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Vengeance and Secrets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2016 by John Ronald

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, business establishments, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

First edition 2016

 

ISBN-13: 978-1534914834

ISBN-10: 1534914838

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Epilogue

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Badiah stepped out the small craft into the shuttle bay. He was coated in the steel grey dust of planet Dolriethia. The fine particles covered his black hair so completely it looked naturally greyed by age. His shoulders were hunched and his bloodshot eyes looked downward. The dust on his neck became black where it mixed with his sweat. It was more thickly encrusted around his chin and lower cheeks as it stuck to two days of beard. The airflow of the shuttle bay disturbed the dry dust on his black uniform. Light wisps floated off him like steam off a hot surface.

Two men approached him. They wore the same black special operations uniform. As they came closer, Badiah saw the taller one had a deep scar on his left cheek.

The tall heavily set man wearing the two stars of a lieutenant waved off the small vessel’s crew. “Thank you for your assistance. You have consent to depart once you are capable.”

Badiah straighten up and saluted. “Sergeant Badiah, Sir. Two hundred and fifty fifth special operations regiment.”

The lieutenant returned the salute. “Lieutenant Samuels, two hundred and first.” Lieutenant Samuels gestured to the man on his right. The man had short frayed hair. His boyish face sported a grin. “This is Sergeant Caleb, my second in command.”

“Hey there,” said Caleb. “You’ve had a busy time.”

“Sergeant. Notwithstanding your condition, I would prefer to conduct your debriefing immediately, if you are able. Unless you require crucial medical treatment?” said Lieutenant Samuels.

“Yes, Sir. I can make a report.”

Lieutenant Samuels turned to Caleb. “Assist the sergeant in finding replacement attire. I assume he shall also require rehydration. I shall confirm the serviceability of the interview room.”

Lieutenant Samuels left the two men.

“Let’s go.” Caleb gave Badiah a pat on the shoulder. “How do you like it?” Caleb waved his hand around as they crossed the shuttle bay.

“I’m sorry?”

“This one, the Endeavour and her sister ship, the Harbinger.”

“Yes, I noticed them as the civilians were flying me in. Aren’t these cruisers?” Badiah looked around the shuttle bay as they walked. He guessed there were at least three dozen crew members working on shuttles or other equipment. “And yes, it’s the largest and busiest shuttle bay I’ve ever seen on a ship.”

“Yep, the biggest class left in the navy and some of the very last ones left flying. You know, guys with our rank get their own quarters on these babies?”

“Really?” I would really like to be alone for a while, Badiah thought.

“Really.”

It was certainly the largest ship Badiah had ever been on. They walked through the corridors for a full five minutes before Caleb found the changing room. Caleb showed Badiah in. “Make yourself pretty. I’ll be right back.”

Badiah removed the top of his uniform. He placed it on a counter. Then he found some soap on the rim of a basin and started to clean up.

“Here we go.” Caleb returned. “Lucky for me, my wife always packs extra clothes. And lucky for you, we’re the same size.”

He handed Badiah a white t-shirt and a pair of long fawn pants together with a change of underwear.

“Thanks.” Badiah removed everything and washed up completely. “I’ll try not to keep the lieutenant waiting.”

“Don’t mind Old Brentiah too much. He don’t always bite as hard as he barks.”

“Why’d you call him that?”

“He’s from Brentiah. It’s in a system that’s just south of the galactic core. Have you ever met a Brentian?”

“No.”

Caleb leant closer and spoke in a mock whisper. “Sex is illegal on their planet. Men and women aren’t even allowed to touch. Not even wives and husbands.”

Badiah gave Caleb a look, then kept dressing himself.

“Honest story man.” Caleb spread his arms. “All babies are made with artificial insemination. It’s their cultural thing.”

“Where’re you from?”

“Oh me. I’m a rich kid from the Sierra star systems, far west of the core. And you? Where’re you from?”

“What are you doing?”

Caleb removed Badiah’s disheveled uniformed from the counter. He rolled it up and placed it in a clear plastic bag. “The lieutenant just likes the rules man. That’s all.” Caleb removed a piece of red tape from his pocket. He sealed the bag’s opening.

“Isn’t that an evidence bag?”

“Just procedure.” Caleb waved a hand. “Old Brentiah loves procedure. That’s all.”

“I’m ready. Let’s go.”

 

 

 

Badiah watched Caleb push the button which opened a heavy blast door. As the steel door ground upwards it revealed a staircase descending into a dark corridor.

“It’s down here,” said Caleb.

Badiah stood still. Are these rooms holding cells?

“Come on man. It’s not the brig or a torture chamber. So relax, okay.”

There was a click. One by one, dull lights came on.

Badiah followed him down the stairs. “Are you sure he wants me debriefed down here?”

“The lieutenant is just a real stickler for the rules. He made the technicians get an interview room and its recording systems working when we first came aboard.”

Caleb touched a door’s control panel. The door opened with a strained whining noise. Caleb had to assist it along with his hand. “Hang out a bit. I’ll be back with something you’ll like.”

Badiah entered the room and found the light switch. He coughed and waved his hand about.

Caleb spoke as he walked back up the stairs. “Yes, the dust is so thick, I don’t know if I should breathe the air or if I’m supposed to eat it. Maybe you should park it on the far side of the table. That way you can smile for the camera.”

“Okay.” What the hell are they going to do with me? thought Badiah.

Badiah moved around the table and sat on a metal chair.

In the corner of the ceiling the red power light of a camera flickered on and off. Overlooking the table was an official propaganda poster. It displayed an oversized eagle nestling a family beneath its wing. It had the words: THE CONFEDERACY across the top and: WE SPEAK FOR HUMANITY emblazoned across the bottom of it. Another poster informed citizens that any portable media device had to have a display screen which measured at least ten inches across. It stated: Any persons found operating undersized media devices will be prosecuted under section 37/2001 – use or possession of addictive media.

