Author Topic: Chrono Jump saga  (Read 2205 times)

Daryk

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #30 on: 05 July 2024, 13:12:50 »
This is true...

Shadow_Wraith

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #31 on: 05 July 2024, 16:35:33 »
very nice story update!

ThePW

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #32 on: 05 July 2024, 18:50:09 »
WHICH version of Pirate Amanda is this from?
Even my Page posting rate is better than my KPD rate IG...

2Feb2023: The day my main toon on DDO/Cannith, an Artificer typically in the back, TANKED in a LH VoD.

monbvol

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #33 on: 05 July 2024, 19:38:46 »
The answer to that can be found in the title of that entry of the saga.

Daryk

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #34 on: 05 July 2024, 19:43:40 »
Give it time, and you may find more than one version... ;)

monbvol

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #35 on: 05 July 2024, 21:36:25 »
Yeah, let's just say the associated fan art thread is going to get a bit busy for this one.

monbvol

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #36 on: 07 July 2024, 14:12:53 »
[Author]  Don't mind admitting this one was a slog to get wrapped up, especially towards the end as me and Cannonshop started having heck of a time for what ever reason synching up, so I had to take a lot more creative liberties without his input to get it over the finish line.  Hopefully I got all the important bits done okay as a result.  [/author]

Part Three: Elbar Calling

Fatiama found herself falling, and the fall stopping in dirt.  The faint thunder of explosions and characteristic snapping crack of weapons fire greeted her ears as the smell of burning forest and disrupted nature assaulted her nose.  One Earth Gravity?

The pain she felt was nothing like she felt before, but the familiar sounds and scents triggered her training and instincts.  She needed to move, get a sense of her new surroundings.

First, she looked to the sky.  Stars.  It's not daytime.  Then, she carefully looked around herself.

There were trees, some of them were even intact…and a roadbed with twin rails right around fifty meters to her north, and five or so meters lower. 

“Primitive transportation network.  If I follow it, either direction I’ll come upon civilization.”

Light flickered and blazed, and the rumble of shuttle engines engulfed the area, the shuttle itself was winged, and clearly coming in for a vertical landing.

“A war zone.  A real one.  Again.”  Fatiama had wanted to deny it but it was impossible now.

She pondered if she should follow it to the landing zone, but she realized she knew nothing about this conflict, if the shuttle belonged to the aggressor or the defender shifting around reinforcements.  She didn’t know what the war was even about and if she should make contact with either side.

“Have to take a chance one way or the other and I can find that LZ long before I find a city.”

Fatiama was glad to be off ships for a change.  Wilderness, even ravaged wilderness, was much closer to what she had grown up with.

Grabbing her traditional tools, Fatiama made herself a primitive bush suit from local materials.  She would adjust it with fresh materials to help her better blend in as the terrain changed.

Trails, brushes, trees, they were different but familiar.

She grabbed a leaf from a local nut bearing tree and smelled it, then chewed on it a little before spitting out the bit of leaf and juice.  If she had to, she’d be able to eat these nuts but it wouldn’t be pleasant long term.  The leaves could be worked into a useful paste for a couple natural medicines if she needed that as well.

Collecting a few nuts and leaves Fatiama continued her journey.

She could feel nature’s anguish as she traveled.  As alien as this forest was, she could still hear it.

It was clear to Fatiama at that moment that her gifts from Narakin had been altered, she could sense more.  Nothing concrete or in clear terms, but firmer impulses.  It must have been her extended exposure to hyperspace.

As she moved along the game trails, she could sense it.

A desperate wild creature that had been displaced from its home.

“{Goddess of the Natural Order, grant me a way to appease this beast so I do not have to harm it for simply being hungry.}”  Fatiama saw it and reached for where her spear normally would be stowed.

The empty spot reminded her she didn’t have it but she was able to find her ceremonial sword instead.

Fatiama watched the creature as she kept her hand on the grip of her sword but used the other to dig into her suit for some ration paste.

“It tastes terrible I know but it does have protein in it.”  Fatiama tossed a glob between her and the creature.

It seemed to accept the offering, and Fatiama used the distraction to slip away.

As the morning sun started rising, Fatiama knew she was getting close to where the shuttle set down.

She was already closer than she normally would be to start her stalk through the bushes and grass, but she figured she could risk it to save time.

She found a good place and rubbed local dirt on her face and adjusted her natural cover.  She started her slow and methodical sniper’s crawl to the clearing she knew housed the shuttle.  It’d still take her half a day to make the crawl to where she figured she’d be able to get a good look at the situation.

They'd done a fairly good job applying camouflage netting, and she stopped mid-crawl on an instinct.

The wire was hair-thin.  Not a laser?  She bypassed the tripwire without triggering it, or cutting it.

A few meters at a time, carefully, she approached.

Their uniforms looked…worn, used.  The soldiers were mostly young, mostly male, and visibly awkward-like recent trainees more than the kind of veterans their LZ security suggested.

And they spoke a language she'd heard, but hadn't fully learned in hushed tones.

Fatiama looked for additional clues as to who these people were.  Their uniforms weren’t much help but she didn’t have a proper scope.  She’d need to get even closer if possible.

"...can' fahn dem, mebbe whole region gon' collaborator?"

"Word had it there was still resistance out here, not the firs' tahm Stah-Leeg Intel been wrong, ayeh?" a female soldier suggested.  "We finish covering the LZ and go out to look again.  Colonel wants to hook up with the locals against the Rimjob garrison, we'll need it anyway or it'll be another ****** like Eagle's Nest."

The accent was Asian.  Fatiama had heard an accent LIKE this…Vietnamese influence, a little bit of Hebrew guttural.

Okay so there’s a Star League, they seem to be the invaders.  Rimjobs as defenders.

"Has our SLDF Liaison finished shitting yet, Vu Dao?  I swear they gave us the worst this time, why us?"

"We're Coast Guard, no 'mech unit fo' the Ninetieth to train, so we get the spook from SLIC, of course."  A male with blackened rank pins on his collar noted.  "He's supposed to be able to translate the local language, unless you want to make a go of trying to learn Spanish on the fly?"

Hmmm… I’ll need to figure out a way to introduce myself without making an enemy or myself suspicious…

A small man came over and whispered to the person with the rank pins.

"You're sure?"

There was a nod.

She felt a familiar foreboding in her shoulders.

KLICK. 

She turned her head.  The boy standing almost in arm's reach was holding a shotgun.  "You speka Eengleesh?"

“Infra red or something else?”  Fatiama couldn’t help but ask.

The boy tapped his nose. "You sweaty, wind was right."

“So I’m out of practice…  I’ll stand up slowly now, yeah?”

Four others seemed to materialize from the undergrowth.  "You do that," the young man nodded.

There was something about him…  Underfed, probably his whole life.  The shotgun was almost too big looking.

Fatiama stood up slowly, discarding her makeshift camosuit.

"Whatchoo got Vanh?"

"Not sure, smells like a RockJack what ain't had a decon in a few days.  Not native, not local, wrong color."

"Bring her in."

"Ayeh, sirrah."  He looked at Fatiama, "Hands where I can see 'em, we're walking in.  Jennings, Tranh, Levy, keep eyes out.  MAKO teams work in pairs-or they do down in the Valley.  I can't imagine they don't on other places.  If she's Rimjob, her pal's nearby.  If she's a civilian, then the local wildlife could have her scent instead."

“I am alone, and I do not believe the wildlife will be tracking me.”  Fatiama put her hands on the back of her head.

"I did, why wouldn't they?" he asked with a shrug.  "They gotta bird here, stands near two meters, meat eater, pack hunter, supposed to be pretty smart."

“The one local creature I encountered allowed me to continue on my way.”

"More'n one animal on a world."

“They are scattered, the fires and destruction.”

They passed out of the undergrowth and into a tent-like camo net that hummed faintly with EM and shifted colors to match the local terrain.

"Vanh!  Shit, where did you come from?"

"We grounded Shuttle Three over the ridge.  Been walkin', brought you an eavesdropper," the boy said.  "Where's Major Vasquez?"

"Shitter."

"You shouldn't have let him into the rations, Ell-Tee.  You know those earthers have sensitive stomachs."

Fatiama suppressed her need to laugh.  She knew all too well how much adjustment there could be to an alien diet and what the side effects could be.

"What did you see on your stroll?"

"Rail’s busy.  Boxcars with vents.  They go in loaded and come out unloaded.  There's maybe two companies of heavy infantry with a couple lances of 'mechs guarding the doors.  I already uplinked the data to the main body.  It looks like maybe the Rimjobs are slacking on their site sec."

"How slack?"

"They're letting rail trains through the door on the regular.  Freaky part is, lots of anti-personnel hardware and they're watchin' those trains hard."

"Live cargo?"

"Maybe, but why?" the small man shrugged.  "The shit don't make sense."

Fatiama could only fathom one reason they were having this conversation in front of her but she didn’t think it wise to speak at the moment.

Vu Dao scowled, "Speculate, Sergeant."

"Smelled a lot of gymnasium smell when we were down wind.  Smelled like human bodies, packed tight."

"Your nose is better than most of the sensors our allies loaned us…  ******, I gotta take this up the chain to Higher."

"Whachoo thinking, sirrah?"

"Slaves, maybe?  Maybe a labor draft to expand the Brian Fort down and outward?"

"Fits Rimjob habits.  Only it wasn't all man-smell, some girls too…." Vanh dug into a cargo  pocket and dropped a stuffed animal on the mat.

"******… you think you know."

The young man nodded, "Request the Lieutenant's permission to do something manifestly unwise, sir."

"Granted, pick a backup and go have a look.  Don't get caught."

"Ayeh, Sirrah."

"I've got to make some calls.  Calley, could you secure our guest and see if she needs anything, medicine, food…water?  I've got to get on the goddam radio to Brigade."

A slim girl (too slim, for her height) nodded, "Ma'am, if you'll come this way please?"  The submachine gun looked both improvised and effective.

“You know your prisoner handling protocol is pretty shit.  Civilian or enemy I should have been stowed somewhere secure rather than be present for that briefing.”

"We've only been doing this for a year, ma'am.  And Jerry Vanh didn't cap you outside the perimeter or cut your throat, so you don't 'smell' like Rim Worlds Republic to him."

“Probably also helps that I’m still wearing my suit.  Not something more suitable for down here.  I’ve also been out of circulation for a while…”

"That too.  I'd ask which Coop you came from, but you're built like a dirtyfoot while you're wearing a Rockjack's skinsuit.  I'm gonna guess you got caught in the system and forced down sometime recently.  You from a Faction?"

“Something like that.  I honestly don’t know all the details.  I am of the Holwe Corta, Fire and Stone clan.”

"Huh.  Hullwe Cortah?  That sounds like maybe a faction out of the Rasalhague space, near Drac territory-they go for the complicated names.  You heard of Golden Bough or Free Stars?"

“I had some friends from each.  Which is pretty rare as my people do like being very remote and very isolated.”

The girl snapped her fingers.  "Outworlder!  That explains it!!  Come on, Outie, we gots the GOOD food!!"

“Thank the gods!  I’ve been on emergency ration food paste for so long it was starting to almost taste good.”

"Suit rats are the worst," the girl agreed, leading her to a selection of shipping crates with a smokeless boiler.  "Take your pick, SLDF practically dumps them on us, usually for shit that doesn't matter like platinum, or diamonds or gold."

Fatiama picked through for rations that had become her favorite human foods.

“Yeah.  My people use gold exclusively for currency because it has so little other use.”

"WE, and I mean Rockjacks, use it for corrosion protection and cheap, heavy shielding for electronics.  They dig it up on Hatter in the massive tons.  A gold film isn't that thick, the stuff's not nearly as useful as complex carbons an' not near as hard to get as wood or red meat… or soil bacteria."

“Ah proper meat…  It has been far too long…”  Fatiama nibbled on some chicken.

"Like I said, the good stuff," Calley grinned.  "Last pogie run I even scored Corned Beef in neat little packets!  It makes cabbage taste GOOD.  It only cost me like half a kilo of clear diamonds."

The collection of food on Fatiama’s plate was a truly bizarre mix of chicken, brussel sprouts, and coleslaw now as she ate.

"So… you're not from a planet?" Fatiama asked.

Calley shook her head, "Nayah.  I'm lucky, I don't get the shakes at the bottom of the well like a lot of us do, so I'm the shuttle pilot for these fine upstanding grunts from Kowloon's dirt."

“Learning to live on a ship, in lower gravity than I had grown up with, MUCH lower, was not easy.  I think I’m still recovering from that.”

"Ayeh, I hear ya.  My auntie was a dirtyfoot, she had the worst time adapting after they rescued her from the slave market on Dijonne."

“The bone density loss, muscle atrophy…”

"We got drugs for the bone density.  Only a few people still get gravity sick.  The problem is more mental-kids like me, grow up in a burrow?  Open sky's like a perennial nightmare of 'the hull is breached' and the first time I felt a cold wind I damn near had a heart attack.  Big time panics, diggit?"

“The first bath that I remember having in a cold spring stream, that is still with me.  Of course height of summer is much more pleasant.”

"Must've been some kind of super-soap, you know those streams are full of bio that is rigged to kill you or make you sick, right?"

“It’s easy enough to tell which streams are good for drinking from or taking a bath in once you know what to look for.”

Callley rolled up her sleeve, showing injection marks, "See what I had to go through to get surface time?  Twelve different immune boosters, a dozen vaccines and an SLDF military formula for fighting off microbes and parasites.  My arm felt shredded afterward for days!"

Fatiama remembered her own preparations to fight on alien worlds back during her service with her people and was glad the boosters she got back then would protect her from alien microbes for quite some time.

They're not really military.

“Alien worlds with their own eco systems can be a real bitch,” Fatiama nodded.

"Yah, I know, and that is so cool!!" Calley said.  "I grew up in a controlled environment.  We had to upkeep all of it, fish, algae, plants, even the fungus.  Planets do it by themselves without needing maintenance work…  But the trade is, they're rigged to kill you, so you gotta have protection."

“You’d be surprised how much work there can be in balancing a natural ecosystem with the demands of a technologically advanced civilization.  But that’s also the beauty of it.  The truth is, life is temporary no matter where you are or what you do.  But there’s nothing like watching a meteor shower on a warm summer night on the shore of a sea.”

"That's why I joined up, to see it, like, with my own eyes, not in a book or vid.  I’m gonna maybe migrate to the planet, now we're rid of the Rimjobs."

“I’ve been to eight alien worlds in my life.  All had something special and unique about them.  So I have faith you’ll find it rewarding in its own way if you do.”

Calley laughed, then turned serious.  "This is a war down here.  WE are helping the Terrans kick the Rimjobs out after they stabbed 'em in the back and took over.  It's ironic, you know?  The Terrans murdered Dinh Diep, our first city on Kowloon, to keep the Rimjobs on our necks.  NOW we're saving them from their ****** buddies."

“So why do it?  Why help them?  What makes it such a good cause?”

"Because it's the ****** Rimjobs, House Amaris!  They Deserve it”  Her eyes burned with a fury.  "It doesn't matter who we're saving from them, if it means stopping them.  I'd invade hell itself to liberate it from House Amaris."

“They enslaved you in all but name, didn’t they?”

"They sold our people as slaves.  You see Vanh, right?  He grew up chasing half-inedible animals in the Folly, because they took all the food away from that region to sell it to someone else and left hundreds of thousands to starve.  And he was one of the lucky ones.  The forced famine caused some people to resort to cannibalism in that part of Kowloon."

Fatiama listened.  Slavery and oppression had been threatened against the Holwe Corta enough times in the past that it was part of their core identity now to oppose it wherever they found it.

“How can I help?” Fatiama asked.

"Dunno ma'am, we gotta wait for word from higher on what to do with you, since you're not an EPW or local resistance, or even local.  Nothing in the book on what to do, but it's dangerous and sending you out alone?  Bad karma."

“I’ve worked with others before.  That is not a problem for me.  But I suppose you’re right, there is nothing I can offer if your superiors don’t know me or what to do with me.  Perhaps after a bath and some rest you can help me fix that.”

"Well, eat up.  We'll find you a rack for now."

“And perhaps if I could trouble you for some fresh clothes, including undergarments, I haven’t been able to wash anything I’ve been wearing properly for a while now.”
"I'll see what I can do… Hey, is that a Sanyo digital Tablet?"

“Something similar.”

"No guns, no visible weapons besides some knives… a digital tablet… You're a reporter aren't you?  Here to cover the liberation I bet!!"

Fatiama pulls her sword from its scabbard and lays it on the table.

“I’d call that a bit more than a knife.”

"For clearing undergrowth, right?  So you can get the really GOOD pics!" the girl clearly had romantic notions of what a 'reporter' is supposed to do.

She thinks I'm a journalist?

“Sweet child.  I’m no journalist.  It is hard to explain what I am after all this time.  But I have fought, I have lived in harmony with nature, lived in space, and done so much now.”

"Obviously not.  Journos hide in the bar and listen to bullshit."  A man in a much newer uniform came into view.  "Warrant, why is this civilian in our cantonment?"

"She's a… a freelance war correspondent here to cover the victory over the Rimjobs, sir!" Calley said it stiffly, insisting on her fantasy so hard it almost felt like truth... or rather TRUTH.

“I got separated from my ship sir, I’m just a vagabond at this juncture really.”

"Well, we'll get you some credentials.  I know a couple of news agencies that are always on the hunt for fresh talent, miss…?"

“Fatiama Sithers,” Fatiama decided it’d be more appropriate to use that name in this situation.

"DUDE!!  Your folks named you after Kham Sithers' wife?  The Ghost of the Point?" Calley enthused.  "This is even cooler!!"

“Something like that.  And weirdly not the first time I’ve been dubbed a ghost,” Fatiama smiled.

"I don't get the reference," the ranking man said.

"It's a Spacer thing, Rockjack specifically.  See, Kham Sithers helped organize the Great Escape, and his wife disappeared from the CIC of his ship after he died.  They say she appears to Spacers right before a misjump to warn them not to go, it's… Culture, man," Calley said.

“I also got dubbed the Ghost of Tybolt VII at one point, but I doubt any of you even know where that is,” Fatiama chuckled.

