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The Long Road Home

Posted in Recovery by Andrew Stuart

Kat was almost jubilant, “Thorn, Monroe’s going to transit in two minutes. I guess starting from the belt and three days before we did helped. Now all we have to do is wait for those Dragon Heads to get through. The Boss is adamant that he does not want them to have to fight anything with those family’s on board, they are the reason we did this in the first place.”

Summers voice was a little piquant, “I guess I’m not that good at math, I just can’t get these new acceleration rates through my head. I’m not sure which I’m more scared of; getting shot at or those new math classes we have to go through.”

It took Kat several long moments to reply and her breath indicated she had spent them laughing. “Summer, Calculus has never killed anyone; you just feel like it’s going to cause your head to explode. At least the initial instructors are going to be Ash and Andy. You don’t have to worry about your head decorating the wall from internal pressure until they bring down Hibbs or Chandler.”

“You are so kind,” was Thorn’s droll reply. “Speaking of our two man wrecking crew, where are they?”

“As they have G tolerance to spare, they decided to spend a little time in the belt on the way out. Seems they want some UNWG observation sat’s to bump into some rocks. Never waste a chance as Andy says.”

It was Thorn’s turn to laugh, “Would those rocks be about 5 CM in diameter, weigh about 40 pounds and be moving rather fast?”

“Why Summer, I think they did mention something about that!” Laughter filled the short comm link.

On Board the Galileo

Mariana Stuart was bone tired, the belters in the converted passenger area were in about the worst medical shape she had ever seen. For the first time she felt the true hate she held for the UNWG; these people had been denied the most basic of care in a deliberate and systematic basis. She had exhausted the entire field kit she had brought with her and needed more. Thank goodness they had dropped another larger set of supplies on the Deathfang on the way out.

She had railed and fought at the idea of not being by Andy’s side when they went for the Clark Orbit and the cover strike on Earth but, had she and Digger not been here, many would have not survived the 1 G perceived acceleration that they were using. At that moment Larry Monroe’s voice came over the loudspeakers, “Wormhole Transition in one minute, sit down and strap in. Deceleration starts as soon as we transit, we need to get to the Deathfang fast!”

Amen to that, thought Mariana.

Strike Force 6

“OK Ghost, see anything else worth our time?”

Ash’s laugh was infectious at worst, “Not a damn thing I can see. From here we can make the wormhole one day behind Thorn and Wildcat with 30 minutes on at 4 G perceived and 30 off at 1 G. Piece of cake for us.”

“Sounds good, time to go home. I wonder how much destruction our respective twins have caused?”

“What, with Hanna there to kick their butts. They know what will happen if they mess with MeMaw Hanna, the roof will fall on them.”

“And that stopped us when Ash?”

“Don’t know about you Andy but, my Grandma wasn’t carrying a .357 Ruger clone on her hip.”

“OK Ash, wanta bet on the over/under on bootprints on their butts?”

“No way Cuz. Flight plan coming over on burst, even with our genes this is not going to be fun.”

“I don’t really care at this point Ash, I just want to go home. You have no idea how tired I am!”

On Board the Deathfang

Tracking had just screamed “Acquisition” when Capt. Monroe’s voice came over the comm. “Deathfang, Galileo we are on decel to vector match. Be advised that we are on a 100 G real limit. Dr. Stuart has threatened to ventilate me if I subject these people to more than 1 G perceived.”

Wendy Taylor’s calm controlled voice replied from the Bridge, “Galileo, we will begin accel to assist, anything coming behind you will have no problem.”

“Thank you very much Deathfang, I don’t think the Dragonhead’s are more than 12 hours behind us. They were gaining all the way out.”

One hour later the Galileo was tractored on board the Deathfang.

12 Hours 30 Minutes Later

“Deathfang, Revenge, two to dock. Be advised we have all Task Force family’s still alive on board.”

LT. Anselmo heard the cheering over the voice of LT. Taylor in the microphone, “Roger Revenge, prepare for tractor lock! Welcome Home.”

Hunter St. James stood at the ramp entrance waiting for it to come down with Sharon by his side. As the ramp struck the deck she heard the six gongs and the announcement “Task Force Alchibah Arriving” and watched her husband Salute the Bay, “Permission to Come Aboard Sir?”

By tradition the most Junior Ensign saluted and replied, “Permission Granted and Welcome Home Sir.”

Sharon turned to Hunter, “These people don’t just obey you, they love you. You can see it in their faces!”

Jai Benjamin walked up, “Commodore now that we are back in Alchibah space, do you mind if I change Uniforms? I just don’t feel comfortable in LT. Taylors.”

Hunter had to grin, “Why not at all Miss Benjamin, I can understand and thank you.”

Jai gave him a curious look, “No problem Sir, once I saw those girls the game was over. They were coming home!”

The man Sharon knew as Ari came up and asked, “Ma’am, this Pup did not blink. What happened back there?”

“Cpl., I have no more idea than you do. I think the gun came from nowhere or from up her sleeve. I am really not sure which. I am just supremely happy she was on our side!”

Hunter St. James stared, “Should I ask?”

Sharon beamed, “No, the girls were not there and I should ask where you got that Young Lady from….. Lest I suddenly feel a need to get very jealous.” The grin on her face spoke volumes to the people around her and she could see them start to relax.

Hunter turned and gave Sharon a long matching grin. “She is here on Direct Orders from the Guy we are waiting on now and if you think I am going to do anything stupid, you should meet her fiancee. He may be even scarier than her. The survivors of the battle for the Mayflower think she’s pretty damn scary, that’s for certain.”

Over the 1MC “Deathfang, Wildcat and Thorn ready to dock. Be advised the Boss was 11 hours behind and closing.”

10 Hours 45 minutes later

“Deathfang, Reaper and Ghost ready to dock; Ghost is inboard.”

“Roger Reaper, prepare for tractor lock.”

Ash Andrews dropped the ramp and saluted the deck, “Permission to come aboard Sir.”

A very nervous looking Ensign replied with a salute, “Permission Granted Sir.”

Then the main event occurred. The last MK V-A was tractored in and dropped the hatch ramp. A tall figure stood in the door and announced with a salute, “Permission to come aboard Sir?”

The nervous young Ensign replied, “Permission Granted Sir.” Then the six gongs sounded again and the 1MC blared, “Strike Force Alchibah Arriving.”

Hunter St. James strode to the dock as he heard from Sharon behind him, “But that man is supposed to be dead!”

Then from three female voices behind her, “Not hardly, tell our bruises!”

“Andy, nice to have you aboard.”

On the viewscreen in the Bridge Wendy Taylor watched as the two tall, powerful men clasped hands. The only thing that came to mind was some poetry that her Grandmother had taught her from an old writer named Kipling.

East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face,
Though they come from the ends of the earth!

“Glad to be here Hunter. That reminds me you guys need a place to stay. I just happen to have a spare three bedroom place. Let’s head home and turn on the drinking light Hunter!”

Sharon felt another female in Black and Silver brush by her and run up to hug the man she knew had to be Andrew Stuart. As she watched she thought, “Odd, how did Dr. Mariana Kearns get here?”

From the Ashes of the Old

Posted in Recovery by Richard Redmond

New York City
Manhattan Island

The building on 59th street had a magnificent view overlooking the East river. Richard Redmond’s apartment took up a quarter of the 42cnd floor. As he lounged in his hot tub his gaze swept out over the river and across Queens.

He was a big enough man to admit it when he made a mistake, at least that’s what he told himself, and going on the Alchibah expedition had not turned out well. His goal of ruling an entire planet as a king had proven impossible to bring about. All that was over; now he was back at the center of the World government where he belonged.

The Rogon conquest had been the best thing that could have happened to Richard Redmond. He was one of the first to realize that the resistance was doomed against Rogon power. And with the resistance would go the war mongering Neanderthals who ran the military. Before leaving for Alchibah he had pushed through a 75% cut in the military budget. Further cuts had occurred while he was gone.

The trip back to Earth in the Rogon ship had been awful. By the last 4 days he had been forced to live off of Rogon food. Someone had described Rogon ship fare as whale blubber dipped in goats blood, Richard Redmond was certain that was a charitable description.

But after returning to Earth this morning he had enjoyed a working lunch with the Secretary General, veal cutlets, lobster, chocolate covered truffles and escargot.

Cham Lo, was if anything, more of a fool than the last World leader. It had taken Redmond 2 hours to finally explain how the Alchibah expedition was a resounding success. The rebel’s town and homes had been destroyed, and the rebels themselves had been forced to hide in caves. The images would prove to the resistance that their hopes for support from Hamilton and his runaways were futile.

But the house of cards was about to topple.

