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Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part X)
Friday, February 17, 2006

The pieces are put into place. Another of River's games ready to be played


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3486    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Disclaimer – Everything either does belong to Joss or it should. I’m just borrowing his shiny ‘verse for a while.

The 21st Lancers belong to the British Army so I’m borrowing them too. I hope they don’t mind.

* * *

“We had teams scattered across the Colonised Worlds just waiting for the signal to hit their targets. MagLev lines, communication relay stations, armaments depots, senior officers you name it. Of course the one people always talk about is that we managed to sneak a pair of heavy-mortars onto Londinium hidden inside a shipment of spare parts. Used them to drop a dozen rounds of 155mm High-Explosive right through the domed roof of the Parliament building and blew the Chamber all to hell while the Legislators were all gathered on the lawn outside. They destroyed our Senate building on Hera in 2512 so we returned the favour. Now that was a ballsy operation, they actually fired the things from a barge in the river a few miles away then ran like hell. The mission commander, oversized Army NCO nicknamed Monty, got the Colonial Star for that one, I pinned it to his chest myself.”

President-Elect Marc van der Heijden - Cortex Interview 2531AD

* * *

Fort Obsidian – Beyond the Outer Rim – 2522AD

‘We’re going home’ Jennifer told her children smiling over dinner. They were sat around their assigned table in the colonies large military mess-hall which was barely a quarter full with so many of the Task Force Omega personnel already heading off with their ships to the assembly point at Gibraltar station. Inara was sat with them but was reading a text wave from a hand-held console. She wouldn’t normally have been doing anything so uncouth as to read at the dinner table when she was with company but it was from Mal and she hadn’t heard from him in so long.

John stopped playing with his food ‘Good I miss Serenity’ he replied happily.

‘Mummy means we’re going back to Toulouse’ Cally corrected her little brother.

John looked at his mother. ‘I don’t even remember Toulouse’ he told her. ‘That’s not home’ he stated.

‘He was only four when we left’ Claire-Marie pointed out. ‘I don’t remember it all that well anymore either.’

Cally remembered it fine. ‘The last time I was on Toulouse I was stuck in the middle of a firefight’ she declared.

‘And don’t you just keep reminding everyone?’ her mother responded. ‘In any case Toulouse is home, it’s where we all were born.’

‘Daddy’s from Wessex’ Claire-Marie pointed out. ‘Does that make Toulouse not his home then?’

Jennifer sighed. ‘Your fathers home is wherever we are’ she told her youngest daughter.

‘So home could be Serenity then, if Daddy was with us I mean?’ John asked.

Jennifer narrowed her eyes. ‘As soon as the Alliance is driven off we are going back to Toulouse we are not going to live on a ship, or in a military installation the rest of our lives’ she told her son in a tone that indicated this was not up for discussion.

‘It’ll be really boring though’ John declared. ‘Staying in one place all the time I mean.’

‘You know the Alliance might re-invade’ Cally said ‘Now that would be interesting’ she told her brother.

‘You know “May you live in interesting times” is an old curse from Earth-that-Was’ Inara said looking up from reading the message a second time.

‘It would be great’ Cally said. ‘We could fight them.’

‘What would be great about that?’ Jennifer asked, ‘wouldn’t it be better if they didn’t invade again at all.’

Cally grumbled. ‘I was just saying it would be interesting is all’ she said and picked up a spoonful of scrambled eggs on her fork and taking a mouthful. They ate a lot of eggs at Fort Obsidian, chickens were often kept on supply ships for fresh food and the fleet had arrived out here with a fair number.

Jennifer and Inara exchanged glances. When they got to Toulouse they were really going to have to find a decent Counsellor for young Cally, she could be very warped at times and all the time she was spending with Laura was not helping matters, although oddly enough though it was apparently helping the telepath herself, who was becoming much easier to deal with of late. Over the last few weeks Laura was being given an increasingly long leash to go where she wanted in the Colony although of course she was fitted with a tracking device and was followed everywhere by a pair of Colonel Taylor’s best troops, close combat experts from his Marine Force Recon detachment. Laura would of course defeat them both easily but it made those who didn’t know better relax a bit more when they saw the trained psychic assassin wandering about.

