Sharoma Frontierverse Why Did The Groigan Dance? Chapter 26

Why Did The Groigan Dance?

Chapter 26

More Boring Talk

"...and then I was told to tell Baron Bush that they were not done with him yet," Nikolai Ossyran stated, the recorders in the small room picking up every word.

Bush pursed his lips in an adjoining room, and felt a light hand on his shoulder. "Do not worry, my dear Baron." a lilting voice said. "We will not let the foul ones within a hundred light years of your presence."

Bush nodded his head slightly and looked back over his shoulder to smile at the Emperor, then went back to watching silently.

"Is that all, commander?" the unseen interrogator asked Ossyran.

"Yes, sir."

"Your story collaborates with your original statements. Please exit the room, commander." A minute later the interrogation room was empty.

Bush turned around slowly, the years bearing down on him. Less than a year ago, he had had a good enough life, if a bit uneventful, but that had all come crashing down in the past few months. Redfield and Sinclair still had not returned from the bombing raid, had not even sent a message via secure connections, and the worst was presumed. Hell, it had been months since hearing from any of the small fleet until Commander Ossyran stumbled into Achenar space the day before last, bug-eyed and babbling about the voice of God.

Of course, it wasn't God; God was vengeful but he did not smite the righteous (and of course all Imperial citizens were righteous, in actions if not in prayers). No, these were not the acts of gods; these were the acts of homicidal aliens and damn-fool Feds who had an odd obsession with Bush, and who generally were trying to eradicate the Empire. Nothing was going well these days at all.

Bush found himself fondling the cross on his chest, and forced himself to stop. A slight frown on his face, he settled into a plush chair and pulled himself up to a large oak table in the middle of the room. An impromptu Hall of Alexander had been made here in Jameson Building, the headquarters of the Intelligence section, and the usual cast stared back at him; Prince Floyd, Duke Charon, the Emperor. The absence of Brunswick stuck out like a sore thumb; the Prince's body had been found three days after the failed attack on Mars, found stuffed in a dumpster in one of the seedier districts on Capitol, a neat (well, neat considering the circumstances), blackened hole burned through the left side of his stomach, victim of a lasgun. Cameras in a tavern a few blocks away showed the Prince entering and conversing with a shady fellow, who had yet to be identified, and then leaving. The fool had been wearing the silks and satins that come with being a high ranking officer; no less than ten separate individuals had been observed leaving the bar after the former Prince of War.

And that was the last anyone ever saw of Brunswick. Alive, at least.

The circumstances surrounding the death caused concern among higher-ups in the Empire, who knew that traveling to the wrong side of the tracks, much less going to a bar, to be odd for the haughty Prince. And who was the shady man? Bush shook his head and muttered something concerning Hell and a handbasket. At least none of the newsvids had picked up on the oddities.

"Jon, sit down already," Charon whispered. Bush blinked (hadn't I been sitting down?), but lowered himself. Everyone else was already sitting.

"This is serious, friends," Emperor Duval said immediately. Heads bobbed in agreement. "Have you had any idea why the aliens seem to be fixated on yourself, Baron?"

Bush shook his head. "No sir. I'm as baffled as you are, and probably even more scared."

The Emperor nodded. "I thought as much. Not that it matters, when put in the proper perspective." He waved his hand when Bush glanced up. "No, no, I'm not downplaying your...situation, Baron; but when compared to the Thargoids apparent desire to see the downfall of the Empire" -Duval's eyes clouded- "My Empire, then you can see where one can consider the plight of but one man to be insignificant."

Bush found himself agreeing, though the Emperor's flowery, twisting speech made his head hurt.

"Splendid! Unfortunately, commander Ossyran's report casts an ominous shadow over our Empire, gentlemen. Projections?"

Prince Floyd leaned forward, his silk sleeves dragging across the table with a sound like the wind. "Prime projection - the Thargoid/Federation coalition is becoming more bold by the minute. Expect a major attack on a civilized area within three months." Floyd turned his cool eyes towards Bush. "I expect an assault on the Baron before that."

