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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2015 10:17 pm 
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Location: Battlestar Hecate BSG-94
Chapter 41: Friends And Enemies (Part 3 of 5)

Presidential Residence, Caprica City, Caprica

"Who saw the book?" President Richard Adar asked angrily from behind his large mahogany desk. The window blinds were closed behind him and the glass polarized to 100% opacity and left the president's personal office dark and brooding, lit only by a few indirect lights and two table lamps.

Dieter Hollings shifted in his seat and met Adar's glare. Had had known Adar since they both attended elementary school and he knew his friend's cold, hard glare well. "As near as I can confirm, only three people handled it before it was sealed and entered into evidence."

"Do you think they read it?" Adar demanded.

There were times that being the President's personal secretary wasn't worth the power and influence that came with the title, Hollings thought. This might be one of them. Still, it beat being the Vice President and came with more power and influence because he controlled access to Adar. "I have to err on the side of caution and believe that they did, Rick," he finally said. "One of them used to be Fleet Special Operations and was involved in a program that ended about ten years ago that was specially setup to hunt down CoC cells and operations. He knows all about it."

"Wonderful. Just frakking wonderful," Adar swore looked like he was going to pound back the tumbler with three fingers of bourbon that he held in his right hand. "We're already into the election cycle and any sort of scandal involving someone in my inner circle is going to be...bad. Very bad."

There were times to simply take the initiative and do things without asking, just assuming with a wink and a nod that it was what was wanted, but not this time. "What do you want done?" Hollings asked.

"Do you really need to ask me that, Dieter?" Adar said and looked at him.

Hollings nodded. "I've handled your dirty work since we were kids, Rick. Remember Shelly Deuter?" he asked and brought up a long buried name from their junior prom. "She was the first major one. This time, given the people involved and their connections, I need to hear you say it out loud. Consider it taking some responsibility for a change."

Adar stared at him for several moments and then drank the bourbon in one gulp as if he was trying to supplement what little courage he had for these matters, Hollings thought. "Ok...liquidate them all. If you have proof that they've touched the book, liquidate them. And make sure the book is destroyed."

"As you wish, Rick," Hollings replied. Adar would be in a funk until he frakked one of his mistresses and released his pent-up frustration and anger. He hoped it was one of the low rent mistresses, the bruises could easily be explained for them rather than a certain Secretary of Education.

"Well?" Adar asked. "Get on with it."

Hollings smiled and stood. "By your command," he said and walked out of the office. What happened wasn't ideal, but it would be a crowning jewel in the rather extensive portfolio of President Richard Bartholomew Adar's peccadilloes that he'd been documenting ever since poor Shelly Deuter disappeared almost forty years earlier.

Yes, he thought as he walked down the hallway to the residence's underground garage, once the election was over he would begin leaking some personal indiscretions that he'd created to smear the Vice President and then a few words and a sample of the portfolio to his old friend to suggest that he appoint him as the successor...before every news agency in the Colonies received a sanitized copy. Within a year he'd be sitting behind that desk calling the shots and Adar would be lucky if the peasants didn't string him up on the lawn.

And if three more people had to disappear...it was just collateral damage incurred as the bigger game played out.

*+*+*+*+*

Adar watched as the door closed behind Hollings and sat back in his high backed chair as the anger he displayed moments earlier disappeared. He turned his head when the door to the Wood Room, his public office, opened and a dark haired woman of medium height and olive complexion glided into the room. Laura Roslin scratched his fetish for sexy teachers, but if he had a fetish for women who were more dangerous than a blue ringed krait, Marbry Cazaux would certainly scratch it raw.

"You heard?" Adar asked as Cazaux sat in Hollings' recently vacated seat.

"I did," Cazaux replied and crossed one long shapely leg over the other and held Adar's gaze the entire time.

"Your thoughts?" Adar said as he poured another three fingers of bourbon for himself and two for Cazaux; he wasn't going to drink to be social, he wanted to drink to mellow out.

"He's become a liability, Richard. I think that the public would see you as one of them, more human, if they saw you crying and giving the eulogy at your best friend's funeral," Cazaux explained with no more emotion than if she was discussing his tie's pattern.

Adar nodded. Dieter had been a good friend and had been with him ever since they were kids, but Cazaux had a valid point and if it could give him a point or two bump in the polls, it would be worth it. Besides, he justified to himself, his old friend knew where all the bodies were buried...because more often than not he was the one who dug the hole.

"Do it. And make sure that you find anything he might have that would prove...harmful...before it's over," Adar said and drank half the tumbler's contents.

"Give me forty-eight hours and then prepare to shop for a black suit and make sure your make-up people have something that won't streak from tears," Cazaux told him and stood in one smooth, effortless action.

"I'll hold you to it," Adar smiled.

"Good...you know what happens if I fail to make good on a promise..." Cazaux reminded him as she left through the door she entered from.

Adar suppressed a shudder. "Hell, I think my relation would need a black suit after that night..."

*+*+*+*+*

Marbry Cazaux left the Presidential Residence through a tunnel that connected it with an office complex 500 meters away. As she walked she watched the people she passed through stylish polarized sunglasses that hid her eyes from observation. Everyone went about their business so seriously and so focused that they never really looked at what was happening around them. Or who was passing them.

Oh, she knew that the men saw her, as did some of the women; genetics, good diet, and years of dance, gymnastics, fencing, and running at least 10 kilometers a day followed by an hour in the gym or pool guaranteed it. But that was just the surface and that was all anyone really seemed to see. They didn't see the 5/7 under her left arm as it hung in a horizontal shoulder holster offset by a twin magazine pouch under her right, or the lacquered bamboo chopsticks that hid titanium shafts and held her hair off her shoulders, or the small finger blades that weighed down her collar's points and caused her jacket cuffs to always hang just right at her wrists.

No...the people who saw her only saw what they wanted to see...what they'd been conditioned to see, and never saw the real Marbry Cazaux who lurked just under the surface.

When she reached her car she activated a small black box and then when the display read 100%, pressed the red button. The car's electronics were hardened, but any electronic eavesdropping devices or trackers would have been sent to the graveyard after the small and intense EMP generator fired. Cazaux opened the door and slid behind the wheel while pressing the car's start button. Immediately the twelve cylinder engine turned over and the dash lit up.

The car wasn't the flashiest or the sportiest, and looked like a common upscale luxury sedan. Except most luxury sedans didn't have a 12 cylinder boxer engine that was supercharged and generated more horsepower and torque than most sports cars and coupled it to an advanced all-wheel-drive suspension that could also lift the body almost fifteen centimeters through pneumatics.

And most cars also weren't armored to stop small arms rounds or have a self contained life support system.

But most people, she smirked, weren't me.

Once she was out in the late afternoon traffic she opened the center console and punched a ten digit code onto the keypad. Almost instantly a ringing sound filled the car and was replaced a moment later by a man's voice, "Control."

"Control, the party is on. The target is the one we anticipated, though we're going to need to move fast and there may be a few additional guests that we're going to have to manage for the duration," Cazaux said as she guided the car onto Riverfront Expressway. "I'll explain when I get in, but for now, get the team ready; we're jumping off tonight. Also, alert Poltergeist and let them know what's going on."

"Copy." The voice paused, "Are you ok?"

"Yes...I need to get a shower and disinfect myself before we go, though," Cazaux explained. "I feel filthy."

The voice laughed. "It won't be much longer."

"Good," Cazaux told him. "I'll be there in an hour."

