Six months have passed since Arsis IV fell into the hands of the Alliance. The last bit of resistance has been neutralized. The return of governance to the planet was being advanced as those who were under the influence of the mind control drugs regained their ability to determine their own future. Arsis IV was progressing, however…
"How is she doing?"
"It was… we had a lot of… she's lucky to be alive. Prognosis, at the moment her maintaining life without intervention is a positive. We'll know more when she wakes up, but, not to dash your hopes, there is a good possibility some of her facilities might not function as well as before. The brain is still an object we don't understand completely. I do know we got the entire tumor, relieved the pressure on the bundle and what we removed was benign. But…Sorry Sarah it's been a very trying day, we'll talk more once I've rested."
Jasmine left, Sarah returned to where she had been sitting and sat next to her sister, who heard everything that was said. Sari was about to speak when…
"She's alive, thank the makers, as far as everything else goes, I'll wait as long as it takes. Guess we're going to be docked for an extended period, was there something planned for Illusion? If so, now would be the time to do it. Don't you agree?"
Sari looked at her twin and thought to herself, 'I'm so happy we ended up with separate personality's'. Resting her head on Sarah's shoulder she said.
"We can schedule you for the balance of the upgrade once, keep a secret, Paveryua is launched."
Sarah's sudden movement almost left Sari on the floor. Turning to her sister, who was regaining her own balance she said.
"I heard that was months off, what happened, why all of the sudden and who's going to command it?"
Rising to her feet Sari motioned Sarah to follow her, finding a quiet place Sari continued.
"Not command, a shake down cruise, since Pegasus is docked awaiting inspection and because its data banks are full of Arsis IV information. It was decided Marjee would take the ship out and give it a thorough testing."
"You mean thrashing, Marjee will test that ship to its limits and beyond, and you and I both know that is a fact. Who's going with her?"
"Samson's in refit, Discovery as well, following the open to space incident, that leaves Defiance and Independence our only truly operational ships. Add in the Alliance meetings, that makes getting Paveryua operational as soon as possible. Dai and Ariel are going with Marjee. Outside of that I have no more information."
"My understanding was a shake down of the prototype; refit Samson to its specifications, then replace our first line vessels with 'Samson' class ships, is that still the plan?
"It is but on an accelerated schedule, so is getting Illusion and Pegasus up to date, look sis, I'll be honest, the future of the Alliance is very shaky. Cassie wants us to be able to stand alone if necessary; accelerating this program is a top priority."
"What can I do to help?"
"Right now the biggest help you can be is to be someone I can talk to, bounce ideas off of and know they'll keep it confidential."
Sarah hugged Sari, they both walked back to the Command Center.
Down the hall and opening the door Doctor Sasoum was greeted with an empty bed. Opening the door further and looking to her right she saw Scholar standing in front of the window taking in the sun filled sky. Scholar turned, looked at the Doctor with a confused look then said.
"Um, Doctor Sasoum, I presume?"
Acknowledging her and moving to her side she guided her back to the bed, sat her on the edge and started an examination. Scholar's confusion continued with her saying.
"Doctor, physically I'm fine, mentally, I feel like I've been on a week long bender, and my minds not only fussy, but extremely disjointed. If you don't object I believe you can steer me in the right direction."
Scholar reached up and made gentle contact with the Doctor. After a few minutes she removed her fingers and said.
"I've never had a regeneration go so awry before, I thank you and Saio for remembering my ramblings. In a way you're very much responsible for me being here. I saw what happened to KO. Can I see her?"
Helping Scholar to her feet they made their way to KO's room while getting stares of amazement from staff members along the way. They entered the room as Jasmine arrived, seeing Scholar she said.
"Are you sure you want to do what I sense you're planning?"
"Yes, I'll not rest till I know for sure."
Sitting alongside KO, Scholar establishes a link. Monitors in the room jump as KO's brain activity spikes, opening her eyes and focusing on Scholar she says.
"You don't look bad for someone who should be dead."
Scholar breaks the link and says.
'The same could be said for you as well, although a tumor like yours, I just regenerated, you almost died my dear."
KO raises her hand to her head just as Jasmine says.
"Don't panic, the hair will grow back, think of it as a small price to pay for you being with us once again."
Moving her hand across her head she said.
"Bald, you took it all off; just how big of a hole did you put in my head?"
