Galaxy at War

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Chapter 7: THE PRESENT 4937

Roy wiped an underarm long worm creature with its round sucking mouth from the face shield of his Quasimodo – D Type.

His suit was covered with at least a dozen of them, along with dark green almost black algae as he sloshed through the hip high brackish water.

About six meters to his right Gunny Robert Dunn, the Platoon sergeant and self assigned SAW man, carrying a heavy TKU-SII Fafnyr in his augmented arms and he cursed over the team channel.

“Didn’t they promise us some nice, easy and uneventful SBD and then an even longer uneventful longer trip aboard the Normandy? ”

Dunn wiped several of the leech-like worms of his weapon. “This mud ball is an exceptional bad shit hole. How are we supposed to find Whakeys if we don’t know how they look like?”

“You sing the same song every time we go dirt side.” Roy replied on the same channel. “Now quit complaining and keep your eyes in the game and your mind on track. We are bound to run into those Whakeys eventually.”

“Yes Lieutenant.”

“You are longer with this crazy club we call Marine Corps than I am, Gunny. You should know by know that, the words nice and easy don’t exist in our world, but don’t worry we will catch up with the Normandy eventually.”

They did had three days of R&R, and two days of Standard Board Duty.

The USS Stryker was already within 120 light years of the USS Normandy when they received different orders that diverted the Stryker and thus Roy’s platoon to a star system designated K70 in their initial briefing, they had never heard about it, not that that was something unusual.

Roy was leading his platoon. He had taken position in the first squad and had them walk in a loose diamond formation and as it was his habit in his short but so far quite eventful military career, he took point.

To his left was Corporal Kokovhr, a Pertharian who was the Squad’s Artillery Support (SAS) and with his Trajectory Attack Mortar, he could engage enemy fortifications, columns and other targets beyond the horizon and with a variety of nasty payloads.

Shaggy Sergeant Eugbenzi, who was normally always with Roy and providing Artillery support was not even back on the Stryker. The gigantic Lordor recently promoted was on his way to the Normandy to take a required class on logistics and troop management.

The Pertharian added his comment saying. “With a little luck, we find out that they are gone and we can go back to the Stryker. I could sure use a few extra hours of shut eye.”

Corporal Nine-Nine-Two, one of the few Non Corps accepted to the Marines as they normally did not meet the Marine BaPhy requirements, bringing up the rear said. “Some rest would be nice indeed.”

Roy kept an eye on his threat sensor, the sensors showed nothing artificial or sentient within 20 clicks, but that meant little. They were on the hunt to find members of a new species, no one had heard or seen before, well no one on Union Side of course.

This was the reason Roy had taken his Platoon dirtside to this wet, swamp world because a few days ago Fleet ran into a new species.

Scuttlebutt had it, they were similar to the Y’All, but five times as big and tougher than the Noghlers. Smarter than the Narth. Incredibly powerful and relentless as the Klack. Creatures able to go toe to toe with a Marine wearing a Quasimodo. It took the Marines less than a day to hear all sorts of rumors and if you believed half of it, the new species was about to win the war for the Kermac, with abilities nothing short of magic.

Roy had learned not to pay attention to scuttlebutt as it almost always was completely wrong and way out of proportion.

Not even a real Y’All could have fought a Marine in a modern Quasimodo and while there was little known about the reclusive Narth, he doubted that the new enemy was as smart as them. If they were, they would not be controlled by the Kermac.

In the briefing before they dropped on this world, he was told NAVINT believed six or seven space ships of this new species had entered this system and landed on this world and had not left so far.

So this morning Roy and a pretty much every Marine of the John Stryker jumped on this planet where Intel assumed Whakeys had a stronghold of some kind.

The eight fleet was now in full strength in the system to make sure nothing left and no one uninvited joined the party.

