As they made the walk up the ridge from the temporary landing field they crossed the road which looked down on the ruined center of Liberty Stuart spoke up. “Lt. could you give Commodore St. James and me some room?”
Taylor said not a word but moved over to start a conversation with Connor Benjamin. Looking back over her shoulder like she really wanted to be in this mix.
“Hunter,” said Andy, “you are going to catch some serious flak in this meeting. Just look around you and figure out why. The Civilians are not going to like you and they will not understand what happened. I am only going to ask one question. Could you have acted any sooner with a reasonable chance of success?”
The answer was oddly formal, “General Stuart, in my professional opinion, we went on our first viable chance! I haven’t had a chance to thank you for rescuing Guy Anselmo, I’m sure you have…debriefed him enough to realize just when I took over Command of the entire force; you might ask your council to count how many casualties you experienced after that date.”
Andy stared for several long minutes, “Good enough for me, now our problem is convincing our sheep. They are not going to understand why we of Strike Force are willing to go get your Families. They are not going to see that you got here the same way we did, you shot your way out from under tyrants. We are going to have a full link up with the caves so you and I will be facing the full colony.”
“Do you think that your young LT is good enough to sell a Special Ops Sneak Raid and what we are going to have to do to support her? Much as I hate it, the burden is going to fall on your people. If you can get past their immediate hate, I know how to get to Lester Reye. I have been saving it for 2 E-Years because I can only play it once. It will cause him to call for Elections and we don’t need that before the situation settles.”
Hunter took on a conspiratorial tone “Let’s not burn any bridges…I happen to have Richards Redmond’s personal database on what was known about those that were believed to be on the Mayflower. With the exception of Yourself those files are quite complete…I think most of your people have reasons of their own that could be used to persuade them to support a raid.”
Andy thought this over, they were almost to the doorway and would have to cut off this conversation ”Richard Redmond, curse his evil soul, would have more information than anyone of my career. Why not include me?” he asked.
“Just so,” said St James. “For you he didn’t need notes, let’s go inside.”
Andy stopped at the door and gestured, “After you Sir, get a drink fast!”
They quickly made their way through the entryway and two rooms and a short stairway later were in the underground briefing room which had been transformed with a bar in the corner. Jules Parker was handling the dispensing and keeping track of consumption. All of this was going to be needed to be paid for someday and though it might look like it was free that was far from the case. The stores at the First Inn were of course destroyed. Would this turn out like the American Revolution, a time when many a patriot ended up bankrupt due to the new governments failure to pay its bills? Even now the only thing which the government was not on the hook for was the bottle of Scotch, which Andy Stuart had put up.
“I know what you want Andy, but I don’t believe I know the gentleman with you,” Jules said.
There were a dozen colonists taking advantage of the few remaining minutes before the Executive Council meeting was to start; some standing some seated, and they all seemed to become quiet as soon as the two of them walked into the room.
“This could get ugly,” Andy thought before replying.
“Jules allow me to introduce Commodore Hunter St. James and LT Wendy Taylor. Commander and Intelligence Officer for the force that just shot the Rogons off of our ass. BTW have the twins driven Hanna crazy yet?”
“They are trying Andy, add in Ash and Kurt’s kids and she has her hands full. Of course a Grandmother just loves it no matter what she says.” Jules replied as he handed Andy a Triple Bourbon on the rocks. “And I believe you will be having the Scotch Commodore, what can I get you LT?”
“Make mine a Triple straight no ice please,” said St. James.
“I’ll pass for the moment,” said Taylor.
“Probably a good idea, to avoid our water until you can stay down here for a day or two,” Andy injected, “it has some interesting effects until you adapt to it. We had some people sleeping in the Rest Room on their first night of exposure. Your best bet is to get exposed by having ice in something 40 proof or better. You still get the Montezuma’s Revenge effect but it’s not as bad. Well let’s go find a seat so our Speaker can get started. BTW Hunter, you need not worry about bugs down here. I am sure you did scans of this place, you are inside that black hole that could not be penetrated. Nothing but filtered DC goes out of here any way but over a fiber optic interface.”
Lester’s dress and demeanor made him look every bit the mayor of a prosperous thriving community, as least one in farm country or on the frontier. He would start it out with a touch of fire and brimstone, then calm it down to a good hearted though harried neighbor. Once he would have been playing the role. Now it played him. At least he had a lectern and his gavel again. The essential tools of power, without which he felt naked.
