by Steve M
Yeah, I wrote this. Blame no one else.
The commanders quarters on board the starship Lincoln were elegant. More art on the walls than furniture in the room. Captain Colfax stood at attention waiting for commander Han. Captain Hampton moved around the room admiring the pictures. The door at the other end of the narrow room opened and commander Han entered. He had been eating birthday cake in his private quarters on a video relay with his wife. It was his sixty fourth birthday. One more year then pension and golf.
“What is it this time?” Asked the tall slender commander in the dark blue uniform with three rows of insignia on the chest above the heart. He motioned for them to sit. Colfax sat down on the sofa legs together feet pointed straight ahead, his spine as straight as possible.
“Lima team” replied Hampton.
“It’s always Lima team. What did they do this time?” The look on the commanders face showed the annoyance of the eight other incidents escalated to him about Lima team.
“Let’s start at the top, what’s the body count?” Commander Han sat down at the sofa opposite the two captains.
“43” replied Colfax.
“This is a known rebel area, what’s the problem?” Asked commander Han.
“There was an incident” said Colfax sheepishly.
“I know that or else you wouldn’t be here. Don’t waste my time Colfax… Or yours.”
Commander Han reached forward and straighten some of the flowers in the vase on the table between them. Han didn’t like Colfax, didn’t trust him and as a result the commander was mean to him. Even on a large starship if you talk shit about someone behind their back they will eventually hear it. Han preferred Hampton, more laid-back and brutally honest to his face.
“What happened Ham?” The commander asked.
“It was Kessler again” replied Hampton.
“No it wasn’t” replied Colfax. “It was the rookie, the girl, the governor’s daughter.”
“Shit” replied the commander.
He may be a second rate provincial governor in the far spiral arm of the galaxy, but Deuce Whitlam had a big mouth, a clever media team and as a result everyone in the galaxy knew who he was. It was rumored that his daughter joined the service just to get away from the sanctimonious son of a bitch. Oxygen is not a fundamental right no matter how many signatures the good governor gets on his petition.
“If Kessler hadn’t started his dark Lord shit, she wouldn’t have acted.”
“She had no authority to act at all. She’s a damned shuttle pilot that’s all. She can’t even flush the waste tanks on her shuttle without permission” replied Colfax.
“Legend my ass” said the commander.
Kevin Kessler was a war hero.
He was also a psychopath addicted to the gore of battle, the thrill of the kill. But he had single-handedly stopped the rebel fleet at the asteroid belt for two days, playing hide and seek and destroying eight rebel ships. Then our fleet arrived and delivered a crushing defeat that the rebels still haven’t recovered from. Everyone owed Kessler. Every man, woman and child. Commander Han knew there would be trouble from the moment he was notified that Capt. Kessler was being transferred to his command.
“Tell me what happened from atmosphere on down” said the commander.
Hampton look at Colfax nodded for him to begin.
“She brought all 28 down from the clouds and dropped them two clicks away from the village. Hoverbikes. Full audio and visual on everybody. Then she climbed to theater overview at 200 m. Keesler and his team were on a mineral mission. They were authorized to search for Nomium 14 only.”
Nomium 14 is vital in the manufacture of all spacecraft or other vehicles that travel at high speeds. A hoverbike is a cross between a motorcycle and a sled, if they both had significant weaponry built in and floated off the ground.
“And Keesler did find some” added Colfax like a lawyer making a point of law that requires a stretch of logic.
Nomium 14 exist in three places in this galaxy. This planet, Chelong, had the lowest cost of extraction by over 50%. Seams of Nomium 14 started on the surface of the planet. Everywhere else it was dirty dangerous underground work. It is a source of money for the rebellion. There is a black market in Nomium 14 and other strategic molecules.
“Sure he found Nomium 14, take a look.” The space between them popped up with an image of a very scared woman being yelled at as she took off her wedding ring and handed it to the man with the gun. The woman’s husband yelled something in his native language that showed up and subtitled as ‘don’t hurt her, leave us alone’.
Kessler turned towards the man shot him twice with his R17. When the woman ran to her dying husband Kessler shot her too. Then he reached down and picked up the wedding ring off the floor that he had dropped. He put it into his pocket.
Capt. Hampton made a motion with his index finger in the video they were watching disappeared.
“I’m just going to skip forward a few minutes.”
The image between them reappeared in the right-hand corner the name Kessler indicated it was his video feed. He moved cautiously through the village shooting anyone not wearing a green military uniform.
“He’s gone off again” said a voice female over comms. In the bottom right-hand corner of the screen it indicated that Lieut. Hicks was speaking.
Another voice came over the comms. Her voice sounded concerned.
“This is Lieut. Whitman. I got a birds eye view of what’s going on down there. That sure doesn’t look like a mineral search to me. Please explain.”
