Springingtiger's Blog


Chapter 20: Inevitability
November 21, 2016, 02:51
Filed under: Politics, Religion, Technology, Travel, Writing | Tags: ,

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I left New Palestine on an ore freighter bound for Delta sector. I reflected that with the new technology the New Palestinians were receiving there would be fewer ore freighters as much more of the processing would be done on New Palestine which would soon be one of the richest planets among the Independents. Sometimes too much wealth can be as dangerous as poverty, but with New Zion reduced to a non militarised agricultural planet very few planets were likely to go up against New Palestine. Their biggest threat would be the Empire if it decided it wanted more direct control, but that would cause problems for the Empire. All in all everything seemed to have turned out quite well for everyone except the Zealots. To me everything felt too neat and I could not help feeling that I was being manipulated. I was looking forward to doing some honest work. I considered changing my name again. but what would be the point with facial recognition checks at every customs.

I suppose one advantage I have is breadth of experience. The biggest problem is putting it in a curriculum vitae without causing chaos – I almost said ‘raising Cain’. We docked at the Dilithium processing station on D18X. The X designated it as being strictly off civilian access yet I was passed through customs without interruption. At the Station reception desk I was handed a folder with Luncheon Vouchers – a scheme to ensure personnel were properly nourished, I had some part in it’s introduction a couple of centuries earlier in the former ‘Alliance and Colonial Mining Company’ the scheme had outlasted the company which had been absorbed by the Imperial Chemicals Corporation. I was also allocated an apartment in the official visitors accommodation. I certainly hadn’t organised any of this, in fact I had requested passage to one of the way stations where I could transfer to a commercial flight. However someone had given instructions and here I was.

The accommodation was reasonable, just a bedroom, shower room and sitting room. There was no kitchen, however the drinks cabinet was stocked with gin and the little fridge freezer had plenty of ice and a cucumber, it certainly smelt like a cucumber, but I suspect it was synthesised. I told the comms to connect me to the housekeeping service and asked for Basil. About a quarter of an hour later the door bell sounded.

“Who is it?” I asked.

“Your Basil, Sir.”

I told the door to open and a maid entered carrying a Basil plant. She was followed in by a man in a military uniform I didn’t recognise, a woman in similar uniform and a man in grey suit.

“Mr Cain, may we speak with you?” Requested Grey Suit.

I shrugged, “I don’t see that I’m in any position to refuse, besides I am curious to know why I am here.Oh and my name is just Cain, no mister.”

“You are here sir, because the Empire would like to offer you a contract.”

“I assume it involves killing…” I began, but Grey Suit interupted.

“Why would you assume that?”

“Experience, when the military engage me for a job someone usually ends up dead. I tell them I’m a pacifist, but they never believe me!”

“Perhaps because your record belies it. General Vladimir Sikorsky, Deep Space Tactical.” Interjected the officer.

“Serious stuff!” I replied I looked at the woman and asked, “And this is?”

“Captain Anya Jog, Sir” the woman said (She pronounced her name jHOg).

“What can I do for you?” I asked as I opened a bottle of gin and poured myself a gin and tonic. I tasted it before offering drinks to the others.

The General explained that DST had lost a reconnaissance team on one of the Militia Planets and wanted to find out what had happened to it. I wondered why they would ask me to find out, surely Deep Space Tactical could do the job, after all they were the elite among the Special Forces. Basically the reason was the usual, I was completely deniable and besides with my reputation people would not expect me to be helping the Empire. I objected that I had helped the Empire a couple of times, but the General correctly pointed out that everyone knew that had been largely coincidental and on at least one occasion, accidental. I couldn’t see any reason why I should help.

“You know we are soon to start colonising the Sigma Sector, Cain?” The general stated rather than asked.

I nodded.

“The man in charge of the expedition is Professor Johannes Friedland”

“I know of him, I know his brother.” I interjected.

“Precisely and it’s because you know his brother we need you. Captain Jakob Friedland was leading the reconnaissance team and his brother refuses to proceed with the Sigma mission until he finds out what happened to his Jakob. If you do this for us you are guaranteed a place on the Sigma mission which will get you away from controversy for a while.”

“If I refuse?”

“You can expect no official cooperation.”

“Perhaps you’d better fill me on the details…All the details, I’m tired of working in the dark.”

