After getting back to Ristavron 4 I thought it would be wise to take Big Blue back to Earth. Missile stocks and railgun rounds were getting low and food stocks were awfully thin, even though I had brought three cargo ships loaded with all manner of useful things. There was also the large number of marines that needed to go through training in the use of the Angel Suit. Said training might have been done on Ristavron 4. But it would have been unnecessarily complicated and difficult. For that matter the rest of my little fleet needed to be retrained, reequipped and drilled to become a smooth and proficient fighting force. As opposed to what it was now, a gaggle of cargo pilots driving warships.
The Russians were going to stay on the front lines, as were the English, French and Germans. The Eutopian’s had no intention to head back, it was a good thing they didn’t. They were still needed to conduct recon missions. The Italian contingent wanted to go home. I lightly chided their commander, General Pietro Bagdoglio, that they had yet to really show what they could do in combat. But he insisted, strongly that they had to report back what they had seen out here. I wasn’t in any kind of a position to order them around, so we went back to Earth along with a few of the Auxiliary Fleet ships and a dozen empty cargo ships.
The instant we came out of the Poorsovt terminus an enemy fleet came barreling at us. A battleship escorted by three heavy cruisers. I realized I had made a serious mistake. I had not anticipated that the enemy could sneak around and get us in a rear position. I was under the impression that we had been attacking from the edge of their known space and that they wouldn’t have ships this far out. They had probably taken a circuitous route via other web-way termini to take a pass at Earth. They were in geostationary orbit around the planet. Their ships were pointed away from us with their heavy cruisers directly ahead of us and the battleship further ahead still.
I shouted into the intercom, “all hands, general quarters. Enemy fleet sighted, four warships. Load all weapons.”
The radar officer announced.
“The Garibaldi is deploying the Bugatti’s and the Bats! Amazing, I never would have guessed they could deploy that quickly!”
Once I got a good look at the situation I realized what was going to have to happen. The fighters from the Garibaldi were not going into a defensive formation. They had taken a course that took them over the cruisers to attacking the enemy battleship and leave the cruisers to us and the Auxiliary Fleet. The Italians hadn’t seen much combat in this war so far and it looked like they were spoiling for a fight. Chen observed.
“General Bagdoglio doesn’t have great big rail guns on his ships like we do. His best weapon is those fighters. They are almost in missile range.”
The tiny Bugatti’s scythed through the battleships fighter screen, handily. I wondered what they planned to do now. On the view screens the image of the tiny fighters diving on the battleship seemed downright absurd. Like a dozen house cats trying to kill an elephant. Suddenly I was distracted by Big Blue’s railguns opening up on one of the enemy cruisers. The ship hadn’t gotten their shields up yet, it blew up spectacularly. But while our guns were retargeting Chen announced.
One of the Bat fighters was launching a pair of missiles. Flying straight and true towards the battleships center. They hit, one just after another in two blinding flashes. This was followed soon after by another huge explosion as the battleship went up from the inside. She collapsed in on herself in horrific fashion. The biggest threat was gone, though two cruisers remained.
Then one of the cruisers engines went up in another flash. The surviving enemy ship was damaged in the blast. With that the remaining cruiser wisely surrendered.
Once my heart rate cooled down a bit I asked what the Italian casualties were. They had lost a Bat and three Bugatti’s. I found it incredible that so few of them had been shot down by the enemy or gone up in the ensuing nuclear blasts. I resolved that once the battle was over I had to see one of these birds in person.
The tiny garrison left behind on Poorsovt wasn’t even aware of the enemy fleet in the area until the night sky above them had suddenly turned to day. I began scribbling more notes, Poorsovt needed some kind of a satellite defense grid. Something better than what the enemy was using though. I thought for a moment about staying in this system to secure it. That would have to come later, my ship was out of ammo. It couldn’t do much more than ram an enemy ship, and that’s, ah not a wise tactic in space combat.
So my little fleet returned to Earth. Within an hour of getting back through the terminus point I was back at the IEC main facility. We landed at nine o’clock at night. It was going to take awhile to get everybody off. But I just couldn’t help myself. I just had to get off the ship and feel grass under my feet again.