As for the longer leash it was all at River’s instigation of course, “There but for the grace of God go I”, as she was often heard to say of the other telepath. If Laura could be redeemed then there was hope for anyone, maybe even her.

* * *

Whitefall – 4th Moon of Athens – 2522AD

It wasn’t a serious dust-storm by Whitefall standards but it was bad enough that the townspeople stayed inside their homes instead of rushing out to see the Transport Ship that had just grounded outside the town.

According to the message waved ahead they were only traders looking to deal with Patience anyway, nothing to concern the ordinary folks who lived on the moon.

A trio of figures walked into town from the ship. They were all wearing cloth wrapped around their faces to keep out the dust as were two of Patience’s men who met them and escorted them to the bar where the Moons owner liked to do business.

Like most of the buildings on Whitefall the bar could be described as rustic at best and seemed to be partially built from pieces salvaged from the Terraforming Equipment that had made the small world liveable. Shortly afterwards the company that had originally started to settle the moon started to go into financial difficulties as a result of the post-war economic depression and Patience had moved in fast with an offer of hard cash to take over their rights to the place (she’d always kept her money safely in Platinum not the then plummeting stocks and shares of the big corporations). Over the next few years she had ended up sole owner of the entire moon, of course with things they way they were that meant she owned the people too.

The five men walked in and as soon as the door shut behind them they shook off the dust. One of the newcomers pulled the cloth from his face and coughed a few times before turning to one of his companions “I can see why the Alliance doesn’t show its face around here too often, what’s there to see anyway?” he asked looking around at the bar and the bar patrons who were all armed and most likely hired guns.

‘It may not be much to you but I own this whole moon’ Patience said turning around in her perch on a tall stool by the bar, ‘and I’ll not have you making disparaging remarks about my property.’

‘Beg pardon Ma’am’ the stranger said. ‘Didn’t mean no disrespect, matter of fact it’s the lack of Alliance contacts or surveillance around here that’s why I’m here.’

Patience frowned. ‘Thought you said you were here to trade?’ she asked fingering the pistol on her belt which caused her men scattered around the bar to do likewise.

‘We are here to trade’ one of the other newcomers told her. ‘We want to trade the right to set up camp here for a few weeks. We’ll pay in good Platinum coins for the use of your land while we’re here.’

Patience turned and picked up a shotglass of whiskey which she gulped down in one go before offering it back to the barmaid to refill which she did with alacrity. ‘You’d better explain what you mean?’ Patience told the trio of newcomers none of whom she recognised.

‘It’s quite simple’ the first told her. ‘We’re going to be having a whole heap of ships, all kinds, arriving here over the next few days because we need a nice little nondescript moon with an atmosphere as a temporary base of operations’ he said, ‘this place fits all the criteria and besides which we’d feel bad if we had to use force on the other candidate worlds out here on the rim which have, let us say, more representative governments.’

The mention of force resulted in several shotguns and pistols being pointed in the strangers direction but Patience herself was more relaxed and actually started chuckling. ‘I’ve got hundreds of hired hands, even a few dozen professional mercenaries at my back’ she told them. ‘Nobody comes onto my ground and pushes me around boys.’

‘Sergeant, I mean Captain, Reynolds seems to disagree’ the second of the strangers replied. ‘In fact his version of events from his last time here says you were pushed around good and proper and you lost a few of your “hired hands” in the process.’

Face afire with fury Patience leaped off the stool with an agility that belied her age. ‘If you’re with that gôushî bùrú rat Mal Reynolds then you can kiss my wrinkly ass and if he’s here on that ship I’ll shoot it down if it tries to take off’ she vowed. ‘Don’t let the livestock you might have seen fool you, I ain’t just some dumb yokel, I’ve got armed boats on this rock. You don’t run a whole world from the back of a gorram horse.’