“Thinking of buying some hot media. I know all the right fences.” Caleb reappeared at the door.

“No, I was just looking.”

“Relax. I’m just kidding. Try a little of old faithful. I’m sure you’re still parched.” Caleb held out a plastic bottle containing a bright orange glucose and electrolyte drink all soldiers were familiar with.

“Thanks.” In the dim room the vivid liquid almost shone like a weak neon light. Badiah chugged it down as he raised the bottle.

“Do you require anything else Sergeant?” Lieutenant Samuels appeared in the doorway.

“No, Sir. I’m ready.” Badiah stood.

Lieutenant Samuels gestured for him to stay seated. He handed Caleb an electronic tablet and kept one.

Badiah felt his heart begin to race. “Lieutenant, am I going to be charged with something?”

Lieutenant Samuels made no reaction. After several seconds of silence he spoke, “I am gratified that you have agreed to this debriefing in the ephemeral period since your ordeal. Once we have concluded, Sergeant Caleb shall arrange a full meal and any further medical assistance you may require.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

Lieutenant Samuels began tapping on the tablet’s screen. “For the record: Rank; name; age; serial number and regiment.”

“Sergeant Badiah, 92904102, twenty four years old. I’m attached to the two hundred and fifty fifth. I’m in my second year with special ops.”

“Clarify an issue Sergeant. If you are twenty four years of age, why does your serial number indicate that you are presently eight years in service?”

“I was recruited at sixteen, out of an orphanage. It was a special program.”

“I comprehend. Have you ever been convicted of or investigated for practicing religion?”

“No, Sir. Never.”

“Nah, our man here ain’t a nut,” said Caleb.

“Thank you, Sergeant Caleb.” Lieutenant Samuels did not take his eyes off Badiah. “Sergeant, for what period have you occupied your current post and rank?”

“Less than a month, Sir. I was given command of the squad when I was promoted.”

“The civilians who rescued you transmitted a concise report to us. In the version of events you recounted to them, you stated that all members of your squad have been ‘lost’?”

“Whoa,” said Caleb. “Tough turn man. You just get bumped up and then this happens.”

“Wait.” Badiah held a hand up to Caleb. “Lieutenant, what do you mean by ‘my version of events’?”

“It is palpable that you have suffered shock, Sergeant. Therefore, we have undertaken this debriefing to assist to you to examine and appraise your recollections.”

“Sir.” Badiah opened his arms. “I just want to make my after action report like always. Everything I’m saying is the truth.” What the hell is wrong with him? thought Badiah.

“I appreciated that, Sergeant. In addition to these proceedings, I shall inform you of my deployment of two squads to the surface of Dolriethia. The entirety of their discoveries shall be used to either validate or refute your account.”

“Hey, everything’s cool man,” said Caleb. “Well, everything except this room.”

Badiah moved a finger around his collar. Lieutenant Samuels seemed oblivious to the stifling room.

“Sergeant, we shall proceed from the beginning. For what purpose was your squad dispatched to Dolriethia?”

“We received orders while still stationed at special ops command. Command said there was an uprising by miners. They said we were the closest unit that could undertake a policing action.”

“By what vessel were you conveyed to Dolriethia?”

“A civilian vessel was chartered to drop us off. It left us as soon as we were planet side.”

“Let me take a stab.” Caleb jabbed his finger like an imaginary knife. “Navy not available again?”

“That is not the subject before us,” said Lieutenant Samuels. “Sergeant, when and where did you encounter your contact on Dolriethia?”

“He was not at the rendezvous point. We proceeded to the mining site using info from our intelligence briefing.”

Lieutenant Samuels stroked his chin. “You continued your mission unsighted, without confirmation of indigenous circumstances?”

Badiah looked to Caleb and then back to Lieutenant Samuels. “As I said Sir, it was basically just a police action. Command wanted us to put a protest down before anyone got ideas.”

“But, someone did obtain ‘ideas’. In point of fact, they acquired sufficient ‘ideas’ as to encourage the ambush of a special operations team.”

“Yes Sir. With hindsight, it’s clear-”

“Sergeant, describe the manner in which you led the assault on the mining operation.”

Badiah rubbed his eyes. Caleb, how the hell do you live with this man? He doesn’t listen to a word I’m saying.

“Badiah, just answer the lieutenant’s question man.”

“I never led any assault, Sir. My squad hiked to the site. When we found no one we began to search the area. That’s when the attack happened.”

Lieutenant Samuels exchanged looks with Caleb. “We shall explore the origin of your squad’s casualties.”

“What are you accusing me of?”

“I am posing questions Sergeant, not accusations. Please describe the conditions at the outpost and the manner of attack your squad suffered.”

“It was dark. All the support buildings were deserted, not a sound.” Badiah fought against a lump in his throat as tried to speak. “Then we moved into the actual mining area. Um…flat, hard ground, with these…open pits filled with slime. I was telling…I was telling D…, one of my squad to watch his footing when the first shots were fired. Um…D…the point man was hit first. Then, more fire came in, multiple directions. All from concealed positions.”

“Are you capable of describing your attackers?”

“No, Sir.”

“Your entire squad is eliminated by unidentified assailants. You then escape unaccompanied and unscathed and your attackers make no attempt at pursuit?”

“Are you saying I’m a coward? I deserted my men?”

“Negative Sergeant. I am attempting to conduct an after action debriefing. I require information. Please describe the method of attack in more detail. The nature of weaponry employed, approximate duration of the attack, approximate number of attackers, that is what we are attempting to ascertain.”

“I know they used plasma weapons. There were at least two dozen of them by the amount of fire we took.”

“Plasma weapons,” said Caleb. “No kidding.”

“Sergeant,” asked Lieutenant Samuels. “By what indications do you conclude it was ‘plasma weapons’?”

“White hot energy charges…they…when the charges struck my men…you’re not going to find any bodies.” Badiah shook his head and then continued more forcefully, “Between them, the bastards, they fired at least a hundred charges at us.”

