as per otiginal post,eg more chapters/parts...18 rating is just due to minor profanity
Woken partly by the glare of the flashing light in his alcove,(and to no small extent by the small electric shock surging through his armour,) Jones 25701 blinked twice at the virtual HUD inside his visor and both the light and electricity turned off. Four galactic gate trips and numerous Atlas transports had finally got them to the edge of Core occupied space, and they were now on the final approach to Alion 5, one of the Arms most heavily defended and further most planets in this galaxy. Turning to his left, Jones 25701 glanced through the alcove window at Jones 39504, and slammed his arm against the panel repeatedly.
The light he had caught in his peripheral vision ceased its flashing, and Jones 39504 turned and gave the thumbs up signal.
It never ceased to amaze Jones 25701 how his allotted partner could sleep with that many volts surging through him. "One of these days your going to fry you realise that?"
Jones 39504 just waved (and although not able to see his face presumably smiled,) then could be seen starting the external armour checks. Turning back, Jones 25701 started doing his pre landing checks as the 5 minute alarm sounded throughout the drop ship, pausing only to vacuum suck his waste container then reinsert it into his leg aperture.
Down on the planet, hundreds of duplicate dropships were already parked, many disembarking a wide variety of kbots and the smaller veh's. In future years, A single Arm Commander would be all that was required to build most labs and kbots on attack missions, nanotechnology allowing constant reproduction of Arm memories and tactics much as the Core have already adopted. For now, even though Arm had the capability to do so, biological reproductions of personnel intrigated into most kbots and veh's was their preferred way building, which was one of the main reasons the war between Core and Arm started in the first place.
As the civilian transport Ted was on broke free from the restriction of gravity and entered space proper, a Core spy drone in hibernation mode stirred into life, activated by the passive proximity sensors all over its outer casing. Relays and diodes sprang into life as full power once again surged through its circuitry and directed the onboard cameras to the object, instantly beaming its findings via subspace to more distant drones onto Core Prime.
No sooner had it sent the microbursted images and trajectory assessment, hvy lazers from neighbouring satellites around the planet homed in on the power source and quickly fired at the unauthorised presence in their area of space, completely vaporizing it in a flash of silent sparks............
No sooner had it sent the microbursted images and trajectory assessment, hvy lazers from neighbouring satellites around the planet homed in on the power source and quickly fired at the unauthorised presence in their area of space, completely vaporizing it in a flash of silent sparks.
Oblivious to the events around him, Ted squinted out from between his closed eyelids whilst snoring mildly outloud. After a few moments of this Ted actually relaxed properly, and, no longer only pretending, snored a fraction louder, his eyelids now slack+closed fully.
Not without some apprehension, Commander Atak stared at Commander Braithwaits back as he stood watching the dropships unload through the tinted glass of his office. Being young for a Commander, (having only attained Commander status 48yrs ago,) Atak couldn't help being alittle nervous in the presence of such a decorated fellow Commander. As a rule Arm Commanders are bred and trained for command, and the accumulated knowledge of all major battles are implanted at conception. Passing Commander training more by luck than skill,( see *_* below) Atak did not feel comfortable in Braithwaits presence, or any other Commanders come to that. Since Alion 5 was the planet he had 'captured' on that 1st mission, this was where he was posted, enhancing the defences to such an extent that he now almost felt worthy of his rank. Seeing Commander Braithwait stood there however was putting him on edge, and he hoped whatever mission the unusual troop landings outside were for would entail Braithwait leaving soon.
"So, Atak, I suppose your wondering what al this is about?"
Startled by Braithwaits sudden breaking of the silence, Atak inadvertently tensed, knocking the synthi coffee from his Command chair arm.
"uh, yes , HQ warned me to expect you, but they were abit vague on why."
Braithwait turned, seemingly unaware of the fluid sliding down Atak's left leg armour and the slowly spinning cup at his feet. "This is the big one Atak." he continued. " Those Core scum are going to get it where it will hurt most."
As braithwait started to walk across the room explaining, Atak pressed a chair control and a hatch opened in the wall, where a small servobot emerged and picked up the cup, wiped Atak's still dripping leg, then retreated again back to the aperture.
"I know as Commander out here on the frontline you'd prefer to have this honour yourself, but I have been ordered to lead a mission of the utmost importance deep into Core held space, with the ultimate aim of destroying the Core Homeworld. Unfortunately HQ have decided you will be best suited staying here at this time and supervising the deployment of reserve troops."