The Alabama colony had been set up by a militia group who objected to the Alliance’s values of diversity, they were no better disposed towards the Empire despite its restriction of democratic freedoms. There had been an early attempt to close the illegal settlement, but the heavily armed settler had seen off two of the Alliance’s crack regiments. The concomitant suspicion the settlers had developed of outsiders and their fall back defensive positions deep in the mountains decided the government that armed action was too costly to be useful. That the Empire maintained a blockade of Alabama space only penetrated by the most determined of blockade runners made it even harder to infiltrate the colony.

I was to be given a Bug. The Bug was a small ship half the size of a firefly, capable of being flown by one person and popular with inter planetary smugglers. It was incapable of intergalactic flight so the DST had arranged a planet hopping itinerary for me carrying and dealing contraband to bolster my credentials. The plan had its virtues, but I objected when the General suggested that Jog would accompany me.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “But Jog is obviously military. Trust me even naked military is obviously military. They’d spot her immediately.”

“Jog,” replied the General, “will be a fugitive wanted for helping you purloin a cargo of anti-personnel fragmentation grenades for your first hop. By the time you hit Alabama on your seventh hop you will be carrying medical supplies and with the swamp fever season at its height in a few weeks they are going to be desperate and we’ve made sure that no supplies have got through this year. Jog is your best bet for landing a damaged bug on Alabama.”

“What do you mean, ‘damaged’?” I asked.

“We wouldn’t want them to think you ran the blockade too easily. If you need to make repairs it adds to your reasons for being there.”

“Jog’s still going to stink of Army!” I objected.

“Army officers have fallen in love with the wrong person before and gone rogue. That’s going to be the reason she helps you steal the grenades. There’s a club in town that off duty officers like to visit to get away from the base. Tomorrow afternoon you will be there, In the evening Jog’ will come in with some friends and you’ll get an excuse to leave with her. For the next week you’ll be seen together a lot, you need to get really familiar with each other to build your cover. After the weekend a dealer called Solomon Boult will offer you the grenade job and supply the Bug.”

I have to admit I rather enjoyed building our cover. Sure enough the next evening Jog and her friends came into the bar. One of her colleagues started hitting on her, when she spurned him he became aggressive, I stepped in to calm the situation, he hit me and I broke his arm…and a couple of ribs, I suspect he may have lost some teeth as well, Jog appeared grateful, very grateful and left with me,

It was she who insisted on having sex, When I demurred she said,

“Trust me it’s part of the job.”

That didn’t do my self esteem any good, but I cooperated. Afterwards I asked her,

“Are you always so noisy?”

“I am when I want everyone in the area to know how much I’m enjoying myself.” I must have looked disappointed because she added,

“Don’t worry I wasn’t faking the pleasure, just exaggerating the volume.” She laughed and said, “After all this time I wouldn’t have expected you to be so touchy, typical man!”

“Precisely, after all this time I am still a man.” I responded a little hurt.

Anya laughed again and said, “That’s true, come on let’s go again!”

It occurred to me that with Anya taking charge of building our cover I’d better start taking vitamin supplements or I’d be too exhausted to raid the armoury, As promised Boult met me in the bar on Monday – because Anya was still officially an officer I met him alone. If I had a stereotype of a criminal Solomon fitted it, a cross between Sydney Greenstreet and Jabba the Hutt with an air of deliberate bonhomie everything about him made my flesh crawl. I expressed a degree of reluctance to do business, but when he offered the use of the Bug, I reluctantly accepted and agreed to steal the grenades and ship them to his buyer in the Felix colony.

We accessed the armoury easily enough. Anya was in uniform and had supplied me with another. We had a couple of Boult’s man to do the heavy lifting. Everything went smoothly until we were loading the grenades into the van when a young soldier came out of the guard post and asked for clearance. Anya shot him in full view of the security cameras. As we left the alarms began to sound, the gates were closing as we approached. Our driver drove straight at the diminishing clearance between them while Boult’s other man turned his blaster on the soldiers closing on us from the left. We hit the gates at speed, the noise of scraping metal was horrible, but we were through.

“To the Bug, now!” I ordered.

Within half an hour Anya and I had cleared D18X space, swung round its moon and were on our way to Felix.

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