Jasmine smiled and said.
"You know how big your ego is; I had to let it out before I could do my thing, eh."
Unamused KO pulled the blanket over her head and said.
"Come back after its grown back out, until then; I'm staying put."
As they left Sarah came into view, she had heard KO was awake, before anything could be said she entered the room, a gasp was heard followed by giggling. Scholar, Jasmine and the Doctor kept right on walking.
Current talks about the Alliance were also stalled. Infighting among the members along with the trust issues from recent expeditions had left those responsible uncertain of how to proceed. Jinto and Lafiel were in round the clock discussion however a sticking point was a broad opinion of what the Alliance's mission and responsibilities should be. There were those happy with their lives as they were and those who understood the ever present danger from outside sources. That no matter how many wars were fought, there will always be those unsatisfied with their present condition and will sow seed of discontent. At the moment members were covering their own bases and should a crisis arise then…
Frustrated, Lafiel stood in the garden, back on Shahrazad, screaming at the sky. She had just delivered the first part of the verified data from Arsis IV. It brought little action from the council, except for the contingency from Demos. They took the evidence and conferred for several hours before retiring to their diplomatic mission without saying a word to Lafiel. Jinto had gone ahead of Lafiel and was on Deltoke conferring with those Alliance members located there. He had no idea that Lafiel was having a meltdown until he got word from Cassandra, taking his leave he returned to find her desponded and distant. He tried to put his arms around her she pushed him away and went back towards the gardens. He found her at the monument to her grandmother staring at the monument and quietly saying.
"We fought a good fight grandmother, but in the end you may have been right. These people really need an all encompassing authority to keep them safe. I know that's was the Empire's original intent, you'd be upset where the Empire lies today. The Alliance I started to give those planets their individual freedom yet also give them the security of co -dependency, their petty jealously, and distrust threatens to undo… you know what, the hell with them, let them sink or swim on their own accord…"
Lafiel heard Jinto and turned his direction, walking past him she said.
"Right now, I feel like I'm wasting my time that may change, but Jinto I'll do the changing not by your insistence. I'm taking a long walk I'll meet you at home, do not follow me or have me followed. If I'm not safe on this planet then maybe I've started thinking in a proper manor."
Lafiel leaves, as she walks away her jacket swings to show she's armed herself. Jinto locates Cassandra and relates what he found and ended it by saying.
"The evidence Dawn supplied didn't set well with ninety percent of the Alliance, I wonder if, what progress has there been in the isolation plan?"
"Marjee and Robert have worked out the bugs in the propulsion unit; it's one hundred percent reliable. The proto type will be ready in two days if the test is successful Eliana should have her ship in a weeks time. Illusion is on the back burner although KO has regained consciousness, Pegasus, father that's become quite an issue. Marjee understands that until we authenticate all the data aboard, placing the ship in service puts that data in jeopardy and we've tried transferring the data to another safe place but Pegasus has encoded the data in such a way we can't have it until the ship is finished with it. It's nice the ship understands 'Old English' but had we known what we know now, it would have been better to leave the data on the 'bugs' and bring them back here. Also the refit of Pegasus, we thought Illusion was a nightmare, Pegasus, dad we don't completely understand it. In the end it might become a museum piece. This will break Marjee's heart."
Cassandra's frustration was evident, she was controlling differently than Lafiel was, however different wasn't necessarily better. Jinto told her that finishing the data along with preparing to become an 'island nation' should be the priorities and that he and or he and Lafiel will handle the diplomatic course. He asked the last question.
"I know Erin and Li have been talking to the Abh in secret have they reported any progress."
Surprised Cassandra said.
"If you know, I wonder who else knows, father how did you find out."
Jinto explained that the Abh ambassador on Deltoke had informed him of their meetings. Slowly shaking her head as she walked away Jinto could do nothing but watch. Jinto's next stop was to visit Dawn and see what else has been revealed.
"If you think that packet I gave you was explosive then I'm glad you didn't have this information with you. We've cracked their internal encryption; outside of this room you're going to be the first to see this."
The document Dawn handed Jinto covered the outline of the Secret Society, contained in it were names and places that meetings occurred. That in itself was eye opening. Then the list of organizations and governments showing loyalty to the Society was displayed. Jinto read it carefully all six pages and several times over. Setting it on Dawn's desk he said.
