[sorry for the delayed post. Had a minor power problem, details later]
EXT – NIGHT – Space, not far from a large, angry, dimly lit orange gas giant.
In the far distance, the sun of the New Medina system glows, shedding what little light reaches out to this far distant orbit. In the near distance, space glows and Tajemnica pops into existence. The hull is covered with the same tanks, turrets, and missile pods as before. From an internal magazine, a launch tube pops up and a missile is launched, glowing slightly rather than using conventional rocket motor. It heads for the massive failed star in the distance, rapidly disappearing into the distance.
INT – NIGHT – Tajemnica bridge.
Helton stands at command, Quiritis, Allonia, Bipasha at normal spots. The Compliance Monitor (CM, youngish, skinny, sallow, bald, dressed in a close-fitting suit) sits at the weapons station.
CM: What are you doing?
Helton: Launching a missile.
CM: At what?
Helton: (flippantly) That big orange thing out there. Called a planet. Almost a star, but failed.
The compliance monitor gives his sarcasm a dark look.
Helton: Never really liked gas giants, and this system has too many… Thought I’d kick it, just ‘cause we were in the area. Got a problem with that?
The CM looks skeptical, as though he doesn’t like being played with, but isn’t seeing anything obviously in violation, so he shakes his head, a sour look on his face.
Allonia: (to CM) Everything OK?
CM: No violations have been found. But we still have a LONG time before we get there, even with the current planetary arrangement. I may find something, yet.
Helton: If you say so. We are NOT going to wait for you when the time comes. Do you have a heart condition?
The CM looks at his suspiciously.
CM: Why do you ask?
Allonia: Things sometimes get a little exciting around here.
CM: I’ve heard the rumors.
Bipasha: Hope your life insurance policy is paid up.
CM: That’s a standard part of a monitor contract. Is yours?
Helton: Nope. No one willing touch us. Why don’t you go poke around, see if you find any problems with the armor or weapons?
The CM looks at him, and the others on the bridge, distastefully, as though they are being unnecessarily casual about serious matters, and he finds that offensive. He stands up, and heads out the door. The others watch him go.
Helton: OK, let’s go get a look-see at what the final count is.
Quiritis works the controls, the tone of the drives ramps up.
EXT – NIGHT – Space, not far from a large, angry, dimly lit orange gas giant.
Space glows around Tajemnica, intensifies, and she disappears.
EXT – DAY – space, a bit more than an AU from the New Medina sun, and about a million kilometers from the planet, which is a shiny half-circle in the distance. Space glows a bit, then more, and Tajemnica pops into this universe. The glow fades a little, then picks up again and she disappears, and the glow fades completely. The black of space looks unperturbed by her popping in for a peek.
INT – DAY – Bridge of the HMS Hussein
A sensor tech looks at his screens, a frown on his face, and he adjusts the controls, fiddling things a bit this way and that. An officer comes up behind him as he looks at the screen.
Bridge Lt: Something to report?
Sensor Tech: Not sure, sir, something showed, for just a second, well inside the transition zone to spinward, then-
Bridge Lt: Run a systems check. Things don’t just appear or disappear that close, as you well know. Make a report when you are done.
Sensor tech: Aye aye, sir.
INT – DAY – Tajemnica Bridge
On the screens data starts popping up, making a diagram of the planet and the surrounding region. There are lots icons. Surrounding the planet are icons and dots of various sizes, shapes, colors, and small text designations. Most are roughly grouped into three areas, one in a loose hemisphere formation on the spinward side of the planet, one formation covering most of the other half, and a much wider, larger, looser formation further out, past the moons on the outside of the planet. There are also a lot of other “clutter” craft, not obviously part of an formation, and are colored differently. Quiritis whistles softly.
Helton: Well, shit. THREE carrier fleets. Someone must be nervous.
Ship AI: (OC) Only Earth Fleet Colonial Powers makes 16 cruiser carriers. That fits the formation of the outside fleet. The other two are standard 6-cruiser models, with a standard mix of interceptors and support craft.
Helton: Lots more cruisers that that.
Quiritis: Other systems have star cruisers here, not just carrier cruisers. Some independent frigates, too.
