Authors: Ben Winston
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Alien Invasion, #First Contact, #Space Fleet, #Romance, #space battles, #Alien Contact, #reconstruction, #Adventure, #Military, #War
“I'm just playing devil’s advocate here, but what can we actually do about it? What do we really know about the Hyclarion? Are we sure we want to help them?” Jorga asked.
“I don't think we have much choice about helping them. The alternative is letting the Duke make his attempt. Besides, if we can either stop the Duke or disrupt his attempt, I think we would gain some serious good will with the Emperor; which we could use when we voice our claim to this planet.
“If we do nothing and the Duke is successful, every human in the galaxy will become a food source for the lizards. I'm pretty sure that would be high on the list of really bad things. As for what we can do; well, let’s just say that for the last few years of the Fall, it wasn't the Sal'andori we were fighting.”
“Really? Who was it?” Deirdre asked, surprised.
“T'was the Lizards, my Deirdre,” Carlyle said. “And we were winning.”
“So if we were winning, why did we abandon the surface?” Deirdre asked.
“The war with the Sal'andori had damaged the planet too much to sustain life. The continued war with the Lizards didn't help either. Besides, we had already begun the exodus. Only by then we knew that the Lizards were intercepting the transports, so we changed the trajectory and started providing escorts for the transports.” Ben sighed. “However, that was ten thousand years ago. I'm sure Lizard technology has made a few improvements since then, while ours hasn't.”
“I'm pretty sure we could help with that, provided you have the means to fabricate the parts of the weapons systems and shield generators,” Elrond said.
“Why would ya be offering tah help us? What's your angle here?” Carlyle asked.
Elrond gave her a sad half-smile. “We've been trying to find a way to get out from under the Duke's claw from the beginning. If this is truly our home planet, then that would be a cause I know my people would want to be a part of.” He sighed. ““As it is now, we're dead. Because there is no way we would attack a Ranger team.”
Addson snorted. “But you'd destroy a fully populated Aerie?”
Elrond finally turned on her, he had tears in his eyes. “That gods-be-damned Aerie was supposed to be evacuated!” he yelled.
Fighting to get his voice under control again, he proceeded. “We knew the manager would ignore the warning message and make a report. We set a small charge at the base of the main shaft to shake the Aerie enough to scare them into evacuating; that's all! Once everyone was gone, we'd return and place the demo charges and destroy it. But something happened! The fucking main reactor detonated when it should have scrammed! If it helps, we lost the entire demolition team as well!”
He looked Addson right in the eyes. “As for what we did to you. We had to make the attempt. However, we retarded the warheads, and restricted the missiles to optical only seek mode. Yes, the missile impact would have wrecked your skipper, but you should have survived it! I know you didn't know it was a sham, but if you weren't such a good fucking pilot, the rescue folks out of Argassi would have flown out and picked you up.
“Yes, the Duke would have been furious, but at least we wouldn't have killed you. I know you won't believe me but you will simply never know how happy I am to see that you're still alive!”
Ben nodded to himself. “I think I should address the council and fill them in on these new developments. As for what to do next; I think I might have a couple thoughts on that as well!”
“Looks like dog shit.”
“Smells like dog shit.”
Cheech Marin & Tommy Chong from ‘Cheborneck’ comedy skit.
Anti-Piracy Command, Regional Headquarters
Terral III, Duchy of Cassius (Earth)
Hyclarion Imperial Consortium
ask Commander Warmake, are these the scans of the inland sea I asked for?” Commander Jance asked.
He peeked over her shoulder, and looked at the time/date stamp on the bottom of the page. “I believe so, Commander. Is that not the time and date you asked for?”
Jance nodded. “It is,” she said and picked up another file. “But please look at these. Do you notice anything peculiar about them?””
Warmake took the offered folder, and began scanning the images. Jance slid the new scan in alongside a scan of the same area, only dated two months earlier.
Warmake looked them over, closely. Then triple checked the date codes. “They're identical. Right down to the wave positions.” he walked over to a console and pressed a button. “Scanning section, please.”