It was the Marines job to find out if this was true and capture a few of these beings alive, so Xeno could dissect a few and perhaps find out what made them tick. The planet, or at least the region they had jumped into was a steaming jungle swamp, but unlike on Green Hell his home planet, the plants here were black and looked for the most part like intertwined bodies of naked, wet snakes with thorns. These twisted tree like things fanned out at the top into a dense canopy about sixty meters off the ground and most of the local sun’s light did not reach the planet’s surface. The air technically was breathable but had a higher oxygen content than Standard Terran type NiOx atmospheres. They kept their helmets closed anyway because Science told them, that the local air was thick with spores of as yet unknown kind, and had no idea yet if that stuff was harmless or not. Wiping off these aggressive worms that almost constantly slimed over his face shield made him glad the helmet was sealed. The dense biosphere of the planet combined with strong electromagnetic storms made sensor scans unreliable. It was very difficult to differentiate between natural and artificial energy sources, especially if the enemy had turned its equipment off or has the ability to shield it.

No clear determination was made by NAVINT or Command what level of Tech the Whakeys possessed. As a matter of fact there was even less information than usual.

Lighting and thunder was almost constant and so was a strong downpour of rain. He wondered if this was only seasonal or if conditions were always like this.

His team was augmented by 4 Cerberus XI robots, but since this was a potential First Contact situation they did operate under the Second Response Directive and would only fight if the Marines were attacked and an order to engage from Command was given.

Barlow, a Terran Human also carrying a TKU Fafnir Gatling snarled. “Almost fourteen hours now, and nothing but these damn slime suckers, ugly Lizard Snakes and friggin’ huge swim beetles. Maybe there aren’t any Whakeys down here.”

Rokers, the Team engineer, had his suits vibro claws extended and speared a sizeable scaled thing with many teeth, spines and finned feet out of the water. The seven meter long beast thrashed and slashed while its fangs and claws slid across the nearly indestructible suit material. “Maybe this is a Whakey? Don’t we have a member species that almost look like these?”

Roy responded with a sharp tone in his voice. “If I see you again killing something without reason or purpose, I pull you out of your Quasi and make you swim with one of those, do we have an understanding?”

“Jeez, sorry Sir, Forgot you are from a place like this and have a soft spot for dangerous creatures.”

Barlow coughed and chimed in. “Rokers, you’re new to the Master Blaster so I give you a piece of free advice. Mess with Lt. Masters you mess with all of us, not that he needs help, just ask Corporal Kokovhr.”

The Pertharian growled.” The Lieutenant wiped the floor with me, so what do you think he could do with you?”

Roy held up his hand, made the slow down signal.

“I hate mindless killing, that Snake Lizard posed absolutely no threat to you and yes I am a Greenie and if you want I introduce you to my very own dangerous creature.”

Barlow laughed. “His Beast has you for breakfast, suit or no suit.”

“Sorry Sir, I won’t do it again.”

“Accepted, now scan that thing and make sure it does not have any higher brain functions or neural pathways associated with sentient beings.”

Roy could not see the surprised face of the engineer

But he said, looking around. “We have barely covered ten percent of the planet’s surface, there is still lots of ground to cover.”

Dunn, swatted a huge black beetle landing like a miniature helicopter on his helmet, chimed in. “Mr. Barlow if you feel bored you can join me for a recon flight ahead, if the Lieutenant agrees to it, of course.”

Roy shook his head, knowing they could of course not see his gesture. “You wouldn’t see much more from above the canopy and you make a nice target. We don’t even know their Tech Level, for all we know they could detect you. There is nothing on the Sat-View. Just stay put for now.”

Just then the Operations-Command icon flashed over com-panel mirrored directly onto his retina and Roy blinked it active.

“Lt. Masters here.”

“This is Operation Command, Major Omval, find a spot and make camp. We drop a MOTEL as soon as you give the signal.”

“Yes, Sir, any additional instructions?”

“There will be an official Mission Update brief at 1900 hrs and that is two hours and six minutes from now, but here is the situation in a Nutshell: The Army has arrived and is going to do a full Divisional Orbital assault on the southern Continent, making a lot of noise doing so. They plan to even land a Leviathan Planetary Siege Engine. The Army Division also brings in Aqua troops to scour the oceans. Our Tactical brains at Command feel that this will make whatever hides on that mud ball nervous enough to attack. Or do something we can detect.