Decades before it had been realized within the environmental movement that it was unfair that the rich paid the same rates for energy as the poor. And so progressive rates structures for electricity and fuels were introduced; to insure that justice was done, metering and billing had been taken over by the government. This had the added benefit of allowing for precise regulation of the electric distribution grid.

At 21:00 all the computers that relayed demand factors to the power plants stopped sending. Over 70% of North American power generation came from nuclear plants, either fission or fusion. When the safety computers controlling the reactors suddenly saw there was no demand the plants began automatic shutdown procedures.

The 20 some percent of the plants that were either hydroelectric geothermal of fuel driven could be switched to manual operation; but this was not permitted for nuclear plants and so the operators of the power grid had to begin shutting off power to selected customers. Public lighting and commercial users were turned off first but it didn’t take long before residential users began losing power.

Richard Redmond was surprised when the light in his apartment suddenly went out, as he climbed out of his tub he could see block after block of Queens going dark. He soon discovered that his secure communication systems were inoperative. This was intolerable! He would have to go to his office and get to the bottom of this.

The first problem he encountered was that the elevators in the building were not working, by the time he reached street level he was breathing quite hard. Normally he would have a limo take him the 15 blocks up town to Turtle Bay. But tonight he would be forced to take public transportation.

The famed New York City subway system had been augmented with thousands of miles of overhead trolleys. To use the system all that was necessary was to purchase a token at an automated ticket machine at any boarding station. This could be accomplished using cash or credit as long as one had a valid UN identity card. Richard Redmond was ready to fly into a rage when the machine was unable to verify his identity.

In fact of the almost 3 billion retail transactions that take place each day in North America, over 65 % require presentation and verification of ID
And The UN computers that handled verification were down.

The banking system in North America and Asia had its own communications systems independent of the United Nations but when the banks opened the next morning they would still be dependent on the UN identity verification system.

The central banks of Europe were not so lucky, When the UN secure net, purged itself over 19 and a half trillion new Euros simply disappeared

In North America over 400 million people were watching the tri-vee when all the stations went dead, if that wasn’t enough to make a citizen mad all long distance phone coverage and about 60 % of local service was out. Beginning about 10 minutes after 9, large areas began to lose electric power. The people were angry and they were coming out of their homes. As the streets filled with people, rumors of riots, and UN police going berserk, even Rogon ships bombing cities, spread like wildfire.

Richard Redmond had finally flagged down a passing UN police cruiser and demanded a ride to UN headquarters, the streets were beginning to fill up with disreputable looking persons.

UN headquarters was provided with power from the Emergency grid that powers hospitals and other critical facilities. It was a surprise to Richard Redmond that the information systems were non functional there as well. The building did have some very old “hard lines”; dedicated links to world capitals.

The information that was coming in was very bad. Europe and Africa were if anything, hit harder than North America’ all power and 97% of phone service was out, transportation systems were all halted. Air traffic all over the globe was grounded.

Most of the Worlds Ocean going cargo was on automated vessels. The majority of ships simply began to drift, some however continued under power waiting for the signals that would guide them into port, these ships would not be stopped until they ran into something solid.

The people of Europe were asleep when the systems failed, but in North America the people were out in the streets. When they began to discover they couldn’t purchase food or liquor, because their ID didn’t work… they just helped themselves. Looting quickly turned to vandalism and arson. Within hours the mobs fueled by anger and rage, began to move into areas where taxpayers lived, here they got a surprise.

The small numbers of people with connection to the resistance had spread the word of what was coming. Across America millions of illegal firearms were brought out of secret hiding places. It was a night of unprecedented human tragedy. The streets ran red with blood, the fires in the inner cities began to spread consuming block after block of homes and stores.

In the days to come the ranks of the resistance would swell 100 fold.

At UN headquarters they worked through the night trying to find out what happened. Little notice was paid to the hordes of rioters in the streets below, driven off again and again by the police.

A picture began to unfold of UN agencies fighting a war amongst themselves. Plots to gain favor with the Rogons, schemes to discredit the current leadership, and plans to turn the UN army and navy against their leaders, by murdering the hostage families. And something had gone terribly wrong.

Richard Redmond looked out over the East River at the flames of a thousand burning buildings, and he smiled. “Let the world burn” he thought. The time for weak leaders was gone, The Rogons would need a man with a fist of iron to rule for them, and Richard Redmond was that man. In the morning he would move into the Secretary Generals office. He would contact the Rogons and a new era would begin. The slaves would learn to fear and obey a real master. Absolute power would be his.

The Raid, Reunion and Honor!

Posted in Recovery by Andrew Stuart

Kat thought the wormhole was no fun. Ash had explained how the shield was going to interact, “He thought”; it was worse. The heat was higher yet not critical, the problem was that in cloak mode she had no idea who had made it or where they were.

The cloak obviously worked for they were by the observation shell the UNWG or the dammed Rogons had put up. She was drifting in at, to her a comfortable 2 G’s perceived; which was now 200 G’s real was someone else’s problem.

Finally she was far enough in system and in open space that she could drop cloak and shed heat. In mere moments four more MK V-A’s appeared to her Alchibah grade sensors. They had all made it, Kat looked at her right seat and asked, “You ready for it Connor?”

From the jump seat came the disgruntled voice of Connor Benjamin, “I should be going down there or Emon at least.”

Gaberial Benjamin rumbled from the right seat, “Brother one more time. No one goes down there that is on the UN watch list. Jai is clean, we are not and no we can’t take anymore space more than that absolutely necessary for crew. We are here to haul Belters home.”

Connor grumped, “Has Andy been coaching you on what to say?”

Gabe turned and beamed at him, “Of course, that and Histy!”

“Shooter to borrow a phrase of yours, I will be double dipped in shit. Our accounts are still there,” was Mariana’s stunned statement.

“Of course,” said Andy, “it’s a honey trap looking for activity. That’s why you have to make it look like the Resistance got in and stole it. This whole thing is supposed to look like it is a cover for this transaction.

“We wait till we are sure Ash is safe and ready to ride cover for you. 450 million New Credit’s moving have to get their attention, you know we could have stayed there and lived well?”

Mariana’s face was stunned, “Yes and died childless and in chains. I did not marry the man who would have stood for that! Nor did you marry a woman who would sit around a twiddle her thumbs all day.”

The communication system chimed on the new secure crypto channel, “Ready when you are Big Sis!”

Andy glanced across the cockpit, “When was the last time I told you I love you? Now go mess with the system and give us the first layer of cover. Got the shopping list ready?”

“Damn Skippy, this time I get me a full Level 5 Lab,” Mariana grinned.

Andy grinned, “Just don’t forget my Molecular Beam Epitaxy gear. Hell, send the rest of the dough to the resistance accounts. Hunter is due with those Dragon Heads in 10 minutes.”

Mariana began a frantic stream of keyboard commands tied into the System Economic Network. A fortune began to flow into dubious accounts that were linked to the Alliance of Free States, courtesy of Connor Benjamin. UNWG scanner Bots and some on shift Humans tried to interfere; they were stopped cold by the uber hacker Ashcroft Andrews. The entire UNWG security network went on alert 180 degrees away from where they were going.

Andy had sent a bank draft and a letter to a Private Investigator recommended by Connors friends. The reply was very promising:

Jason York is a “Person of Importance” to the Alliance of Free States. As such he is watched wherever he is. Expect confirmation of whereabouts in 4 to 8 hours.

Andy could live with that.

Shifting channels Andy spoke to Connor and Ari, “OK, Connor get through to the Alliance and see what they have for cleaner bank accounts than what we have. Ari see if your Abba has a clean account, we can send his group 30 million or so.

“Then Connor get on the belters channels and find out where we pick up the non-combatants Break; Larry you make it?”

“Yeah Andy, we are here but I am not taking the Galileo out of cloak till we are ready to make the pick up. We are big enough to be seen even out here.”

“Sounds good Larry, we have plenty of time. Let’s stay cool, get everything set up and have you on your way back in plenty of time for us to make Hunter’s schedule. We have a couple of days to kill anyway. Let the BOD shock wear off.”

UN Space Traffic Control
Quito Ecuador 17:00

The screen began flashing with two unknowns approaching high and from the south; a second later the icons changed identifying both intruders as Rogon Dragon ships.

The operator turned to the watch officer, “Shall I challenge them for Ident, and clearance?”

“Why bother? They won’t answer, and we won’t send interceptors against Rogons.” He looked at the course projection intersecting Mexico City, “Just more snakes going to the bullfights…turn off the alert.”

Dragonhead #10 Revenge

The Mexican coast was coming up fast in the viewport. Hunter St. James turned to the man in the medical assistance chair, who was also steering the ship, “Ok Guy, make your turn and take her as low as you can.”

“Aye Aye! My Capitan and thank you,” came the Spaniards gentle reply.