"This can't leave this room, not now, unless you have evidence of it authenticity. If this is right, no wonder Lafiel and I hit a brick wall with the Alliance. It also explains why Demos was so interested in our original presentation and no one else was."
Dawn saw Jinto's face, as did Seelnay, moving towards him Seelnay said.
"I've not seen that expression in a very long time 'Count of Hyde' if I didn't know better… Dawn what did you show him?"
Jinto handed Seelnay the information. Paging through it she said.
"I knew this smelled, the minute Dawn said what they found on the planet. You're correct; we need to make sure this is real because once the 'real world' gets a load of this. Hell we'll probably be at war before you can say it."
Jinto returned the information to Dawn's desk. Calling Arisa and Greta over, he said.
"Verify this information and tell no one until I've seen the verification, which includes Lafiel, the Council and Cassandra. Dawn do we have a way to contact Erin and Li?"
"They should be checking in soon, why do you ask?"
"I need to speak with them before they see the Council or Cassandra; it's imperative that I talk to them as soon as they arrive, planet side."
"I will relay the message where do you want to meet them?"
"The obelisk just west of the shuttle pad, it's away from surveillance and remote enough no one would find us."
"I'll let you know. If you get a green signal followed by time and date that's how you'll know."
Dawn's attempt at spying brought a chuckle from Jinto, he left and Dawn's group concentrated on the document.
"Scholar, I … I'll never be able to… this is so frustrating."
Taking a deep breath and closing her eyes she continued.
"Trying to control a mind capable of light speed with a communications device that barely makes sub light… is becoming very frustrating. It would seem, like you said, if I shut out the world around me and concentrate I can speak. Scholar, how do I command again, when I can't reliably give split second orders because my mouth can't keep up with my mind?"
KO was crying, visibly upset, Scholar reminded her of something she hadn't considered before.
"KO, Illusion responds to your mind, in that respect you're able to function as normal, and Sarah will understand a lack of communications quality. She trusts you and if you can't explain yourself verbally the ship will explain it for you. That covers command, now how to handle day to day. You don't realize how much you've improved. I say we keep working at it. Are you okay with this?"
Less frustrated but tired KO says she'll keep at it. They make their way to a café and enjoy a quiet meal.
"Good book huh?"
Eliana placed the pad, face down on the table, took a second swat at the fly and replied.
"Interesting? It’s the latest maintenance report on the fleet, something you probably know a bit about, seems I'll get my ship back soon, and looks like you've been assigned to your fathers namesake until your ship is refitted."
Taking in the look on Eliana's face Marjee said.
"Two advanced ships and three recently reconstituted ships. Sounds like Cassie's expecting trouble. Would be nice if KO and Illusion were operational."
"Be careful Marjee, calling those other ships reconstituted might not endear you to their Captain's. Captain's, I might add, you need to be able to work with. Although a capable ship, what you're getting still pales to what you've got. Remember that."
"This message from Jinto, I wonder if they already know what we have found out."
Reading it Erin placed the tablet on the tray and said.
"Even if they do, I will guarantee you, what we've learned, will age Jinto considerately. Reply that we will comply with his request and … meet him at approximately fifteen hundred hours where he indicated. Go through our notes, you know the area we need to discuss, make sure it's in order."
"Vekk, the silence from Shahrazad is disconcerting, I know Lafiel presented a document that only Demos took interest in. Do you have any idea of its contents?"
"We're trying to get a copy of it, I'm sure it pertains to Arsis IV, I'd be surprised if it didn't. What disturbs me is this report from a freighter that just cleared Shahrazad's defensive grid. They're gearing up… the observation said while in port our crew witnessed construction on the surface and the space dock. While the area was optically shielded, by the size of the shield it had to be one if not more than one of their starships, which one's hard to tell? It was also noted that a part of the space port was also isolated. Rumor around here is Cassandra has issued a directive to place the planet on a 'stand alone' footing. Zachary you and I are, despite our rank and positions, still 'grunts' and as grunts we follow orders, you have one advantage over me, and you made it to a top echelon of government, before you got 'reassigned'…"
"Vekk it's called, I confronted an influential person about something quite sensitive in public, which I should have done in private, doesn’t matter that I was correct, it was my delivery and for that error, like you, I'm out of the loop, biding my time waiting for the next monstrous error to be made. You and I both know its coming and hopefully it'll not cause massive causalities. We agree at first the Alliance had mutual co operation as its charter, however it's turned into a… there was a phrase Sobbash used once, let me think about it… oh I got it. 'A good old boys club', at first I didn't understand the concept but, yeah Sobbash you were so right... You really think those fools will start a war to cover their incompetence?"