Once the afterglow of being back on Earth settled I started to feel really weird. It was like something had been suddenly taken from me. As I walked back to my office I felt like I was going through some kind of withdrawal. Anxiety started welling up in every fiber of my being. Soon turning into nausea. I staggered over to some garbage cans and threw up. I felt a little better after that. But not very.
I stumbled along, with only a vague idea of where I was going. The nausea was being replaced by anger and fear. So much anger, I just wanted to kill everything around me. I suppressed this just long enough to draw my revolver, dump the ammo and throw the rounds into a grassy field. Bloodlust was starting to wash through my body. I tripped on a light fixture onto soft grass and started pounding on the ground, shrieking in rage. The sounds of people moving all around me in a rushed and panicked fashion echoed in my ears as a choir of madness began to sing in my mind.
Something stomped up to me. It was a Singer, it leaned in close, studying my emotional state. Curious, as they always were.
The rage rose out of me and erupted out of my mouth. It started with a whisper.
“Curious huh, I’m curious too, you silicon freak. I’m curious why you are such cowards!? Why have you left us to fight this war for you? Is war beneath you? You are just a bunch of doddering old rocks. So scared of dying that you are afraid to live! To live like us, to have a brief and glorious existence instead of a long and boring one. What is it, huh?”
My voice rose to a shriek.
“Why won’t you help us!?!”
It just stood there and stared silently for a moment. In an instant it folded out its extensions. I had hurt its feelings and now I was going to die because of it. So what, I had made my point. If it wanted to kill me for it then these creatures weren’t worth the powder to blow them to hell.
It sang, the nausea got worse. Transforming into a burning hot metal pain. I screamed in agony and collapsed backwards. Then everything went dark. There was an explosion of light. Not just a white light, but a great fractal pattern of energy like living starlight. I felt was the most beautiful music I had ever heard in my life.
As I came back to consciousness I realized that it was me, I was singing. I am not a musical person. The fear, anxiety, rage, hatred and pain was dissolving. Replaced by love for this incredible being. It was singing to me, so I sang back to it. All was one. I don’t know how long we stayed there but it wasn’t long enough. I blinked and stated.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me. I didn’t mean any of that. I am so so sorry my love.”
It spoke, in a quieter voice than I had ever heard a Singer speak in. “That is why we can’t help you, my love. You carbon based life forms exist at a lower state of resonance than we do. You are not as affected by the toxic energy as we are. But you are still affected. We will do everything we can until the source is found and eliminated. I will see you around.”
The huge translucent glittering life form walked away as I slowly returned to my normal state of consciousness. As I lay on the cool grass I took a moment to enjoy the clouds drifting by. Illuminated by the light of an almost full moon. The sheer perfection of this moment. Then off in the distance I heard the sounds of ambulances. A great many ambulances. Life was harshing my buzz. Something else came running up. It was Linda. She slid down to the ground, hugged me and asked if everything was okay.
“Oh, I’m fine, thanks to my giant crystal friend over there. But I don’t think everyone else is. Can you take me home, I don’t feel all that well.”
She picked me up in her strong arms and started carrying me back to my house. All along the way she told me that the IEC seemed to be adapting fairly well to becoming the leading edge of a major fleet offensive into interstellar space. She was really enjoying her job as Chief Operating Officer. Dad and Boudicca were back as full time employees. Making sure that everything was going as smoothly as possible. I just nodded kindly at all the good news as I gently faded into unconsciousness.
Woof, did I have some bad nightmares that night. They were so abstract that all I experienced was pain and sheer nonsense. I suppose my brain was desperately trying to interpret and process information and sensations that earthling minds and bodies simply were not adapted to.
I woke up after sleeping for 17 hours straight. Boudicca was snoozing on a couch opposite the foot of my bed when I woke. I worked into an upright position and whispered, “hey Bo. Long time no see.”
