Disclaimers: See Part One
My thanks to those of you who have emailed me about the story so far. Your encouragement has meant a lot, and I hope this part lives up to your expectations. There may be a delay with part four, since I seem to have hit a bit of a stretch of writers block.
Comments are very welcome at: Adarkbow@yahoo.com
Her thoughts were disjointed, scattered, as the wheeled gurney rattled down the corridors. The bare light bulbs above her flared across her vision, blurring her vision even further. The cocktail of drugs in her body made it hard to focus on anything, and even when she did, her mind tended to wander. Emily drew comfort in one thing though; the cold sticky reality of the scalpel in her left sleeve. She focused her thoughts on that. On what she was going to do with it once she met this traitor, where she was going to drive the tip home.
The lights above her went past slowly, and the wheels rattled as the putrid man behind her muttered a curse under his breath. She managed to lift her head enough to see the door in front of them, and watch the man move around the side of the gurney and open the door, pulling the gurney in after him. The door shut on it halfway through, and she winced at the jar.
The man cursed even more, and Emily lost a few minutes contemplating driving the scalpel through his neck. When she realized she was drifting, Emily focused, bringing herself back to the present, and realized they had stopped. The man was saying something, but she just couldn't get herself to focus on the buzzing sound that was his voice. Raising her head, she wearily looked at where they were now.
The man had wheeled her into what might have charitably been called a command room. Various computer consoles were scattered around the room, along with a holo-tank in the center, which was currently showing all of the Sensor Sphere. Standing next to it, was a man whom she recognized. A man whom she had fought beside, and had called a brother-in-arms on more than one occasion.
"Lirik, you scum sucking bastard."
The other Guardian, in charge of the asteroid belt, stepped forward, grinning and waving the foul smelling man out.
"Why Emily, how nice to see that you could make it to our little party. I hope you appreciate all the trouble that I've gone through to lure you here."
Her vision blurred, and when she was able to focus on him again, the other Guardian had moved over to another console and was punching in commands.
He grinned at that, bringing up the view outside of the building on the holo-tank.
"Is it? I've been a step ahead of you all the way First Guardian."
His tone was derisive, and he sneered at her title. Moving around the tank he began looking for the sniper that was beginning to become annoying.
"You think it was a coincidence that the Sergeant Major's shuttle blew up right over my decoy communications array? That he had that report with him? Then, why do you think I have the arrays on Earth? Much easier to build them in space."
She was having more and more problems focusing on him, and her mouth was going dry. Something was wrong, and she struggled to try and find out what it was. It took her only a moment to figure out what was happening. Even through her dulled link, she could feel the virus starting to spread through her ship self.
The bald Guardian smiled at that, and finished punching in his commands.
"Oh, you've met my pet? She's a nasty one I will give her that. See, Emily, you're going to be my ticket out of this piss poor excuse for a Solar System."
Even through the Cynaomarist, she could feel the virus beginning to replicate and work its way through the computer network on her ship self. If she hadn't been blocked, she would easily have been able to cleanse her system, but as it was, she was helpless. One by one, she could dimly feel systems and subsystems become infected.
"You'll never escape, Lirik. Even if you get out of here, no Guardian ship can lift out of Luna without the Emperor's orders. Your power core's locked down."
Emily's words sounded disjointed, even to her, as she desperately tried to fight her way through the drug induced block, and help her overwhelmed computer battle against the virus that Lirik had introduced. It was like trying to keep track of a conversation while a disease ate away at her brain.
"Oh please. I've had sixty-six years to plan this; you don't think I wouldn't have figured a way around that? Ah, there is your sniper friend. Shuttle, get your heads out of your asses, and blow up the rock formation at these coordinates. The sniper is hiding in that. After you have blown the sniper away, get back here, we're leaving."
Shutting off the communications panel, he spun back towards her, grinning even wider as he noticed the sweat rolling off the First Guardian's brow.
"I should have been First Guardian. I've been a Guardian twice as long as you have, and anybody could have gotten us to work as a unit. Honor, Wisdom, Strength! What hogwash! We should be ruling this planet, but instead we're lurking in the shadows, waiting until our beloved Emperor gives us the order. The Bak'ra, now that is a force to be impressed with. Think about how pleased they will be with someone who hands them the last of the Tiri Empire on a silver platter."
Drawing closer he grinned down at the pale blue eyes that were staring up at him with hatred.
"What's a matter Guardian? Problems speaking? I imagine that must be quite painful, to have the virus take over your ship self and you unable to do anything. I'll share a secret with you, since I like you so very much."
Running a hand over his bald head, he crouched down, just out of lunging reach from her, and whispered conspiratorially.
"See. That virus, its in every one of the Sensor Sphere Stations. When I send the signal, every station is going to light up, and start transmitting the location of this pitiful little planet, with your signature all over it. That should keep the idiots confused long enough for me to get to my ship self. Which, will be powered up, since your ship self will be having a small weapons problem. Wouldn't want a Guardian to blow up and take all ten other Guardian ship selves which are on Luna, would they?"
