Chapter 11 - Yuri-Milost
“Brother?” Tom replied when Whatsit told him about JnnWall.
“Yes. I don’t know how to feel about the whole thing. MerrCrr told me he stopped using the name Zennk when it became synonymous with bad luck. Since he worked daily with members of the military, the name was a distraction.”
“I’d say your life just became a bit more complicated,” Tom said as he jovially slapped his friend on the back. “Nothing like family to add multiple layers of convoluted mess into an otherwise normal life.”
Shaking his head at Tom’s description of his life as normal, Whatsit decided to change the subject. “What are your thoughts about going to Chrysalis?”
It was Tom’s turn to shake his head and frown, “I don’t like having to act on such short notice. It’s only been a few weeks since we defeated the Chrysallaman invasion, and here we are talking about going to your home planet and confronting a new menace. I’m not convinced we’re ready.”
Pacing as he spoke, Tom said, “Dr. Heinbaum assures me the FLIT drive will provide the same fold-space capability for interstellar travel as it does for intrasystem travel. We should be able to make the 30-year trip to Chrysalis instantaneously; however, having the FLIT capability and using it are two very different things.”
Narrowing his eyes in anger, he continued, “And Doug’s right about our PDS as well. It’s so effective, it leaves us with no alternative but hand-to-hand combat.”
Tom was unusually agitated, and Whatsit thought he knew what was really bothering his friend.
“Alex’s death is weighing on your mind.”
Stopping in mid-stride, Tom replied with a rueful smile, “That obvious, huh?”
Nodding, Whatsit said, “You’re not alone. I was so outraged by his senseless death, I almost blew a hole through the Destinnee and killed everyone. Would have too if MerrCrr hadn’t knocked me out.”
Chagrined by the memory, Whatsit asked, “Have you found someone to take over Alex’s job?”
Nodding, Tom replied, “Yes. Her name is Svet Yuri-Milost. She’s an expert Apache helicopter pilot and has flown more Osprey missions than any other Army officer. Her elevations in rank are due to her skills and leadership abilities. I think she’ll make a great addition to the team.”
“When do we get to meet her?”
“At the Staff Meeting tomorrow. 0800 hours.”
The next morning, Tom and his team sat around the table in the Staff Conference room reminiscing about Alex. Everyone had a story to tell about his enthusiasm and love of life.
One of the best was Becky’s recollection of the first time Tom introduced them to the power of illusion when he gave them all the activation dose of fluoride.
“Here we all were thinking we were freezing to death on an Arctic ice floe, and Alex wanted to go again,” she smiled as she recalled the day. “I swear if I’d had a gun when he slapped the top of this table and asked to go back, I’d have shot him for sure!”
The somber mood in the room lightened a little as everyone chuckled at the fond memory but darkened again as they gazed at the empty chair where Alex usually sat. Tom recognized that moment as the right time to introduce his new Staff member.
Pressing the intercom button, Tom said, “Lieutenant Amsley, please bring Colonel Yuri-Milost in now.”
Moments later, Amsley opened the conference room door and motioned a woman inside.
Tom said, “Everyone, I’d like to introduce Colonel Svet Yuri-Milost. She’ll be taking over the duties of Colonel Fields.”
Yuri-Milost looked like a bald, wide-bodied NFL linebacker. She stood 6 feet, 2 inches tall and was what some people politely refer to as big-boned. Everything about her looked thick. Even her fingers had a chubby appearance. Her most striking physical attribute was an apparent lack of a neck. Yuri-Milost’s head seemed to sit directly on her shoulders. She started to sit down in the chair where Alex normally sat, but Tom stopped her and indicated she should grab one of the empty chairs along the wall. It just wasn’t the right time to fill Alex’s old seat.
Wheeling the chair over to a point where she would be directly across from Whatsit, Yuri-Milost eased down. The chair creaked ominously from her weight.
Whatsit thought, “Yuri-Milost looks familiar for some reason. I think I’d remember her if we’d ever met before. Maybe it’ll come to me.”
Tom broke Whatsit’s train of thought. “Colonel Yuri-Milost, why don’t you tell the group a little about yourself. Please converse telepathically so Whatsit can be in on the conversation.”
Clasping her fingers, Yuri-Milost said, “My name is Svet Yuri-Milost, and I’ve been in the Army now for almost twenty years flying Apache helicopters and the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. I was the pilot with the most flight experience chosen by the Pentagon software team to help program the flight simulator used for Osprey training. When I was recruited into FORCE last year, I’d been stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey flying covert missions into mountainous areas controlled by the Soviets. I was a commander responsible for six of the FORCE ground teams that destroyed five mother ships and twenty-five scout saucers.”