She woke up and sighed, “are you alright? You were flailing around in your sleep and screaming. I have never heard such nonsense, ‘shit a pineapple, hear my composite self for the pharaoh Zeus. Yes, so we serve confidently.’ Does that mean anything to you?”
I shook my head in the negative. “Can’t say that it does. I feel much better though. Almost normal, so, what’s for breakfast?”
“It’s dinner time, I suppose I could throw something together. So, great conquerer, how’s it feel to back on good old terra firma?”
I still feel a tad nauseous. Do you know what happened to me?”
She hung her head and replied. “It didn’t just happen to you, it happened to everyone who came back with you. Drakous and the Singers conclude that it is the effects of the toxic energy put out by the Web-way in enemy space. It seems that humans are not immune to its effects. From what they have seen it causes a serious imbalance in the body. Especially the brain. In aggressive people it causes a desire to attack. In submissive people it causes a desire to be attacked. Those living in enemy territory have gotten used to it. You and the rest of the people coming back got a full power dose for a long time. Then got cut off cold turkey. We are having to deal with thousands of people going through some ugly withdrawal symptoms. Compared to most of your crew, you got off lucky.”
“It wasn’t just luck, I think a Singer drew the energy out of me. Didn’t do a complete job though. All I can think about right now is how much I want to go out there and kill. I want to rain death on the imperials. The Singers sing the music of the universe and Earth. I want to sing the music of death to the hordes of the Drankmastarian Empire.”
Boudicca looked shocked. “In all the years I have known you, I have never heard you say anything like this. You are scaring me.”
“Perhaps that’s just what the past eight months have done to me. That I am a different person now. Sculpted by cosmic energies into an implement of retribution. Or perhaps I just miss my big blue battleship. Being surrounded by a crew that I love, oh dear god, my crew!?”
She raised her left hand in a calming gesture and replied. “Well, they aren’t doing all that well. Everyone who came back from the mission is sick in some way. For most it’s just severe nausea and a barely controlled anger. Others got violent, some are catatonic. A few seem to be showing the symptoms of schizophrenia. Hopefully it will wear off.”
I groaned and rolled back. “We have to institute a rotation system, find out how long it takes to be affected by, whatever this is and get people back to Earth before it kicks in. Someone should start working on a countermeasure. I also need to….”
She walked over, hugged me and whispered in my ear. “All in due time dear, all in due time.”
I hugged her back, “thanks Bo, I love you. Hey wait a minute, did I call the Singer who un fucked me up, my love?”
“Linda said that she saw you talking to a Singer at the factory. She didn’t hear what was said.”
As we walked downstairs I remembered. I had said that to it, and I had meant it. I had experienced the most insane emotional whiplash of my entire life. Going from wanting to kill that Singer to seeing it for what it truly was. I was in a weird emotional state. Yeah, that’s what was happening.
After a couple of days the madness of the crews coming back from deep space had ebbed. Once he stopped trying to smash everything in his quarters General Bagdoglio was unceremoniously fired by the Italian government. Not for his loss of sanity. Thankfully there were no real recriminations for our collective mental breakdown, it was for his conduct during the war. In diplomatic terms he was let go for failure to engage the enemy. In other words, cowardice. His replacement was an asskicker in the modern style, an internationally famous champion of the overwhelming use of space forces. General Giulio Dohuet. Once the Garibaldi was reprovisioned and rearmed she would escort the Montana back into battle.
Admiral Navrátil, having filled the terms of his service in the AF received an official pardon by the Eutopian Combat Fleet and several governments on Earth. He took that pardon, his ship, his paycheck and loot from the campaign then vanished into retirement to somewhere in Chile. His replacement as commander of the AF was a Lebanese doctor, Sami Ibrahim Haddad. A diplomatic and intelligent multilingual fellow. One of a handful of accredited doctors among the Pirates. After a couple of meetings I concluded that he seemed like a reasonable man. He would probably be driven mad by the absurdity of commanding a wartime pirate fleet faster than Navrátil was.