‘I don’t know if you’ve got sensors good enough to detect it but right about now I’ve got a ship arriving in synchronous orbit above this town with enough firepower to glass a good percentage of this moons surface’ the first stranger told her. ‘And those streaks you’re about to see in the sky are fast-burn rocket shuttles full of troops’ he continued. ‘They’re better trained and equipped than any men you’ve got believe me, and we’re the ones with the high ground so don’t go thinking you’re the one with the good hand of cards.’

‘Ain’t nobody taking over my land without a fight’ Patience declared vehemently.

The third stranger, a short scarred man smiled and spoke for the first time. ‘My Dear Lady’ he began. ‘We’re not taking your land, we have no intention of violating private property rights without due cause, we’re just temporarily borrowing some of it.’

‘You’re just going to leave when you’re done?’ Patience asked incredulously.

The first stranger nodded. ‘Well most of us anyway we’ll leave a small garrison to keep the peace and make sure the law is enforced’.

Patience snorted. ‘Ain’t no law on Whitefall but mine’ she stated coldly, ‘my property my rules.’

The third stranger put his hands behind his back in a style reminiscent of military stand-easy. ‘You own the land but I’m afraid that you certainly do not own the people’ he declared. ‘Both slavery and indentured servitude have been ruled illegal by the Military Government Pro-Tem under the provisions of the Martial Law Decree of 2521.’

‘You’ll be allowed to stand for Governor of Whitefall in the elections though if you so choose’ the second stranger told her. ‘But we’ll make sure they’re free and fair count on it.’

‘Elections? Government?’ Patience snorted. ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’

‘Me? Oh I’m Captain Charles D’Giorgio of the Independent Navy Frigate Corvus’ the first stranger announced, ‘and these two are Captain Jacob Dov from the Corps of Marines and Captain Steven Hicks from the 21st Regiment of Lancers, incidentally he wrote most of the Martial Law decree you know’

Patience gaped, ‘Independent Navy?’ she repeated. ‘There ain’t been no such a thing in ten years’.

D’Giorgio smirked. ‘Rumours of our non-existence have been greatly exaggerated’ he responded.

Meanwhile Captain Dov had bought himself to attention and he addressed everyone in the bar ‘You are all now standing on the first world to be restored to the Independent Colonies ’ the intelligence officer stated authoritatively before he turned to look directly at Patience ‘we’ll be raising a flag later today you might want to come watch’ he continued mischievously. ‘Your old friend Captain Reynolds will be there, he’s on a transport following the Corvus. He said he’s looking forward to seeing you again but said something about you going unarmed because he’s concerned it’s “his turn” again whatever that might mean.’

‘What gives you the right to do this?’ Patience’s voice thundered over the rising sounds of disbelief rumbling throughout the room.

Captain Hicks smiled gently, he usually had a historical anecdote for most occasions and this was no exception. ‘About two and a half millennia ago’ he began ‘there was once an Army led by a General named Pompey Magnus that was besieging a town’ he continued, ‘and the locals inside demanded to know what right he had to do it? Know what he said?’

Patience shook her head confused.

‘He told them “Stop quoting the law… we carry weapons”’ Hicks told the old woman grinning broadly.

D’Giorgio turned and looked Patience in the eyes. ‘Stop asking what right we have to do this’ he told her. ‘We carry tactical nukes!’

* * *

Foreman Industries Factory Complex – Toulouse – 2522 AD

Entering the bosses office the Head of the Security Division looked amused ‘Looks like they made a big mistake over at Callahan’ he told his employer.

‘How so Jonas?’ Jack Foreman asked looking up from reading the sales projections on his desk.

‘Well Sir we ordered ten crates of the new model Auto-Lock and a hundred thousand rounds of ammunition for our security teams and a hundred crates and a million rounds arrived by transport this morning. I think someone over in their dispatch must have misplaced the decimal point again.’