“Nonsense Lieutenant, no-one in the Navy has more low level flight time over Baja than you; just try not to kill too many fish.”

Jai Benjamin gave the Commodore a quizzical look.

Hunter St James explained, “I met Lieutenant Anselmo, when I did a tour as C.O. of the fighter wing at Luna base. I soon found out that Mr. Anselmo doesn’t like his head any further off the ground when he flies, then it is when he walks. Every time he flew down here, his bird would come back smeared with pasted fish.”

Guy was not bothered by his Captain’s joke. He was a man blessed by God with a new life. Guy loved to fly, and for all its 200 meter length and bulk, the Dragonhead flew just like a fighter.

The two ugly vessels raced up the Gulf of California barely a hundred meters above the water. When they reached Estrella, the ships crossed over land and flying just over the crest of the mountains, directly into the setting sun, soon came to rest in the surf by a desolate beach beneath towering cliffs, a little south of Ensenada.

The big cargo doors in the flat tail of each ship quickly disgorged two UN combat hovercraft, all of which were soon seen departing towards the North.

One of the aforementioned vehicles peeled off, and headed into the Ensenada docks, but the three others continued north at close to 200 kilometers an hour. It was not long before they made landfall and proceeded at a slower rate up the banks of the Tijuana River.

A couple kilometers inland the last in line briefly stopped beside an old rusted fence line, as it sped away to catch the others, it could be seen that three people now stood in the desolate bush. A more out of place group would be hard to imagine, as this trio consists of a man and women in UN Navy dress uniforms, and another man in the coverall of a UN mechanic.

Nothing was said as the man in coveralls removed tools from his bag and quickly cut away a section of fencing. All three walked across the empty zone that once had been a landing strip.

The rating on duty at the Diversity Beach service and support center’s motor pool did not expect any visitors tonight. He quickly put away the pictures he had been looking at when the man walked in “My god, it’s a full Captain” he thought, for in fact he had not seen a full Captain in years; his hastily executed salute was sloppy at best.

The Officer in question wanted a staff car and a utility vehicle and his charge codes were good, no one questions Political Directorate needs.

In the bush southwest of Diversity City

The three hover craft had settled into a grassy area next to a line of gnarly trees. Several scraggly looking youths had been occupying the field but took off running when they saw the armored hovercraft.

Lew DeWalt surveyed the field. “What do you think top sergeant…will those punks report us?” He asked the iron jawed older man.

“Right Major, they’ll run right to the cops and complain how the goonies ran them off their illegal drug crop.”

Both men had a brief chuckle, but there was little time for that.

“OK let’s get those one-twenties set up!” There was a flurry of activity as the men and women in UN combat armor got to work.

United Nations Central Cybernetics and Communications
18:50

The guard on duty at the main desk, raised his eyebrows when he saw the tall man in full dress uniform enter the lobby, “Wow a full Captain” He thought “Been a while since I’ve seen one of those, and look at all those ribbons.”

The Captain stopped at an authorization terminal and began entering passwords, the guard monitored the process on his screen, and everything was good… “Oh Political Directorate, so the uniform and ribbons were fake! Damn PD bastard!” The guard looked away as the man in question proceeded into the building.

Hunter St. James had been here years before, and the layout hadn’t changed much, he quickly found an alcove on the main gallery with a private terminal and set to work.

Removing from his briefcase a memory module he logged on, using one of Richard Redmond’s codes and began an automatic search and download program to pull all the files from the UN system that were on the must have list. All data on the Rogons, Rogon-tech, the resistance, and Alchibah, for starters.

He then inserted a program wafer and toggled the run key. Within seconds every computer on the UN secure net was sent a message:

ATTENTION ALL USERS A MANDATORY SYSTEM RESTORE AND UPGRADE WILL TAKE PLACE AT 21:00 ALL ACTIVE SYSTEMS WILL BEGIN BACKUP DATA TRANSFER
THIS EMERGENCY MEASURE IS TO PROTECT THE SYSTEM FROM THE ORION WORM.

“OK got some time to kill, let’s monitor local security comms,” he thought.

North Island Secure Housing Complex
19:00

The UN police officer on duty at the night gate was surprised to see the utility vehicle approach. Maintenance never made calls after dark; he’d have to check this one out.

The first surprise was the pretty young Ensign with the Shore Patrol arm band driving, he was about to ask for ID when the passenger spoke up.

“Hey Dean-O! Remember me? How’s about a big kiss meshogah?”

The lady officer was obviously, a little ticked. “So my charge is a friend of yours, officer?”

“No ma’am! That dirt bag used to work around here a few years ago, I know him, but he’s no friend of mine!”

This seemed to relax the lady a little, “Well that’s one good thing, now we have to make a repair run for some bitch with enough clout to get her doorknob replaced at 7 at night, so let’s get jumpin.”

Officer Dean snapped a crisp salute even though, being a civilian, he wasn’t required to. “Yes ma’am, proceed,” as they drove off he couldn’t decide if he felt sorry for her…or jealous of him.

Jaisa Benjamin was nervous as she knocked on the apartment door, “If I blow this, everything will be ruined.” She thought, “I’m a fighter jock not a spy.”

The door opened and an attractive woman with dishwater blond hair opened the door. If she was surprised to see a shore patrol officer and a handy man, she gave no indication. Jai spoke up, “Mrs. St James, I have an important message for you, can we please come in?”

Sharon St. James heart gave a little flutter, but no, this was not that message, she opened the door wide to admit her unexpected guests. If she was surprised to see the man take out a bug detector and begin scanning her apartment, again she said nothing.

Jai was quick to begin, “Ma’am I work for your husband…I have a message.”

Sharon cut her off, “My husband is an awful long way from here young lady…”

Jai interrupted. “No he’s not, he’s only a few miles from here, he gave me this,” and she opened her hand to reveal a strange object.

It was an ancient Chinese coin, the kind with a hole in it. Sharon took it and looked at it closely. Jai couldn’t wait. “He said to tell you…Cherry Blossom!”

Sharon stood frozen for a moment. “Excuse me please.” She walked to the doorway of the next room, where her twin daughters were lounging on the floor, watching tri-vee. “Girls! Evac Code Red… this is real…move!” she said in a voice that would do a drill sergeant proud. The girls jumped up and raced to their rooms.

Sharon St. James had followed her man many places, Belgium, The Moon, Ecuador even Mars, and Hunter had taught his family one thing…when the locals started acting up…be ready to run…fast! Sharon had a bag packed in her closet; she added a few items from her dresser and pocketed the 9mm automatic from under her pillow. She then rejoined Jaisa and Ari in the main room.

“When are we leaving?” she asked.

“Actually we have about an hour,” Jai answered. “But, well…I have a list,” Jai handed the paper over to the older woman.

Sharon looked it over quickly, “These are the expedition families,” she said. “OK this will take some doing, toughest first.” The two sisters entered the room wearing rugged clothes, hiking boots and carrying backpacks. “Girls go to aunt Carmen’s and run Evac Code Red on her and those kids…and if Carmen makes a fuss tell her it’s my orders!” The girls raced out the door.

“Now let’s see…I need Teresa DeWalt to get the new families together.” She reached for the phone “Honey why don’t you and your aide sit down and have a cup of tea?”

A few minutes later Sharon looked at Jai, “You’re one of the rebels aren’t you?”

Jaisa couldn’t lie to this woman “No Ma’am, not anymore, I am a citizen of Alchibah,” was all she could say.

But Sharon had another question, “Will my daughters like your world?”

Jai was on firmer ground with this one. “I think so…my little sisters love it…we’re free.”

Chula Vista Mexifornian Republic
19:20

The delivery van driving through the parking lot of Julio’s Mini Mart, barely stopped as the doors popped open and a large object thudded to the ground.

As the van sped away the man in the shotgun turret on top could see a crowd was already forming.

In this neighborhood, anything unusual was a cause for celebration, and this was better than most. A big piece of sewer pipe with a manhole cover welded to one end and a couple old fence poles for legs at the other. No-body knew what to do with it but everybody wanted to take it home. A couple fights soon broke out, and the children began a game trying to roll the thing around on its base.

The local police patrol soon had the scene under observation, but from a safe distance. These officers knew better than to get involved with something like this, especially when the warehouse across the street was the clubhouse for one of the most dangerous criminal gangs in North America.

United Nations Central Cybernetics and Communications
19:25

Explosions had begun to rock the base a few minutes before, it took the shocked security detail several minutes to realize they were being hit by heavy mortars, but once they did they immediately called for help.

Hunter St. James placed a hold on the security alert, a few quick modifications and out it went.

The security police on Coronado received orders to pull all officers from their posts and proceed to UNCCC, ASAP, to confront an approaching mob of looters. The bridge across the Coronado Crater was to be retracted behind them in order to secure the Island. Within a few minutes UN police cars began speeding over the bridge and down the causeway. By 19:45 the bridge was slowly swinging aside.

