Excerpt (of a story in development)
“READY”! Each one heard, no ... felt the command in turn. Garlain issued the command to the unit one at a time and heard each one shift, in turn. “Good” he mouthed to himself. “Not a sound.” He wasn’t exactly playing by the rules. Sensit’s were supposed to issue the READY command to the whole unit simultaneously. Garlain liked to bend the rules, and even break them when he could, but he was cautious. The unit would never know what he had done and they were too far out for other Command Sensit’s to pick them up.
Another quick cast of the compound told Garlain that it would get interesting in about 90 seconds. The unit was in place and READY. Heart beats masked but regular, breathing well controlled, muscles relaxed. Even the rogue Cornell and his men were behaving as predicted. This mission had to go flawlessly. The Big Push was fast approaching and he had to be the best and only option Command had. He had to be part of it.
85 seconds to go. He’s always hated these missions. Not because of the danger. He knew he could avoid trouble and find a way out even if it turned bad. Not because of the death or destruction either. He had not even met the unit face to face, or ever heard of the rock they were on. Even the rogue Cornell was just another face on the news clips. No. He hated the boredom and tedium. This was a waste of his talents. But, he needed to be part of the Big Push and the colours that made the decisions used these missions as part of the evaluation.
75 seconds. He is a blue, a Sensit. Not too dark a blue though. Just good enough to get noticed, but not so good or specialized that he’d get shuffled off to the whites for research. He made sure of that. The unit is dark green, top commandos each one. He had even been allowed to select the members, all but the captain. The dark red Commanders assigned her. The yellers had kept their fingers out of this one. If it went wrong they were clean. If only they would keep their fingers out of the Big Push. Not much chance of that though with the kind of money going in and the potential rewards and notoriety.
66 seconds and a light hover tank ... no ... the personnel carrier returning through the compounds south gate from a routine patrol. It is empty. “Good. It might be useful.” He tracks its location. The rogue count remains the same. With a flawless evaluation for this mission, all he will need is an appropriate psych eval. The evaluators have scheduled a practise session for tomorrow. Monitoring the practise and follow-up discussion should provide all that he needs to ace the psych eval.
49 seconds and the rogue leaders have finished their meeting and will be heading for the mess. The rogue Cornell; punctual and by the book as always. The one fatal flaw in an otherwise well run rogue operation. The majority of rogues, including the leaders, will be in the mess at the same time. With a minimum guard on duty and the rest seated and eating, bringing the roof down on this rogue operation is more than just words. The Big Push was important to both the yellers and reds for different reasons. Consolidation of political power, money, resources, public focus not on them; the list is long. It wasn’t just important to Garlain though, it was his life’s goal. Whatever it was he was sensing he had to be out there to meet it. With this rogue group out of the picture the path to the Big Push was wide open.
30 seconds and the rogue Cornell is heading away from the mess to his office. Looks like the unit Captain will have to earn her passage today. “CORNELL OFFICE”! The Captain felt the words and acknowledged with the appropriate adjustment to her breathing. It has been almost 10 years now since the ... ‘thing’ was first detected beyond our galaxy. Command has only minimal sensor information and conjecture. He on the other hand has had a pretty good look at it and decided from the beginning not to divulge anything to Command. A Sensit that could cast beyond the galactic boundary was unheard of. Within a solar system, of course. Only a handful could cast much beyond a solar system. Two claimed to be able to cast to the galactic boundary. They couldn’t. Garlain had looked at them all and he was the first and only human so far to reach beyond their Galaxy, mentally at least. The Big Push would change that.
Yes. The ‘thing’ was still there, unchanged but a bit closer. Sometimes he tries to communicate with it. It is a one sided conversation. Not right now though. This mission is too important.
15 seconds. Only the guards are outside now and right where they should be. The level of noise in the mess has increased and the Cornell seems to be relaxing while alone in his office. The ‘thing’ is massive. Spherical, possibly hollow, with a circumference greater than the orbit of earth and traveling at close to the speed of light. Something that massive should not be able to exist or travel at such a speed. He can feel the uneven surface but can’t yet determine what the bumps and dips are. It is actively transmitting, yet the patterns are unfamiliar and not all together regular. “What is it? What is it doing?”
10 seconds and counting. Every day he can feel a bit more of it. He should have a good picture of it even before the Big Push is launched. It feels like ... a mountain. Only bigger and somehow just on the edge of sentience. Instinctive or reasoning ... or something else ... he is not sure.
7 seconds. “Exactly where will each rogue guard be?” The direction and distance are determined, each in turn. The Cornell is seated at his desk.
“5”! The countdown commands are issued to the whole unit. “41 52”! “87 41”! ... The direction and distance to each guard are individually issued to unit members assigned guard targets. “4 ... 3 ... 2”! “SEATED DESK”! to the unit Captain.
“1 ... GO”! And so it begins. As one, the individual shields drop, sights are trained and triggers pulled. A second later the process is repeated. 12 guards drop dead. Eight explosions. The mess supports collapse and the roof and walls collapse on the rogues inside. The rogue Cornell stands only to fall dead from a single shot. All twelve guns train on the rubble and dust of the mess waiting for further commands. 6 ... no ... 7 hearts still beat under the rubble. No movement though. ... 6 hearts now. ... Sound and ... movement at the north end. “MESS NORTH”! A single shot. A small explosion. No heart beats or movement. A quick cast of the compound and only the unit remains alive. “CLEAN-UP”! “RENDEVOUS SOUTH GATE EAST SIDE”!
“I wonder how Trellis is doing? Focus. Magellan Station.” Cast. Trellis; his only real competition for a seat on the Big Push. While only an average Sensit, Trellis does have both Red and Yeller relatives. Fortunately not enough to sway the Big Push Board. Trellis pulled guard duty on the main supply station. ... Ah, there he is and it looks like his unit has stumbled on to something. ... 6 hired guns likely trying to steal supplies. ... His unit is moving into position. ... Oh no. Here we go again. Trellis got his orientation 180 degrees wrong for the position of one of the hired guns. ... The GO command. The guard given the wrong direction takes one in the leg but does manage to put one in the hired gun. The operation is over quickly, but only a qualified success; not good for Trellis. The wounded guard however, bares a second look. Her reaction time when confronted with no target was amazing and she managed to reacquire and hit her target with a single shot while wounded.
Re-focusing here. The clean-up is going well. “I wonder what else is going on way out here in the edge.” Cast.
22 minutes later Garlain’s 12 unit members are gathered near the personnel carrier. The haul is good. Information, power packs, even some decent food and a ride to the extraction point. The weather is favourable and the charges have been set. No rogue group will be using this clearing for awhile. The carrier is loaded and fresh power cells are pushed-in. The Captain sets the timer and the carrier heads out of the compound. At about 1000 out the compound implodes sparing most of the surrounding jungle. A cheer is stifled by the feasting. The rogues had eaten pretty well.Cast. Traffic is very thin out here on the edge. It appears that no one noticed the implosion on ... what rock are they on? No matter. “EXTRACT”! The pilot felt the command and guides the ship out of its parking orbit behind the small moon. We should arrive at the extraction point 1 minute ahead of the unit. Flawless. Now to get ready for the psych eval.