“Do you remain certain?”

Badiah stood up and pounded the table. “What in the name of blood, hell and the lost damn Earth are you accusing me of? What the hell do you want from me?”

“Hey. Easy man. Don’t overheat.” Caleb stood up and reached for Badiah.

“Sergeant.” Lieutenant Samuels stood up and switched off his tablet. “I shall make an exception in your instance.”

“Wait. Sir, I’m-”

“You obviously remain traumatized. We can conclude these proceedings at a forthcoming junction.”

“Please, Sir.”

“I am not an unreasonable man. But, I do expect we shall appreciate more progress once you have fully recovered. In the interim…” Lieutenant Samuels held a hand up to prevent Badiah from speaking again. “Sergeant Caleb shall escort you to the infirmary. Subsequent to medical opinion, you may remain in service attached to my company.”

Lieutenant Samuels tucked his tablet under his arm and left the room.

Badiah walked around the table intent on following and pleading with him.

Caleb put an arm across his chest before he got the chance. “No, let him go.”

Badiah turned around. He picked up an object off a metal desk in the corner.

“Go ahead man. Smash it,” said Caleb.

Badiah put the object down. “He’s going to have me charged, isn’t he?”

“Do really think he would slip you in with his own guys, if he was going to send you down?”

“Dammit Caleb. He’s the most miserable bastard I’ve ever met in my life. Don’t you hear the way he talks?”

“I told you. He’s a Brentian. That’s how his people talk.”

“Caleb. Everything’s gone stupid. I feel like the whole damn galaxy is standing on my chest. I’ve lost…”

Caleb put a hand on Badiah’s shoulder. “You’ve just been through a lot. You’re not thinking straight. Now, let’s get you to the sick bay before my next job opportunity involves carrying you. You don’t look like you’ll be walking for much longer.”

 

 

Badiah sat up on the examination table and began re-buttoning his shirt. “Thank you, doctor.”

The doctor moved away to attend other patients. An officer in a white naval uniform appeared in the doorway to the medical bay. The man was in his late fifties or early sixty’s by Badiah’s reckoning. On each shoulder his black epaulettes were cut with the four gold stripes of a captain’s rank. The captain wore a short beard. His beard had greyed so much it was completely white to a point where it matched the white of his uniform. He removed his captain’s cap and placed it under his arm.

“You must be Sergeant Badiah. I am Captain Kincaid.”

“Yes, Sir.” Badiah stood and saluted.

“Welcome aboard, Sergeant.” Captain Kincaid returned the salute with a smile. “Your army colleagues tell me that you’ve been through blood, hell and crap. And then you got flushed through the crapper again.”

“Yes, Sir. My squad took casualties on Dolriethia. I’m the only one left.”

“I spoke with your Lieutenant Samuels on my way over. His squads are back from the surface.”

“Did they find anything Sir?”

“The lieutenant said you remarked something about there being no bodies to find. It looks like you weren’t feeding the lieutenant a line of crap.”

“Yes, Sir. Plasma weapons.”

“Well dammit eh. Look. I can give you one piece of news worth a good damn. My ship and her sister ship the Harbinger, we’re going after them.”

“Who is them, Sir?”

“Some of the local trading vessels we questioned said they caught sight of and took directional readings of an unregistered vessel leaving the system. They said it was a large bugger. At least the size of a destroyer. They must be the same bastards who ambushed your men and took everyone at the mining outpost.”

“I’m sorry Sir. What do mean they ‘took everyone’?”

“Every stuffing one of the miners are missing. The lieutenant told me his squads combed through everything and found no one. They took every last damn person.”

“The readings you mentions, Sir. Which direction are they headed?”

“Bit odd that. But, it looks like they’re headed to or are passing close to the sector capital-”

“Globia, Sir. I remember the name from our intelligence briefing on this sector.”

“That’s right.” Captain Kincaid nodded. “Well Sergeant. Count yourself damn lucky you found your way to us. I can’t say I envy the poor sods in the hands of some bloody pirates, or worse.”

“Yes Sir. I agree.”

“Have that Caleb fellow dig you out some quarters.” Captain Kincaid turned to leave but, stopped. “You know something, if your squad came under such damn heavy fire, it could be those bloody regulars the broadcast networks keep talking about.”

“Regulars. Well Sir, I suppose now we get to sort fact from fiction about them.”

“Look, I’ve been stuck in this crap game for over thirty years. We’ve always had some bloody group or another committing terrorist acts over some damn thing or another. Or some bunch of pirates attacking some damn poor group of isolated buggers. But, the last few years, these regulars…” Captain Kincaid shook his head.

“That’s what the older members in special ops keep telling us. The first time any group of rebels has been so organized and actually in control of territories. They tell us there hasn’t been anything like it in living memory.”

“Yes.” Captain Kincaid mulled it over for a few seconds. “But, it would be the first time these bastards brought their troubles west of the galactic core.”

“Yes Sir.” What in blood and hell is going on? thought Badiah, and how the hell did I get stuck right in the middle of it?

“I can do you one favor and promise you this. If anything develops, I will call you and your lieutenant, and even that Caleb fellow to the bridge. First thing, I promise. You can see developments first hand then. In the meantime, you just take care of yourself young man.” Captain Kincaid nodded once and left the medical bay.

“Thank you, Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

Badiah’s face looked sullen as he raised the rifle to his shoulder. He put his cheek to the butt as he took aim. He fired a single shot. Then he placed it down on the counter.

He stood alone to one side of the Endeavour’s shooting range. A group of four special operations soldiers were enjoying each other’s company, comparing skills and taking turns at target practice. Badiah remained silent, engrossed in the replacement assault rifle he had been issued with. Badiah pulled back on the bolt carrier assembly. He removed it to inspect the weapon’s action before he slid it back in. He loaded a full magazine and placed his cheek to the butt again.