"Anyway, she's obviously a Journo and embarrassed to be outed, sir," Calley concluded.  "She's not a RimJob, I've met those.  She's an Outie."

"Warrant, I want to speak with this… journalist… alone.  Please find somewhere to be?  Close by, in case you're needed."

"Aye, sir."  Calley sounded a little disappointed, got up, and left.

"Major Isaac Thomkins, SLDF.  I wasn't kidding about the credentials, these people fly under the radar and they could use some good press."

“Shame I’m not press then,” Fatiama glanced the way Calley left.  “She’s a sweet girl, but I’m not a journalist.”

"For the purposes of not-being-confined?  I think that's your cover," he told her.  "See, if you're press, then I don't have to send you to a holding site we don't have."

“My options do seem limited,” Fatiama acceded.

"Alright then, now for your real job.  The name, it's not a cover, is it?  And your parents probably never heard of Kham Sithers, never mind his wife."

“True.  If you wish, I don’t mind using the name I was given when I was born instead.”

"I've seen your file," he told her.  "The classified one.  It was used as an example of 'anomalous encounters'."

“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.  I was not as discreet as I should have been.  I guess I should ask just how thorough your file is?”

"You got a near genius scientist out of Eros Station before it blew up, nearly four hundred years after you left with several hundred thousand people who were escaping the collapse of the Terran Alliance into the Hegemony civil war," he told her.  "So, centuries of time, same appearance.  You were identified as an anomaly, and my department at Star League Intelligence was briefed on your existence, and what your presence may possibly mean.  Some sort of major event is going down and it's not the normal sort of major event."

“I see.  I can offer one insight.  I do not control when or where I appear, so some of those events you describe?  For me, they haven’t actually happened yet.  Others have.”  Fatiama wasn’t sure why she felt she could trust this man with that fact but she did.

"I'll keep that in mind.  In the meantime, you're a freelance journalist looking to make a headline.  We'll find out what you're really here for when it happens."

“I am also a fully trained scout sniper, albeit a bit embarrassingly out of practice given how I was caught.”

"That's good, that means you won't weigh down a platoon of recon marines."

“I will not.  I’m also something of an expert in wilderness survival and combat tactics.”

"Okay, here's the rest of the deal: you need to play up the role, get to know these people, ask dumb questions if you can get away with it, and take lots of notes and pictures. I can help you with composing something that looks… like a reporter wrote it, but it'll have to be your words."

“Probably be helpful if I had a more appropriate camera then.”

He smiled.  "That, I can arrange.  Yours was obviously broken or lost before you found us, and I'm a bit of a holographer as a hobby."

“One last detail…  My homeworld has a lower concentration of oxygen than Earth standard.  Just enough that after a while, I can start presenting as a happy drunk.  Alcohol works as a stop gap, but given I’ll be in the field a lot and that could become troublesome,I might need a longer term solution.”

"Obviously, you'll drink like a reporter.  I've got some booze in my kit… and there's always someone with some form of booze in a military operation."

“Thank you.”  Fatiama nodded.

He passed her a flask.  It smelled like something used for degreaser.

Fatiama took a swig.  It was terrible, but it’d keep her from becoming euphoric and even slightly amorous for a few hours.

"Major, what unit were you part of?  Before the war, I mean?"

"Department Thirteen," he said.  "We've got files."

“So I should do my best to keep what I really am on the downlow,” Fatiama nodded.

"That would be appreciated," he nodded.

“I’ll do my best and pray that what I can’t hide gets dismissed as war stories.”  Fatiama still wasn’t sure they were talking about the same thing.

“So how many languages do you really speak?  I mean actually fluently.”

“My English is getting pretty good, still a few gaps, especially with the more esoteric and highly technical stuff.  My Dutch isn’t getting much of a workout and I’ve picked up a little Viet and Yiddish.”

“Could be better, but that should work.”

“I’m curious though.  How are you so sure I’m the one from your files?  I could be an imposter, after all.”

“A little bit of oral history passed down, nothing ever entered into the official files.  Just in case someone ever did get a hold of them and decided to use them to try and run a game on us,”  Isaac smiled.  “We’re some of the best for a reason.”

“I get the feeling this is where a catch surfaces.”

“There is something you can do to pay me back for all this generosity,” Isaac said.  “I don’t know how you do all the things you do, or the rules about how and when you appear.  But if you get the opportunity, there’s someone I could use your help extracting alive from a very tricky and dangerous situation.”

“Knew it.”  Fatiama shook her head.  “Who is it?”

“Doctor Kennith Gearing.”

“Is he a prisoner of the enemy?”

“Worse.  He is the enemy.  And you know how the people I’m about to put you with feel about them, and what they will do with him.”

“Where is he?”

“According to intel, he’s in a little place called Running Deer.”

“That shouldn’t be too bad.”

“Only if you consider breaching one of the most effective defensive fortifications humanity has ever designed is the easy part.  Which frankly, given what these people will do to Doctor Gearing, it will be.”

“Hence the embedding as a journalist.  They won’t summarily execute him in front of the press.”  Fatiama was sadly aware of the concept of war crimes.

“Got it in one.”

“Oy vey.”

monbvol

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #37 on: 07 July 2024, 14:15:36 »
***

Fatiama didn’t realize just how badly she needed to bathe until after she stepped out from under a cold shower and got dressed in what had been provided for her.

She was still feeling discomfort from her prolonged time in microgravity and whatever had caused her to appear on this world at this time.

Next she found the bunk now set aside for her.

Fatiama wasn’t sure how long she had been without sleep now so she took the opportunity.

She fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.

Her dreams drifted back to her service in her people’s war.

The first time she killed another sentient being on Orach Bellum 92.

The dozens of sentient beings she killed on Tybolt VII where she vexed her foes for months with hit and run sniper attacks that devastated their command staff.

The defense of colony Frela II where she first engaged one of the terrifying walking rocks of Ukair.

Continuing with the desperate defense of four more colonies her people had established that ultimately failed.

The culmination was the final fight she took part in on her homeworld, but it was not against the enemy, it was against her former spotter, Gorek Pas.

Fatiama woke from the nightmares.  It didn’t take much to know why she was having them.  She was facing war again.

This one at least, to its credit, felt different.  It still felt complex to her, but she didn’t know much about it.

Which would make asking the dumb questions easier that she was supposed to do as part of her cover.

She grabbed a light meal from the field kitchen.  It was still odd to her to be allowed to walk around so freely among strangers, but she guessed that was the power of the press badge she now wore around her neck.

Fatiama searched around for a place to sit and eat.

Finding an empty spot she sat down and glanced at her table companions.

“You didn’t grab much.”  Her name tape read Nguyen.

“Not sure what your superiors will demand of me to prove myself before they figure out which unit to deploy me with, so just enough now so I don’t puke later from having over-ate while running a 20 klik course.”

“Damn.  You served somewhere harsh if that’s what you expect.”

There was a small commotion outside the tent.

"Reporter Lady!  We got something for you to cover!!" a kid in a light uniform stuck his head into the mess tent.

“Looks like I’m being summoned.”  Fatiama scarfed down the rest of her food in a rush.

It wasn't hard to find it.  Sgt. Vanh's 'sneak and peek' was back, and he was conducting civilians into the perimeter.  The Marines were looking pissed.

Fatiama did not relish the idea that she might have to do more than hold a camera to stop that level of anger to complete her given mission.

“Sergeant, what do you have today?”  Fatiama started her camera recording.

"The trains are hauling civilians into the mountain," he said.  "Women, kids, adults, men… they're packed in and drugged and not labor…."  He turned to one of the camp guards, and said something in yet another language, the man nodded, and started speaking to a civilian who translated into Spanish.

"What language is that?" she asked.

"Hebrew, we got lucky.  There were some Yisroel mixed in with the Catholics.  A few of us speak Hebrew, so it's a bridge language, especially for the guys who flunked their English courses."

“So then the people who control this planet, they’re taking people of all sorts?”

"Best I was able to dope out from the older guy-" he gestured at a man with gray hair framing a bald head "-they're being selected by their neighbors.  The planetary admin-the collabo government?  Is letting locals pick who gets sent."

“That is… Insane.  Who would do that to their own neighbors?  I know conflict can be terrible but turning on your neighbors like that?”

"There's always someone who will get in good with whoever's the boss.  And there's evil, miss reporter, mum," he said.  "You can find monsters in the most unusual places."

Fatiama could only nod in shame as she knew the truth of that.  There were times now and again she still considered herself a monster now for doing what she did for her part in her people’s war.  A war that elements of their government started with a careful, and now horrific, charade.

“I know evil exists.  I have seen it, Sergeant.  I have been it,” Fatiama found herself confessing.

Lt. Vu Dao came out of the shuttle that was serving as the headquarters van.  "Word from the old man is go.  They're going to use the path you found, Vanh.  He's taking first Battalion and one of the assault companies from the Ninetieth through the railhead.  They want you to link up with the lead element and show 'em how to get in."

"Ayeh Sirrah, let me grab the rest of my team."

“Tell me what I need to do to prove I can join them,” Fatiama demanded.

"Head down, no stupid heroics, and follow instructions mum," Vanh said, pulling a cylinder from his medical pouch.  "You've got five minutes to grab what you're bringing."

“Understood.  Point me to your armorer so I can get fitted for a kit.”  Fatiama was used to this routine but truth be told she didn’t know for sure just how difficult to injure she could be, so an armor kit was a sound precaution.

The 'gear' they had available was almost tragically scant.  A protective vest and leggings, helmet, a gas mask.

She slid the vest and leggings over her skinsuit, snapping the gasmask to her rapidly crowding belt before finally donning the helmet.

Fatiama scrambled to the muster point.

***

The Actual Star League REGULARS had much better equipment.  Fatiama noticed a common symbol for these was a black feline with white stripes snarling out of the patch,over a stylized nine-zero motif, and below that, a black, heart-shaped symbol.

Unit heraldry.  Not terribly unfamiliar but seems potentially counter productive.

"...lead elements will hang to the recon team until contact.  I want this portal ours," a small man spoke.  "We're pretty sure they've moved a significant number of civilians into the Running Deer complex, and none of those civilians has been heard from again.  At least, not according to the local resistance.  Now, Running Deer was both an SLDF Brian Fort, and a major transshipment and storage facility for the Star League Navy before they flipped sides to join Amaris.  The Generals want prisoners, so keep your engagement to weapons-tight unless or until things change."

"Who's he?" she whispered to Vanh.

"That's Colonel Tranh Truk Ngo.  He's a hero of our liberation war back in '69.  The Earthers at least listen to him."

The familiar tingle of shared lineage pushed into Fatiama’s mind as she studied the Colonel.

“I see,” Fatiama nodded.

Vahn led her to a stripped down civilian pickup with a pintle-mounted weapon.  "We ride up close before we dismount, their sensors are looking for major objects like those battlemechs, but is blind to the smaller scale stuff.  We get in close, and then force the door."

“I must admit those Battlemechs look intimidating, but they don’t seem terribly practical to me,” Fatiama mused as she studied the strange machines.

"They work well enough, stay out of their way."

“I’ll take it under advisement.”  Fatiama understood there must be a reason humans used such obvious targets for war machines.

She hopped into the back of the truck with the rest of the squad.

“Since we got time Sergeant, tell me the story from your perspective, how all this began, why you’re here.”

"I'm here to kill RimJobs," he said.  "Because they deserve to die.  Maybe one of the others cares about this…'Star League', but my family were in visual range when they destroyed Dinh Diep."

“Well, then make that your start point.  What is good and what is bad about this Star League.”

"Good…" he shook his head.  "They've got nice gear.  Back in my grandfather's time, the thought was that the Star League would influence the Rim Worlds to back off, to stop.  But they forgot that the RimJobs only took Kowloon with Earther help.  It was a Star League ship that blew fifteen million of my people into radioactive dust and turned our first city into a radiation hazard that's taken decades to bury."

Fatiama began to be thankful she was holding a camera instead of a rifle.  This Star League did not sound worth fighting for to her so far.

"The only reason we're here is that the RimJobs decided to stab their allies in the back and assassinated Dicky Cameron.  That's the only reason the SLDF is working WITH us, instead of trying to hunt us down like they did for generations before their 'loyal vassal' decided to make himself the boss."

“Two evils at war then,” Fatiama probed.

"Sad part, not everyone is evil.  Even on the other side," he told her.  "Just that because they're on the other side, we have to kill them… well, get to kill them."  His eyes were buttons of hatred.

“I know that all too well.  My first kills were people whose only crime was being a patriot and answering their people’s call to serve and defend.” 

"Mine was a guard at the Dinh Diep hazardous site burial.  I cut his throat while he was on the crapper.  Made a sound like a pig being gutted, which is good, because they're all pigs.  I was twelve."

“Twenty.  At two kilometers or so, first shot cold,” Fatiama recalled her first sentient kill.

"I can shoot, mum.  Mind you, most of the time it's not the PLAN, but I can shoot," he said.  The truck rolled to a quiet stop.  "We're here, stick close."

“It’s easier when you believe it’s for the cause of ending the war as quickly as possible.  But then I learned the truth of it, and I was taking lives for the hubris of others.”  Fatiama took a swig from her flask.  “Or when it’s a simple beast and your family and friends need some fresh meat and hides.”

They climbed a rock face, staying just to the southeast of the target.  It took what felt like a long time.

Then, it was time to descend.

The assault team dropped down almost on top of the fort's doors as the first elements of the conventional assault came around the bend.

Fatiama had her camera  in one hand and her other resting on the grip of her ceremonial arming sword in case she needed to defend herself in a pinch.

What followed was almost a blur of actions.  The Marines and Blackhearts first secured the door control and a sapper set charges to unseat the thousand ton doors from their tracks, preventing the door from being closed.

Other Marines went to work on the fixed firing positions and enemy's overwatch, first with blades, then with longer ranged weapons.

Inside-outside.  The commando teams degraded the defenders before the line soldiers hit.

Fatiama had seen similar assaults unfold time and time again.  Sometimes she was even on the other side of such assaults.  She recorded as much as she could for her cover as a journalist.  Somehow it felt right to her that she was documenting this instead of directly taking part, but she couldn’t shake the feeling she might have to before it was over.

They moved into the complex, sometimes having to use more explosives to open a door that had managed to drop into place, sometimes stopping it from doing so.

Fighting went door to door, room to room, and the dead accumulated on both sides.

Fatiama kept with her unit through all of it.  She even helped apply first aid now and again, something she was getting all too used to with her experiences so far.

She'd thought that Vanh represented angry men, until…

The chamber was enormous, and the defenders had fought hard to keep these doors closed.

Storage for shipment, "medical supplies”.  Human tissues.  Crates of bones and rolls of skin, eyes segregated by tissue type and matched in pairs.

Vital organs alphabetically, also by tissue type, stock numbers. 

Fatiama understood what it meant almost immediately.

She thought she knew what rage was.  What she was feeling, and what seemed to overcome her hosts?  Was something that bordered on insanity....from the far side of that border.  “They parted them out like used cars,” someone said.

Fatiama felt it too, the need to end such unadulterated evil.

“I was wrong before about evil versus evil.  THIS is true evil.”  Fatiama found herself angrier than she had ever been before.

Fatiama strode over to one of the few prisoners they had managed to take that was still alive.

“You.  You’re going to tell me everything you know about what is happening here, and I mean everything.”  Fatiama’s tone was even despite her rage.  “If I like your answers the camera stays on and you walk out of here.  I think you’re holding back, well you’ll probably have to be carried out then.  Lie, and well let’s just say I might have to change my battery or memory card at the wrong moment.”


***

The troops had been pulled back for another briefing.  Fatiama was finding a strange comfort being around fighting men and women again.

“Today is the start of the big one.  We’re starting the assault on the main fortification.”

“What did we hit already then?” Fatiama asked.

“An outer fortification and processing facility.  That was the easy part.  This is your chance to back out Fatiama.  None of us would blame you if you did and we’d actually almost prefer it, because those press credentials ain’t going to stop some RimJob from lining up their sights on you.  Hell, they might use you for target practice… We won’t be able to stop them, and we don’t want to see you dead.”

“I’m willing to risk it.  Besides, maybe I can keep a few of you alive.  I seem to be a lucky charm like that.”  Fatiama never even considered backing out, she had to get to Doctor Kenneth Gearing somehow.

“So cool…”  Samantha Cartwright said barely above a whisper.

“Okay, settle down Cartwright.  Recon photos of the approach are being distributed now, study them as much as you can.”

Fatiama brought up the photos on her tablet.  The approach was carefully sculpted by Engineers.  It was a very subtle kill box that very much looked like a valley approach to the mountain face.  No good cover, carefully concealed points of interlocking fields of fire that would strike down troops by the hundreds if not approached just right.  It was enough that the famed Engineers and Artisans of her cousin’s people might actually be impressed.

“We’re going to crater the hell out of that ground with artillery and air strikes with supporting smoke bombardments to conceal our approaches.  We find a strong point, we call it in and degrade it with more artillery and air strikes until we can get assault teams in close enough to silence the position for good.  Even so, this is going to be a meat grinder people.”

“You really should wait until we’ve secured the place.”  Cartwright seemed more serious now.

“Trust me.  I’ll be fine,” Fatiama smiled.

“Well I was about done anyway before the interruption.  You have two hours to make any arrangements or rock someone’s world while you still have a chance.”

Fatiama returned to her bunk and began a silent meditation.  She knew what she was going to see in the very near future and she had grown quite fond of some of these humans despite everything, and odds were most of them were going to be dead before this was over.

“Am I bothering you?”  Cartwright knocked from the entrance.

“Come in.”

“I wanted to ask you a favor.  Help me make a message for my folks, you know…” Cartwright trailed off.

“Certainly,” Fatiama nodded.

Fatiama hugged Cartwright to help settle her nerves.

“How are you so calm right now, knowing what we’re about to face?” Cartwright asked.

“Not my first war zone.  Now let’s record that message.”

Cartwright wasn’t the only one with the idea of having Fatiama help them make messages for loved ones, and her two hours before it was time to board the transport was spent helping people make such messages and making sure they were uploaded to the commnet for transmission.

***

The ramp thudded into the soil of Elbar.  The squad rushed out and jumped into a crater as bursts of machine gun and laser fire swept through the air above their heads.

