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One Good Soldier: Chapter Nine

       Last updated: Monday, November 9, 2009 22:01 EST



July 1, 2394 A.D.
Ross 128, Planet Five, a.k.a. Arcadia, 40,000 Kilometers above New Megalopolis
Saturday, 3:09 PM, Frontier City Standard Time
Saturday, 11:09 AM, Earth Eastern Standard Time

    The Separatist flagship wasn’t like the previous warships of the Separatist fleet. The ships used in previous major battles at the Martian Exodus and at the Battle of the Oort had been retrofitted cargo haulers. The haulers were large, even bigger than the U.S. supercarrier class ships, but they were still old reconfigured cargo ships that had been turned into makeshift warships. The fact that the old haulers were, well, old is what led the U.S. forces to refer to them derogatorily as “rust buckets.”

    The Separatists had been updating and building new weapons since they had moved from Mars to the Tau Ceti system twelve years ago. There was some intelligence that suggested that the Tau Ceti colony had been in on the Separatist movement all along and perhaps had been developing mecha, weapons, and even the new line of battleships for them. It was unclear who had retrofitted the previous generation of ships for them, although Tau Ceti was the most likely candidate. It was possible that the Separatists had retrofitted the ships in space somewhere deep in the outer parts of the Sol System. After all, they had managed to build a small moon-sized QMT teleport facility in the Oort Cloud right under the U.S. military’s nose. And then they managed to plan an exodus of over thirty million citizens from the Sol system to the Oort facility and then on to Tau Ceti.

    In twelve years, the thirty million Separatists, along with the already thirteen million colonists at Tau Ceti, had managed to manufacture a brand new fleet that was just now coming online. Four of the new supercarrier class ships and five new battlecruisers had gone through their checkout flights and were prepping for their maiden voyages. The four supercarriers were equipped with a second generation of Stingers, which were copies of the U.S. FM-12s; new transfigurable Gnats, comparable to the U.S. VTF-32 Ares-Ts; and a new version of Orcus droptanks that had a bot-mode similar to that of the U.S. M3A17-Ts. The battlecruiser class ships carried Gnats and armored troops and were smaller, more maneuverable ships. The haulers and previous generation of ships still existed, but the question was if there were enough personnel available for them to have crew.

    The flagship of the United Separatist Republic was the U.S.R. Deborah Sampson. The Sampson, no matter what star system’s technology one considered, was a state-of-the-art warship fully equipped with modern structural integrity field generators, directed energy weapons, missile tubes, a fast hyperspace jaunt projector, catapult bays for mecha and drop tubes, two hundred kilogram projectile rail cannons and QMT teleporters with personnel snap-back capability.

    The Sampson was over three kilometers long and about half that in width and depth. The general design was very similar to the U.S. supercarrier designs. Since that is what she had been designed to fight, the design was perfectly logical. Rumors were that Elle Ahmi had designed the flagship herself, right down to the Mars red color scheme of the interior décor. The color scheme was most likely the reason for that particular rumor. Every citizen of the U.S.R. understood that Elle Ahmi had a nostalgic soft spot for Mars in her heart – though they also realized that was probably the only soft spot she had anywhere.

    The Sampson had been online for several weeks and had a full crew complement. It had made several deep space hyperspace jaunts as well as several QMT jumps between Tau Ceti and Ross 128. On two separate occasions she had simulated an attack on one of the outer planet moons of Tau Ceti. All of the flight wings were deployed as well as the droptanks and armored troops. The ship and crew combination was a well-oiled machine and definitely deserved the title of flagship to the U.S.R..

    Flagship flight wing crewman Ensign Bella Penrose sat near the view port in the starboard galley picking at her food and staring out at the large QMT facility. The facility hung in a non-Keplerian orbit hovering over the capital city of the U.S. colony of Arcadia. The Ross 128 Colony was as beautiful as Tau Ceti and was far more developed. Tau Ceti had over fifty million people and had been established for a few decades. Ross 128, on the other hand, was nearly a hundred-years-old and had over one hundred million colonists. The colony was old enough to have several generations of native-born Arcadians.

    Penrose looked at the large octagonal structure and towers of the small moon-sized facility just beneath the warship. The facility reminded her of the ones she had seen at the Oort cloud in the Sol system, and the one above New Tharsis in the Tau Ceti system. The times she had seen those facilities her name had been either Kira Shavi or Nancy Penzington.

    Since her return to the Tau Ceti system it had taken the CIA agent almost six years to create a cover that would allow her to get onboard the flagship of the U.S.R.. Once before she had infiltrated one of the Seppy ships, but she was discovered and barely managed to escape with her life and some very useful intelligence data. She had managed to get that data back to the Sol system mainly by happenstance. But she did get it back.

