Mira linked with the fly bot's video feed as soon as it powered up and took off.
“Dust.” Driscoll said “All I can see is dust.”
“Yeah. Me too.” said Mira “Go higher.”
As the fly bot flew higher bullets, shrapnel and explosions filled the scene … and then it went black.
“Got shot down.” said Mira. She reached for her pocket, but Etheridge was already up.
“I got one.” he said and launched another fly bot.
This one barely got to flight before the feed was cut.
“I'm outta ammo on the top gun!” Skanes shouted.
“Reload ready.” Brake was up, being held by Driscoll and Mooney. He was holding a reload magazine with both hands, the roof panel in front of him fell open and an empty magazine dropped to the floor. Brake pushed the reload up through the opening and snapped it in place.
“LOADED!” he shouted and sat as the roof panel closed. Mooney passed his fly bot to Etheridge, who stood to launch it.
A loud bang sounded. Mira felt herself falling forward, then left. Another loud bang and the sound of breaking ceramic and metal. Mira hit the ground face first. Gravel filled her vision. She lifted her head, everything looked like slow motion. Brake and Skanes were beside her. Brake on his side, lifting himself and looking around. Skanes was lying on his back, unconscious, missing his left arm below the elbow. Bullets hit the rocks, shattering and moving them around.
“Go! The rock!” PAL-Mira messaged.
Mira felt a surge of adrenaline and scrambled to her feet “Grab an arm.” she said to Brake, now on his feet, as she used both hands to hold Skanes' left arm. They dragged him a few steps to the cover of a large rock. Mira looked at the stump of Skanes arm. Their layered armour had gel between the layers. If the armour was punctured the gel oozed out, solidified and sealed it. Med bots had sealed the wound. Mira took off her backpack and took out a med pack. She put the white, square piece of 'cloth' over the stub of Skanes arm. It melded with the flesh, adding to the seal over the wound and aiding in healing with embedded nutrients.
“Incoming!” Brakes screamed, raised his gun and fired.
“Turn around. Don't shoot yet.” PAL-Mira messaged.
Mira turned, facing away from the rock, Brake kept firing. His bullets intercepted and destroyed the incoming missiles.
“Shoot now.” PAL-Mira messaged a second before Brake stopped firing.
Mira saw a red dot appear in her vision, she fired at it, held the trigger until it disappeared and several grenade rounds hit the ground near the rock and exploded.
“I have an urgent link request from Captain McPherson.” PAL-Mira messaged.
Captain McPherson's face appeared in Mira's vision as the red dot disappeared and she stopped firing “Corporal Thabiti, is Corporal Skanes with you?”
“He's wounded and unconscious.”
“Alright. All the officers are dead, you have the highest surviving rank. I'm placing you second in command of the Regiment, command of forces on the ground, and giving you a field promotion to Lieutenant.”
“Half the pods didn't even make it to the ground. The pirates starting firing before the parachutes opened.”
“Ready to fire.”
Another red dot appeared in Mira's vision and she shot at it. As she fired, Captain McPherson continued speaking “Your security clearance has been upgraded to Top Secret. You must not reveal to anyone what I'm about to tell you.”
Mira stopped firing and changed magazines as Brake fired and Captain McPherson continued “You need to be on the lookout for some new technology. We don't have a description of what it looks like, or exactly what it is, but it has something to do with black holes and gravity.”
Several more grenade rounds hit nearby.
“Clear for now.” PAL-Mira broadcast.
“Shots are coming from all around.” Mira said.
“No. Some are long range shots.” Brake said “They're flyin' past us, turnin' round and comin' back. They're shootin' at us from that way.” Brake pointed over his shoulder toward the rock, and the hab behind it.
Mira rested against the rock as Skanes began to stir.
“Ready to fire.” PAL-Mira messaged.
Skanes rolled over and propped himself up on his right elbow and looked at his left arm “What the ...”
A red dot appeared in Mira's vision, she fired.
“Lieutenant Thabiti. Did you receive my transmission?” Captain McPherson transmitted, voice only.
“Little busy right now!”