He fired at his target in single-shot mode only, unlike the others special operators who let off long bursts of automatic fire, followed by loud yells of approval.

“Are you two making friends?” Caleb stood a few meters behind him with a grin on his face.

“It’s good, thanks.”

The four other special operators stopped and acknowledged Caleb.

“We’ll duck out. If you want, Sarge,” said one of them.

“Thanks.” Caleb jabbed a thumb at the door.

The four soldiers shuffled out.

Badiah placed the rifle down in front of him.

“Look,” said Caleb. “I don’t claim to know what you’re going through or how it must be eating you. But, we’re in the field here.”

“I am feeling better.”

“I’m glad. Because those guys there.” Caleb pointed to where the four special operators were standing. “They can see your rank. But before much longer, I don’t think they’re going to-”

“I’ve led men Caleb. I’ve earned my rank.”

“Good. You’re a sergeant, man. Be a sergeant again. Okay. At least in front of the regular grunts. Hey besides, we need the help. It’s just me and Old Brentiah running what’s left of this company.”

“Why’d you say, ‘what’s left of this company’?”

“Sorry man, no time for a story. You better stow your gear away. The captain wants us on the bridge.” Caleb made for the door.

“Caleb.”

Caleb faced Badiah.

“Thank you.”

 

 

 

 

 

Lieutenant Samuels, Badiah and Caleb arrived on the bridge as the Endeavour and Harbinger entered Globia’s system.

It was the biggest bridge Badiah had ever seen. He estimated its size at about a good two hundred square meters. The front and side walls were covered in rectangular display screens. The largest display dominated the forward wall. All around the perimeter of the bridge were working areas manned by small groups of crewmen and petty officers. In the center of the bridge about one third of the way in, sat Captain Kincaid. He had a large brown command chair. It was frayed and torn in half a dozen places, a testament to its long years of service. The captain and his chair were situated on a slightly raised working area where waist level display screens and controls surrounded him.

“The Harbinger is pulling up alongside us,” reported the navigation station.

“Oh.” The captain smiled at his first officer, who returned the smile.

“What are they smiling about?” Badiah asked Lieutenant Samuels and Caleb.

“They share a custom. The crews of the two sister vessels contend with each other at completing basic duties and maneuvers,” Lieutenant Samuels explained.

“Looks like they’re going to see which ship’s crew can complete a basic approach maneuver first,” added Caleb.

“Captain.” The petty officer at the communications station spoke up. “The captain of the Harbinger says they can fly down system and make an orbital approach on Globia before we can.”

“What’s it worth to them?”

“Two cases of carbonated drinks.”

“Ready.” Captain Kincaid held a hand up. He spoke for the benefit of the communications station but, looked straight at the helm station. All crewmen at the helm controls had their heads twisted around as they looked back at the captain. Each one sported a grin.

“Go.” The captain brought his hand down.

“Go.” The signal was relayed to the Harbinger.

The helm crew jumped around. They began their frantic work.

“It’s a routine but, difficult maneuver.” Caleb leant over as he explained to Badiah.

“It’s not my first time in space.” Badiah gave Caleb half a look. “Flying down a star’s system towards the star, it’s like flying an aircraft straight at the ground.”

As they spoke, all crew members onboard could feel the ship’s acceleration. The twin forces of the ship’s engines and the gravity of the star drew the Endeavour along faster and faster.

“Navigation,” enquired the captain.

“We’ve got a slight lead, Captain.”

The Endeavour’s speed kept building. She developed a vibrating rattle that rose steadily.

Taking hold of a railing that wrapped around one of the work stations, Badiah looked at Caleb. “I hope they aren’t breaking any safety rules.”

The captain interrupted. “We don’t break safety rules for competitions…usually.”

The two ships ran parallel for another minute.

“Approaching our point of turn,” announced navigation.

A split second apart, both vessels cut their main thrusters and fired their braking ones.

Badiah had to brace himself as he fought the sensation to fly forward.

Both helm crews of the ships used braking and maneuvering thrusters to reign in the careening vessels. They came around expertly timed so that each ship left its fall and entered a course in line with planet Globia’s orbit.

“Navigation?”

“Slowing to orbital approach speed, Captain.”

Globia appeared on the large viewing screen at the front of the bridge.

“Reading orbital approach point now Sir.”

The petty officer at the communications station waited. One hand on his headset and the other held out. He waited, two seconds, then three.

“Harbinger reports, orbital approach point now.”

A cheer rose up on the Endeavour’s bridge. The captain was clearly happy, yet maintained a more captainly composure. The helm officer who held the maneuvering controls stood up and gave his shipmates a little theatrical bow. All around the bridge, friendly banter ensued regarding who would get a bottle of the hard won prize.

“Ah, it smiles,” said Caleb.

“Yes, best bit of fun I’ve had in a while.” Badiah would not have realized it himself if it was not pointed out.

The captain made a show of clearing his throat. The bridge went back to its regular naval discipline. An intelligence officer approached the captain with an electronic tablet.

“Allow me, Captain.” Badiah stepped up. “I got a briefing on the entire sector before our deployment to Dolriethia.”

“Very well.” Captain Kincaid waved off the intelligence officer.

“Globia, capital world of sector Oscar one twelve.” Badiah pointed to the display screen showing the planet.

Planet Globia was a sickly child. Its continents had a pale green tint. They took up about half the planet’s surface in irregular rounded shapes. Her oceans were an unappealing light blue and her polar caps were so small that they would be hard to notice unless you were looking for them. As the Endeavour rounded her night side, there was almost no artificial lighting.

“Yes, that’s poor and undeveloped alright,” said Captain Kincaid.

“Classified as a young sector, it was terraformed just over one hundred years ago. Globia first, of course.” Badiah’s mind wondered back to the last briefing he shared with his team mates.

“You would bloody think that one hundred years was enough time to name the damn sector.” Captain Kincaid stared at the viewing screen.