    Unfortunately, the byproduct of her successful espionage had been that the Seppies had stepped up their efforts to prevent a spy from infiltrating their military infrastructure ever again. Things had become even more difficult for spies and that was mainly because of her. Twelve years before she had managed to infiltrate the Seppies, and after that no other agents who had attempted to do so had ever reported back to the CIA. Bella, at the time she was Nancy, had managed to infiltrate the Separatists most likely due to the mass confusion involved in the Seppy attack on Mons City on Mars followed by the exodus of the Separatists.

    Allison, any idea what this package is that is of such importance? she thought to her AIC. Her flight group’s orders were to be on standby to support the delivery of a highly important package to the capital city and directly to Ahmi herself. Bella knew that meant trouble. But just how much trouble, she wasn’t certain.

    Your guess is as good as mine, the AIC responded. We’ll just have to be patient. It isn’t scheduled to arrive for a couple hours.

    It had taken Nancy Penzington six months to completely cover her tracks after her return to the Tau Ceti QMT facility six years prior. Once she had managed to get away from the facility by stowing away onboard a troop carrier dirtside to Ares, Nancy spent several weeks considering going native and giving up the spy business. She had made plenty of personal sacrifices for the United States of America. She should have died on the Seppy battlecruiser Phlegra when it had tried to make a kamikaze run on Luna City. But, luckily, she didn’t. She still had several covers she could use if she needed them. So she did. Like any good undercover agent who is in country and cut off from home, she had multiple bank accounts, money and weapons caches, and a couple of safe houses under various names throughout New Tharsis and the Madira Valley. She cashed in on some of them and spent several months on the beach outside the spaceport working on her full body tan.

    After the second month of mental recovery, a.k.a. lounging on the nude beaches of Madira Valley, it dawned on her that with the Phlegra destroyed near Luna, that Elle Ahmi would want a new favorite mode of space transportation. Nancy began formulating a hypothesis that the new supercarrier-sized battleships under construction at the base at the beach might fit that need. After a few fun, and not-so-fun nights, with off-duty sailors and contractors, she managed to get enough word-of-mouth information to back up her hypothesis. Elle Ahmi actually spent a significant amount of time visiting one particular ship that was under construction. There had to be something special about that ship, because according to rumor that was the only one Ahmi visited regularly.

    Nancy didn’t necessarily have a specific mission she needed to do; her general mission orders were to gather intel on the Seppies. Gathering intel on the Seppy military capabilities seemed as good a plan as any to her. But she had other plans, too. After Ahmi had tortured her and the way that she had tortured her, Nancy had decided one thing. Someday, she would make Ahmi pay, dearly.

    Then one night at the night spot for the military types just outside the base adjacent to the beach spaceport she met a young naval cadet in her last year of college. The young cadet had hopes and dreams of being a mecha jock. The cadet was in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) and had a good chance of making it into the flight training program upon graduation. Nancy had the beginnings of a plan at that point. She befriended the young cadet and gathered as much information about the young woman as possible. She learned everything she could about becoming a cadet and getting into the NROTC. Then Nancy cashed in some assets and paid for a new rejuvenation that left her appearing as young as or maybe a bit younger than the cadet. She never spoke with that particular cadet again.   

    The next three months took patience. Nancy laid low on the beach and stayed away from any recent friends she had made – her appearance had been changed pretty dramatically but she didn’t want take any chances. She simply lived the life of a beach bunny and gave herself the time to rest, relax, and enjoy life for a while. She stayed in shape by running ten to twenty kilometers a day up and down Madira Beach and by taking some yoga and martial arts classes at a local gym.

    Slowly and carefully, she gathered emotional and cultural information about getting into the U.S. R. Navy flight line, She researched all the pertinent logistics, admissions, and paperwork information she needed. Three months passed before she finally got the break she was looking for. An earthquake occurred in the middle of the ocean causing a tidal wave. The tidal wave struck an archipelago called Campbell’s Islands on the southern region of the Amazonia Continent. Amazonia was a large landmass about the size of China and the archipelago region was analogous to the Philippines on Earth. There were casualties numbering in the thousands. Nancy immediately gathered herself up off the beach, hopped aboard a plane stored at one of her caches, and was in southern Amazonia only a few hours after the news broke. She managed to board a rescue boat as a volunteer a few hours after that. Soon after, she had managed to get herself lost in the aftermath of the tidal wave impact zone of East Plantation Island.

    East Plantation Island, according to public data records, had thirteen hundred inhabitants and more than three times as many tourists at any given time. Needless to say, Nancy found plenty of casualties to work with. Allison scanned for other AICs broadcasting casualty locations. The CIA super-AIC hacked those AICs for personal bio information looking for just the right profile. After a couple of hours of this she found one that fit her needs on the far side of the island. The casualty had lived on Tau Ceti since before the Martian Exodus and was about sixty years old. The lady had no known relatives on Tau Ceti, although she reportedly had family still alive on Earth. And, to top it off, she had recently been rejuved to a very young appearance. Nancy and Allison found her drowned and broken body trapped inside what was left of her home.. Allison had no problem copying the data files from the commercial AIC that poor Bella Penrose had in her skull, even in its nonfunctional, damaged state. Then Nancy removed the AIC from the lady’s brain and crushed it. The unlucky artificial intelligence was just a casualty of war, and Nancy had little remorse about it. Allison had long since given up such emotional hang-ups about killing other AICs as well. They had a job to do – for the betterment of the United States of America. They disposed of the body and AIC remains with a couple of incendiary chemicals that Nancy had brought along with her and then she went about addressing her appearance and plan for being rescued. She scratched herself up with some broken glass and changed into the clothes that the real Bella had been wearing. She climbed atop the roof of Bella’s small beach house and waited for help as Allison mimicked the AIC help broadcast. Eventually, she was rescued by a group of volunteers and was flown to a makeshift hospital for treatment.