"Zachary, as you were speaking a very scary thought, just flashed through my mind… what, IF, members of the Alliance were working with Arsis IV..."
"Vekk, I hope to the heavens you are wrong, look I've been away long enough, I'll try to get with you later on but… if you're even partially right… I've got to go …."
The link disconnected, Vekk leaned back in his chair, stared at the ceiling, reached for a bottle, took a large drink, sat the bottle aside and hoped he was wrong, yet this feeling wouldn't leave him alone.
"We have reason to believe that the Empire had connections to Arsis IV. Did your conversations with the Ambassador…"
Erin showed little surprise and continued from Jinto's statement.
"Yes the Empire… let me rephrase that, several established families with in the Empire were secretly giving aid and information to Arsis IV. Those you gathered from the planet were Imperial Security forces; it was good we asked no questions. That's the only reason the Ambassador confided in us and I guarantee you we only got a fraction of the information. I got the feeling from the Ambassador that the Empires involvement was just the tip of the spear."
Jinto produced a tablet, handed it to Li, who moved next to Erin, turning it on and …
"When did…. how long ago was this…"
"We just broke their encryption, it's less then six hours old, outside of the intelligence group and me, you're the first to see it. By the look on your face I'm assuming there is a good possibility it might be…"
"Accurate… no wonder that Ambassador was so hesitant about saying any more, Jinto we are verifying this aren’t we?
"As we speak, that's why I wanted to talk to you before you talked to anyone else. I know you just returned but I have a hover car near by. Would you come with me to the intelligence branch?"
On the way to where Dawn was located; Jinto could hear Erin and LI going over the document in detail, the conversation was enlightening as they theorized why those on the list would join such an organization. Arriving they entered and were greeted with this.
"One hundred percent accurate, we've found enough evidence that it's quite factual. Some of our allies have betrayed us and some in the Empire were funneling resources into this society. A galactic empire in the making, but much more repressive than even the Abh were at their worst. We've translated another manifesto it's, scary, to classify it in a word."
The latest document which ran twenty pages laid out how the society planned to symmetrically topple first the Abh then the Alliance, the only incomplete part of their plan was how to defeat Shahrazad. Jinto read it looked to Dawn and said.
"This isn't all of it is it?"
"No its not, there is probably another, I don't know, their filing system was haphazard, this was in a folder labeled 'Future Maintenance' they did tag it as an important, to them, document. We ran a tracer looking for this tag and this is the list of documents that the search returned. It's well over ten thousand and it'll take at least a week to find out what is what then translated that. Just to let you know the search was started after you left and just finished. We're taxing Pegasus; thankfully it's quietly moored and not operational."
Jinto looked at the search results, he felt waiting any longer would be detrimental, at this moment there was a good possibility evidence was being removed, evidence that would verify what they had before them. Looking around the room Jinto said.
"We can't sit on this any longer, Dawn inform the Command Center to call an emergency meeting. Erin head to the Council give them a brief idea of what's going on and then join the video link. I'll find Lafiel and … she's going to explode… share this information with her. Is an hour enough time?"
It was agreed that an hour and a half would be sufficient, Erin and Li waited for Jinto, Dawn gathered what she had and joined them. Jinto stopped at the Village and let Erin and Li off, then he and Dawn continued to the Command Center. A confused Cassandra greeted them, Lafiel at her side. Dawn took Cassandra aside while Jinto handed Lafiel a tablet and said.
"Be objective and hold your temper."
As Lafiel read she got redder and redder. You could see the anger welling up inside of her. Finishing the documents she handed the tablet back to Jinto and left the building. Handing the tablet to Dawn, Jinto followed Lafiel, at a distance. There was a rocky outcrop just to the east of the center it was there he found Lafiel pitching stones in anger. He made his presence known she continued rocketing stones at the rock face and said.