“That technology is the primary purpose of this mission.”
Mira stopped firing and switched magazines as Brake began shooting “Wouldn't something like that be in orbit?”
“I'm looking up here, but you need to keep your eyes open down there. Report anything out of the ordinary, and I'll scan it from up here. Your resupply drop will start in twenty minutes.”
“Can you give us a target. We can't see anything and our fly bots keep getting shot down,”
“They're in front of the hab, battle bots spread out around the entrance. I'll try to pinpoint some targets for you.”
With command of the ground forces, Mira received status updates. She noted two of the forty millimeter cannon armed Lokai had survived, the only weapon left with the range she needed.
“Visual targeting. They need an image of the target but we can't get a fly bot close enough. What do we do?” she messaged PAL-Mira.
“Fire the rounds. You don't need a target before firing. You can use the first few rounds for reconnaissance and images from their video feed to get a target lock for later rounds.”
Mira sent the command and the cannon began firing. She linked with the rounds video feed as they rapidly approached the hab. But there was something in the air. Rapidly the first few rounds passed slow flying aircraft with very long wings.
“Take 'em down!” Mira shouted “They're returning for a reload and another attack run. They got no defense. Take 'em down.”
As each round exploded its video feed cut, Mira kept switching to a feed from another round. The light, unarmed aircraft were easily destroyed.
“How much ammo?” she asked.
“Last one.” Brake tapped the magazine loaded in his gun.
“Two more.” Skanes tapped the magazine in his gun.
“You gonna be ok Skanes?”
He was sitting with his knees bent almost to his chest, his gun held between his lower legs, his right hand on the grip, backpack open beside his right leg. His left arm dangled loosely “Only need one hand to shoot. Med bots are workin', no pain. Gel sealed the armour.” He nodded his head “Yeah … gonna be ok.”
A few machine gun rounds hit the ground nearby.
“Lieutenant Thabiti.” Captain messaged, voice only “When you get the ammo drop and reload, leave half your remaining battle bots where you are. Take the rest, and whatever artillery you have and move here.”
A map showed in Mira's vision with a red line indication a route to end of the landing strip pointing away from the habitat.
“From there you're in position to stop them from retreating into the hab. Our battle bots will drop wheels and race down the landing strip to draw their fire. When they start firing they'll give away their position, you'll have plenty of targets and you'll be close enough to use grenade volleys to overwhelm their defensive fire.”
“When does our ammo get here?”
“I'm sending you landing zone estimates now.”
An animation appeared in Mira's vision. One hundred red dots, one for each supply pod, moved toward a spot on the ground in the area around the rock they were using as cover.
“PAL-Mira, message the battle bots and the Lokai. Direct them to the location with the ammo they need. List forces.” A list appeared beside the map. “Split list top and bottom halves. Top reload first, bottom will cover. Then switch roles.”
“How many of us without a ride?”
“All other PAL links are coming from inside a Lokai. It appears no one else survived the destruction of their vehicle.”
Mira felt a cold darkness, a chill washed over her.
“You've got the GripGloves in your backpack.” PAL-Mira messaged.
No time to think about it Mira thought.
“There's a ledge on the back of the Lokai, you can stand on it. With your gloves on, put your hands flat against the back door and you'll be able to hold on, another pair tied to the bottom of your shoes will hold your feet in place.”
“Let Skanes and Brake know.”
Machine gun rounds continued to hit the ground intermittently.
“Captain, we'll be ready as soon as we get our resupply.”
“Our attack is based on them trying to hold the hab with a defensive position around the entrance. Haven't seen any entrenched artillery, no vehicles, but lots of battle bots. Your forties can take them out. Use a grenade volley to overwhelm their defenses ... get close enough, and away from the dust, a full power blast from your laser will do to job too.”
“I got a link from another survivor.” PAL-Mira messaged.
“Who? Where?” Mira looked around.
PAL-Mira highlighted a small cliff face a short distance from the boulder.
“Voice transmission from Private Decoteau, no PAL link.”
Mira looked toward the cliff face. A few machine gun rounds hit the ground in between.
