Chapter 8: Scarlet ShadowEdit

Rachel O’Brien was efficient,being a Spartainean Warrior. That was the second thing that anyone noticed about here.

The first was that she was a looker. Tall and slim with black hair and sapphire eyes. She turned heads when she walked down a street

But she had never rested on her laurels with that asset. She had also developed her brain and her skills with aircraft and spacecraft.

She sat in the captain’s couch at the center of the command blister of the starship that was co-owned by her, her husband, Colin, and their business partners Doctor Zachariah Sarkhon and own wife Lady Ivhanna Sarkhon, looking at the displays in front of her. Everything was fine. The Scarlet Shadow, a big ellipsoid shaped ,Corsaillian class space yacht, white with a red trim that gave her her name, hung in its stationary orbit over the Arcadian plate.The Command Bridge of the Scarlet Shadow,was a large oval shaped,with astrogator at it's center-helm,navigation and command stations behind.A holoscreen hung befor the astrogator,like spectral huge monitor.Small holoscreen projected from many of the others stations as well. The crew, made up of the families of the members of Colin’s away team, was on alert though, waiting for developments on the plate below. Most of the bridge crew sat at their stations around her.Mission Operation,Engineering,Sciences and so forth,plus the Jump Point Transport Operations station,that controllled the huge jump point chamber off to the side of the main bridge area

Rachel had grown up the daughter of a wealthy Thuvian merchant and had had all the privileges that went along with it. But she had not liked the life of a spoiled wealthy brat and had eschewed it as much as possible. She wanted to work on the great ships and be a respected member of the Merchant Fleet—a noble profession that stretched back along the corridors of time to Old Atlantis and Sidairis Prime—the earliest know birth places of all space travel.

She had obtained her pilots license by the age of sixteen standard years and her merchant spacer’s papers by twenty-two. She was well on her way to a career in the Pangean Merchant Space Fleet when a happy disaster happened to her.

One night in a pub in Fountain Town she had fallen in love with a big, burly ex-Thuvian Ranger and her whole life had turned upside down.

Colin O’Brien had, of course, only been pretending to be an ex-Thuvian Ranger turned merc—one of the first of many tall tales he had told her In actuality he worked undercover for Sarkhon Enterprises. But he couldn’t very well tell that to some gal he met in a bar now—could he?

She found that out months later when an alert went out for flyers to evacuate some troops off a hilltop who were surrounded by pirates. She had volunteered, partially out of patriotism and partially out of her thirst for adventure.

She had flown a copter to the hill and waited while the troops boarded and then flew off to safety.

It was not until she had landed that she realized that one of the troopers was none other than her mystery soldier, Colin O’Brien.

And though Rachel did not like to be lied to she understood that lie because she had fallen madly in love with the big, loud soldier. So she gave him just that one lie.

And because that allowed them to be together.

Unfortunately Colin was often a stranger to the truth and she had to keep an eye on him to make sure he did not harm himself and their relationship with it.

Of course her father Lord Daniel O'Conner had not liked Colin. Nor had her mother Diana O'Conner. They didn’t understand why she was going to marry a grounder. If she was going to marry a military type then why not marry someone in the Imperial Fleet. To her wealthy parents Colin had two major defects. He was poor and he was infantry. No matter how esteemed the Rangers were to the world at large to the rich they were just infantry—ground soldiers. People who crawled around in the mud and ate snakes.

Oh they didn’t mind that the Empire had a strong army or even that the Emperor himself was a lion man-A Lord of Lions,as First Son was—a wild man from the mountains of Thuvian who cavorted with cats. But they did not want their precious child to marry one.

Colin had weathered this well. He had grown up with four older brothers and knew how to fend off adversity. And Colin’s brothers were all tough guys, all soldiers. Just to get in light for the bathroom at the O’Brian household had been a challenge and a contest. Or so Colin always said and she saw no reason to doubt him on that. She had met the O’Brian older brothers-Alexander,Daniel,Willian and Steven-also Thuvian Rangers.

Ma tried to brow beat him on every encounter and he just smiled and tried to charm her.

Dad tried to buy him off. That had not gone well. Rachel would never be sure but she thought that Colin, or one of his four beefy, older brothers, had threatened her father and that was why the old man fell silent on the subject and never interfered again.

Ma was another matter. She took every encounter with her son-in-law as an opportunity to insult and demean him. Much to his credit Colin took it well. Though she, Rachel, knew it hurt his feelings. Her husband tended to be loud and bombastic but he still was, inside all the bluster, a little boy who wanted to look like a success to the world about him.