North Island Secure Housing Complex
19:45

The calls were all made; Jai and Sharon were finishing their tea when Ari’s scanner started beeping. “Someone’s tapping the phone now?” asked Jai.
“Hmmm…no, some one,s accessing the call logs, someone local… they’re on to us,” said Ari.

“Who? The police?” asked Sharon.

“No, the cops should be gone, but a third of the people living on this Island are UN civilian workers, probably some PD spies in the bunch. We gotta move, they’ll be here any minute.”

Sharon grabbed an old field jacket with commanders insignia on it. “We have to stop them before the families start to move, we can’t risk the children.”

They all left the apartment and started down the stairs. “Just let me handle this,” said Ari. “I’m a soldier and we train for this kinda thing.”

When they reached the lobby they could see two shapes approaching through the glass door.

“Sharon over there,” Jai pointed. “Make a call.” Beside the open doorway to the building managers office was a directory and a phone for visitors. Sharon made herself look busy, as the men opened the doors.

“Corporal! One more insolent word out of your mouth and you’ll be back in the brig so fast your shadow will rate flight pay!” Jai blasted the hapless handyman before pretending to notice the intruders, “Hey! Who the frack are you?”

The men wore dark suits and were obviously armed, one with a 3 barrel shotgun, and the other with a machine pistol. Both weapons were in hip level firing positions.

“We’re UN Political Directorate agents,” the talker said. “Now put your hands up and show some I.D.”

Ari’s hand was in his tool bag ready to pull out the Ingram 15. “Need a distraction” he thought “so I can make my move.”

“My hands are up and this is all the I.D. I need!” Said Jai, pointing to the SP arm band on her left arm.

“Great,” thought Ari. “Everyone’s a showoff.” The PD goons eyes shifted towards Sharon, Ari followed their gaze to see a man stepping out of the offices with a pistol in hand. Ari started to draw his Ingram.

Crack! Crack! The silenced rounds were loud enough from 2 foot away. Jai was standing with arm outstretched, and a small Stainless Steel .45 in her hand. Ari looked back at the goons.

It takes three eights of a second for a dead man to fall, one was almost to the floor, and the other was halfway there.

Clunk!

Ari glanced back at Sharon…Her left hand was gripping the wrist of the mysterious stranger, her right, held a small black automatic pressing into the man’s eye socket. His pistol was sliding across the floor.

Jai stood at raised pistol. Ari could see her holster was not empty, “Corporal” she began…

Ari interrupted, “Hey, so I blinked!”

Jai was all business. “We don’t have time to waste. Get their guns and Idents,” she ordered.

Sharon had released her prisoner. “Mr. Winters you shouldn’t work late so much. Now, if anyone ever finds out you were here…they will lock you up for the rest of your life, trying to make you tell them things you don’t know. Maybe you should go home.” The man scurried away.

Jai scanned the Idents into her wrist-comp. “We’ll send these to the boss,” she said. “Now let’s get moving.”

United Nations Central Cybernetics and Communications
19:55

Hunter got the message from Jaisa, “I can make this fit,” he thought.

For the last twenty minutes he had been sending messages to various locations throughout the UN network. In the weeks to come, investigators would find clues, a printout here, a pay voucher there, pieces to the puzzle of the disappearances on Coronado Island.

He began to work, when the police investigators examined the crime scene they would find messages on the phones of the dead. Messages from UN Political Directorate; Orders to kill Sharon St. James and the other expedition families; and a warning that UN Internal Affairs was on to the plot, and protecting the families.

Evidence of a conspiracy would emerge, not enough evidence to convict, just enough to turn the bureaucrats against each other.

In the air over the bay
20:00

The head of the San Diego SWAT team could see the fires from the UN base…about 20 buildings were ablaze, maybe another twenty smaller fires. He knew where he would put mortars to hit those targets. As the armored air car angled down towards the Tijuana River, he examined his low light monitor. “Well…well…” he said to his pilot. “It looks like some UN heavies are already sweeping the most likely site, try swinging back around towards Chula Vista. We’ll look there.”

North Island Secure Housing Complex
20:15

They came one family at a time, with Terry DeWalt driving one big group at the end, but they all came. Sharon checked off the last just as the two hovercraft could be seen approaching up Alameda Avenue. She turned to Jai Benjamin, “Except for old Mrs. Guyton, who’s passed, and Becky DeSantos who’s shacked up with a plumber in Del Mar, everyone’s here.”

When the ramps dropped, some UN troopers jumped off and headed for the infirmary.

“We need medical supplies,” explained Jai.

“Good thinking,” said Sharon “You!” she said pointing at Ari. “Walk over there to the commissary and open that door. All the babysitters, over here!” Sharon was waving in some of the young women not busy with children. “We need diapers, baby food, some paper towels…and pick up some wine, you got 10 minutes.”

There were blankets and foam pillows in the craft; they began settling the women with babies in first. Teresa DeWalt made an art of placing families like she was making a flower setting. The soldiers were coming back from the infirmary carrying packing case with a couple young nurses tagging along. The corporal in charge smiled sheepishly at Sharon. “They want to come along ma’am,” Sharon motioned them aboard.

Ari and his little bunch came back with 6 shopping carts full of stuff and began to unload them. “Push the carts on board and pull up the ramp, wherever we’re going, I’ll bet they need more shopping carts.”

Jaisa was grateful and impressed by how smooth everything had gone. “You can sit up on the command deck, if you like ma’am,” she said.

“Thank you, but I’ll ride in back with my people.” As the craft crossed the beach and began racing south, Sharon hugged her daughters close.

Reno Nevada
15 hours earlier

The young man sleeping in the chair shivered under the heavy blankets that covered him, a moment later he was awake and cast the blankets off, before standing up fully clothed. The room was small, and lit only by the light streaming in through the window. Garish light from a big neon billboard advertising something he was neither wealthy, nor degraded enough to purchase.

He looked out to the street, “Damn…snow again”, he said to himself. His boss would be mad because he expected Jace to come in early when it snowed, not that he paid any extra. Jace looked at the two teenage girls sleeping in the bed. “Girls that age shouldn’t have to sleep together,” he thought, but there was only one bed, and the twins were keeping each other warm, their sleeping faces, barely visible behind the fur edges of their new red parkas. Reno was an easy place to make a living; Jace worked two, three, sometimes four jobs to make ends meet. He just wished he could afford to pay for a little heat up here. Maybe he should cook up the rest of the beans and rice, so the girls would have something to eat before school. A little heat from the sterno would be nice.

The girls had been taken in by the Mormon school. The Mormons gave the girls their new parkas, school clothes, and fed them at school. Every once in a while when things got real tight, one of the Elders would show up and help Jace.

Jace knew the Mormons must be part of the resistance; they were helping because Jace’s parents had been part of the resistance too. The Elders never said a word about it, but Jace knew.

The picture on the table was of a pretty brown haired girl; Emily’s parents, the Parkers, must have been with the resistance too…”Fools! Dreamers and fools,” he thought, “all that talk about freedom, they threw away everything.”

They’d been rich, he didn’t know it then, but a home in Canoga Park was way beyond the means of most people. He and Emily had secretly gotten married; they were going to spend their lives together…until that day.

He’d been at school, when he got a call from his mother. “Grab your sisters and come home right away,” she’d said. “We’re going on a trip with the Parkers.”

But when Jace got home, his house was surrounded by police…UN police. He hid the girls with some neighbors, and they ran for awhile…but they got caught. 6 months in a detention center and then out on the street, with just one word, their parents were dead…dead fools.

He looked at the picture again; Jace had tried many times to forget her, once for almost 10 full seconds, but it was hopeless. After 5 years he still didn’t want to talk to other girls.

The phone rang…”It’s 5 o’clock nobody would call me at this time,” he thought. “Hello.”

“Is this Jason York?” a man’s voice asked.

“Yes,” Jace didn’t recognize the voice.

“Jason York, who used to live in Canoga Park?” the voice asked again.

“Yes that’s me.” Jace was getting a bad feeling.

“Did you once give a girl a memory chip necklace? A Toshiba Forget-me-not?”

Jace was angry. “Who are you? What do you want?”

The voice took on a fatherly tone, “Relax son, the girl got safely to where she was going, even though you couldn’t follow…until now, are you willing?”

The voice in Jace’s mind was screaming “No! No! No!” but it was the voice from his heart that answered “Yes, just tell me what to do.”

“Who is with you?” asked the phone.

“Just my sisters,” said Jace.

“And your parents?”

“No, they’re gone,” said Jace.

“Do you have traveling money?” was the next question. Jace’s hopes began to crumble, “No.”