He smiled, almost calmly down at her, as he stood. The look in his eyes though, those she would always remember, as she battered at the mental walls the drugs had caused. Insanity, a burning desire for even more power than a Guardian already held, that was what she saw in his black eyes as he stood.
"I'll be leaving you shortly, First Guardian. Please do say hello to your brother when he shows up. He, and the ready response troops, should get here just in time for the nuclear warhead underneath this base to go up."
With a laugh that had nothing to do with humor, he turned and moved back towards the communications console.
"Hector, get back in here, and make certain I'm not disturbed. We'll be leaving shortly, after I send this signal. Tell your men to get back here."
The putrid smell returned, and Emily didn't have to look, to see that the man, who had brought her here on the wheeled dolly, was back. Lirik must have noticed her look of disgust, because he nodded, almost sympathetically as he began punching in commands.
"Human mercenaries, what do you want? Barbarians never did learn how to keep themselves clean I guess."
She didn't have the strength to respond, but she did glare at him. The drugs were still there, but she imagined she could feel the block growing a bit thinner. Forcing herself, she threw everything she had at it.
"My my, what do we have here? Seems someone's tripped my access guardians."
Emily almost didn't hear him, and it was only the frown in his voice that caused her to waste some of her precious energy to take a look towards the other Guardian. He was standing next to the communications console, eyes closed, and frowning.
"Why Emily, you brought another Guardian with you. No, not another Guardian, just a gifted human, I would have recognized her if she was a Guardian. She's trying to access the communications array. How quaint. Lets show her how its done, shall we?"
Julie, she's in the base. The thought rang through her, freezing her thoughts as she pictured the young woman alone in the base. Emily had no clue who the sniper was, but she hoped that the sniper was helping Julie out somehow. At least the sniper seemed to have drawn attention away from the base, probably letting Julie sneak inside. All of which passed through her mind in a split second. Desperately, she renewed her attacks on the block, trying to force a contact with her ship self through.
What she had taken as guard programs around the communications array access, had turned out to be decoys. Julie had slipped past the opening between the guards with ease, only to find out that it was some sort of trap. She had been fully immersed; farther than she had ever been during her time with Majestic. Her consciousness had been nearly totally separated from her body, and then the trap had folded around her. It felt like lines of burning light wrapping around her mind, and holding her in place. The light, it burned, and she shrank into herself, trying to cringe away from the light. Which did nothing but let the light bands wrap even tighter around her. It was then that she started to panic, feeling the bands burn into her, and lashed out.
She struck out at the bands, trying to force them out and away from them. For a moment Julie feared she wasn't strong enough, and then the bands snapped, shattered actually, and she was free again.
A bit more cautiously, she moved forward, sliding through the systems towards the command access for the communications array. After the last encounter, she was careful of the area around the entrance. So it was that Julie wasn't that surprised when she sensed another presence ahead of her, blocking the way.
This one wasn't a program though; it felt different, not artificial. A split second later she realized why, when she felt the brush of intellect against hers. It definitely wasn't Emily, it felt different, and she was certain of that when she felt the other presence lash out at her.
Frantically she back peddled, feeling the fringe of the lash burn across her thoughts. The other presence, Lirik she pulled his name from his thoughts in that moment of contact was trying to destroy her thoughts. Julie had no idea what would happen to her body if her consciousness was destroyed in here, but she had no intention of finding out.
Back tracking, she made her way past where the trap had been set for her, and winced as the other Guardian circled around her. He was faster than her, and he knew this system intimately. He was faster and knew more than she did, and she realized, immediately that she had only one chance.
Something that Major Sims had once told her, a long time ago. The greatest swordsman in the world does not fear the second best, or even the third. He fears the novice, the one who does not know what the proper response to a move is.
So, Julie did the only thing she could think of. When he tried to crush her connection to her body again, she threw her entire being at him.
The drug block was still holding, but she did her best, throwing herself again and again at it. It was weakening, slowly, but it was weakening. Not fast enough though, the Virus had taken over nearly every subsystem, and was now eating its way through the lock out protocols around her weapon systems. If it managed to access that, she had no doubt that Lirik would be able to do exactly as he had threatened.
Each Guardian's ship self was a massive ship of the line. Each one meant to function as the core of its own battle group, such as this worlds current Air Craft Carriers. It was upon the Guardian that each of the smaller ships depended on for transport through a warp gate. It had only been during the Bak'ra invasion though, that the tactics for several Guardians to work together had evolved, along with the full concept of a Guardian battle group. Unfortunately, only three of the support ships had survived the plague, the crews of the others having perished.
The three light frigates, along with the ten Guardian ship selves who were stationed on Earth, were held at Luna base. It was impossible to get a five-kilometer long Guardian ship to descend through the atmosphere unnoticed, and even dangerous. None of the Guardian ships were even designed to land on a planet, and it had been more than a bit harrowing to land them on the dark side of the moon. After a minor mishap in 1969, where Thiere, the African Guardian, had by mistake powered up both of her fusion power plants, all of the fusion plants had been locked down by order of the Emperor. Only physical removal of the lock down mechanisms would allow the plants to power up.