    Following her rescue, Bella Penrose moved to the other side of the planet Ares to Madira Beach and quickly made it through NROTC and college with a double load of courses that she, along with her super AIC, had no problem with. After two years of college and NROTC she was selected – with a little hacking help from Allison – to the Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API) program.   After fourteen weeks of API she did six weeks as a Student Naval Flight Officer, and then she had twenty-two weeks of training at the Navy Flight Officer Training Command at the Madira Valley Beach Spaceport Armored Mecha Flight Training Grounds, and then another thirty-six weeks in Mecha Combat Tactics Training. Following that she had a pip “pinned on” and she became U.S.R. Navy Ensign Bella Penrose. Although the process and military structure was very very similar to that of the United States military there were some cultural differences. One difference is that callsigns didn’t stick with the person they stuck with the job.   And as soon as she was assigned to the U.S.R. Deborah Sampson Flight Wing 1, Group 2, Tiger Squad she became “Tiger 5.” Of course, the other cultural difference was that everything was done in praise of Elle Ahmi. Although Ahmi’s tactics had been extremely bloody to the American people, the Separatist were now free of the U.S. government and had a planet of their own, a very nice planet. The Separatist people viewed that fact as being solely due to Ahmi herself. It wasn’t hard to understand why they followed the charismatic terrorist. But then again, most of the Separatist people had never met the crazy bitch. It took all of her training to mask her hatred for the Separatist leader and to appear as a loyal servant of the U.S.R. Navy, but Bella managed. After all, that is what she had done all of her adult life – pretend to be somebody else.

    So, after escaping from the QMT facility over six years prior and lying low for several months, after about six months of goldbrickin’ on the beach, after a few weeks of rehab from a natural disaster, after two years of college and NROTC, and about another two years of mecha training, Ensign Bella Penrose found herself staring out the viewport of the U.S.R. Deborah Sampson while trying to stomach the galley food, figure out just what Elle Ahmi was up to, and how she was going to kill her.   Well, killing Ahmi hadn’t been part of her original orders, but Bella was going to do that one for herself. It would be good therapy.

    As Bella let her mind wander something caught her eye. Actually, it caught the eye of everybody on the ship as it was hard to miss a QMT. A ship approached the center of the teleport pad towers and then a large green and blue sphere of light began to grow, centered directly over the central tower. The sphere grew to several kilometers in diameter and looked like a giant plasma ball resting atop the tallest spire. Then the giant ball of plasma instantaneously collapsed to a flat disk of light with blue and white lightning shooting across the surface. A ripple, like waves on a pond, traveled in a circular wavefront from the center of the disk, and then the ship vanished into the event horizon of the disk. As soon as the ships appeared in local space, the disk collapsed inward on itself and vanished with a final flash of white light from the center.

    It was a scene that humanity throughout the colonies was beginning to become accustomed to. The intel that the Seppies were getting from the colonists of Ross 128 was that the U.S. had built teleport platforms now at each colony and one near Mars. The only route to the inner Sol system, though, was still through the original Seppy-built QMT pad in the Oort. From there, ships could teleport to Mars and then hyperspace jaunt inward to Earth. As far as the Seppies knew, the American scientists had not yet figured out how to hack any of the systems to go from any pad to another. Elle Ahmi had often laughed at the Americans in public broadcasts for that--of course, she knew how to do this. There was even rumor that the new battleship fleet didn’t need the pads. Bella hadn’t confirmed that yet. But if that was the case, the U.S. military needed to know.

    Ensign Penrose hadn’t seen the Sampson do a QMT without a facility yet, but she had seen it go back and forth between Ross 128 and Tau Ceti. And she also knew that the U.S.R. had the QMT schedule for the Ross 128 facility, because they often would hide behind one of the moons and run in silent mode to avoid being seen by incoming teleporting ships.

    “General quarters! General quarters. All hands, prepare for hyperspace jaunt in one minute. Prepare for battlestations call and silent running,” the Sampson’s AIC said over the ship’s 1-MC intercom.

    Allison? Bella asked her AIC.

    Regularly scheduled jaunt behind one of the moons it looks like. We must be expecting an incoming QMT from Earthspace, Allison replied.

    Well, it’s my day off. Let’s do some snooping, shall we?

    About time.

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