“Be at the Butch Cassidy 2nd National Bank in Carson City when they open. Tell the manager who you are, he’ll have money and instructions, follow the instruction exactly.” And the phone went dead.

Mo’s Diner Diversity Beach Pier

They had taken the bullet train to San Diego, and then a tube car to Diversity Beach. They’d made it to this lousy little diner at the end of this crappy pier before sundown …just as instructed. They’d been waiting almost three hours now, and the place closes at 9…15 minutes from now. They had a meal…then desert… then ice cream, and now coffee. The twins were so sugared up, they were giggling and being silly.

“I’m a fool!” Jace thought. “A stupid dreamer just like my parents,”

There were men out on the pier…cruel looking men. Jace could probably out run them, or dive in the water and swim; but the twin girls in the new red coats and shiny school shoes wouldn’t outrun anyone. So Jace would have to fight and die for chasing a stupid dream.
The door opened and a man walked in, “It’s worse,” Jace thought.

The man was tall and wore some fancy uniform with the UN Logo prominent on his chest. The holster at his side contained the biggest pistol Jace had ever seen. At least the girls became silent because both of them were terrified of anyone in a UN uniform.

“Jason York,” he said, as he handed Jace a photo. The photo was of a pretty girl with long brown hair sitting in a chair, she held a baby in each arm and was smiling brightly. “They’re your children, Jace… are you ready to go meet them?”

The angry eyed men outside pretended not to watch as Jace and the girls followed the tall man with the gun, down a set of stairs to the water. A moment later, a strange craft approached and they were pulled inside. There was barely room, as the inside compartment was full of big men in UN combat gear, or almost, because suddenly the twins were surrounded by women in UN combat gear, hugging and comforting them. Jace ended up sitting on a crate in the packed little ship.

The soldiers were telling jokes and smiling, a few bottles of liquor were passing around. Jace had never seen happy soldiers before. Someone handed him a cigarette and lit it for him.

Jace took a long pull and closed his eyes, and then for the first time in all these years, he prayed to God, asking forgiveness for his loss of faith. It had taken a while, but God had sent an angel.

United Nations Central Cybernetics and Communications
20:50

The chief system administrator was puzzle by what he saw on his screen. Half the base was on fire and it had taken him 30 minutes to get through all the extra security, but the attack had not touched the network hub. He just couldn’t understand what this “Orion Worm” was supposed to be.

The upgrade and restore program was standard UN protocol; every computer was required to make an encrypted backup and then destroy all other restore points. The memory image tables along with the encryption keys were sent to UNCCC. Then at intervals every system would have its’ memory wiped and replaced by UNCCC, with verified image tables and keys that would clear the backup files of viruses.

But this program seemed to have a defrag/reformat command built in and he couldn’t trace the routing of the backup keys. And one other thing, it had Political Directorate written all over it.

Chula Vista Mexifornian Republic
20:55

Estevan Gonzales was a fourth generation San Diego cop and after 32 years on the force, he was the third highest ranking officer. So he didn’t care what the Chief, the Mayor, or any of those news clowns said. He knew his first job was to keep this mess from getting any worse.

It started when that fat ass from SWAT reported mortars set up in the Vista, after local patrols had already verified them as fakes. Then about 300 car loads of UN police had converged on the scene with orders to apprehend and interrogate all suspects.

So now a thousand plus goonie cops were surrounded by about a 100,000 rioting vatos, and screaming for help. There is just something in a man that when he see’s the police makes him want to rob the local grocery.

From his command vehicle at Broadway and H Street, Estevan could monitor the surveillance cameras and direct his officers around the edges to stop the spread. Over a million surveillance cameras protected the country and every public safety organization was equipped with a wide array of integrated voice, video, and data communication systems to give law enforcement the edge over the mob.

And spread it will if those stupid tri-vee reporters keep making up stupid police brutality stories and other lies. If it doesn’t stop soon, by morning the riots will be all the way to Sacramento.

And the only thing that can stop this quick is a Brigade of Peaceforcers. God, he hated to call in the UN heavies; he loved these people, but they’d gone a little too far and now they were gonna get stomped.

And the surveillance cameras, police radios, telephones tri-vees, and everything electronic went dead…everywhere.

UN Space Traffic Control
Quito Ecuador 21:00

Quito Control monitored all space traffic over the western hemisphere. Anything out of the ordinary would rise to the attention of the operators.
One operator was scrutinizing two small vessels making a nearly vertical descent towards Mexifornia. The transponders were from Luna Aluminum and Tin, but that made no sense.

Suddenly all screens went black! The watch officer tried to switch to the backup…but there was no backup. The World was blind.

40 All news channels all in homes all over North America
21:00

The average household in North America has the tri-vee on 12.7 hours a day. On this particular day 137 million people were watching some kind of live action coverage of the events in San Diego. Oddly enough, no one had mentioned that the buildings set on fire by anti-Rogon terrorists, were located on a UN base.

The system that delivered this vast array of entertainment, news, and culture to the masses, was itself quite simple. All the signals were beamed up to satellites in orbit and then relayed back down to local networks. This way a few monitoring computers could insure that the people didn’t receive any misinformation.

And then every station went off the air.

Luna City The Moon
Luna Pilot 05:00 GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)

24 Rogon Battleships orbited the Moon, appearing on the radar like beads on a string. Each one followed the one ahead, by exactly 100 Kilometers…normally that was. This morning the 4th in line had pulled up and fallen back in orbit, to begin final approach with number 15.

The Rogons barely kept a minimum crew on board, but for some reason, had decided that the 15th ship needed some huge part from the 4th. And so this ponderous maneuver was taking place.

The controllers at Luna Pilot were nervous but not especially so. The Rogon vessels had excellent maneuvering drives and their autopilots responded instantly to every course and position update.

The final decel would take place when the two ships were 1000 meters apart and approach velocity was 100 meters/second. They would end up motionless relative to each other, at a distance of 500 meters.

And all systems failed.

The Rogons on board the converging ships didn’t realize until too late that something was wrong. In panic, the lower ship activated its main drive, which was exactly the worst thing to do.

Two 55 million ton ships collided at a hundred meters a second. The shock of impact killed every creature on board both ships, and then as they ground themselves into a single mass, began to pick up speed on a course to disaster.

Dragonhead Beach
Ensenada Mexico 21:15

The first hovercraft had been back for an hour, but it had only gone to pick up cargo shipped to an Ensenada warehouse. Cargo and hovercraft had already been loaded when the next two arrived.

As they pulled up on the sand, the ramps dropped, and soon women and children began pouring out. The crews began working to get the craft aboard.

Almost 90 civilians were gathered together beneath the tails of the big Rogon ships. Most had asked no questions when told to pack their most valuable possessions and get ready to move out. The Alchibah expedition families were a community within the greater military dependent population, and they trusted Sharon St. James as the wife of the senior officer. That was the way it had worked for centuries, but the Rogon ships had everyone frightened.

Jaisa Benjamin was trying to figure out how to get these scared people on board, when the last hovercraft came roaring up onto the beach and came to a stop in the flood light beams of the loading gate. When the ramp dropped, the first ones out were a shabbily dressed young man and two pretty girls in red coats and school uniforms underneath. As the three civilian led a procession of UN troops out of the craft, everyone’s attention was drawn to the girls as they walked up and stood directly in front of the St. James twins.

Two sets of twins of about the same age, stood and stared at each other in wide eyed amazement.

“It must come as a shock to find out you’re not the only person who keeps a spare around.” Sharon whirled at the sound of that voice and stepped into her husbands embrace. After a moment when she needed to breathe, she said, “I don’t know how you got here, and I don’t know where you’re going, but from now on we’re going together.”

Teresa DeWalt had let go of her son long enough for his sister Linda to give him a big hug. She looked around; not everyone was reunited with their loved ones here on the beach, but those who weren’t had figured out they soon would be.

“Well,” she thought. “Time to get this show on the road.” Terry put two fingers in her mouth and let out a shrill whistle. “You can do all that hugging and kissing when we’re on the ship, so start moving!”

Two Dragonhead’s rose from the Pacific and made course for deep space at max acceleration and no one even noticed.

Behind them the Murgo Point Orbital Defense Station and the UNCCC, disappeared in the appearance of a Nuclear Strike as four 5 CM .7C penetrators impacted the base rock of the two widely separated sites. The UNWG would spend 25 years and untold billions trying to detect Radiation that was not there.

Kat Jamos and Summer Pierce pulled out of their follow up runs and headed to rendezvous with the Task Force ships, as they watched Ghost and Reaper ravage the entire Clark Orbit. Laughing over the short comm Kat asked, “Any bets on them missing anything?”

“Nope,” Summer laughed, “geosynchronous is full of so much dust the UNWG don’t dare launch up there. Let’s catch up and go home!”