If they attack we’ re ready and if they move we hope they move into northern direction, in other words right to where you and the other platoons are.”

Roy rolled his eyes as he heard the word Army and sighed. “They just had to join the party. A Leviathan are you serious? Why don’t they let us do the Division drop just once and they do the point scouting for a change?”

The Major on the other end snickered. “Because they aren’t Marines..”

“Semper Fi Major.”

Roy pointed at Dunn. “Sarge, you got your wish, go up there and see if there is a spot where we can set up camp.”

“Aye.”

Robert Dunn shot into the air and punched through the canopy like a cannon ball.

Roy blinked at a star shaped symbol in his troop command screen and by doing so gave the so called ’Gather” order and his troops pulled close together in a star formation weapons pointing outwards.

The Sergeant reported. “Local Topo analysis complete. There is nothing better for fifty klicks all around us, just trees and swamp. There is a shallow hill 21.6 klicks from where we are, sensors say its Terra Firma.”

A new voice buzzed in. “We spotted that hill first. Bravo Company 1st Platoon Dragon Riders call it, besides we’re only 4 klicks away from it.”

Roy snorted. “Lt. Arsugen, get off our channel and quit eavesdropping on 2nd platoon. The hill is yours, it is too far out for us.”

“This Hotoreth needs every edge to compete against a certain Greenie Lt, besides you left the Company Level channel open ever since we dropped.”

Of course Roy had left the Company channel open so the two other Platoon leaders of Bravo Company could listen in or call for help if needed. Roy trusted his own senses more than he trusted his sensors, but so far his uncanny sense of danger had not reacted on anything. Lt. Arsugen was a big truly alien being with a long neck and tail being from Andromeda and despite his quite unsettling appearance, he was a good marine and Roy liked him. “Well keep your ladies nice and safe, looks like the Army is doing a big fancy show down south and perhaps scaring those elusive buggers our way.”

“I heard, dropping a Leviathan no less, if that doesn’t scare whatever it is we are supposed to find, nothing will but I think Intel has it all wrong and there is no one but us on this beautiful world. They may fool our sensors but I am a Hotoreth and I can smell sentient brain activity over great distances and I haven’t felt anything.”

Roy snorted. “I take that as an insult, you walking Brain leech, or do you imply there isn’t any brain activity over here where we are?”

The Hotoreth laughed in his strange metal rattling, hissing way and snarled. “Well if I really concentrate, I might be able to separate your mind activity from those disgusting sucker slime worms. Their t-waves are a whole lot cleaner than yours”

Roy grinned inside his helmet. “That was a good one and it would not surprise me if NAVINT sent us to the wrong planet, like that never happened before.”

The other Platoon leader tapped an acknowledgment and Roy deactivated the connection and switched to Platoon channel “Well looks like the subtle approach is out the window. The Army is on its way.”

He called up a local map and selected four hexagon shaped areas centered around his own position. “Snyder, Kronaki, T’Chnk and Ash, you take perimeter guard till 2100hrs. Go into Sniper stealth.” The four Marines acknowledged and Roy said to the rest. “We might as well camp right here. Mr Dunn be so kind and make us a little room, Command is dropping us a MOTEL, so not even you can complain.”

Dunn opened up with his gatling and moved it in an arc, vaporizing vegetation and trees in a neat circle.

While he did that he said. “Oh Sir, I certainly can! For one I prefer our drop ship over a MOTEL any time, or even better some R&R on Para Para.”

The Non Corp in the team said. “Well if anything is out there, they now know where to find us.”

Roy shrugged. “Who knows, with all that thunder and lightning?”