Ahead of her, in the Helm couch sat the pilot/navigator of the Shadow, Pindar Mor, a Rhandarian -who was of android species-level 12,blue skinned and bald,with scarlet eyes and pointed elfin ears .Pindar Mor,sat between the small spherical Rhandarian Navicomputer and the mate of the teams Quartermaster, Shiv Mor, a human.The Rhandarian Navcom assisted Rhandarians in navigating safely the other infinate realms of and beyond normal space.Itself a somewhat semi sentient mechine,telepathically linked it's Rhandarian Navigator.

Pindar was, as are all Rhandars, a sentient humanoid machine-whose flesh and blood was spawned artificial materials,but functioned just the same as any other organic species. Which made her relationship with the human Shiv an interspecies romance, even though religious people swore that Rhandars and other Mechans were not truly species at all.

Rachel often wondered what her class conscious parents would have made of that. Not that the Mors would have cared. Love was all that mattered in the end. Love and the companionship of two sentient beings that cared for one another

That was a lesson that many humans needed to learn and so few did.

Behind sat Doctor Zacheriah Sarkhon-Time Sorcerer,swordman,scientist,quitely monitoring several holographic heads up displays with most interest.Next to him sat his lovely wife.Ivhanna Sarkhon.Darked haired,with a single silver streak running down from her widows peak to the end somewhere behind her long dark hair,tied an exotic pony tail.Her too was monitoring holographic heads up displays,next her husband.

“How is she holding, Helm?” Rachel asked the tall, blue humanoid. Pindar was female. It was not just cosmetic the way it would have been on an android bot. the Rhandars were sexually reproducing machines more organic than mechanical. Their creators had had the wisdom to make sure that they were self replicating. Though the process was much more complicated, Rachel was sure, than that of organic beings. Of course her relationship with Shiv was childless. Love could do many things but it could not cross the barrier between machine and human. At least not yet.

This made Rachel think of her own childless marriage. She and Colin were always too busy to make time for kids. Or so she kept telling herself.

“Holding position,” said Pindar. “I was concerned about the new monopole drive but it seems to be functioning with peak efficiency.”

“Good,” replied Rachel. The Shadow was a converted Kalladan space yacht. Like most Kallidan ships she was war surplus having once belonged to a Kallidan Captain Augustus Krell ,whose property had been auctioned off after his fall from grace with the Kalladon High Command and subsequent imprisonment.Paragravity or Monopole Drive,made hover like saucer shaped Atlantean Star Palice,practical and effectless.

Doctor Zachariah Sarkhon-a sullen,but crafty Time Sorcerer,had managed to get it at a steal, helped with the acquisition from both Carter Tauran and Kothar Khonn. Not to mention Toreus Rhann and his Imperial father. They had worked with Toreus many times but had never actually met that handsome devil. A fact that Colin appreciated since he had a low opinion of rich people in general and royalty in particular. He was also jealous of Rachel’s pin-up boy admiration for Toreus.

'Gods, Colin, she thought. 'I’m not into younger men.' The sullen,sometimes coldly logical Zacheriah Sarkhon just sat his holographic station monitoring the ships systems,rearly looking up.Steely blue eyes,occasionally peer critically from out of his platinum silvery long mane.

My freind,Doctor Zacheriah Sarkhon finally spokeYou worry about things you should not concern yourself about.We all know Rachel's totally devoted to you just my Ivhanna is to me.

Sarkhon Colin O'Brian cut it roughly-gruntingly Zack,stay out of this.

And let you stick your big thuvian feet in your mouth as usual ? the silvery haired chrononancer added.

Colin.Zacheriah's only trying to help.After all,he is your best freind.Ivhanna Sarkhon added,sitting next to Zacheriah Sarkhon.

Captain Colin O'Brian was about to say something loud and stupid,but thought no.Better not.The big Thuvian Mercenary simply walked back and forth,having an imiginary conversation with nobody,weaving hands around.He stopped .Looked around to his freinds and wife Rachel.

Yeah.Guys..The big Thuvian soldier stated.I can be a big ass sometimes.

Sometimes ?Rachel commented

Well,guys and girls,we got a mission to preforms.lets get to it.Captain O'Brian stated with a big loud,very confident attitude.

This mission was not in any respects unusual.

The ship floated off the Fountain station with many other vessels. Just one of the fleet that came and went to Acadia Fountain carrying passengers and cargo from all around the inside of the Sphere. The only difference between the Shadow and all of the others, as far as she knew, was that it was the only one equipped as a troop carrier, mission support site. As well as one of the few that was outfitted with a hyperspace engine as well as a warp drive. Most ships maneuvering thought the Inner Sphere space didn’t require hyperspace. In fact use of it inside the Sphere was illegal. The hyperspace shadow inside the Sphere was simply not big enough for starships to maneuver safely—hyperspace being a small universe in point to point congruence with normal space.