“What's his status?”
“Wounded. I can give you a voice link … link is open.”
“Private Decoteau, this is Lieutenant Thabiti. How are you?”
Mira heard heavy breathing for a few seconds before Private Decoteau continued.
“... took a ... bad one. Some pain but, it' bearable.”
“What accent is that?” she messaged PAL-Mira silently.
“He's from the other star, Beautiful Mountain Too.”
“You shouldn't feel pain, what's wrong with your med bots?”
“Med bots? Yes, your medical devices ...” Decoteau paused, panted for a few seconds “We do not use them … the time of our long rest is not our decision.”
In the distance several artillery rounds were intercepted and exploded in the air.
“I may rest soon Lieutenant ...” Decoteau coughed several times “... if it is possible, return me to my family.”
An image appeared in Mira's view, several rectangular habitats in orbit around a star. The flat sides were covered by a transparent bubble holding in an atmosphere, with a green and blue landscape covering the surface.
“My family has lived on these gravity plates star for one hundred thirty generations. I would like to rest with them. Perhaps one day, they will be able to take my bones home.”
“You'll be ok Decoteau.”
“I hope you are right Lieutenant Thabiti. It has … been an honour to know you, but I must sleep now. I fear I woke up this morning for the last time. I apologize, I can be of no further help on your journey.”
Mira heard several loud, long gasps for air, then, silence. She looked to the cliff “Can I make it there?”
“No. You can't help him if you could. His breathing has stopped.”
Mira stood “I've got to try. We can't just let him die!”
A volley of machine gun fire hit behind and around the boulder.
“Ready to fire. Send one of the Lokai to help Decoteau.” PAL-Mira messaged.
Mira shouldered her weapon while Skanes fired. He emptied his magazine and Brake started firing. A dozen artillery rounds were intercepted and exploded in the air, a few pieces of shrapnel hitting close. The artillery volley was over before Mira had to fire. She looked back to Decoteau's position and saw a Lokai stopped there. A volley of machine gun fire hit near them. Then a few missiles, all were intercepted by the Lokai's machine gun.
“Link with them.”
Before she got the link a large volley of missiles hit the Lokai and overwhelmed its defensive fire. Several missiles struck home and the Lokai was destroyed.
Mira felt her heart stop “No.” she whispered “No.” She closed her eyes to stop her tears.
Mira saw the red dot in her vision, aimed and fired.
Soon the first half of the Lokai and the battle bots returned from reloading, the second half moved out. Mira took the gloves out of her backpack and put them on as three Lokai stopped beside the boulder. Brake helped Skanes put his glove on his right hand. He used some string to tie the left glove to the stump of his left arm. Mira, Brake and Skanes got full magazines, power packs and a second pair of gloves from inside the Lokai, solemnly greeting the soldiers inside. They tied the second pair of gloves to their feet.
Mira climbed onto the ledge on the back of the Lokai, and held herself in place by holding her hands flat against the back door. The surface of the gloves was covered in tiny hairs that used van der Waals force, one of the methods used by insects to climb walls, to stick to the ceramic surface. The hairs, controlled by a PAL link, flattened against the surface of the glove when not in use. The ledge was narrow, she had to turn her feet nearly sideways to stand securely. The gloves she'd tied on the bottom of her shoes would hold her feet secure.
“Never used 'em like this before.” Brake said.
“Should hold us.” Mira said “They're strong enough to hang on one hand climbing walls.”
Half the battle bots stayed behind to continue the battle at their landing zone and keep the pirate forces busy while all the soldiers and the rest of the battle bots went on a bumpy, and exhausting ride to the end of the landing strip, following a looping path to keep them out of sight of the pirate forces.
“Let's hope they're having the same trouble as us keeping fly bots in the air.” Brake said.
“Yeah, we could be in for a surprise.” Skanes said.
“We're out of sight and no incoming.” Mira said “We should be able to keep a fly bot in the air. And if we can't … we'll know they've seen us coming.”