If the virus detonated her ship self, besides ripping her mind to shreds, it would destroy at the least all of Luna base, along with any of the other ten Guardian ships who were near her. The virus wouldn't have to power up her fusion plants to accomplish that, if it managed to override the safeties on her missile stores, she could detonate them inside of the missile vaults. The Emperor would have no choice but to order the lock downs removed, and get the Guardians out of there. Which was what Lirik wanted of course.
Hector was still near her, she could smell his putrid stink, and she did her best to ignore it along with the dull pain in her leg. Once again she took comfort in the solid reality of the scalpel, pressing her wrist down along its length to feel its now warm metal surface.
If only Lirik would get a bit closer, she would do her best to use the scalpel.
Emily's thoughts of driving the scalpel through Lirik's right eye were side tracked, when the Guardian in question screamed. Opening her eyes, she watched in amazement as Lirik arched his back, his body going rigid, and the scream went on and on. With desperation, he hauled himself away from the console, staggering. Emily could see blood seeping from his ears, and nose, and he looked about with terror. The look of madness faded, but the pain obviously did not. Cringing he clasped his ears, mewling in pain and fell to his knees.
Hector took an uncertain step towards the kneeling Guardian, but stopped as Lirik held up a hand.
"Just, give me a minute. Bitch nearly killed me."
Silently Emily cheered for her young friend. She had no clue what Julie had done to him, but whatever it was, she had injured him. Closing her eyes she set back to work on the block with renewed vigor, distantly hearing Lirik's next words.
"She got a message out. Get your men together Hector we're leaving as soon as that shuttle lands."
Weston was strapped into the combat drop ship in his powered armor, as were the twenty-four other members of the Imperial Rapid Response Team. Besides him, grimly checking his own suit's particle projection cannon, Sergeant Major Torsson looked ready to kill something. Weston didn't particularly blame the man, who had somehow managed to get a spot onboard this particular mission. Weston had just raised an eyebrow, and the Sergeant Major, looking slightly sheepish, had responded that the Lady Windstar had pulled him out of Northern Quebec, so he figured he owed her. After that, Weston hadn't been too surprised to see that the pilot of the sixty-meter long drop ship was Ile, the pilot that had gone down with the Sergeant Major.
Since leaving Kithkarn, a half hour ago, the two drop ships and four fighters, had been holding position, just under the surface of the water, a kilometer off the shore of Australia. Weston had simply overridden Nicholas's advice that he not go with the troops. His sister was in trouble, and he was going to be damned if he didn't help her out. The fact that he was riding along with the pinnacle of the Imperial Marines seemed to help Nicholas accept his decision a bit easier. Each of the two-meter tall powered armor suits had enough firepower to wage its own little private war, and enough armor to shrug aside even explosive darts.
He was just about to ask for another communications check with Kithkarn, when the communications officer leaned forwards in her chair at the front of the drop ship. The drop ship's six person crew were the only ones not in power armor, and even they were wearing unpowered fleet armor. It sacrificed some of the protection, which Marine unpowered armor offered, in favor of more maneuverability. The woman frowned as she listened intensely to whatever transmission had just came in, and then changed channels, speaking to Weston's powered armor.
"Sir, Kithkarn just picked up a transmission from inside the area that Lady Windstar was searching. It was high powered, and came from a large communications array. There was no message, just the array lighting up."
Weston felt his lips pull back into a smile, and could sense the marines listening carefully.
"Get us there now. Full combat drop."
Like angels of vengeance, the six crafts broke the surface of the ocean, and headed inland. None of them were the least concerned with staying out of sight now, and a nearby cargo ship spotted them. A man on deck tossing aside his bottle and finding God once more. The four sleek and deadly shapes of the fighters, ringed protectively around the two lumbering drop ships, broke the sound barrier just as they crossed the shore.
Julie wasn't sure which of them was more surprised, herself or the other Guardian. With more strength than she had thought she had, she lunged her entire being at the other presence, and tried to strangle it. It had obviously been a tactic that the other one had not expected, and she had hurt it. Julie had done her best to hold on to Lirik, but he had slipped away. But not before she managed to trace him.
As quickly as she could, she activated the communications array. Figuring that the Tiri would be able to trace it back as long as she just left it transmitting, she slid back out through the computer network and thankfully back into her body. Where she promptly collapsed, as the world spun in front of her eyes. She felt drained, almost more than ever before, and it was a struggle for her to slowly stand.
Making certain to pick up the side arm, which felt like it weighed a ton, Julie slowly set out down the corridor towards where she had traced the other Guardian, and where she hoped to find Emily.
