Sharoma Frontierverse Why Did The Groigan Dance? Chapter 8

Why Did The Groigan Dance?

Chapter 8

Unexpected Gift

Bush found himself leaving the meeting in a semi-daze, astonished with the rapid-fire quickness of events over the last few days. Barely a week ago he was content with leading a peaceful (well...maybe not peaceful) life of trading in the farthest of the frontier systems, maybe sending an interesting piece of intelligence the Empire's way every once in a while. Only 168 hours after nearly dying in the lavatory on the magnificent collaboration of conventional and radical technologies that was Minos and he now found himself forced to possibly lead other young men to their deaths, with the title of Commanding Officer of the Sixth Wing of the 4th Fleet of the Line thrust on him because the young Emperor Duval thought that Bush deserved a chance to head a "squadron of our best and brightest into a glorious battle!" Bush didn't quite understand where the Emperor picked up on the notion that battle was a glorious thing (Probably that idiot Prince, Bush snorted), but all Bush wanted to do is be left alone in his own remote corner of the universe, not charge screaming into the Delta Pavonis system with sword raised and army at his back. Not even if that army was comprised of the best pilots from the best trained military force in the history of warfare, as it would be.

Shaking his head, the Baron again marveled at the amazing stupidity the higher-ups so often showed. Not content to retaliate with a simple bombing of a Fed border system, the esteemed Prince Brunswick had convinced the young Emperor that a stronger show of force was essential for the continued public image of the Empire. Instead of testing a newly configured task force on relatively minor jobs such as patrols or raiding pirate outposts, Duval decided to toss them straight into the frying pan and send his beloved "Scalpel" into the heart of the Federation, to conduct a nighttime raid on Fortress Anderson, a military barracks in the Delta Pavonis system, and "surgically remove" anything breathing and walking on two legs.

Bush was disgusted. But it was his job, and he planned to do what he had to do.

"Ain't you about finished, mac? You've been in here for over nine point three hours now."

Bush stretched and looked up from the holoscreen he was currently looking at, one that held the service record of Lord Philip "Mad Dog" Bennett. Not bad, actually, spent ten years as part of the Third Fleet Lightning Response Team, prior to which he was a contract killer of considerable reputation. The kind of person that would fit well into the new unit.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm pretty wiped, ship," Bush admitted. He glanced back down at the holoscreen. "What do you think of our friend Mad Dog?'

A slight pause ensued as the Minos scanned the data from the records. "Sounds like your kinda guy, mac."

Bush smirked at the viewscreen, the part of the ship that the Minos used as its "eye," and said, "Yeah, he does actually. I'm surprised you didn't have him closer to the front of the list, ship." Bush had been up all night sorting through the service records, recommendations, and, when possible, news clips of over four hundred possible candidates for activation into the group, all listed in order from most likely to least likely to be accepted as designated by the computer.

"Well, we can't all be perfect, mac. So do we have a winner?" The Minos had been programmed to love spending time with the Baron, but nine hours of continuous processing had even it wanting to turn off for the night. Morning, now.

"I think so, ship." Bush pushed the proper button and Lord Bennett was now the newest, and last, member commissioned for duty to the Sixth Wing of the 4th Fleet of the Line. It felt kind of anticlimactic, really.

"So how's it feel to have your own wing, mac? Ready to dash off to the far reaches of the universe and save some distressed damsels?"

Bush laughed out loud, and softly thanked once again the chubby merchant in Sol who sold him the cabbie program so many years ago. "I don't think so, ship. Plenty of damsels just sitting around here for me," he said with a smile. "I'm probably just sit here the next few days and stagnate while the soldiers roll in. Shouldn't take too long, the person with the slowest ship has an Imp Courier, and those aren't exactly tortoises."

"So you did decide to make it a BYOB wing, eh, mac?"

"What the hell is that?"

A static sound emanated from the speakers in the ship, Minos's way of laughing. "Bring your own bucket o' bolts. Jeez, you ain't gonna make a very good commander if you don't know the slang, mac."