Bipasha: What are all the brown dots?
Ship AI: Civilian and other non-combat craft. Media, politicians, independent salvage ops, war groupies, liners that have off-loaded and are awaiting instructions. We can mostly ignore them.
Allonia: We don’t want to shoot them on accident!
Helton: They can leave if they don’t like the risks. We can’t.
Lag leans in the door, wearing partial armor.
Lag: What’s the layout?
Helton: Three carrier fleets, one Colonial Powers, another thirty non-carrier cruisers and larger. A gazillion little guys.
Lag: Seems we woke a few people up. Plan?
Helton: Anyone got a six-pack of divine intervention handy?
Helton is rewarded by a collection of wry smiles and chuckles.
Helton: Talk past the Earth fleet on a pair of Sokolovs, draw everyone to the dark side, L1 transition, sneak down behind them. Drop you at dawn. Tell ‘em to clear out or die, then punt.
Allonia: So, basically wing it until you need to make something up?
Helton: Pretty much.
Bipasha: Plan chaos.
Helton: (to Bipasha) Hey, you’re the one to hire on for the excitement.
Lag: Should we transfer guys now, or later?
Helton: Once we’re moving, things will go fast. We have to oh-two capacity built out, so now I think. We can lower grav to Earth normal to make standing around waiting more comfy. All the supplies aboard, ready to drop? Mid-deck expansion?
Allonia: Yup. Glucose water, re-supply pod, caltrops on the aft ramp, everything.
Helton: Yeah, last minute idea from a few weeks ago. Got cases of them. You can drop them to make a line they can’t cross fast.
Lag: Know what they are, not sure if we’ll have time to do more than run the shield wall.
Helton: Well, we got ‘em.
Ship AI: (OC) Time’s a’wast’n. No point in keeping everyone in suspense.
EXT – DAY – Space
Tajemnica and the Borealis fly, attached to each other, glowing a bit, heading in-system.
INT – DAY – Tajemnica Bridge
Helton, Allonia, Bipasha, Kwon, Quiritis, Compliance Monitor are at stations. The CM looks nervous.
CM: WHY are they ALL coming aboard here? You don’t have anywhere NEAR enough room. Can you air system handle them all?
Helton: Not your problem. Put on your space suit if you are worried.
The CM looks at him as blackly.
Helton: (seriously) You did bring a suit, right?
Allonia: Got a signal. Earth Fleet Flagship hailing.
Helton: On screen.
On the main screen is the Earth Fleet Colonial Powers Logo. Then it changes to a man wearing fancy Church robes (FETTIG, a jowly, heavy-set, greasy-looking man, wearing the condescending smile of one used to power and authority), looking much like a Bishop. He seems to be sitting in a fancy room from the things that can be seen behind him, though there is no-one else in camera view.
Helton: Not exactly the divine intervention I had in mind.
Fettig: So. The abominations arrive at last.
Helton: ‘Scuse me?
Fettig: Will you be throwing yourself on the mercy of the church and the law, or do you wish to die in fire and brimstone? I’m quite satisfied either way.
Helton: Not following you. WHAT abominations?
Fettig: Don’t play ignorant with me. Your ship was judged a war criminal, and YOU have reactivated the AI. You must know its homicidal potential. You are harboring Jezebel, that foul seductress that lured, used, and brutally murdered the councilors innocent son. She is an artificially engineered killing machine that YOU married to protect! You, too, are in her sway. A worse Satanic alliance can scarcely be imagined. IF you hand them over, and throw all the soldiers you have misled on our mercy in order to avoid starting a religious war, we will give serious consideration to clemency for most of them. But if not – one word from me to the admiral, and you will face FAR more firepower than you can comprehend.
Helton: Your offer is MOST generous, but you seem to have your facts a bit mixed up. And you have no idea how much firepower I can imagine.
Fettig’s smile falters a moment, then returns, and he looks hard out of the screen, eyes narrowing.
Fettig: You face a terrible choice. Surrender your devil-spawn wife and evil ship, to save your innocent men, or ALL will die, as criminals. So you will NOT surrender?