I had fifty major news sources demanding interviews. During peacetime two interviews a month was unusually busy. I blew them all off. I never turned down an interview before the Jamaican portal opened. Nowadays however I had bigger things to do.
For my first week back on Earth I wanted to help out with a program to replace the Russians targeting computers. The Eutopian’s had agreed to upgrade the Russians weapons systems. In typical Eutopian fashion they had grudgingly supplied a functioning system with an insulting name. The Russians new targeting computer was known as the Super High Intensity Targeting System. Naturally the Ruskies were having problems plugging the prototype into one of their ships and I really wanted to jump in and iron this out. Even though my knowledge of Russian ships was a bit incomplete.
My involvement in this project didn’t even last a day. My presence was demanded at meetings of the League of Nations. The infamously useless world governing body had been injected with new life by this war. That didn’t mean that they weren’t still useless though. Dozens of dignitaries, ambassadors, business figures and various shadowy figures with way more power than they could handle. Crowded into castles, palaces and hotels across North America and Europe. All making the most absurd demands on me, the Eutopian’s, the Russians, the Germans, their troops, and of course, each other.
After two days of this lunacy masquerading as a negotiation I reached my breaking point. Various high mucky-mucks were yelling at each other over something. I can’t recall exactly what but it had to be something stupid. I think it was something to do with contracts with food suppliers. I sighed in resignation, they weren’t listening to anyone. The door opened, it was the daughter of one of the French noblemen at the meeting. She was incredibly attractive, wearing a flowing blue silk dress and some tasteful platinum jewelry. Her presence distracted me from what was happening. She walked up to a man who bore a slight resemblance to her. Probably her father, a beaten up, scarred, somewhat corpulent fellow who had probably been a rather handsome man sometime before the Martian invasion. She whispered something in his ear.
Once she was done whispering he stood up and dramatically announced, in English. “We have been beating around the bush here for entirely too long. It’s time we discuss the spoils of this conflict. How we are going to divvy up the conquered territories.”
The lady smiled at me. A rather coquettish smile. Something about that smile lit off a keg of rage in me. I slammed my fist on the polished oak table and shouted.
“That’s fucking it! I will not be part of this insanity for one more nanosecond! If you morons want to sit here and plot your fantasy kingdoms in the stars. Built on the skulls of slaves you go right ahead. Just know that I will fight you, the Russians will fight you, the Germans will fight you and the Eutopian’s will fight you to their dying breath. And they have much more experience at this sort of thing than you do.”
Some Italian count blurted, “this is outrageous. If you will not be part of these negotiations then we will cut off your money and munitions.”
“Go right on ahead fat ass! The IEC funds itself and we have captured more than enough resources from the imperials to keep our part in the war going for years. Anything else can be shored up with private donations. I don’t answer to you, I answer to the people of Earth and my employees. Just know I will have no part in any attempt to seize control of the lands and resources of peaceful, sentient life forms. Now, if you want to continue to supply us with resources, then I and my company thanks you. We greatly appreciate it, and I will use them to the mutual benefit of your forces and our other allies. If not, then you can burn in hell. Which will be sooner than you think, if the imperials don’t get you with an orbital strike then your people will. Your oligarchy is dying, act accordingly you assholes!”
I stared at them, I had shaken them, badly. With the destabilizing of the economy brought about by asteroid mined gold and silver and voluntarist financial practices their financial power was fading and their political power was almost nonexistent. Hell, no one involved in interplanetary commerce accepted any money made by a government anymore. Those exchanges were mostly done in the most popular Eutopian based crypto currency. Space-bucks, invented by a clever Eutopian engineer who later became one of the founders of Eutopos Heavy Lift. Space-bucks were the primary currency in Eutopian realms. Nowadays businesses all over Earth preferred to do business in space-bucks because of its stability compared to wildly fluctuating currencies printed up by Earth governments. Only the German Mark, Swiss Franc and less well known crypto currencies competed with space-bucks. The Russians had been the first government to give up minting money entirely after an ineffectual attempt at their own crypto currency called RubleCoin. Other governments were expected to follow suit.
