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What Comes Next?

Posted on Aug 09, 2016 @ 5:11pm by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Aug 09, 2016 @ 5:11pm

Mission: Fortress: Earth

= What Comes Next? =

(cont’d from “A Moment’s Courage”)


SCENE: CO’s Ready Room

STARDATE: [2.16] 0809.1034

Captain Kane was seated at his desk. Jake and Thomas Varn stood before it; Varn’s hands were clasped demurely behind his back, while Jake had crossed his arms in an attempt to stop himself from fidgeting. Behind Kane, Admiral Dexter Marxx stood, staring out the transparent-aluminum window at the assembled fleet. The glowing curve of Earth was just visible from where Marxx was standing.

“How long would it take to install the CENTURY’s cloak into a runabout?” Kane asked.

Varn glanced over at Jake; this was his part.

Jake started counting off the time of his fingers. “Maybe two hours to remove the device from the CENTURY. Rochemonte will need it for another 3 to complete the modifications we discussed, and then two hours more to get it installed in the runabout. Tack on an hour for testing and diagnostics, and if everything goes smoothly, we’ll be ready to go.”

“Eight hours.” Kane leaned back in his seat and steepled his fingers. Behind him, Marxx still was staring out the window, his back to everyone else in the room.

“Give or take,” Jake nodded.

Kane shifted his eyes to Varn. “And you’re certain it will work?”

“Provided the mechanical changes made to the cloaking device are in-line with my specifications,” Varn said. “Yes. The theory is sound.”

From his position by the window, Marxx spoke.

“Only one ship?”

“Only one cloaking device,” Jake said.

“One ship stands a better chance of slipping through unnoticed,” Varn said. “If we deploy an invasion force, someone on the ground is going to notice. Edgerton may trigger the satellites whether his shield detects us or not.”

“One ship, then,” Kane nodded. “So: we are in a position to get an away-team on the ground in the next 8 hours. There has still been no further communication from Edgerton?”

Marxx still didn’t turn around. “No.”

“Of course, we will defer to your orders, admiral,” Kane said, turning in his chair to look at Marxx. “But I believe this may be our best course of action.”

Finally, Marxx turned around. His expression was grim.

“If something goes wrong, and your ship is detected as it breaches the shield, Edgerton will retaliate.”

“Yes sir,” Kane nodded. “But if we do nothing, the only option we have left is to play ball with Edgerton.”

Marxx didn’t dispute this; indeed, that reality had probably been weighing heavily on the admiral’s mind. After the destruction of Paris, it was clear that Edgerton wasn’t bluffing. The mad admiral would likely obliterate his own world before he would face capture, and that unfortunately left him with the upper hand at the negotiating table. Any resistance to his demands, any attempt to stall or derail him, and Edgerton might burn down London to make his point. Or maybe next time he wouldn’t stop with just a city. Maybe he’d take out a whole country.

“There’s been no progress on disabling the satellites,” said Kane. “The time for waiting is over, admiral. If we’re going to unseat Edgerton, we need to do it now.”

Marxx considered this for a moment. Then, he nodded.

“Make it so. I’ll arrange to have the CENTURY’s engineering teams assist you with removing our cloaking device.”

“Thank you, sir,” Jake said.

“That leaves us with the decision of who’s going to go,” Marxx said. “And what they’re meant to do once they get down there.”

“I’ve already sent one of my officers to rendezvous with Selyara,” Kane said. “I believe she represents our best chance of uncovering Edgerton’s location on the surface, but at our last communication, it sounded like Edgerton’s agents may have been closing in on her.”

“If Barton’s found her, he’ll keep her safe,” said Jake.

“Selyara has a knack for keeping herself safe,” Kane said. “Though with the whole planet looking for her, even she can’t stay hidden forever.”

“Then your team’s first priority is to locate Selyara and find out what she knows,” Marxx said. “Once Edgerton’s location is uncovered, they’ll infiltrate it and shut down the Aegis Network.”

“Commander Crichton,” Kane said, looking back to Jake. “That sounds like your wheelhouse.”

“I can break things with the best of them, sir,” Jake shrugged. “It’s getting me in there that’s the trick.”

“Take Major Thytos,” Kane said. “She’ll want a few of her marines with her, as well.”