Helton: Allonia defended herself from an attempted rape by a far-from-innocent Darch, so she has committed no crime. The ship’s hull IS one from a long time ago, but the AI is not exactly the same as it was. And, just in case you haven’t kept up on the news, the man we are going to fight has ALREADY declared war on us! They have been murdering hundreds every year for a decade- you’re just NOT fighting back. We’re not starting anything here. But we aim to finish it, because we are fresh out’a cheeks to turn.
Suddenly on the screen Tajemnica’s avatar appears, the partially armored woman. From Fettig’s reaction, it’s clear she’s showing up on his screen, too. She looks intense, and talks quietly, with barely controlled anger.
Ship AI: You know nothing of hard choices. NOTHING! I spent the first few years of my existence constantly being given contradictory orders, being sent into places where I was expected to be destroyed, by people with no understanding of what was happening beyond how it might affect their political ambitions. I was then a subject of pogroms and genocide, had my bits messed with, then spent most of the next 400 years the subject of scary stories, feared, partially disassembled, scattered, hated, hunted, haunted, and alone. Targeted by people like YOU! But you failed. You, and the shamen like you who seek only destruction of that which you do not understand and cannot control, succeeded only in building a forge hot enough to create a weapon you cannot defeat, because in your fear you refuse to understand. The Remnant, good folk be they Christian or not, now HAVE the choice to walk away from your clutches, to start afresh, to make of themselves what they will. And YOU have no power to stop it.
Fettig’s face hardens. Behind him, As Taj talks, a figure silently moves into view of the camera, then another. Two men are now standing behind the bishop’s chair, seen roughly waist to shoulder. They are wearing simple brown robes, hands clasped together in from of themselves, hidden in sleeves. Fettig does not seem to notice them.
Fettig: (harshly) You choose to die in fire rather than save your men? You ARE controlled by these fiends! One word from me, and the Admiral will order the ships to fire at your ancient abomination! This is your LAST chance!
Helton: Always did trust cannon law more than canon law.
Fettig’s face sneers, and he opens his mouth to make a retort, just as one of the men behind the bishop reaches forward and places his hand on the bishop’s shoulder. It is a tanned, hard, calloused hand. The bishop startles, and looks up to one side, then the other, the color draining from his face. The hand on the shoulder squeezes, firmly, and Fettig winces.
Brother Libra: (softly) Come. Let us pray together, and meditate a while. You need to seek understanding and ask God for guidance on these difficult issues before you.
The other monk places a very large, rough-looking hand on the bishop’s other shoulder, and with a slight wave of their other hand, they indicate the direction he should head. Brother Libra leans down into the view of the camera.
Brother Libra: (placidly) A little bird told us that we might be useful here. He is a troubled soul – forgive him. I’m sure it will take many hours of deep introspection, prayer, and discussion to find the answers he seeks. Three of the brothers are explaining the situation to the admiral now. I trust you will make good use of your time.
Libra smiles a polite smile, nods slightly, and the camera goes blank.
Helton: Well, son of a bitch.
Ship AI: (OC) No. Just some well-timed divine intervention.
EXT – DAY – Space not too far from New Medina
A whole flock of ships are spread out in a wide net, as if to catch anyone heading their way, gleam in the reflected sunlight. The massive carrier, with many cradles for non-FTL ships, cruisers, interceptors, surveillance ships. Tajemnica and Borealis fly right by, unmolested, heading for the planet in the distance.
INT – DAY – Private quarters aboard the Colonial Forces carrier
A modest-sized room, with simple, serviceable decor, obviously private chambers. At a small table sit four men, playing cards. Three wear monks robes- one is an older man, two younger, all well tanned and lean from working hard out in the sun. The fourth man is in uniform, old, with a lot of stripes on his sleeves and stars on his shoulder, but little other decoration. Old scars are visible on his face, neck, and hands. He sits with perfect military posture, a slightly bemused smile on his face. They are silently tossing down cards and taking tricks in a game of hearts. The camera slowly zooms in on them, then aims down and zooms in as they play, focusing on the Admiral’s hand. Partially visible on the back of his scarred wrist, where the sleeve has pulled back, are the old lines, blurred with age, of a tattoo – a Possenti Cross.
Fade to black