"Yeah, keep talking like that and you'll find yourself sitting in cargo bay of that nice new Lynx Bulk Carrier that the Emperor's letting us use, sprocket boy," Bush replied back, chuckling. The Lynx was a thing of beauty, a colossal silver starship comparable only to a flying city. The hull space of the behemoth was extraordinary, and just the one Lynx issued to Scalpel would fit the hundred and forty eight fighting ships brought by the soldiers, as well as the lone Imp Courier and a Destroyer favored by an officer in the group that was already stationed in Achenar.

"Well, I think I have to call it a night, ship. I'm starting to see things in different colors, and that can't be a good sign," Bush said. "Be a good soldier and power down, will you?"

"Will do, mac," the computer replied, but Bush was already asleep in the cozy leather of the pilot's seat.

A hand was shaking him, and none too gently.

"Go 'way," Bush mumbled.

The hand shook him again, a bit more harshly this time, and a voice (presumably the one of the person shaking him) said "Get up, soldier! You can't spend the day sleeping in your chair!"

Bush groaned and rolled over to face the speaker, blinking away the last bit of hazy sleepiness from his eyes. He found himself gazing at a short, balding man, age forty or so, whose powerful stature filled his light orange jumpsuit and threatened to burst it at the seams.

"You up now, Baron? It's about time. I've never seen an officer sleep halfway into the afternoon!" Duke Charon declared.

Bush blinked. "Wha...? Nevermind, what is it that you are doing here, my lord Duke?"

Charon flashed Bush a smile, and Bush had to suppress a quell the sudden urge to shudder. That face wasn't made for smiling. "I'm just here to see how Scalpel is going, Baron," Charon said. "If the Emperor is going to be foolish enough to throw away the possibility for peace then I want to see our trained hounds rip those Feds to pieces. So how is it going?"

Bush let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding; when he woke up and saw the ugly visage of the Duke beaming down at him he thought he was in trouble for something, though looking back it now dawned on him that if he was to be reprimanded for something, the Duke would be showing up with police at his back, not walking in casually in civvies. "Very good, sir. I stayed up most of the night working out who would be assigned to the group, and sent out the last invitation-" Bush looked down at his watch.

"-six hours ago."


"Yes, sir. I don't want anyone in my group who doesn't want to be here."

Charon grinned again, causing Bush to grimace slightly. "Spoken like a true commander, commander! Invite anybody I might know?"

"I'm not allowed to tell you, sir."

"You got me there, Baron. Did you sink your hooks into Count Redfield? The one who pilots that pretty destroyer out in the shipyards? I thought you might," he said upon seeing the embarrassed look on Bush's face. He shot the Baron a conspiratory wink. "Don't worry, I won't tell any Feds."

"I'm sure you won't, sir."

"I'm glad you agree, Baron. I have to be honest with you- the real reason I came down here wasn't to give you the once-over."

Bush blinked. "Really?"

Charon smiled again (He needs to stop doing that, Bush thought to himself). "Really, commander. I have something I want to give to you- a good luck charm, if you will." He slid a hairy hand into the neck opening of his suit, and pulled out a small chain of interwoven silver links. A small platinum cross weighed down the end. "I want you to have this, Baron."

Bush gasped; silver and platinum! The thing would demand over five hundred thousand credits on the market! "Sir, I'm grateful that you would think to honor me like this, but-"

Charon cut him off with a short wave. "Don't go and get all sentimental on me, soldier! You will take this chain whether you take it voluntarily or if I have to tie it to you myself!" His voice softened a bit, and he once again flashed his yellow teeth at Bush. "Take good care of it, Baron; this chain goes all the way back to World War Four. Everyone who's ever carried it into battle's come out safe- well, not safe, exactly; there have been a fair share of the typical wartime maimings- and I figure that if anybody needs it in this perilous time, it should be you." He laughed, a short bark. "Certainly I won't be using it, patrolling the desks like I do!"

"'d be my pleasure, my lord." Bush reached out and took the chain in his hand; it was cool to the touch, almost cold.

"Come back alive, commander, I wouldn't want you to sully that charm's reputation after twenty generations of faithful service!" With that, Charon saluted Bush (Was that a tattoo of a tree sticking out from the opening in his sleeve? Not very legal.) and promptly left, leaving Bush to sit there studying the gift quietly.

Continue the story with Chapter 9