Saturday, November 17, 2018

Brooke’s Battles: Bounty (Part VII)

Sharice’s code had not been corrupted, and she had not switched allegiances. Through months of bureaucratic debrief, Captain Cabral, Brooke, and the rest of the senior crew learned from her that the captain of the Zerzan had figured out a way to bypass the chain of command, and communicate directly with Sharice. He and his people had gathered intelligence leading them to believe that a different faction on their side was intending to destroy the center Northwest Forest circles in an attempt to escalate the war. The problem, according to them, was that up until that point, they were fighting against their enemy using that enemy’s rules. They believed there were no such things as rules of engagement, or war crimes. The difference between anarcho-primitivists, and the primitivists living in the center circle was the anarcho part. They were not content living with little technology all on their own. Either the entire populace fell in line, or they would have to die. Anarchy, like many other forms of social politics, doesn’t work if they’re constrained by some other form of government’s idea of civility.
For instance, in the 21st century, most countries were capitalistic. Everything was valued at whatever anyone was willing to pay for it. If enough people couldn’t afford something, and the producers were incapable of sustaining their business at those price points, that price would drop. While other countries attempted to create some antithesis to this, it was impossible. Every nation traded on the international stage, so whether they liked it or not, and whether they believed or not, they were all capitalists. It was unclear whether the more violent faction of anarchists would have succeeded in their mission to force the solar system to stoop to their level, because thanks to the bravery of the late Captain Torben Altink, their whole plan failed. Evidently, he had attempted to open talks with the system leadership, to explain the growing threat to them, but was mostly ignored. As the Sharice and other warships took the enemy ships down one by one, power perpetually shifted amongst the winners. By taking out their competition, the violent faction was able to consolidate power, and basically do whatever they wanted.
The Zerzan had all but given up their fight to stop them when a random crewman came up with an idea. Since they didn’t have the resources to take on their internal enemy themselves, they would recruit the Sharice. They lured Ecrin and Brooke in, then secretly began talking with Sharice. The original plan was for Sharice to take total control over the ship itself, and follow the Zerzan back to Earth, where they would fight off the other faction together. Her mistake was not even trying to convince her people to listen to the Zerzan. In the end, with both vessels crippled, their only hope was to commandeer the drop ship, and take it straight down to the other faction, sacrificing Captain Altink in the process. Now the only question was, how did they get their hands on a Lucius-bomb?
I am not at liberty to say.
“What are you talking about? I’m your mother,” Brooke said.
“I’m your commanding officer,” Ecrin said to Sharice.
Yes,” Sharice began, “and you’re the one always talking about the chain of command. I am not at liberty to say.
“Are you telling me someone higher than me ordered you to keep quiet about the Lucius-bomb?” Ecrin asked.
Sharice waited to answer. “I’m not, not saying that.
“How far are we to intercept?” Ecrin asked.
Seventy-two minutes,” Sharice responded. While the crew was only now hearing her justification for recent events, the system leadership heard everything months ago. They were satisfied with the explanation enough to grant her full duty privileges, so she could return to work. They were presently on their way to capturing a fleet of space pirates.
“Oh, so you can answer some questions. It’s nice to know this old dog still has a little pull on this ship.”
Ecrin,” Sharice started to say.
Captain,” Ecrin corrected.
Sharice pretended to clear her throat. Of course, she didn’t have a throat, but she found that human speech relied on brief pauses, false starts, and other disfluency to maintain a bond between one another. These meaningless utterances are vital to natural language, because perfection can sound rehearsed, which comes off as didactic, or condescending. “Captain,” she echoed, “You know I would never do anything against your best interests if I didn’t have a good reason. I didn’t put that bomb on my drop ship, and I did not want it there. When an opportunity to get rid of it came along, I seized it.
“When was it put there?”
Sharice cleared her hypothetical throat again, but didn’t say anything.
“Miss Prieto,” Ecrin prompted.
“Answer her,” Brooke ordered.
During the quarantine,” Sharice said.
“That makes sense,” Brooke said. “A lot of people came in that I didn’t know.”
“So there’s no telling who did this, let alone who ordered it,” Ecrin said with a sigh.
“Unless...” Brooke began, sending Ecrin a coded message through her gestures.
Ecrin stepped back gracefully. “Use the meeting room.”
Brooke stepped into the other room. “Sharice, isolate yourself in here, and hand over control to the helmsman on duty.”
“We need to have a private conversation, that’s why.”
“Sharice, we can’t do our jobs if we don’t know what we’re up against. Right now, we’re going off to capture precisely five stolen interplanetaries, three boarders, and a command ship. And we know that’s what we’re up against because we’ve been investigating these crimes. We’re not just flying blindly, hoping we’re not outmatched. If someone was able to hide a Lucius-bomb in the drop ship, they could have hidden something else. Hell, you may not even know about it. Your internal sensors can’t see everything. Your relationship with the crew is built on trust. We all agreed to come back after what you did, because we trusted you believed you were doing the right thing. I’m here to remind you that you’re my daughter, I’m your mother, and I’m asking you for a name. The chain of command is important, but if the person who made you do this already broke that chain, it’s up to us to stop them. Do you understand?”