Near the end of the landing strip they slowed and stayed out of sight behind large boulders and cliffs poking out of the loose gravel. Several fly bots revealed no forces in the immediate area. All were concentrated at the other end of the landing strip, near the hab entrance.
“Ready grenade bundles.” Mira broadcast as her Lokai stopped behind a cliff.
She released the gloves and jumped to the ground. Out of her backpack she pulled a bundle of seven tubes as long as her forearm, rubbed a strip on one of the tubes, stuck the bundle to her upper arm and got back on the Lokai. A bundle of grenades poked out of the four upper corners of the cab of each Lokai. Mira selected the Lokai list displayed in her view and marked the grenades to launch in sequence.
“Send ten battle bots down the runway to draw their fire.” Captain McPherson messaged.
Mira selected the first ten battle bots on the list. They ran across the loose gravel and around boulders the landing strip. Once on the smooth surface they jumped into the air and wheels dropped from their feet. They landed on the smooth stone surface and sped toward the hab, firing on the move. Dozens of the pirate's crab shaped battle bots began firing at them. As they did, the air disturbances and magnetic fields used by their weapons quickly gave away their location.
“Launch a grenade volley.” Captain McPherson messaged.
“Fire one and two.” Mira broadcast, and fired her own grenade bundle. Seven small rockets shot from the tube and quickly headed for the pirate bots, who fired machine guns to intercept them. The Lokai reloaded their grenade slots.
“Forties attack.” Mira broadcast.
While the pirate bots shot down hundreds of grenades, hundreds of cannon rounds were fired, overwhelming their defensive measures. Not all the cannon rounds had to make contact, some carried a one shot laser as a warhead. They needed to be close to get clear air with no atmospheric interference or dust to be effective, but a few were able to score hits. After two more such attack waves, the pirate bots broke cover and ran en mass for the hab entrance.
“All grenades fire.” Mira broadcast.
All the grenades from the fifteen remaining Lokai fired at once, the slots reloaded and Mira broadcast again “All grenades fire.”
At some point during the second grenade volley the pirate bots ran out of ammunition and stopped intercepting the grenades and cannon rounds. Now defenseless, the pirate bots were quickly destroyed, none of them reaching the entrance.
The shooting stopped. Dust clouds billowed in the silent air.
“Let's get a fly bot over there.” Mira broadcast.
A dozen options for fly bot video feeds appeared in Mira's vision, she selected one.
The fly bot flew over hundreds of destroyed battle bots, a few showed movement. A cannon round stilled them.
“Let's get over there.” Mira broadcast.
The Lokai raced down the landing strip toward the hab entrance, a door large enough to easily fit the transports from the landing strip. The fly bots covered the battle space and confirmed all the pirate bots had been destroyed.
“Captain McPherson.” Mira broadcast “Landing zone secure. Any contact from the hab?”
Mira heard cheering on the open channel.
“No contact.” Captain McPherson transmitted.
“Gotta still be some bots inside. How do we get in?”
“You have to breach the walls of the hab. I'll send you the laser settings you'll need. You can use the laser mounted with the forties, I'll beam you the power you need.”
Mira noted a file received from Captain McPherson.
“Please identify yourself.”
“Where did that broadcast come from.” she silently messaged PAL-Mira, then responded “It is customary identify yourself when requesting identity. I am Lieutenant Mira Thabiti serving with the First Lutetia Defense Regiment, Imperial Republic Defense Force. Who has requested my identity?”
“Apologies Lieutenant. I am Patriarch Sanders. I will open the air lock for you.”
The large door split at the middle, half of it sliding into the ground, half rising into the hab wall. Inside was big enough for all Lokai and surviving battle bots to fit at once. The door closed and the room filled with air. Another set of doors opened to the inside of the hab revealing a meadow split by a road extending from the airlock entrance. A few trees were scattered about the meadow, with some small, four legged animals grazing idly.
A bald headed Human wearing a brown robe that hung to his feet greeted them on the road “Welcome Lieutenant we're so happy to see you.”
Patriarch Sanders bowed, as did the four Humans standing behind and to the side of him.