“Aye sir,” Jake nodded.

“This is to be an infiltration,” Marxx said. “No pyrotechnics. If Edgerton realizes he’s under attack, there’s no telling what he’ll do.”

“Indeed,” Kane nodded. “Bring Lt. Dalziel along, too.”

Jake blinked. “The counselor, sir?”

“Let’s just say she has a gift for subtlety,” Kane said. “I think it will be useful.”

“Sir,” Varn said, taking a step forward. “I would like to go too.”

Kane narrowed his eyes slightly. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

“If something goes wrong with the phase cloak, you need me there to fix it,” Varn pressed.

“You said this would work.”

“I said the theory is sound,” said Varn. “But if we missed something, if there is an unexpected complication, I’m the one with the best chance of addressing it before the mission is compromised.”

Marxx, sensing that this decision should belong to Kane, turned back to the window. Kane, meanwhile, continued to look up at Varn, his expression uncertain.

“Your commission hasn’t been reinstated,” the captain said. “And if I can be frank, Mr. Varn, you’ve been resistant to lend a hand so far.”

“I’m here now,” Varn said.

“And you’re not quite yourself, are you?” Kane said, meeting Varn’s gaze without blinking. “With all due respect.”

Varn absorbed this with no change of expression, though he did look away. When he looked back at Kane, none of the resolve had left his face.

“With all due respect,” Varn repeated, slowly. “You’re not in a position to turn down my help.”

Kane slowly rose in his chair, until he and Varn were on equal eye-level. Varn took a step back, but it didn’t look like a retreat. The two men regarded each other from across Kane’s desk.

“How do I know I can trust you?” Kane asked finally.

“Dalziel will vouch for me,” Varn said. “I haven’t had any incidents in days. And you’ll have marines aboard the runabout, to keep me under guard if something does go wrong.”

“They won’t have time to look after you,” Kane said. “We have a critical mission to complete on the surface, Mr. Varn.”

“I know the stakes, captain,” Varn said. “And I… know I am not exactly what I was. But I am in control. I don’t know how much the word of a dead man is worth to you, but you have it.”

“The word of a dead man,” Kane repeated. He looked over at Jake. “Is he telling the truth?”

Now Jake stepped forward. “About being the best one to modify the phase cloak if something goes wrong, yes, I believe he is, sir. As to the rest of it… I don’t know.”

Kane turned to look at Marxx, who was still standing by the window. Marxx didn’t turn around, or make any indication that he was even following the conversation. No help there.

Kane looked back to Varn. “You’ll be unarmed. And under guard. And I will be leaving Major Thytos with orders to neutralize you if there’s any sign at all that you’re going to have another ‘episode’. Is that clear?”

“Understood, sir,” Varn nodded.

Kane relaxed a little. “Very well, then. As you were, Mr. Varn.”

Varn took a step back, and once more clasped his hands behind his back. Kane resumed his seat.

“We have a plan, then, gentlemen. You have your orders, get to it.”

Jake and Varn nodded, then turned and walked out, leaving Kane and Marxx alone. Marxx was still standing at the window, staring out at the fleet. Kane rose from his chair, took a few steps over to where Marxx stood, and came to a stop beside him at the window. The two men stood there in silence for a moment.

“You’re sure about this?” Marxx asked, finally.

“I trust my crew,” Kane said, simply. Marxx nodded, apparently satisfied with this answer.

“If we’d all done that at the start, we’d never have found our way into this mess,” the admiral said. “Thus, I am inclined to trust your crew as well, Captain Kane.”

Marxx turned away from the window now to face Kane. Kane did the same. Marxx was taller than he was, and Kane had to incline his neck to look up into the Vegan admiral’s face.

“We’re betting everything on this,” Marxx said. “If this doesn’t work… I’m not sure there will be anything left we can do to unseat Edgerton, not without billions of casualties. As of this moment, your crew represents our last hope. I trust they will find themselves up to the task.”

Despite everything that had happened, everything that weighed on his mind and soul, Kane found himself smiling.

“They always have,” he said.


NRPG: Just a little bite-sized piece while you wait for your next proper meal…

Shawn Putnam


Jake Crichton

Chief Engineering Officer



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