Stirrings - Histories
Posted By: CaptainRaspberry<email@example.com>
Date: 6 April 2011, 2:31 pm
United Nations Space Command Priority Transmission 67281B-33c
Encryption Code: Black
Public Key: file /excised access Alpha/
From: Codename COALMINER
To: Codename USUAL SUSPECTS
Subject: such a cute pic!
Classification: RESTRICTED (BGX Directive)
It might interest you to know that the interest at site H1A is still intact after [NSW/S3/B5/BeC/E]'s action. Furthermore, recovery teams could only locate two IOEs: we were still receiving telemetry from 149XBCOM-CHAR and 295XBCOM-SOFI outside Tropicas for several hours after the incident before they cut out. Recovery Alpha believes that their equipment has failed.
If we ever find them, they would make excellent additions to your Headhunter program.
0733 Hours, 14 June 2583 (Military Calendar)/
City of Nantes, Earth -- Janvier Rouge apartment complex
The bed creaked uncertainly as Erich Gemmen eased himself out from under the covers. Every day there was a new reminder of his age and increasing girth; today, it was the complaining furniture and the fresh cracks in his knees as he stood up. His hand reached for the nightstand for support, nearly crushing his glasses to dust. They were for reading: piles of dusty books littered the floor nearby.
He stumbled his way to the bathroom, hoping the aches would steam away in the shower. He activated the nozzle and began undressing, waiting for it to reach optimal heat. A glance into the mirror showed the same portrait he had gotten used to, one of wrinkles, sags, and grey hairs. His late forties were proving unkind.
In the kitchen, the appliances came to life of their own accord when he stepped onto the tiles. Bread warmed in the toaster, the coffee maker started grinding -- fruitlessly, as he had never bothered to restock the maker with more beans. Despite the recovering agriculture and economy, things like non-synthetic coffee, milk, or eggs were still prohibitively expensive. As it was, he satisfied himself with whatever could be powdered or frozen. The pre-selected routine started to heat strips of bacon-colored protein in the pan.
Breakfast was the passable, forgettable experience it always was. He switched on the Net, letting the automatic features take over and highlight last night's events. Death, rebellion, and taxes.
The galaxy kept turning.
The drive to work was uneventful, barring him making a light that normally turned red. Unlike most Office of Naval Intelligence buildings, the Andre Dewavrin Center was largely unassuming. While others were concrete and steel monoliths, the Dewavrin Center was a normal office building. Instead of rising into the sky, it burrowed underground into the ancient subway tunnels. France had done away with such things a long time ago, and instead went with a monorail system. It had become renowned for its efficiency, a reputation that abruptly came to an end when the Great War arrived on Earth's doorstep.
Six security checkpoints later, Gemmen was in his office. He put his coat away, logged in, and went to the bathroom down the hall.
By the time he returned, he had a guest waiting.
"Mister Gemmen," said the figure standing in front of his desk. He didn't offer his hand.
Gemmen grunted and settled into his chair. "How can I help you?"
The man pulled a data pad out of his pocket. "I'm here from Section Three. You'll be going on a trip soon, and I wanted to come here and tell you about it."
"Uh-huh." Gemmen eyed the data pad. "What sort of trip is it?"
"Business. You've heard the news out of Ebica? Yes, well, their rebellion is a bit more severe than most others. The entire Fourth Fleet has defected to their cause and taken a very, very valuable artificial intelligence with them."
Impossible. One or two ships had defected in the past, like at Barthes where one naval captain had tried to smuggle rebel leaders off-world, and during the battle for Eris a battlegroup of two destroyers and a cruiser with insurgent sympathetic crews had turned against the rest of the third fleet. But the entire Fourth?
Gemmen realized that his mouth was open. He quickly shut it. "But why do you need me?"
The Section Three agent -- he was an agent, sure of it -- put the data pad on the desk and slid it across. "You were a specialist in data acquisition during the war, yes? As I said, the Fourth Fleet defected with an AI. We need it back."