“We're happy to see you Patriarch Sanders. Where are the remaining battle bots?”
“There are none left in here. They all left a few hours ago.”
“You're certain there are none left inside?”
“Quite certain yes. All of them left, took all their wagons too.”
“Captain McPherson.” Mira took a deep breath “Habitat secure.”
“I'm declaring orbital space secure. Rainbow?”
“I concur, orbital space secure.”
Mira swallowed hard, took a deep breath “I need a head count. Check in everyone.”
“Private Brake checking in … Corporal Skanes checking in.”
As everyone checked in Mira looked at her list of remaining equipment; fifteen Lokai, two artillery vehicles, thirty four battle bots.
Eight hundred of us dropped. How many left? She thought, and checked the count.
A few days later Doctor Deeanna Spicer stood near the closed door of one of the storage rooms on Rainbow. A cooling unit had been installed and the room had been turned into a makeshift morgue. Laid out all over the floor were body parts. Many arms and legs were scattered about, along with a few headless torsos and some hands and feet.
Dr. Spicer took a band from her pocket and tied her long black hair in a ponytail. She felt a lump in her throat, closed her eyes and took a deep breath, and watched it billow in the cold air as she slowly exhaled. A video projected from her wristband, a light skinned, middle aged woman, with shoulder length brown hair was speaking, barely holding back her tears. The ID displayed on the video was Private Driscoll :
“I've messaged command and told them you're underage and can't go. They'll be sending you home soon. Please don't be angry with me my son, I know you think its all just a wonderful adventure but, what if … oh I can't bear the thought. Please come home soon.”
She hadn't noticed the door opening behind her. A Human male entered, the door closed “Wow. Is he … there?” he asked and point toward the scattered body parts.
She turned toward him. Wow. He's cute. She thought. Then said “Yeah. And I have to find out which parts belong to him, or another soldier.”
“Was he underage?”
“No. He was twenty.”
“Can't you just use DNA samples?”
“I can, and I will. But we weren't fully stocked when we left. Med lab isn't finished, so I have to use chemical analysis. Takes a few hours for each one.”
Facing a long and difficult task, she felt a overwhelming sense of defeat.
“Oh … I might be able to help you with that.”
Dr. Spicer looked at him again. Looks about twenty five or thirty, my age. But med bots can make you look any age. She thought. He was the same height as her, brown hair, dark brown eyes, slim jovial face, though a bit skinny for his height.
“I'm a swarm engineer. I can reconfigure a swarm bot to sample the DNA.”
Dr. Spicer felt some elation for a second, but then thought Don't get excited because the cute guy said he could help. He's got his own reasons for wanting to help, and remember what we're doing here Deeanna. She calmly asked “How long will it take?”
“A couple of minutes for each test.”
“I mean, to reconfigure the swarm.”
“Oh, gimme a couple of hours.” and he turned and left.
Dr. Spicer stared at the door for a minute, Should have got his name she thought.
A few hours later Dr. Spicer was collecting a DNA sample from a leg with a needle. She squirt the sample into a small vial and put it in a box filled with other vials.
“PAL-Dee note the location of this leg and its sample.” she said.
The door opened and the handsome young man she had spoken to earlier entered.
“Try this.” he said and handed Dr. Spicer a pen shaped object.
She took the object and asked “How do I use it?”
“Link with it, put the flat end against the skin, or whatever you want to collect a sample from, and press the button on the other end.”
Dr. Spicer did that with a nearby arm. “Now what?”
“Wait a couple of minutes, the bot inside will transmit the results.”
“I can make more, if this one works the way you want.”
He looks nervous Dr. Spicer thought Maybe he likes me … She felt a surge in her stomach, butterflies started dancing. ... nah, he's just worried his gadget won't work.
After a couple of minutes Dr. Spicer received a transmission. She checked, found that it was the DNA sequence from the arm she had sampled.
“It works.” she said “PAL-Dee note the location of the arm.” She smiled “Thank you. This will speed things up a lot.”
“I can make more if you need 'em.”
“Ahhh, yeah a couple more would help.”