*+*+*+*+*

Marbry Cazaux rolled her shoulders and settled the protective vest on her torso. After so many years wearing and using one, the weight no longer registered but the heat it trapped and the way it could restrict her movement if it wasn't seated just right always bothered her. Tonight it was cool and the heat wouldn't require a cool shirt, but it might require what the vest carried, so she wore the vest.

"Our target has made things easy for us this time," Cazaux briefed the three men who made up her team. "He's already acquired the book and is currently at his vacation house waiting for his associates to arrive tomorrow after they finish the hit on our secondary target. We go in, snatch him, plant the body, and set the fire. Surveillance is showing that he's alone, but use your discretion if that changes. I don't want a body count, but we also have to be mindful that space is limited. Questions?"

Brockhurst nodded. "What about the secondary target?"

Cazaux shrugged. "I'd like to say that we swoop in, announce ourselves, and all head off to Poltergeist and have a beer. But...that's only going to happen if we're very, very lucky."

"Who is the secondary? It sounds like he's some sort of operator?" Pagonelli asked.

"That's because he is...and used to be one of the best," Cazaux explained. "And that's why when we land, I'm going to approach the house alone...we have some history."

Pagonelli looked at Brockhurst and grinned, "History, Boss?" he asked and made a circle with his left thumb and index finger while poking his right index finger into it several times in quick succession.

Cazaux shook her head and grinned. "Is that all you ever think about, Pags; who I might have frakked because it wasn't you?"

"She burned you there, brother," Roland quipped.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah..." Pagonelli smirked. "One day..."

"In your dreams, Pags..." Cazaux replied and shook her head. It was always the same banter before they jumped off; sometimes she was the target, sometimes it was one of the others, but they never launched without some sort of rude joke.

It was tradition.

And in her line of work, traditions were formed when good things happened.

And that made it lucky.

Fifty minutes later the sleek black Raven's pilot announced, "We're five minutes out and on final approach. Weather is clear with scattered clouds and Gemenon is a bright eye in the sky."

"Thanks, Gomer," Cazaux said and stood. "Final equipment check, guys. Let's do this by the numbers." She watched the clock count down the seconds until the thirty second warning. The lights were already red to preserve their night vision and she felt her pulse pick up slightly as the clock announced thirty seconds until insertion.

"We'll circle around and be back in five minutes, unless you tell us you need more time," Gomer told her on the intercom. "Watch your ass out there and good hunting."

"Thanks, Gomer," was all Cazaux could say before the crew chief opened the rear hatch and held up five fingers before shaking his fist and curling one finger down. And then again and another.

"Let's go, boys," Cazaux said as she stood at the head of the four person team. She was always the first off and last on; she led from the front and never left someone behind.

The Raven flared two seconds later and true to his promise during the briefing, Gomer held the ship less than a meter off the ground as Cazaux and the three others jumped onto the wet, dew covered lawn. Five seconds after she stepped off, she felt a hot gust of air as the Raven climbed and sped off into the night.

Despite it destroying her night vision, there was a time and a place when the synthetic vision goggles had to be used. Tonight was one of them. The house was protected by several layers of security that ranged from random pressure sensitive meshes buried underground to a network of lasers that formed a tripwire ten meters from the building. They couldn't flash it with an EMP, forensics would notice that immediately, so they had to go in and do this old school.

"Pags, are you in yet?" Cazaux whispered.

"Yeah...give me a moment..." Pags whispered as he hunched over his laptop. "Got it...You'd think someone with this guy's resources would have something more sophisticated than GuardDog..." he muttered derisively.

"Just spoof it, Pags...nothing fancy," Brockhurst chided him.

"Done," Pags announced less than forty seconds after they landed. "Passive security is bypassed, so we just need to worry about the lasers."

"Well done," Cazaux whispered and flipped down her synthetic vision goggles and instantly the world went from a Gemenon lit night to shades of color as the sophisticated device combined thermal imaging and light intensification into one synthetic image that gave her the best that both technologies could offer. All across the lawn she saw flickering red lines that indicated where the lasers were still working.

Slowly, one foot in front of the other, she dodged or stepped over the invisible beams and made her way to the house. The counter in the lower left of her field of view was now at 90 and climbing. "Brockhurst...Call Gomer and tell him to return plus five."

"Copy, return plus five," Brockhurst whispered and pecked out the message on a keypad strapped to his left forearm.

Cazaux palmed the key that had been made hours before and slid it into the lock before turning it clock wise. She held her breath as it turned and then when it was turned all the way, pushed open the door and looked around. No laser beam tell-tales and GuardDog Security didn't install any pressure sensors inside. Cheap bastard, she thought and stepped across the threshold and into the mud room.

They treated each room the same; a peek to make sure no one was there and to ascertain what it was, and then on to the next room. When they found Hollings' office, Brockhurst and Pagonelli remained behind to sweep it for any intelligence or evidence. Roland had Cazaux's back and together they made their way to the second floor and swept it until they reached the master suite. She reached out with her gloved left hand and tried the doorknob. It turned easily and soundlessly and a smile touched the lips of her otherwise serious looking face.

One finger waved forward and Cazaux got ready. She didn't worry about Roland; he would do it and be right behind her. If she had had any doubts on his reliability or skill he never would have been invited to join her team.

A second finger joined the first and she took a breath and tensed her muscles for what might follow.

She added a third finger and waved it forward a moment before she nudged the door open with her foot and swept into the room.

All she heard were a series of even snores coming from the bed as she moved forward and swept her suppressed M-22 behind her and peeled open the self adhesive pad she removed from a vest pocket. It looked like a common cotton gauze pad, but it was impregnated with a non-narcotic drug that would ensure whoever breathed through it wouldn't wake up until it was removed.

She stood next to Roland and nodded. Like a well practiced piece of performing art, Cazaux leaned forward and prepared to affix the gauze over Hollings' nose and mouth while Roland grabbed his arms and held him still.

It was over in less than five heartbeats when Hollings took a deep breath from fright and promptly passed out.

"Sweep the room," Cazaux ordered and quickly zip tied Hollings wrists. "Frak...he would have to sleep nude..." she swore and looked around for a pair of pants to put on him so she could zip tie his feet and lower legs.

Gomer returned ten minutes after the insertion and held the Raven a meter off the ground while several duffle bags filled with files, computers, and drives were loaded aboard. Hollings went next and then a body bag was unloaded and Cazaux said a silent prayer for the unnamed vagrant who had been pulled from a morgue on the other side of the planet to ensure that their mission would be a success.

As soon as the body bag was offloaded, Gomer launched the Raven back into the night sky. They had five minutes to prepare the body and the house for the last part of the masquerade. A binary accelerant compound that was forensically untraceable was sprayed on the body, Hollings' bed, the heater, and on every ventilation grill in the house. Finally, Cazaux placed a cigarette from the pack on the night stand between the body's lips and a dropped a lit match on the bed.

The conflagration was immediate as the bed burst into flames and quickly jumped to the ventilation grill. "Let's go..." she said and jugged out of the room and down the steps before she turned and saw signs of fire from almost every window.

A minute later Cazaux stepped onto the Raven and once again disappeared into the night.

*+*+*+*+*

Lieutenant Galloway Benton lay in bed and felt Dana Vervain snuggle close to him and rest her head on his shoulder as his left arm wrapped around her. His mind reviewed the previous day's events one more time to see if there was some minor detail that he was missing. Each time he mentally walked through everything that happened he came up with nothing new.