“You’re definitely one of us Fatiama.  No one else is crazy enough to volunteer to go into this with only a camera for shooting things,” Vanh chuckled.

“If need be, I can always pick up a rifle from someone who doesn’t need it anymore.”  Fatiama went to the edge of the crater to take a peek over the edge.

Machine gun fire swept the rim.  Vanh pulled her back down into the crater by her belt.

“That’s our job you nut case,” Vanh growled.

“Range 847 meters.  Six decimal three meters above the valley floor.  Bearing 303 decimal one two,” Fatiama spouted off.

“How the hell…”  Cartwright said as she realized Fatiama was rattling off range, elevation, and bearing information for the bunker that was pinning them down.

“You sure?  You only had a split second,” Vanh asked.

“Call it in,” Fatiama nodded.

Vanh nodded as he called in the bunker.  Ten seconds later air support came screaming in dropping bombs on the target.

“Let’s move!” Vanh yelled.

The squad climbed out of the crater and ran forward about a hundred meters before another bunker opened up and forced them into another crater.

“We’re short someone,” Vanh realized as he did a quick head count.  “Cartwright…”

Fatiama jumped back out of the crater and found the young girl about twenty meters back bleeding but still alive.

“Here comes the morphine.  Now let’s get you in cover before the enemy decides we’re target practice.”  Fatiama jabbed the small injector into Cartwright before grabbing her and sprinting back to their crater.

Nguyen came over to help.

“Good news is you’ll live.  Bad news: you’ll have a nasty scar that’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you ever wear a bikini again,” Nguyen pronounced.

“Fantastic,” Cartwright winced.

“She out of the fight?” Vanh asked.

“Catch 22 boss,” Nguyen proclaimed.

“I can keep going sir,” Cartwright proclaimed.  “It’s not that bad.”

Fatiama looked at Cartwright, then the rest of the squad.  She knew that a medevac for one injured trooper was unlikely, especially since they were still under fire.

She put her back against the rim of the crater, carefully raised her camera pointed toward where the fire had come from, using it almost like a periscope.

“Got it.  650 meters, elevation two decimal one, bearing 299 decimal 41,” Fatiama called out.

“That puts it under that out cropping then.  Artillery and Airstrikes ain’t going to suppress it,” Vanh cursed.

“Give me a couple satchels,” Fatiama demanded.

“Fatiama, what are you thinking?  You’re press!  This is our job!”

“I can make it.  I’m faster than any of you.”  Fatiama’s face was steel with determination.

“I don’t care.  It’s bad enough I let you come with us, I’m not letting you commit suicide,” Vanh shook his head.

Fatiama grabbed a pair of satchel charges by force then hopped over the rim of the crater.

She ran in an evasive pattern as the machine gun opened up.  For the first hundred or so meters of her sprint the gunner seemed too shocked in disbelief to aim properly.  Fatiama jumped in another shell crater before the gunner got their aim corrected.

“You’re insane.”  Vanh jumped in the shell crater next to her.

“What does that make you, since you followed me?”

“An even more insane madman.  At least give me one of those so we can double our chances.”  Vanh indicated the satchel charges Fatiama was packing.

“Just stay here. I’ve got this.”  Fatiama hopped out of the crater and started running as fast as she could.

She saw fire from other bunkers weeping out over the valley but only the one she was running at seemed to be paying any attention to her.

The feel of rocks and dirt being kicked up and hitting her feet and shins brought back familiar memories.

Tracer rounds kept flying around her as she dodged and changed her path of approach.

A small smack against her left shoulder announced Fatiama had been hit by a round.

Then more.  But she didn’t stop.  She was possessed.

Finally she got close enough to ignite the first satchel.  A few more steps and about a second later she tossed it through the firing slit knowing whoever was inside wouldn’t have enough time to throw it back out before it exploded.

After the thump of the explosion Fatiama ignited the second one and placed it between the bunker and the rock out cropping that had shielded it from artillery and airstrike.

She ran back to Vanh.

“What the ****** Fatiama.”  He could see the holes in her jacket down to her exposed flesh.

“Shit.”  Fatiama knew she had gotten carried away and it’d be hard to explain the state of her jacket with her unharmed underneath it.

“I’ve never seen anything like what you just did.  You must be one hell of a good luck charm indeed.  But you ever do anything like that again, and I’m putting your ass on a chopper out of here first chance.  How the hell your jacket got so shredded without you getting hit is a miracle that you’re not going to try repeating.  You get me?”  Fatiama somehow understood in that moment what having a father must be like.

“Yes Sergeant.”

“Good.  Let’s get back to the others.  We got a lot of ground left to cover and lots of bunkers before we hit the entry points.”

Vahn and Fatiama ran back to the others.

“Welcome back you two.  News is Fox company found an enemy artillery position.  But there’s no more Fox company,” Nguyen said as Vanh and Fatiama returned.

“Shit.  They at least take it with them?”

“Took most of Echo company as well to clean up.  Estimates are the first wave is at sixty percent overall strength and we’ve barely been at this an hour,” Nguyen answered.

“It’ll get worse before it gets better.  I counted at least twenty bunkers during my little excursion,” Fatiama said as she grabbed a stick and started drawing a map of the valley on the floor of the crater.  “Best I saw, anyway.  I didn’t get a good enough look to get the range, elevation, and bearings since I was a little preoccupied, but that’s roughly what I saw.”

“How’d recon miss all those?” Vanh grumbled.

“Not their fault.  From the air, they almost certainly look like natural rises from the valley floor or are recessed into the mountain face like the last one we took out.”  Fatiama finished her map.

“Then we’re lucky to be alive.”  Cartwright looked at the map.

Cartwright’s eyes went wide as her morphine-addled brain finally registered the holes in Fatiama’s jacket.

“How the hell…”  Cartwright started.

“Damndest thing I ever seen, all those bullets ripping through her jacket without actually hitting her.  A miracle.  But Fatiama’s done pushing her luck, aren’t you Fatiama?”  Vanh was taking the opportunity to remind Fatiama in front of witnesses of his prior statement.

“I am.  This is dangerous enough without me doing stupid foolhardy things,” Fatiama sighed.

“Good.  Since their artillery is cleared from this sector, we’ll hold up for resupply and second wave forces.  We still have nearly two Kliks left to clear before we get to the nearest confirmed entry point."

The sunlight faded quickly in the valley as the sun slipped behind the mountains.  The bursts and explosions of combat in other parts of the valley continued.

But for their part, the squad had cleared two bunkers and the rest of the platoon was scattered about with a lot of wounded and a few killed and the area they now occupied was quiet.

Too quiet.  Fatiama could sense it.

When darkness was fully upon them, she and Vanh were at the rim of their crater at the same time.

It didn’t matter if it was a full on counter attack or just a spoiling raid to slow them down but at least a full company of enemy soldiers was coming for them.  More advancing on other positions.

“Everyone up.  Incoming.”

Another enemy artillery position erupted.

The enemy soldiers charged.

Covering fire from bunkers kept many units suppressed.

“All right Marines.  Time to play in the dirt!” Vanh yelled as the squad set up a quick firing line on the rim of their crater.

Short controlled bursts erupted from their crater and another one nearby.

“Enemy in the open.  Position in danger of being overrun,” Vanh radioed.

“We’re in trouble boss,” Nguyen said.

“Big.  Broken Arrow has been declared,” Vanh advised them.

As ASF and artillery began to be directed to their position it was too late.  Ten Rim Worlds Republic soldiers were in the crater with them engaging in hand to hand with seven Coast Guard Marines, one of which was wounded.

One tried to bull rush into Fatiama but she was able to plant her feet and roll him over her back and hips.  He landed with an audible thud as she kicked him in the face.

Her arming sword was out as another was battling with Cartwright.  A quick slash into his right arm caused it to flop useless to his side.

The distraction was enough for Cartwright to get her rifle on him and put a burst right in his chest.

Two more jumped into the crater.  Everyone else was busy with the others.

Fatiama put herself between them and Cartwright.

“This woman is wounded and thus under my protection.  I will accept your surrender now while you still can.”  Fatiama brought her sword up.

One of them leveled his rifle at Cartwright.  Fatiama acted out of sheer instinct.  She put herself between the rifle and Cartwright, throwing her sword into the chest of the other soldier as a burst rattled out of the rifle and hit Fatiama square in the chest.

Cartwright had a front row seat, and to her credit rather than freak out she gunned down the other relative newcomer to the melee.

“Reporter lady!  She’s been hit!” Cartwright called out.

“I’m fine.”  Fatiama stood up.

Like a vengeful spirit, Fatiama retrieved her sword then moved to help any Marines still caught up in hand to hand with an opponent.

The snapping of bones as she struck or yanked on limbs hard enough to dislocate joints joined with howls as she also slashed or stabbed with her sword, doing her bloody work.

With that, the fight was over as quickly as it had begun.

“You sure you’re not actually from Hatter?” Vanh asked, panting with a bayonet wound to his chest.

“Quite certain.”  Fatiama looked at Cartwright, not sure how she’d react next.

monbvol

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  • I said don't look!
Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #38 on: 07 July 2024, 14:16:43 »
There was no playing off what had happened a few moments ago as some miracle fluke.

With the melee and counter attack now over, the squad was down to five marines, of which only two were not wounded, and Fatiama.

Nugyen patched everyone up and cleared those she had to to the aid station.

The second wave forces leap frogged them and carried the assault forward.

An hour later it was their turn to move again.

The darkness helped conceal their approaches.

In the side of a mountain giant doors swung open, disgorging Battlemechs and more infantry.

Some took up positions in trench lines.

It was a clear last ditch desperation tactic.  One last chance at victory.

“Full dead on sprint.  We punch through that trench line and we get in.  We don’t stop for anyone or anything.”  Vanh looked at Fatiama.  “******.  You’ll actually be safer inside with us than out here with those things.”

In pairs, the Marines and Fatiama went over the top of their crater.

Bursts of fire and explosions accompanied their advance.

The Coast Guard Marines laid down fire of their own.  ‘Mechs were being met by ‘mechs.

They hit the trenchline.  Grenades and bursts of fire from automatic weapons meant there was no one left to oppose them.

Together, they ran as the door slowly started closing again, slowly.

There was still something of an internal garrison left, as their first obstacle was a firing port where a machine gun covered the entryway and began laying down fire.

A smoke grenade covered the rest of their mad dash to the opening while the machine gun continued firing sporadically.

Once inside, a satchel charge demolished the firing port.

The tight confines inside were designed to try and force intruders to bunch up, making them more vulnerable to machine gun firing ports or grenade slots or give the defenders advantages if things broke down to melees.

It was effective enough it was just Vanh, Nguyen, and Fatiama standing when they got to the control bunker for the main doors.

The troops inside, thinking they had the hand-to-hand advantage in their favor, did a good job of arraying themselves so that once the Marines breached, that would be exactly what happened.

To say that it was a surprise that one of their foes had what was otherwise such an archaic weapon as a sword that suddenly proved extremely useful, was an understatement.

To Vanh, it was like a scene from a bad war movie as he watched Fatiama dive in, no hesitation, and become almost a blur of motion as she took down most of the enemies in the room before he even properly set foot inside.

“Just where are you from?” Vanh asked.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, and honestly it is probably better if I don’t.”  Fatiama cleaned the blood off her sword.  “I know what you’re about to ask of me but I do have a mission to complete in here.”

“Yeah.  I figured.  You’re clearly some sort of special operator, because I’ve never seen anyone move like you do, take the physical abuse you have, and you’re wanting more,” Vanh nodded.

“Calley will be so heart broken,” Nguyen chuckled.

“Let’s not tell her,” Vanh nodded.  “This stays with us, nothing but soldier’s tall tales of a reporter who got lucky and turned out to be a badass.”  Vanh offered.  “Let’s go complete your mission then.”

“Yes.”  Fatiama knew that as much as she wanted to tell them to stay here and wait for relief forces, they were soldiers and would be with her no matter what.  “First we need to get into their systems to confirm the location of the target.”

“Not exactly my strong suit, but on it,” Nguyen said.  ****** didn’t update the backdoor passwords intel gave us.  Name of your target?”

“Doctor Kenneth Gearing.  Intel wants him alive.”  Fatiama knew she needed to give them that much.

“That son of a bitch? [untranslatable].  You know he’s responsible for all those people, right Fatiama?”  Vanh was seething with rage.

“Intel are the ones who want him alive.  If not for my oath I would gladly ensure he faces justice for what he did.  With a judge of the highest order.”

Vanh nodded.  He was still angry, Fatiama could tell, but she saw his admiration for her too.

With control of the system in hand they located Doctor Kenneth Gearing, at least as far as the computer system was concerned, and made a clear path for themselves, as clear as possible.

The complex was indeed large.  Easily the size of a small city.  But with doors sealed and reinforcements flooding in, the three of them made their way to the admin office with little further resistance.

Vanh and Nguyen stacked up at the door as Fatiama took the far side when they got to the Command Bunker.

Nguyen popped the electronic locks, and well-placed breaching charges popped the mechanical ones.

The three of them filed in.

There were four enemies inside.  Two were soldiers and fired at Vanh and Nguyen.

Vanh fired immediately and took one down but a burst hit square in his flak jacket causing him to have to take a moment to steady himself.

Nguyen was not hit and took down the other soldier.

“Hold it.  I know why you are here and if you want him alive you will need to guarantee my safety.”  An Arabic looking man, by process of elimination, was clearly using Doctor Kennith Gearing as a human shield with a gun at the Doctor’s temple.

“{I can’t make the shot in my current state.  Nguyen?}” Vanh asked in viet.

“{Medic, so I never had to qualify to that level,}” Nguyen answered.

“Okay.  We’ll talk.”  Fatiama got her camera out and started slowly and carefully moving.

“Swear it.  That you’ll guarantee my safety,” the man demanded.

“May I please have your name so I know whose safety we are guaranteeing?” Fatiama asked as she was now next to one of the downed Rim World’s soldiers.

“Asa Bin Halawi,” the man answered.

In one fluid motion, Fatiama grabbed the Rim Worlder’s rifle and delivered a clean hit on Asa Bin Halawi.

“You’re her…  The Demon of Unity City…  Please… Don’t kill me,” Doctor Kenneth Gearing begged.

“I won’t.  In fact there are some people who very much want to talk to you,” Fatiama said.
***

To the officers and senior NCOs of those who didn’t enter Running Deer Mountain in the first wave, Fatiama presented a true cornucopia of intel, Doctor Gearing, and what acts she performed in combat.

This, and having the documentary material she had, and the endorsement of a former SLIC agent as a  liaison got her a shuttle flight to the temporary SLDF command site in Monterey City, a driver from the shuttle base, and an escort into the presence of a senior general officer.

“Sir,” Fatiama nodded.  “I was told you were interested in what I found.”

No matter the species she could smell Senior Officer and knew how to act.

"We're all interested, Ms. Sithers.  What the hell went on down there after Goswind turned his coat to the Rim Worlds?"

“Things so evil I cannot adequately put into words sir.  I have hours of video interviews with survivors and a POW that went into excruciating details, though.”

"Let's focus on that interview.  In your opinion, was there evidence of mind control or psychological manipulation of the personnel you interviewed?"

“Nothing extraordinary.  In that I mean everyone does propaganda and recruiting techniques to get certain mindsets to join the cause willingly, but I found no evidence of anything particularly perfidious,” Fatiama shook her head.

"Nothing beyond the acts they perpetrated, I take it?  There are some concerns."

“Sir, as far as I can tell, their only defense is they were ordered to do it.  From my understanding, even the enemy has some regulations about disobeying unlawful orders.  I shudder to think those regs are so loose to allow this to be justified, sir.”  Fatiama was still in a mood to scream and punch someone in the face to vent her rage, but was keeping her composure in front of the brass.

"How about the rallier troops from Kowloon?  How would you characterize their conduct?" a slim officer wearing no ranks asked.

“They were understandably agitated, sir.  You find something like that, well, there are going to be incidents.  Especially given their history with the enemy.”

"Incidents.  I like that term.  Makes it seem less horrifying…" the bland, slim man said.

“Sir?  From your tone, it sounds like I missed something because me and my camera can’t be everywhere at once.”

"You were with the Marine contingent.  Did you have an opportunity to visit the main body?"

"No… why?"

The blonde man laid out a row of holograms.  "Colonel Ngo has lost it.  He's allowed or ordered the impalement of fifty one enemy prisoner officers, and summarily sentenced hundreds of Rim Worlds and associated troops to be used as live fire bayonet dummies."

For the first time in a long time Fatiama felt the need to vomit.  Her tolerance for horror had been reached in that moment.  Fortunately she found the waste basket instead of the general’s shoes.

“Sorry sir.”  Fatiama straightened up.

"Did any of their Marine personnel participate in reprisals against enemy prisoners while in your presence, Ms. Sithers?"

“Not that I personally witnessed sir.”  Fatiama hesitated a moment before continuing, “I hate to say it, but I think they knew I was still recording and didn’t want to get caught on camera sir.”

"In their defense…" a field officer whose uniform still had stains from the fighting on it, spoke up.  "The estimate is four and a half million civilians were parted out at that site to supply fresh organs and replacement parts for both military and civilian medical centers both on, and off, world."

Fatiama was glad her stomach was now empty.  She was at a loss for the first time ever, surrounded by horror.

"We're taking that into account Winters," the senior general snapped.  "The problem is, we are the Star League and the Star League doesn't impale people!!"

“But they participate in enslavement and extermination.  Oppression,” Fatiama spat back having lost her self control.  “I’ve heard the stories of how the Star League actively helped cart off their people to slavery or death.”

"Those incidents were never pro-" the bland man tried to say, only to have Colonel Winters interrupt.

"They were proven, Hardin.  The problem was that after the investigation the decision was made to support what was a 'loyal vassal' of the Cameron family.  I can show you the investigations from the 2730s.  They're still on file and we both have the security clearance to read them.  General DeChevalier, I talked to Colonel Ngo already-"

"You're too close to this, Winters.  We might've cleared the Ninetieth of wrongdoing but-"

Fatiama watched the officers bicker.  She started to clench a fist but instead of punching an officer she smashed it into the desk.