“I don’t like the name.” Caleb had something of a sour look on his face. “It sounds like it’s missing a few letters.”

“It’s been bad going from the start,” Badiah continued. “All terraformed worlds have failed to produce sufficient yield to support further colonization. Over half the sector still lives on Globia and over half the planet still lives in Globia City. I suppose they’re bad at naming cities too.”

“What military assets are present?” Lieutenant Samuels asked and it caught the captain’s interest as well.

“No naval assets. No Confederate military presence in over fifty years. There’s only a local planetary militia answering to the regent governor. They do have curatorship of a military arsenal left behind after the regular Confederate forces pulled out.”

“I think we should pay the planetary regent a visit,” said Captain Kincaid.

“We should undertake an inspection of the arsenal too.” Lieutenant Samuels stroked his chin. “It falls within our mandate to procure anything we may require.”

“I agree.” said Captain Kincaid. “And I will add my stamp to the matter if they give you chaps any crap about it.”

Lieutenant Samuels pointed to Caleb. “Sergeant, inspection of the arsenal shall be your duty. Sergeant Badiah, owing to your prior briefing, you shall accompany the captain and I as we call upon the planetary regent.”

“Let’s get to a shuttle.” Captain Kincaid scooped up his cap and tucked it under his arm.

 

 

 

Badiah, Captain Kincaid, Lieutenant Samuels and Caleb stepped out the shuttle as soon as it powered down. It was early morning in Globia City and from the landing pad set on the end of a pier they could see the entire city. The city was home to no more than one hundred thousand. The main city area covered about three or four square kilometers. The original silver colors of the buildings were badly weathered, giving them a rust colored appearance in many places. At most there were no more than a dozen buildings which were ten stories or higher. The buildings of Globia failed at one other task. Behind and through them, Badiah saw a vast shanty town that consisted of hundreds upon hundreds of makeshift shacks. The ramshackle shelters spread out around the back and sides of Globia City. A pall of smoke from open fires drifted around the shacks.

“This system really has failed,” Badiah remarked.

Arriving at the end of the pier, two green staff cars were waiting for them. From the look of the tires and build of the vehicles, they had off road capability.

“Caleb,” said Lieutenant Samuels. “Commandeer that vehicle to the armory and assess the arsenal. Appropriate anything of use or interest.”

“Yes, Sir.” Caleb departed their company.

 

 

 

Driving through the city it was clear to all that virtually every vehicle on Globia was built to have off road capability – typical of a frontier world.

“The damn streets aren’t even half full and this is their bloody morning rush hour,” Captain Kincaid remarked.

The staff car stopped in front of the largest building in Globia City, a tower of fifteen stories. All around the front plaza, almost all plants in the concrete flower beds had died. The dust and dirt which lay around marked this building as being just as poorly kept as the rest of the city.

“The regent is waiting for you.” A woman in late middle age said to the three men as they climbed out the elevator on the top floor.

They entered the regent’s office. It was a very large area, almost ridiculously so. Badiah breathed the air. It was cool and crisp, the product of a high quality air filtration system.

A good twelve paces into the office, the regent stood by the side of his wooden desk. He was a thin balding man in his sixties and dressed in a formal grey suit.

“Ah, good morning gentlemen. I am Regent Governor Arnold.” The regent remained stationary. He made no attempt to approach the three men.

The three of them walked the entire distance to the regent. Each took their turn to shake his hand and introduce themselves.

“Over here.” Governor Arnold pointed to a group of two men and a woman. “We have Chief Roberts, our commissioner of police. Mr. Ponzetski, head of commerce and industry and last but not least, Ms. Sally, director of information and broadcasts.”

The two groups approached each other and made their greetings.

“Bugger,” remarked Captain Kincaid. “It’s a damn big bridge you got on your ship here. Does it take up the entire flipping floor?”

“Mostly.” Governor Arnold’s smile looked a touch forced. “I also use it for all town and sector meetings. It serves quite a few purposes.”

As the two of them got some space aside in the milling conversation, Lieutenant Samuels leant closer to Badiah. “This office presents a substantial variance as opposed to the thoroughfares outside.”

I bet it’s the most luxurious place on all of Globia, thought Badiah, as he looked at the marble ornaments and murals on the walls. Just the regent’s polished wooden desk alone was a rarity anywhere in the Confederacy.

Badiah heard a whisper in his other ear.

“I think Ms. Sally is a fox.”

Badiah turned but, before he could answer, Captain Kincaid strolled away with his hands behind his back.

“Captain,” began the regent. “With your two mighty vessels in orbit, it will be clear to all that the Confederate government has matters well in hand.”

“Perhaps,” answered Captain Kincaid. “But, as I explained on my long range transmission, the vessel that we suspect is connected to the incident on Dolriethia passed through or near your system. So, most likely we will carry on our pursuit as soon as my crew can establish its course.”

Director Sally, a blond haired woman in a white blouse and purple skirt addressed Captain Kincaid. “Captain. For now, all we have announced is that ‘an incident on Dolriethia has occurred which has security implications’. We have not yet reported that all mining personnel on Dolriethia are missing nor have we said anything about-”

“I have made myself clear, Ms. Sally,” interjected Governor Arnold. “We will all bear the stress of this together until the head of regional administration makes a formal announcement.”

“Captain, perhaps you could give just a short quotation on behalf of the navy, an official word for the public record?”

“That will be all, Ms. Sally.”

Mr. Ponzetski, a slightly overweight man in his fifties, who was the only other person in the meeting wearing a suit, stepped forward.

“Regent, I have over one hundred men and women’s families anxious for answers. How much longer are we going to keep these people waiting?”

“We will not add to the confusion. Or give further cause for wild conjecture among the general population.”

Outfitted in the blue uniform of the local police force, Chief Roberts stepped up to Lieutenant Samuels. “Sir, perhaps you could share with us the military’s analysis of the situation. Are we facing terrorism in our sector? Perhaps these new regular forces that-”

“I do not appreciate the use of that term.” Despite his guests, Regent Arnold looked every bit ready to lose his temper. The room descended into an awkward silence.