"Greedy, foolish little… bastards, never satisfied with what they have, always wanting more, ignoring the fact that they can't take it with them. Caring only for themselves and everyone else be damned. That's how repression and wars start but since you're the one who told me this revelation it should come as no surprise to you. Jinto looks like we got some serious house cleaning to do, I'm sure the Abh are already in the process of purging their problems. I guess we should do the same. That list, those on it, what happened, why did they turn to the 'dark side of humanity', granted some of them aren't 'human' but I know you understand what I'm saying."
Jinto approached her picked up a stone and hurled it at the outcrop; it ricocheted vertically and landed a few feet from the outcrop. Taking her hand he led her back to the Center. The link to the Council was opened and the discussion began. It took less than an hour and a decision was reached. Cassandra took to the floor and stated the objective.
"A fleet consisting of: Defiance, Independence and Paveryua will leave Shahrazad, with in the next six hours, for the Alliance Central Headquarters. Defiance will have a security contingent aboard; Independence will convey my mother and father, a small armed detail and the evidence complied. Paveryua under Marjee's command will supply additional logistical support should the initial mission go off plan. It is our intention of confronting and removing those on the list, then have arrest warrants issued for those who happen to slip through our fingers. There will be no warning of our arrival or intentions and we're not expecting for it to be a 'peaceful' event. Discovery and Samson, though not fully operational, will remain behind to cover our bases should some one decide to get even. Is everyone in agreement?"
There were no objections, Plakia was seen with the Security Chief hand picking her force, Lafiel and Jinto were getting ready to return from whence they came just four days earlier and were in a conversation its depth was accented by Lafiel removing her side arm, checking its condition, and returning it to the holster. Jinto showed little emotion as they left the Center. Cassandra looked at Sari and said.
"Once the fleet leaves, beef up the defensive grid, for the mean time if a ship is not scheduled to be here, have it stopped and searched before allowing it to traverse the grid."
"Also check with the intelligence division, see if they've intercepted any traffic between Lakfakalle and the area commanders. I'd like to quietly keep tabs on where the Abh are. The home guard; add the training fleet to its numbers, with those resources and what warships we have here. Damn I'd be happier if Illusion was operational."
As they left the Center, Cassandra spotted KO, Sarah and Scholar approaching them. KO spies Cassandra and says.
"Reporting for duty, I want my ship back."
"Have the Doctor's cleared you…."
"They haven't but with Scholar along I want to get back in the saddle and I sense you could use me, even if I'm moored fast. Illusion is still a force to be reckoned with."
Cassandra looked at Scholar; this much younger version still has the wisdom of all previous reincarnations and sensed what Cassandra was going to ask by saying.
"Physically she's fit, mentally she's as sharp as ever, her communication skills are still lacking but Illusion reads her mind not her mouth. You're short planetary defensive forces, let us take Illusion out of space dock and be in high orbit, the defensive platform you will have…"
"Go, be safe and at the first sign of trouble tell us what's going on don't go off half cocked."
Scholar and KO leave Sarah remains long enough to tell Sari.
"Tell mother and grandmother of our intentions, I'll not have them worry when I don't arrive for dinner tonight. And sister I plan on staying very safe."
Vekk was quietly relaxing in his quarters, that nagging feeling something wasn't right and something was about to occur became fact when this communication, from the scout, reached him.
"We've witnessed three warships departing the planetary defensive grid. We have also observed activity in and around the main space docks. We're trying to estimate the course of said ships and refine our details on what ships and what is progressing on the space dock. We believe our position has not been compromised and will continue to observe."
Vekk sat thinking, three warships; rumor had it that was the entire operational battle fleet Cassandra had. Committing all of ones resources, something Vekk figured was either a movement of desperation or… opening a link to Zachary, which was refused seven times until out of frustration it was finally opened. Vekk shared the audio with him and said.
"Thought you should know, something's up and what ever it is I feel it's big and we're not included."
There was no verbal response. A text saying 'thanks' appeared and the link closed.
As Plakia's message echoed across the bridge, Marjee took stock of her position, she was aboard her father's namesake, a ship that was and wasn't ahead of its time. Its fire power rivaled Pegasus, and that was the only thing this ship had going for it, in her opinion. State of the art, yet sluggish, AI command unit received her thoughts but… there was no interaction only the cold reality of the ships sensors. It lacked a 'soul', she thought.