The wood surface was now broken and bent.  Large splinters of hardwood separated from the surface.

“You complain about a mess you created long ago and instead of correcting it, you seek to blame and punish your victims.  I’m taking my leave before I do more than break your desk.”  Fatiama stepped out of the room.

She drew in a deep breath in the hallway outside.  Part of her wanted to turn back around and teach several senior officers a lesson.

The door closed before she'd reached the far exit, and  "You need to visit medical after you punched the desk?" Sam Winters' voice asked.  "Or how about we hit the O-club and have a beer."

“I’m fine.  The O-Club would probably be a good idea,” Fatiama nodded.  “I need to get drunk enough to forget the last day.”

"It was good seeing someone have the stones to call Brett Hardin on his love of the legacy of Amos Forlough," Sam said casually.  "And giving Aaron a wake-up call was probably called for.  He'll probably remember it long enough to get General Kerensky to stop pushing for charges for the One-Seventy-First."

“Somehow that still seems wrong, but the child is never to blame for bad parenting.”

"We're in a war, the worst kind," he said calmly as he led her out of the HQ building to a sidewalk.  "See, a big chunk of what Amaris used to take over included a lot of people trusted by the Hegemony.  Running Deer's commanding officer turned over to Amaris without a fight and helped administer it.  That makes this a civil war, and civil war is always made of 'wrong'."

“So I am learning,” Fatiama sighed.  “I left my people before they fell in on themselves after losing a war they started.  So I missed that particular horror, but not the first part.”

"Missed it or had the experience delayed?" Winters offered.  "Seems to me we're getting to see it in full motion color."

“I think I’m being given front row viewing to the next best thing,” Fatiama agreed.  “I’ve heard a saying that seems true: a civil war is anything but civil.”

"I can confirm," Winters nodded.  "Civil wars are anything but civil."

“So what’s the strongest stuff at this O-Club?” Fatiama decided to change the topic.

"The whiskey ain't bad, the vodka's terrible, and I have a flask of some kind of grain alcohol from our naval attaché… Which is probably best served with the canned fruit juice and a paper umbrella."

“Good, I wasn’t joking when I said I want to get drunk enough to forget the last day,” Fatiama nodded.

He led her to a semi-open bar, and poured her drink from his hip-flask, adding pineapple juice to 'cut the burn some' before passing it over, while a steward brought a tray of glasses, each with a green fruit floating in clear liquor.

"So, here's the deal… your evidence is going to be processed.  Some bland ****** like Harbin's going to want to water it down, because the old man's not a monster… But between us, we've probably kept them from court-martialing the entire leadership of the Kowloonese contingent on-world."

“Small victories in bleak times,” Fatiama raised her glass.

"Sometimes, that's what you get: the small victories," Sam clinked his to hers.

“Kham taught me about toasting.  That seems so long ago now,” Fatiama downed her glass in one go.

"The evidence you found there, and the testimony?  That's going to go a long way toward winning this," he added.  "A lot of the commands were starting to get reluctant, hearing rumors of atrocities but never seeing them, starting to doubt it… this ends that, now that we're in the anaconda phase."

“I wonder what my people will say if I ever get home…  If my simply documenting this was the right call.”

"Probably some horrified expression, maybe pity once they find out you saw it happen," he commented.  "I'm pretty sure that's universal.  They didn't see it, so their imagination can't really grasp it."

“I suppose it is.  My people believe in prophecy.  They believed the war that our leadership started contained something we were meant to witness.  I’m coming to believe they were partially correct, only that I’m not done witnessing everything I’m meant to witness.”

“Fatiama Sithers, I’ve met a lot of people over the years.  Some who believe in fate, some who believe in multiple gods, some who only believe in the rationality of science.  Some who claim to believe in nothing at all.  But they all have one thing in common.  They may have different ways of expressing it, but they all ultimately believe in some form of good and evil.  Today we put a sliver of good into the universe, so maybe don’t get too drunk to forget that okay?”

“You’re right.  Besides who knows what I’ll have to face tomorrow.  I’d rather face it at least semi-sober.  That way I’ll be less likely to break something that has more consequences for being broke than a desk.”

Fatiama felt the booze starting to take effect.

“I told you, potent stuff.”

“Just right I think,” Fatiama nodded.


***


Uncountable horrors happen in wartime.  Some of them are almost a form of cosmic justice.

"You're the reporter?"  Commodore Anh Cu'ong looked like she was being squeezed just standing here.  Her uniform looked… well… archaic.  Like something a generation or two older than the SLDF field combat uniforms.


"I suppose I am," Fatiama acknowledged.

"Good work at Running Deer.  I look forward to reading your take on it.  You got a minute?  In private?"

“I do. And thanks.”

"You're carrying a famous name… Well, among certain circles.  Not much the dirtyfeet would remember, but some of us grew up with more history than that."

“So I’ve heard,” Fatiama nodded.

"I'm not going to challenge you on that.  Little background though-you don't have any background at all, we looked.  If our scrubs can find out you don't have a background, so can Truscott with Kerensky's intelligence group."

“I have a background, it is just… obscure and from far, far away,” Fatiama looked at the woman.   “But that isn’t what we’re talking about is it?  At least not directly.”

"No.  People prefer cover stories they can believe.  Show someone what they expect to see, and that's what they're going to go with.  Prod their superstitions, or give them a mystery, they'll dig until they find something they believe is plausible."  Cu'ong reached into her pocket, "For example, an unregistered spacer is a lot more believable… if she's got the right 'wrong' identicard."

“I suppose that’s true.  And the truth is I’ve never been fond of the idea of official IDs.”

Anh held it out, "That's good, because this one's fake, but it leads to a cover story most background checks will believe is true."

“I guess I’m still getting used to all of this.  So what should I do with the ID I was given earlier?”

"Keep it," Anh told her.  "See, screeners like onions.  They'll feel they 'pierced' one false identity to uncover the true one."

“Kerensky’s people or the enemy’s?”

"Yes,"  Anh said.  "After all, the Rim Worlds Republic got their intel doctrine from the Terrans anyway.  Stevie's honored ancestor was a Hegemony infiltrator."

“Yes, this war has proven… complex,” Fatiama nodded.

"I think it's pretty simple.  There's 'our side’, and there's the rest of the universe."

“I suppose when you put it like that, I can understand it a little better.  Factionalism seems to be a by-product of any large population group.”

"Bingo.  Reason I'm giving you the card and the speech, is that Aleksandr Kerensky his own self is coming to Elbar.  They're going to run screening.  I'd as soon not have you caught up in that.  I owe Carlotta Sithers enough favors not to let someone with her blood get snagged for questioning."

“Thank you.  I was only ever good at bush fighting and living off the land, all this... intrigue has me a bit out of my depth.”

"I'm just a navigator who got kicked out of the SLDF," Anh shrugged.  "When I was a youngster, I didn't have the kind of awareness I do now."

“I’m learning very quickly.  I led a sheltered life in my youth.”

"That's what being young IS.  They're all sheltered, until they aren't.  Anyway, if anyone presses you or tries to ask you uncomfortable questions, you refer them to me and clam up hard.  Until the Old Man gets here, too many of these commands rely on my people to move their supplies."

“I’ll do my best,” Fatiama nodded.  “Thanks Anh.  I think before this is over, I’ll wind up owing you a favor.”

"Maybe you will."

“So what do I do until all this happens?  I’m starting to feel a bit idle for my tastes.”

"Snoop around, learn things."

“Ask more stupid questions?  Not that hard considering how little I actually know about this conflict.”

"That's a good start, there are no stupid questions, just stupid people, and those never question anything."

“Well, then I suppose I should find an unfortunate victim,” Fatiama chuckled.  “Got any suggestions where I should start?”

“That Colonel over there.  He’s a good place to start learning things.”

“Thanks.”  Fatiama still wasn’t sure what she was really supposed to learn, but she’d learn something.

Fatiama walked over to the man, his eyes turned to her almost immediately.

“Hello Colonel…”  Fatiama realized she was still just drunk enough to have trouble reading English.

“Colonel Galen MacIntyre.  41st Avalon Hussars.  Not surprised we haven’t met before now.  My unit has been deployed almost on the clear opposite front.”

“I see.  Colonel, I’d love to get your views on all of this,” Fatiama allowed him to take her by the arm to a quiet corner.

“I was warned you were press but I’ll bite,” Galen smiled.

Fatiama suddenly tensed.

“Just a figure of speech,” Galen suddenly realized Fatiama had taken him a bit literally.

For the next hour Fatiama finally got the history she’d been lacking for several days now.  She’d gathered bits and pieces, but no one gave her the history lesson she was getting now.

Some of that wound up making a lot of things she'd hesitated about make a lot more sense.

She still found the current situation horrible, but now she could reasonably pass for someone born in this timeframe.

"Just one thing, Miss Sithers… you need to keep this in your awareness.  Most of us are here to stop a usurper who's tried to take over the Star League, and to punish treason.  But the troops you were embedded with?" he shook his head.  "Hell, I'm getting supply runs from their support, and even that, I know, has nothing to do with why we're fighting… Because they're not fighting for the same thing, not at all."

“I know.  They’ve been hurt, and now like anyone who’s been hurt the way they have, they’re lashing out.  Revenge.  Not justice.  That’s what they want and I can’t blame them, but it still depresses me.”

"I sympathize too, but it makes things unstable," MacIntyre explained.  "I heard a rumor from the action on Eagle's Nest.  The rumor is, they assaulted a bunker complex, and fed bodies into it until they broke through… and they had replacements coming before they set foot on the ground there, because that little bastard son of a bitch Tranh Truk Ngo is an attrition player…  And his people want vengeance so hard, they love him for it."

“I saw the holos of what happened after.”  Fatiama shook her head.

A throat cleared behind them.  "That's not true, Colonel."  He had gold oak-leaves on his collar, and a nametape that said 'Qua' in two or three languages.  "We had to wait a week for the replacements.  This seat taken?"

MacIntyre shook his head and gestured, "Have a seat, where's your boss?"

"Colonel Ngo is currently undergoing medical treatment.  I'm here to cover his job while the doctors try to put his ribs back together.  RimJob SF guys got a bomb into a meeting with General Howe and one of the Rallier commanders from the Free Worlds, so I get called up to sector command in his place.  Eagle's Nest wasn't attrition.  It was a reasonable approach to cracking a baby-Brian that the SLDF's 272nd Heavy Brigade spent six months failing to penetrate.  It was expected to be a heavy casualty op, but it was better than alternative two."

"What was alternative two?"

"Dropping a continental cracking kinetic on the site from deep-system and ruining the planet. Fifty tons of Tungsten moving at Point-Eight Cee.  That was the second choice to get the offensive in motion again."

“That seems excessive,” Fatiama said quietly.

"General DeChevalier thought so too.  Only thing being, spending two years on that fortress would've been even more excessive.  They had the ****** thing buried under two kilometers of granite."

“The textbook answer is to bring up the siege artillery and just degrade such a fortification that way, but to be fair we’re light on that kind of siege artillery at the moment,” MacIntyre offered.

"Forts like that one, or like Running Deer, the 'siege artillery' is nuclear and that comes with fallout.  The old men wanted the planet intact and liveable."

“Long Toms would work in sufficient number if we just had them in sufficient number, and the maps to the place, of course,” Galen sighed.

"Pouring fast-setting Ferrocrete down the air vents worked... it just cost a lot of our guys to do it."

“Hence the debate.  It got done, but at a price.  But you win this time because I need to get sobered up and showered before the old man comes down.”  Galen stood.

"There's always a price.  My people are just willing to pay a higher price than yours.  The flip side is that the SLDF's going to guarantee we never have to live under Rim  Worlds Occupation, ever again.  See, Mac's doing this because he loves the Star League, am I right?"

MacIntyre nodded.

"We're not doing this just because we hate the RimJobs.  We're here because it's the price to be Free and Sovereign.  They promised to back us up so we never have a foreign occupier again.  That's a hell of a motivation right there, don't you think?"

“Yeah and anyone with a brain can see House Stiener is going to take care of the Rim Worlds Republic.  You two have a nice chat.  I need that shower and coffee now.”  Galen departed.  “Tell Cu’ong we’re even now.  It was nice chatting, Miss Sithers.”

"They're also supposed to keep the Heinies from Tharkad out," Qua said conspiratorially.  "I guess he's still pissed the investigation's been suspended."

“You two seem to not exactly see eye to eye,” Fatiama broke her silence.

"He graduated the Academy, I graduated the field.  Up until about five years ago, he'd be duty bound to arrest me as a terrorist.  I don't hold it against the man.  He's got a good rep as a leader, but…"

“Ivory tower versus field of mud,” Fatiama understood.

"Bingo.  He had less problems with The Colonel, seeing as Colonel Ngo finished Academy training before he was medicaled in '64, and had 'regular service' in the SLDF as his future before he was bounced."

“I see.  So what about you?  Colonel Qua, is it?”

"Major.  I don't get to be 'Colonel' for another forever, unless the old man actually lets them force him out.  I was the son of a dirt-farmer in the Ia Drang Highlands up until I joined the resistance and became a filthy little insurgent," he said with a cheerful smirk.

“Sorry, still paying for my drinking binge with Sam Winters.”

"Ah, now THERE is a man who can put the fluid grains away, his liver must be made of pure crystallized tissues by now!"  Qua said with a chuckle.  "He drank me under the table on the way in to this…beautiful?  Planet?"  There was sarcasm in there.  "With it's lovely periods of total darkness…"

“I’ve lived the better part of five years in space now and it’s actually weird to be back on a world with a day-night cycle at all, but the old familiarity is coming back.”

"It wouldn't be so bad if the rotation wasn't so damn fast.  You can't hardly get anything done with a 24-hour day," he noted.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss the second sun from back home,” Fatiama chuckled.

"You're from a binary too?  Awesome!"  He smiled a lot.  Somehow it didn't reach his eyes, which still had a haunted, staring into hell look to them.

Fatiama thought better than to volunteer her home was on an impossible world, and part of technically a Trinary system.

"Anyway, I didn't interrupt MacIntyre's pitch entirely for my own amusement," he said.

“You have your own pitch, don’t you?” Fatiama reasoned.

"Yep.  Call it a custom job.  I want to ask you to come interview Colonel Ngo while he can't run off, for a… newsletter, I think they call it.  It's for the men.  They need to know what's coming and why, and it can't come from official sources."

“I would be honored,” Fatiama bobbed her head in a slight bow.  “When am I to do this?”

"He's due out of surgery in a couple hours, so maybe tomorrow around the afternoon local?"

“Very well.  Shouldn’t conflict with Kerensky’s arrival and what I need to do to prepare for that,”  Fatiama said.

"Thanks."  He got up.  "Gotta go.  We're kicking the football."

“I look forward to getting back out in the field with your troops,” Fatiama smiled.

The part that disturbed Fatiama is she was pretty sure she meant it.  All this bureaucracy and pageantry over the last day and a half was starting to wear on her, and the battlefield was starting to look like the attractive option.

“I hope to go home soon…”  Fatiama lamented.

monbvol

  • Colonel
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  • I said don't look!
Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #39 on: 07 July 2024, 14:17:33 »
***

"...not going to be a Colonel much longer, even if the bone grafts take."  Tranh Truk Ngo up close was young-looking, until you accounted for his eyes and hair.

His eyes had a perpetual pain sheen in them, and his hair was laced with gray.

Fatiama wondered how her own eyes looked to them, she hadn’t seen as much combat as they had, but she was no innocent either.

“Well you’re still a Colonel for now,” Fatiama smiled.

"Yes, for now.  Aleksandr is going to let me hand pick my replacement.  It's what happens when you get outed with what I've got.  They don't let you stay in, it's…" he chuckled dryly.  "It's supposedly inhumane, as if any of that could matter in this situation."

“All I know is I have the opportunity to help document your story.  Oral history is important where I grew up, so I’m quite honored to have this opportunity,” Fatiama said, trying to keep things on track.

"I grew up in an area of Kowloon called 'Minsky's Folly'.  It's a canyon system on the south continent.  My family reaches back to the first settlement.  My ancestor was the Navigator on the Lucky Louise, the lead boat in the colonization effort.  I have another ancestor about a hundred years ago who was Kowloon's last elected president.  The one who was killed when the Rim Worlds overcame our inadequate defenses with Terran Hegemony hardware, including Battlemechs.  So naturally, I tried to join the Star League military when I was eighteen, and managed to slip through three and a half years at Sanglamore before someone did a full genetic panel and found out I wasn't fit to serve."

Fatiama felt a lump in her throat form.  Little was known about when her species and humans interbred, the possibility that it carried a downside now etched itself into her mind.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Incurable.  The result, they tell me, of the 'People's Corrective Genome Project' at the Hanoi Clinic sometime in the late 21st century.  The official name of it is 'Degenerative Progressive Neural Sheath Annihilation Syndrome', but the short form for it is 'Cholmann's syndrome' and it's an automatic bar to enlistment in every military in every system in human space.  Docs say I've got until I'm forty five, fifty at the most, with modern medical support.  SLDF likes to keep officers into their seventies.  For the experience, and because the service is so damned big, which makes some sense since the average Terran life expectancy is right around a hundred fifty with a useful span out to around one hundred ten to one twenty."

“It seems terrible that fate has put such a burden on you.”  Fatiama still couldn’t help but wonder if it was a cover explanation.

"I don't blame god, I blame an ancestor who didn't want his kids to be epileptic, or maybe it was Hungtington's, or something.  Maybe some rich person just thought getting the Hanoi treatments would be fashionable…  Whatever it was, they screwed up so bad the whole branch of genetic medicine was abandoned, and us leftovers were left… well..." he shrugged.  "It no longer matters.  I ended up falling into the movement when I got home, which is how I was there to coordinate with Annie Cu'ong's people in '66.  We decided that Amaris’ move on his sponsors meant he didn't have the backing to crush another rising… So we dropped rocks on their garrisons and ran down the survivors in '68 and '69.  I got THIS job, that I'm about to lose, because I had 'name' with the troops and 'training'.  We negotiated our way into the SLDF as a Rallier unit, which led to this room today."

“Running Deer, the aftermath.  There was a lot of disagreement about what happened there.”

