A breeze blew through the aravi stalks like waves against a shore. It ruffled her long blonde hair and tickled the tips of her pointed ears as Karasena gazed over the field. Her hands idly brushed the heads of the aravi her thoughts distant. In her mind’s eye she could see the green aravi turn golden. Her stomach rumbled imagining the taste of sweet aravi bread come harvest time. She enjoyed the bustle of the harvest it was a time she treasured. It was so peaceful here all that she could hear was the rustle of the aravi and the buzz of insects. As much as she wanted to stay she would have to go back soon. The sound of someone moving through the waist high aravi behind her had her turning to see who was making so much noise.
“Bryant!” she muttered under her breath on seeing a human male in civilian clothes.
He was taller than she was, then most humans were taller than a T’Arni. He wasn’t trying to be unduly noisy that was just him. He hated the wild outdoors, you could take a Human out of the city but you couldn’t take the city out of the Human.
“Corporal Bryant there a reason you’ve disturbed my peace?” she wasn’t being vindictive just surprised to see him here.
Bryant saluted. “Flash message from Com Ops ma’am!”
Karasena turned serious. “About what?”
“Don’t know ma’am Lieutenant Dareia told me to get you straight away.”
“She could have commed me,” Karasena muttered.
“You’re not wearing your comms bracelet,” Bryant tactfully reminded her.
Karasena flushed realising he was correct. Nothing ever happened here and they had grown complacent and she sighed. “Ok,” she said reluctantly and gestured to Bryant to follow her.
They headed back to the base. She walked her mind in a whirl Bryant silent as a ghost beside her. It was five kilometres from the field to the base. Karasena halted and looked towards the base her home for the last twenty years. Today it felt alien to her just looking at the earth ramparts surrounded by a chain link fence. Many considered it a bit old-fashioned but the chain fence kept out undesirables mostly the local wildlife, animals native to this planet. They could have put up a sonic barrier but even she considered that a waste of power and a sonic barrier was no deterrent to anything human or larger. From her position she could see the comms tower mast high above the ramparts the mast fully extended. She bit her bottom lip it must be something serious if Dee (her name for Lieutenant Dareia) had the comms tower mast at its full extent. The base itself was a square surrounded by the circle of the fence. The base was two hundred meters wide by as much deep. The fence had another feature it marked the outer edge of the shields. She noted with some relief that the shields weren’t active. If they had been then things would have been really serious.
“Come on Bryant,” she said waving him on.
She halted at the two-lane highway that separated the farmland from the base. Not that there was any traffic on the road that wasn’t that unexpected. The first colonists to this planet had built the road but after they looked at their plans they decided not to build any settlements this far east. Karasena crossed the road to the entrance to the base her path taking her past the motor pool. To her it seemed as if all the ATV transports were back. A duraconcrete wall and gate confronted her flanked by two squat towers. Besides the gate towers there were at least another four towers on each corner. Each tower was on slightly higher than the duraconcrete backed earth ramparts. A massive composite material gate was raised above the entrance the material of the gate as strong as the structure it backed. As she got closer she saw a familiar figure waiting for her.
“I’ll take if from here Bryant be about your duties.”
“Yes ma’am,” he saluted and hurried forward saluting the other figure as he passed.
“Captain Karasena,” the newcomer said with a salute.
“Lieutenant Dareia,” Karasena replied wondering why her friend had become so formal.
Lieutenant Dareia was a T’Arni like Karasena but her hair was darker and she had blue eyes not usual for T’Arni at least not that blue. Dareia’s eyes were Valkyrie blue that’s what the Enari called themselves. Some name the Humans had labelled them as. And of course the Valkyrie had proudly taken it for themselves. Karasena often wondered if Dareia had some Valkyrie blood in her far past. Her hair was cut to regulation length and unlike her captain who had let it grow long. All this idle speculation wasn’t getting to the crux of the matter the reason her second in command had summoned her back.
“What going on Dee?” They had been here long enough to call each other by friendly names.
“I’ll brief you inside ma’am,” Dee replied gesturing to the gate she was never that formal and it had Karasena worried.
It was busy inside as they swept past the bunker holding the comms tower at the centre of the base. A squat heavily fortified building housed the comms centre. Several buildings were attached to the insides of the ramparts. It looked as if there were too few buildings for the size of the base. Most of the base was underground and could only be accessed from the comms tower bunker or the freight elevator. Karasena walked with Dee her eyes noting the bustle more than she had ever seen and she had been here twenty years. Dee led her to a small building behind the comms bunker. Karasena’s office a small cluttered place then she wasn’t in here that often. There were cabinets and cupboards clustered around a battered desk and a terminal. Karasena perched herself on the edge of the desk and regarded her friend carefully.
“What is really going on?” she asked. “They hardly ever send an inspection team out here?” Normally they had advance warning of a inspection. She knew she had kept her reports up to date and a re-supply ship wasn’t due for months.
Dee drew a deep breath before talking. “Good that you are seated.”
“It’s that bad?” Karasena enquired.
“The Confederacy is at war.”
“What’s the Commonwealth done now,” Karasena muttered thinking that it must be bad if they were at war. War with the Orsini could only end one way with either the Confederacy or the Commonwealth destroyed there could be no compromise.
“It’s the Empire.”
Karasena stared stunned she said nothing for a few minutes while she digested the news. “The Empire as in the Terran Empire.”