Foreman groaned. ‘They still haven’t taken back those damn Stun Grenades from last time this happened’ he said. ‘They say our order clearly stated ten thousand units, why the hell would we want ten thousand gorram Stun Grenades?’

Jonas rolled his eyes. ‘Want me to ship them back Sir?’

The Company owner shook his head. ‘The Sales Representative from Callahan is coming here next month to discuss our order for another batch of Sonic Stun-Rifles have all the excess order locked up secure in Warehouse 4C and I’ll drag him over there myself and get him to explain why Callahan thinks we’d be ordering a thousand rifles when we’ve only got just over two hundred and fifty guards on the entire payroll.’

‘With the follow-up order we just got from Blue Sun for shotguns, carbines and handguns we’ve already got more weaponry than personnel anyway’ Jonas pointed out.

Foreman nodded. ‘We’re still expanding and the unit cost was cheaper if we bought in bulk but we sure as hell don’t need enough rifles to equip half a rutting Regiment’ he paused. ‘You know we’ve probably got more hardware on Toulouse at the moment than the damn Alliance Garrison’.

Jonas grinned. ‘Sure makes a change from back in the war Sir’ he replied. ‘We were always the ones that were outgunned.’

‘Best not to mention it to anyone’ Jack Foreman said with a wink. ‘The Purple-Bellies will be over here in APC’s thinking we’re about to start a revolt.’

The Head of Security laughed. ‘You can count on me boss, I’ll keep it under my hat.’

‘Probably the best policy’ Foreman told him. ‘Thinking of hats have the Berets arrived yet?’

Jonas nodded. ‘Yes Mr Foreman, very nice they are too.’

‘Excellent news, the troops will look very professional at the parade with the new uniforms.’

‘I reckon some might think we’re looking a bit too paramilitary though’ Jonas warned. ‘Folks here on Toulouse don’t automatically associate a Beret with the military like most but outsiders, and that includes the Alliance Governor and his people, do and when they see our people dressed that way they’ll be thinking of Colonial Legionnaires you can bet your ass on it.’

Jack Foreman looked at his head of security. ‘What makes you think so?’ he asked curiously.

Jonas straightened up. ‘Because the Legion made damn sure that we would be remembered back in the Core’ he said proudly.

‘Well if the Governor raises the issue to me I’ll remind him he can go to any street on the planet and find someone wearing a beret, and that we only chose traditional Toulouse dress to give us a unique corporate identity when we expand our Security Division offworld’ Foreman told him.

‘Yes Sir. I’ll be off now Mr Foreman I’ve got to review the new batch of recruits, I mean the new trainees, they’re looking a bit flabby.’

Foreman nodded. ‘Fat Security guards can’t catch thin criminals’ he said. ‘Get those boys and girls fit for the job or let them find another one.’

As he watched the former Colonial Legionnaire turn and leave Foreman wished he could let him know what was really going on but he seemed to be a good job of rebuilding the Legion quite inadvertently anyway.

Better pay those bills to Callahan he thought, “Misplaced the decimal point” he said chuckling quietly to himself.

* * *

Whitefall – 4th Moon of Athens – 2522AD

The desert plains south of the moons Capital “City” were littered with transports and other civilian vessels of every conceivable type. On a long walk winding his way through the throng Mal Reynolds couldn’t help but look around in wonder at what had been assembled in so short a space of time.

Recently manufactured military grade hardware shipped in from Fort Obsidian and crates of other weapons supplied via Badgers somewhat shady contacts were being distributed. Nearby a platoon of Marines from Task Force Omega were demonstrating the new Ryder GR-21 Gaussrifle to a group of practically awestruck veterans who had just arrived while other Browncoats who’d fought in the last war were teaching the skills of combat to those that hadn’t been in action before.

The Frigate Corvus had been joined by several other vessels including one of the Task Forces two Light Fleet Carriers. Aerospace fighters hurtled overhead running simulated strafing runs whilst Infantry on the ground simulated Air-Defence operations with one of the UA-57-D Ground Sentry Anti-Aircraft guns that Badger had managed to obtain. Only God knew how he’d got hold of something quite that illegal to hold in private hands but he’d certainly charged enough for them.