“Nice work!” Jason declared.
“Thanks. I have no love loss for the Chriks, present company excepted,” she said with a glance toward Whatsit. “I lost my mother and brother in the first wave of attacks. My blood pressure still goes up when I see one of the beasts.”
Whatsit didn’t like the vibe he was getting from Yuri-Milost. There was something familiar about her. His thoughts were interrupted by Tom.
“You may now open the sealed packets on the table. The information is the latest we have on the Asiddian threat and is based upon a memory tap performed by Whatsit on the Emperor and downloads of computer files from Horcunt’s server on the Destinnee.”
Each yellow packet was labeled Top Secret - Eyes Only. Inside were hi-res photos of a dark-red Asiddian spaceship shaped like an elongated cylinder with rounded ends. The cylinder was covered in long spines giving it the appearance of a Noogoora burr. Some of the photos showed a red laser-like beam shooting from the tip of a spine toward something off-camera.
Tom told them what he knew.
“The Chrysallamans have no Intel on the interior of these craft because they were never able to damage one. The Asiddian power source is unknown. The only weapon the Asiddians ever used was the red laser, but it was quite effective. Neither the gravity-drive envelope nor the Armorium hulls of the Chrysallaman ships offered any protection. There is no picture of an Asiddian, so we’re in the dark as to what kind of lifeform they are. We have a video from the archives of the Destinnee which I’ll throw up on the monitors.”
The revolving FORCE logo on the overhead screens was instantly replaced with the video taken by the observation mother ship of the destruction of two mother ships sent to engage the Asiddians in battle. Everyone watched the mother ships attack the Asiddian craft with cutter and heat beams driven by the power of multiple fusion reactors. Cutter rays with such power would have vaporized an aircraft carrier but had no effect on the burr-shaped spacecraft. The Asiddian red laser beam sliced apart the mother ships, and then the Asiddian ship rammed through the floating chunks of the dead mother ships without the slightest bit of damage.
As the video ended, Jason said, “The red laser is a formidable weapon. Is there any analysis of its energy signature?”
“None,” Tom answered. “The damned Chriks were so egotistical, they couldn’t imagine anyone having a weapon which could penetrate their Armorium much less the gravity-drive envelope. They didn’t have any sensors on board the mother ships taking any readings on the type of power or weapons used by the Asiddians. After the first skirmish, the Asiddians never let them get close enough to analyze their weapon or power source.
“What about speed?” Amanda asked. “How fast are these Asiddian ships?
“The observational data indicates their ships have the same lightspeed capability as the Chrysallaman craft.”
“The reaction of the Asiddian craft to the Chrysallaman attack was quite informative,” Doug said.
“What do you mean?” Jason asked.
“Consider a war-like alien race with 90 lightspeed capable battleships armed with powerful laser cannon bearing down on a fixed solar system. The odds are the Asiddians are thoughtful planners and targeted the Chrysallaman homeworld for invasion. Any successful invasion would require intelligence about weaponry and defenses of the target world. The Asiddians knew the offensive and defensive capabilities of the Chrysallamans before the assault.”
Seeing nods of agreement, Doug continued, “The Chrysallamans have sensors capable of scanning an entire solar system for detailed energy signatures from a distance of at least three light months. There’s no reason to believe the Asiddians don’t have similar or better sensors aboard their craft.”
“I think I see where you’re going with this,” Becky said with a serious look.
Doug nodded, “There’s little doubt in my mind the Asiddians knew three mother ships were approaching for some kind of confrontation, yet the Asiddians took no evasive action. They didn’t even slow down. The Asiddian warcraft withstood the simultaneous attack of two of the most powerful military machines ever created by the Chrysallamans, destroyed both mother ships with one laser beam and then rammed through the thousands of tons of debris as if it was nothing more than wind driven sand.”
“Confidence on a grand scale,” Amanda said.
“I think the word arrogance may be more appropriate,” Becky responded. “The Asiddians acted towards the Chrysallamans the same way the Chrysallamans acted towards Humans.”
“I hope you’re not trying to tell us the Asiddians are as far ahead of the Chrysallamans in technology as the Chrysallamans were ahead of humans in ’47,” Jason replied. “If that’s the case, we have no idea what we’re up against.”
The mood in the room was becoming somber, and Tom recognized it was time to let everyone take a break.
“At this point, I see no alternative but to make a reconnaissance trip to Chrysalis. We need information and the only way to get it is to go there. We will reconvene here tomorrow at 0830. I want written suggestions with recommended personnel and equipment. Dismissed.”