Something was going on, Benton knew that in the pit of his stomach, but he just couldn't put his finger on what it was. What really intrigued him was that the Church of Cronus cells had disappeared as if someone had sent out a memo and they all just flew off to someplace else. His contact had estimated their numbers at somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000, and that was a low estimate, had congregated and then pulled their disappearing act.

The logistics alone seemed overwhelming. If they took their families, those numbers could be upwards of a million or more, and you just don't pack that many people into an Intersun or Cubit Savers liner and head out to gods knew where.

Benton felt Tuck put his paws on the side of the bed and reached over to scratch the little terrier. "C'mon up...but don't stomp around too much, ok?" he whispered to the dog.

Even in the dark he could sense Tuck's tail wagging as the dog limberly jumped up onto the bed and claimed a spot between his and Vervain's legs. A contented sigh told Benton that his canine family member was content.

Not for the first time he thought about calling in the favor his father had told him about. The idea was seductive, but he didn't want to touch it unless he had no other choice.

Benton narrowed his eyes and cocked his head. He felt Tuck lift his head and heard him sniff the air. Whoever was coming had to have an amateur flying them. Whenever you were approaching your target you allowed the craft to slow on its own or you used passive braking methods, you most certainly didn't flare and use your lift jets to bleed velocity.

"Dana?" Benton said and gently shook Vervain. "Game time. They're here."

Vervain was instantly awake and Tuck was now standing at the foot of the bed and looking at the door; his body was tense, his tail was held up and quivered from the tension, and he held his right paw like he was a pointer who found a bird. "How long?"

"Not long; a few minutes at most. Throw something on and get Vic and Jesse ready; I'll head out and see what I can do to slow them down," Benton explained.

Vervain pulled him close and Benton looked into her eyes before she pulled his head to hers and kissed him with enough passion that it almost made him lightheaded. "Don't do anything heroically stupid, Gal."

"Don't worry," Benton grinned. "Now that I know what I'd lose, I suddenly find myself wanting to be Mr. Careful!" he said as he swung his legs off the bed and stood up.

It took Benton less than a minute to dress and get his boots on before he slipped into his vest and picked up his rifle. "If things go south, get them to the rally point. I'll meet you there," he said as he left the room.

Tuck followed and Benton stopped and knelt down and looked into the little dog's soulful brown eyes. "Time to play ninja-dog; silent, out of sight, and if you see bad guys, just freeze in place, ok?"

The dog looked at him with a look that almost seemed to say, 'Don't go, Dad...but I'll be a good boy.' Benton leaned forward and gave Tuck a quick peck on the nose. "Be good..." he told the only living thing he loved more than life itself.

Crisp, cool night air hit Benton as soon as he slipped out the back door. Gemenon was low in the sky this late at night and the silvery light cast long and disruptive shadows that made it look like pebbles were boulders and tree stumps were pits.

"You made it in record time," a female voice said from one of the deck chairs.

Benton didn't think; he simply dropped to a kneeling position and brought his rifle to his shoulder and aimed it in the direction of the voice. His thumb flipped the safety from 'Safe' to 'Semi' with a very audible click.

"I'm not here for your head," the voice explained and Benton thought he almost recognized it. "But, I do know that there are some people who will be here soon that want to make sure you don't see the sunrise."

"Who are you?" Benton asked and aimed in on the dark shape that sat in the dark shadow cast by the house.

"I'm the person who used to have your back, Gal," the voice replied. "Ten years ago."

"Marbry?" Benton said and felt his finger caress the M-22's trigger.

"In the flesh," Marbry Cazaux replied. "Do you know what you've gotten involved with and how far down the rabbit hole you've fallen?"

"I have an idea..." Benton answered. "And I know how high it probably goes."

"Good," Cazaux said seriously. "Right now, I need to get you, and the people who are here, including your canine kid, out of here. When we get...well, where we're going, I'll give you the full briefing."

"How do I know I can trust you?" Benton asked pointedly. "We didn't part on good terms."

"No," Cazaux agreed and he could hear the sadness in her voice, "we didn't. It was my fault and I'm sorry, Gal. I...I was scared of the possibilities of what you wanted...what you proposed. I don't think there's a day that goes by that I ask myself if I made the wrong decision."

"And what do you answer yourself?" Benton pressed feeling old wounds split open.

"My heart tells me I made the biggest mistake of my life," Cazaux replied and stood so that she would be silhouetted against the silvery radiance reflected from the lake. "If you're going to shoot, please make it fast and fatal...otherwise, please put down the rifle and listen to what I'm about to tell you."

Benton lowered the rifle and walked over to the table. He couldn't see the details on her face, but what he saw was enough to abolish any doubts whether he was really talking to Marbry Cazaux. "It's good to see you again, Mar," he finally said and sat in a chair across from her.

"You, too, Gal," Cazaux agreed and sat down at the table. "The rest of my team is about thirty kilometers from here dealing with the thugs Hollings hired to hit you. They're going to hold in place until we're done here and then we'll pick them up on the way to Poltergeist."

"What happens to me and my people?" Benton asked and moved the conversation straight to what mattered to him at the moment.

Cazaux took a deep breath and stifled a yawn. "That's up to you and the Boss. Once we get you out of here and can brief you on what's going down, I think we'll be able to make sure you can return. Or...you can hang with us for a while." She shrugged. "Options. In the end, it'll be up to you and the Boss."

"Ok..." Benton said to stall for a few seconds and allow his mind to process what she'd just said. "How big is this, Mar? What are we getting splattered with?"

"It's as big as anything that's happened to the Colonies since before the Uprising and if we don't manage things just right, unification will become just another failed grand experiment," Cazaux told him. "You know who is involved?"

"Yes," Benton replied.

"And then you know who he works for?" Cazaux prodded.

Benton nodded.

"Good. Never forget that," Cazaux stressed. "Something happened over the past few days that caused the entire CoC network to go silent and disappear. They're gone, Gal; as in no longer on any of the Colonies. They might be on some old asteroid station or on an abandoned settlement outside the Cyrannus cluster, but they aren't here and right now, that's a good thing."

Benton turned as he heard the door to the deck open. "Come on out and you might as well turn on the accent lights," he said as Vervain, Vic, and Jesse stepped onto the deck. Before the door closed, Tuck slipped out and jumped up on Benton's lap.

"Hey there," Cazaux said when she saw Tuck. "Don't worry, I'm not going to shoot or cause any mayhem," she told the others.

"Did you hear any of that?" Benton asked.

"Most of it," Vic replied. "We're going on a little trip and then might come back?"

"That's the gist of it," Benton confirmed.

"We're in," Jesse said and sat at the table. "We really don't have any other choice."

Benton looked up and saw an inky black shape approaching over the lake. "Our ride?" he pointed at the object.

"Yes..." Cazaux answered and smiled, "It's going to be like homecoming. Do you know whatever happened to Rufus?"

"Oh yeah," Benton chuckled and scratched Tuck behind his ears, "the last we talked he had gone full civilian and hired out as the Chief Engineer, the only engineer, on a tramp freighter."

"You mean to tell me that Rufus traded a life of adventure for a bland existence like that?" Cazaux laughed.