As he passed familiar faces from both the war and his time running cargo across the ‘Verse in Serenity gave Mal the thumbs up and more than a few total strangers ran up to shake his hand or clap him on the back. It was well known that he was heavily tied in with helping to instigate this entire thing and he was becoming quite a legendary figure amongst the expanding membership of the Independent Military especially since his face could already be seen on Alliance Most-Wanted posters across the inhabited worlds.

Most of these ships had disappeared from their usual trade routes and haunts months before and had been hiding beyond the rim gaze of the Alliance waiting for the call to rendezvous to come. People likely thought they were all Reaver chow but that was because folks back home didn’t know that the exiled Independent Navy had been keeping the Reavers under control for years, or that a certain Firefly Transport under the command of one Mal Reynolds had nuked a whole fleet of grounded Reaver boats to oblivion some time before.

A fair percentage of the ships gathered on the surface of Whitefall were captured Alliance boats that had been the subject of the slowly escalating efforts of the Independent Navy to turn the screws on interplanetary trade and supply routes. The number of Alliance Naval Transports and Core-Based armed merchantman that had been going missing had been rising slowly over the last year but so gradually they just hadn’t realised what was happening yet.

Mal considered that it was a bit like the old story his once mother told him when he was a boy about making Frog Soup. Drop it into boiling water and the Frog jumps straight back out, but put it in warm water and slowly increase the heat and it’ll stay there and cook.

Logistically the Alliance was already getting its ass kicked it just didn’t know about it yet Mal thought shaking the hand of another stranger.

A more familiar face was sat on the ground addressing a semi-circle of people taking notes in the shadow of the huge bulk of the Granite Gorge, one of the larger vessels present Mal noted with a slight smile. Size matters he decided, ask Inara he joked to himself.

Major Sean Thomas, Steve Hicks former, no thought Mal correcting his own thoughts, his current commanding officer, was explaining to a small group the best way to deal with enemy armour from the perspective of the things he hated enemy Infantry to do to him. Mal acknowledged him with a nod before walking up the ramp onto his boat to find both Steve and Claire Hart still clambering over the hulking piece of machinery that was in the centre of the cargo bay.

‘Don’t tell me you haven’t fixed it yet?’ he called out.

Claire looked up ‘Nearly there’ she replied, ‘just trying to make sure she’s running at a hundred percent before we bring her into action.’

‘Why isn’t the Major helping you out?’ Mal asked.

Steve looked up, ‘He only rides them, he doesn’t know how they work’ he replied.

‘And you do?’ Claire retorted snappily at the academic.

Steve grunted and pointed. ‘Who rewired the Railgun?’

‘Okay so you know that part but what about the Gravity Engine?’ Claire replied.

Steve frowned then grinned, ‘Okay so I only ride and shoot them I don’t know what makes them hover’ he admitted ‘not beyond basic principle anyhow.’

Claire snapped her fingers. ‘Oh yes I meant to tell you we’ve got two new crewmembers’ she said ‘they’re taking over one of the big cabins’

Mal raised his eyebrows ‘Who are they?’ he asked.

Steve looked up from what he was doing with a screwdriver. ‘One of them is one of my Troopers from the war Larry Collins by name, the other’s Alan Collins he was the Navigator on our old Tank Transport the Sir Percival. They were working on one of the boats that we recruited and when they heard we were here they asked if they could change ships’ he explained. ‘Alan was a damn fine Trooper it’s good to have him back even if we’ve got one more tank crew than crew positions now.’

‘Brothers?’ Mal asked.

Claire shook her head ‘No they met on the Sir Percival and got married on Boros after the war.’

The light of realisation eventually came on in Mals eyes ‘Oh they’re Sly’ he stated.