Approaching Alliance Headquarters the tactical link became active. Kenesh was approaching the orbital tower while Plakia was adjusting her approach to the central docking link. Marjee was positioned covering the exit of the secure docking bays. The number of ships in the area was it normal seven, one heavy cruiser and six escort vessels. Marjee had the cruiser on the display and said.
"Fat, dumb and happy, no sign of activity, just moored at the dock. Ladies I do believe we've arrived unannounced. Shall we proceed?"
Plakia landed forces in the central core and they made their way to orbital tower. Lafiel and company entered the tower from the upper docking bay. The entry into the central command area came as a complete surprise. Approaching the stunned members of the Council, Lafiel read aloud a list of individuals, accused them of treasonous actions and complicity with the Secret Society as Plakia's personnel stormed in the chamber from the lower levels. The Alliance Command Center was successfully occupied in less than ten minutes without a shot being fired, so far.
Monitoring the progress Marjee became aware of a disturbance on the outer fringe of her scan. Intensifying the scan she made an announcement on the common link.
"We've got company, just on the edge of my scan, but by the numbers, someone slipped a message out. And it would seem they're heading this way."
Communications continued. The original plan was to escort those involved to Plakia's ship for return and processing at Shahrazad. Kenesh was to remain to pick up any strays that might not have been found in the first sweep. With what Marjee reported gathering those they found became a priority as Plakia opened a link to Command and informed Cassandra of the recent development.
"We were successful and have gathered ninety five percent of those on the list; however Marjee has incoming contacts, at least thirty of them, type unknown. We may have to take what we have and get the rest later."
Cassandra was mulling over the communications when Eliana cut in on a discrete link.
"Leaving anybody loose leaves us in a position to be a target. We need to completely cut the head off this snake, yet… Cassie if this was my call, we can defend here much better than there… bring our people home."
As Eliana spoke Cassandra was feeling the same way. She ordered Plakia to recover what was recoverable and return without engaging in any combat, if possible.
"We need to leave, now, I've got at least six battleships on the scan and there may be more. I figure they'll be here in a half hour tops present speed. Initial scan show them to be UMK type seven's… I thought those were all scrapped fifty years ago."
"Message received Marjee; I'd be interested in who is aboard those ships."
"There is a way to find out. Make sure they see us leaving and let them follow us home."
"Guess I'll tell Cassie to expect company for dinner tonight, I'm ready to leave. Kenesh reports the final 'guests' are being processed. We've got a lot of upset beings aboard, before they can think straight, we should get them somewhere a little less confining."
"Agreed, I've got your back tell me when you're leaving."
"Vekk, I'm sure you've heard what happened at headquarters, those taken were senior officials all charged with treason, several governments are already condemning the assault, as they're calling it, on the Alliance. It should be noted that while the event was a surprise intervention, they made an unorthodox departure, and drew a group of unconfirmed warships following them. Details are vague, I've been ordered to guard the Dorian outpost adjacent to Arsis IV. I don't understand these orders at all what have you learned?"
Vekk was rereading the report as Zachary was speaking; everything was matching except he knew more about the warships than Zachary. He informed him of the type and direction it was then Zachary said.
"Society warships, you're kidding aren't you I though… never mind what I'm thinking and they're being lured to Shahrazad. What's Cassandra thinking unless… Vekk you don't think…"
"Zachary, you and I are operating well outside our pay grades, my guess; there's a warm welcome waiting. If not, I don't want to go there. Since the subject hasn't been mentioned, and you're sitting on the border, what if any response has there been from the Zon?"
"Very quiet, too quiet, outposts along the border have detected nothing. You're not considering the Zon have some involvement in this are you?"
"Would not surprise me, in fact, at this moment, I don't think anything would surprise me."
"Correct, they've changed formation to a modified single layer block, a standard attack formation but the distance remains the same."
"Marjee close up the distance between us. I want you within dash range if necessary."
"Accelerating now, two minutes and you'll have a new shadow. Interesting I sped up and so did our target."
"Marjee, jump to me, everyone else battle stations and increase to battle speed, communications tell Command we're coming home hot. Marjee approach my stern, and be ready."
*"KO's on, looks like Plakia's bringing visitors home, unwelcome visitors I might add."
"Eli we're ready can you maneuver at all?"