Atak mentally sighed with relief and said " I envy you this great honour Commander!".
"Yes well that's only to be expected Atak, believe me if I need a backup Commander I'll ask for you personally." (Inwardly Braithwait made a mental note to consider any commander but this nervous idiot, with a sub note to find out how he ever got posted on Alion 5 in the 1st place.)
"Myself and a small squad will be disembarking shortly, I trust you can have the dropships refuelled and ready at a moments notice?"
Tapping again at his console Atak said "Doing that now, whenever your ready so will the dropships be."
"Excellent. Now if you don't mind its been a long journey and I'd like to rest awhile."
Standing, Atak said "if you'll just follow me I'll take you to your temporary quarters"
"No problem, I am fully conversant with your facility, viewed the schematics in detail before I left, should always be prepared don't you know. I have the suite in G wing yes?"
"Uh, yes sir, suite 1a"
"Good, good, have me paged at 2600hrs" and with that Braithwait stomped out the office heading west down the corridor. As his footsteps receded, Atak swung the viewer arm around and accessed personnel records, specifically Commander Braithwaits...As the profile came up and he tapped in his authorisation key, Braithwaits distinctive footsteps could be heard returning down the corridor, and approaching the office again. Worried he would get caught nosing Braithwaits personal record, Atak shot his arm out to close the connection on the viewer, hitting it with too much force and snapping it to the ground, Braithwaits profile plainly showing on the cracked screen face upwards. Before he could reach down to pick it up, the footsteps stopped at the door, and Atak could hear his own two hearts thumping noisily in his ears. After what seemed an eternity, the footsteps started again, heading east down the other corridor towards G wing.
Letting out the breath he wasn't aware he was holding, Atak stood up to retrieve the broken viewer, stepping on and smashing the servobot that had just glided out to do the same thing.
'This is not going to be my week' Atak thought, and after turning up his internal cooling system 5 notches called the maintenance bot to his office.
*( Commander 'training' is concluded by dropping them on a core held planet and if they survive a period of no less than 7 days, they pass. If they survive and are in control of the area when the dropship returns, they pass with honours, and if they have total control of the planet they pass with distinction. Obviously apart from failing to pass should none of those circumstances be met, they are expected to not be alive to be court-martialled.) No sooner had he been dropped onto his 'test' planet, he had come under heavy fire and the dropship was blown up before it could leave the atmosphere. Quickly he had set about making 4 wind generators and a metal extractor, followed by a veh lab, speed assisting a few Jeffy's to scout the enemy threat and distract potential incoming ground troops. Before the 2nd jeffy had even left the lab however, incoming fire stopped and he noted Core dropships taking off in droves. Naturally when picked up a week later he was less than honest about how he 'took back control' of the planet on his 1st mission, and was careful to only make basic AI defence emplacements so as not to get found out when picked up, that his mission was in fact a walkover.*
For some hours now, Commander Badd Feelings had sullenly been stomping the western perimeter of his base, surveying the deployment of new defences to his facility.
Stretching further than the old crater to the west, ( a remnant of some long forgotten explosion vaguely remembered to be attributed to a faulty energy fusions cloak device imploding,) and past the snow peaked mountain to the east, dual rows of dragon teeth reflected the dusky light from the setting suns on the horizon. Dotted intermittently every few hundred metres rose deadly looking heavy Gaat gun lazer towers, guarded unseen by the pop up towers resting quietly underground either side of them. Some way behind these outer defences, groups of upto 40 thud assault kbots wandered under the cover of the craters they were within, making sure not to leave the perimeter setup by the Spectre radar jammers accompanying them.('Probably wondering wtf they wasting their time here for when could be out attacking the Arm somewhere' he thought.)
Focusing on the Intimidators and their pulveriser defences, he could see the recently built advance labs churning out a mix of Pyro's and Can's for rear defence, in case any of the Arms faster moving attackers breached the perimeter and threatened the Intim's. 'Total waste of time and resources he sighed to himself...'Even if Arm were able to attack this close to Core prime, additional troops sent via galactic gate could be with us in seconds from the Homeworld'
Not feeling like the long walk back to his Bunker and familiar command chair, Badd called in his personal Valkyrie air transporter to pick him up, then sat on a rock to await its arrival.