Steve turned to Claire ‘Those Infantry types catch on really quick now don’t they?’ he joked. ‘That’s not a problem is it?’ he asked. ‘I know they don’t allow same-sex marriage on a lot of the outer colonies.’

Mal shook his head. ‘You know I lean towards women folk myself but I ain’t got no problem with people doing whatever the hell they want as long as they don’t expect me to join in’ he stated. ‘Anyhow, anyone who had the guts to volunteer to fight has earned the right to live however they please in my book.’

‘Certainly happy to hear that Sir’ a voice interrupted. Mal turned to find himself facing two men dressed in work fatigues. The closest held out his hand ‘Larry Collins’ he said. ‘I suppose it’s Trooper Collins again now’ he continued as Mal took and shook the preferred hand.

‘Alan Collins’ the other said and Mal shook his hand too. ‘I was a Navigator on a Trance before for a while Sir and I’ve flown them too so I promise to do you proud.’

Mal looked at both of them ‘Okay I’ve got to know’ he said eventually. ‘When you got hitched which one took the others surname?’

They both grinned. ‘Neither of us, we were both named Collins to start with’ Larry replied.

Reynolds looked at them askance ‘You’re shitting me right?’

Alan shook his head. ‘No it’s true’

‘You’re not cousins or anything are you?’ Mal wanted to know.

‘Totally unrelated, I’m from St. Albans and Alan is originally from Beaumonde’ Larry told him, ‘we only met on the Sir Percival’.

Mal screwed up his face. ‘What the hell are the chances of two Gay guys with the same damn surname meeting on the same boat and getting married’ he asked in astonishment.

‘Slim’ Alan replied. ‘But it saved us a lot of trouble changing names of bank accounts and such’ he joked.

‘Excuse me Trooper Collins’ Steve called out. ‘But if you’re finished giving us your life story could you give Lieutenant Hart a hand with the engine.

‘Yes Sir’ the Trooper responded immediately and hurried over to the Excalibur Hovertank resting on blocks in the middle of the bay.

Mal looked at the Navigator again ‘So you’re really not shitting me about the surname’ he asked.

* * *

Gibraltar Station – Three Weeks Burn beyond the Rim – 2522AD

The ships had formed up into two columns with the ASW Frigate Yi Sun-Yin ahead and between them making the point of a V formation of it’s own with a number of Corvettes. The Anti-Stealth-Warfare ship carried a Gravitational Anomaly Detector (GAD) which could track ships just by the tiny distortions in four-dimensional space-time caused by Gravity Engines or Inertial Suppression systems but it needed to be as far as possible from other gravitational fields to do it properly and that meant flying ahead and with only small ships as escorts.

The two columns of ships were each headed by the twin kilometre-long Maelstrom Class Battlecruisers Scylla and Charybdis. In ancient Greek myth Scylla was a Sea Monster who lived opposite the ship crushing whirlpool Charybdis. To be caught between Scylla and Charybdis was an ancient sailors nightmare.

To be caught between the guns of the latter day Scylla and Charybdis was a modern sailor’s nightmare too for that matter.

Admiral van der Heijden was commanding the fleet from the bridge on Scylla this time. Like its sister ship the battlecruiser could project a three-dimensional holographic image of the space around her which the Admiral could use to get a uniquely effective display of the disposition of his own and any enemy vessels if they went into action.

Behind the Admiral her eyes taking everything in, was River Tam, she herself in reality a weapon more terrifying than the mighty battlecruiser itself. She fidgeted in the coarse material of the uniform she was wearing and she fingered the insignia on her collar.

A fabric badge stitched to the left breast on her uniform carried a single word “Tam”. Is that all I am, she wondered, am I just Tam or is that just the label. The insignia on her collar carried no words they were just a shape cast in silver, a symbol that carried meaning beyond words to generation upon generation of sea-going warriors.

She was a recently commissioned Lieutenant in the Independent Navy. The Admirals own signature approving it on the document added only the week before to River’s secret box of keepsakes.