So the remaining governments on Earth had thrown in their last few chips on the one thing that guaranteed the health of the state, war. Once again, like the German/Anglo-American war they hadn’t counted on independent companies of free people and the Eutopian’s being as effective in combat as they had been. With the Germans still on the outs with the League and the Russian government withdrawal following the Czar’s epiphany they had to know that they needed me much more than I needed them.
I looked up, the only other woman in the room looked shocked. I felt I owed her a polite gesture since she was the one person in the room who I did not utterly revile. So I said, “au revoir my dear.” Spun on my heels and left the room.
I stomped down polished marble floors, surrounded on all sides by priceless artwork. The palace of Versailles happened to be the primary headquarters for negotiations concerning the future of the war at the moment I came back to Earth. I thought to myself, “too bad I have to make a dramatic exit now. I really would like to take some time to enjoy all this fine art.” I could hear footsteps running behind me. Light footsteps, not the clomping footfalls of any of the men I had just been talking to.
I turned and asked, “can I help you?”
“My apologies, I am Sandrine Schneider. I have wanted to meet you for months. I have followed your adventures I wish to know more about you.”
I looked at my ridiculously complicated watch. I didn’t have to be anywhere for a little while. An unusual occurrence. I had set aside a whole day for this insanity. So with my schedule clear I motioned to her and stated, “come on, walk with me, talk with me.”
As we walked through the palaces truly magnificent gardens I told her a little about myself and she told me a bit about her. She had what sounded like a fairly typical childhood of a wealthy European family. I was half tempted to ask if her parents had ever put her through a dark occult ritual to make her some kind of monster. But she didn’t have the face of a person who had been through that kind of trauma. I stopped to smell a rose and asked. “So tell me my dear, Schneider. That wouldn’t happen to be the same family that organized the Schneider cup wouldn’t it?”
“The very same. You are interested in air racing?”
“More than just interested Sandrine. I made serious money hustling on the air race circuit in the U.S. and Canada back when I was in my early 20s. Thought about entering for the cup but there was no way I could get the IEC to spare the resources to compete with Supermarine and Macchi. Their birds really are the pinnacle of piston powered aircraft. All I had was a really really nice biplane. Too bad the Schneider cup is only open to seaplanes. It’s a weird image to see such sleek and powerful aircraft with those gigantic floats attached to their bottoms.”
She gave a very Gallic shrug of her shoulders to that comment. I decided to change the subject. “So why did that man bring up the insanity of taking over occupied planets after you whispered in his ear?”
“It is something that must be done no? After the enemy fleet is dealt with we must establish a new order. If the enemy is allowed to reorganize and rebuild then everything starts over again.”
“Oh it’s way more complicated than that. There are forces at work that I can’t explain quickly. Tell me, have you heard of the warrior caste that the imperials use to maintain their rule on important and dissident planets.”
“The armored warriors? They aren’t much of a match for even the weakest of our ships are they not?”
“They don’t have to be. You don’t know anything about insurgency do you? We would have to glass a planet to completely root them out.”
“That’s what you say, but I believe otherwise. There is much at stake in the game of war and zis is the largest conflict in all of human history. We could win so much, or lose everything.”
I felt myself getting mad again. “If you may pardon my language madam.”
I snapped up and glowered at her with all of my being. “This is no fucking game! People are dying out there, every day brings some new insanity the likes of which you can’t begin to comprehend. You still think of this as being a game of chess. They move, you move. Trust me when I say that I am not playing chess, if you could see one tenth of what I have seen you would know that the only rules that matter are survival and honor. The two are interconnected like you can’t imagine.”
She looked away, it sounded like she was beginning to cry. For a moment I felt embarrassed and ashamed for what I had said. That faded away quickly though. The French government was winding down a long insurgency in Algeria and several of its other colonies. I had an image of this woman’s great great grandchildren fighting an even more bloody conflict on dozens of worlds scattered among the stars. I had a moment of clarity as ms Schneider ran away from me, starting to cry. This world didn’t need more weapons, or new technologies. What humanity needed more than anything else was the truth. As harsh, ugly, disturbing and weird as it might be.