You could use warp drive within the Sphere though killing the field before you approached a plate was recommended. This was all why jump tunnels and sub-light were the basic means of transport inside the Great Sphere of Terra Prime. And why the Sphere girdling sub-shuttles and airship trains were still very popular.

“Skipper,” called out Kenya Mathin, the communications/intelligence officer. “Just received a signal from the package in Arcadia. The subject has departed for his meeting.”

That meant that Prince Toreus Rhann had left the cargo module forward base and was headed for his rendezvous with his contacts.

“Good,” she said. “Give me the jump phone to Colonel O’Brian.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The jump phone was a Casimir effect communications system that allowed communications between two paired units. One was here aboard the Shadow and the other was with Colin down in Arcadopolis. It was the most secure means of communicating ever developed by sentient kind. There was no way a third party could listen in on the message. And the jump connection could be expanded to make an emergency escape route if the mobile end had fully charged Zero Point batteries.

If they had to pullout of an ambush there was enough energy to keep a big jump point open long enough to get the whole team away—but barely. That didn’t included rescued personnel of additional operatives.

That was why they had to be really careful or her husband, the prince, the team and the precious cargo would all end up in RAMP custody.

“Connection attained,” said Mathin.


Colin and his 12 man team were already in position.

Four of them, including the chief himself were in a parked van on the street in front of the mercenary pub not four blocks from the Fountain base.

The rest of the team was stationed behind and to the sides of the pub, including a scout/sniper team on the roof across the street. Earlier some of his men had painted smart dust on the walls and intersections around the pub to increase their yield of intelligence. They had the whole site covered.

Colin heard the pulsing from the box in a pouch on his belt. He pulled it out and flipped open the lid to reveal the interior.

“O’Brian here,” he spoke into the opening of the jump phone.

“Coll, it’s your wife,” came the voice from the amplification and containment unit for the jump point.

“What’s up, hon?”

“Just got the signal. He’s on his way.”

“Okay,” Colin frowned. “Pretty boy finally got his butt in gear.”

“Colin,” Rachel replied. “Don’t forget that as loyal Pangean subjects we owe that young man our allegiance and respect.”

“Sure love,” said Colin. “As long as his money is good and none of my folks get killed saving his ass he has my undying respect. Does that suit ya, babe?”

“One of these days, Coll, you’re gonna get overheard saying stuff like that by some loyal patriot and they’re gonna knock you on your butt.”

  • “Loyal patriots aren’t out here helping his royalness save the world. They’re sitting back home trying to find a way to replace the empire with a republic.”
  • “At least try to show a little courtesy, Coll.”
  • “Don’t worry, baby. If I eve meet the prince face to face I’ll courtesy and kiss his ring like any peon.”
  • “Fair enough, Colin. Just don’t insult the guy whose father writes our checks.”
  • “I promise.”
  • Their marriage was based on promises. Many of them still unfulfilled. Not that he didn’t try very hard to live up to them. Both of them did. Especially the raven haired Rachel O'Brian. Colin would never admit it out loud but he knew that his wife was long suffering and he wanted nothing more than to give her all that she deserved. Nothing would make him happier.
  • “Boss, this is Cobb,” came the voice of one of his troopers in his earpiece. “Vehicle and rider approaching from down-spin.”
  • “Gotta go, hon,” he said to Rachel. “Things are beginning to heat up here. Love you. Touch base as soon as we know what’s happening.”
  • “Right, Colin. Love you.”
  • “Back at ya, babe.”Colin O'Brian shot back to his lovely wife.After all,your the greatest.
  • He closed the box and turned his attention to the team net. “Okay, report.”
  • “Look at the bird up on the cupola across the street, boss,” said his Top Sergeant, Frank Pym.
  • Colin scanned with his spy glasses toward the cupola. There perched a hawk. “See him. So?”
  • “Try him on thermal image.”
  • Colin adjusted his glasses to thermal scan. The bird should have glowed hot but instead it was just slightly warmer than the environment.
  • “Avianoid,” he said. “That will belong to his nibs. Aerial surveillance. He’s spotted us before we spotted him.”
  • “Man on a sky bike coming up the alley—with a cat in a sidecar, boss.”
  • Colin frowned. “That will be his Grace. Only he would bring a cat to a gunfight.”
  • That was a cheap shot, Colin had to admit quietly to himself. Modern shield fighting made gunfights all but impractical and that cat was a mighty weapon for close in fighting. He’d once seen a saber cat reach through a shield and decapitate a man.
  • Colin punched a number on his phone. A voice answered.
  • “Your boy is here,’ he said.
  • “Thank you,” answered the voice.

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