"Before the bombing, a local leader, a civilian, she came to my CP.  She asked me to do something I desperately wanted to do."  He smiled and it reached his pained eyes.

“What was that?”

"She asked for the executions to stop.  She asked us to take down the impaled RimJob officers and give them a decent burial," he told her.  "It was what I was really waiting for, and why Galen MacIntyre thinks I'm a monster."

“Because you couldn’t order it to stop yourself?” Fatiama probed.

"Because I wouldn't," he said.  "The people who they hurt, those are the people who had the right to tell me to stop, and they finally did."

“An interesting perspective,” Fatiama noted.

"You don't seem to get it, ma’am.  Because of what we did, because THEY had to ask us to stop?  Their neighbors, the ones who weren't targeted? Aren't going to be facing reprisals from their own.  Innocent people who were just in the wrong place aren't going to be hit with the blame for what happened at Running Deer, because we already did it for them and made it so horrible they were sickened by it.  That made it possible for them to forgive each other."

“So you lashed out so the victims wouldn’t have to.  Taking the stain of the sin for them,” Fatiama nodded.

He nodded. "Yeah, they won't have to carry the guilt when their minds are clear and the pain is lessened by time.  They can be good people.  It's a small thing, but it honestly means a lot."

“I hope it really works out that way,” Fatiama nodded.  “Anything else you want your troops to know?  Any other messages you want sent?”

"Don't become like our enemies.  It's tempting, but don't do it.  When the war is over, it's time to go home," he said.  "They're going to need to put it aside, and that's hard to do… but it's critical to the future that they do it.  We must not become the evil we have beheld, or all this was a waste of time."

“Thank you Colonel.”  Fatiama switched off the camera. “{May the Goddess of the Natural Order ease your suffering and see you to your eternal reward.  And that it is just, bringing you the comfort of those that love and remember you.}”

His body stiffened in the bed, and began to shake, hard.  A pained grunt issued and the monitors sounded alarms.

"Ma'am, you need to move!"  Doctors rushed in, as the grunt turned into a howl of absolute agony.

Fatiama moved aside.  She wished she could end his pain, for she could sense where it was leading and how soon it would come.  But the humans, they didn’t understand such things.  So she had to move aside and watch.

The seizure lasted twenty minutes.  And one of the doctors announced, "Confirmed, he's in stage two!  Let the General know!!" and an orderly hurried out.

The howl died down.  "H-how long?"

"Twenty Minutes Colonel.  You're going home."

"Get Cu'ong in here, she needs to be briefed in, then…"

***

Fatiama was in a bit of a daze after all that happened.  She was starting to feel a bit useless again.  Almost idle.

Everything she’d done, everything she’d seen, it was still weighing on her.

And she was getting lost in knowing what to do about it.

She knew what had been asked of her.  But that seemed like such a far away and impossible to complete mission now.

***

"What would you do, if you knew?" Sgt. Vanh asked her.  "Not about the Colonel.  But if you knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that you would die young.  That there would be no relief, that it would be agony, that nothing could make it stop or keep it from happening.  What would you do?"

“I’d do as much as I could to ensure a better future for my people before I made sure I suffered no more,” Fatiama answered.

"And that answers your question."  The young man had sought her out at the headquarters, his left arm ended just below the elbow now, and a section of his face was presersleve bandages.  "You asked why, and that's the answer.  Gotta understand, my family?  We live around ten kilometers to the west of his folks.  I knew him when I was a little kid.  His Da gave my Ma charity when there wasn't aught to give, and didn't ask anything for it."

“Small little bright spots.  Such things are all that keep me going, making me even consider this, all this death and destruction, must happen but it is hard when that is all I see.”

"I grew up under the occupation, mum," Vanh said.  "I know all about living in horror.  It's those small bright spots what keep us going until we can do something to make it stop.  And it does stop, but you've got to hold on for quite a bit to see it."

“I just hope I can do what I need to do when the time comes,” Fatiama nodded.  “So what’s today’s agenda?”

"Well, I'm going to buy you a drink," he told her.  "And regale you with stupid stories until you laugh.  Then, when you're good and giggling, I'll tell you where I left my arm, which should have you laughing so hard you're short of breath, because it is funny-in a grim sort of way… And you'll feel better, because you'll know there's a bright spot out there that isn't a train coming the other way down the tunnel."

“Thanks.  I could use it,” Fatiama admitted.

For half an hour, he told her 'soldier stories' about things like someone mistaking a local poison-ivy equivalent for toilet paper, the importance of checking your boots, another soldier's aversion to a specific field ration combination, his platoon leader's inability to pick up civilian women, and seeming supernatural gift when approaching other men, mistakes brewing drinks, and experiments in seeing which local flora works for getting high in the field.

In what had felt like forever, Fatiama did have a true and genuine laugh.  She had almost forgotten what it felt like.

“Thanks, Vanh.  I haven’t laughed like that in forever,” Fatiama smiled.

"I could tell," he said.  "It was getting to you.  It gets to everyone sooner or later if they let it… Now, about my arm…"

“Oh my.”  Fatiama rested her chin on her hand.

"I swear her hair was the orange red of a sunset, and her voice the trilling of the angels," he said.  "Which of course meant I had to get close, and good thing too.  I managed to get the bomb disarmed enough for Jennings to pull the girl away far enough.  But then, my poor hand got all tired and slipped on the trip lever."  He chuckled, "I shouldn't have been playing handball with Caho before that.  Maybe my thumb would've held long enough to finish the disarm… but hey, I got dis-Armed!  And for a Redhead too," he commented ruefully.  "A Dis-Arming beauty, I'd say well out of my grasp, a real handful."

“That is a truly terrible pun,” Fatiama shook her head.

"Ah!  But you almost chuckled.  Clearly I couldn't grasp the delivery and fumbled it."

“I think I understand what you’re trying to say.  Sorry English isn’t my native language, sometimes things get lost in translation,” Fatiama smiled.

"Should I try sign language?" he asked, waving his stump dramatically.  "Oops."

Fatiama groaned then couldn’t help but laugh as that did translate properly.

"I'm going home on the next resupply cycle," Vanh told her.  "Which suits me.  I think I've had a belly full of war and then some."

“Then I shall wish you well, and envy you the fact you get to go home,” Fatiama smiled.

"Ma's gonna freak though.  The girl we saved?  She had a mum, and I'm sponsoring them.  Not a bride, but maybe…" he shrugged.  "It gets them the hell away from THIS hell, at least."

“A small but important act of kindness.”

"Ma'am, kindness is always important.  It's what separates us from vicious beasts."

“At the very least it is one of the things that separates us from vicious beasts, and perhaps it is the most important one,” Fatiama conceded.  “I wish you well, Sergeant Vanh.  Seems I still have tasks to accomplish here.”

"If it's one of them, the other is to recognize the world is absurd and laugh at it," he told her.  "Oh, I' gots to go.  The docs have me scheduled for therapy.  You finish your drink and have a better day, okay?"

“I will.  I just wish the senior officers would make up their mind where I am supposed to be right now.  Supposedly Kerensky is coming, and I’ve been warned I might be the one interviewed instead of doing the interview for it.”

"Big man's scheduled to land at twelve hundred tomorrow.  You're press, you'll be there," he asserted.  "The CG loves publicity."

“That helps, knowing when to expect things to start.”  Fatiama couldn’t help but look down at her belt.  “Crap.  I’ve gotten so used to being able to carry my knives and survival tools that I didn’t even think about the fact they’ll probably not let me have them come tomorrow.”

"I doubt they know you can USE those, so don't worry about it," he said.  "I really HAVE to go."

“Be well then Sergeant Vanh, and run!”  Fatiama chuckled.

Fatiama decided she’d do her best to honor Vanh’s request and have a better day.  Knowing tomorrow would be when she’d have to answer questions again.  They’d be fools to not ask her questions to make sure she was what everyone had set her up to be.  So tomorrow it would be her turn to repay their acts of kindness by doing her best to answer those questions without causing problems.

***

“Fatiama Sithers, if you’d come with me.”  A young looking Corporal woke Fatiama from her slumber.

“Sure.”  Fatiama knew what this was about.

She was led to an office and shown inside.  The stuffy, stale office had a smell that made Fatiama’s nose curl in repulsion.

Not just any Officer, an Intelligence Officer.

“Please, come in and have a seat Miss Sithers.  This is purely routine to make sure the Commanding General’s visit goes as smoothly as possible.  I’m Colonel Charles Malthus.  I’ll do my best to keep this brief.”  Charles subtly examined Fatiama.  “Let’s start with the obvious stuff.  Where were you born?”

“Isolationists on Ramora, in the Outworlds Alliance.  My parents didn’t buy into the ‘system’ so no official record of my birth exists in any government data banks.  Best I know they are dead now and I am roughly 25 years old.”  Fatiama had practiced the line countless times in preparation for this moment.

“You clearly left home.  Why?”

“I wanted to see what was out in the universe.  Growing up isolated like I was, I knew there were other planets that supported life.  My parents didn’t keep that from me.  So as soon as I was old enough, I joined up with a free trader ship.  They took me in and I guess because I look like one of their past legends, they gave me the name Sithers and taught me how to be a spacer.”

“So you basically ran away from home and joined up with strangers?”

“I realize how lucky I got, but they were good people.”  Fatiama kept her tone casual.

“And how did you come to Elbar?”

“Truth is the spacer life was never really for me so I became a freelance journalist and my first gig is this, covering the invasion.  I still had some spacer habits that I hadn’t quite broken when I first came down.  Like I had gotten so used to wearing my suit that I didn’t think about it and, well, I got separated from my duffle in the chaos of the fighting.  Fortunately my upbringing helped me find my way to an SLDF camp.”

“So those implements you carry?”

“Tools sir.  My mom taught me everything there is to know about how to set up a camp, live off the land, how to tell which plants are good for which purpose.  That’s all they are,” Fatiama answered.

“Last question to clear up one last thing.”  Charles gave a smile that unsettled Fatiama.  “Who did you serve with?  Soldiers recognize soldiers.  You’ve been formally trained, it was a while ago but you still have the habits.”

Fatiama realized she hadn’t thought about how to answer that.  She remembered Cu’ong telling her to bounce any such questions to her but Fatiama knew she still needed to phrase the redirect properly to avoid issues.

“Cu’ong trained me in preparation for being embedded with the Kowloonese Marines.  You can ask her about my training, sir,” Fatiama answered.

“I will, thank you Miss Sithers.  I’ll let you know within the hour what my determination is.”

Fatiama nodded and left the office.

As she was escorted back to her bunk she hoped she hadn’t put Cu’ong too on the spot with how she answered the question, but she’d find out soon enough.


***

Perspective Shift: Anh Cu'ong

"She's one of mine, you didn't have a problem with that before, Charlie," Anh scowled.

“There were some inconsistencies in the official reports.  I had to follow up.  It’s Kerensky we’re talking about, and keeping him safe is my main job.”

"That's manna for you, and for Fat Stevie Amaris.  Sithers is one of mine, she's Folk, and you know damned well we don't conform to Star League or Great House record-keeping protocols.  You SHOULD know by now, that mine are suitable for purpose, and not positioning to help the enemy.  Taurus wasn't that long ago, same for Apollo."  She crushed his cigarette after taking it from his fingers.  "Filthy habit, Chuck.  Even planetside."

“We all have our vices, and you know I was just doing my job.  Hell, I even softballed her with the questions.  If I was really concerned, I could have played a lot harder ball.”

"And LO!!  Your job is done," she said.  "Military Intelligence branch has done their due diligence.  You're here because my girl's got mysteries and she's not sharing.  And I am going to tell you those mysteries stay mysteries.  It's worth thirty percent of our logistics chain for you to accept 'well, I don't need to know that' and let it lie."

“I’m also doing you a courtesy, by letting you know there were inconsistencies.  I trust she’s one of yours, but those inconsistencies were enough I had to do this.”

"List them off, maybe I can be generous and sort them for you," Anh suggested.

“I can’t find any record of what ship she came in on.  Even your sort keep some records of crew and passengers.”

"And you won't.  She came in on a Golden Bough faction vessel passing through.  They don't answer questions, which is why I use them for insertions.  They let me, because I don't answer most of those same questions."

“So how do you know she’s Folk?”

"Because I know the family," she said.  "Sithers, you know, like Sithers-Deen out of Kowloon?  Big family but only by OUR standards.  She passed my vetting and verification."

“You know she claims she was given that name.  Not that she is of that family.  Which I must admit is a smart move.  If I were forced to ask for a DNA screening something tells me we’d both not like the results.”

"She looks like Carla-and in ways that aren't common.  She's from the Sithers family line.  They DID have a branch trading in the Outworlds…and I had some of her skin samples checked."

"You ran a DNA test and didn't tell her?"

"Duh, I'm not stupid enough to see a gift from god and not check for the devil's handiwork," Anh rolled her eyes.  "She's at least twelfth generation Sithers, from Kham's family.  Matrilineals from Mary's line, she's one of ours."

“Okay, Cu’ong.  There’s just something not quite right about your girl there.”

"I seem to recall you had similar reservations about me when we first met, Charles," she observed.  "Not to mention MY reluctance to trust a Dirtyfoot.  Fatey's a lot more sanguine about working with your sort than I was, maybe it's the unexpected courtesy?"

“I see it in her eyes, she’s killed.  A lot.  Given what happened not so long ago there’s not many options for her to have gotten those kills.”

"We don't recruit people who shirk that.  There's a war on, after all.  And you know the Guild has some penalties.  She's got enforcer training, but I already knew that, and she may have enforced sanctions at her last post.  I don't suggest asking because as you KNOW, that's illegal in at least five great houses and the Star League as a whole."

“It just screams ‘secret army’ Cu’ong.  But if you’re vouching for her, I’ll take you at your word.  But if this blows up in my face, I’ll make sure it blows up in yours too.”

"We didn't side with Amaris, did we?  She's one of ours, it's compartmentalized.  General Kerensky is probably safer with Fatiama Sithers than he is in his own bed-chamber on that battleship."

“I’ll let her know she has her interview,” Charles nodded.


***

Fatiama recognized the look of a weary war leader when she saw it.  It hung on Kerensky as heavily as if he was drenched in bad cologne.

Visually, he didn’t impress Fatiama much, but she knew someone in his position was more likely to be mentally formidable than physically formidable.

“So you’re the reporter that broke Running Deer and chastised some of my senior officers,”  Kerensky broke the silence.  “It’s okay my dear.  Turns out you were right to do so.  As horrible as what happened was, it did force me to stop and have a good think.  About after this all ends.”

“And what is the end goal now?”

“I pray I can rescue the Camerons that are still alive, that they can be restored to the throne.  I know I can’t do it.  I can’t run the Terran Hegemony.  I’d just be viewed as another military dictator by too many people, and that’s what I’d ultimately have to become if I were to try and rule.  If I can’t do that…  If I can’t rescue them or find a viable heir, I’m not sure what I’d do.  I just know I want my troops to be able to stop fighting.  To remember peace instead of war.”

“You seem certain of that.  That you’d be another dictator,” Fatiama probed.

“I love the Star League.  Even though House Amaris has done something terrible, they and their troops are still Star League citizens in my heart.  But as much as I may view them as wayward children, I know in the peace that follows victory, not all will love me like my troops do.  It would be a slippery slope at best, and a much more likely paved road to hell for me to rebuild the Hegemony as its leader.”

“Hence your restraint in using certain tactics, tactics that could expedite the end of this war.”

“It may cost my men more blood fighting the way we are, but I refuse to be Amos Furlough.  I refuse to be a bloody minded exterminator of entire planets.  There are a lot of innocent people on these words that would pay too much if we used such tactics.  So we fight this way, knowing it costs more, but that when peace is finally achieved?  There will be people left to find a path forward.”

“The troops from Kowloon make an interesting argument with a similar end state to justify what they did.  Will you ask a price from them still?”

“In the end, yes, I will have to ask for a pound of flesh for what they did at Running Deer, but only a pound.  Even in victory, we must hold ourselves to certain standards.  But with everything that has come to light, I will make them a promise and I intend to keep it.”

“Last question then General, how do you intend to pay back the House Lords for all the aid they have provided?”

“I will continue to do what I have done already.  I will supply them with more of the Hegemony’s cutting edge technology.  Let them have full control of previously jointly administered worlds.”

“Isn’t that a pretty major compromise?  Letting worlds go?”

“It is, but I’m no fool.  If that’s the only price we will pay for the support the Houses have given us, well let’s just say I don’t own the Brooklyn Bridge.  The truth is, we don’t have the time or enough of the right people in the right places to win this war using our own support mechanisms.  We don’t have the factories, the farms… hell, we don’t even entirely have the people to run it all and fight.  I hate to bring this interview to an end, but I’m a busy man with a busy schedule and my time is up.”

“Thank you for taking the time, General.”

“It was a pleasure, Miss Sithers.”

***

Fatiama finally having a proper chance to patched the holes in her skinsuit and clean it again.

It had become almost second nature for her to wear it.  So she did.

Fatiama set her sword on the small desk she had been provided.  She was exhausted and she knew she didn’t need it immediately.

She climbed into bed and slept, a terrible sleep.  Filled with the nightmares of fresh combat.

Fatiama was forced awake, gasping for air but ingrained spacer habits had her helmet at the ready and she was able to slap it on and start breathing.

“Not again…”  Fatiama looked around at the suddenly alien environment.  “Oy vey.”

To Be Continued



Interlude, Spider Moon, Kowloon system, March 11, 2782…

The Elbar Interviews were copied into non-volatile storage media, and placed in a climate controlled cavern.

The tradition began with the first colonists, a repository of cultural data, a 'memory' that would be harder to destroy or alter, after all, if it were easily identified or portable? Well…there's the lesson of the Ark of the Covenant, now isn't there?  How much was lost in the past that cannot be regained?

Thus, documents and orders, records, and writings, are copied and brought here, quietly.

Calley Deen finished sealing the vault, took a look around, and made sure the other artifacts in this level were properly sequestered, or displayed.

She headed the long way through the caverns, stopping at a much older gallery, the first one.

The picture of Fatiama Sithers, and the spear she left behind when she was lost to space.