God was the first to admit she was in trouble. She was doing her best, but that damn silent craft had driven her back from the edge of the canyon, and Katya had just run out of hiding spots. There was only empty ground around her, and outcropping of rock that she was currently taking shelter behind. There were three bullets left in her magazine, and she put one of them through the face of an enemy soldier who had been trying to climb up out of the canyon and get at her. They were stupid, but they kept on coming.
Two bullets now, and she would be out. She had no illusions about the rock outcropping saving her from one of the shots from that flying craft. The last place she had hid behind, a huge boulder, and been turned to rubble by just one shot from the cannon mounted on the underbelly of the thing. Her father had always told her that there was no future in sniping, but had she believed him? No, of course not, that would have been too close to actually listening to his advice.
Night was almost fully descended now, and she feared that more than she thought was possible. The black craft would be able to sneak up on her, and she had no doubts about how long she would last then. Better to see it coming, than to die alone, huddled against the rock.
She waited, patiently, as ever, for the now dreaded sight to come from the north on another pass. Stepping slightly to the side, she raised the rifle to her shoulder in an action as automatic as breathing. The weight was comforting in her hands, and she looked through the scope at the rapidly approaching craft. It was, actually, quite elegant. Katya's mind absently noted the graceful delta wing shape, and the dark skin of the craft. Even as she thought that, she lined up the crosshairs on what she assumed was the cockpit window.
The red glass didn't let her see if anyone was inside, but she estimated where a pilot would normally sit. Automatically she adjusted for the slight westerly wind, and the drop of the bullet for that distance. Taking in a breath, she slowly let it out, timing between one heartbeat and another. As always, she wasn't aware that she was going to fire, until the rifle bucked in her hands.
It took a moment for the bullet to travel the distance between her and the coming craft. It didn't surprise her much when all she saw through the scope was the flash of sparks as the bullet hit the window and didn't do any damage that she could see. With deadly calm, Katya switched her aim to the cannon on the belly of the thing, and again carefully aimed. The shot met with the same success, and she tossed the rifle aside with a sense of detachment.
She had tried her best.
The craft, again she marveled at how silent it was when it hovered, came to a hover over the canyon in front of her, a hundred meters or so off the ground she was on, its nose tilted slightly down towards her. The cannon moved, tracking her, she supposed. When it didn't fire immediately she gritted her teeth. They wanted her to run, or beg. She would not give them the satisfaction. Crossing her arms over her chest she took a step forward and leveled her best glare at the thing. In her native Russian, Katya yelled at it.
"Come on you ball-less wonders. Do it!"
They seemed to understand that, and she watched the mouth of the cannon light up. Bracing herself, she whispered a silent prayer to her father, asking for his forgiveness.
Which was when a bolt of what could have been lightning leapt from the sky in back of her, and smashed into the center of the craft. The shuttle turned into a fireball, its wings and nose exploding off of it. The force of the explosion sent Katya sprawling.
She lay there a bit stunned, the ringing sound in her ears not immediately lessening. Bits of flaming debris were crashing to the ground all around her, and she pitied the soldiers who had been inside of the canyon itself. The craft hadn't been over where the prefabricated buildings were, and she hoped the American was still alive.
It was in the near darkness that she realized that there were things falling out of the sky. Man shaped, huge, things. They reminded her of golems, almost anyway, and they were landing all around where she was. One of the nearly ten foot tall metal monstrosities landed only a dozen feet away, with a dull thud. Without a parachute, she noted belatedly.
The thing was vaguely humanoid in shape, two legs, and two arms. Although the right one seemed to end in a wicked looking gatling gun of sorts, and in the left it carried what appeared to be a shield. Mounted over its right shoulder was what looked like a six-foot long rifle to her. A pack fell off its back, smoking slightly, and the scent of ozone carried on the wind. The thing turned, with a very quiet whirring of servos, and Katya watched in fascination as it stepped towards her. Two more steps and it had come within a few feet of her. With silent amazement she looked up at it in the near darkness, the flaming debris around her lending a bit of surreal quality to the thing in front of her.
What appeared to be the front section of the thing, slid out and then swung upwards, revealing a human inside. The man hopped down out of the suit, and knelt next to her, speaking into a small microphone as he did.
"Need a medic here."
He quickly did a search of her, as Katya continued to stare at him.
"Are you injured?"
He was speaking English, she noted dimly, and shook her head.
"No, I'm fine."
Another of the large suits stepped closer, a white star painted on its arm. It's front swung up as well, and a man hoped down out of it. He pulled a pack from inside the thing and began working on one of the larger cuts that Katya absently noted she had received. The first man was speaking again, and she did her best to focus in on his words, while still watching the other large metallic suits moving towards the edge of the canyon.
"We're here to help. I'm looking for two of our people. Have you seen them?"
Two of the Marines had dropped at the crash site, and had found the remains of the pilot and the copilot. That meant that his sister and Ms. McGrath were probably still alive. Somewhere out here.
"Da, an American, she went in after her friend."
That seemed to be the answer the man had been hoping for. He grinned to her, and stood, talking again into the microphone as he strapped himself back into the metallic suit.