"I mustered out years ago. Technically speaking, I'm just a civilian consultant working for ONI. I have no obligation to go on a suicide mission." Going toe-to-toe with the Fourth Fleet certainly struck him as a suicide mission.
The agent regarded Gemmen with a cool stare. "Do you remember the deal you made when you mustered out? Six months early so you could go home to your wife."
A chill ran down his spine. "Yes. For all the good it did me."
"A deal is a deal." The agent rose. "You're being reactivated at ONI's discretion to serve out the remainder of your term of service. Read that data pad, Sergeant, it contains your deployment orders. You're heading out in a couple of weeks." He offered a thin smile. "I suggest you hit the gym."
The agent left. Gemmen put his head on his desk. "Merde."
1139 Hours, 14 June 2583 (Military Calendar)/
Gallerus, Ebica -- central insurgent command center
The room was still spinning when Neil woke up. He licked his lips. They still tasted like tequila. With a groan, he pushed himself up out of the bed. The chronometer told him it was late morning.
A new record for early rising, he thought. He dressed quickly, sprayed on some deodorant -- he was running low.
Downstairs, the meeting room was empty except for two figures. Adonai and Elohim -- codenames. They were haggard but firmly built; like him, they had spent obscenely long periods of time in cryogenic sleep, and their biological age didn't quite match up with their chronological ones. All three should have been well into their fifties, but none of them looked much older than thirty.
Adonai glanced up at him. "You missed the morning strategy session. Again."
"The stresses of leading a rebellion are harsh. I gotta take the edge off."
"Uh-huh." She picked up a data pad. "The admiral couldn't come down here herself, but she sent the captain of the Xerxes's Sword down as an intermediary. They're keeping the AI on the flagship since we don't have the equipment down here to hold it and keep it active."
She looked at him. "Sounds fine? The whole reason we got a fleet to defect, we exposed our hand to the UNSC, and they're not going to show it to us."
"Do we have an invitation to go up and see it there?"
"Because last I heard, the admiral had expressly allowed us to grab a dropship and see the AI, as it is the reason they agreed to back us."
Across the table, Elohim barely managed to curb a guffaw down to a chuckle. "So you do pay attention."
"Stop scheduling my meetings before the crack of noon and I'll make them." He sat down heavily. "Any coffee?"
Adonai crossed her arms. "We drank it all."
Neil regarded her cooly, then turned to Elohim. "What about the other item of interest?"
"They flew it down this morning for the meeting. It's packed away in the warehouse. But all the catalyzation equipment is up on the ships, so if you want to properly get it going, you'll need to take a trip up there." As an afterthough, he pushed his half-empty mug across the table with his good hand. Neil took a sip: warm, but decent.
He savored the taste before continuing. "Anything stirring in the UNSC?"
Adonai sighed. "Nothing overt. They're still reeling from Sigma Octanus declaring its independence. But some of the intelligence personnel from the fleet have heard of special kill-teams sent to deal with smaller scale insurrections like ours." She gave him a mirthless grin. "If you'd been to the meeting, you'd know that."
Neil said nothing. He rose and pulled back the shutters on the windows. Sprawling below was the city of Gallerus, probably one of the largest cities still standing -- the Covenant had showed up at the planet just after Earth, and around that time some sort of civil war broke out and their ships suddenly became more interested in shooting at each other than at anyone else. So the colony of Ebica had narrowly avoided destruction, only to start flaunting itself at the UNSC once again.
For a moment, he felt pity. It didn't have to be this colony that suffered, but so few others were suitable for the needs of this rebellion. It wasn't enough just to break away like half the remaining colonies were doing. They had to start something new.
"Send a message to Admiral Krane. I'll be coming up later today in order to interview the AI and talk about a way to set up the proper systems we'll need for it down on the surface."
Adonai nodded. "You got it, boss."
Neil glanced at Elohim. "You're coming with me."
"Great." The man reached across the table to steal back his coffee. "I always liked riding in dropships, the only protection between me and the absolute coldness of the universe being a thin metal wall." He smiled around a sip. "Not."