Absently he sucked up a small moon rock beside him, and started to shape it into a tiny representation of an Arm Commander. Hobbies weren't encouraged by Core generally, but Badd found it somehow eased the flow of electrons within him carving small figures. As the almost silent drone of the approaching Valkyrie appeared overhead, Badd placed the figure into a recess in his chest and pressed the button to release clamps on his shoulders, then looked up to attach the two cables dangling from the Valkyrie. As he changed his stance to attach the 2nd cable his foot found an area of loose sand, but before he lost his balance the cables he'd attached went taught. Seconds later he was lifted into the air, and floating majestically through the chill night towards the base.
As the hum from the Valkyrie faded, stillness again settled over the area, and small beetle type insects that were hidden under the soil poked their heads out, antennae twitching, and scurried to the underground air pockets to refill their air sacks.
As the solar winds started to gently fill in the footprints made by Commander Badd Feelings with loose moon dust, a larger shape stirred under the soil, slowly at first, but then, with a gasp and a spurt of soil from its mouth, a humanoid figure crawled from its hiding place and sat up against the rock Badd Feelings had sat.
*cough* " It's ok, he's gone now"
Three more area's of ground around the rock shifted as similar shaped beings emerged from the ground, also gasping to draw air from the thin atmosphere and to purge themselves of the various soil based contents of their mouths, and slumped against the rock.
As the Diodiesians (see * below), recovered and their breathing returned to their usual two breaths per minute, subtle changes could be seen happening to their naked forms. The light tan hue of their skins were changing slowly to the darker stone they were sat against, until after a few moments you could hardly tell they were there at all. (That is if it wasn't for their large green eyes glinting in the moonlight. Other than that though they were, to all intensive purposes, undistinguishable from the rock behind them.)
The 1st of them to emerge glanced across at his family, then worriedly turned to his wife and asked " where's Julip??!!"
There was a split second pause as he took in the blank stares of his wife and children, then franticly Ekledian crawled to the area they came from, sifting the ground with his hardened fingers whispering "Julip? Julip!! Answer me for gods sake!"
Trying not to disturb the dust too much as he searched for the general, Ekledian finally found Juleps limp body under a Core Commander shaped boot print nearby, his head nothing but a crushed ensemble of skull bone and blood. The slowly widening patch of purple blood was seeping into the indents of the boot print, and turning the sandy soil a dirtier colour than normal.
Juleps body was still the colour of its surroundings, which was probably the main reason the accursed core Commander hadn't noticed it. Tugging at his friend's feet Ekledian moved the body from its somewhat undignified arch into the recess it lay, then started to bury it properly face upwards (so to speak,) towards the stars, as was their custom.
"Oh my god, no!!"
Turning, Ekledian shielded his wife from the partially uncovered body, and motioned her to return to the children who were approaching. "Hush wife, there's nothing we can do. Go look after the children while I finish up here."
Seeing the look in his eye's and knowing he was right, Sheeda did as was asked.
Ekledian uttered a prayer for his friend as he covered the remains, swearing once again on his royal bloodline that the Core would suffer one day for their heinous crimes against the galaxy, and now more personally, for the death of his friend. "The day will come my friend, he whispered, when we will find a way to leave this abysmal moon and return to our own planet, then revenge will be ours."
As one all 4 stood motionless as Ekledian finished covering the body, each feeling the tell tale vibration of an approaching vehicle. Again almost as one they turned eastward, where still some kilometres away Core perimeter scouts were zooming in their direction. Not needing to speak after 4yrs avoiding detection by the Core since their spaceship was shot down, Ekledian indicated a direction and they all ran towards a crater they had used before. By the time the weasel's reached the area, Ekledian and his wife, son, and daughter were safely enclosed in the small cavern they had dug inside the crater some months before, their footprints filled by dust from the weasel's speedy approach and subsequent upheaval of soil as they stopped.
The limited AI of the weasel's sqaurked for a few seconds to each other, then apparently satisfied off they sped again to check the next area of their patrol route, neither bothering to climb the steep crater lip, leaving such area's to the air recons.
Once out of radar range again, Ekledian left his family in the crater while he started crawling towards the Core base in search of much needed stores, his skin changing so rapidly to match its surroundings as he moved that unless you knew he was there, you wouldn't have believed it, let alone have seen him.