Dee nodded her eyes on Karasena. “I know you are finding it hard to take in but that is the truth of the matter. The Empire launched an attack without provocation, we had no warning.”
“Why? Constantine would never do that?” Karasena stated. They had full access to Comms Net despite the remoteness of this system. It was their task to monitor all comms traffic in this sector of Confederacy space.
“Apparently there’s a new guy called Augustus.”
“I suppose he’s demanding that we return his former colonies to him. They’ve been part of the Confederacy for well over a hundred years. You would have though they’d learned that lesson by now?” Karasena was angry every time there was a new Emperor or Empress there was always a demand to return the eleven colonies to them. Most of the time it was an empty threat but now and again one decided to try and take them back by force.
“There’s been no such demands.”
“What!” Karasena almost shouted alarmed.
“They just attacked. Nthus was the target as well as Aurelis Prime.”
Karasena could understand the logic of attacking Nthus, Com Ops headquarters was there but Aurelis that wasn’t a strategic target. “Aurelis what’s there?”
“Nothing I know of only a military academy. Perhaps we are dealing with someone insane?”
Karasena grimaced. “Ok recall the garrison.”
“Already done. I’ve got the MARs launchers set up and got Sergeant Fox to issue uniforms and weapons.” Dee gave Karasena a significant look.
Karasena flushed a little she was out of uniform. The blue pants, the open necked checked shirt and high boots made her look less like a soldier and more like one of the colonists.
“And I’ve got three people at the comms station monitoring it and the relays. They’ll be our first alert if trouble heads our way.” Dee continued. “I’ve left our outposts in place there is no point in calling them in.” Not all the garrison was stationed at the base there were several small outposts. More to keep the locals happy than of any strategic need and it was a place to send troublemakers especially the White Mountain outpost two thousand kilometres to the north.
What Dee had told her had been in Karasena’s mind but she had beaten her to the point. Dee was a telepath, a reluctant one at that and very few at the base knew about it. “Thank you,” Karasena said to her.
“Don’t thank me I was only doing my job,” Dee replied.
“You reckon they’ll re-call you?” Karasena said and winced at her thoughtlessness.
“We both know that’s unlikely.” Dee’s expression was bitter. “Since my powers manifested themselves.”
Dee was quite forthright about her history and Karasena knew it. It was when she had been evaced after a fight with pirates on Hyren Shai that her latent telepathy had emerged. As a telepath she wasn’t allowed on the front lines and should have resigned her commission.
“Sorry,” Karasena apologised. “I wasn’t thinking.”
“Don’t be. They wanted me to resign I refused so they shipped me here.”
“Do you regret that?”
“No, they could have forced me to but it would have them look bad after my rescuer was awarded a Confederacy Star.”
Karasena nodded thoughtfully. Dee’s telepathy was limited she had to be within ten metres of her target for her to be able to read minds. “Did you ever hear from Captain Locke afterwards?” She had heard that a Captain Sandra Locke had carried Dee four clicks back to an evac shuttle and had turned around to lead her troops in another assault when she collapsed from her wounds. Dee was the second casualty she had rescued that day.
“I tried to see her in hospital but her wounds were worse than mine. Later they made her a major. After that they shipped me out to train in controlling my skill and the rest they say is history.”
“Do you have a plan if the Terrans do come here,” Karasena asked her. “You have seen more combat than I. Heck you’ve seen more combat then the whole garrison put together.”
“Its pointless to plan yet we aren’t ready.” Dee gave a sigh. “We’ll never be.”
Whatever she was going to say next was interrupted by the chime of the door.
“That’s Bryant with your uniform.”
Karasena opened the door to see Bryant standing there a package in his hand. He saluted.
“Bryant?” Karasena said unsurprised. Dee would have known who was at the door even if it wasn’t her telepathy.
“Your uniform ma’am. Lieutenant Dareia asked me to get it for you. Sergeant Fox has the command lined up ready for inspection as you ordered.”
“My orders?” Karasena said with a glance to Dee. “Ok Bryant be about your duties I’ll be there in a few minutes,” Karasena told him she seemed to be telling him that too much.
“Yes ma’am,” Bryant saluted and was gone. The door slid closed behind him.
Karasena regarded her friend. “Well?”
With a shrug Dee sat behind the desk while Karasena dressed the tight confines of her office.
“We must have a plan we can’t go around without one?” Karasena said buttoning up her jacket and pulling it straight. She thought nothing of dressing in front of Dee. Then the Confederacy Ground Forces or GF to those in the know made no distinction between men and women in regards to things like that. The only problem was when it came to the Valkyrie they refused to do anything like bathe or dress when there were men present.
“I do, you go out and address your soldiers and tell them that this isn’t a drill.”
Karasena stared at Dee. “You didn’t?”
“That’s your duty, you are the senior officer.”
“Gee thanks,” Karasena said sarcastically. Dee did have a point she was in command here and it was time she did so. She had let things slip.
“You’ll be fine,” Dee replied ignoring Karasena’s comments. “I’ll be there to back you up.”
“I suppose I have to face them,” Karasena said reluctantly.
As Karasena turned to go Dee called out. “Before you go you’ll need this.” Dee handed Karasena her comms bracelet.
She snapped it onto her wrist. “Right, let’s face the music.”