*+*+*+*+*

_________________
Kurt

Click the link to read Lady Hecate off line in PDF, .epub, or Kindle formats: http://www.bsg94.org/downloads/index.html
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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2015 10:18 pm 
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Location: Battlestar Hecate BSG-94
Chapter 41: Friends And Enemies (Part 4 of 5)


Picon Fleet Shipyards, Picon orbit, approaching battlestar Persephone, BS-77

Admiral Griffith Deguya looked through the window at the battlestar that the Orion III transport was fast approaching. Persephone was the second Diana class battlestar and dispensed with the traditional multi-arm supports for the flight pods and instead had one massive support wing that not only supported the pod, but also provided a massive multi-deck hangar that ran the width of the ship and could support any small craft operated by the Fleet.

And, in a way, he thought, it was going to be a carrot he dangled in front of a man who had impressed him over the past few months.

And, if it was accepted, it would be a good chance to ensure that no one on the crew had been compromised.

"Damn...she sure is pretty," Deguya said leadingly as he continued to gaze at Persephone.

There were only three other people in the Orion's passenger compartment and one of them stood and moved to a window that faced the battlestar. "I've seen pictures of her, but haven't seen a Diana 'in the flesh' so to speak until now," Commander Martin Esposito replied. "And I'd have to share your sentiments, Admiral; she's gorgeous...looks fast just sitting there."

"Diana was a race horse on her trials," Admiral Cyrus Vought said from where he sat on the other side of the cabin. "I understand the builder expects Persephone to be the same."

"Ah...why are we turning toward her?" Esposito asked a moment later as the Orion banked and Deguya smiled. Game time.

"Martin, have a seat," he said and gestured at a seat that faced him. "Colonel Nichols, you, too..." he added and pointed at a seat next to Esposito. He looked at the two men seated across from him and studied their faces before he focused on their eyes. The poets said that the eyes were the gateway to the soul and it was something that Deguya always looked at when he wanted confirmation of his opinion about someone. Vetting, vouching, and background checks were nice, but they were done by someone else. This was up close and personal and as he tried to look into their souls he felt vindicated by what he saw.

"This is, as they say, where we fish or cut bait," Deguya began. "Someone I trust told me they trust you and that got the ball rolling. Over the past few months we've watched you, read your reports, and not to dance around the issue, had you investigated to a degree that is reserved for someone who is being considered for an intelligence coordinator's slot or something similar. In short, if it's to be found out about you, it's been found out."

"I...ah...I don't understand, Admiral," Esposito said and sounded confused rather than evasive or defensive. "What do you think I did?"

"We didn't know," Admiral Cyrus Vought answered as he took the seat next to Deguya. "But, we had to find out before we brought you into the fold. Well before she left, Sera Chase suggested that once you were back on your feet and had your legs under you again, we bring you in because she liked what she saw during and after Golden Sword."

"What we're going to tell you is beyond classified and need to know," Deguya began. "It may be communicated only to those people who have been authorized by one of five people; me, Cyrus," Vought nodded, "Admiral Chase, Charles Chase, or the Empress of Virgon."

Deguya watched as Esposito leaned forward slightly and narrowed his eyes. "Those are some pretty impeccable names."

Vought picked up the narrative and continued, "They are... and here's why..." Over the next hour Vought and Deguya explained what they knew and suspected and why it was important that the Fleet be vigilant and yet why it couldn't be made public or even disseminated through secure channels.

"That's pretty heavy," Colonel Desmond Nichols said and sat back. "Do you really think that there's going to be some sort of coup or civil war?"

Deguya slowly nodded his head. "There are some elements in play at the moment that certainly point to that as one possibility. Looking back over two thousand years of Colonial history, it's the most likely. However," he raised his finger, "it's just the most likely conclusion. There could be something else that we've missed completely that could come out of nowhere. That's why we're here today...and why we want to enlist your help."

"How can we help?" Esposito asked. "I mean, this is a lot to process, but...if Admiral Chase believes it and if she recommended me, I'm in."

"He didn't even wait for the sales pitch, Griff!" Vought chuckled.

"Sales pitch?" Esposito said and glanced over at Nichols for confirmation.

"Figure of speech," Deguya smirked. "What's the best way to ensure that you know your crew is good to go...beyond vetting them through background checks?"

"Hand picking good officers and Chiefs and then working with them to bring good people they know firsthand aboard," Nichols answered.

"But how do you do that with an existing crew?" Vought prodded.

Deguya arched his eyebrows and added, "And without drawing any attention?"

"You can't...well, you could," Esposito answered and just as quickly added, "but it would take time, patience, and a good reason. But I don't think we're going to have that much time."

"No, we don't," Vought stated.

"The answer..." Deguya unbuttoned his tunic, stuck his hand inside and then withdrew it. "The answer is that you select the crew for a ship that's about to be commissioned." He opened his hand and placed two keys on the table. The keys were gold colored and embossed with the trefoil symbol for radioactives superimposed over the Colonial crest with "Persephone BS-77" engraved in scrollwork underneath it. They were colloquially known as the 'keys to a battlestar'. "Heimdall is going in for a complete overhaul and refit to bring her up to Block III baseline and that's scheduled to take at least eighteen months, though it's more likely to be closer to twenty-four to thirty.

"Persephone is yours, Martin, if you'll take her," Deguya said and pushed the keys across the table that separated him from Esposito and Nichols.

Esposito looked at the keys and then closed his eyes and sat back. Deguya didn't know exactly what was going through the man's mind, but he could hazard a guess and the very fact that he hadn't simply said 'yes' and taken the keys was a good sign. He needed people who would think and who would weigh the options and then make a choice...when they had time. He had shown during Golden Sword that when he didn't have time that he was more than capable of being decisive and fighting the good fight.

"Des?" Esposito finally said and broke the silence that had descended on the cabin. "What do you think?"

"We've talked about this before, Marty," Nichols replied. "We've both seen things that didn't add up, especially when we were attached to Kali's group, and now we've seen behind the curtain. If we say no, we'll be looking over our shoulders every day until we die, and if something does happen then we'll wonder what we might have done to either prevent it or minimize its effects."

"Yes...we did talk about it," Esposito nodded before he looked up and met Deguya's gaze. "You have a command team for Persephone, Admiral."

"Thank you, Commander," Deguya said. "The keys are yours."

Esposito reached out and took the key with the octagonal head, the Commander's key, and pushed the round headed key, the XO's key, to Nichols. "How much control do I have over crew selection?"

"I believe Colonel Nichols already answered that question," Vought said and arched his eyebrows. "Submit your picks direct to Admiral Trace at BuPers; they're to be sent so that only he, his aide, or his secretary must sign for them directly. Trust your gut on this, gentlemen."

"Ok...right off the bat I want my CIC crew and most of my officers from Heimdall, assuming they pass the vetting," Esposito stated. "We've built up a good working relationship and I don't want to have to start from scratch."

"Just let Esty know who you want and he'll make it happen," Deguya explained. "In the mean time," he looked through the viewport and noticed they were inside Persephone's cavernous portside top landing bay, "would you like to have a tour of your new command?"

*+*+*+*+*

Far orbit, Vessary System, Communion battlestar Defiance

Things were not right, Braden Milan thought as he jogged through Defiance's passageways. Things weren't right and they were getting more wrong by the day. First was the vote to liquidate the Communion's human population, in complete opposition to the very reason the Equals were created in the first place, and now the vote for reproductive restoration was scheduled to be held in seventy-two hours.