Chief Roberts broke the silence by addressing the military men.

“Sirs, we only have a dedicated but, small militia and my police officers for defense. Do I need to make preparations?”

Regent Arnold ignored the police chief’s question. “Captain, you have just stated that your vessels are tracking a pirate ship. A pirate ship which has ‘passed’ through our sector? Surely, there is no immediate threat now?”

Badiah looked at the police chief with a frown and then at the governor. “Why don’t you people break open the military arsenal? It can’t hurt anyone if the Police Chief prepares his people.”

“I am obliged to concur.” Lieutenant Samuels faced the regent governor.

“I don’t believe that is necessary. Besides, we haven’t been inside the arsenal since it was sealed.”

“You are the official curators. Do you not perform routine maintenance or conduct inventory assessments?” asked Lieutenant Samuels.

“You know, you could create a few dozen ‘mop and broom’ jobs for the locals,” added Captain Kincaid.

Badiah pointed out a window in the general direction of the shanty town. “It does look like your people could do with a few extra jobs.”

“Our economic situation is in the capable hands of Mister Ponzetski.”

“If I may,” Captain Kincaid spoke up. “Chief Roberts. I assume you have a local network of informants.”

“Of course, Captain.”

“Is there any information they have that could be of any use? Are there any disgruntled groups that may be harboring some bloody trouble makers? Don’t they have a flipping word on whether there was crap brewing on Dolriethia, before this damn mess started?”

“We’ve had our share of malcontents before the Dolriethia incident. For some years, we’ve had disappearances among the population, especially the young. Actually, our missing persons figures are well above the galactic average and definitely there’ve been thefts, mostly raw materials and some-”

Regent Arnold interjected again. “What Chief Roberts is trying to say, is that the events on Dolriethia are the first major incident we have suffered.”

Chief Roberts tried to continue. “Well-”

“Through my administration, I have made it a priority to keep order and discipline in my sector.”

“You know,” said Badiah. “The way you pronounce that word, the way you over-stress the first syllable, you remind me of a house master we had in the orphanage. A real-”

“Sergeant.” Lieutenant Samuels wrapped a hand around Badiah’s shoulder.

“Captain.” Governor Arnold kept his gaze fixed on Badiah. “If you harbor such concerns for our citizenry, perhaps you should allow your crew members some shore leave. The local businesses would greatly benefit from some of your lavish naval salaries that you could spend here.”

“Maybe.”

Facing the captain, the governor added. “In the meantime, I have arranged accommodation at our city’s finest hotel for you and your officers.”

 

 

 

After taking their leave, the three men re-entered the elevator.

“I should thank you, Sergeant,” said Captain Kincaid. “I was about to say something very similar to that crap smear of an excuse for a regent governor. You saved me the bloody trouble.”

The hint wasn’t lost on Lieutenant Samuels.

“Well Sergeant, I feel obliged to permit you a further exception. I believe I may potentially post a personal milestone, at the current rate of progress.”

“That clown won’t be of any help. He’s running his own game,” remarked Badiah.

Before the conversation could continue, the Endeavour’s first officer called over the captain’s transmitter. “Endeavour to Captain Kincaid.”

“Go ahead.”

“We’ve got something on the spectrometer scans. A large ship definitely came through this way.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes Sir. Material drifting in front of the system’s star shows traces of spent fuel.”

“How old?”

“Burnt less than a day ago, according to the wavelength analysis.”

“That’s quite a lucky find.”

“Yes Captain, it must be a large ship, burning her thrusters hard.”

“Does navigation have any idea of where the hell it was going?”

“They plotted several possible courses. The only one that makes sense for a vessel trying to remain hidden is towards the…” The first officer read the name off a tablet. “The Crucible nebula.”

“I think I might have heard of it,” replied Captain Kincaid.

“It’s big and filled with charged particles. If I were being chased, I’d put it between my ship and my pursuer.”

The three men left the elevator and exited the building’s front entrance. “Commander, relay my regrets to the governor, then make ready. I want us to get the hell underway as soon as I’m back.”

“Caleb.” Lieutenant Samuels spoke into his transmitter “What is your current position?”

“We’re still at headquarters. They’re still trying to find the coded keys to the arsenal’s doors.”

“Abandon your search and return to the landing pad. We are departing immediately.”

 

 

 

After meeting up at the landing pad, they made it back to the Endeavour. Before he had taken his seat on the bridge, Captain Kincaid was giving orders. “Navigation, plot us a course out of the system.”

“Yes Sir.”

“Communications, confirm with the Harbinger if they’re ready to depart.” Captain Kincaid paused. His mood changed. He raised a finger to the communications station. “Tell the Captain of the Harbinger, I believe my crew can navigate the gravity fields of this system’s planets and make open space before his can.”

The petty officer on communications relayed the message and waited.

“The captain of the Harbinger says, if you are wrong, it will cost your ship’s galley three gallons of ice cream.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Badiah sat at the desk fixed into the wall of his quarters. It was little more than a large shelf set at waist level. It barely held the built-in key board and Badiah’s electronic tablet. The walls were painted brick red, which made the room seem even more cramped. As Caleb had explained, those with his rank were given their own quarters onboard the ship but, it was never designed that way. His cabin had two bunks and lockers. A narrow door led to an even more confined area with a toilet, hand basin and a deactivated shower, which adjoined another crew cabin containing another two bunks and lockers. The other quarters were unused as were many other places on the ship – something Badiah had come to realize in time. But for Badiah, who had lived most of his life in the dormitory of an orphanage and then in the various barracks of the army, this was just about the most private space he ever had to himself.

A chime rang.

Caleb was at the door. “Hi Badiah, the captain wants us on the bridge.”

Badiah switched off his tablet and packed it away in a cabinet above the desk. “Thank the stars that’s finished. That was the most miserable job of my life.”