(* actually they were from the planet Aludia, but that's a different story and much too long to explain, so for now lets just call them 'Diodiesians' since this is where they live
"Inter planetary craft Propete 5, do you read-over?"
The speakers hissed back the static just as they had been the last 20 times Cpl Eton had asked that question.
"Well Cpl? Are they acknowledging the order?"
Looking over Eton's shoulder, a Mrk 3 AI controller hovered silently, sending small ripples down his neck as the antigrav waves made contact with his neck hairs.
"No Sir, still unable to confirm our messages are getting through to them. Shall I keep trying Sir?"
"No dammit this is a priority from the military-no time to take the softly approach..Engage auto pilot and feed in the new heading. They don't like it that's their fault for not answering. Make sure to lock out manual over ride-don't want some civilian space jockey putting them back on course, not with that Core Cruiser reported in their flight path."
Eton punched in the over ride command and fed in the new flight plan, avoiding the enemy ship by at least 2 light yrs.
"Data altered Sir, shall I continue surveillance in case of any problems?"
"No get back to what you were doing before, just send it a standard military over ride instigated message so they know what's happening, no need to make em panic more than necessary".
Doing as asked Eton sent the flash message, then returned to directing troop ships for the upcoming big push to Core held space. A few satellite jumps and a decode later, the pilot droids on Propete 5 received the over ride and banked the shuttle into its new course.
Most of the passengers took the slight tilt of the craft before it levelled off again without so much as a raised eyebrow, but Ted, although half asleep, knew a course change was unusual and could only mean one thing-they were onto him!
Casually as he could, Ted feigned a yawn and slowly got up from his seat, then walked towards the crew area.
"If you need something Sir just press the buzzer and a steward-bot will assist you?" chirped the smiling face on the small screen that popped out from the seat in front of his.
Brain whirring with thoughts on how to avoid capture whizzed through Ted's head, only to seemingly freefall from the opposing earlobe to the crafts deck beneath his feet.
Just as he was starting to think he may have to face the music, or, in all likelihood, a reclamation order, Ted knew what he must do. Reaching up to the overhead compartment he took out his sealo-bag and sat back down again. After making sure no one was watching, he nonchalantly reached over and ripped the wires from the seats speaker system, and connected them to his consoles output port inside the bag. After a few alterations to a program he'd picked up on his travels, he clicked the activation key and looked over to the cloned zipper twins, tweaking the settings slightly without taking his eyes off them.
The clones were still unspeaking with only their occasional nod's giving any indication that they were conversing via their implants.(God knew what they found to talk about, but they obviously were all the same.) Suddenly the clone on the right nearer the aisle got up and stood stock still, facing the wall in front of him. "Yes!" thought Ted, and frantically typed onto his console.
The annoying voice of the auto-steward drifted over to Ted as he typed, presumably activated by the clones impromptu rise from his seat, and he could see the other clone reaching up, a puzzled look on his face. Using the console, Ted, (now fully controlling the standing clone via the implant he'd hacked into,) made it lash out at its twin, smashing it in the face with a loud cracking sound and sending blood splattering across the wall. The scientist across the aisle started to get up to intervene, but a few hasty commands later he too was contributing to the décor with his own blood as Ted got the clone to lift him up and smash downwards again against a seat tip, splitting him almost in half with the force of his back hitting the chairs head rest, internal organs spilling down his side as he lay limp over the chair. As Ted was about to order the clone to cease breathing, the other clone, head hanging over its shoulder like a grotesque mannequin missing a string, its neck obviously broken, had amazingly managed to stand up with alarming speed and grab hold of the clone Ted was controlling, and was trying to twist its head off from behind. Before Ted could could get his clone to react,(it just stood motionless next to the scientist's body, apparently oblivious to having its head twisted left and right by its counterpart), there was a large 'pop' sound and a spurt of blood from the now headless neck, as it was finally ripped off the body by the other clone and thrown to the floor, rolling under a seat.
Crouching low, yet unable to take his eyes off the sight of the headless corpse, blood still pumping from its neck like a small malfunctioning fountain, Ted watched the other clone as it seemed to try getting its own smashed head to sit properly on its shoulders again, with very little(and in other circumstances, comical), results, as at best it balanced for a second, then rolled to one side again, held on by the spinal cord and very little else.
Fascinating as it was watching the clone, Ted decided to chance a confrontation.