Colonel Svet Yuri-Milost walked the hallways in ‘C’ wing where the dormitory suites were located in the Nevada facility until she at last arrived at door number 313. Pressing her thumb against the ID plate in the wall outside her suite, she grunted with satisfaction as the outer door slid into its wall enclosure allowing her entry. The living area of her suite was 15 feet wide and 25 feet deep. Doorways located in the rear corners of the room led to the kitchen area on the right and the bedroom and bath on the left. A large, intricately carved wooden cross hung on the end wall just above and behind an overstuffed, brown leather La-Z-Boy recliner.
A rectangular Persian qum silk rug with a pattern designed to point toward the leather chair covered the center of the dark oak floor of the living area. Long, dark wood sofa tables lined both side walls of the room. Each had heavy brass candlestick holders on each end fitted with candles burned to half their original lengths. Melted tallow dripped off the burned candles down the candlesticks. Ceiling lights focused on the leather chair like spotlights.
Walking to the recliner, Yuri-Milost sat down and pushed a button which activated the motorized foot-rest and reclined the chair. Just as she got comfortable, her aide, Lieutenant Quentin DeLoth, walked from the kitchen and handed her a margarita glass filled with her favorite strawberry libation. DeLoth was a slender man in his late twenties. His 6 foot 1 inch frame was bone-thin and his cheeks appeared sunken. His dark hair was thin and wispy, and his brown eyes seemed to bulge from his eye sockets.
DeLoth walked to the front of the recliner, stood at attention and bowed his head.
“Is there anything else you require, Yuri-Milost?”
Considering what pleasures she might enjoy from physical contact with DeLoth, Yuri-Milost decided her time would be better spent making a good first impression on Blunt’s Staff at the meeting tomorrow.
Smiling as she slurped the drink, she ordered, “Get pen and paper. I need to prepare for my morning meeting.”
She didn’t notice the look of relief in DeLoth’s eyes as he hustled to obey.
McPherson pushed through the entry door into Heinbaum’s lab to the sound of angry yelling. He could tell by the barbed insults being hurled about that Heinbaum and GooYee had reached another impasse. The news of Alex Fields’ death was weighing on the Human scientific team, and GooYee was taking every opportunity to berate the Humans’ lack of experience in the design of military equipment. Walking toward a nearby workbench, the Scotsman shook his head in dismay at the subject of the argument.
“It was idiotic to design such crucial defensive hardware in the form of jewelry! What were you thinking, Heinbaum? Attracting a mate?” GooYee screamed.
“Listen to me, you damned lizard. It was important to camouflage the PDS. The enemy shouldn’t be able to divine the purpose of the pendant. The whole point was to make the device appear harmless. You’re just jealous because my equipment is more pleasing to the eye than your ugly combat vest!” Heinbaum declared.
“At least my combat vest doesn’t break when it’s kicked!” GooYee thundered.
“Stop it!” McPherson growled as he moved toward the scientists.
Heinbaum sneered at GooYee but kept any further comments to himself. He knew from experience how volatile McPherson was, and he didn’t want to spend any more time in physical therapy with the Base orthopedic surgeon. GooYee wasn’t about to back down to a Human soldier.
“Don’t pretend to have any authority over me, you redheaded cretin,” GooYee declared. “I’m here at the behest of General Blunt and will be treated with the respect I’m due.”
Any further blustering was cut off when an angry McPherson grabbed GooYee around the throat with one hand, lifted him off the floor and banged the back of his head against a nearby wall. GooYee tried to lift his arms to grab McPherson, but his physical body was locked in a tight mental control by the angry Human. Unable to so much as twitch a muscle, GooYee was amazed to see tears running down McPherson’s cheeks.
“The necklace design was my idea, not Dr. Heinbaum’s. It’s my fault Colonel Fields is dead!” McPherson said.
“My fault!” he repeated as he released GooYee both physically and mentally, sank onto a nearby stool and wiped at his tears with his sleeve.
Heinbaum walked to his friend and patted him on the shoulder. GooYee was dumbfounded when the McPherson hugged the skinny scientist and sobbed.
Looking at GooYee with narrowed eyes, Heinbaum said, “You and I need to work together solving the PDS problem. We must come up with a new way to provide continuous PDS protection with a device not susceptible to damage, and we need to solve the dilemma of not being able to fire our weapons through the protective field. Our personal differences must be put aside.”
Nodding, GooYee thought he might be gaining some insight about Human interaction. For some reason, displays of genuine emotion were considered a strength, not a weakness, in their culture. He considered the whole idea quite insane.
