Feb 6,27 Outpost 3
Jack and Alan Bradley were sitting in their favourite starport bar. Jack was in a great mood as he finally got command of TAS Fidelis, Terran Space Force newest pride and joy. Alan was not happy for the same reason.
“She is a beauty Alan, I tell you. She is big, bad, and fast as stink. I can't wait to kick some Dread Lord's ass”
Alan tried to inject some common sense into his brother's thick skull.
“Jack, listen to me! You know that we had to cut corners to put her together. Yeah, she is fast, but she is not a true warship. Even though we managed to squeeze in the warp drives, we had to use a freighter hull to do it”
“So what? She's fast, she has weapons, and now with the Eye getting ready, she's ready to hunt. She is a warship.” a hostile note crept into Jack's voice. Nobody, not even his brother was going to talk badly about his newest love.
“She is fragile, Jack. Any sort of dustup , I mean any, and she's toast” and so is my brother Alan thought.
“Yeah, yeah I know that. Don't worry. we'll just swoop and poop all over the troop”
Jack's tone had brightened as he demonstrated with table utensils just how he was going to kill Dread Lord troopships.
He was interrupted in his lecture , by a mixed but very drunk gaggle of marines. It seems they recognized Jack for a commander of Fidelis and being marines immediately tried to appropriate him. While the guys stood around yelling “Semper Fi” and “More Beer!” , the gals took hold of Jack and started promising him “ A Very Good Time”.
As they carted his brother off to better, i.e. rowdier climes, Alan had a hopeful thought. “Perhaps he'll get arrested by the MP's. And perhaps, they'll relieve him of his command”
Then he squashed that line of thought as stupid and drained the final dregs of his beer. For some reason they tasted unusually bitter.
Jul 15,27 – Primus
After nearly a full day of briefings by the allies, Alan thought he had a pretty good idea of the way the conflict was shaping up. The Torians were mixing it up with Yor, while Iconians, on the other hand, were fiercely glaring at the Drengin. The fact that both Iconian and Drengin best ships were about two hundred times less powerfull than the Dread Lords seemed to have escaped both parties. Archeans appeared depressed by the latest Dread Lord raid which almost cleaned them out . Altairians also, were not doing much, although Elleys Mue at least appeared alert.
Alan looked around the room and started his presentation.
“For once, I have some good news. Distant Defence strategy is working. Our fast hunter ships have managed to destroy two Dread Lord starbase outposts and four troopships that were threatening Yor and Drath systems”
As he was describing the actions that resulted in a first measurable win against the Dread Lords, Alan felt pretty good. Proof of the pudding etc.
After the initial hubub of excitement at the revelation, some of the gathered allies proceeded to nitpick. Torian representative got in a first shot.
“Excellent news, Colonel Bradley” he started
“We have finally struck a blow against that particular evil. Dread Lords, however, have allies which we must fight on all fronts. Would it not be better to concentrate our forces further south”
He really did not appreciate the Torians' use of we and our in this context but tried to parse the statement anyway. Let's see now. Torians are trying to take the Cordilia system from the Yor. Cordilia system is almost due south of the current hunter ship staging. Corx and Drath planets that the hunters were protecting could go hang while Terrans supported Torian invasions. That seemed to sum up the Torian innuendos pretty well.
Alan projected a quadrant map and started pointing out the relevant features.
“Dread Lord troopships are coming in from here” indicating northeast corner of the map.
“Cordelia system is here. And the Drath and Corx systems are here and here”
“Our hunters are intercepting troopships as close to the point of origin as possible.
Strategic Analysis believes that Dread Lords will concentrate on Vizzard and Iversonia sytems before proceeding further. If we can stop them there, Cordelia and the rest will be safe”.
Judging by the grumbles and croaks coming from the Torian, his little exposition did not fully satisfy. The whole concept of Distant Defense did not sit well with Torians. Alan attributed this to their semiaquatic origins. Apparently, fighting in the swamps got close and personal.