Then he sent the exact coordinates to the USS John Stryker somewhere in Orbit around this planet. On the Gun deck of the Stryker, Gunner Crews loaded a green Giga Load casing into a Translocator cannon and hit the discharge contact. The Translocator cannon was aimed straight at the coordinates Roy had send them. There would not be much Jungle left or any marines if this would have been a Red Giga Load, but this wasn’t a bomb, it was a Mobile Operations Temporary Encampment Load, specifically developed for the Union Marines.

Only perhaps ten meters from where Roy stood and almost at the center of the spot Dunn had cleared, a dark green 5 ton capsule appeared in a white flash, enormous bang and tidal wave of black swamp water. While the rest of the platoon was keeping guard, Roy sent the activation signal. The Capsule sensors analyzed the surroundings and reconfigured the pay load with an army of Nanites to the environment and seconds later, almost like a children inflatable bouncy castle something expanded and inflated. A 30 meter diameter floating platform with a central cube shaped building appeared. The thin plastic walls, filling with molecule expanding concrete foam, hardened in moments. The Platform was well protected with ParaDim Shields. It has room enough for the platoon to get out of their suits, take showers, eat in a small galley and sleep in low gee cots. It certainly beat the prospect of sleeping in the suit, something they all had done many times before of course.

-“”-

The platoon had settled down, for some chow and rest. The M.O.T.E.L was of course a bit crowded but Roy had a tiny separate chamber for himself as that came with the lieutenant bar on his collar. He was out of his suit and had a shower. The environmental system of the MOTEL did not need to use and recycle the very limited water reserves it came with but could use local water. It was good clean drinking water once it had passed through the filtering and conditioning of the Nanite recyclers. He checked all positions but still there was nothing out there but slime worms, snakes and big flying beetles. He sat down behind a small desk and dialed for Command.

“Lt. Masters, for Admiral T’Thakk.”

The Klack Admiral who was in charge of this operation came on almost immediately. Normally no simple Marine Lieutenant could simply call right up to the top brass, but Roy could have called the Eternal Warrior and would have been connected.

The Klack Admiral was one of the two Klack he had saved from being shot, back on Harper’s Junction almost seven years ago. It was that Admiral who wanted Roy to call if he had a moment. The Klack face was unreadable, but Roy started to learn to read the subtle ways Klack communicated emotions with their feelers and how they moved their heads. The feelers right now told him the insectoid officer was relaxed.

“I already expected your call Lieutenant, how is the situation down there?”

“We are currently making camp, Sir. We covered about 150 miles in difficult terrain but have not made any contact or even noticed any traces of sentient occupation. I would like to volunteer for a scout mission, Sir.”

“You are on a scout mission, are you not?”

“Sir, it is the same back home on Green Hell. We are stomping through the swamp in high tech suits and use high tech sensors and scare anything away or make what we are looking for hide.”

“So what are you proposing, exactly?”

“Going out there, sans Quasimodo and see if I can’t find those elusive buggers.”

“Can’t say I it would be a bad idea, but I just got word, the Army localized the aliens and has them surrounded. I guess this one goes to the boys in green and spoiled your chance to get close and personal with that planet.”

“So we got all mudded up for nothing?” Roy had the strange feeling there was something missing in the picture. Not that he had any doubt that the Army could handle whatever they found, it was just a unexplainable notion.

Sure enough, three hours later the official word came down to return to the drop ship.

Dunn was the last to leave the MOTEL and triggered the self destruct sequence. “What a waste, we just came here.”

“Weren’t you complaining to be here in the first place?” Roy asked as he watched their shelter crumble away like a sand castle washed over by water.

“I just hate to get dressed up for nothing.”

The APC sprinter to pick them up was already on its way and the marines on their way to a more open area where the LC was designated.

Roy wanted to say something when his strange ability to sense danger hit him.

Green floating things with arms appeared flashing some kind of reddish light beams at the marines. At the same time tremendous explosions rocked the landscape.

The red light was the danger! Roy instantly and instinctively knew not to look into it.

Dunn next to him had dropped to his knees and ripped his helmet off, not taking it off, but actually tearing it.