“What was?”

“The lieutenant wanted a full report of what happened to my squad on Dolriethia. You should’ve seen the list of points he gave me. He said he wanted them all covered. It’s exactly what I didn’t want to do.”

“What was?”

“Relive my squad’s last moments in every detail.”

“I’m sorry about that. But believe me; I’ve had my share of Old Brentiah’s standards.” Caleb smiled. “If I heard correctly, they’ve found the ship we’ve been looking for. Now the navy boys will get a chance to show off this ship’s big guns to us. Let’s go.”

 

 

 

They entered the bridge. Lieutenant Samuels and Captain Kincaid were waiting for them.

“We are rounding the Crucible nebula now gentlemen. We have your pirate ship on sensors.” Captain Kincaid paused. “Or should I say pirate, ships. There’s more than one of these buggers.”

“Ships?” Badiah asked.

“Yes, our long ranges sensors have been able to distinguish a group of vessels, at least two of the-”

Before the captain could continue, the petty officer in command of the navigation station called from across the bridge.

“Captain, we can confirm four separate ships. Each at least of a light cruiser class.”

“Bearing?” The captain left the military men and examined a display screen at his command platform.

“Ten degrees off our starboard bow, approach speed-”

“Intercept course, Captain,” interjected the sensor station.

Captain Kincaid became quiet. He was engrossed in the display screen at his command platform. What kind of pirates are these? The captain thought. “I’ve never seen anything like this in all my life.” He spoke his thoughts out loud.

“Blood and hell,” remarked Badiah. “Are we outnumbered two against four?”

“Ah man, this licks toilet,” said Caleb.

“These aren’t pirates or rebels. They’re forming damn battle formations,” the captain said to his executive officer. The captain watched the four sensor blips split in two groups. Each group then formed a staggered formation with a lead and trailing ship. The trailing ship then positioned itself at an angle off the lead ship’s starboard quarter.

“No set piece naval combat has occurred since the Great Galactic wars,” Lieutenant Samuels remarked to Badiah and Caleb.

“That was four hundred years ago,” said Badiah.

Captain Kincaid began to give a command but, his mouth was too dry. He tried again and for the first time in four hundred years a command was heard aboard a naval vessel. For the first time in four centuries, it wasn’t a drill.

“Enemy fleet action, general quarters.”

About half the bridge crew just looked at the captain.

“You heard me.”

“You heard the captain,” the executive officer barked. “Move damn you.”

The bridge came alive as everyone remembered their training and duties. There were excited shouts back and forth as information was relayed.

Badiah addressed Lieutenant Samuels and Caleb. “We could be facing a boarding action.”

At first, they just looked back at him.

“Lieutenant,” Caleb spoke. “He’s right. Let’s arm ourselves. We can organize the ship’s marines as well.”

Without excusing themselves, the special operations men left the bridge and the navy men to their work.

“Jam them. Blind the bastards.” The captain pointed at the tactical station.

With his other hand he pointed at the communications station. “Raise the Harbinger. Make sure they co-ordinate properly with us.”

“Confirmed Captain. The Harbinger will take on the two directly ahead of them.”

On top of the Endeavour’s bow, two separate hatches opened and electronic emitters appeared. The emitters beamed intense electromagnetic energy directly at the sensor arrays of the two approaching ships, trying to hit the enemy sensors in an attempt to overwhelm and damage them. The Harbinger did the same as she drew up alongside the Endeavour, eight kilometers directly abeam.

As the Endeavour and Harbinger carried out their attack on the enemies’ sensors, the enemy ships confronting them returned the favor. For now, it was an electronic arm wrestle.

“Equalize the torpedo tubes to vacuum.” The executive officer gave a command which was relayed to the torpedo rooms in the lower sections.

“Plot me firing solutions. Port tubes target left. Starboard tubes target right,” the captain ordered. “If these bastards think they can come at us like this, we’ll give them a damn fight.”

Then it all changed.

“Torpedoes in space,” several crew members at the sensor station shouted over each other.

Captain Kincaid’s dry mouth and nervousness was elevated to a heart beating in his throat. His breathing became rapid. He couldn’t help himself. He started to sweat.

On the captain’s display screen, eight thin red icons appeared from the front of the blips representing the two enemy vessels. The sharp shards pointed and sprinted straight for his ship.

“Counter measures. Launch bloody counter measures.” Captain Kincaid demanded.

Along both sides of the Endeavour, flaps opened and decoy buoys began spilling out. Each one was a small transmitter giving false signals, calling the enemy torpedoes to itself.

“Firing solutions achieved,” the fire control station’s announcement almost took the captain by surprise. His concentration was still fixed on the approaching torpedo threat.

“Fire.”

A set of shudders ran along the Endeavour as she released her torpedoes into the void. Long silver cylinders shot out of her bow mounted tubes. Each one was five meters in length. The torpedoes’ self-guidance systems worked against the sea of electronic interference flooding the space around them.

Each torpedo’s thrusters kept adjusting as they steered a full ton of super high explosives to their intended target.

However, on the Endeavour’s bridge, all attention was still focused on the enemy’s torpedoes crossing the last few kilometers of space.

“All hands brace for impact,” called the first officer.

Throughout the Endeavour, sirens wailed and warning lights flashed.

There was silence, agonizing seconds that felt like hours.

The captain watched the main display until he closed his eyes. In that moment a man who grew up in a hard atheist society, who was taught to believe religion was a symptom of weak mindedness, prayed. He prayed with all the sincerity of a lifelong monk. He prayed to any god, deity or guiding spirit.

“We’re clear, they missed,” reported the tactical station. “They’re all chasing the decoys.”

The captain put a hand on his chest. Then a new report came.

“Hit. Direct hit on the second enemy vessel.” A young crewman at the fire control station was pointing at a display screen while making small jumps. Both his feet were coming off the deck.

