
Ending Credits---the same
Built: 2173-2179 Gravesend Shipyards Number of Ships: 1 Length: 62 meters Mass: 175.5 Tones Crew: 1 Acceleration: 7.5 Armed with one laser turret. 22,995,000 credits
The Sloop John B. was commissioned by Tern Roarke in 2173 after he had received a large inheritance from his Grandmother. He wanted a ship that was very fast, could go anywhere, and was very comfortable. It took six years to build as he often halted work to wait for some new innovation to come along. Several times during the ships construction old work was torn out for something new to be put it.
Some people think that Tern used all of his inheritance to build the ship. Others say his Grandmother had much more money than that.
The ship uses a set of compact and very powerful thrusters. They easily provide enough thrust to lift the ship into orbit and no ship or HA produced to date can match its speed. The entire system is vectored so not only is the Sloop John B. incredibly maneuverable but it is also capable of VTOL. Special modifications of the thrust system allow it to be used underwater, though it is only capable of a small part of its normal speed. It has won several races, not that starship racing is all that common.
The sensor system in the ship is one of the best to be found, as well as boasting an Advanced Sensor Package, a target analyzer and a military ECM/ECCM suite.
The ship is SHUNT capable and Tern maintains the drive himself.
The Sloop John B. only needs one pilot but the spacious cockpit has two crew station allowing a second pilot to operate the ECM gear and fire the weapon.
The smooth, flat black surface is nearly invisible to all forms of detection and if the stories are to be believe has parked itself within only kilometers of ships searching for it an never been found. As to why ships search for it, it is said, though no proof has been produced, that Tern engages in smuggling operations.
There are a number of retractable hand and foot holds on the surface that allow the ship to carry up to three HAs. This was a modification one of the shipwrights made after convincing Tern of its usefulness. To date the system has never been used.
It carries triple the amount of fuel ships of the same class carry. Game Info: For those of you who want it, -Hull, Medium Heavy Torso, two spaces added, minus two kills. This was done more for the role playing feel. The ship is not a combat unit but a fast racer.
"Watashi wa anata no ane, soshite haha, soshite anata."
--Miyu Kyuuketsuki ga Yui ni itta
Shawn Hagen <firstname.lastname@example.org>