"Lady Windstar and Ms. McGrath are inside the buildings. Make certain you know who you're shooting at. Lets go."
Lirik screamed in rage at the screen, while Emily laughed, which came out sounding like a cough. The male Guardian was watching the holo-tank, which had just shown him his ride out of the compound going up in an explosion as an Imperial Fighter put a plasma bolt through it.
The virus had spread through nearly all her systems, and was on the verge of taking over her weapon systems as well. Hopefully, it wouldn't matter in a short while, now that she was almost positive that Imperial jump troops would be on the ground shortly, if they weren't already.
Lirik, she was positive, had just snapped. He was ranting at the holo-tank, yelling at it, screaming at it, as if it were somehow responsible for everything that had just happened. Hector had stepped backwards, next to the head of her gurney, and was looking a bit fearful at the moment. Emily didn't blame him; he and Lirik weren't in a very good position at the moment. The Tiri Empire had a very dim view of traitors, for whom the last death penalty in Tiri law still stood.
With one last yell, Lirik whirled and pulled his dart pistol, aiming it at both her and Hector. She wasn't sure which, and it was probable that Lirik himself didn't even know.
"You. This is all your fault. I'm going to make sure you don't leave here!"
Emily tensed, gathering what energy she had, ready to at least get down off the stupid gurney, as Hector tensed, slowly reaching for his pistol, but a noise at the entrance drew all of their attention, even Lirik's.
The woman, who leaned against the doorway, bracing herself upright, and pointing her dart pistol at Lirik, didn't look much like the woman that Emily had flown out here with. Her front was covered in blood, which it took Emily a frantic second to realize was not her own, her uniform was torn and covered in mud and dust. Her red hair was matted with sweat and gore. To Emily, Julie had never looked as beautiful as she did at that moment though.
"I don't know who you are, but if you don't stop pointing that gun at my partner, I'm going to blow your brains out."
Lirik blinked in surprise, and he lowered his side arm slowly, as if not sure what to do. Julie offered Emily a weak smile, and tried to keep herself from sliding down the side of the doorway.
"Hey, Emie, you ok?"
"Just peachy, you?"
Emily grinned tiredly at her friend, and for the first time since they had been shot down, started to think that she might just live through this. Lirik, on the other hand, seemed to find the entire scene hilarious. Laughing, he waved the side arm around, causing all three of the others in the room to tense.
"You! You're the other gifted one! A human barbarian ruined my plans."
The last seemed to set him off again, and he nearly doubled over laughing.
Hector chose that moment to act. Pulling the pistol from its holster, he started to bring it up and around to point at Julie. He was just a foot away from Emily when he did it, and she used the last of her carefully gathered energy in lunging at him, stabbing with the scalpel.
Time seemed to slow, as it has want to do on occasion. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Lirik straightening, and raising his dart pistol at Julie. She could only yell a warning, and hope the young American understood. Emily's stab had been aimed at Hector's face, but the gurney moved as she lunged, and the tip of the bloody scalpel went in a bit lower. Both of them tumbled to the floor, Emily's weight driving the scalpel through the side of Hector's neck, and going through most of the major arteries and veins, along with his windpipe.
Behind her she heard the soft thwipping sound of a dart pistol firing, and rolled over just in time to see Lirik, with an astonished expression on his face, clutch where his abdomen used to be, and crumple to the floor. Julie slumped down the doorframe a second later, and the two of them stared at each other. Both of them were now covered in blood, and neither of them had enough energy to even crawl.
"You look like hell."
Emily couldn't resist saying it, and a moment later the two of them were laughing. Howling with laughter, and if shock had more than a little bit to do with it, they didn't notice.
Weston and the Marines found them there, holding their stomachs and laughing. Emily managed to get a hold of her self to stare up at the astonished face of her brother, and grinned.
Surrounding the Solar System at what humans measured as 80 Astronomical Units away was the Oort cloud. This loose cloud of ice and rock bodies, located 80 times the distance of the earth from the sun, was the source of many of the comets, which passed through the system.
Hidden among the thousands of random sized debris, which formed a huge sphere around the solar system, a thirty-meter long craft powered up. Its generator was a small one, the largest one that Lirik could steal without being noticed. It didn't have to be that powerful for what it was designed to do. Once it was fully powered, the generator burned itself out, generating just enough power for the built in communications array to send a pulse racing out of the system.
"You do realize that this is an informal dinner, right?"
Emily was lounging on the bed in Julie's guest quarters while Julie herself was doing her best to try and make certain that her dress uniform was perfect. The last week had been a hectic one, and she had only just gotten her hands on a dress uniform that was her size. Adjusting the top of her uniform, she eyed herself critically in the mirror.
"That's why you're in your dress uniform, right? You're certain that you feel all ok?"
She could almost see the Guardian roll her eyes in the other room.
"Yes. I'm fine. Passed all my tests with flying colors. I'm in my dress uniform because it's expected of me, not you."