They’d made her take all the exams of course, like that was difficult. She’d taken a day and a half to memorise all the manuals and the IQ test wasn’t exactly tricky either. The physical wasn’t much of a problem although the ships doctor had suggested a little more weight wouldn’t really go too amiss.

Lieutenant Tam still wore the winding River bracelet Simon had gotten her for her 20th birthday on her wrist (under her rolled down sleeve of course as it looked very unmilitary) but she constantly wore another piece of metal on her body now too, the metal dogtags hung around her neck. They always there, always moving around just a little bit a constant reminder of changing times. They had Tam stamped on them too, plus her blood-group of course, very efficient design.

More fabric patches on her arms told anybody that looked that she was with the Intelligence Branch. This nominally put her under the command of Major Brown who although Army was the ranking head of all Fleet Intelligence assets.

River smiled, when she’d explained all this to the others Jayne had made a crack about “Sweet Asset” which hadn’t gone down at all well with Simon who was already in a less than happy frame of mind at seeing his little sister once more at the service of a rather authoritarian quasi-governmental organisation. She’d talked Simon around but he was still not too happy about it.

Seeing Kaylee wearing a uniform too soon afterwards had sent him into apoplexy. She hadn’t actually wanted to join the military at all, in fact she found the entire idea abhorrent but it had been explained to her that she would not be allowed to keep her job as Serenity’s engineer if she didn’t sign up. The reason that finally swung it for her was being told that if she was caught by the Alliance not wearing a uniform in the current circumstances they could quite legally shoot her. Wearing a uniform might just mean only getting beaten senseless and thrown in a POW Camp.

If caught Simon fully expected to get shot out-of-hand regardless of circumstances so he personally declined the offer of a commission as a Naval Surgeon. Anyhow the Independent Navy uniforms were so damn scruffy.

River realised everyone was looking at her. ‘Sorry I was thinking’ she said. ‘Was I asked a question?’

Admiral van der Heijden made a noise of displeasure. ‘I asked, Lieutenant Tam, if you were happy in your new job and if you wanted to keep it.’

River flinched. ‘Oh yes Sir, very happy, still adjusting Sir.’

‘Not too taxing?’ he asked.

‘Oh no Sir, I mean I’m trying hard to do a good job though Sir.’

‘Not exhausted from overwork?’ the Admiral inquired.

River shook her head.

Admiral van der Heijden walked over to her. ‘Then get the hell out of my chair!’ he boomed.

Oh right that, River realised jumping up. This military thing was going to take some getting used to she thought, looking at the bemused faces of the Bridge Crew including Captain Raine who looked like she was trying not to laugh. It would be easier if she just read everyone’s mind but that was a nasty habit to get into.

The Admiral sat down and adjusted the seat. He activated his command headset and broadcast to the fleet.

‘This is the Admiral’ he began. ‘We are about to embark on a mission that until recently was an impossible dream’ he said. ‘We are going on a great crusade to liberate our homeworlds and put the Alliance back in its place, which is going to be right under our gorram boot if I have anything to do with it.’

River smiled. It was crusading with the pack against monsters out in the black where the Dragons lived that had bought them into contact with these people and now the Dragons were crusading back to their original lair she thought.

Van der Heijden straightened up in his chair. ‘Fleet will make best speed for Toulouse and God Bless the Independent Colonies’ he said with a silent prayer to himself for that to be so.

Main engines throughout the fleet powered up and the armada began to accelerate back from whence it had come a decade before. The Second War of Independence was about to begin in earnest.

Part XI

COMMENTS

Friday, February 17, 2006 2:25 AM

FREDEP


Great work again Hotpoint!!

Friday, February 17, 2006 3:18 AM

AMDOBELL


Oooh, things are gearing up nicely. I particularly loved the way Patience reacted to what was going to happen to her *little world*. Isn't payback a bitch? Great stuff. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 5:32 AM

SOULOFSERENITY


It begins!!! Man, I've been waitin' quite a while for this!!!

- Soul


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