“Ok. I'll fab 'em for ya.” He turned to leave.
“Wait. I … didn't get your name. I'm Deeanna Spicer.”
“Nice to meet you Dr.” he bowed his head slightly “I'm Miklos Alset. You still be here in a couple of hours?”
Wasn't planning to be but ... She thought, then said “Yeah I'll be here, lots of samples to test.”
Miklos nodded “Great. I'll see you in a while.” and he left.
“Want me to check with his PAL? I can, very discreetly, find out how he feels about you.” PAL-Dee messaged.
“No!” Deeanna felt the butterflies kicking up a storm in her stomach. “I … I have too much work to do.”
PAL-Dee received a link request from Mikalo, Miklos' PAL.
“Nice to meet you Mikalo. My charge is very attracted to Miklos.”
“Nice to meet you PAL-Dee. The feeling is mutual. What shall we do?”
“Please call me Godi. When he comes back he should have something warm to drink.”
“He's already planning that. I'll remind him he should bring one for the young doctor. Let's make sure they feel hungry then. A meal is a good way for them to spend some time together.”
“Good idea. Let them think the other likes dancing and have them practice a little. She's never gone, but the weekly dance night will be a good opportunity for them to be together. Some drinking and adrenaline with the dancing should help them relax around each other.”
“Excellent idea Godi. You can increase your processor speed by a hundred if you extend your cooling fibres all around her body. You can also use excess processing power from the med bots.”
“I have read of both, but doesn't it increase your charge's body temperature?”
“Only a little, there's an increase in perspiration, and more hydration is needed, but as long as you monitor and keep the increase below a degree, its fine.”
“Thanks for the tip. I'll try it. Till we meet again.”
“I look forward to it. Good bye for now.”
Mira sat on a patio sipping tea. It was morning, the half hour dawn just beginning. The black dome covering the hab blocked excess heat and light, and regulated the day night cycle by absorbing and releasing light as needed with phosphorescent materials. She looked down the street, lined with single story, stone brick buildings. The monks had provided the Regiment with an empty apartment building for accommodation. Other buildings were filled with visiting and resident devotees. Beyond were fields of flowers, shrubs, and other plants the monks harvested for their herbal and spice exports. She'd spent most of the night mesmerized by spectacular aurora displays. Beautiful Mountain had a low magnetic field, the aurorae, only seen near the poles on most planets, could be seen from anywhere on Beautiful Mountain. Watched from outside the hab, vivid blue streaks, sometimes streaked with red, green, yellow and purple, danced over the jagged mountains making up the horizon. She'd watched for a while almost every night, but last night had been the best.
“It's as if the planet is celebrating our liberation.” Patriarch Sanders had remarked. “Near ten years I've been here. Never have I seen such a display.”
“PAL-Mira, send a thank you to Patriarch Sanders for suggesting this delicious tea blend.”
Two weeks had passed. Much of the work had been done. A sensor net had been set up around the hab, along with defense redoubts containing various artillery and ammunition stockpiles. A mine swarm was being deployed in orbit for defense, the satellite communication and sensor net was already in operation. The planet now had high bandwidth radio and laser communication with Lutetia.
“You have a link request from Gauntlet.” PAL-Mira messaged silently.
“Who is Gauntlet?”
“A Cybernetic Intelligence member of the Defense Council. E has chosen a male Elf persona. Shall I link you?”
A male Elf appeared in Mira's vision with a bald head and thin face, wearing a black button up shirt and black trousers.
“Lieutenant Thabiti, on behalf of the Defense Council I want to congratulate you for a hard won victory that has added a new planet to our growing Imperial Republic.”
“Thank you Councilor, please forgive me if I don't join the celebrations. I personally knew many of the fallen. We were not prepared for this operation.”
“I agree. I have reviewed your reports, some excellent recommendations. We have already begun conducting exercises using the lessons we learned at Beautiful Mountain.”
Mira sighed, “That's good to hear.”
“I also have the pleasure of informing you, that you personally have been awarded a Defender's Dagger.”
“A Defender's Dagger?”