One of the enemy ships was indeed hit. One of the torpedoes had found their way through the interference to smash into its intended target. The enemy vessel was almost obscured in a blast of debris. It veered off course as it began a slow tumble. Atmosphere bled out as small fires attempted to pop up, only to flash and die in the vacuum.

“We’re still in this,” Captain Kincaid told the first officer. The captain focused again on a nearby display screen.

The remaining ship approached.

“They’re going pass on our port side.” Captain Kincaid bit his lip. “All port batteries load, track, ready.” He wiped the sweat from his brow. “All right you damn bastards, let’s see what you got.”

The remaining enemy vessel came into clear view on the bridge’s main screen. She was about fifty meters shorter than the Endeavour but, not so much smaller as to be outclassed. Her grey color and the shape of her bow gave her the look of a dolphin. Her outer hull was clean in appearance.

“That bloody thing is less than a year out of space dock.” Captain Kincaid gave his assessment to the first officer.

The two vessels passed each other squarely abeam.

“Fire.” shouted Captain Kincaid.

Gun turrets pounded out rifle length shells as thick as footballs. Laser batteries gave off high pitched whines as red beams raked at the enemy ship. The Endeavour began to shudder to the rhythm of the enemy’s hits.

Electrical discharges flashed over her protective force fields as they soaked up the enemy’s abuse. Then the Endeavor’s luck ran out.

A huge thud and a series of snaps reverberated around the entire ship. A blue electrical flash lit up the bridge. Crewmen staggered, unlucky ones were knocked over, more unlucky ones were knocked flying. Some were injured or killed when nearby equipment exploded.

The captain was flung over and down to the deck. “Hell,” he screamed, as he landed on his side.

 

 

 

Below in a half empty provisions store, Lieutenant Samuels, Badiah and Caleb tried to organize the special operations men and the Endeavour’s marines into a coherent force.

“Dammit Lieutenant,” said Badiah. “We still can’t find this idiot with the keys to the ship’s small arms locker. Half these marines aren’t even armed.”

For a few seconds they were plunged into darkness. Men and equipment were all hurled to one side. Mercifully, the lighting returned and Badiah found himself lying on the deck near a marine who was injured by a flying box of supplies.

Taking just enough time to check the man and call a medic, he approached Lieutenant Samuels. “Lieutenant. I want to fight these bastards but, if we’ve boarded in this state…”

Lieutenant Samuels picked himself up from the deck. “I concur Sergeant. In light of this, we need to ascertain developments. I fear the battle may not be developing favorably for the captain.” Lieutenant Samuels took his transmitter out. “Samuels to Captain Kincaid.”

No answer.

“Sir, they may not be in a position to answer.”

“Your supposition may be accurate Sergeant.” Lieutenant Samuels put a hand to his mouth and called across the storeroom. “Caleb, continue the organization of all present. We shall return to the bridge.”

“I’ll get them all ship-shape Lieutenant,” replied Caleb. “These boys will knock them so hard they’ll come flying out their identity cards.”

 

 

 

 

“Report.” the captain ordered.

Silence.

“Report. Bloody report.”

“We have a hull breach amidships.” Captain Kincaid could not see the station answering him. “Several guns are knocked out of action. Damn shell made it through our force fields. We have crews sealing off the affected deck.”

Captain Kincaid pulled himself up. He searched out the tactical control station. One uninjured crew member remained at his post. “Give me a reading on that damn ship. Are they still able to come at us?”

“Err…it’s coming about. They’re moving true, Sir. They’re going to make a pass at us again.”

Captain Kincaid banged on one screen and shook another. He found an undamaged one. Three seconds of examination and he realized the situation. His ship was badly damaged all down its port side. He felt her shuddering and starting to roll.

“We’re having difficulty keeping her under control,” the helm officer reported.

The first officer reappeared at the captain’s side.

“They’re going to run against our port side again. They’re going to do it with their starboard side this time,” said Captain Kincaid.

“Captain.” The first officer pointed at an undamaged screen across the bridge.

The screen showed the Harbinger floating dead in space. Her main thrusters were out. She drifted ahead in the frictionless void on momentum alone. All running lights were out. Massive chunks of debris were trailing behind her. Smoke poured from a dozen gashes in her hull. The two enemy vessels opposing her had lined themselves up bow to stern. They pounded her mercilessly.

It’ll be three against one now, and my ship is damaged, the captain thought. But, I can still save one ship.

“Helm,” Captain Kincaid ordered. “Get some control of this ship, now. And do I mean now.”

“Got it, Sir,”

All crew members could feel some semblance of normal movement returning to the ship as the main thrusters came back on.

Captain Kincaid opened his mouth and gave the most difficult order of his life. “Helm. Come to new heading, ninety degrees to starboard, take us into the nebula, flank speed.”

One of the bridge crew standing over the captain’s shoulder protested, “Captain, we can’t just leave the Harbinger. They don’t stand a chance.”

“Do it.” Captain Kincaid virtually screamed.

The Endeavour began to turn. She was far off her normal running form.

The ship had developed more than a dozen new tremors and rattles but, she moved sure enough.

***

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Vengeance and Secrets

Newly promoted to Sergeant, Badiah is the sole survivor after his squad was ambushed by rebels. After being rescued, he joins another group of special operators led by the dour Lieutenant Samuels and impetuous Sergeant Caleb. Aboard an aging cruiser commanded by a crusty old captain they set off across the galaxy on a mission of vengeance. Along the way their enemy constantly turns out to be stronger than expected. The threat posed by these rebels dramatically increases as their dark plan is slowly unraveled. All the while the Confederacy who rules most of the galaxy with an iron fist has dispatched a ruthless agent hell bent on stopping the heroes before they can reveal a history altering secret

  • ISBN: 9781534914834
  • Author: John Ronald
  • Published: 2017-06-13 13:35:10
  • Words: 96902
Vengeance and Secrets Vengeance and Secrets