“Were engaging hostiles” came the annoyed reply from Capt. Keesler.
“Weapon scan comes back negative for everybody not wearing a green uniform captain. Please advise.”
“They have weapons” Keesler yelled back angrily.
“Sir are you saying my scanning equipment is malfunctioning?” Asked the young woman floating 200 m above the ground in her shuttlecraft. A new voice came over the comms.
“Capt. we got about 200 people making an exit to the southwest on foot. There are about 300 m from dense jungle. Please advise.” The name on the bottom right-hand corner of the display indicated the speaker was Cpl. Pu.
“Posse up” yelled Keesler. They all ran back to their bikes.
“Level of engagement?” asked Cpl Pu.
“Lethal” came the loud voice of Keesler. He knelt down to take aim with his R17 before adding another kill to his count.
Commander Han and Captains Colfax and Hampton watch the video.
“It’s her first mission, sir” said Captain Hampton.
“Sir, that doesn’t count one damned bit. First mission, one hundredths, it doesn’t matter” said Colfax.
They watched as the soldiers mounted their bikes and began to move towards the open fields. A couple of them shot their weapons into the tiny wooden and corrugated metal shacks as they drove past.
“Please advise sir, these look to be women and children fleeing. Sir, I’ve got perfect visuals on the fleeing people you are starting to pursue. Please advise sir, they are women and children. Can you please confirm your lethal order sir. Scanners indicate…”
“I don’t give a damned what your scanners indicate, they are armed” replied Keesler.
“I’m sorry sir, my scanner indicate differently, sir. Use of lethal force against the unarmed civilians is a war crime, sir. I can look up the exact language and distribute it to all. Please advise.”
“They are not civilians” barked Keesler. “They are Polisario.”
“Please advise sir. What is the evidence?”
“Damn it, Whitlam. Shut up. That’s an order.”
“I’m sorry sir, could you repeat. Didn’t copy, sir, please repeat.”
“Shut your damned mouth.”
“Sorry sir, that’s not possible. Article Five is clear. I’ve just distributed the exact language of Article Five to everyone in the company.”
“You insolent bitch. Get that damned thing off our visuals.”
“But sir, to proceed will be a war crime.”
“I’ll have you shot for insubordination you little shit” yelled Keesler.
“Cameras down” Keesler yelled. Then his camera stopped. Then the camera of 19 others stopped also.
“Let me switch to Whitlam’s view” said Hampton.
“That’s causes prejudice in her favor” argued Colfax.
“I’m old enough to make allowances for this” said Han to Colfax coldly.
The image shifted to the ship hovering over the battle scene.
“I’m sorry sir” said the young woman.
She then executed a maneuver that was fluid and almost beautiful as the craft spun smoothly as it dropped from the sky. As it rotated eighteen muzzle barrels became exposed when the shiny metal covering them moved up. In less than three seconds, Lt. Whitlam had brought her craft down between the fleeing villagers and the her own advancing troops.
Lt. Whitlam flipped the perimiter button on the guns. They fired into the ground ahead of them forming the defensive line that would not be breached. Lt. Whitlam unbuckled from her pilot seat and got up. She checked her side arm, the Jirb 35 wasn’t that powerful but Whitlam was accurate with it. She went out the back of the ship and jumped down to the ground. She walked around to the front of her ship.
At a point less than a meter from the line set for her guns was a line of her fellow soldiers hoving off the ground on their bikes.
“Whitlam, you either turn your guns off or so help me I will make sure you die here today. Do I make myself clear” said Keesler.
“Regrettably you do” said Whitlam.
“Turn them off, that’s a damned order, bitch.”
“They are unarmed, sir.”
“Keesler raised his weapon. Whitlam drew hers.
“They are armed” he yelled at her.
“With what, sir?”
“An idea” he screamed at her. “They believe their minerals are their own. They’re not. We need them. We’ll take them.”
The bullet hit the Hero of the Asteroid Belt in the forehead. The top of his head went sailing like a Kennedy. He was dead before he ever aimed his gun and his final muscle contraction fired it wildly into the air as he fell.
Commmander Han never got to finish his cake. His birthday was ruined.
After a detailed inquiry and fifty eight days later Han was relieved of command and assigned to desk duty at Station Ilios for his final year. At least his wife was able to join him for most of the time.
Captain Colfax is now Colonel Colfax and is being fast tracked for further advancement.
Captain Hampton resigned from the service. All records of him stopped his last day in the service. When he walked out of the Fort Geelong he became a ghost.
Lt. Whitlam is serving a life sentence for murder in the maximum security military prison on Adlo Outer. She is held separate from the other prisoners, many of whom would kill the woman that killed a hero.
Her father’s petition now has over 100 billion signatures. But the directorship will not consider the Oxygen Amendment. Governor Whitlam threatened insurrection. He too is now in custody.