Doing her best to get her hair under control, Julie smiled at the annoyance in her friend's voice. For a while there she had been afraid that she would never get to hear Emily's voice, or see her again.
By the time the drop ship had touched down and picked them up, the entire complex had been searched and taken over by the Marine jump troops. The medics hadn't been able to completely neutralize the drugs in Emily's system, so they had been taken directly to Luna base. They had been able to neutralize enough of it so that Emily could start on fighting the virus. Once at Luna, the massive complex's hospital had easily been able to neutralize the drug.
Julie still remembered her first sight of the base. The drop ship had not been the most comfortable thing to ride in, and the unpowered armor, which apparently doubled as space suits, which they had stuffed her in, was a size too large. Still, she had stayed in the main hold, where the powered armor was normally held, and waited by Emily's side. The medics, after finding out she was Gifted, had given her fluids and what she was fairly certain were sugars, and she felt a lot better. They had done a bit more work on Emily's wounded leg, but the majority would have to wait until after she had dealt with the virus in her ship self.
Finally, bundling them each up in unpowered armor, Weston had summoned one of the drop ships, loaded them on, and sent them off to Luna base. Julie had taken Emily's hand, as her friend had fought to cleanse her systems of the virus now that the drug induced block was gone, and watched out one of the small view ports as they made the two hour trip.
Not counting the sub orbital flight to Australia, which she had been out for most of anyway, this was her first trip into space. They had boosted on the craft's antigravity engines for nearly a kilometer, before its engines had come up. Unlike the shuttle, the drop ship was old Tiri tech, the same as the scout ship, and only had its plasma engines. The large rear compartment of the craft had hydraulic doors under each station where a powered armor suit would stand. They would open when the drop ship was over its target, literally dropping off the troops, who wore a small one shot antigravity generator on the back of the suit.
Once in orbit, the craft had angled towards the moon, and Julie had gasped as she saw the Earth, for the first time from space. It was beautiful, swirling clouds of white, over the blue of oceans, and the darker colors of the landmasses. It was a picture that would forever be etched into her mind, and she had looked down to see pale blue eyes looking up at her in understanding.
"That's what we need to protect."
Emily had managed to clear most of her systems by the time they had reached Luna, which was located on the dark side of the moon. The base, which had been the first to be established, Julie found out, was among the largest the Tiri had built so far. Julie had been almost afraid to ask how they had managed to hide the base from the various probes, which had been launched from earth to study the dark side of the moon over the years. She was fairly certain that she wouldn't like the answers too much.
Luna Base, or Luna as they all seemed to call it, turned out to be huge. The spider web like base was built into a huge series of impact craters. They had buried as much of the base under moon dust as they could, but the landing pads were above surface. Ten Guardian ships were buried under a thin layer of dust, each of them over five kilometers in length. More than anything else, the fact that this had been there for a bit more than sixty years drove home the enormity of the secret that the Tiri had been trying to hide.
Trying, and succeeding, right up until a week ago. Which was when two-drop ships, and four fighters of non-Earth design, had gone straight over a TV crew doing a nature documentary on the Outback. That and the exploding sensor platform in high orbit had been a bit much for even the Tiri to manage to keep under wraps.
"How long do we have?"
"A half hour."
Poking her head out the door, Julie grinned at her relaxed friend. Emily was stretched out on her bed, hands behind her head, staring up at the ceiling above her. Dressed in what Emily had assured her was a Guardian's dress uniform. The gray uniform looked a lot like the black one, except for the ceremonial sword at her side.
She was rewarded by a grin and a nod.
"Oh yes. While my father and everyone else is going insane, I'm going to enjoy the quiet for as long as I can."
"How bad is it?"
Coming out from the bathroom, Julie perched on the edge of the bed.
"Oh, we've been preparing for this for sixty years now, but we thought we'd have at least another forty or so to work with. It could be worse, but the diplomatic corps is going insane trying to keep track of everything."
"Things are going to get crazy soon then?"
"Oh yes. The second they realize what the Bak'ra are going to do to Earth once they get here, yup. It's amazing what a common enemy can do to bring old adversaries together. That's when I'll be busy. Do you have any idea what it's going to be like merging so many different military structures?"
Groaning, Emily picked up a pillow and put it over her face, while Julie grinned.
"Maybe you should just kill me now."
At that, the grin faded and Julie looked away. She kept picturing Emily, lying in the dust, her leg bleeding, as Julie left her behind.
There was silence for a moment, and then Julie felt Emily shift and long arms wrapped around her, pulling her into a hug she gratefully accepted, surprised by the sudden tears that blurred her vision.
"Hey. It's all right. We're safe, no dying."
Julie nodded, and held on tighter, realizing she was acting silly but not caring at the moment. They hadn't talked about the attack yet; there hadn't been much of a chance to.
"Don't ever ask me to leave you behind like that again."
The words were muffled by the shoulder that Julie had her face pressed up against, and she felt Emily's arms tighten around her at that.