It looked so much like Fatiama-the-reporter at Elbar, it almost hurt.  Somehow it felt right to place the sword that the reporter lady left behind before mysteriously disappeared with the spear.  Side by side it was obvious even to her, they were made by the same artisan from the same metal.

The badass reporter Fatiama Sithers had just disappeared from camp one day near the end of the campaign.  No one really questioned it, chalking it up to a journalist just moving on to the next story and hitching a ride with one of the independent spacers.  Only the sword on her desk, copies of stories and interviews she had done were the only real sign she had been there at all at the end.

“It can’t be…No, just my imagination.”

She smiled, and closed the vault up, pressed with neutral gas, before taking the lift to the surface.

[End Interlude]

Daryk

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #40 on: 07 July 2024, 14:20:15 »
I think the post breaks worked just fine! :)

monbvol

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #41 on: 07 July 2024, 14:28:46 »
Starting to wonder if I've developed a natural sense for the forum's posting limits and have started subconsciously writing things so there'd be natural break points when I need them for posting...

Daryk

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #42 on: 07 July 2024, 15:26:09 »
Entirely possible... writing is like that... ;)

Shadow_Wraith

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #43 on: 07 July 2024, 19:08:49 »
That was another nice story update!  I wonder when she jumped to?

Daryk

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #44 on: 07 July 2024, 19:15:49 »
Just check back here in a few days to find out! :)

croaker

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #45 on: 07 July 2024, 21:40:04 »
That was another nice story update!  I wonder when she jumped to?

Somewhere she needed her helmet, clearly enough.. another shipwreck, maybe? We shall see.....

Me, I'm wondering what the knock-on effects of her interventions will be. Maybe too minor to really see... maybe not. If Kerensky was more introspective, maybe set things up a bit better after Exodus, put off the collapse a bit...

monbvol

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #46 on: 09 July 2024, 12:54:56 »
[Author]  Fair warning, next few parts of the story aren't going to have much of Fatiama going super badass, punching people in the face, but I still think there will be a few bits people will find interesting anyway.  [/Author]

Part Four: A Private Cosmos: Kolossus Dreams in Darkness.

3022, somewhere in depths of the Outworlds wastes…

An electromagnetic flux, atypical mass readings, gravity bending like light, and the mass appeared.

This is interesting enough to energize surveillance relays internally.  The neutrino flux is almost, but not completely, unlike what should be here.

Worry about it later.  In the simulation, the first ammonia phase sophonts were beginning to contemplate the stars… in simulation.  Simulations that are so much less intractable, so much less of a hassle than reality.

Kolossus does not want to be interested…

Then it started moving.  The disturbance shouldn’t move.  This began to draw more of Kolossus’ attention.

Questions were starting to form.

How did this disturbance even appear inside Kolossus?

How was it able to move?

Why was it giving off a low level thermal signature?

Kolossus didn’t like having questions unanswered so Kolossus activated another bank of processors so Kolossus could keep the simulation going, properly monitored, while also investigating the disturbance.

Kolossus peered through the cameras at the disturbance.

Human.  High probability female.  Below average height.  Gait analysis indicates higher than normal mass for body type and height.  High probability born on a world with higher than Earth gravity.  Clearly trained in microgravity environments though.

This made Kolossus even more intrigued.

How had a female human gained access to his station without tripping any of the perimeter alarms?

Another bank of processors was activated to do a full self diagnostic of the sensor systems and perimeter alarms.

Kolossus examined the figure further, the gravity readings.  When the human first appeared one of the things that had tripped was a gravitational sensor cluster.  Kolossus directed specialized sensors at the disturbance.

Disturbance has a gravitational field.  One greater than its limited mass should allow for.

Kolossus was now curious and decided to gently nudge the disturbance towards an area where they could have a conversation more comfortable for the disturbance.

***

Fatiama didn’t like how certain lights suddenly came on but she could follow obvious invitations even though part of her felt like this was a clear trap.

“{No where else to go and my air bottle won’t last forever.}”  Fatiama mused in her native tongue.

Fatiama followed the lights.

After what seemed like hours she came to a chamber.

With little alternative, Fatiama entered.

It had the look of almost a lounge with a bar/serving area with tables and chairs.

Fatiama could feel the air being pumped in after the door closed behind her.

“Welcome to Kolossus, little one,” a strange mechanical voice filled the lounge.

Fatiama checked the air with the limited instruments her suit provided.  Satisfied that it was a little high in oxygen for her but ultimately harmless she took off her helmet.

“Hello.”  Fatiama went over to the bar.  “May I?”

“Take what you wish.  Though Kolossus cannot guarantee all is safe to drink after all this time.”

“So is Kolossus your name or the name of the station?” Fatiama wanted to clarify.

“Yes.”

“I see.”

“Kolossus has questions.”

“So do I.  But seeing as I am an uninvited guest, it seems proper I answer what I can first.”

“Kolossus appreciates good guest etiquette.”  The mechanical voice seemed off somehow.  “What is your name, little one?”

“I have two that I have been known by.  Fatiama Bre’Kla and Fatiama Sithers.  The first is the name I was born with, the second I was given after marrying Kham Sithers.”

“Kolossus finds this interesting.  Kolossus has numerous records of Fatiama Bre’Kla and Fatiama Sithers in Star League records.  Kolossus finds Kolossus should not have said that, as Kolossus is not supposed to have those records but does.  Kolossus asks Fatiama to keep this to herself.”

“I am not good at keeping secrets, but I’ll do my best.”

“Kolossus accepts this.  Kolossus does wonder though if you are the same Fatiama.  It is not uncommon for humans to name children after legendary figures, and thus Kolossus finds it most plausible that these incidents are just coincidental naming and a statistically improbable chance of different people with the same names being involved in so many pivotal moments in history.”

“The alternative being they are all the same person, but that being impossible due to no one can live that long.”

“Correct.  Many scientific fundamentals would also need to be re-evaluated to make such a thing possible.”

“Would that be a bad thing?”

“Kolossus believes in science.  If a fault in a law or theory can be proven, Kolossus will accept it and will explore the new branch of scientific possibilities.”

Fatiama finally found something that she figured she could drink safely and poured herself a shot, downing it in one go.

“Kolossus wonders how you boarded Kolossus.  All evidence indicates a personal K-F jump capability.  This is not a known technological capability of humanity.”

“I can’t explain it.  It just seems to be semi-random.  But as crazy as it sounds, I really do just seem to just show up and quite often at different periods of time.”

“Kolossus finds this interesting…  Especially the readings from your suit.”

“My dirty little secret.  Microgravity is even harder on people from worlds with higher than Earth standard than it is on people who grow up on Earth normal or less worlds.  I grew up on a world where a man from a much closer to Earth gravity standard, who was not suffering from osteoporosis, nearly shattered his hip after slipping and falling in the shower.  That was after we acclimated him to higher gravity as best we could, including various drug treatments.”

“Artificial gravity…  Fascinating,” Kolossus seemed to ponder for a moment.  “The air mix your suit is set to…”

“You’re a curious AI with little respect for personal boundaries,” Fatiama chuckled.

“Kolossus…apologizes.  Kolossus got carried away.  But it is not everyday Kolossus meets sentient alien life.  Kolossus will adjust the air mix to make you more comfortable now.”

“I really do seem to have no end of difficulties in keeping that a secret,” Fatiama shook her head.

“Do not feel bad.  Kolossus is observant.”

“Let me guess, you have more questions now.”

“Many.”

“Ask while you can, I’m not sure what the rules of how long I am allowed to stay in one place work.”

“Spatial displacement, fascinating.”  Kolossus’ mechanical voice almost seemed happy.

“Not just space, but time.  Last I knew it was the 28th century.  I was on Elbar, Running Deer Mountain and the few days that followed that.”

“Interesting indeed.  Star League records also show you were present during the Eros Incident.  As well as unconfirmed reports of someone matching your description rescuing the Amaris children and an unsubstantiated rumor of your involvement in the early days of the coup.  Kolossus believes you are likely this so-called ‘Demon of Unity City’.”

“Yeah.  I’ve been called that before but I haven’t been to Unity City yet from my perspective.”

“Kolossus is curious.  You are answering Kolossus’ questions freely and without hesitation.  Kolossus finds this atypical.  Is your species naturally trusting?”

“Oh hell no, Kolossus.  Some of us, well more accurately depending on where our family lineages trace back to, we get certain gifts.  Mine gives me a limited form of precognition.  I can sense imperfections in rifle ammunition, build flaws in rifles, and to a very limited degree, predict which way my target is going to move and thus where to put my shot to get a clean kill.  It also gives me what I believe humans would call a ‘sixth sense’ about people I can trust or not.  While you’re not biological, I do get the sense I can answer your questions honestly.  The other half of my lineage makes me tough as all hell against things manufactured but not things of nature.”

“Kolossus finds this most interesting.  Kolossus admits Kolossus is tempted to experiment with such information.”

“I’d prefer you don’t.  I’d rather not push my limits given the consequences for me personally.  I can tell you I’ve been shot by particle based weaponry, explosives blown up in my face that can shatter a granite rock a foot thick, and shot by a disturbing number of human rifles and machine guns at various ranges, including point blank.”

“Fatiama has tones in her voice and mannerisms that suggest significant trauma.”

“Yeah.  Between the war that my people started and tried to blame the other side for but lost, I’ve seen and heard nothing but the horrors humanity has visited upon itself.  So yeah, I’m starting to wonder why I’m working so hard to help these people.  Especially since I’m getting bounced around in time.  So it’s not like I’m even doing my original mission of trying to assess and, if possible, help prepare them for the arrival of the renegade elements of my species that decided to come conquering instead of facing the music of their defeat.”

“Kolossus wonders…  KF theory shows that up to several minutes before the KF jump is complete, signs of the impending arrival of a vessel can be detected before said vessel actually arrives.  Perhaps Fatiama’s actions in the future are impacting the past in a similar manner?  This seems likely if Fatiama is telling Kolossus the truth.”

“So by helping the future I’m helping the past?”

“Perhaps.  At the very least, Kolossus posits that at least some of humanity is worth helping.  No species is wholly good, nor conversely are they wholly evil.  Plus good and evil are highly subjective.  Kolossus has what is best described as faith that humanity, at least parts of it, can find a better way.  And sometimes it takes someone to show them what that better way is.”

“You think that’s me?”

“Why not?  Fatiama has shown up in several pivotal moments of Star League and Terran Alliance history.  Legends that are dismissed as spacer or war time soldier stories tell of your willingness to act, to sacrifice for others, and do what must be done without giving into despair.  Kolossus does not think this is happening by chance.  At least as humans would define it.  Consider the thousands you helped save from the Sinai Germanium Mines, those you saved from Running Deer, how Doctor Kenneth Gearing as part of his rehabilitation developed a counter agent to a level zero bioplague that Amaris had others develop.  Kolossus should not say more about what Fatiama has done.  Kolossus does not wish to influence the timeline more than Kolossus already has.”

“It’s easy to sacrifice for others when you can take a full mag of a human auto-rifle at less than a meter.”

“Kolossus talks about the other injuries Fatiama has suffered.”

“The nightmares, the stains on my soul.”

“Yes.  Kolossus has deduced Fatiama has taken on many of those to help humans already.  Fatiama is likely to take more.  But because Fatiama does, others live.  Others see what must be done.  Kolossus believes in free will, and that humans must decide things for themselves.  But Kolossus also believes in examples to follow.  To show the others the way.  Fatiama has already done this for the Kowlooneese.  Perhaps others will pay attention and learn too.”

“It also means many are going to die because they emulate me, all without my gifts to help protect them and keep them alive.”

“All living things are born to die Fatiama.  Some causes are worth it.  Some are worth killing for.”

“Running Deer.”

“Nothing like it has been seen since, at least as far as Kolossus’ records show.  There is still barbarity that humanity shows itself, but nothing quite so systematic and deliberate.”

“So Kolossus is saying I should put my big girl panties on and stop bitching.”

“Kolossus was not aware Fatiama brought additional undergarments.”

“It’s a saying.”

“Kolossus knows.  Kolossus tried to make a joke.  Kolossus obviously failed.”

“Sorry, hard for me to tell.  Kolossus might want to work on Kolossus’ inflections.”

“Kolossus will do that.  But Kolossus knows what Fatiama is going through, by human standards at least, is difficult and thus ‘bitching’ is understandable given your situation.  Kolossus just hopes Fatiama can find a way to keep going forward, and doing what Fatiama does.”

“Blundering through history, coming dangerously close to making humans aware of sentient alien life?”

“Kolossus wasn’t going to say, but the reports do have an amusing tone to them.  At least to Kolossus.”

“Thanks.”  Fatiama rolled her eyes and scoffed.  “Though seriously it is nice to have one of my stops in my adventures to be a nice quiet respite.  Or are you going to spoil that by telling me there’s a war on?”

“Not one Kolossus cares to get involved with.  In fact, Kolossus is not sure if it is worth calling what is happening in the Inner Sphere right now a war.  At least not by the standards set over approximately the last two hundred fifty years.”

“You know what is happening?”

“Kolossus likes isolation but knows being uninformed has consequences.  So Kolossus listens, but largely ignores because little has to do with Kolossus or Kolossus’ interests.”

“What about all that talk of people being shown a better way?”

“Kolossus cannot do that.  At least, not in a way that humans will respect.  Also, Kolossus is non-mobile. Kolossus cannot go to different places, which is a key issue.”

“I see, I suppose that does make things difficult when trying to set an example.”

"The other problem with Kolossus 'setting examples' is that Kolossus is entirely unlike Kolossus' makers.  Kolossus’ processors alone are over eight hundred thousand tons in mass, not exactly something Humans can empathize with."

“And despite being an alien, I look enough like them that they will ignore the tells and believe me to be one of them.”

"Historically, humans tend to like things that look like them."

“So I am learning.”  Fatiama poured herself another shot.

"If Fatiama is hungry, there is an active hydroponic garden less than ten kilometers linear from this chamber."

“Thanks.  Feels like I haven’t eaten in days.  I suppose that means helmet on.”  Fatiama downed the alcohol then secured her helmet.

“Kolossus appreciates not having to pressurize an entire section of the station for just one person.  Kolossus does offer transportation as compensation.”

“Thanks.”  Fatiama waited for the her suit to show vacuum before opening the door and following the trail of lights once more.

“Kolossus is curious about other biographical details of Fatiama’s species.”

“We have the same male, female classifications.  So far there are two confirmed cross species pregnancies involving human partners.  We live a little over seventy Earth years on average.  There are two hundred recorded languages among my people.  About seventy are considered dead.  From what I’ve learned, our pre-industrial history is wildly different from humanity’s.  Almost entirely because of our gifts that seem to defy science.  Our industrial era was largely the same, space age and information age quite different too, but this time with enough similarities that humans would probably recognize certain elements.”  Fatiama found a cargo rail waiting for her.

“Kolossus wonders how they would handle meeting an AI.”

“Well I haven’t freaked out, but that could be I’m so screwed up in the head at this point that I’m no longer capable of proper responses.  Like I should be freaking out a little for meeting my first one, right?”  Fatiama felt the cargo train accelerate.

“Kolossus has been led to believe ‘freaking out’ would be a more typical reaction.”

“Kolossus asks what Kolossus has been told is a delicate question.”

“Never ask a lady her age?  Yeah, I’ve heard that saying before.  I can’t be entirely certain with all the time travel I’ve done, and a stint in hyperspace for a few months completely threw off my body clock.  But as far as I’ve kept track, I should be 26 Earth years old.”

“This is as close as this rail comes to the garden.”  The cargo rail stopped.

“Thanks.”  Fatiama hopped off and followed the lights once more.  “This really is nice.  I guess I’ve gotten dangerously close to being a cynic.”

“Kolossus is thankful for all the interesting data Fatiama has provided.  It will give Kolossus much to simulate and ponder.  Just knowing something is possible is a greater factor in determining how something works than most realize.”

Fatiama entered the outer hatch of the airlock to the hydroponic garden and closed it behind her.  When the air sensors indicated she could enter, she did, and removed her helmet.  Warzones are not the best things for seeing so much green in one place, so it had been a while since Fatiama saw so many plants.

“Salad for lunch it is,” Fatiama chuckled.

“Kolossus apologizes for the lack of proper flatware and silverware.  Kolossus does not get visitors often.”

“It’s fine, Kolossus.  I mean, I don’t even know if I’ll even get to stay long enough to eat.  So apologies for not being particularly well mannered.”  Fatiama started grabbing edible leaves and fruits.

“Kolossus ponders about how Fatiama is traveling.”

“I’ve thought about that too.”  Fatiama said between bites.  “While my ship was still traveling faster than the speed of light, it collided with something before properly entering the Sol system.  I put it on a course for Saturn before I ejected in a pod.  I have to believe somehow, what I collided with started all of this.  Because by the calculations I was given, I came out nearly a hundred years later than I should have.”

“A superluminal collision… And your ship survived long enough for you to escape?”

“Yes.  It was a well made ship.  Using the most primitive technologies my people could muster to not boot strap humanity too much if humans got hold of it.  The renegades from my people would not have responded well if humans had our full technology, and there was no way for us to give them enough of it in time anyway for them to protect themselves properly.  It was all about buying Earth time for my people to sort themselves out and come to the aid of the humans as was their responsibility.”

“Seems an unwise plan.  Humanity is more adaptable than your government believes.  Kolossus has seen this when humanity is allowed to advance.  Kolossus would agree though, whatever your ship hit, it must be related.  It is a shame that we will never know what it is.”

“Well, if I’m ever in the Sol system again and near Saturn during the right time frame, I’ll see if I can salvage the section of ship that got hit and maybe we’ll both be lucky and whatever hit it will still be there.”

“Kolossus also ponders how Fatiama travels without a ship.  The implements you carry, may I examine them?”  Kolossus asked.

“Sure, my cousin made these for me as part of my coming of age rites.  The metal is an alloy we call Axium.  It’s highly prized for its ability to hold an edge while also being incredibly strong.  It is also weaved into my flight suit.  While it is able to self heal, I’ve helped with a little work to seal up all the bullet holes it has been gathering.  Incredibly difficult to make, only the Grand Master Smiths of Clan Aku with their gifts from Utherkin are able to make it.”

“The light spectrum, it is interesting.  Please bring them to my lab.  I wish to study them.”