A voice spoke to me, a deep, rich, resonating voice echoing through my mind. I spoke, “you have to take responsibility for yourself and allow others to take responsibility for themselves. You have to realize that you have been making the same mistakes over and over again. Until you acknowledge that, here you are and here you will remain.”
I shook my head, weird, that was the kind of thing Drakous said in that deep voice of his. I ran after ms Schneider, I realized that I really didn’t want to hurt her. She turned around and through tears, with a puzzled look on her face she observed. “Ms Hammond, you are the strangest person I have ever met in my entire life.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Hah, if you think I am odd you should meet some of my friends.” For a moment I seriously thought of inviting her to meet Drakous and The Singers. To bring her into my world. To show her the reality and madness that occupied my every waking hour.
I thought of her, and what part she would play in this. The strangest thoughts went wafting through my head.
Then I snapped out of it. I pushed her back and stated. “Ms Schneider, I have enjoyed talking to you, but I really must be going. As you know, I have a war to win and I simply must help with getting my ship back into fighting trim. So..”
I shook her hand and started walking quickly away. She seemed utterly confused and overwhelmed. I wasn’t feeling all that balanced myself.
Instead of going back to those United States I headed out to Japan to take some time off. About 80 years ago USN commodore Matthew Perry opened up Japan to the rest of the world in the ensuing decades Japan had gone from a country not all that far removed from the Middle Ages to a nightmare of overwhelming technology. Ever more bizarre culture and infuriating architecture. Headed up by a government that had somehow persisted in existing despite ostracizing itself from every source of advanced technology in the solar system and acting so aggressively in China and the Pacific Ocean that they had been in a state of proxy war with the U.S. Government, every Eutopian in existence and the ANZSA Commonwealth for decades now.
Why did I go? I wanted to take advantage of the current cordial diplomatic situation. I wanted to see if Japan was really as crazy as I had been told it was. Once I got to Japan I spent almost no time in any of the large cities. I was just flying my personal Heron around various mountains and farming areas enjoying the peace and serenity of nature, temples and the old fashioned values of everyone who lives outside major cities.
I still got recognized from time to time though. For some reason the Japanese newspapers only had one photo of me. I wasn’t especially proud of it, it was just a stock photo of me at a technology conference in 1928. So I made sure to pose for plenty of pictures with anyone who wanted one. It felt really odd though, having hundreds of people in a country I had never been to. A place I had expected to wind up on a war with not all that long ago. Was full of people who regarded me so kindly. Most of the people who sought me out had brothers, sons, fathers, cousins, serving in the Japanese Navy. It made me sad to think about them. The Japanese tin cans did not have the best record in combat. Their crews fought courageously, but their technical disadvantages, inexperience and some unrefined battle tactics had cost them twenty seven warships so far.
I was coming out of a hot spring in the north of the country. I was just about to head back to Billings after three weeks of travel and relaxation when I noticed a group of men in navy uniforms walking up the path towards me. I casually made my way back to my clothes. While I was putting them back on I shouted to the men, “okay, that’s far enough. What do you want?”
One shouted, “admiral Kanada requests an audience to discuss the progress of the war.”
I walked out with my clothes on. Including my revolver. “And if I refuse?’
“This would be very unusual. Are you aware that our country forbids the carrying of armaments by anyone who is not in the military or police?”
“Oh, I’m hurt that you don’t consider me to be part of a military. Let’s say you were to enforce that little rule of yours? Are you willing to die today?”
One of the other officers suddenly spoke, in an American accent. “Okay calm down, no one has to die here. We just want to talk.”
I looked at him “ah, a voice of reason. Okay, I will go with you as long as I do not have to surrender my weapon. The usual terms of a meeting with a member of a foreign military on neutral ground.”
