Sharoma Frontierverse Why Did The Groigan Dance? Chapter 20

Why Did The Groigan Dance?

Chapter 20

Wake up Call

Bush woke when he heard heavy footfalls approaching his cot. It hurt his back to twist and look up, but not as much as one would expect - certainly not as much as the switching. He found himself looking at the sympathetic face of the Sinclair.

"Duke sent me in here to get you. 'He's had enough rest, tell him to stop his pussyfooting'," Sinclair imitated with a smile. He glanced at the Baron's back. "Still hurt?"

"Like a bastard."

"That'll make it more fun then. Now hurry along, the Emperor's waiting for us."

"Again? Dammit, what for now?"

"I'm not sure - the Duke said he'll tell us when you get out there."

"I'm going as fast as I can - Nurse!"

With some help from the nurse (Sinclair offered as well, but Bush's steely glare turned him away quickly), the duo was out of the infirmary and into the bright morning sun within fifteen minutes, where Duke Charon met them cheerfully.

"Nice to see you, boys, what a wonderful day it is, eh?"

Sinclair and Bush nodded. "Would've been better if my back was healed all the way," Bush grumbled.

"Ah, but that would defeat the point of the punishment, wouldn't it, Jonathan?" Charon wryly pointed out. He extended his hand to a waiting hovercraft - a royal blue stretch edition: one of the perks of being on the Alexandrian Council, Bush supposed. Then he saw the chauffeur in the front - not an MP, Bush noticed with a start.

"Personal limo, Lorenzo? Have you been holding back on us?"

"I prefer to live modestly," Charon replied. "I bought this baby for special occasions - which should tell you that you need to quit talking and get in the car quickly."

Bush and Sinclair climbed in, followed by Charon. They were instantly amazed at the wealth that must have been used in the stocking of the vehicle - a small chandelier hung from the satin-covered ceiling, the various knobs and buttons that were the trademarks of some older computer systems (for some reason they were considered fashionable, and all hovercraft had the "classic" look, though some craft's knobs were artificial glass ornaments that had no real use) were of the brightest platinum, and the sweet smell of incense filled the passengers's noses. Sinclair's eyes bulged at the sight of a fully stocked wine cabinet.

"Do you carry Sohoan wine in there?" he asked excitedly.

A beep as the speakers in the walls switched to life, then the soft female voice of the computer asked: "White or red, sir?"

Sinclair smiled. Bush frowned. "Kind of early, don't you think?"

Fortunately the Duke spoke up. "I'm afraid this is a non-alcoholic trip, Lily," Charon said. "Our guests have a busy day ahead of them, and they'll need a clean mind."

"Yes, sir," the musical voice said, and the speakers deactivated. Sinclair looked a bit crestfallen, but was wise enough to say nothing, although the familiar arched back and haughty glare returned to him.

The Druid fixed him with a smile. "You'll thank me later, Squire. Most people are in their gray-haired days before they meet the Grand Emperor, and even then they are struck silly when first in his presence."

"True!" Bush interjected. His grin was wider than the Duke's.

"Yeah, yeah," Sinclair muttered. He turned his eyes to a little refrigerator. "Can I at least have some milk? You got me out before I could grab breakfast."

"Go right ahead," Charon said. "It isn't locked. Now lets get down to business."

Bush squirmed in his leather seat, and not because his back irritated him. "Go on."

"Lily, start file Duval One," Charon stated. A hologram flickered to life in the middle of the floor between the three.

"Not bad," Bush said. "I don't see any holoscreen imagers, even now that I know that they are there."

"I do my best. I gather both of you recognize this planet," Charon said, waving his hands at the blue and green image on the screen.

"Achenar 6d. More commonly known as Capitol," Sinclair said, proud to show off some of the knowledge he learned at Camp Jameson. Bush nodded agreement.

"Good, good. What you - or to be more precise, the Emperor - is worried about happened in the forests around Duval City." The shot zoomed in to show an overhead shot of the city with its surrounding forests. "Jonathan, you've had the opportunity to visit the outpost out there. No, do not mention what it is by name - the young Squire here is not authorized to know any more than he absolutely has to.

"Well, what concerns us is the apparent attack of the installation by a small team of Federation soldiers three nights ago, an attack aimed at the official who is found at said outpost regularly. They struck in the hours just before dawn, and if any other unit other than the Home Guard was defending the area, would have probably succeeded in the neutralization of their target. Fortunately the Home Guard was in the vicinity, and they managed to kill the last of the invaders a mere fifty feet from the main building of the outpost. Twenty-seven invaders were killed, and forty-nine Home Guard."

"Forty-nine Home Guard to twenty-seven Feds? What kind of training do the Feds have out now?" Bush exclaimed, shocked.

"That's not the troubling part - although postmortem analysis showed the majority of the invaders were Federal troopers (including our old friend with the camera, Sergeant Major William Audabon), ten of the commandos were identified as members of several Independent policing organizations, including the SPETZNAZ group that rotates among the communist regimes in the galaxy. The Emperor does not like the implications of this."

"Who can blame him?" Sinclair asked quietly. He was staring, wide-eyed, out of the tinted window of the hovercraft.

"Anything else unusual about the group?" Bush asked, turning back to Charon. "This is big news, Lorenzo. We need to know all we can."

"Other than the fact that they were all abnormally fit? Only that each had a small tattoo of a tear under an eye."

"Many people who have been incarcerated in prisons have a tattoo like that. I hope to God we have more than that."

"Almost nothing about the people. They were found to have been living under pseudonyms in Duval City, most for longer than two months, and their neighbors say they left at the same time they left as everyone else did to go to work."

"But let me guess - their places of employment were false."

"Bingo," Charon replied. "BTCom Electronics. Supposedly a computer trouble-shooting company, but the address for the headquarters was a warehouse. Inside we found a anarchist's heaven: laser rifles, rocket launchers, fragmentation grenades, flashbangs, modern exercise equipment."

"Damn," Sinclair breathed.

"Serious people," Charon said gravely. "And they did serious damage, both to our Home Guard and our psyche."

"First thing we obviously have to move the location of the... outpost," Bush said, looking up. "Then we have to make sure the official never stays still in one spot for an extended amount of time unless absolutely necessary and always has so many men around him that he should die from too little air."

"Done and done. Why else would the man be here on Peter's Wreck? To see you whipped? He isn't a sadist," Charon said with a smile. "At least not in the movies I've seen."

After that the conversation lapsed into silence, each man contemplating the events in his mind. The stretch limo hovered along gracefully through the military town, finally coming to a halt outside the base headquarters. Bush got out (Lily reminding him to "have a nice day!") and went inside to see the Emperor again. Beside him, Sinclair was already trembling.

Continue the story with Chapter 21