Corporal Kokovhr, was hit by a weapon beam engulfing the marine in a ball of lighting white fire.

Another explosion threw a big black tree right onto Roy and rained mud water and more trees onto the platoon.

While he tried to get out from under the tree that pinned him into the hip high water, he blinked at several icons of his command interface, instructing it to put Dunn in stasis.

He pushed the tree off him, “Don’t look into that red light, and start shooting!”

He threw the tree off and got up. His threat monitor showed sixty huge machines stomping towards their position.

Several of the green floating things had been killed, his platoon casualty list showed twenty six marines out and one name on the KIA list.

He had no idea what those towering robotic machines were, but they were Army and displayed the Union flag.

“This is Lt. Masters, Command we are under fire by unidentified Army hardware. Alien sentients encountered.”

“Lieutenant Masters, these are Army Gorgons, they are rogue and under full shields. We are unable to establish control.”

One of the machine opened up with a deuterium slug gatling and made the shields of two Marines glow bright.

“Lieutenant, Nine-Nine-Two here. The Whakeys use some form of visual psionics. I think they control the Army hardware too. If we shoot them we kill whoever is inside.”

“I know, lay a load under the feet of those things. We need time to figure something out.”

He and his remaining men used the “hump back ” TL to transmit micro loads into the ground underneath the Army battle machines and created instant sinkholes, hoping the machines sensors would be over loaded with the shower of debris and fall into these instant trap pits.

Roy fired at the last green floating balls he could see. Killing two more, but it seemed even killing the aliens didn’t stop whatever control they had over the machines.

Four of the Gorgons fell into the pits, the other two managed to stop.

The Army machines instantly compensated and started to float. All it got them was a few moments.

The Army hardware came closer and poured constant fire into the remaining marines.

The jungle around them was long gone, water had turned into billowing clouds of billowing steam.

The worst part was that these machines were occupied by men and if they shoot back, they would kill Union soldiers.

Just then through the clouds of smoke and steam a huge shape appeared on their side. It was a Quasimodo in PASS configuration and with a deep roar Roy could hear even inside his suit, the dual TKU cannons on the shoulder of the giant sent mountain shattering pulses of superheated matter into the Army walkers shields.

“Eugbenzi don’t kill the Soldiers!”

“Lieutenant they are not occupied, these are autonomous machines!”

Roy had too many questions, “Where did Eugbenzi came from? Why did Union robots attack ? But at the moment he did not clutter his mind, he now was free to fight. Putting his Sitku in sniper mode he took carefully aim, waited for the exact moment when the machines fired and needed to create shield gaps.

He took one out, Eugbenzi and Nine Nine Two three more, when the rest suddenly stopped and lowered their weapon arms.

Behind them an even bigger thing appeared, it also was Army Green.

-“”-

After that everything went quickly and with the usual Union efficiency.

His troops were transferred to a Navy hospital ship and he was ordered to a debriefing aboard the USS Hytakk, a Navy dreadnought and the flagship of the seventh fleet under command of Admiral T’Thakk.

He just stepped of the D20 that had taken him to one of the hangars of the giant ship. After he went through the decontamination process, he was shown to a conference room. He still wore his battered destroyer suit.

The Klack admiral was there and seven other beings, none of them known to him. A Belanorm in Army Uniform and with the Colonel bird rank insignia, two Saresii and a Leedei, also wearing Army uniforms but except the insignia of the PSI Corps had no other decorations or rank pins and two humans with the NAVINT patch on their sleeves.

They were all clean and unarmed, Roy in his Destroyer suit looked out of place.

He was angry and a more than a little confused.

The Army Colonel spoke first. “What is this Marine Lieutenant doing here? This is a highly classified meeting.”

Admiral T’Thakk said. “Because I want him here and more so I want you to explain him what you explained to me.”

“I am not discussing highly classified and sensitive issues with a Marine Grunt. Is he even cleared for this? We are under Blue-Blue-Blue protocol”

“He is Blue-Blue-Red cleared, Colonel and I just asked you to please debrief him and all of us. I am not asking again.”