"Um, hello?....You, uh, ok over there?"
The clone stopped dead as Ted showed himself, moving its head with both hands to face him, held in the air above its own blood strewn torso, the spine showing clearly between strands of muscle and fibre."I saw the whole thing, he just went berserk!"
The clone just turned its head with its hands, still holding it above its shoulders, so its eyes could follow Ted as he moved out of his seat and down the aisle towards him.
As he got closer he could see the knuckle marks imprinted on the side of the clones face and splintered bone jutting out of the opposite cheek.
"Is there anything I can, like, do for you? I could...
Ted never tried to finish the sentence, as no sooner had he got close enough to the clone than his arm shot upwards, the slim console still in his hand, and sliced thought the remains of spine and skin attached to the head with the console casing being used like a blade.
For a moment the clone just stood there, its head still held above itself, then slowly as if caught in a time dilation chamber, toppled backwards onto the floor, the head still being held in the lifeless outstretched arms.
Wiping the gunk off his console Ted stepped over the body, and connected it to the pilots door control panel.
"Warning! Entry to pilot area is restricted! Warning! Entry to pilot area is restricted!"
"Oh shut up" said Ted as the door alarm chimed repeatedly, " Not as if you can stop me".
Laughing to himself he secured the connection and sent a power surge through the locking device, (which unseen to Ted also started a small fire on the other side of the door.) The fire wouldn't have been a problem however, if it wasn't for the equally unseen anti terrorist gas activated by the attempt to enter the cockpit, which paralysed Ted before the door could be opened.
"Warning! Unauthorised entry detected. You will now be experiencing a gas induced paralysis which will keep you incapacited until the authorities arrive. We apologise for any inconvenience caused to affected innocents and remind you that full remuneration subject to individual insurance policies will not be affected. We hope you enjoy the remainder of your flight. Have a nice day."
For over 15hrs since landing, Jones 25701 and the rest of his squad of Zippers had been on standby alert, not able to leave their combat suits or the area around designated for departure, and the strain was getting to them. They had assumed that upon disembarking it would only be a short wait then assault squadrons would be allocated, and they would start the attack. Apart from a standard message sent to his suit receiver ordering battle readiness and radio silence though, they had been ignored by everyone on the base.
Not for the 1st time, a rock bounced off his head setting off his suits proximity beeper by his ear, and Jones-25701 turned towards his mate Jones-39504
"so how long you reckon now? Must be about time right?"
Since it was about the 8th time he'd asked, Jones-25701 just lifted his arm and stuck out the middle digit of his clenched fist, then went back to the schematics of the drop zone he'd been studying on his HUD for about the billionth time.
"C'mon man, I only asked. Another 3 hours and they got to stand us down or our suits will be due a recharge anyway."
Glancing at his suits power dial Jones-25701 saw that he was right, besides his onboard drinks dispenser was starting to taste abit funny, a sure sign it was about depleted. He was about to text his squad leader then mentally kicked himself for almost forgetting about the radio silence. Instead he just flicked open his voice channel and looked towards Jones-39504.
"Give it a rest mate, you know as much as I do. As ya said, they either gonna ship us out or stand us down within the next three hours. Why don't you get some sleep or something and stop buggin me for a change?"
Before Jones-39504 replied, a priority message alert replaced the landing zone map he'd minimised on his viewer, and it opened instantly as the sensor registered his retina focus on it.
'All Zippers to report to their respective drop ships. This is not a drill. Travel time will be approximately 7hrs. Ensure all units recharged and fully armed on-route. Rations have been restocked and additional ration harnesses will be issued on board.'
'Strange,' thought Jones-25701 ;'Looks like they are expecting a long battle, they don't issue ration harnesses to us Zippers usually?'
As the onboard AI registered he'd reached the end of the message, a new view came up of the ship he'd been allocated to along with his berth location and route to the ship. As one the throng of Zippers stood up and the sound of ventilation hatches and access panels slamming shut reverberated around the landing pad as they prepared to move to their respective ships. As Jones-25701 closed his own ventilation hatches and the suits internal air hummed into life, he reached over to Jones-39504 and clanged his fist against his head, making him almost topple over. Jones-39504 regained his balance and kicked back, sending vibrations through his armour and setting off his 'collision detected' alarm. Jones-25701 laughed and held up his hands in surrender posture while his mate gave him the thumbs up, then they both started towards their ship. As they both approached it Jones-25701's collision alarm went off again, apparently without reason, and he made a mental note to do a diagnostic during the journey. 'Last thing I need was that going off in my ear un-necessarily during a battle' he thought, and continued to the ship's ramp.