A quick glance at the gathering and he located all those he had decided to call upon first in order to ensure the free and open democracy worked the way Andy and he decided it would. “But dammit! It was for their own good.” He knew it was true and hated himself the knowledge. One more search and he saw Bartlett standing against the wall near an entrance off to the side. His wife wasn’t with him. She had said she would sit this out, and wasn’t going to waste her time on a foregone conclusion. Well, foregone or not, time to get it moving.
Bang! Bang! And the session was underway. “My fellow Citizens, former Enemies, Spacers, and Guests,” the guest part was in reference to the two cold sleepers that Monroe and Natasi brought back with them. “We have won a great victory! Yes even for a former enemy commander such as Hunter St. James, the highest ranking surviving officer of those who would have enslaved us all, this was a victory. Because he, like we, got what he wanted and not what he had planned!”
Here Lester made a dramatic pause, this was being filmed by Laura Seaworth and at least the first part was fully scripted. “Freedom from the Rogon! But equally important, Freedom from the United Nations World Government!”
“Our Military forces have served our young Nation well, but now it is time to take these weighty matters off the shoulders of our warriors and place them in the hands of the people. Our first principle must always be Civilian Control of the Military!”
About two thirds of those present broke into a mild applause– for posterity that could be fixed on the sound track, but he had the numbers to carry the vote.
“We have three things we need to accomplish today. One, to ratify the terms of the truce General Stuart and Commodore St. James have entered into. Two, to authorize further military action; particularly a raid back to Earth. And three, to begin to decide the terms and conditions for accepting the former combatants and those still in cold sleep into our colony.”
“Before I open the floor to further debate, I would like to first invite General Stuart, and then Commodore St. James to make a few comments. Andy If you would go first?”
“Thank You, Les. I will ask Kara our Intelligence Officer to give a brief on our capabilities so that everyone actually knows what they are.”
Kara’s brief was an eye opener for more than just the newcomers. Almost no one in the colony outside of Strike Force knew that the System Drive included a Cloaking Mode. That had been a hard held secret since the first test flight. Coupled with the fact that the rail gun equipped vessels were going to discard the Flare gun in order to mount a second gun, making the Fighters as powerful as the Dancer had been in the first fight. Dr. Chandler had discovered a way to enter other space by projecting a energy pulse down the rail gun coils. There was a possibility that this newer less violent means of entry could reduce the harshest effects of BOD syndrome.”
“Thank you Kara. That fairly well covers capabilities. As to intents, we of the Military are Staffing plans to make a Covert raid on Earth. There are families and friends left behind there. Not to mention some resistance that lack the means to fight or flee. The plan we are contemplating is to try to get in and out totally unknown to either the Rogons or the UNWG.”
“Obviously we are no longer in a Defensive Engagement, thus the decision to actually attempt this raid is a Civilian decision. The Military has a duty to plan for everything, the Civil Government has to decide what we actually do.”
“Les, if there are no objections I would like to turn the floor over to Hunter St. James.”
Hunter expected the cold stares he received as he took the podium “I’d like to begin by thanking Council President Reye for his hospitality and General Stuart for the use of this fine facility. I’m glad Mr. Reye mentioned civilian control of the military because that is a subject that weighs heavy on the soul of a warrior.”
“History shows us many examples of soldiers who were lionized even though they brought their nations to utter destruction by following the orders of civilians and causes that were insane; Robert E. Lee and Isaroku Yamamoto to name two. History cast little praise for the general who takes matters into his own hands and disobeys orders.”
“I began my career some thirty years ago, absolutely dedicated to civilian control. Like many a soldier I found myself following civilian orders that were not to my liking. This occurred more and more until the UNWG decided to send me here. It become very hard to believe in civilian control of the military when that control wears the face of Richard Redmond. But I, like many others before me refused to see that following evil makes one evil.”
“Just before our war began a brave man pointed that out to me. That man was the first of us to rebel…Ambassador Trent Dickenson, and I believe you all saw his rebellion from start to finish.”
Through out the room facial expressions turned from stony calm to pale fear, as the memories returned. Several people abruptly made for the exits rather than loss their dignity by being sick in public.
Hunter waited a moment before continuing, ”I collected the few bones that were leftover of Ambassador Dickenson and have brought them here…I hope if we agree on nothing else you at least allow me to bury them on the world he gave his life trying to warn.”