And unlike all previous votes save the last one, this one would not have a secret ballot; every Equal would have their name attached to how they voted...just like in the vote to murder the population. Milan took a deep breath as he ran. No matter what the sanitized word was that he tried to use to ease his revulsion at what had been voted on by 97% of the Equals' population, it was murder. It was genocide; a crime against humanity in the worst possible way. It was a complete abrogation of the duties the gods had given them...of their very reason for existence.

True, he had taken part when the decision had been made to cause Earth's drones to rebel against their creators, but the more he researched the actual transcripts of what Kensit and Capellos had said, done, and lobbied for, the more it became apparent that the mission he accepted was not the mission he had been briefed on. At first, the public records showed that the operation was classified as a failure, but later classified and hidden documents showed that it had been judged an overwhelming success and was suggested as the model for whenever a potential adversary had a robot workforce.

The classified and hidden records also showed that Kensit and Capellos had been in constant contact with what was now the Unity and knew when and where they were going to arrive in local space. So many pieces fell into place with that little bit of information, Milan thought as he dodged a technician pushing a cart piled with test equipment.

He wasn't able to reach the Conclave, and he doubted that his presence would have influenced the vote or done anything more than reveal his existence and location to what Milan was quickly viewing as his enemies. The vote to murder the Communion's human population had sailed through the Conclave and the vote to restore reproductive ability was scheduled at the same time.

"What can I do?" he muttered out loud. "The Union forces will be too small to do anything but be slaughtered by the drones and the drones are certainly out of consideration." Milan stopped and bent over, resting his hands on his lower thighs just above his knees. "Damn, damn, damn, damn!" he swore as the one possible option kept swimming to the surface despite his attempts to keep it submerged.

Half an hour later Milan was showered, changed, and sitting at the table having breakfast with Sarai. He quickly went through the conversation he had with himself during the run. "There's only one thing I can think of doing," he explained. "I don't want to and it goes against the public policy, but I don't know any other way that we might be able to head off the genocide."

"I don't think I'm going to like what you're going to say," Sarai frowned, "nor do I think I'm going to like what you're going to ask me to do..."

"No...I suppose you won't," Milan agreed before finishing his orange juice. "How good is Defiance's stealth?"

Sarai narrowed her eyes and leaned forward. "It's good...as good as it can be made given the technological limitations, but when we're running buttoned up and silent we're a hole in space."

"How soon can we become that hole in space and leave Communion space?" Milan asked.

Sarai sat back and regarded him with a level stare. "You're not suggesting..."

"I am, Sar...It's the only way," Milan explained. "If we went public, do you think anyone would believe us?"

"Possibly..." Sarai said cryptically. "We can't leave until after the Conclave meets; I'd be missed and questions would be asked. However...we can meet with Fleet Admiral Leonardo Galva, now retired, and if anyone can do anything to prevent the coming genocide, it's Leo Galva."

Milan thought about it and finally nodded. "Ok. But I still think we need to contact the Colonials."

"Then I know the only person who will believe us..." Sarai began, "well, the only person that's still *in* the Colonies. Though he might shoot first and ask questions later..."

"I'll take the chance," Milan said and realized for the first time that he had become an apostate. The realization didn't bother him like he thought it would, rather, the more he examined the situation, based on recent events he wasn't an apostate; those who voted to go along with the genocide were. They were the ones who abandoned their purpose and embarked on a course of betraying those they were created to serve and protect.

If he was to be labeled Apostate, Milan thought, then it would be a label he'd accept and wear proudly.

*+*+*+*+*

Headquarters, Fleet Intelligence Agency, Perkinston, Picon

"How old is this?" Admiral Evelyn Silver said as she stabbed out her cigarette in an already overflowing ashtray and pointed to the surveillance photos spread out on her desk. Several strands of hair hung loose from her normally impeccably coiffed hair and several buttons were undone on her tunic that looked like she'd slept in it.

"It just arrived, Admiral," Major Harlan Donzi replied. "Alectryon just returned and immediately squirted these down to us. Colonel Parson is on his way down with the raw data and is ready for a face to face briefing."

What the frak is going on out there, Silver thought as she tried to calm her racing pulse and lock away the fear that was threatening to encroach into her normally logical and analytical mind. The top picture showed yet another new player at the meeting she'd been surreptitiously observing; yet another unique ship design had been recorded. This time it was just one ship, and while it had the outward appearance of a gunstar, was larger than most gunstars in the Fleet's inventory and looked like it displaced slightly more than a Jupiter class battlestar and carried guns that could probably shoot the Jupiter to pieces.

"Ok..." Silver said after she took another calming breath and forced her hand not to reach for another one of the cigarettes. Quitting the damned things was going to kill her, but according to her doctor if she didn't, they'd kill her. Frakking hell, she fumed, why can't the frakking Cylons just come the frak back so that there's a stand-up frakking enemy to go out and frakking kill? "Ok," she repeated, "I need you to make sure that Parson is cleared directly to the rooftop landing pad. In the mean time, I have a couple calls I need to make..."

As soon as Donzi left her office she sat down and stared at the half empty pack of clove cigarettes, her gold lighter, and the overflowing ashtray. "Frak it!" she hissed and leaned forward and inhaled the lingering scent from the spent cigarettes. "It's better than nothing," Silver said and reached for the secure phone.

"Secure operator," a voice answered a moment after Silver put the phone to her ear.

"Connect me with the Virgon exchange, gold channel," Silver said and leaned back in her high backed chair.

"You're connected," the voice said after several heartbeats and was immediately replaced with a dial tone.

Silver quickly punched a ten digit number and waited for it to be answered. "Westfield Secure Communications Center, Sergeant Grossman speaking."

"Sergeant, this is Admiral Evelyn Silver, I need to speak to His Grace as soon as possible," Silver began and tried to keep her tone professional but with a slight trace of urgency in it.

"Ah, yes Admiral," Grossman replied. "His Grace is on site and I will connect you to him now."

The line popped and hissed and Silver tried to divert her mind from the worry that was forming and instead tried to understand the physics, or was it witchcraft, that made real time communications possible over stellar distances.

"Hello, Admiral," His Grace, Charles Chase, the Duke of Westfield said by way of introduction and caused Silver to sit up. "What's happened?"

"There's been another development," Silver explained. "Another actor has emerged and I'm going to be briefed on it in about three quarters of an hour."

"Can you delay it for about twenty minutes?" Charles asked. "I have Magnum with me and her interview should be over in about ten minutes."

"Consider it done," Silver replied. "I'm going to call the others and see if they can make it."

"Good thinking," Charles said and sounded almost like he was going to add something more.

Silver spoke before she realized what she said and realized that she needed to get out of her office and get some fresh air before the meeting. "You sounded like you weren't finished..."

"No...I wasn't. We'll see what time allows, Admiral," Charles explained. "That's all I can promise now."

*+*+*+*+*

_________________
Kurt

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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2015 10:18 pm 
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Location: Battlestar Hecate BSG-94
Chapter 41: Friends And Enemies (Part 5 of 5)

Leading Trojan Point of the Caprica-Picon binary, Raven 301 approaching Poltergeist

"Where are we going again?" Dana Vervain asked as she gently ran her fingers through Tuck's fur as the small terrier lay curled up on her lap.

"We're going to Poltergeist where you four will talk to the Boss who will then decide what happens next," Marbry Cazaux explained.

"We're pretty far out, Mar..." Lieutenant Galloway Benton said and hoped to lead his old friend into revealing something more before they arrived. Despite his best attempts so far, Cazaux hadn't given up much of anything.