Screaming up out of geosynchronous orbit Reaper and Ghost were laughing as best you can under six G’s. “Let’s see them fix that fast,” said Ghost.

“Twenty years at least,” laughed Reaper, “remind me to buy Hunter a drink. I think I like his style!”

Are You Ready to Do Something Really Stupid?

Posted in Recovery by Andrew Stuart

The last thing that Ari had expected was to be summoned to Ft. Stuart, nor to be directed to the Office of General Stuart by a Bot calling himself SFC Nug.

“Come in Cpl. If you drink the Bar is in the back right corner if not, the Coffee and Tea is in the back left corner. Pick your poison and have a seat.”

Ari bowed slightly to the General, then looked over the beverage choices. As he mused over the eclectic collection of home-brewed alcohols, he considered what he’d heard about the aftermath of the Company’s Tennessee operation: most of the troops got far too wasted on the fumes, even for the UNWG standards. Not wanted to be rendered impaired for the interrogation he knew was coming, Ari selected a variety of teas. Mentally grinning at the bloody murder his aunt – a tea aficionado – would have been screaming for the offense, he blended them together, and set the cup to steep on the edge of the General’s desk as he sat down.

“OK Cpl, what I have here is a massive contradiction staring at me in these records. On the one hand I have a massive career frack up, who just managed not to get clapped in irons or busted out; coupled with an intelligence that kept getting him sent to school after school. The pattern being you would manage to get busted out just before getting the rating but, not before you had time to learn the trade.

“Add that to Robert telling tales about how you got busted a couple of times for defending your troops but, never made a friend with any of them. Then there is Connor telling me about how the old Desert Warriors worked, never knew that even though I fought alongside one once.

“Then there is also this,” Andy said reaching into a drawer and pulling out Ari’s sidearm. It was in a new speed rig of a leather that Ari did not recognize. “IMI Jericho in .40 S&W, damn fine fine weapon. The Baby Eagle was as tough as they came and reliable as a rock; put it in .45 ACP and I would carry it. Thing is that it dammed sure ain’t UNWG issue and is a crime to carry because of the IMI markings. The rig is a gift from Jai Benjamin, she has better these days.

“Now, you may not know that I was an SFC when we launched Second Tehran out of Jerusalem and a full Bird Col when we took down asteroid 5488. I have seen, served with or Commanded every brand of Military Frack Up that ever existed. You strike me as only one of two types.

“You are either a deep cover Intelligence plant or the poor low level Op who got caught in a draft sweep trying to stay alive. In either case you have been using the borderline frack up cover to stay the hades out of leadership positions that might get you noticed. Take your sidearm and try to explain which you are.

Ari reached forward, taking the cup of tea rather than reaching for the sidearm. After taking a sip, he held the cup as if warming his hands. “Only two types, General? Surely there are other combinations you could think of.” He then help up his hand to forestall any reply. “My apologies. It comes naturally now, the casual insubordination to authority. Surely Abba would not have let me out of his tent without learning proper manners and deference – even if such civilized behavior would have me killed by those eben ahbés ruling and raping haEretz.”

He smiled, then looked the General in the eye. “Generaal, my father, my Abba, has been fighting the enemies of our people for as long as I was old enough to begin to understand. To outsiders, we are as one would expect; those expecting semi-literate Muslim Bedouin nomads, we are. Those expecting Israeli Bedu, staunch defenders of freedom, we are. Those rare few expecting us as we are, find us as Adonai would hope to, albeit wearing a guise that would fool those not looking beyond the obvious. After all,” he chuckled, “it’s not every Bedu tribe that recited the Sh’ma thrice daily. If you don’t know the language, you’d never know.”

Ari set the half-full cup on the desk, taking the holstered weapon from the other side. “I would not have taken this immediately; as you have said, I could have been a plant. I was very young when I saw how Abba treated one. It was quite a while before I could run the errands to the Shochet for cuts of steak and veal. I expected you may have had similar precautions taken.” He shoved the whole rig into an empty cargo pocket. “I appreciate the gift, and shall endeavor to repay the kindness.”

“I was sent, when I was of age, to the Netherlands, where Ema was raised. That is not in my ‘official’ dossier, nor my degrees in economics, as we worked to keep those out of sight of any overly inquisitive power-that-be. And, using Ema’s maiden name, none of the functionary schlemiels thought to put the two together. I then ended up in the UNWG forces for three reasons: the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was remiss in supplying recruits, Bedu, Philistine, and otherwise; Mossad needed another contact and information source ‘inside’ – so far as I could glean from Abba; and Abba thought it was a good idea, so long as I didn’t get caught with my hand in the cookie jar. Then again, the way Abba acted, he might very well have been the actual Mossad chief. Am I a ‘pool low level Op;’ perhaps, though only because I can read between the lines and know that I do not know much of the organization – by design. Am I ‘deep cover? Yes, absolutely. As for the rank… I did hold the rank of Technical Sergeant for all of,” he paused, calculating, “four months, twenty-seven days, three hours, and one really creative insult to a Captain that unfortunately understood Arabic.”

“About what I figured,” Andy grinned, “so what I need is a guy who can play a punishment detail carpenter going into Coronado North Housing to do some repair work. We are going to Covert Insert and Extract from Earth with some serious Precious Cargo. So are you ready to do some thing really stupid mashoo Benzona?”

Ari chuckled. “I do have to report in. It’s been years, and I really should see how Bubbie and Zaydeh are doing. Count me in – so long as I can do a long distance call at the very least. A personal visit would be better, though.”

Andy grinned, “I think we can get you that phone call at least. As a matter of fact, it might even help. What you need to do now is wander downstairs and find LTC Jai Benjamin, you have not met her so ask around. She will be the one pouring over maps of Coronado. She also has an Ingram we conned out of Hunter, it’s a lower profile that our CAW’s. Get out to the range and get qualified with it, get with Walt about a concealment rig for the Jericho. UN LT Benjamin is going to be your Escort Officer to do a little infiltration. Details to follow.

“Welcome to Alchibah and Strike Force. ”

“Todah rabah.” Ari stood, collecting his now-empty cup. “One last thing – I’d like to register a complaint about all of the pistol barrels my nose has been introduced to since arriving here.”

“Well Ari, do try not to show up in the Uniform of the assholes who are trying to shoot up the place and it might go easier. As a partial apology I will just say, consider what we were feeling about that time.

“On the other hand when you are not undercover from now on you will be wearing Black and Silver; if someone outside our group pulls a gun on you, don’t blink!”

He deposited the cup back with the tea service and stepped out of the office. “Oh, sorry, Generaal,” Ari turned, waived the barest of salutes, and wandered off.

Really, No Choice

Posted in Recovery by Andrew Stuart

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.”

Chapter 11: Recovery

Posted in Recovery by The Historian

Has it really been almost 20 Earth-years ago? Did we really drive the Rogons off? So much has happened since then. Here’s the official history by the council. Beyond that, what follows are the personal recollections of the colonists, the enemy, and others.

Going Nowhere

Posted in In Defense of Liberty by Captain Travis

He tried to remember where he was. Or why. He’d been on a blasted shuttle. Right. Nothing was working but the BOD engine. Right. He’d fixed it, right? The air in his suit was nearly depleted. Minutes left and that was stale.

Travis felt as though he was trying to conjure up memories from his early childhood. Those ones from birth to around three-years-old that no one ever remembers. But deep inside he knew he must.

There was no sensation of anything reaching him but his injuries. All around him was blackness. Was he blind? Was he even alive? Or is this what death is like? Nothingness. But he felt aches and sharp pains. His private hell, designed specifically for him by an uncaring God? Would those pains and lack of sensation be his eternity?

Then, a thought. He’d jumped! He’d reset the BOD engine so that instead of creating a hole that the shuttle could be pushed into, it was refocused to a lotus surrounding him only. It must have worked. Or killed him.

One thing was certain. He was out of air, gasping and coughing at the same time. Working on the assumption that he was alive and in the beyond, he tried to think of what Hibbes and Chandler had told him about this region that lays between the branes of the multiverse, sort of the insulation between all the parallel universes.

No rules! No laws of physics. Could that be it? If there are no rules, then there’s nothing to break, or rather, prevent him from breaking them. Of course! Think of something and it happens. Think of somewhere and you are there. Exiting is easier than entering. He’d remembered that since the two trips he’d made prior.

“I don’t need air,” he decided. Suddenly, he stopped gasping. But that’s impossible! And with that, he gasped and realized he did need air.

How much time had passed? The mind was fogged-in. Not working. “Think of somewhere,” he pondered but it was getting difficult for his brain’s synapses to function. Think of some place. . . .