Some of the faces now, both male and female were openly crying.
“But the death of that brave soul, was meant as a warning to us; It is not an easy thing to throw off Rogon chains. Let me show you something,” and with that Hunter removed a glass globe from his pocket and placed it on the podium, as if by magic a perfect image of a beautiful beach and three women appeared life size if front of the podium.
“This is my wife Sharon and our two daughters, these images were captured long after I left for your world, My Rogon Masters wanted to remind me of the price I would pay if I disobeyed.”
Everyone in the room was captivated by this the most perfect hologram they had ever seen; The smiling happy girls made everyone feel that same happiness, but the look on the face of the mother was different…it was the forced smile of someone with bad news trying not to frighten her children, the reason came as a sudden shock when the Rogon entered into view.
“That is the very same Rogon, I killed to earn my freedom, and the sacrifice I was prepared to make to regain my honor. When General Stuart offered to help me go back to Earth to save their lives and the lives of many others held as hostages, it was as if my life began anew.”
“This is a choice that you must make as free beings, fully informed. My position is obvious, for the basics of why we believe this will work and why we think it is in your best interests to approve this operation I will turn the presentation over to my Chief of Staff Lieutenant Wendy Taylor.”
There were no cold stares for the pretty young officer as she took the stage, “Let me first show you an aerial view of San Diego bay,” she began, a large high altitude image appeared on the screen. “Forgive me If I am explaining things that so many of you already know, but as you can see Coronado island occupies much of the western side of the bay. This island has been a military reservation for over 100 years although at one time about half the island was occupied by civilians. The causeway that runs along the western side of the bay was once continuous as well, both facts changed as a result of the US China War which I won’t bore you with details.”
“Currently the crater in the sea floor just south of the Island is spanned by a removable pontoon bridge. Coronado Island is an island of safety for the UN personal and dependents who live there. The entire southern California region is a vast sea of poverty, crime and often hostility to the UN.”
The people did not seem too bored by that so she went on “There is a sizable force of security personal on the island, our plan requires that we draw the guards away long enough to make our rescue attempt…If you will look at the southern end of the land bridge you will see an unusual cluster of buildings.”
Indeed there were a wide variety of strange towers and structures in that area.
“This is The UN Central cybernetics and communications base UNCCC for short, before you left UN communications were divided between this base and two large space stations in Earth orbit…however when the Rogons made their first approach to Earth they destroyed both satellites since then all UN Earth to space comm. traffic passes through this site in addition is the central hub of their computer net as well as the main data backup for the whole system.”
Again no one seemed lost, “It is our plan to stage a mortar attack on this base as a diversion to draw of the guards and while that’s happening we will snatch up the hostages…Now for some additional details.”
About 30 minutes later:
Connor Benjamin had been an enemy of the goonies for an awful long time. Now he was on the council and was not ready to leave the raid to others alone, “I have one more question, Miss Taylor, what will you do if any of your people are captured?”
Wendy was quick to answer, “Our security relies on the fact that we will be in Rogon ships and UN vehicles, our people will be wearing UN gear anyone who sees us will assume we are looking for the bad guys. Everyone landing on Earth will be current UN personnel.”
Connor stood up before speaking, “Well I can tell you one thing! You ain’t going without me!”
“Thats right Connor, but you are going to the belt with me not to Earth,” said Andy. “Wait before you sputter Connor. The intelligence we have compiled from the Lyon boy, the Dancer Crew, the sleepers from Palmtree and Ari; all tell us that the resistance has evacuated their non-combatants to a location in the belt.”
“That means mostly females who are not Jai Bejamins or Kat Jamos’s.” Predictably some wag cracked, “Or Fast Draw Mariana’s!” and another member of the peanut gallery quipped, gesturing towards Sinopa “Or our Queen of the Jungle!” Andy returned St. James’s puzzled look with a glance that clearly said, “I’ll explain later.”
“Yeah smart alecs; Connor who are those people going to trust. The SOCOM killing machine that took down 5488, the Butcher of Ceres or the man whose family was the political heart of the original resistance?”
Connor’s mouth moved for a full moment with no words actually coming out then, “Andy you Son of a-”
“Connor, kids in the room.”
Connor looked sheepish, “OK I’ll save it to later. But, you are right, I’m going to the belt.”