Yes, mother.
“Go ahead then.”
Sharice didn’t say anything.
“Go ahead,” Brooke repeated.
Holly Blue.
Holly Blue put it there.
“Holly Blue is not Ecrin’s superior officer. Ecrin is hers.”
I’m not talking about the chain of command from the Sol military. I’m talking about a higher level of authority; one that goes beyond anything any human could understand.
“When you say human, do you mean human like Ecrin is biologically human, or human like Richard and Allen are humans.”
The latter,” Sharice answered.
“There is no hierarchy in the world of choosing ones and salmon,” Brooke argued.
If The Last Savior of Earth tells you to do something, you do it.
“This was Étude’s doing?”
She had the intelligence. She knew this would happen, because someone with powers told her the future.
“She’s retired,” Brooke pointed out.
She’s quit working for the powers that be,” Sharice said. “That doesn’t mean she’s quit saving people.”
“What else did she do?”
“The Lucius-bomb is all I knew about. Like you said, though, my internal sensors weren’t designed to pick up every little thing that happens on this ship.
“I need to speak with Holly Blue.”
She’s busy preparing for the intercept.
“Sharice, if she’s built more bombs, or something else bad, she has to be stopped and questioned. What is she planning to do with the pirates? She cannot be allowed to continue.”
I assure you she has no intention of harming those pirates. The plan is to stop them peacefully, just as we did all those other ships.
“You can’t know that.”
I can, though. Please, don’t tell the captain, not until we close this case.
“Very well, but I want you monitoring her movements with what few internal sensors you do have. I’ll pilot the ship myself if you can’t divide attention.”
Understood. And mother?” she said as Brooke was about to leave the room. Thank you, I love you.
“I love you too.”
An hour later, they were upon the pirate fleet, which made no threatening moves towards the Sharice. Nor did it attempt to outrun them. Ecrin ordered Sharice to hold steady for a while, to feel out the situation. The pirates were hoarders, but no evidence suggested they were violent. They never harmed the rightful crew and passengers of the vessels they stole. They always packed them in lifeboats, and programmed a time-delayed rescue beacon. It would seem all they wanted were the ships themselves, almost like they were building an army.
“Sir?” Holly Blue offered. “Should I release the EMPs?”
“No. Open a channel.” Ecrin waited for the comms officer to set it up. “Rover One, this is Captain Cabral of the Sharice Davids. Please respond.”
This is Rover One,” someone responded immediately, in audio only. “We call it the Midas, though.
“Midas,” Ecrin acknowledged. “Please lower your defenses and prepare to be boarded.”
Sure thing,” the pirate agreed.
Ecrin looked over at Brooke.
“Maybe they know they have no chance,” Brooke suggested. What else would cause them to be so accommodating?
Ecrin turned to the bridge crew, and started delegating. “You, coordinate the transitions. Scan for weapons and tech, and put everyone in hock. Keep the leader separate from everyone else. I’ll want to talk with him first.” She walked out to prepare for the confrontation.
The pirates followed direction with absolutely no problem. When one of the guards questioned this, they all said they were actually following orders from the boss. He had some plan to get out of this, and they trusted him to follow through.
“Where’s my prisoner?” Ecrin asked as she was waiting in the interrogation observation room.
Uhh...he’s holed up in his quarters,” one the guards reported. “He says he’s only willing to talk to you on his ship.
“Force him,” Ecrin ordered.
We’ve been trying. We can’t break through.
Brooke shook her head. “Don’t do it.”
“It’s obviously a trap, sir,” Holly Blue concurred. “I’ve seen this movie a million times.”
“So have I,” Ecrin said. “But those characters didn’t have what I do.”
“What’s that, sir?” Holly Blue asked. “Us?”
“No,” the captain replied as she was checking the power on her belt. “They didn’t have emergency teleporters.” She looked back over to Brooke. “If something goes wrong, this ship is yours. You’re going to have to deal with the Holly Blue situation yourself.”
“The what?” Holly Blue asked, confused and offended.
“How do you know about that?” Brooke asked. She never reported what she had learned from Sharice about the Étude and Holly Blue conspiracy.
“I hear everything. Sharice, put me on that ship, and bring back our people.”
Sharice apported Ecrin over to the other ship. After a few torturous ignorant moments, she said, “receiving visual.
“On screen,” Brooke ordered. The monitor showed the inside of the pirate ship. Cameras were following Ecrin down a passageway, and up to a door. It opened automatically, and let her in. No man was in this room, though. When Brooke was piloting the Warren back from the rogue planet with Leona and the gang, something went wrong with one of the pocket dimensions they used to hold a higher passenger capacity. A boy had the ability to create a new being out of nothing with every draw of breath. He didn’t make humans, though. Some called them white monsters, because they were tall and as white as a chicken egg. They called themselves the Maramon. Most had stayed in their dimension, which was eventually transformed into an entirely separate universe. One of them was stuck in this universe at the time, and Brooke hadn’t kept track of what they did with him. The Maramon smiled at the camera and lifted a small device. He pressed a button, and his ship disappeared.

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