“Planetary Surveillance, how can we help you?” a voice said.
“Good evening. This is Task Commander Warmake of Argassi APC. I recently requested a scan of the inland sea. South of where the Great Falls Aerie was located,” he said.
“Ahh, yes sir, I see the order for it right here,” the voice said.
“I think there has been some kind of mistake. The scans you sent me as new, are identical to the ones I ordered two months ago. Would it be possible for you to transmit the scan I requested? It's vital to an ongoing investigation,” Warmake said.
“I don't understand how we could have done that and I'm truly sorry it happened. I'll fill your request and transmit it myself, that way I'll know you're getting the correct one. If you'll give me a couple of units, Task Commander; I'll make sure you have the correct one. Would that be satisfactory?”
“That would be very satisfactory. You've been very helpful, thank you,” Warmake said and closed the connection.
As he turned back to Jance, he spoke. “There, that should get the one we asked for. They're usually pretty good about sending what was asked for.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “Something else occurred to me, Commander.”
“Oh?” Jance said, looking up at him.
“In all the incidents attributed to these pirates, save the last one, the victims have been humans. That strikes me as strange; after all humans are only one of the races on this planet and not the most populace one at that,” Warmake explained.
“I have also noted the same thing. However, that still could be simple coincidence, Task Commander,” Jance replied, frowning. “I am starting to get that feeling you told me of before; the feeling that we are missing a very important part of this puzzle.”
“I thought it was because I was obsessing over this case too much. I am relieved you are feeling this as well. I was beginning to worry over my objectivity in this. Before you arrived, I was considering dismissing myself,” Warmake replied. ““Perhaps now I can set that aside.”
She nodded understanding. Warmake’s species made excellent investigators, but they did have the tendency to obsess. The fact that he realized this made him exceptional. They were also built to take the most brutal punishment. TC Warmake would make an excellent Ranger, provided the military didn't get wind of him first.
“You continue to surprise me, Task Commander. Have you ever considered applying to the academy?”
“I'm afraid My Lord Duke would never allow such a thing. I believe you already know he has very little respect for your institution. Besides, I know my weaknesses and obsession is not a trait that makes a good Ranger,” Warmake replied, sighing.
“This is true, but perhaps not in your case. If you would care to apply, I would be willing to sponsor you. We need more clear-heads in the Corp and knowing one’s own weaknesses is a very valuable trait,” Jance replied.
An under commander approached the two investigators carrying a packet. “Please excuse the interruption, Commanders. I believe you wanted this right away.” So saying, he offered the packet, before bowing and retreating.
Task Commander Warmake took the packet and nodded his thanks to the underling. However, upon opening the packet and examining its contents he grew agitated.
“What is this? They sent us the same scan!” Warmake said and turned back to his console.
“Commander! Please wait.” Jance said, stopping Warmake before he could once again call the surveillance section.
“I believe another call would be fruitless.” She held up a hand to forestall his reply. “I don't believe this is the fault of your Surveillance section. I think they believe they are sending you the correct data.”
“How so?” Warmake asked reasonably.
“I did not detect any duplicity in the person's voice that you spoke to, did you?” she asked.
Warmake shook his head. “No, but there could be a flaw in the computers, or the satellite. They need to be made aware of this so it can be corrected immediately.”
“Perhaps, but I propose to you that perhaps it isn't a mechanical failure,” Jance replied. “That would certainly explain the piece we are not seeing would it not?””
Task Commander Warmake looked uncomfortable. “Are you suggesting that there is corruption in the Duchy?”
“Do you know of a Duchy in the Empire that isn't corrupt to some degree?” Jance replied. “I know it doesn't sit well with you; because of your position, you have to have faith that what your superiors are telling you is the truth. However, I do not share that bias at this level.”
“If what you say is true, how would we prove it?” Warmake said looking around the room to see who might have overheard them. “You do know I could be hung for treason for even discussing this with you?”