The Colonel got up, “Very well.”

He waved at the table and the three-dimensional image of a green, floating being appeared It looked organic and had two massive arm like appendixes hanging from what most likely was its front. Several bright red skin areas, looked like inflated blisters. Only now he noticed a small head, almost hidden between the large arms.

Somehow it reminded Roy of a really big and bloated tick.

The Colonel said. “This is a Whakey. Perhaps the most dangerous and yet virtually unknown thrall species of the Kermac. Only today did we capture two specimens alive.”

He pointed at the Leedei. “Specialist Inklung can tell you a little more about their abilities.”

The Leedei got up and said. “We know each other, Roy. We will catch up after this.”

Roy of course knew Inklung and nodded.

The Leedei folded his spidery fingers and said. “What I am now saying is based on speculations, as it was pointed out we only now have live specimen for closer examination. But based on the survivors of Sigmar Base we came to the conclusion, they use a different form of Psionics, still based on the same principle of trans spatial info-energy we call Psions. We Leedei experimented with it many thousand years ago, during our 76th period of aggression, but during these violent times much of the research has been lost. We know the Narth are using it and a form of it is evident in their Psi Glow. Unfortunately the Narth do not really communicate or participate in Union affairs and have so far ignored our requests for information.”

The Klack Admiral said. “This still does not explain why the Army decided to deploy untested autonomous weapon systems.”

The Belanorm changed the holo and one of the battle walkers, Roy had faced was now displayed in a slow rotating image. “The Enroe Gorgon-5, is a fully autonomous system. It is more powerful than a Cerberus and can do anything a Marine can do.”

With his feelers displaying clear emotions of anger the voice of the Klack remained calm, but then the Klack’s voice came out of a voice box, and probably not able to add emotions to the acoustics. “They also have a bio-brain component, completely ignoring our laws against the creation of sentient machines. A Cerberus is immune to Psionics, your toy soldiers are not. The entire mission was compromised and Marines died.”

“The Gorgon program was authorized by General Warwick himself. The restriction specifically stipulates that it is illegal to create sentient machines. It does not prohibit the use of already sentient tissue and I am not going to discuss the Army Advanced Warrior program with you. The system was psionic shielded just like the Quasimodos, no one could anticipate this new form of psionics.”

“Not new, Colonel.” The Leedei interrupted, “Psionics are as old as the Universe and just like fire discovered not invented. Not the Leedei nor the Saresii know all there is to know about it.”

The Klack admiral looked directly at Roy. “Admiral Warwick is a strong proponent of the All Machine and no Battlefield soldiers philosophy. He and his camp want the Marines eliminated; replaced by what you faced today.”

“Not just Marines, Army OA as well, the X101 are proof that it is quite possible and...”

The Insectoid waved his upper arms while his feelers dropped even more.“...and today has shown that you are light years away from achieving such a goal. I still question to deploy untested systems.”

“We are not here to discuss this, we have another much bigger situation at hand.”

“Well I am sure neither you nor General Warwick will really look forward to the discussion the Eternal Warrior will have with you.”

“This is an Army program and the joint operations approved by Fleet Command; besides I doubt Stahl has the time to discuss this rather small incident. We are at war and we have the biggest crisis of this war at hand.”

“Marines died, Colonel. He will hear of it.”

Roy could not be silent. ” Am I to understand my Marines got killed by an experimental machine of the Army?”

The Admiral’s feelers could not drop any further. “Yes Lieutenant. The Whakeys used this not yet clearly understood method of visual psionics to influence the machines. Not just your marines died, sixteen Army OA troops also perished.”

Roy asked.“What about survivors of Sigmar Base? Is that not a major fleet base?”

The Klack Admiral dropped his feelers. “It was Lieutenant. It has been completely destroyed by Orbital bombardment, by two of our own ships.”

Roy gasped. “When did this happen? I never heard of it?”

The Colonel snapped. “Not everything that happens in a war is communicated to the bottom. All you need to know is communicated.”