"You had to go, they would have captured both of us then, and what good would that have been?"
Julie could feel Emily's words resonate in her chest as she spoke them, and she closed her eyes, sinking deeper into the hug and relaxing. This was where she belonged, this was home. They stayed like that for a few moments, and then Julie reluctantly drew back a bit so that she could see Emily's face.
"We're going to have to have a talk, you and I, soon."
Emily nodded, her blue eyes darker than Julie could ever remember seeing them before. Her breath caught as Emily's eyelids half-closed, and her lips parted slightly. Oh God, she's going to kiss me, oh God. The thought kept repeating over and over in her mind, as she tilted her head upwards. She could feel the warmth of their bodies pressed together, even through the stiff fabric of their dress uniforms. Their breaths mingled and she leaned forward even more, needing to taste Emily's lips.
Which was when the door chimed.
With a groan, Emily pulled back and Julie got up off her lap. She was going to kill someone if that happened again; there was no way around it. Her hands were shaking, and she could feel warmth coiling between her legs. At least she had the satisfaction of seeing Emily unsteadily straighten her uniform as she moved towards the doorway.
Somehow, she wasn't surprised to see Weston standing outside, in his own sort of uniform. The dark Armani suit fit him well, and he looked just as tired as she had thought he would be. He had been on the front lines of the sudden unveiling of the Tiri.
"I hope I'm interrupting something. If you ladies are ready, we're expected for dinner?"
Julie grinned as Emily turned towards her and bowed.
"Lady McGrath, would you do me the honor of allowing me to escort you to dinner?"
Trying not to laugh, Julie returned the bow with a mock curtsy.
"Why Lady Windstar, I would be delighted."
Taking Emily's offered arm, Julie followed the black haired woman out the doors, and down the corridor. The Marine Honor Guard fell into step behind them, along with Weston's guards. The corridors were surprisingly large and well lit. Emily had explained it to her, when she had asked, that all of the bases had been built with the understanding that most Tiri would not be able to leave them for decades. Which meant that a lot of effort had gone into building the bases large, and comfortable.
"I trust that my sister has been resting?"
Julie grinned and answered before Emily could.
"Yes, she has. How are things on Earth?"
"It's still there, that's about all I can say for right now. It could still go either way."
All of them were silent as they stepped into the lift. Things were still on the razor's edge on Earth. The Tiri had contacts and as many agents spread through every level of each major government as they could manage, but there were only so many Tiri, even with all the recruiting they had done over the decades. Emily was the first to break the quiet.
"Where is our Russian sniper friend?"
To Julie amazement, Weston actually seemed uncomfortable with that question.
"She's going to meet us there. Katya was drooling over the toys that the Marines were showing her. She seems to really have liked the single pulse particle accelerator rifles."
"Gee, wonder why she would like those?"
Julie nudged her tall friend in the side at that.
"Be nice, she helped me get to you."
"Yeah, yeah. We'll just give the Red Star operative a more powerful weapon for her to snipe with."
Red Star was a name that Julie, and Majestic itself, was familiar with. They were the Russian counterparts to Majestic, and more than once the two had encountered one another out in the field. None of the teams had ever shot at each other, but that didn't mean that the two were even faintly civil to each other. The cold war might have ended for the rest of the world, but as far as Majestic and Red Star were concerned, it was still going strong. Julie could understand the need for both to keep their activities under the strictest secrecy, but more than once she had wondered if they might not have been able to accomplish a lot more if they had actually shared a bit of information about what each had found. Not that we managed to find too much, she reflected with a grin. A few bits of material from Roswell, some from that crash down in the Yucatan, and that was about it. Just enough to keep both agencies guessing, and hunting for those who had produced the amazing alloy.
Looking up she realized that she was smiling to herself, and that both Emie and Weston were looking at her with nearly identical looks of curiosity.
"You know, I just thought of something. Why are you speaking English?"
The two looks of curiosity remained.
"I mean, aren't you supposed to speak Tiri or something like that?"
Emily and Weston both shared a look at her question, and Emily answered.
"When we came here, we built ten bases around the world, which you know."
Julie nodded, watching the level indicator pass 28.
"So, each base was a security risk, not to mention all the field personnel. It was decided that all communications on Earth would be done in native languages. Every base personnel learned the language of the country that their base was located in."
Julie blinked at that, and then frowned.
"Are you telling me that all of your base personnel know at least two languages?"
Weston nodded, with a grin this time.
"Some know three or four, depending how many bases they have served at."
Just the thought that every Tiri soldier knew at least two languages was just a bit overwhelming. The lift came to a stop and the three of them followed the four Marine Honor Guards out, Julie muttering as she went, in her best Bruce Willis imitation.
"I only know two languages, English, and bad English."
Which wasn't quite true, since she did well enough with Spanish, but still, that meant that the common Tiri grunt knew at least as many languages as she did!
Dinner was a fantastic affair; among the most enjoyable that Emily could ever remember having. In deference to Katya and Julie, they had spoken English through-out the meal, since Katya seemed to have an easier time speaking English than Julie had speaking Russian.