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Posted in In Defense of Liberty by Andrew Stuart

Ft. Stuart, Alchibah

Andrew Stuart

My head felt like it had just hit the pillow when the comm alert started screaming. Tim was screaming in my ears, “You have to hear this Boss, you best case just came true!”

I listened to Commodore St. James’s declaration of open revolt. Damn this was everything I had ever wished for. “Ash are you on the link?”

“Yep Cuz, before you ask; that’s the Hunter St. James I know. I’ll fly the first contact bird if you want.”

“Screw that Ash, my gut is screaming at me. Are we ready to execute OPLAN Romeo?”

“Damn Andy, I can not say yes till we talk to the Mayflower. But if you want me to bet on Monroe, Hibbs and Chandler; I’ll go All In!”

“Tim, cut me into the All Hands circuit; I want everyone to hear this. I mean to include the South and the Damn Guardians.”

Tim’s voice quavered a bit but was firm, no silly questions to calm his nerves this time. “All Hands Up, you are on.”

“Commodore St. James, General Stuart. FYI, I go by Andy and welcome to Alchibah. Let’s keep this Military to Military for the moment. Hunter, can you send me info on where your family’s are being housed, read that held, on Earth? I told you once in passing that I would fight through all of the UNWG to save your children. That was not a throw off line, I meant it. I will need to borrow some of your pilots to make it work but Sir; given your co-operation…. I can raid a single point on Earth in six hours from Mission Start. What say you Sir?”

“Connor, you in the loop yet?”

“Yeah Andy, not quite up to speed but I am here.”

“Good deal, get your politician hat on Connor. Get the Council together, offer them the conference room up at FT. Stuart as that will be the easiest way to stay informed. If St. James cooperates we can plan this thing but, the decision to launch has to come from the Civil government.

“We are out of the Defensive phase now so the Civilian side has to be in control. The military always has to plan for everything but, the decision to launch an Offensive operation has to be a Civilian decision. Just try to make sure that Les gets the two votes from Mayflower involved. They have maybe more to loose than Liberty.”

“Tim, relay to Mayflower. Capt Monroe, it appears that there is no longer any reason to attempt to hide the Mayflower. In my considered opinion the Military threat is over and you may move at your discretion.

“Tim, end the relay. I am going to bring up the back-up tight beam from the Fort, it will be coming at you on fiber 3. Can you cut into the grid, as soon as the Mayflower talks it will lock and track on her? Damn Son, I think we just lived through this.”

Tim screamed in my ear, “Reply coming in.”

Hunter St. James

“You don’t play for the small pot do you Andy? At any rate we have not had time to sweep this vessel for Rogon listening and transmission devices. I would feel less than happy to talk Tactics over any of our circuits until that can be done. Any ideas? Because I do think that we need to talk.”

Andrew Stuart

“Hunter, you have to have a small vessel capable of a planetary landing. Load you and a couple of your trusted Staff and come on down to Ft Stuart for Dinner. Just before the orbit of the Inner Moon which we call Carter, contact Liberty Control on old 121.5 MHZ and we will shoot you an IFF code that will clear you the rest of the way in. I have a place we can talk that I guarantee can not be heard from.

“Be advised that I plan on putting the ultimate lie detector on you, my one year old Twins!”

A young voice split the air, “Are you the guy Dada been waiting for?”

Hunter St. James

Hunter laughed and replied, “Yes Young Man, I hope I am. Andy, what’s for Dinner?”

‘Round the Bend

Posted in In Defense of Liberty by Ari al-Yaram

Late Day 888, Alchibah, Main Lab

Ari al-Yaram

‘‘At your service’, indeed. Ari, mijn lad, the verdict has returned: you are a schmuck. What did Abba say about volunteering, hmm?’ I leaned against one of the now-empty lab beds. Wounded came in, the easily-healed went out; the seriously wounded went to a different room, usually with my assistance as newly-in-residence junior assistant Gopher. Not that I minded overmuch; it certainly looked a lot better than getting herded wherever the overt prisoners went to. The conspicuous lack of gunfire told me that no matter how many guns were going to get shoved up my nose during this, surrender was an honorable choice among honorable warriors.

All the activity and running around I was put through did nothing to prevent me from taking notes. ‘Let the ears record while the body works,’ Ari recalled his university adviser. ‘Poor old klojo; how was he to know the UNWG wouldn’t like old-school social academics like him if they didn’t have the right fiscal outlook. There wasn’t enough time alone to get a peek at any computer records, nor figure out exactly what the structure was like outside of the areas I’d already been, but the pattern was the same. The hustle of people with Jobs To Do is unmistakable.

I closed my eyes. Tuning out the actual words, and English instead of the polyglot of Hebrew, Arabic, and the smidgen of Dutch in Abba’s tents, this all had a familiar feel to it. A discussion of a battle, a raid, so similar to the one on the slavers across the Red Sea. The Goonie leadership were taking a personal hand in helping ‘relocate’ people no one would miss, presumably for their own puerile benefit.

I realized I’d slipped too deeply into nostalgia when a hand grabbed me, and someone’s barrel found its way into my nostril. Trying to calm myself, I opened my eyes and resolved to let the command here know my vervloekte nose was not a convenient muzzle break.

Kurt Kellerman

The figure of Connor Benjamin looked beat to hell as he walked through the door. Of course after what he had been through, who the hell would blame him.

“Damn Connor, why so glum. Master Kyoshi is working on Jai and River’s Gold Pins for the save. Your future Son-in-Law looks like he will turn your hair gray before anybody gets him and the twins are healthy as all get out. What do you have to look glum about?”

He gave me a patented sick grin and said, “Backlash I guess, do you know how close we came to losing this. I thought Andy was just being his normal paranoid self when he set up Strike Force Rear. Damn we were just barely enough and I thought at one time we had lost it. Right up until my future Son-in-Law as you describe him, started knocking them over like tenpins. I still don’t believe he is that good!”

It was my turn to pontificate at last, “Connor, you nor anyone else and that includes Mariana got to see his medical records. You have no idea how often he was in here after a late night clandestine training session with Andy. That Boy went through hell to get where he is. There was a reason Andy did not ask you to be in on his Q course, nor Jai for that matter. Don’t worry about your Grandkids, nobody wants to frack with Scythe, much less Firebird.”

Connor actually gave me a dumb-ass grin, “I guess you are right but, I just got handed a problem.’

“You mean Cpl. Ari don’t you? He’s a weird one, helpful as all hell but; neither Andy nor Mariana will fully vet him. They say he knows passwords they know but, not the right one’s.”

“Yeah Kurt, I know stuff they don’t. There was a class of people out there who were not resistance that fought the UNWG tooth, hook and nail. He might be one of those, he’s middle Eastern so one for sure will ID him. Just try not to intervene, OK?”

“LTC, last time I checked you outrank this lowly CPT.”

Connor reached down and unsnapped the speed rig on his hip and rolled into treatment like the Warrior he was. His left hand snaked out and grabbed Ari like the head of a striking snake. The right hand shoved the muzzle of a issue .45 up his nose. “Tell me fast boy, what can never happen?”

Ari did not even blink and replied faster than he had to Andy, “Masada shall not Fall Again.”

Connor sat him down gently, holstered his sidearm and said; “Talk to me Brother.”

Ari al-Yaram

I regarded the Colonel silently. Raising my left hand, palm forward, to show no malicious intent, I fished a slim packet out of my cargo pocket. The colonel had no idea what I was doing, and remained perplexed when I tore the package open to reveal laffa. “Sit, please, Luitenant-Kolonel, anywhere.” Seeing no real suitable place, especially where we could remain uninterrupted, I went to the far side of the observation bed, faced the still-confused colonel, and sat on the floor. Reluctantly, he followed suit. “Theoretically,” I told him, “Our positions should be reversed.”

“Oh?” He still had not figured out what I was doing.

“Yes. This is more your house than mine. Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha’olam ha-motzi le-chem min ha-Aretz. Amayn.” I tore the bread in two, handing him one of the chunks. “May you, through me, be welcome in the tents of my father, Avram ibn Mordachai, emir of al-Yaram al-Bedu. We are brothers-in-arms; we fight the same enemy, for the same reasons. Israel, Massada, has never fallen, besieged as we are.” I looked at the uneaten laffa in his hands, and pointedly took a bite of the piece remaining in my hand.

Benjamin looked thoughtful, then muttered to himself, “Well I will be a sheep-dipped asshole. If there were more that 10 or 15 of the old Desert Warriors left running around, it was 20 more than I knew about.” I didn’t think he meant for me to hear, so I waited passively for him explicitly respond to me. He appeared to catch on to what I was waiting for, deliberately eating a bite. “Just how long have you been in hiding,” he asked me.

I looked at him with a ghost of a smile, “Hiding? When did you choose to hide here, rather than back home?”