Cazaux smiled and winked. "Nice try, Gal," she chided. "We'll be there in another," she looked at her watch, "fifteen minutes. In the mean time, I need to make sure sleeping beauty is ready for transport once we arrive," she said and stood, stretched, and moved to the rear of the transport.

"How well do you know her?" Vervain leaned close and asked.

Benton thought about how he could best answer the question. "I've known Marbry for a long time, though this is the first I've seen her in about ten years...since I left the Fleet. I know her well enough that I'll go through a door with her...and have, Dana."

Vervain looked skeptical. "People change, Gal..."

"Yeah, I know..." Benton said and reflected on just how much he had changed since that fateful night ten years earlier. He had to write four letters and attend four funerals that were the result of what was called a 'training accident' because the truth couldn't be revealed. "On our last op, she came and helped us get out of there...if it wasn't for Mar and her team, I wouldn't be here tonight." He didn't add that she had also been his executive officer and had disregarded his orders to hold and stay in place.

The rest of the flight passed in relative silence broken only by a few hushed words overheard from the cockpit as the flight crew directed them to their destination. "We're a minute out," Gomer said from the pilot's station and Benton couldn't help but smile. Troy Johnson, Gomer to everyone who knew him though no one really knew why, was one of the finest covert operations pilots that he had ever met or worked with. Barring a mechanical failure, and probably even then, or Cylons, Gomer would get them where they were going and no one would be the wiser.

Benton moved forward to see where they were going and sat at the workstation behind the co-pilot before he strapped himself to the seat. He leaned to his left and gazed between the flight crew's seats and through the gold tinted canopy. He blinked several times but didn't see anything that would indicate a place to land and was just about to ask Gomer what was going on when a sliver of dim light suddenly appeared in front of them and quickly widened until he could make out the landing lights and minimal illumination for a flight deck.

This was about way more than corruption, Benton suddenly thought as Gomer guided the Raven through the flight deck's opening and gently landed the craft before taxing over to a lift. He had left the Fleet, left Fleet Special Operations, and thought he put all the cloak and dagger stuff behind him. Until two days ago, all he wanted was to find the right woman who could put up with him and adored Tuck, and then settle down and try to keep the nightmares at bay without becoming an alcoholic.

As the lift took them down to the ship's hangar deck, he realized that once again what Galloway Benton wanted no longer mattered.

Two minutes later the Raven taxied out onto the vast hangar deck and followed the plane director to a spot where the flight crew started the shut down procedure. Benton took a last look through the canopy and noticed two Fleet officers accompanied by a squad of Marines and two medics pushing a gurney were approaching. Elsewhere on the flight deck, ranks of Vipers sat waiting in front of their launch tubes and Raptors were arranged near lifts for quick and easy launches. That answered that question, he thought, they were on some sort of capital ship.

The rear ramp was already lowered when he joined Vervain, who had Tuck on a leash, Vic, and Jesse as they waited to disembark. Cazaux's people met the medics and transferred Hollings' sleeping form to the gurney and then left, escorted by four Marines. "C'mon, time to meet the Boss," Cazaux said as she stepped off the Raven.

"Welcome back, Major," the Fleet commander said as Cazaux stopped and allowed her team to file off the Raven, each one carrying several bags of intelligence gathered at Hollings' estate.

"Glad to be back, Commander," Cazaux replied easily. "We picked up a few guests along the way..."

"I see," the Commander said and met Benton's gaze. "I've read your file, Lieutenant; it's quite impressive."

Benton stepped up to the Fleet commander and held out his hand; he wasn't Fleet anymore so he didn't see the need to salute, and regardless, he wasn't in uniform. "Lieutenant Galloway Benton, Caprica City Police Department. These are two of my team, Dana Vervain and Vic Laine. That's Vic's wife, Jesse."

"I'm Commander Victor Kailo," the commander said and introduced himself as he took Benton's hand. "This is my executive officer, Colonel Luther Madrigal; welcome to Poltergeist...also known as the battlestar Siren."

*+*+*+*+*

Picon Fleet Shipyards, Picon orbit, battlestar Persephone, BS-77

Commander Martin Esposito was more than impressed with his new command. He could already see new opportunities that Persephone offered that would never have been possible with Heimdall...even when she was upgraded to Block 3. The first and most glaring difference was that she shipped 2 meter guns for both her bow guns and primary turrets. She wasn't on par with a Nike, but the larger guns extended her effective kinetic reach significantly. And then there were the guided weapons; more heavy antiship missiles and multiple clusters of the new Manticore interceptors gave Persephone a significant bombardment and enhanced defensive capability.

And among all the other improvements and the 'still new' smell, the stupid pivoting clear ballistic glass doors to CIC were replaced with a proper armored bulkhead and hatch.

If this is as far as I go, Esposito thought as Admirals Deguya and Vought led him and Colonel Desmond Nichols back to the commander's quarters, then I can retire a happy man.

"A long review and a lot of discussion went into the next system," he heard Deguya explain. "The Admiralty was extremely impressed with how Admiral Chase utilized Hecate's v-world before, during, and after Golden Sword that it was decided that where possible, it would be fitted to all new build ships and then when they come in for major overhauls or SLEP refits, that it be fitted to other Fleet units."

"That's a pretty big step," Nichols said and echoed Esposito's feelings. He knew the effectiveness of the system since he'd witnessed it first hand, but to begin issuing it to the fleet en-mass? That might be a bit more than the public was willing to accept.

"Right now other than the Nikes and Izanamis, only a handful of ships have it and will receive it. We're going to make sure the space is there on new builds, but it won't be installed or activated until we've had a chance to develop a doctrine for it," Deguya explained and waited while the Marine stationed outside the commander's quarters opened the hatch.

Once they were inside, Vought said, "I know it's controversial and will take a bit of good PR to sell it to the public, but Griff and I both remember how useful it was back in the day and Sera proved it again at Golden Sword. Now you'll have a chance to have a hand in helping to develop the doctrine for it."

They talked for several more minutes before Esposito asked, "What about my escort group? Are we going to be able to verify those crews?"

"Other than Black Swan, most of them were new to the group, correct?" Deguya asked.

"Yes, I've known Jack Gibran since the Academy," Esposito replied. "The others I don't know very well other than professionally."

"He's a good man?" Vought pressed.

"One of the best," Esposito replied and defended his friend.

"We'll get the ball rolling on him," Vought said. "Feel him out and see how he feels about some of the topics we discussed and if you have a good feeling, let us know. If it works out, then he'll head up your escort group...but it won't be with Black Swan. Three new Penanggalan class gunstars have been assigned as your escorts; Succubus, Yuki-Onna, and Golem. Additionally, you're going to have a Huginn class scout, Tennin."

"That's pretty damned impressive," Nichols whistled.

"We hope so," Vought told him. "Griff?" the old admiral asked and arched his eyebrows.

"Yes...well...there's one more addition to your group," Deguya said and relaxed back into the chair he sat in. "You've heard of the Argo Project?"

Esposito nodded. It was something that had been discussed for the better part of two years in the pages of Proceedings, the Fleet Academy Institute's monthly periodical. "Yes..." he said hesitantly. "I hope you're not going to tell me that I'm going to have to operate them off Persephone."

"No...nothing like that," Deguya said soothingly. "We're trying to figure out the best way to employ and deploy them; the original batch operated off converted Bay class tenders, but while they could do the job, launch and retrieval was slow at best. So two concepts were proposed; a modified Ravager class carrier where each Argo would have its own launch cell and a pod based system that could be easily fitted to anything that carried a standardized military pod. In your group's case, you're going to have Providence; she outwardly looks like a Ravager, but she's new from the keel up, and her escort, Oleander, an Amaryllis class gunstar."