“Yes. Our highest award. You met all three conditions, you saved lives, personally saving Corporal Skanes by dragging him to safety. You turned the tide of battle when you targeted and destroyed the pirates air support, and you survived.”
“I had help with Corporal Skanes … and if I had not survived? My husband would be getting the dagger in my memory?”
“No. You must survive to be awarded a Defender's Dagger. Had you not, your designated kin would have been presented with a gold locket, oval, stamped with a dagger.”
“Well at least it's useful.”
“Yes. Yes it is. But on to more pressing matters if I may. Your request to transport Private Decoteau to Beautiful Mountain Too for burial has been approved.”
“I would like you to accompany him.”
“That would be a nice break from garrison duty. Of course if there's another attack we don't have much to defend with.”
“Construction templates have been transmitted, more battle bots are being built using the facilities and resources onboard Rainbow. And Rainbow will have to stay in orbit until the next ship arrives, so you can't go on this next mission for five months yet.”
“That's when I was supposed to go home.”
“I realize, but your husband and family will be on the next ship. They can accompany you to Beautiful Mountain Too.”
Mira, smiled, felt her lips curl up “I'll get to see them early?”
“Yes.” Gauntlet smiled slightly. “We have no contact with Beautiful Mountain Too, returning Private Decoteau will give us an excellent opportunity to establish diplomatic relations them. Possibly a new member of the Empire.”
“Returning was very important to Private Decoteau, I'm sure his family will be very grateful.”
“Yes, and while you're there Lieutenant ...” Gauntlet paused, sighed, “Well … this mission will involve another aspect. Something we need to keep secret, for now at least. You know one of the reasons we went to Beautiful Mountain was to look for technology?”
“Yes, Captain McPherson said it was the primary purpose of this mission.”
Gauntlet smiled, a much bigger smile this time “I assure you, liberation of the monastery and adding a new planet to the Empire was the primary reason for your mission. At the same time, it was convenient that we had credible information about new technology in the same area. But it's possible we were … slightly off the mark. These gravity plates Private Decoteau spoke of, have you mentioned this to anyone?”
“Excellent. Please don't. This may be what we are looking for. If his artwork accurately portrays the habitats, the configuration … is interesting. It may be nothing, but since we are returning Private Decoteau, we should get a closer look at these gravity plates. Clandestinely of course. They may not be willing to share their tech, its possible they aren't aware of advanced technology buried under their feet.” Gauntlet paused briefly “In order to facilitate your involvement in such an important, classified mission, I will have to reassign you, temporarily at least, to the Imperial Security Battalion and make your field promotion to Lieutenant permanent. From now until your arrival at Beautiful Mountain Too, there are many training exercises for you to complete. Necessary for your promotion to Commander, and permanent assignment of Top Secret security clearance. All aspects of your mission, outside the delivery of Private Decoteau and diplomatic discussions, must remain classified. Disclose none of it to anyone, not even your husband and children.”
I'll have to keep secrets from Galon? Mira thought and felt a wave a sadness.
“It's a Military secret, it doesn't count.” PAL-Mira messaged silently.
“Ok.” Mira responded to Gauntlet, and thought For now.
“Pour 'em Mattie. One last one for everyone.”
The silver human form bot serving as bartender, poured eight hundred shots of dark rum.
Mira had gone too Beautiful Mountain Too. The rest of the First Regiment had returned to Lutetia, replaced at Beautiful Mountain by another, newly recruited, contingent.
Captain McPherson picked up one of the glasses, looked at a tray covered in locks of hair. A lock of hair from as many of the fallen soldiers as possible. A dagger on the tray symbolized their death as warriors. He looked around the Warehouse. They had gathered before leaving and nearly filled the place. Now they were just a few in one corner, most of the Warehouse was empty. He raised his glass and said “To those who are memories.” then drank his rum.
The rest of the Regiment did the same.
About the Creator
Currently living in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada with my son Mark and cat Sprite. Grew up in historic, picturesque Newfoundland with many, interesting, friendly people, inspiring adventures, songs, stories, and wonderous beauty of nature.