Emily's father, to her relief, had seemed to like Julie, and had genuinely enjoyed the stories that both Julie and Katya had told. Her brother, to Emily's growing suspicion, had listened intently to every word that Katya had said. It seemed that her brother was becoming a big fan of the brunette, and she was positive of it when he kept offering to refill her glass.
Dinner was held in one of the formal dining rooms deep inside of one of Luna base's residential domes. The Royal Guard had cordoned off the entire level, and, as always, they were being very picky about who came and went. The small dining room would have been considered sub standard during pre-evacuation days. It was nice though, and Emily personally liked it better. The ten meter long rectangular room had been lined with wood, polished to a shine. A small chandelier, which Emily was positive she didn't want to know where it had come from, had been hung over the table. Dalton, the Windstar chef for as long as Emily could remember, had outdone himself as far as she was concerned. It was Earth food; of course, since nearly all Tiri supplies had been used up during the years, but the duck was among the best she had ever eaten. Judging by the grin on Julie's face, and how quickly her young friend had worked through it, it was among the best she had ever had as well.
Now, they had all finished eating and were enjoying the light fruity alcoholic drink that was a standard after dinner drink for the Tiri. While Julie finished off her chocolate mousse pie, and Weston was listening intently to a story that Katya was telling, Emily took a moment to study her father.
Lord Weston Windstar The Second had been Emperor for over two and a half centuries. She could remember her father as a vital figure, always working and holding the Empire together. Ever since the evacuation though, he had aged. His once shock black hair was now silver, and there was a tiredness in his blue eyes, a shade darker than her own. Even now he looked tired, and she worried about him. He was over three hundred years old now, and the long struggle against the Bak'ra, had wore heavily upon him.
He caught her look, and smiled gently in answer. With a bit of the old mischief in his eyes, he nodded towards Julie and raised his glass of grinsts, with a smile. Groaning, she turned just in time to see Julie hide a grin by taking a sip of her own wine. Perfect, now she had to worry about keeping Julie away from her father.
"Something wrong, Guardian?"
Emily eyed the red-head with a bit of wariness.
"What exactly were the two of you talking about when I was busy humiliating Weston with early childhood stories?"
Julie grinned and finished her last bite of pie.
"You should have been paying attention, Guardian."
"Listen to her, Emie, she's quite wise, and I like her."
Emily groaned as her father used her nickname, he's doing this on purpose. It was, apparently, the chance that Julie was waiting for, and she leaned forward.
"Why does everyone keep calling her Emie?"
Emily glared at her father, trying to get him to not answer that particular question. In typical fashion, he ignored the glare and smiled innocently in answer to the question.
"Its quite a story, Ms. McGrath."
"Please, Your Highness, call me Julie."
He grinned at that, and leaned back in his chair, taking a sip of the sweet wine as he thought back, while Emily sighed and gave in to the inevitable, and poured herself more wine. Even Weston and the sniper were listening now, and Emily resigned herself to losing a bit of her dignity.
"When she was young, we kept calling her Emily, and she wasn't quite able to say her name, so it sounded more like Em. That's not where it comes from though. There was this time, on her sixth birthday..."
Emily couldn't help the groan that followed that, and was about to open her mouth to protest, when Julie shushed her. That got a wicked grin from Weston, and she resisted the urge to punch her dear brother.
"She had this big birthday party, and all her family was there. We had a huge, well, it was basically a cake like you have here. Emily was supposed to wait for after the dinner, but she apparently really wanted some cake. So, she slipped out of the celebration, and by the time anyone had found out, she had eaten half of the cake."
Emily could feel her cheeks grow hot, and she glared at Weston as he snickered. Staring down into her wine glass she muttered,
"It was really good cake."
"Anyway, we had this minor security crisis, since her Honor Guard had lost track of her as well. We all burst into the kitchen, and there was Emily, sitting on top of the table, eating cake with her hands. It was a mess, and I think that poor Dalton nearly had a stroke at the sight of his hard work being messed up like that."
Julie was already grinning, and Katya was chuckling. Weston had already heard the story many times before, and had been there when it happened, but even he was grinning. Emily put her hands over her face, and tried not to listen as Father finished the rest of the story.
"You have to picture this, a few dozen Honor Guards burst in thinking that the Lady Windstar had been abducted somehow along with all of her relatives, and Dalton, and servants. She looked up, her face and dress all covered in cake, and looked at us with this shocked innocent look. We all stared at her in shock, and she said the first thing that must have come to mind: "Emie did it."
Julie was laughing so hard that her eyes were tearing, Katya and Weston were laughing as well, and Emily sank a bit lower in her chair, as her father grinned to her and took a sip of wine.
"It was really good cake."
The laughter was cut short, when a Fleet Major hurried inside, looking pale.
"Sire, a long range scanning platform, located in the Ascirani system just detected a Bak'ra fleet."
To be continued...
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