Alan sighed. His job was not to sell the allies on Terran strategy. That would be asking too much of anyone. His job was simply to keep the lid on.
After half an hour of mostly desultory and sometimes simply inane questions, Alan got off the stage and made his way to his seat.
Archean ambassador, fully awake by now, took the stage and proceeded to bore the rest of the assembly with his ponderous but no doubt (in his mind) inspiring monologue.
Alan was pretty worn out by the time Archean finally wound down and the assembly was finally finished for the day. It was getting late, so he wasted no time in beelining for the door. Where he was stopped by Elleys Mue.
“Colonel Bradley, I have so many questions. Do you think we could talk?” as she took possession of his elbow and started walking with him.
Alan glanced at the time
“Well, I have a debrief with Ambassador DeChance in about half an hour. How about you give me a call in couple of hours and we can arrange something”
“Perfect. That will give me time to debrief as well. Talk to you later” with a cheerful wave she flounced off.
Two hours later, Alan was back in his suite debating whether to order something to eat. He did not really feel hungry as he was munching throughout the day. Finally he decided, a good drink was in order and the suite's minibar was simply amazing. You could tell this was a good hotel, Torian or not. In addition to the suite being fully programmable, the bar could reproduce drinks from all over the known galaxy.
He was interrupted by a gentle chime of the suite's door. Wandering who could it be he opened the door to Elleys Mue.
“Remember, our appointment Colonel Bradley?. I know I was to call ahead, but since I was just passing by, I'd thought ..” she was babbling.
“Please call me Alan” he replied automatically as he let her in. Maybe she was a spy,or extremely dedicated, if so she was in for a rude surprize. He dismissed the other possibility. Despite Terran and Altarian physical similarity, there was no record of..
“I was just about to make myself a drink. Would you like one as well”
“Oh, that would be nice. Anything except that nasty Kaff you Terrans like so much”
There she goes again, Alan thought. Nice looking girl, really hates coffee.
While Alan busied himself at the bar, Elleys Mue was inspecting his suite.
“Is all Terran décor so dark, so edgy?” she was asking.
The suite was set to resemble his house back on Outpost 3. Thanks to the programmable furniture and walls Alan thought it looked pretty homey.
“Terran décor is all over the place, this is just what I'm comfortable with” he admitted.
“What about Altairian furnishings? What are they like?”
“We prefer light and airy surroundings. Something to make our souls soar. Do Terran souls soar?”
Wow!, He really was not expecting a religious interrogation.
“Some do, sometimes” he tried.
Apparently that was good enough, as Elleys Mue continued her inspection.
Alan generally travelled lightly. The only things he brought with him on trips was a holo of his dead wife Becky, and a player of their favourite music, so aside from furniture there was not a lot to inspect.
Sometime between the first and third sips of the champagne Alan handed her, Elleys Mue activated her homing instinct, and ended up before Becky's holo.
“And who is this? Someone you care about very much?”
Alan explained wearily. It was a long time ago, but her holo still brought him comfort.
“Me too” Elleys Mue was saying, now in front of him. “ My bondmate's name was Har Lel, He died a hero, defending the planet, and now he's with the One. We were planning on having a daughter.. “
Her voice faltered for only a second
“That was a long time ago. But now I'm ready for another drink”
Couple of drinks later they were sitting on the couch listening to music with Elleys Mue being very quiet. She looked good and smelled better so Alan thought “Why not?” and went for it. After that sucessful foray, thinking was not an option. The only thing that Alan recalled for certain is that no spying took place. Exploration, close contact, a lot of probing most definitely, but not a smidgeon of spying.
Despite having only half an hour of sleep, he felt really good next morning. Judging by Elleys Mue's giggles, so did she. The only vaguely troubling thing about the whole experience occurred as they were leaving the suite.
“So who is Mays Rue?” he asked at the name he thought he heard Elleys Mue mumble as they were drifting off to sleep.
“My daughter. I thought I told you that I was bonded” she smiled uncertainly.
“So you did” Alan replied “ We'd better hurry or we'll be late”.