“If I can prove these scans have been faked, I'll place you under a federal protection warrant. If Duke Tammerain interferes, he will swing in your place,” she said with the utmost faith in her authority.
“But, what would he have to gain by arranging for all of this to happen? What of the pirates? Does this remove them from prosecution?” Warmake asked.
“No, the pirates will have to answer for the crimes they've committed, but they will do so in federal court and I can present my evidence that will allow the court to ascertain their amount of culpability in these atrocities.”
Warmake shook his head. “So how do we go about gathering this evidence, if it exists?”
“By doing what I came here to do; catch the people responsible for the destruction of the Great Falls Aerie. Who knows what odd facts that we will uncover between now and then. But we do have a place to start.”
Warmake looked at her sharply. “Where would that be?”
“In orbit. We need scans of this planet that have not touched any of the computers here. I have a feeling we will find something extraordinary there,” Jance said, her eyes twinkling.
Warmake shook his head. “Or not; this planet has some strange quirks you may not be aware of.”
“Oh, like what?” Jance asked.
“Well, first off, you'll have to disregard most of the energy signatures here. The ancients that lived here used a great deal of fission for power, this spent fuel is still lethal. They also had literally billions of smaller, long lasting power supplies, spread out all over the planet. The readings are, at best, unreliable, especially in or near the ancient cities,”” He explained.
“Amazing, why wasn't I briefed on this?” Jance asked.
“It's a planetary quirk. We are used to it and the data packet you received should have mentioned it.”
“Hmm, yet another strange omission. Thank you for clarifying that for me Task Commander, I would have wasted valuable time tracking them all down. I'll have some of my team get the scans. Meanwhile, I think we should take a closer look at shipping on this planet,” Jance said grinning.
rand Council Chamber
Command Pod Alpha One
24 Apr. 10266 CE (AD)
Sector 34871 - Great Inland Sea
Earth, Sol system
fter the greeting rituals, Ben got down to business. “Councilors, today, I come before you with a matter of grave importance. One that will affect our lives and our very safety here.” He paused a moment to gather his thoughts. He took a deep breath and told them everything he knew about the current situation. Then he called on Councilor Carlyle for her views and thoughts, which surprised a few Councilors.
“My Brothers and Sisters, the Prime called on me tah take my part in the questioning of yon people we captured from the pirate base. He did so because of my rather colorful past." She spoke slower so less of her accent was evident and the other Councilors could understand her better.
“I was born into the Irish Republican Army and grew to become one of their trusted commanders. It turned out that what I thought was to be a promotion, was actually a recruitment. I was trained by the Israeli Mossad, but worked for several allied intelligence services.
“A few years ago, for us at least, there was a change in the way things were done and I was to be retired. I managed to lose my assassin in Bangladesh and eventually made my way back to my homeland. Several former compatriots helped to create a new identity for me and I took a job as a junior researcher at Flanagan Industries. Unknown to most was the small fact that Sean Flanagan was my milk brother when we were babies, protector as we grew, and lover when things got hard.
“He worked with my new identity team to make sure I had the credentials to do my new job. Tom Bedouin knew all of this before he recruited me. He told me because of that and my scientific background, he wanted me for a special project.” She paused and took a drink. No one tried to speak while she did so.
“Last evening, the Prime asked me to use my former abilities. I can say with honesty, that I believe our... guests... are not being duplicitous. Helping them puts us a great risk, aye, but the intelligence gained about the world above would be invaluable,” she finished.
The first one to catch mother's circuits was Councilor Yoshi, who bowed first, as was his custom. “My Brothers and Sisters; I know you are all probably tired of my pacifistic ways, however, I feel the need to object, once again, to this entire course of action. I know it is far too late to leave these pirates alone, and even I realize something must be done about them at this point.
“So I ask all of you to think of the cost helping them will place on each of our souls. These men and women are admitted mass-murderers, and have admitted to several other acts of piracy in space. By providing aide, will we not then become a party to these atrocities simply by association? I propose relocating them to a place where these Rangers can find them and let them take it from there.””