A couple of hours later, the scientific team stared at the big white board in Heinbaum’s laboratory. The word Necklace had been written on the board and then crossed out.
“What about a watch instead of a necklace?” Miguel asked. “We could add functions into the watch such as a K-wave transceiver.”
McPherson had regained his emotional composure and answered, “I like the idea of multi-functionality, but a watch has the same problems as a necklace. The band can break. The watch can be removed by the enemy. Chrysallamans don’t wear watches so any time a Human uses an illusion of a Chrysallaman, the illusion will be wearing a watch. Major Chang told me she had the same problem with the necklace.”
GooYee responded, “I agree with the Captain. I remember my first encounter with Colonel Jenson and Major Chang using their Chrysallaman illusions aboard the Rkksshaw. I was curious about the necklaces they wore because they weren’t standard military equipment. Their black MA pistols were also an anomaly, but I dismissed the pistols since they could’ve been upgrades of current weapons.”
“I don’t think the subject has come up before, but just what is the smallest optimum size for a PDS device powered by a FLIT gen?” McPherson asked.
Miguel responded, “For purposes of the PDS, the Bucky ball structure housing the artificial black hole can have a diameter as small as 1/8th inch. The artificial black hole has to be able to draw enough energy to maintain the defensive screen on standby mode. Once the screen is impinged by an energy beam, the PDS design uses the power of the enemy weapon to maintain full protection. The outer frame of the PDS design can be no less than 1/2 inch wide and 1 inch tall since there has to be enough surface area to radiate the force field bubble.
“How about a badge like you see in the Star Trek shows?” McPherson asked. “I always thought those looked cool.”
“What is this fascination with jewelry?” GooYee asked as he stared at McPherson. “I see no reason to display symbols of wealth or social status in combat situations.”
Heinbaum began to bristle at GooYee’s comments. His arms were crossed, he was beginning to bare his teeth and the furrow between his eyes was so deep his eyebrows were almost touching. Ernest had seen too many of Heinbaum’s explosive tirades and decided it was time to avoid one.
“Listen, Gooey. Human conflicts have always involved ornamental displays. We paint and tattoo our bodies with warlike designs meant to be aggressive or threatening to our enemies. Our weapons and garments can be covered with religious or demonic symbols to ward off evil or tap into mystic powers. Humans have even gone so far as to wear the body parts of dead enemies as symbols of prowess in battle. Necklaces, rings, pins, patches and belt buckles are common in this regard.”
GooYee was nonplussed. “Why must the PDS be displayed at all? Why not incorporate it into combat clothing?”
“Oh,” Heinbaum said. “So you prefer a combat vest instead of our necklaces or pins. Well isn’t that a surprise.”
Now it was GooYee’s turn to get angry. “At least my combat vest won’t fall off during a fist fight!”
“Yeah. We just blow it off with our MA ray pistols!” Heinbaum retorted.
“Enough!” McPherson thundered.
Heinbaum and GooYee stopped bickering. They’d both felt the ire of the redheaded demon and had no wish to provoke him.
“Gooey just said something intriguing,” McPherson said. “Why must the PDS be displayed at all?”
Walking to the white board, McPherson drew a sketch of the PDS device. The rectangle was 1/2 inch wide and 1 inch tall. He then drew a side view showing the 1/8th inch depth. Walking to an adult human skeleton hung from a roller stand, he wheeled it over in front of the board.
With a questioning look, he asked, “Why couldn’t we implant the device inside our soldiers? It’s not like the thing is so big it couldn’t be done.”
Heinbaum, GooYee, Roemer and Longarrow stared at him for several seconds.
“Freaking brilliant!” Miguel responded as Ernest nodded his head.
“Clever bastard,” Heinbaum muttered but there was the hint of a smile curling corner of his mouth.
“Acceptable,” was GooYee’s only reply.
“Where can we put it?” Ernest asked.
“Ideally it should be centered on the body. That’s one of the reasons we decided to go with the necklace design,” McPherson explained.
“Wherever we put it, it has to be stable. We don’t want it moving around in the body,” Miguel said. “Plus an implant means surgery. I don’t think General Blunt will want all his soldiers unfit for duty because they have to spend a week recovering from incisions.”
Ernest suggested a solution everyone agreed was acceptable. Laparoscopic surgery would be used to place the PDS device on the outside of the sternum. It would be held in place by surgical glue. The procedure would take less than an hour to perform and could be done with local anesthetics. The result of the operation would be a true human cyborg.
Miguel was so excited about the idea, he couldn’t help himself. Quoting from one of his favorite Star Trek episodes, he said in a low, rumbling voice, “Resistance is futile!”