Sharoma Frontierverse Why Did The Groigan Dance? Chapter 13

Why Did The Groigan Dance?

Chapter 13

No News is Good News

"...Good morning, I'm Peter Brokaw," the pale, anglo anchorman said. "Welcome to the GIN Twelve o'clock News at Five. We have a special today, just for you, the GIN viewer. It rocked the galaxy two weeks ago; the shockingly violent attacks on Fortress Strauss in the Cegreeth system and Fortress Anderson in the Delta Pavonis system. This morning, only on GIN, we have exclusive footage of the raid on Anderson, provided by the sole survivor of the brutal assault...."

Duval waved a hand, and the holoscreen fell silent, though the picture remained. He sat there for a moment, quietly watching the muted holoscreen in contemplation, then turned a cool eye in Bush's direction. "Well?" he asked in a cool tone, "do you have an explanation for this?"

"We never thought to scan the forest in a long range sweep," was all Bush could think of. "He didn't come from close to the target - that's all I can offer, my lord Emperor. We had Lord Octavian run a very thorough sweep of the city and the near-lying swamplands around it, and there was nobody there."

"There was somebody somewhere, Baron!" Brunswick shrieked. "Do not make excuses!"

"Sit down, Prince," the Emperor said. "He did more than the mission required simply scanning the swamplands, though this error may have grave implications." The transparent hologram of the wing's lone Imp Courier cutting a burning line through a building flickered in front of the Emperor's face, dramatizing his words. "He had no reason to think that there would be a hidden ship in the deep woods. Overall I am still pleased with the result of the mission."

Duval waved his hand again, and the sound returned, the roar of hyperdrive engines and the crackle of laser discharges filling the room. All in attendance turned to face the holoscreen, Brunswick giving the Baron another scowl before doing so.

Leaves obscured most of the picture, as the picture was taken by someone cowering IN the underbrush of the planet, and as a result, most of the film was inconclusive enough so that none of Scalpel's ships could be tied to the Empire. However, the ship's viewscreen automatically overlaid the ship registration for the marauders, and Bush had to sigh and promise to himself to buy a Sohoan Red for the person who thought of changing the wing's registration numbers for this operation. You could still make out the general types of each ship, catching a glimpse of the bright hull of Redfield's destroyer in one spot, and the bright orange flames racing down the side of the Minos's black paint as it flew overhead chasing the Fer-de-Lances in his insane showdown (Brunswick shot him another frown as he watched this, and the Duke showed Bush an amused grin). More than once the camera shook and a bright flare filled it as a particularly violent explosion rocked Mother Hen. Finally, the screen was filled with a blue light as the wing leapt to hyperspace, and the leaves disappeared from the screen as the survivor risked leaving the protective cover of the trees.

The Emperor irritably waved his hand, and the holoscreen fell quiet again as the anchorman came back on.

"Well, its not too bad, from a PR standpoint," Charon offered. "The film was shaky, there are no distinctive ships caught of it - you will have to have your ship repainted though, Baron - and if the Feds think to run the ship registrations through their computers, they will find that all match the ID's of pirates from a notorious gang called 'The Demons'. They have nothing to hold against us, my lord Emperor. The Feds are trying to grab the wind."

"That is all very good and well, Duke Charon," Brunswick retorted, "but that does not hide the fact that the Baron here almost caused this whole mission to go tumbling down the drain in a fit of unexplainable ignorance!"

"Shush, Prince Brunswick, or I will have you removed," the Emperor yelled. It was the first time the Baron had ever seen Duval not being cool and composed. "Do we have to go through this every meeting?"

Brunswick's face glowed red, but he sat himself down with an effort. "I... apologize, my lord Emperor," he gritted out from clenched teeth.

"That is better, Brunswick." The Prince's face grew even more red at the intentional absence of his honorific, and he stood up and stalked out in a huff.

"Good riddance," the Prince of Intelligence muttered as the door swung closed, his first words of the evening. Charon nodded his agreement from across the table.

The Emperor raised his hands and grimaced as if to say Why do I put up with that dolt before turning to Bush again. "Do not listen to Brunswick, my dear Baron, I believe that you did a top job in the fulfillment of Operation Henhouse."

"Thank you, sir, I appreciate that," Bush said, meaning it.

The Emperor waved his hands in the classic gesture of dismissal, but Eileene took it for another volume instruction, and the holoscreen's audio cut back on.

"...We are here with Sergeant Major William Audabon, Federal officer and the individual who took this film. How are you doing today, Mister Audabon?"

"I'm doing just fine, thank you," the man responded gaily, an odd tone for a Fed. The Sergeant Major was a stunningly handsome man, a blond haired, blue eyed Solari with shoulders as wide a an ax handle and a disarming smile. The only blemish on his otherwise fair skin was a smile tattoo of a tear beneath his right eye. "And you, sir?"

Peter Brokaw blinked, probably not used to being asked that. "Quite well. Do you have any feelings about what transpired that awful day that you would like to share with us, William?"

"Not really, sir," he replied in the polite Federal way, "though I do think it was a bit, shall I say, peculiar that Fortress Anderson was hit so soon after the raid in Cegreeth that the Empire insists was perpetrated by the Federation, despite their sue for peace."

"They did do it! I saw the dog's bodies with my own eyes!" shouted Charon.

"Quiet down please, my good Duke," the Emperor said. "We do not want a repeat of Brunswick, now, do we?" Charon sat down reluctantly. "Good, good. We all know the Federal lies for what they are. Yelling about them will not change anything. Will these accusations alter our public stance in any way?"

Charon gulped down the last of his anger, and said: "No, sir, the -apparently- unfounded and baseless lies of a Fed dog will not change us at all. They still have no way to prove our guilt in the matter."

"Agreed," the Prince of Intelligence put in.

Duval nodded. "Good. We will have to deal with these charges, however."

"Of no doubt, sir," Charon responded. "I will put out an official announcement by noon."

"...Be sure to tune in again for the GIN Six o'clock News at Ten," Brokaw squawked in the background. "We will have continuing coverage of the Crisis, plus all the late-breaking sports coverage."

"I'm sure I will," Bush muttered under his breath. It was only five thirty in the morning and promised to be a long day.

The Emperor heard and fixed the Baron with a small, sad smile. "Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you, we have a new mission for Scalpel as well."

Bush groaned. It would be a very long day indeed.

"Quit your whining," the Prince of Intelligence said with a grin. "'Do you want to live forever?'"

Continue the story with Chapter 14