Bush forced himself to keep his voice neutral as he gazed back at Floyd. "And why do you believe that, sir?"

"No real reason. I'm the only one who feels this way; in fact, my advisors are hell-bent against it. Anything I can point to can be explained as planned, pre-invasion tactics by the coalition, though my advisors agree that you are a focal point to them, for some reason."

"I know all too well," Bush sighed. He could almost hear Sinclair's snobby voice.

"That's enough for now, please," Charon said. He laid a gnarled hand on Bush's shoulder.

"Yes, I have heard enough of this matter for now," the Emperor put in smoothly. "I have a general idea of what you mean; I expect a full briefing on this in my room by tomorrow night, good Prince."

"Me too," Charon and Bush both said at the same time, then burst out laughing.

The Emperor smiled kindly. "Are you sure you wish that report, Baron?" he asked gently. "We do not need your help in knowing the timetables of future attacks, only defenses."

"I'm a Baron, sir, haven't been a serf in a long time. I can handle it."

The Emperor positively beamed. "I thought so, my dear Baron, but had to be sure." The smile left his face as he swiveled his chair to face Charon. "Do you have anything for me, Duke Charon?"

Charon leaned forward. He was wearing the standard issue military uniform, rather than his dress blues or silks. "Nothing intelligence-wise, sir. I still believe we should keep this under tight wraps; a full-blown war with the Feds is the last thing we want, especially with the Thargoids in their corner." His ugly face grew grim at the mention of the aliens, or maybe it was the Feds.

"Well done, Lorenzo," Duval said, a bright gold tooth flashing as he opened his mouth. "How about the current... situation?" He spread his arms majestically at the barren walls of the small room. "At any other time I could switch on a holoscreen, but places near interrogation chambers have to be kept relatively sparse, for obvious reasons."

"Of course, my lord Emperor. The press cannot be allowed to catch whiff of this little feud, for the time being at least; both myself and the Federal diplomats agree on this, for different reasons, of course. They still hold onto their silly stance that they have nothing to do with these attacks (we also hold the same stance in the dealings, if I may mention), and if they allow their press to get hold of this it would lower their credibility and negotiating room considerably. We, on the other hand, with hold this information simply because if the public knew that the aliens have returned and are working with the enemy, there would be widespread panic."

"I thought in our first emergency announcement you declared the original attack to be the work of the Feds?" Bush half-asked, half-stated. He hadn't caught the holonews in a while.

Floyd took this one. "We let it leak out that that was a hit made by the Demons, in order to escalate hostilities between ourselves and the Federal Government."

"Not bad, sir. That sounds like something the Demons would do, it'd divert the Feds's attention away from the... less than legal activities that the pirates are doing."

Charon chuckled. "I thought so myself, Jonny. The masses ate it up, but I hear from our source inside the Demons that Commander Bett was less than pleased."

"He wasn't amused," Floyd said. "A few credits slipped into their accounts quieted him down some, and a undisclosed source supplying him with a fully decked-out Panther shut him up for good."

The Emperor smiled thinly. "Yes, our collaboration with the Demons is doing much better than anyone anticipated."

Bush was about to raise the point that being connected to hired killers was not necessarily a good idea, but then realized what he used to do, and clamped his mouth shut.

The Prince of Intelligence, however, had never even been in a situation that would have caused him to even worry about firing his lasers, so he had no such compunctions. "I still have doubts about this, my lord Emperor. This little alliance has been useful in the past, but it is dangerous to try to hold a rabid dog to a leash."

"Oh, yes, Prince Floyd, there can be no question to that," the Emperor said. "But if you consider our rabid dog to be dangerous, think of the beast that the Federal Government is trying to tame."

The discussion quieted after that, and moved onto more mundane matters - sanitary service supplier bids for all military bases, street cleaning, and so on.

The intercom in the room buzzed. The Emperor waved a hand, and the door to the room slid open.

A muscular guard walked in, a slightly awed look on his face. "You excellency," he breathed reverently, "Something interesting was picked up in the listening stations in Lave. Your presence is required immediately, sire."

Continue the story with Chapter 27