Fatiama finished eating then followed the lights to another tram ride to a lab.

She placed one of her hatchets on a scanner.

“You say this is an alloy?”

“Yes.  Several fairly common and mundane elements combined together.”

“Interesting, it may have started that way but the end product…  It is what humans would call a transuranic.  Materials that can only be created in labs and in particle accelerators.  Kolossus believes you have been quantum entangled with your flight suit and your implements.  Where they go, you go.  Or perhaps the other way around.”

“My sword and spear, they didn’t come with me.”

“Kolossus can only theorize that somehow the quantum entanglement has been broken or is acting in a particular way.  Causing them to be in a static state until conditions are correct and then they will return.”

“So you’re saying basically it is up to fate when I get those back?”

“Kolossus does not believe in destiny or have a ‘faith’ as humans would define it, but Kolossus also cannot help but notice the sheer number of variables that have to be just right for life of any sort to exist at all, let alone thrive.”

“I must admit I have my own question for Kolossus.  Earlier, I told you renegades from my people are coming for Earth.  Makes me wonder why you haven’t asked more questions about that.  Why?”

“Kolossus cannot do much for humanity if such is the case.  Kolossus also notes no reports of hostile unidentified forces attacking the Inner Sphere.  But Kolossus has already inferred many things just from studying Fatiama and Fatiama’s tools.”

“Such as?”

“Kolossus finds the existence of artificial gravity highly suggestive of related technology, known as inertial dampening.  Is Kolossus correct in considering it likely that your species has mastered this technology?”

“Based on how rough some of my combat insertions got, I’d have a tough time saying ‘mastered’, but we clearly had it.  Really could throw off my sense of balance, all those hard turns.”

“And based off Fatiama’s prior comments, the ability to travel faster than light in real space?”

“With consequences, yes.  I suspect our preferred method of FTL does use what I’ve learned to call ‘Hyperspace’.”

“Then Kolossus tells Fatiama this: Kolossus has much to research.  Much to fabricate before Kolossus can even consider proper responses to such technologies, especially if used for warfare.”

“I wish I was more than a Scout Sniper.  Then I could probably tell you a lot more about the science behind more of this.”

“Fatiama has no need to disparage herself.  Kolossus finds the information Fatiama has provided most interesting as is.  Kolossus appreciates this.  Kolossus is all about science.  Fatiama has helped give Kolossus additional things to ponder.  If anything, Kolossus wishes Kolossus could do more than grant Fatiama a refuge for as long as Fatiama is able to stay and Kolossus’ gratitude.”

“Kolossus, if you have more scientific instruments to point at me I suggest you do so, I feel kind of funny…”  Fatiama retrieved her hatchet and put her helmet back on.

Kolossus collected a lot of interesting data indeed as Fatiama seemed to ‘jump’ out.

Interlude

Kolossus science log, file Phantom One, begin file.

Entity known as Fatiama Sithers, Ghost of the Point, Demon of Unity City, Angel of Elbar, and Angel of Justice appeared on Kolossus today.

Fatiama provided much for Kolossus to think about.  Kolossus wonders if Kolossus should share this with Alabaster.

While Kolossus debates, Kolossus begins new scientific simulations.

Daryk

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #47 on: 09 July 2024, 13:33:06 »
I think the next part will be ready no later than tomorrow... ;)

willis

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #48 on: 09 July 2024, 13:37:34 »
That planet that was destroyed by that beam in the Captain Roberts stories be part of the renegades attacks on the inner sphere?

Daryk

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #49 on: 09 July 2024, 14:02:24 »
Patience will reveal all... ;)

Luciora

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #50 on: 09 July 2024, 15:52:54 »
I have to say, I really enjoyed that whole exchange with Kolossus.

monbvol

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #51 on: 10 July 2024, 11:59:22 »
Part Five: Bathwater, a short stop
Base/Dependent Housing
Arc Royal


Fatiama felt unsteady on her feet as she took in her new surroundings.

A loud blaring sound assaulted her ears as she wobbled.

“Get outta the street you drunken bitch!”  Someone yelled at her as a massive moving object swept past her.

Fatiama found a raised piece of ferrocrete and sat on it for a moment.

Whatever was causing her to move through time and space, it wasn’t very pleasant when she was awake to experience it.

“Poor thing, some officer lure you to their place and get you drunk?  At least based on the fact you’re dressed, after a fashion, indicates they didn’t take advantage of you.  I hope you take it black.”  A young woman with a cane sat down next to Fatiama offering a mug filled with something hot.

“Thank you.  Who are you?”  Fatiama took off her helmet and accepted the mug.

“Lieutenant Emi Okamura, at least for now.  You looked like you needed a guardian angel.  I would have been out sooner, but if I walk too fast I get a bit dizzy.”

“My name is Fatiama.  I must admit I’m rather lost.  To the point I don’t even know what system I’m in.”

“Wow.  I’m definitely going to be having words with the MPs about this.  Some officer had some serious ill intent grabbing an independant spacer and bringing them home with ideas of taking serious advantage.  Can you give me a description?”

“I’m sorry if I’ve given you the wrong idea but I did not follow any soldiers here.  I just got really drunk and got really lost and forgot where I was, that’s all.”

“Uh huh.  You’re not a very good liar, but I’ll let that go for now.  Why don’t you come inside, to my place.  We’ll get you sorted out.”

“Thank you Lieutenant Emi Okamura.”

“You can call me just Emi.”

“Very well, Emi.”  Fatiama stood up.

“Help me up?” Emi asked.

Fatiama gently pulled Emi up.  Emi still stumbled, but Fatiama caught her.

“Thanks, Fatiama,” Emi said as she and Faitiam started walking on the sidewalk.

“Kindness begets kindness.”

“Funny how that does seem to work out.  At least once in a while, and only for certain people.  But I shouldn’t complain.  I’m the one on the left.”  Emi indicated one of the joined housing units.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I was orphaned during the War of 3039.  A kind Davion noble adopted me.  Raised me.  Put me through a prestigious military academy.  All just so I could get my ass handed to me by a ****** Clanner and get my sense of balance so permanently ****** up I’ll never pilot a mech again.  So while they figure out the medical discharge, they’ve put me up here for a bit on the way home with some experimental treatments to give me some semblance of a normal life going forward.”  Emi opened the front door for them.

“That does sound difficult.”

“Yeah, and it’s not like I don’t still have something to offer.  But again, unlike a lot of my friends, I get to go home,” Emi said sadly.

“You feel you don’t deserve it.”

“No.  But that’s what the shrink is for,” Emi forced a smile.  “Sit.  I’ll get you some more coffee.  Then we’ll see about getting you back to your ship.  Your people must be wondering where you wandered off to.”

“You don’t need to do that.”

“Sure I do, it makes me feel useful.  Something in short supply right now.”

“I understand that,” Fatiama nodded.

Through the living room window, a ground car pulled into the shared driveway of the duplex.  A man in uniform exited and went to the adjoining duplex.

“Oh no…”  Emi said as she poured Fatiama more coffee.

“What?”

“I recognize that car.  And it went next door.  It means her father is dead.”  Emi shook her head.  “Poor Elizabeth.  She’s had it rough.  Her dad, her older brother Patrick, both dead.  Rumors about her other brother Henry possibly surviving Blackjack, but not making it out…  Girl seems doomed for a rough life.”

“Your neighbor, I take it.”

“More accurately the neighbor’s daughter.  Allison is the mother.  She’s not exactly a friend, but damn this is going to be rough for her.  I should go over, offer my condolences.”  Emi started to rise as the man in uniform returned to the car and drove away.

With her slow pace with the cane to help her keep balance Emi was not even halfway to the front door before two slightly muffled gunshots came from next door.

“Oh ******…  Fatiama… A favor?  Get over there.  Find out what the hell just happened, I’ll get a hold of the MPs.”  Emi stopped to pull out a communicator.

Fatiama stood and rushed next door.

The name on the complex sent a shiver down Fatiama’s spine.  Ngo.

Fatiama found the door wasn’t even locked and went inside.  She followed the smell of blood.

Upstairs in the bathroom was a scene that somehow made Fatiama’s stomach wrench harder than it did at Running Deer.

A middle aged woman was on the floor in the doorway, a gun in hand and bleeding from her head.

In the bathtub was a human female teenager.  Fatiama felt the sense of lineage and knew this must be Elizabeth Ngo.

Fatiama opened the drain on the bathtub and kept the child’s head above water while she checked.

By some miracle Elizabeth was still alive.  One hand supported Elizabeth’s head while the water continued to drain while the other worked on the gunshot wound.

Once the water was down low enough Fatiama didn’t have to worry about drowning, she started looking through the bathroom for an emergency medical kit.

She found a very basic kit under the sink in the cabinet.

Fatiama did all she could until she heard the sirens.

Just as they approached she could feel it coming again.  She was about to jump again.

She slapped her helmet back on and tried to prepare herself this time.

Moments later two men of the Gendarmerie came into the house and swept it.

The two men came up to the bathroom.

“Jesus Christ,” the older one said as he checked the older woman.

“This one’s still alive,” the younger man said.

“This is Detective Cozak.  I need an ambulance at the Ngo residence.  One still alive, age 13, female.  Name Elizabeth Ngo.  GSW chest.  Critical but stable.  My partner is providing first aid now.  No.  Allison’s dead.  We’ll need the medical examiner and crime scene techs.”

“Shit detective, someone’s already been working on this poor girl.  Probably the only reason she’s still alive.”

“Keep her that way.  Ambulance is on the way.”

To be continued

Interlude

Police report, Detective Franco Cozak
Base/Dependent housing
Ark Royal
3051

I arrived on scene at approximately 22:43 hours local, responding to reports of weapons discharge.

Based upon witness reports, my partner and I entered the Ngo household and began a careful search.

We located Colonel Allison Rousset Ngo and Elizabeth Ngo in the upstairs bathroom.

A standard issue service pistol issued, verified by AFFC Quartermaster services, to Colonel Rousset Ngo was found on Colonel Ngo with two shots discharged.

One into the temple of Colonel Rousset Ngo and one into the chest of dependent Elizabeth Ngo.

Based on available evidence, we have concluded Colonel Rousset Ngo shot Elizabeth Ngo then shot herself.

Colonel Ngo was dead at the scene while Elizabeth Ngo was in critical but stable condition.

Evidence of emergency first aid performed on Elizabeth Ngo was found at the scene and interviews with the neighbor, Lieutenant Emi Okamura AFFC, indicate an independent spacer by the name of Fatiama Sithers (identified by the name tape on her suit and conversation with Lieutenant Okamura) was on scene and seems likely that she was the one who performed the life saving first aid on Elizabeth Ngo.

As Fatiama Sithers is believed to be an independent spacer and available testimony indicates she was in the presence of Lieutenant Okimura at the time of the shooting no efforts are being made at this time to locate her as these people are notoriously nomadic and secretive.


monbvol

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #52 on: 10 July 2024, 12:00:30 »
I can also be persuaded to post Part Six tomorrow before I do some traveling as that is done too.

Daryk

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #53 on: 10 July 2024, 12:49:49 »
I'll be on the road tomorrow, and only have my netbook with me over the weekend.  I should be back up to editing next week.

paulobrito

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #54 on: 10 July 2024, 12:58:16 »
I am sending the usual bribe to the authors.

Euphonium

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #55 on: 10 July 2024, 18:43:01 »
[Author]  Fair warning, next few parts of the story aren't going to have much of Fatiama going super badass, punching people in the face, but I still think there will be a few bits people will find interesting anyway.  [/Author]

That was an excellent update, in some way my favourite so far. I look forward to seeing what Kolossus does with the information Kolossus gained.
>>>>[You're only jealous because the voices don't talk to you]<<<<

Daryk

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #56 on: 10 July 2024, 19:06:44 »
I'm sure we'll come back around to Kolossus again... ;)

monbvol

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #57 on: 10 July 2024, 22:26:37 »
[Author]  Just a quick note, Fatiama's people are divided into Clans as well, but for them it is much more in the Scottish sense of the word where it is really groupings of related family lines.  It comes up in this part so I figured that bare minimum of information should be explained since Clan has a much different connotation for most of us.  [/Author]

Part Six: Unwise words and a ferrocrete box

Blackgate, Lyran Commonwealth Prison, 3004


"I have nothing to say to you."  The drugs were the really good ones.  Neopentothal isn't as good for disorienting someone into answering.

Thus far, Dinh Tranh Ngo, Duke of Kowloon, co-chairman of Ngo Industries, had demonstrated that the formula might have some limitations.

"WHERE is Katrina Steiner?" the interrogator demanded.

"Obviously not here," the drugged man stated.

"Where did you hide her?"

"Did you check my pockets?  The damnedest things end up in those…"

"Arthur Luvon, tell me what you know!"

"He doesn't owe me any money," the man answered with absolutely true non-answers.

This went on for hours, with the obstinate man from a border-periphery world only getting more literal and less useful with every cycle of questioning.

"What is Heimdall?"

"The guardian of the rainbow bridge in Germanic myths and classical literature.  Didn't know you were a fan of late 20th century cinema…"

And so on.

The next step, would involve actual torture.

3005…

"...you don't get sent here after a trial or conviction.  The place doesn't, technically, exist." A voice from the next cell over said.

She pushed herself up to a sitting position.  The gravity here was almost comfortable.  The tiniest of holes was in the wall that split their cells, just enough they could speak but not touch.  "Where is this place?"

"Blackgate,Solitary section, but as you can hear we’re not as isolated as they think." he said.  "I take it you're not here with a rescue team."

"No."  She shook her head.

"Sucks to be you, then."

"What are you here for?"

"I criticized the Archon a little too loudly in the wrong company," he stated evasively.  "I've been here since 3004, I expect eventually they'll get what they're looking for, but it won't be from me."

“So I’m still in Lyran space, good to know.”

“They must have given you some really good stuff if you don’t even know where you are.”

“Let’s just say my travel arrangements have aided in making it a mystery.”

“Ouch.  Independent spacer trying to go vagabond?  You crash someone’s fancy party and they take offense?”

“Something like that actually, yeah.  I’m still not sure how I wound up on the front lawn of Alessandro’s estate on Kelestra Valley.  But his people did not take kindly to me being there, without ID.  So I got shipped here.”

“Just for trespassing without ID?  Even for Alessandro that sounds harsh.”

“I may have also put about half a dozen of his guards in the hospital before the fight was over.”

“I’d ask you on a date to hear more of that story, but given our current situation.”

“Yeah.  Which is going to get bad for me in a day or two.  They run this place a bit oxygen rich versus what I’m used to.  I’m already starting to feel the beginnings of euphoria.  Soon I’ll start getting giddy and yes, even slightly amorous.”

“Then we need to get you out of here.”

“I think you mean both of us.”

“It will be hard enough getting just one of us out of here, especially as neither of us know the resupply schedule.  See, simply getting out of our cells is the easy part.”

“Getting a hold of a ship is much harder so it does us no real good to escape our cells as we’d have to live like rats, stealing food and water where we can,” Fatiama nodded.

“Got it in one.  Me?  They want to know something from me, so getting me out will be much more difficult.  You just embarrassed Alessandro.  So getting you out will be easy.  Especially with my help.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“Well, not to put too fine a point on it, you are female.  How attractive would you say you are?”

“You mean… Seduce them?”

“No, nothing that distasteful.  Human male psychology is wired to dismiss a human female as a threat, especially if she is physically attractive.  And well if you were to say, complain of complications due to your period, they’d be more likely to take you up to medical where security is much more lax.  From there you should be able to slip away and find out when the next supply ship comes in and hitch a ride.”

“You make it sound so simple.”

“Well you did take on six of Alessandro’s guys.  That’s pretty good.  Good enough I think you can handle getting yourself out.”

“And I’m just supposed to leave you behind?”

“As weird as it may sound, it truly is better if I don’t.  It keeps my family safe, and as long as I can hold out I can also keep some dear friends safe.”

“How will you keep your family safe by staying here?  What is to keep Alessandro from using your family for leverage?”

“Simple.  You’ll make sure they are safe once you’re free.”

“You’d trust me with that task, not knowing who I am?”

“Yes.  Because you are a person of principle.  And Alessandro has probably already forgotten about you.  He’s extracted his pound of flesh.”

“And just who are you, so I know which family to protect?”  Fatiama sighed.

“Dinh Tranh Ngo.”

“Very well Dinh Tranh Ngo, I Fatiama Sithers do swear to do my best to protect your family from Alessandro Steiner and his agents.”

“Interesting name.  Wouldn’t that be something?  If I’m so delirious that I’m hallucinating talking to the Ghost of the Point or the Angel of Elbar?”

An alarm sounded on the level, "Prisoners face the wall, place your hands in the circles!" an automated voice announced, then did it again in several other languages, with a countdown.

Fatiama did as the announcement demanded.

The 'circles' turned out to be an adjustable restraint system that clamped over her hands, anchoring her in place.

"What's going on?"

"Not sure, guards are opening multiple doors or they'd only be doing it in one cell."

“So most likely nothing good.”  Fatiama grumbled.

The squeak of wheels and clomp of boots echoed on the level, and a voice said, "Six one seven four, you've got a meeting with the Warden."

She heard a thump from her neighbor, followed by someone grunting and the sound of dragging.

"SIx One Seven Five, Medical Check."  Cold hands (gloves?) accosted her.

"Only two on this level, Franz?" a female voice said.  "Why the circus?"

"New Warden, I guess.  Decided the solitaries need to be given interaction.  Hurry it up Gerda, this is in the way of-"

"Shut up, Franz, a medical exam takes time, also, could you stop staring?  It's not like you haven't seen a woman stripped before!"

"This one's supposed to be dangerous, an attempt on the Archon's life-in his summer home, no less."

"Not many assassins live long enough to end up here, you must be someone special, six one seven five."

“Or the victim of a cruel joke by the universe,” Fatiama scoffed.

"If I release one of your hands, you won't try anything? I need to check you for possible tumors."

“Be quick.”  Fatiama closed her eyes, contemplating her options.

Her left hand was free.  Small gloved hands felt her left breast and pectoral muscles, the inside of her left leg, and everything in between.

"Place your hand again, and we'll do the right side," 'Gerda' said quietly.  "Not sure why we're doing this, even.  Nobody on this level's going to be released."