"You're going to be part of our fire brigade, Martin," Vought explained. "You'll have a fairly brisk operational tempo because of your group's outward tasking, and while you'll nominally be under CINCAlpha's command, you'll report to the Argo Project's T&E command headed up by me."

"How soon?" Esposito asked. "How much time do I have to get the group ready?"

"You have a Tiger Cruise scheduled to start two days before Armistice Day when you're due at Gnosis Anchorage for an open house and then end two days after Armistice Day on Thanksgiving," Deguya stated and Esposito narrowed his eyes.

"Armistice Day next year?" Esposito asked slowly.

"Armistice day in a couple weeks," Deguya corrected.

"Looks like we'll need a caffeine drip, Des..." Esposito sighed.

Nichols laughed. "It won't be that bad, Marty...just keep in mind that you won't see Trina and I won't see Maggie until we tie up at Gnosis for the Tiger Cruise."

"Excuse me," Deguya said as his phone buzzed and the old admiral stood and walked into the sleeping quarters. He returned almost immediately and Esposito felt a tinge of concern; the Admiral looked worried. "Cy, we need to leave and jump for a face to face with the Spider Queen in less than half an hour."

"Frak..." Vought swore and stood. "Gentlemen, Persephone is yours and Admiral Trace is looking forward to hearing from you. I apologize for our hasty exit, but something has developed..."

"Don't worry," Deguya said soothingly. "It's bad, but it isn't bad *right now*...Hmm...that didn't come out sounding as good as it did when I thought about it," he smirked. "Keep your schedule flexible for the next seventy-two hours or so; you're going to get a call and a chance to earn your flight pay. When we call, take a Raptor or better yet, a Raven, and come alone - just the two of you, and we'll give you the full briefing on what's going down way," he jerked his thumb over his shoulder, "Out there."

*+*+*+*+*

Orbit of Othrys, Colonial battlestar Hecate, BS-94

"What do we have, Jerry?" Admiral Countess Seralanna Chase asked after Hecate completed the jump.

"It's like the fleet review during the Colonial Day celebrations," Captain Jeremiah Cole replied. "Based on the transponders and the Union warbook, there's both Union military and civilian shipping out there amounting to over a hundred ships."

"I guess this is where they're holding the party, then," Chase joked and said a silent prayer that the next few hours would be looked back on fondly rather than with regret. "Lara, please contact Indefatigable and send our bona fides, then ask for Commander Duquesne."

"Contact Indefatigable, send our bona fides, and ask for Commander Duquesne, aye," Communications Specialist Lara Pickman replied and began to carry out the task.

"Do you want to launch a CAP?" Colonel Constance deWinter, Hecate's executive officer, asked.

Chase turned and looked at the four faces not normally in her CIC; Admirals Giovanna Cassidine, Cesare Arcadiaolos, and Hannah Marlowe, and President Patrick Windsor. "Yes; launch the CAP, but let's keep them within 100 kilometers; I don't want to look aggressive, just cautious."

"Meg?" deWinter said and turned to Captain Megan Sinclair, Hecate's Flight Officer, "Launch the CAP and make sure they stay within a 100 kilometer radius." Sinclair confirmed the order and a moment later announced that the CAP was airborne.

"Admiral?" Pickman said, "I have Commander Duquesne on the wireless."

"Thank you, please put her on speaker, Lara," Chase requested.

"Hecate Actual, this is Indefatigable Actual, welcome to the party," Commander Miriam Duquesne's tired voice said from the speakers.

"You sound like you're dragging a little, Miri," Chase joked. "I brought some friends along."

"The more the merrier, Admiral," Duquesne replied with a little more cheer in her voice. "Everyone is here and I've even been told that Andre has already received several offers to leave my employ and go elsewhere."

"Oh...you can't let that happen," Chase laughed. "He makes the best Steak Diane that I've ever had. Tell him that if accepts an offer, that I'll double it!"

"Oh, thanks...now *you're* trying to steal my chef," Duquesne teased. "When he heard you were coming, he told me that he made a batch of those little cocktail hotdogs in bar-b-q sauce that he knows you like...just for you."

Chase rolled her eyes and shrugged to her guests. "I have you on speaker over here and now you just let my secret out of the bag," she laughed. "We'll be over in twenty minutes; Hecate Actual, out."

"Can't wait...we'll be ready over here," Duquesne answered. "Indefatigable Actual, out."

"Ladies and gentlemen?" Chase said to her guests, "Shall we head over?"

"You couldn't hold me back," Admiral Hannah Marlowe said. "This is a prayer come true."

"It is, Hannah," President Patrick Windsor said and put his hand on her shoulder. "Do you remember the census we took right after we left Neverwhere and then updated throughout the trip?"

"Yes," Marlowe replied. "Every time there was a birth we'd toast to the future."

Windsor pulled a memory card from his vest pocket. "I carry a copy with me wherever I go so I'm always reminded of those we saved...and those we lost. Until today, the names on this card were the only known survivors of our civilization. Now..." he blinked away tears, "now all those people over there will be added to this list and these," he gestured with the card, "will be added to theirs and we'll all know that we're no longer alone in the dark."

Chase took a deep breath and felt the passion and emotion contained in Windsor's words. Despite everything that had happened to them; he, Marlowe, and everyone else in their fleet had never given up hope. That little memory card was a powerful symbol, in so many ways beyond the obvious, she thought.

"We were ready when we left," Admiral Cesare Arcadiaolos said. "Gia?"

Admiral Giovanna Cassidine grinned slyly, "Shouldn't you be asking, 'Are we there yet?' Cesare?"

Chase still smiled at the easy banter that her Communion counterparts shared as Monster announced that the Phoenix had just cleared the lock and was now inside Indefatigable's central hangar deck. She stood and walked to the rear of the transport and waited for it to come to a stop and the crew chief to lower the rear ramp.

"Boxer, tell Monster that the small box over there is for the crew...when you get back and are off duty," Chase said and saw the crew chief's eyebrows arch. "There's a bottle of Winter Harvest for each of you...I believe that was the deal for getting here in less than fifteen minutes."

Petty Officer Clifton Boxer grinned, "Yes, Ma'am! I believe he made it in twelve and a half."

"That's what my watch said, too," Chase joked back. "It's why I fly Air Monster," she winked as the ramp settled to the ground. "Now, I have to go and be presented like it's my Sweet Sixteen party..." she snarked and walked down the ramp and was piped aboard after asking for permission to come aboard Indefatigable.

Chase walked over to where Duquesne stood next to three Union officers; two admirals and a commander, if she read their ranks correctly. "Welcome aboard, Admiral," Duquesne said and saluted.

"Thank you, Commander," Chase said and returned the salute. "I made sure to bring along a couple special passengers and some special...cargo...from home."

Duquesne choked on her laugh and Chase grinned. It was the same line she used when she returned from Westfield right before finals during their junior year at the Academy. That time she brought three bottles of wine...this time she brought considerably more. "I think by the time this is over, the Balls to Four watch lieutenant will be the clearest head to run the ship!"

"This is history, Miri," Chase said and looked at the Union officers.

"It is, Admiral," Duquesne replied and turned to the officers that stood next to her. "Gentlemen, this is Admiral Countess Seralanna Chase," she said and introduced Chase to them.