Unseen by either them or anyone else, a small shape nipped between the two Jones's legs as they moved up the ramp, its skin colour changing rapidly to match its surroundings as it did so. Short burst's of exhaled warm air in the chill surroundings the most noticeable indication of its presence, but that went unnoticed in the dust churned up by the Zippers unless you knew to look for it.
As the Zippers got to the top of the loading ramps, each was allocated a harness which they strapped onto their shoulders, ready to have the large squared ration packs attached once they disembarked again that were piled high either side of the exit.
Resisting the impulse to stand to stand as he heard Commander Braithwait enter the office, Commander Atak instead tried to act casual by stretching his arms in a relaxed yawn posture behind his head and outstretching his legs to rest on the low desk in front of his command hair.
"GOOD NEWS ATAK! I HAVE BEEN IN TOUCH WITH HQ AND I GOT YOU COMMAND OF MY BACKUP SUPPLY SQUAD ON THE MISSION"
Before Braithwaits booming voice had finished echoing round the room from behind him, it was interrupted by the thud of Atak as he rolled awkwardly from his chair and onto the floor.
"Wah?! I mean, Sir??"
Braithwait grabbed Atak by his shoulder hook and helped him back to his feet.
"Sorry, didn't realise my amplifier was still up high, have to shout at those desk jockeys when this far out or they don't receive half your message, didn't mean to startle you."
"No, no that's fine I, um, just slipped is all. You say I am to go on the mission? That’s, um, great news, but who will run the base?"
"Don't worry about that, its all sorted. There's a Commander Fresh out of training 5 hrs out already on route. HQ mentioned they were sending him as my supply officer rather than send me an experienced commander needed in the main assault, so I suggested you do it instead and they agreed with me."
Atak just stared a Braithwait, hardly able to comprehend what was being said to him.
“My squad should make planetfall within the next 8 hours and will setup a Galactic gate for me to take command on the actual assault, so you should start getting ready. Don't forget to charge your Dgun up, never know, may even leave a few for you to mop up!”
As Braithwait started back to the door Atak could think of nothing to say, his mind still trying to comprehend that he was going into a real battle, albeit as a supply commander. Franticly he tried to think of ways out of the position thrust so suddenly upon him, but even after the doors had closed he was still standing mortified and unmoving, his mind a blank. If it wasn't for the sudden coughing fit bought on by his lungs reminding the rest of his body that he had forgotten to breath in over 2 minutes, he would probably have still been standing there mouth agape abit longer.
No sooner had he left the command bunker than Braithwait’s forced smile disappeared, replaced by a deep scowl hidden beneath his faceplated headpiece. ‘How dare they allocate that Idiot to be my supply officer!’ he was thinking. ‘This mission is too important for some namby pamby desk commander to be given!’....’I’ll show them not to go against my recommendations, 1st chance I get I am going to put Atak into battle, and then we’ll see who’s ’the best Commander for the job’ ,Pfft....
part 20 or part 19b?? works in progress...guy in parts box rear of Teds craft
Phalanx had hardly dared to breath for the last 10 minutes. His profession involved a certain amount of risk its true, and as such he was able to cope with most things, but what he had been listening to didn't sound like something he'd bargained for when he'd got where he is now.
Trying to block out the ominous silence now surrounding him, phalanx thought back to the events leading to his present predicament. Having already become to well known in the capital city, Phalanx had reported back to the FBI building for his monthly licence. (see ** below) And permission to relocate to an alternate planet to operate from. After the usual bribes,( the FBI may have been a legitimate government organisation, doesn't mean it was infallible,) Phalanx was soon at the departure lounge and looking for a suitable sucker. After ignoring the military sections, (naturally,) he focused on a small group milling around a commercial flight lounge and studied the passengers as he pretended to read an article on 'Core and their affect on the economy' he’d found on an adjacent table.