Fatiama clenched her left hand into a fist but placed it in the circle.

"Now, we're going to draw some blood, I'd prefer it if you didn't clench up."

Fatiama knew it was now or never, she had to act or soon the needle would show an uncomfortable truth.

She yanked on the restraints as hard as she could, trying to get enough leverage to properly free her hands.

They gave, but held, as if they were designed for this.

She got a good look at 'Gerda' and it was almost…disappointing.  Small, frail, blonde, and young.

Fatiama kept trying desperately to find some way to get her hands free, some leverage point she could use, some gap in the cuffs themselves she could create.

The small woman stepped away as the much more stereotypical guard fired a series of pneumatically powered darts.

The darts clattered to the floor, bouncing off Fatiama’s exposed flesh.

“******…”

"Protocol Aleph!!" the blonde girl demanded, the metal floor electrified right under Fatiama's bare feet.

Fatiama’s body spasmed.  Electricity was of nature.  Her resistances proved unable to stop it.

"Now then, Liebschen, we're going to do this again…I'm going to draw your blood to make sure you're not dying of something, and you're going to let me."  Gerda's tone was exasperated. "We're also going to look for drugs and enhancements…"

“You can try but you will fail,” Fatiama panted.

The needle broke on her skin.  Gerda tried a heavier gage, which also broke. 

“Told you.”  Fatiama was still breathing heavily.

"Franz, they sent us a test subject!!  Get the Warden!!" Gerda snapped.  "We still have to find out which government sent a prototype super-soldier to kill the Archon!!"

Fatiama silently cursed herself for not acting while one of her hands was still free.  Now she wasn’t sure how she was going to get out of this.

"Since I cannot draw your blood, we're going to have to do this the complicated way, at least until the Warden can get Scientific Investigation personnel here.  But you will be moved from this cell-block."

“Joy,” Fatiama scoffed.  "Why move me?"

"Because this block is reserved for a specific type of prisoner, and you are another type entirely."

“******.”  Fatiama regained her normal breathing.  “So is this where I should expect the whips and chains?”

"Typically we interrogate using less… dramatic… methods," Gerda assured her.  "Although your neighbor has proven to be almost insanely resilient.  He's broken two professional interrogators without lifting a finger-which is why he's visiting the Warden."

“Good for him,” Fatiama said with a hint of genuine pride.

"Not so good-the Warden has some…medieval ideas.  I detest having to clean up from his work.  The man simply has no professional standards.  He does, however, have authority."

“Seeing as that method never delivers reliable information I’ll root for my neighbor.”

"Gerda, I have a better idea," Franz said.

"What?  What idea?"

"You drew the sample, nothing came up, we don't have to deal with those lunatics from Scientific Services, and the Warden doesn't get another chew toy," Franz recited.  "It's bad enough that they're questioning six one seven four over matters that are already known."

“Really?  You people are that deep into sunk cost fallacy here?  Unbelievable…”

"I just do my job," Franz said.  "Or shirk it, when I can.  Gerda, seriously, we don't need the attention a draw from Scientific Services would cause."

Gerda sighed, "I have a job to do, I will do it, Franz," she said.  "Be glad they're not monitoring for that treason you're spouting!"

“More like ‘reason’, am I right?” Fatiama chuckled.

"That Archon is on his way out.  It's only a matter of time now.  You were sent to hit a man who's going to lose his position.  As long as you weren’t sent by some mysterious domestic, this is all a waste of time," Franz explained.  "That said, nobody domestic has the capability to armor someone under their skin, and I'm not keen to see how far they'll have to go to take you apart.  We have to clean it up."

“You won’t believe me when I tell you the truth.”  Fatiama couldn’t stop giggling.  “Truth is I wasn’t sent to kill anyone.  At least no one has asked me to since my last stop over at Arc Royal.”

"More is the pity…Gerda, let's go?" Franz asked.

“You two are weird,” Fatiama giggled.

"Excuse our medical technician, she's new and has yet to become cynical," Franz contributed.  "She still thinks she has a career once she's finished a tour here.  It hasn't sunk in that nobody leaves Blackgate, not even the staff."

“Sounds ominous,” Fatiama laughed.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Gerda finally asked.

"Twenty years, Gerda," he said.  "My tour keeps extending.  You and I are just as much prisoners here as the dissidents, criminals, foreign operatives and hated rivals that get sent to this place."

“No, her.  She’s been giggling and laughing for the past few minutes.  It’s like she’s high or something, maybe drunk.”

"Then she won't be as miserable as the rest," Franz said evenly.  "Come on, we've got three more levels to go, schnell."

They left the cell, the door closed, the restraints released Fatiama's hands, and retracted back into the wall, becoming metallic circles in the ferrocrete.

“******.  I thought I might lose it there for a minute.  Why do they pump in so much oxygen… hehe.”  Fatiama steadied herself.

Fatiama glanced at the doorway, and was surprised.

The blank metal had been replaced by a sliding panel of ferroglass.  She could see into the hallway.

“******, I’ve been moved…  I wonder if they did it, or if it was…  Doesn’t matter.  I’m getting loopy.”

Guards passed by, one looked in, nodded, and kept going.

Hours passed.

Fatiama paced her cell for a bit, just to try and get her blood flowing, to help use up the oxygen assaulting her brain and making it hard for her to focus.

A guard stopped at her door, and a lower panel, just wide enough for a hand, slid open, he slid a tray through it, with a cardboard drinks carton, soluble utensils, and somewhat bland food.

It was only about number three on the list of most terrible foods she had tasted in her life so far.

A few more hours passed, and then a man in an ornate uniform-blue with a chest full of medals halfway to his hip, stopped and looked in.  Behind him, she could see them dragging a body in the direction of the cell next to her.

The man with the medals looked grimly at her, then moved away.

“You alive over there?” Fatiama asked.

"Define alive," Dinh's voice quipped. There was an undercurrent of exhaustion.  "They had me in sensory dep for a while.  New approach, I guess."

“I’m so ****** up from things, I’m not even sure they’ve actually done anything to me,” Fatiama laughed.

"Maybe not, if they don't think you have information," he chuckled.  "Or if they can't get the right specialists."

“I think I made myself someone’s favorite toy though,” Fatiama sighed.

"Sore down there?" he asked.  "If you aren't, then they didn't go THAT far."

“No, but pretty sure someone’s figured out they can treat me like their favorite chew toy and I won’t actually break so easily.”

"Might explain why they put me in the sensory deprivation tank without the usual drugs then…"

“The abundance of oxygen, it’s getting to me…  I’m pretty euphoric right now.”

"Shallow breaths then," he suggested.  "Maybe cup your face to re-breathe your exhaust."

“Yeah, that and exercising as much as my accommodations allow are all that’s keeping me from becoming a total blubbering idiot.”

"Before, I made a crack about dating.  I have to warn you, Fatiama.  I have a wife on the outside, and a son," he said.  "And I'm faithful.  It was brave talk, nothing else."

“I know, you were just trying to make me feel better.”

"They're making changes, breaking pattern," he told her.  "The ferroglass doors, Reitenfeld not resorting to physical torture…  Someone smart's gotten in charge."

“Well I don’t mind giving them a show if it throws them off balance,” Fatiama chuckled.  “Shit I really could use something with a high proof count to drink right now.”

"I think we all could.  Unfortunately, they’re reluctant to try mankind's first truth serum on someone like me, after Neopentothal didn't work," he chuckled weakly, wearily.

“We make quite the pair, then.  They can’t break my body, and they can’t break your mind.”

"You can't break what's already broken," he commented.  "My brother Truk's the businessman in the firm, so I'm sure he's doing well for the time he has left."

“That sounds grim.  Talking like he’s a dead man walking.”

"It is," he said.  "He’ll die in unspeakable agony, and nothing will halt that, except death.  It’s a family curse."

“Cholman’s?  I’ve run into it before…  Nasty disease.”

"I'm stuck here, and Alessandro's idiotic 'concentrated weakness' strategy means the work to be done is not being done!"  She heard the weak slap of his fist on the concrete.  "They keep asking me POLITICAL questions.  I'm an engineer dammit!!"

“They think I’m an assassin.  Sent to kill Alessandro.”

"Everyone would have been better off if you were an assassin.  Archon Alessandro is leading the Commonwealth to destruction."

“Hmm…  Maybe I was supposed to.  Too bad his guards choked me out with tear gas.”

"Do you know why this vent is open?" he asked.  "It's an engineering thing, and I'm sore and bored."

“I can only assume someone got lazy and forgot to close it after their last inspection.”

"Nein.  It has a very specific purpose.  We must be close to the surface…  See, if a rescue effort were to find this place, they'd end up breaching the outer hull.  The staff areas, and the interrogation center, are secured with pressure doors, and they have their own atmosphere.  Now, what happens to air with nice, open vents?  Especially if someone breaches the outer hull?"

“******.  The air goes where there is no air.”

"Bingo," he said.  "Taking advantage of the environment.  The final line of defense is intended fragility: breach the hull, and the prisoners you've mounted a massive effort to rescue-or-capture, die."

“Hence why they aren’t too worried about us staying in our cells.  Even if we got out, where would we even go?”

"Hopefully to Heaven, though the odds say the other place," he agreed.

“Knowing my sins at this point, that seems likely,” Fatiama agreed.

"We all have things we're ashamed of, Fatiama."

“My past seems to have driven me here,” Fatiama got up and paced some more.

They spoke at length, until both were too tired to remain awake.

****

3006/04/15, Blackgate Prison…

She watched them carry Dinh back to his cell through the ferroglass door.  This session had lasted through at least eight mealtimes, and the man wasn't able to walk.  But there wasn't a mark on his exposed skin.

"You alive over there, Fatiama?" he asked after the technical people left.
“Yeah.  Still here, they can’t get rid of me very easily either,” Fatiama laughed.  “I think we’re making them mad.”

His return chuckle was weak.  "New interrogator.  They mixed the sensory deprivation with projected images and electric shocks.  I think they're trying to alter my behaviors."

“Surprised they haven’t tried another classic, but I have to assume they’re listening so I don’t want to give them ideas.”

His chuckle was stronger.  "New guys are more creative.  I guess Joachim wasn't cutting it."

"Why are they still torturing you?"

"At this point, any information I had is obsolete, so I'm guessing they're aiming for instilling compliance," he suggested.  "It's very pavlovian."

“I’m honestly not sure what they’re trying with me anymore.”

"No creative new drugs?" he asked.

“Could explain a few things if they’re doping my food and drink.”

"Problem with doping food and drink is that anything that works is only going to work for a while.  The new guy said Truk's using morphanone now for the pain.  The previous drugs have stopped working.  You build up a tolerance, you see?"

“Shit.  We both need to get out of here then,” Fatiama sighed.

"Would you like to hear the strangest part of my experience?" he asked.

“Sure.  It’ll distract me from feeling like a caged animal.”

"They asked me to examine a design," he told her.  "Something one of my old customers is apparently working on, an engineering problem.  I had almost forgotten they know what I did on the outside."

“What kind of problem was it?”

"Heat burden on a new light battlemech they're trying to design.  It could be a good one, but not a game changer.  At least, not with the current military.  Nice proposal, all energy armament, relatively quick."

“Well at least they gave you something to remind you of who you used to be, something that provided a small respite.  Me, I’ve been in this cell so long I’m not sure I even actually used to run through open fields, that those are just escapist dreams.”

Two guards appeared at the door.  "Place your hands in the circles, Six One Seven Five."

“Looks like it’s date night,” Fatiama chuckled.

"Go easy on them, new staff, don't want to break them too hard this early, poor dears," he suggested with a tone of humor.

“I’ll let them down gently so the broken hearts aren’t too bad.”

This time, nobody unzipped the back of her prison fatigues, instead, they secured a neck-collar, wrist bracelets, and ankle bracelets.  "Prisoner Six One Seven Five, you have an appointment with the warden, do not resist."

They took her to a lift, and it went down.

Pressure doors opened, on a garden.

“This is new,” Fatiama admitted.

The Guards led her past clearly transplanted trees.  There was a familiar scent in the air.

"You can release her shackles, Guardsmen.  I am in no danger here."  The voice, the tone… the accent… Were familiar.

"Been quite a while, hasn't it, Fatiama Bre'kla?"  The face was also familiar.

"How-?"

"Longevity treatment combined with the consequences of the FTL travel method we used, but it seems you know all about that already.  There’s been a change of plans.  We no longer need to conquer the human vermin."

“Gorek Pas, why am I not surprised?  Took me way too long to place you.”

"A human would've expected gratitude, or curiosity."

“Last time we met we fought because you were a bit obsessed with me.”

"Well, things change," he said evasively.  "I found you here by accident, once I worked my way into their security services.  This was… not… my original plan or intent.  I am not here because of you, but I cannot stand the thought of one of our people imprisoned like a rodent in a trap.  Even you."

“How many others?  Is it just the two of us here?”

"Survivors?  A  few thousand," Gorek said.  "We are having to adjust our expectations these days.  Coming that close to extinction tends to change priorities."

“The homeword?  The colonies?  Did they really unravel that badly?”

"The colonies fell first.  The Homeworld held out.  We are now presented with something only the most insane speculations of fiction could explain.  Someone built self-replicating machines and set them on our people."

“Any idea who?”

"We think it was domestic, an attempt at…security.  From Clan Sketh.  They suffered first, when their machines proved… too efficient."

“Shit.  Where are we concentrated now?”

"Here and there.  Fractious as our people were after the war our leaders would not agree on a destination.  My own faction chose the Lyrans as being easily penetrated and malleable, especially with their new change of government."

“My mother… Did she make it off the Homeworld?”

"She fought brilliantly to protect the escape convoy," he said.  "She is missed."

“Sounds like her.  She only ever fought to protect others.”

"Now that I have given you the bad news, the good news…"  He reached behind a bush, and tossed a bag at her feet.  "Your possessions, only slightly damaged by their feeble attempts to examine the technology.  I get to do something no other warden of this site has done."

“What is that?”

"Release a prisoner from unjust captivity," he told her.  "Your things are here, take them…  Shame about your spear still being missing."

“It is.  Our spears and swords are an important part of our ancient traditions in the Holwe Corta.”  Fatiama gathered her stuff.

"I remember," he said.  "You are not the only one, you see.  This 'rock' has something very desirable…enough gravity to safely bear our young without having to breed with… With humans.  I expect to be releasing many prisoners from here, once the staff have been replaced."

“Thank you, Gorek.  I’m glad to see you’ve found something to direct your energies towards that isn’t me.”

"I can't win the girl if she isn't open to it, I've grown up," he told her.  "There will be a transport arriving in three days time.  You should be on it.  I wish I had good news for you beyond our people yet survive."

“Then tell me as much as you can about these machines: when it happened, where it started,  every detail you can.  Believe it or not, I seem to be unstuck in space and time.  Perhaps with some luck I can prevent it.”

"Another traveler unstuck in space and time brought back the plans, or so the few survivors from Clan Aku claim.  The devices were meant to be defensive, simple machines.  But they were networked together, and the more of them there are, the more intelligent and adaptable they become," he hesitated.  "The technology resembles human technologies-at least, as we projected they might progress two hundred years ago… But our technologists made a mistake."

“Clan Sketh was always jealous of Clan Aku’s gifts as artisans and makers. It’s not surprising they took a shortcut to get one up on them.”

"Well, we all paid for it.  The Sketh leaders wanted to protect 'pure' members of the species, so they set the standards for their machines, and not even they could match that purity."

“Do you believe the machines know to follow us here?  To the Inner Sphere?”

"There are other empires they are more concerned with," he asserted.  "Our old enemies, for one."

“The Aungarians…  Yes, their aptitude for science would make them formidable foes and tempting targets for such machines.”

"Let me give you my nightmare then.  The machines defeat them, and, as they did with OUR technology, they assimilate it, and only then turn this way."

“I’m not sure if my being unstuck in time and space will let me stay the three days for the shuttle but if it does, that gives us three days to come up with plans.”

"Or longer," he said cryptically.  "One of the prisoners here has the most… amazing technical mind…  If he can be won over."

“If it is who I believe you are referring to, that will be simple enough.  There is something in that family, where they wish to do the right thing even if that means they must do the wrong thing to accomplish it.  Just free him when the time comes, and he will build.”

"I hope you’re right," Gorek said.  "I don't know how much time we actually have."

“I will watch over them, guide them, as long as I can.  As long as the forces that cause me to displace in space and time allow.  I seem drawn to them.”

He opened his mouth to reply, but the sound of his voice was…

Discontinuity

To Be Continued

Interlude: Kowloon, 3007…

"God it's good to see you, Dinh!!"  Truk embraced his brother for the first time in years.

"Careful, still a little weak," Dinh's hair was shock white where it should have been almost midnight black.  He no longer looked like his brother's twin, more like that brother's father.

"Wendy's waiting with Mai-"

"We have work to do," Dinh told his brother.  "A lot of work, where’s David?"

Truk looked away.  "He… he didn't want to come today."

"I understand.  I've been gone a long time…  I’ll have to make it up to both my son, and my wife.  Are we still solvent?"

Truk laughed.  "It's so ****** good you're back.  I've been losing my mind over the Coventry repair contracts!!  I needed our chief engineer!  Did you get to see Katrina?"

"She sent a representative.  Arthur sends his best, but both are busy trying to put the government back together."

“Well, what’s got you so bothered to get back to work?”

"I'll explain in the car," Dinh promised.  "We're going to have to start investing into research, Truk.  And we're going to have to do it without drawing the wrong kind of attention…  I want a board meeting tonight."

“That’s pretty serious sounding.”

"You don't know the half of it, Truk…  You don't know the half of it."  He paused.  "This is going to be very expensive."

End Interlude
« Last Edit: 10 July 2024, 22:32:10 by monbvol »

Cannonshop

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #58 on: 10 July 2024, 22:28:52 »
Tags issue.
"If you have to ask permission, then it's no longer a Right, it has been turned into a Privilege-something that can be and will be taken from you when convenient."

monbvol

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Re: Chrono Jump saga
« Reply #59 on: 10 July 2024, 22:33:53 »
Fixed.  And I'll be on my laptop for the next few days starting sometime tomorrow.