"Wallow, would be better, all I can do is point and shoot, we're working like mad to get primary propulsion back on line. KO, looks like you and Dai are the defensive line. I'll direct the home fleet from here and guard the back door."*
"As usual we're outnumbered and probably out gunned. Your responsibility is to keep the inbound fleet from getting with in attack range of the planet. Hopefully the main fleet will be able to dissuade our visitors from getting any closer but, remember your training, and although quite impossible to ask, remain calm and think things through."
Switching to the fleet channel Eliana taps in on the following conversation.
"Inbound detachment, this is Illusion, those with prisoners aboard, transport them directly to stockade three and contact me when you empty, Marjee take up a position in sector sixty using the defensive grid as a shield, hold your fire unless you're targeted."
The sound of KO's voice while comforting was also a bit concerning, was she alright, will she be alright? Kenesh and Plakia off loaded their 'guests' and contacted KO. She moved them to their defensive position as the opposing fleet grew close. Eliana opened a link and inquired.
"KO, are you feeling alright."
"Absolutely marvelous and you, have you got maneuvering on line?"
"Primaries are online; we can move, where would you like us?"
"Where you are is fine, protect the space dock and watch the Sord. I'm going to attempt to talk to them."
The link went to stand by as KO inquired of the ships approaching of their intentions. The response was concentrated fire directed at the defensive grid where Marjee was located. Marjee returned fire struck a couple of ships as KO targeted the ships Eliana cut in…
"KO, Sord's active, several groups of ships on the event horizon, scanning, they are an Abh fleet."
"KO, Kenesh, jump points forming above the inbound fleet unable to scan the area."
The approaching fleet seeing the activity in the area tried to reverse course, that's when the Abh flashed by the planet and took an attack posture. With in fifteen minuets the inbound fleet was disabled and the Abh left without a word said. Stunned and slightly annoyed KO took stock and found out only Marjee had been able to return fire and ceased the second the Abh arrived. She also reported the she'd taken some minor damage and was inbound to the construction bays. Passing within scanner range KO noticed the 'slight' damage and commented.
"That's a pretty nasty plasma burn running down the entire starboard side, let me guess the shields didn't deploy in time."
"Yeah something like that, this AI is too slow. It couldn't keep up with me. So I have officially put the first scratch on my father's name sake… I'll tell him all about it later."
Kenesh and Dai headed to the area where the battle was fought. There wasn't anything of importance left; the Abh had done a very efficient job of wiping them from space. Returning to the planet the real fireworks began. It took almost eight weeks to sort through all those detained. The vast majority of them confessed after they learned of the inbound fleet's demise. Those who feigned ignorance were confronted with the evidence Pegasus contained and told all to save their hides. The Alliance punished those convicted of treason with a very painful and slow death. The punishment was suppose to dissuade those contemplating 'selling out' the Alliance. However the Society was offering protection in exchange for precipitation, which it never planned on delivering. That realization cause those involved to rethink their entire life.
Of the seventy people detained seven were sentenced to the maximum sentence, the rest were returned to their respective governments for life interment. Unfortunately this wasn't the end of the problem it would be several decades before the threat of the Silent Society was put to rest.
And then there was the Abh who remained tight lipped when asked about the entire incident. It should be noted that several individuals with in the Empire seem to have vanished without a trace. Jinto and Lafiel returned to the Alliance headquarters to start the long rebuilding process. Erin and Li continued to talk to the Abh and a better understanding was formed, although, as Erin said.
"The Abh will never be forthcoming about this incident and that's that."
Over the next few months reports filtered in about the Empire 'reeducating a planet or two' and that seemed to be all, for now.
It was a tenuous peace, construction and deployment of the Samson generation of starships continued. Pegasus was determined to be a project for a later time and Marjee was assigned to the ship bearing her father's name. Undaunted Marjee took up the mantel of producing a superior AI unit using the one she was familiar with as the pattern. This meant she was never far from Pegasus for the next year. The first prototype was partially successful. Marjee was working on modifications when Cassandra approached her and said.
"Would you like to go on an adventure, I've got information, I'd like to investigate and you're the perfect candidate for it."
"Cassie, I'm honored but I'm so close, I'd hate to leave my research…"
"It's a return to the Sol system and you'd be taking Pegasus with you, would that change your mind?"
"Mission accepted, when do we leave?"
"Soon, very soon, I'll give you your crew assignments later today."
To Be Continued in: Return to the Source