Dismissing a pair of army clones and an engineer that Phalanx noticed was wearing a wig, (see***), he watched with interest as a lab technician supervised his luggage while a security drone scanned it. As each of the four containers passed inspection they were loaded onto a conveyor belt and disappeared through a hatch barely large enough for them to fit through, presumably where they awaited transport onto the ship. Putting the magazine back down, Phalanx casually approached the security drone and discreetly flashed his FBI licence towards its rear sensor as it turned to watch him approaching, then palmed it back into his pocket again. Turning, the drone hovered to meet phalanx and directed him to the restricted area out of site from the other passengers. As the door was closing behind them phalanx noticed the labtech start up a conversation with the engineer, who with hindsight seemed abit too interested in the topic considering their professions. Once the door had closed Phalanx was shown to a vidscreen and found himself speaking to a thin, hook nosed man dressed in a bland business suit, who pressed something out of sight and the drone returned through the door, leaving them alone.
“So, how may I help you? Always a pleasure dealing with the FBI Mr....?”
The suits varied, and the faces changed, but the sycophantic tone of people like spaceport security chief Crater seemed to be synonymous with corrupt officials everywhere.
“Phalanx, Trip Phalanx.”
“Ah yes, Mr Phalanx. How can we assist you this fine day, hmm?”
“I noticed a lab technician boarding some containers. As per FBI directive 36 alpha I am requesting permission to stow away in one of them.”
Crater again glanced at something off-screen and without so much as a flinch from the half-grin seemingly painted on his scrawny face said ; “ah well there's my dilemma you see Mr Phalanx, all but one of the containers are parts of a military nature, and the last is worthless to me, so unless there was some further remuneration in addition to the contents I am afraid I must refuse your request.
Phalanx knew Crater was probably lying about the contents to gain credits from him, but he also knew it could be days wandering the spaceport for someone with a container half those sizes in which to stow away on, so reluctantly agree to ’donate’ 200 credits in addition to turning over rights of the contents to Crater. After punching in his account details along with transfer confirmation another drone came in and led him down the corridors to the loading bay where (surprise surprise), one of the 4 containers was already sat open and empty, the contents already removed from view and no doubt in Craters office being shared among his lackeys.
As he climbed in a small hatch opened up on the front of the drone assisting him up, and Craters face again leered at him. “Pleasure doing business with you Mr Phalanx. You’ll note I have supplied breathing apparatus for you just n case it gets abit stuffy, no extra charge of course.”
Without hiding the contempt in his voice Phalanx just said “Your too kind, I will be sure to recommend your services to my employers.”
“No need, no need, always happy to oblige government representatives.” And with that the lid was closed and darkness engulfed him as his container was loaded with the others, and not as smoothly as he may have hoped.
(**) When you have had to use disguises as much as phalanx had over the years, spotting other people when they were wearing them became almost 2nd nature. Unfortunately he assumed the engineer was just getting used to the feel of them before committing to a permanent hair implant after some military accident, so did not give it a 2nd thought.
***Much as controlled employment of con merchants such as phalanx made economic and military sense to the Arm authorities, many business's still, (outwardly at least), did not like to publicly support such activities for fear of lawsuits. In the area of public transport this meant ensuring the public at large that no FBI employee would be sat on the same flight as potential customers. This said, there was always someone willing and able to compromise (for a price of course), and allow passage to the FBI incognito-hence this discussion.
Tentatively, Phalanx lifted the lid of the container he'd stowed away on. The previously muffled tone of the auto-console was still giving out the "Warning, unauthorised entry detected" and gas message, but wearing the breathing apparatus supplied by Crater Phalanx ignored it, and peeked from the lid. ‘If only I had paid more attention to that Engineer in the lobby, I may not be in this mess’ he thought as he climbed out and saw the carnage around him. From inside the container he wasn't able to make out alot of what was going on other than it involved screaming and crashing noises, and the one time he had lifted the lid to peer out he’d quickly closed it again as something resembling part of a spleen splattered on it, splashes of blood managing to shoot over his face as he ducked back down. As he made his way to the Cockpit door and the still rigid form of the engineer stuck in the act of jimmying the door lock, it was all Phalanx could do not to be sick. Blood was strewn all over the interior walls and seats as if a crazed paint-bot had decided to run rampage with a spray can and a bucket of paint for a laugh, and he had to step over body parts as he walked down the aisle. In the centre one of the clones was strangely holding its head in outstretched arms on the floor as if trying to get a better view of the ceiling duct it was facing for some reason. (Phalanx almost started to wonder why a dead clone would want to do that, but luckily he stumbled trying to avoid the large puddle of blood around its neck and he was saved the pointlessness of that train of thought.)