“The Gray Ghosts informed the Assembly security council and suggested to keep all nine attacks under wraps. Until we know more and can give the Assembly and thus the Citizens real answers.” Admiral T’Thakk said.

“Gray Ghosts?”

“I brief you after this meeting. Not that I can give you much as much of it is beyond all our clearance in this room, but the main reason for keeping it quiet is the potential of forces unfriendly to the Union learning that two Union battleships, Arsenal class dreadnoughts not only attacked and destroyed a major fleet base, and six Checkpoints, but they are still out there.”

“The Kermac have captured Union Battleships?”

“We don’t know if the Kermac have them, but the ships are fully armed with translocator cannons, Loki torpedoes and have our latest shield technology. We know the USS Walker, one of the rogue ships also had two TLTs aboard. Translocator Technicians of the FORGE. Two individuals who know how Translocators work, down to the last part.”

The Belmac Colonel wiped the holo image off the table. “Is this still part of that marine’s debriefing?”

A sound that almost sounded like a human sigh came out of the Klack admiral’s voice box. “No it is not. Lt. Masters, return to the Stryker. Your men will join you as soon as they are cleared fit for duty. I must remind you that everything you heard is classified and not to be discussed with anyone, understood?”

“Yes Sir.”

Roy was dismissed and left.

As he headed for the shuttle bay, he was deep in thought. The war was far from over and if the Kermac could indeed reengineer Union TL tech, its outcome was also far from certain. Two Arsenal ships and the techs with all the knowledge the Galactic Council needed to do exactly that.

This and the damn Army. Of course he knew about the No Men-All Robot philosophy. It resurfaced at least once a decade and gained enough momentum in the Assembly to be discussed. So far it had never gone far, and usually never got enough track to get to a vote or even on the Union Wide list, but it was a subject at the Marine Academy political classes.

A Navy chief stepped before Roy. “Lt. Masters, Sir. I was sent by the Admiral and you are asked to follow me to sick bay.”

“I am fine, I was not hurt. My Quasi Doc agrees.”

“Unfortunately this was not an invitation but orders.”

“Alright then, lead the way.”

“We can swing by Marine quarters, they have Battle dressers and shower facilities.”

-“”-

After arguing with the computronic that he really wanted Pertharian shower program three and dressed in Standard BDU, he emerged from the shower facilities to be greeted by the same Chief who was now accompanied by two Army security guards.

“What is this? Am I under arrest or something?”

“No Sir, I just have orders that you are arrive safe and sound at your destination.”

“Army guards aboard a Navy battleship?

“Sit you are armed and we are not asking you to relinquish your side arm. Not that I could see the reason or the wisdom to allow anyone to carry a TKU 12. These guns are quite illegal.”

“Not for me.”

“I know Lt. Masters. Natives of Perko, Natviv, Bottom Hole and Green Hell are indeed able to carry pretty much anything up to Class nine.”

“You are not a Navy Chief.”

“It helps to blend in. Now please let us proceed to Sick Bay,”

“I go nowhere until you identify yourself and I verify you indeed have orders from the Admiral.”

The human pretending to be a Navy Chief pressed his wrist PDD and the holographic image of INSCOM appeared. “I am Captain Prescot Central, Security Service.”

“Intelligence and security command? Sir, I am a Marine, this is a Navy ship. What business does Army intelligence have here? Not to mention the no jurisdiction part.”

“You are still a Lieutenant and you need to follow orders.”

“The hell I have, and if you think you can get me to go anywhere before I know what this is all about, you are in for a surprise, Now for the second part of my request. Authenticate your badge and your orders.”

Both guards, a Stellaris and a Quadiped raised their service weapons, not fast enough though, the Army Officer stared in the bore of Roy’s TKU. Sweat appeared on his forehead as he saw the shimmering discharge focus field. “Take it easy Lieutenant.”

To the Quadi Ped he hissed. “Why is his TKU still active?”

“Sir, the Command Overwrite seemed to have failed.”

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