The man to Duquesne's left, a Union vice admiral, smiled and held out his hand. "Vice Admiral Sean Marlowe, originally of El Dorado and the Earth Union, now of Ethereal Paradise, and currently looking for a home under the sky," he grinned.

Chase fought to keep the grin off her face. The letter that Duquesne had given Vassar before he left had explained everything and she didn't want to spoil the surprise. "Pleased to meet you, Admiral," she said and shook his hand. "Please, call me Sera; there's no need to be formal if we're friends."

"Thank you, Sera. I'm Sean," Sean replied before Chase stepped to the next officer.

"Admiral Bannister Carlisle, of Iphigenia," the next officer, a rear admiral said and offered his hand.

"Pleased to meet you, Admiral Carlisle," Chase said and shook his hand. "Please, it's Sera among friends."

"I like the sound of that, Sera; friends," Carlisle replied warmly and released her hand. "When we left we didn't know what we would find, but that word was first and foremost in our prayers."

"I have a good feeling that we're already off on the right foot," Chase said and turned to the last man in line, a Union commander.

"Commander Eric Wellington, of Enyo," the commander said and also offered his hand, before smiling mischievously, "I'm glad to meet you...Sera."

Chase smiled and warmly shook his hand. She was reminded of the receiving line at her godmother's birthday party, except this time she was the one making her way down the line. "I'm pleased to meet you, Commander Wellington."

I guess it's time, Chase thought as she walked stepped back and looked at where Sean stood. "Commander Duquesne," she said formally, "I would like to request permission for your next guest to board Indefatigable as I fear there may be a problem..."

Duquesne smiled broadly and nodded. "Permission granted, Admiral. Permission is eagerly given."

"Thank you, Commander," Chase said and walked back to the Phoenix's rear ramp. "Hannah?" she said when she was almost aboard the transport, "you're up." Marlowe turned from where she had been talking with Cassidine and Arcadiaolos and cocked her head.

"I thought I was going to go after Gia and Cesare?" Marlowe asked.

"Change of plans..." Chase said cryptically. "C'mon, I'll introduce you around."

When they reached the bottom of the ramp, Marlowe stopped to ask permission to board while Chase continued off and a few paces toward where Duquesne stood with the others before she stopped and turned. She watched as Marlowe started to say something and then as her eyes went wide and her mouth fell open.

"Daddy?" Marlowe finally managed to say after a long moment of silence.

"Hannah?" Sean asked and took several steps forward.

"Permission granted to come aboard," Duquesne said just to make sure that Marlowe knew she could step off the ramp.

Duquesne had barely finished speaking when the two Marlowes were hugging each other as if their lives depended on it. A moment later, another Union officer ran down the Phoenix's ramp and joined them in a large tear filled hug.

Chase walked over to where Carlisle stood. "Friends...family" she said repeating his word back to him and adding one of her own before she glanced over her shoulder to where the Marlowes were having their reunion and added, "and hope. With those, you're home."

_________________
Kurt

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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 1:29 am 
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I"m crying, Kurt. I'm really crying.

Okay.... real talk. I'm actually hopeful for Magnus and Victor; in their own blood soaked way. If Magnus doesn't realize he's been fooled (As Milan knows he has been) I think the absence of Milan might be telling.

Kailo... oh Kailo... I really hope you're not an friendly faced bastard. I REALLY do. Still, sexy black ops and TELLO.. Sweet mercy!

The reunion of the Marlowes, Gods bless 'em: so say we all.

Espisito, getting his new ship, aw right.

and the Argos... hehahahahahaaaaaa!

Silver is shedding more and more of her wicked witch first impressions by the paragraph. She's genuinely trying to protect the colonies, even if she has to be a complete and total ... well, even if her own soul burns for it, so the worlds don't.

I REALLY like how all the bad guys are basically a hairs breadth from killing one another.

The ENTIRE population of the Cult of Cronus vanishing is a BIG issue when you tie to Cronus's apparent absence of followers. There's a REAL possibility that a faction of those who were in Zeus and Hecate's survivor fleet were planted there to carry on and keep tabs on Zeus for as long as possible, and if they are REALLY faithful to Cronus and they really have left, IN EXODUS, to heed their master's call....

OI. VEY.

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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 1:54 am 
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I'll try and post the Argo related drawings Thursday. Very limited PC time right now thanks to my foot.

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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 5:07 am 
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Another great chapter, Kurt!

Wishing you, Canis, a fast full recovery!


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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 1:56 pm 
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I'm glad you're all enjoying it! Little things mentioned or seen may show up later and have a big part to play...

Marcus: Very perceptive...

One thing is for sure, the future will be interesting!

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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 5:05 pm 
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no a real question comes up. In the scene where Zeus reveals those who had been sequestered and confronts Kronos directly, Hecate is one of those sitting beside Kronos... but there was another one. A man who seemed pleased at the revelations.

Who the hell was that guy? Was it Pallas? I don't think it was just some yes-man for Kronos, or even his right hand man. That would put Pallas on equal political footing to Hecate and I'm not sure he had that.

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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 5:13 pm 
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Was that Hecate sitting next to Cronus? Could be... The other guy "seemed like he knew what was going on" and "had a self-satisfied sneer on his face"...those are the relevant quotes.

Does make you wonder what went on all those years ago...

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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 6:20 pm 
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Yep Marcus, I too had actual tears reading this. Homecomings and reunions are a wonderful thing for a family.

Bravo Bravo Bravo Zehyr Kurt.

The stage isn't just set, its overflowing beyond comprehension.

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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 6:31 pm 
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and rereading the younger DeTomasi's story, I really wonder her sister's take on the event was? And while maybe it's me looking under the bed for glowing red eyes, but two guys murdering a man RIGHT in front of a block party? I mean, it happens, sadly. But I don't want to believe hate can be so strong that people would just DO THAT....

even though, even today, records could show it DOES.

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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 7:42 pm 
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The assault at the party was based on a story one of the women I trained in a Level II self defense shooting class told me about eight years back. It went down pretty much as described; large party (her graduation party), lots of people were there, and the guy next door was sort of like the neighborhood family member that everyone turned to. Over the weeks leading up to this, his house had been burglarized and his CCTV system caught the people involved and the security system sounded a silent alarm; two "youths" - one was 18 and one was 19 were involved and by the time they waltzed through the front door the cops were waiting for them.

It seems like the brothers of one of the "youths" took offense at this guy not wanting to give up his property and decided to teach him a lesson on "what's yours is mine" and jumped him as the guy walked across the lawn to the party.

She told me that she'd never felt so helpless as she did at that moment and decided that as soon as she turned 21 she'd buy a handgun, get her carry permit, and then take a class so she knew how to use it properly and when she could use it.

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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 9:03 pm 
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Frak.

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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 9:56 am 
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kfeltenberger wrote:
Was that Hecate sitting next to Cronus? Could be... The other guy "seemed like he knew what was going on" and "had a self-satisfied sneer on his face"...those are the relevant quotes.

Does make you wonder what went on all those years ago...
Which chapter was this in? I can't seem to remember that scene.

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 Post subject: Re: Lady Hecate
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 2:17 pm 
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The scenes where Zeus confronted Cronus in the government chambers was shown in Chapter 32: Into The Depths Of Night. The relevant scenes were videos that Emma found while searching through the computers at the base Vassar, Minerva, and the rest of the crew were at on Othrys.

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