Reaching the door mechanism he deftly over-ridded the lock and the door slid open, making the Engineer fall backwards and into a seat due to him being lent against it as it opened. A glance at the control panels flashing in front of the autopilot bots was enough to realise the craft was following some pre programmed flight plan, yet why the pilot-bots where shutdown eluded him as everything seemed in order.
Pressing a button on the side of each command chair made the autopilot bots retract into the pilot seats. (Well, one of them retracted, the other started to and got stuck in mid fold, only the top half still visible sticking out from the recess with its head inches from the floor, and looking for all the world like it had noticed its feet missing and was searching for them.)
After a few hard kicks at the malfunctioning seat which stopped the whirring noise it had been making but little else, Phalanx sat in the cleared left hand seat and stared at the control panel.
“This is going to be one of those days”, he said outloud, then promptly took out a screwdriver and started to disassemble the panel.
**Although Arm were predominantly a race dedicated to the total and utter destruction of Core, there were a few acceptable exceptions such as civilian researchers, labourers, regeneration operatives etc. One of the stranger exceptions, was the "FBI".
Anyone not affiliated directly with the military and the overthrow of Core were considered less than ideal Arm citizens, but rather than enforce military participation (and likely drive such people underground,) the government came up with a cunning plan of legalising certain less reputable pursuits (operating under strict legislation,) such as the Fraudsters Bill Initiative, or FBI as it became commonly known. The FBI's sole purpose was the issue of licenses (and subsequently the ability to keep close scrutiny on,) known con men within the Arm race, and to ensure that only non-military personnel were targeted by these individuals. Phalanx was one such individual.
Hardly daring to breath less some sensor or other picked up the movement, Agent Subzero huddled in the corner of the pod next to the thigh of the arm being. It had been ages since he’d sneaked aboard the assault ship, and, looking for somewhere to hide, had found a line of open pod doors and darted inside the nearest one. As he got his breath back one of the armour suited beings ( *J.25701*, according to the stencil embossed on its arse, which he’d glimpsed briefly as it came then went out of focus as it squashed against his face), came into the same pod and closed the door. Luckily once the door had closed ‘J25’ (he couldn't be bothered to think of all the numbers), pressed a button and small suction arms protruded from the pods sides, fixing then lifting slightly the whole suit ready for the flight, and he was given room to manoeuvre again. Not knowing the destination, Subzero had settled down for a potentially long flight, (making sure to wrap his tail to J25’s leg in case he fell asleep so would be woken should they arrive), and opened the small electronic pad on his wrist.(see ** below) which with a few carefully placed key presses bought up his searches to date.(*Since the disappearance of the Royal family 4yrs and 22 days ago, over 2000 Agents had been dispatched to find out what had happened to them, and if they were still alive. The only clue was a short distress call stating they were under attack by a Core frigate, but then the signal was lost. Ever since, Agents like Subzero had been sent to scour the last known galaxy they were reported in, more often than not by hitching lifts off the Arm race.(It was well known that the Arm and Core were mortal enemies, and where there’s an Arm attack ship, you can be pretty sure a Core held world was not far away.) This would be the 7th Arm ship he had stowed away on since his mission began, having been stranded for many months a few times on Core held planets on occasions when Arm had failed to succeed in their attacks. (* Unlike Arm, the Core ships were fitted with biosensors which picked up any biological life forms, a fact that cost over 1/3rd of the 2000 Agents lives before it was realised, hence only using Arm ships to stow away on. After logging his latest acquired ‘lift’ from the Arm planet of Alion 5 to destination unknown, Subzero added the usual personal message to his mate and children with the hope of seeing them again soon, and set it to auto transmit once they had made planetfall and were away from the ship. He then curled up as comfy as he could in the circumstances, and awaited arrival at whatever world they were heading.
**Due to the metamorphic skin colour changing abilities of his race, it became unpractical to make anything carried any less adaptive to its surroundings. For this reason nearly all of their technology had evolved from a biogenesis* origin, adapted from the molecular cells indigenous to their race!
*To most advanced life forms the process of ‘biogenesis’ is still only hypothetical, but the 'Aludian' people not only managed to substantiate the hypothesis, but also base their whole technology around it.