“Well, it was before I got my ass taken down by a Female and a Medic. That’s for sure.”

“Touché. Granted, you’re Runners – but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have security leaks. And yea, even some of us lowly grunt types know that. What I know or can guess at, in the wrong hands, might lead to heap big trouble. Then again, I’m an asshole and what I know – if I don’t shade it this way or that – is at least three years wrong. Abba always was fond of quoting Magnus: “trust, but verify.” And be ready to kick ass. I’m not in position to do the latter, but the former would give this camel a warm fuzzy feeling.”

He nodded, then shot something out of the blue at me. “Know anything about carpentry?”

“Carpentry? It’s a family secret that we’re closely related to one carpenter…” I chuckled, not thinking he meant anything theologically, “but I’ve done some as barracks-punishment in a place called Coronado.”

“OK, drag your carcass up to Ft. Stuart in the morning. Look up a guy by the name of John Pierce, I’ll let him know you are coming. He is the General Contractor around here and soon to be my Son-in-Law, also with him around nobody will worry much about you. You’ve seen him before, the Big Major who was in the chameleon suit. Pay’s better also.”

I stood, offering my hand to him as he rose. “One thing on orientation: I didn’t do too much sightseeing before this interview. Where’s Fort Stuart from here?” What it was, I figured, will be shown once I got there, whatever it was.

“When you exit here, head around to the north-northwest.”

“Thank you.” I took a couple of steps towards the door, and then stopped. This was going to take some getting used to, after all. I turned back to face him. “Sir.” Rather than wait for the responding salute, I head back into the cold. The landscape looked just as I remembered – white, with more white coming. Beurt, just what I need for a walk.

I struck out of the hospital area in the direction Benjamin told me to head once I got my bearings. After trudging through the thick snow, seeing nothing of any other life, I made out a wall in the haze ahead of me. “Finally. I’d be pissed if this was some joke.” However, when I reached the ‘wall’ instead of finding human construction, I found a cliff face. “Ha Ha. I hope he’s laughing.” I checked my wrist comp for an area map. If the vervloekte thing was to be believed, this ridge leveled off to the west. Only one way to be sure. Fortunately, the snow had thinned considerably by the time I got to the end of the ridge-wall. I could see a structure off to the north, more or less where I would have reached had I not had to detour around the geography. After another few minutes of slogging, I came across a proverbial beaten path. There had been enough traffic along this path that, being charitable, I could imagine Benjamin believing I already knew about it. If I were being charitable. Either way, I made it to the palisade in short order.

“Stop and identify yourself!”

“I am Ari; Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin told me to come here and ask for a John Pierce.”

“Hold one.”

I waited, and then an equally bundled figure approached. “You said you were sent to find me.”

“That’s right. I was told you were in need of a carpenter. Well, now you have one.”

The time to chose

Posted in In Defense of Liberty by Richard Redmond

ON Deathfang:

Hunter St James woke from a deep sleep to the sound of the intercom alarm; 30 years of reflex brought his hand to the receive button, “What is it?” his gravelly voice croaked.

“Something happening on the Planet sir,” came the voice of Wendy Taylor, “You need to see this.” St. James rolled out of his bunk and pulled on his coveralls, “Doesn’t that girl ever go off duty?” he thought.

The Bridge of Deathfang was only a few feet from his Day cabin, when he reached the command station Wendy wasted no time, “The Dragonhead Swiftstrike has taken off and is heading this way at max acceleration,” she said.

“Try to contact her,” said St James. LT. Taylor went to the comm. station, “Something coming in now…it’s from the planet… on speaker.”

The voice of Major Putnam was one of desperation, “Calling Deathfang! We need immediate evacuation… Ambassador Redmond left us here… the Rogon weapons have all stopped working… send air support… please hurry… the ponies are going crazy killing everything… we need help now.”

“Shut it off,” Hunter said, “Send this: ‘Message received, help is on the way.’ ”

“Do you want me to launch the alert fighters?” Wendy asked.

“No just send the message…oh and since I’m up at this late hour…let’s run another being overboard drill.”

Wendy Taylor couldn’t hide her surprise, “But sir,” she began to protest…

Hunter cut her off, “You have your orders Lieutenant.”

Throughout the giant Rogon Battleship Deathfang alarms blared a message first in English and then in Rogon .

“BEING OVERBOARD… BEING OVERBOARD… THIS IS A DRILL…. ALL UN PERSONAL REPORT TO THE LOWER BOAT BAY …ALL ROGONS MUSTER ON THE UPPER BOAT DECK… THIS IS BY ORDER OF OSSOG; SESPES-AP.”

On the bridge of Deathfang the few Rogons and unnecessary humans left to report to there assigned mustering stations. As Doorway opened the Rogon scientist Shintok; krett-N entered.

“Another drill Commodore?” He asked.

“Surprise is best for this sort of thing, last time we had to go looking for 35 Rogons lets hope we can do better this time” Hunter said “ I will now go down to the lower boat deck to supervise the search party…Carry on Lieutenant.”

* * *
The lower boat deck was a cavernous chamber crowded with shuttles, fighters and all types of land vehicles belonging to the 21st, crates full of supplies and equipment were everywhere. One end was cleared and the UN personal were lined up in neat rows.

Major Lew DeWalt snapped a crisp salute, “The bridge and engine room have reported, including them all hands are accounted for.”

“Excellent Major lets see how many snakes we have to find.” Hunter spoke into his comm unit, “Where are the Rogons Lieutenant Taylor?”

The reply was prompt, “57 on the boat deck sir, and master krett is here, that leaves 27 who didn’t feel like showing up.”

“Very well stand by.” Hunter put the comm. unit in his pocket, “Everyone form a circle.”

He waved his arms as if to draw everyone in. “For 30 years I’ve served the UN World Government,” he began, “I’ve obeyed orders without question and done my duty, whether I liked it or not. I took an oath and a man of honor doesn’t go back on his word…But I didn’t make an oath to serve a bunch of damned reptiles!”

“The people we’ve been fighting came a long way to live in freedom; I won’t be the one to put them in chains, and I won’t wear them myself.”

The faces around wore expressions of shocked amazement and something more…the yearning for freedom.

Hunter continued, “Major DeWalt arm the search teams with MAC-15’s and 5 magazines of explosive rounds each, then take as many men as will go with you to the upper boat deck and clean out that nest of snakes. Search parties…Good hunting!” With that he saluted the men and to the sound of cheers began the long walk back to the bridge.

On Dragonhead ship SwiftStrike:

Richard Redmond was mad…mad and confused “How could this be happening,” he thought, “everything was going so well and then the Rogons managed to walk into a trap set by a band of bible thumping animals armed with spears and clubs.”

Well he’d teach them, “Once I get back to Deathfang, I’ll order that coward St. James to turn that rebel town into a sea of lava, I’ll have my colony with the slaves coming in on the New Palmtree.” Visions of a palace filled with obedient slave women filled his imagination, and a wicked smile came to his lips.

At the control console, Ossog; sespes-AP conferred with Shintok; maylock-A, they were obviously in communication with a Rogon on the Deathfang, when the voice abruptly was silenced.

“Slave! Explain!” came the imperious voice of sespes-AP.
Redmond snapped out of his reverie,“Yes master how can I serve you?”

Slave soldier on Deathfang rebel… kill Rogon masters! What know you?”

“No Master… It can’t be! They wouldn’t dare! They must obey!”

But Redmond knew it was true. “That bastard St. James did this, Oh I’ll make him pay!”

“Enough” said the Rogon Commander “other space is” and with that he operated a strange device set behind a protective shield and the SwiftStrike went somewhere outside this Universe.”

On the bridge of Deathfang:

Wendy Taylor was relieved to see her Commodore walk in through the doorway “sir we detected a transmission from within the ship to SwiftStrike and now SwiftStrike has vanished from our screens.”

But St James attention was not on her. He stood square in front of Shintok; krett-N, “You never should have gone to see my family you lousy snake,” he said, and then the roar of the big .50 caliber auto was all anyone would hear for some time.

15 minutes later:

“Sir the last search party has reported in, all Rogons are accounted for.”

“Very well Lieutenant, open that channel to General Stuart now, in fact broadcast over all the colonial channels.” He waited until the light on the mike turned red, “General Stuart, we have just exterminated the aliens infesting this ship and I am speaking to you as a free man for the first time. The war is over… your people can return to their homes…it’s time to put down our weapons and rebuild what we’ve destroyed.”

“My offer to help stands…this time without conditions… we’d like to join your colony if you’ll have us, I for one am looking forward to that sailing trip.”



Colony: Alchibah is a science fiction blog novel.
Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Probably.

All Contents (written or photo/artwork) not attributed to other sources is
Copyright (C) 2006 - 2011 by Jeff Soyer. All rights reserved.