Sharoma Frontierverse Why Did The Groigan Dance? Chapter 14

Why Did The Groigan Dance?

Chapter 14

Touchdown

Bush smiled across the cabin at Mark Anthony's unfamiliar face, still not used to the green eyes and red hair of his comrade. The odd man smiled back, though it looked a bit strained, and Bush didn't think it was because of the high g's of space flight.

The Baron had to admit he didn't quite like the fact that he had to wear a new face for this mission, even though he knew that his face was probably the most recognized on in the galaxy after the Emperor's and the President's. The new face did make him look fifteen years younger though, and it was a tad handsome, if nondescript, the perfect face for a spy. Maybe he could pick up a young lady while he was here.

He picked up a spoon from the dinnercart beside him and gazed at his reflection. "The ladies are lining up already, Red," he said to the Count, who was here scratching his new face along with Bush and Anthony. It really wasn't bad, the old man with the young face thought to himself, if a bit plain: thin-faced, with lanky brown hair the hue of his eyes, and a multitude of freckles.

"We'd better have an escort outside when we get there or you'll be swarmed," Red replied absently, rubbing the tips of his fingers vigorously on the arm of the chair he was sitting in. That was the other thing the Empire's scientists altered before the trio left, burning off their fingerprints and grafting new ones on in their place, so if caught they had the fingerprints of their assumed identities instead of those of three notorious Imperials. Redfield was "Ian 'Red' Bell", Anthony was "David Braben", and the Baron was "Keith Wolfe". It was Bush's luck that he would be stuck with the only halfway normal name.

He set the spoon down and looked over at Redfield gnawing on his fingertips, dirty blond hair covering the almost feminine face that Red had been stuck with. "I'm surprised you aren't looking at my sideways, she-man," he taunted.

Redfield didn't even glance up, he simply said "I'm sure you would like that, Wolf." Anthony guffawed, and when Bush turned to glare at him he was wiping a tear from his eye.

Catching the look, Anthony smiled broadly and shrugged his heavy shoulders. "It was a good one, sir," he grinned.

Having to smile himself, Bush dropped the matter. "You can't call me sir once we land, don't forget," he said instead.

Anthony rolled his new eyes and shared a look with Redfield. "We know, grandpa," the Count responded.

"That's good, then," Bush said, and the passenger cabin of Asp class fighter, registration BR-143, fell into an awkward silence, leading Bush to believe that for all the lighthearted chatter, he was not the only person aboard the Bearded Gnome that felt nervous heading into this mission, the type of which most agents never see.

In official terminology, they were "undercover reconnaissance operatives". If the Feds caught them and didn't kill them, they would be known as "filthy Imperial spies". When the Emperor told Bush that he had a mission for Scalpel, he thought the mission was for Scalpel, as a unit, not just the three sitting here in the passenger cabin. "To locate and determine the threat of the supposed Federal/Thargoid fleet", was what the Emperor said. So here were Anthony, Redfield, and Bush, three veteran assassins but novice infiltrators, on their way to the planet Jaquai said held the key to the dreadful alliance.

They were headed for Enayess 4.

This was not the assignment Red and Anthony believed they were getting into when they were called into the Baron's ship. They were hoping for a nice little assassination, or maybe transporting some illegal battle weapons to the underground movement on Earth. Never in their wildest dreams did any of the three think they were going to be headed for Enayess 4 undercover, as inexperienced as they were in such things.

"I'm not Bond Jameson!" Anthony cried when informed of the operational plans. "I kill people, not sneak around like a snake!"

"Ah, but you three are the most learned and skillful there are in the matters of covert operations," Duval retorted. "Assassination is a covert operation, is it not? And so is reconnaissance. Consider it a branching out of sorts, learning a hook shot after you already know how to slam." Even Anthony had to laugh at the Emperor's attempt at humor, mentioning a dead sport that few outside of the antique business even remembered. And so here they were, sitting in the freezing hold of a fast, maneuverable ship, a "get in drop 'em and leave" kind of ship. Just the kind needed for this mission, where the plan for the pilot was to drop them and leave in a hurry to evade detection.

"My favorite kind," Bush muttered sarcastically.

"What?" Redfield asked, looking up from his now-red fingertips.

"Nothing."

The speaker blared to life, transmitting the words of the pilot: "Ten minutes till touchdown, boys, if you're going to gag time to get it done." A crackling as the speaker was just as abruptly turned off as it was on.

They stood up and reluctantly put on their state of the art military grade spacesuits, complete with working translators so that unlike Jaquai they could understand any Thargoidian language, and grabbed their weapons - Bush the standard Ironfrost Laser Rifle, though it had been altered to fire a more potent blast than regularly allowed; Redfield, a Baker Sharpshooter, basically a sniper rifle with a five mile range; and Anthony, the largest of the three, carried an Ironfrost Rocket Launcher. None of the weapons would save the three from death if they were caught in heavy fire, but the weapons would sure as hell save them some time.

They sat down with more than three minutes to spare, radiating a peculiar aura of supreme confidence mixed with the nervousness of those about to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. Bush felt this, and tried to alleviate their worry by going over the plan once more: "Remember, after deployment we fan out and head for cover right away, men. If after five minutes we aren't dead or in the immediate danger of being dead, I will come and get each of you - do not even think about even breathing before then or you'll wish the Feds found you."

Redfield grimaced, and Anthony punched him in the shoulder. "Don't go and get all wimped out on us now, 'Ian', just you make sure you got all those seams sealed right on your suit. That atmosphere can be a bitch."

Redfield looked up with a twisted smile on his equine face. "Don't worry about me, kiddo, just don't shoot yourself in the foot with that rocket."

Bush smiled, glad to see the nervousness hidden, if not completely eradicated. "Both of you cool it or you'll find out why the Feds fear the Wolf," he said, flexing a fist menacingly.

"Ooooh, you done it now, Red, you got Wolf pissed." Anthony leered and gave Bush a mock salute.

It was Bush's turn to punch Anthony in the arm.

"Hey, that hurt, you-" Anthony's profanity was cut off as the ship touched down gently, creating a large cloud of orange-brown dust to bloom around the small Asp.

The bay door slid open, revealing the harsh landscape of Enayess 4 under a pale blue moon.

"Move, move, move!" Bush shouted, picking up his own gear and heading for the door. "Do you want to live forever?"

Continue the story with Chapter 15