I walked up to the first officer with an insouciant swagger, “but tell me big boy. How was it when you first tried to take down an Eutopian who was preaching freedom and personal responsibility. They let you live obviously, but they must have made an awful mess. Those androids, they don’t feel emotions like we do. They had to really ratchet up the horror to feel anything back in the day before they started using cyborg bodies. So, what did they do? Floss their teeth with your friends tendons? Shove their heads up their asses? Or were they satisfied with roasting them all half to death with a heat ray? But only half to death, they wanted to set an example of what happens when someone got all tyrannical on them.”
His upper lip was trembling. I could see in his eyes that he was in the midst of a flashback. This guy wouldn’t have gotten the job of picking up Gajin meddlers meandering around his country without some previous experience. That experience would have come at a hell of a cost though.
The one with an American accent spoke, “give it a break lady, are you coming with us or not?”
“Okay, I will come with, but I am taking my plane. I will follow you in whatever you came in.”
About forty miles northeast there was an extensive Japanese Navy facility. I had seen so many of these launch facilities by then that nothing looked really special or weird, well, except for one thing. Off towards where the facility started to thin out and turn into forest there was what appeared to be some kind of anomaly. It was reminiscent of the effects of a blown up antigravity drive. I disregarded my landing instructions because I simply had to get a closer look at this thing. Antigravity drive malfunctions were insanely surreal but they did not last long. This looked like it was self sustaining. Which seemed impossible, and terrifying.
As I landed I could see what it was, a battleship, Shinano class. In pieces, swirling around a point of light. Strange illusions of light like an aurora borealis danced around the huge shapes of various bits of the hull and other ship parts. Occasionally it would try to assemble itself into some kind of recognizable shape. It was enchanting, strangely inviting, but a small voice in the back of my head was screaming that whatever this was, was incredibly dangerous.
Armed security came running up. They looked puzzled and extremely mad. They shouted something that sounded like, “get away from that you idiot foreigner.” I backed away and started walking to where admiral Kanada waited.
He was ticked off that I had gone over to look at the phenomena. After introductions I stated, “I am not saying one more word until you tell me everything you can about whatever the heck that thing is in the western section of this complex.”
He sighed and started, speaking slowly, allowing a translator to explain. “That is the wreck of the first of our big battle wagons. When we built her we attempted to incorporate a variety of theories into her engines and power generation systems. These ideas caused a disaster when the ships reactors were started. Dozens of men were killed instantly, hundreds were sickened, and ever since the ship has sat there looking like that.”
“Why haven’t you built a building, or at least a fence to try to hide or contain the anomaly?”
“It has been tried. Every time it expands and consumes the structure. It appears to be somewhat conscious and wishes to be free.”
“Well, that’s creepy, why haven’t you told me or my company about this? No one knows more about antigravity drives than us.”
“That anomaly is one of our greatest secrets. We have no desire to tell the world about it.”
“I see, with your permission though I would like to summon some of my people here. They can keep a secret, I would like to see what they can do about this.”
“We will consider it, but the answer will probably be no.”
“Very well, now, what was it you wanted to talk about?”
It was the usual formal military chitchat. Ideas on tactics, input on new weapons. What was a tad unusual was that they had somehow managed to talk the ANSACs and a couple of other pacific rim nations into an informal alliance. The Japanese wanted me, or more accurately my ships to be part of this arrangement as part of a planned sweep through lightly defended parts of Drankmastarian territory. The Eutopian’s, Germans and Russians were chewing up the main body of the enemy fleet and the Japanese wanted to come around and punch them in the back. I observed that it was a clever tactic, though I wasn’t committing to anything. That said allowing me unfettered access to the anomaly would certainly help their argument.
While I waited for them to mull over my offer I had a look around their shipyards. I saw an awful lot of copying of familiar technologies all over their military industrial complex. Hell, their Shinano Class battleships. Slightly bigger than a Maelstrom class boat were basically just Iron Duke type ships that had been scaled up with a few clever refinements. I didn’t feel very good about all this. An industrial spy working for the Japanese had almost killed my father and had stolen a large amount of the ideas at work in these yards from my company. Still, the Japanese had contributed almost their entire fleet to the war. If they dropped out things would start to suck really badly. I suppose I felt the same way about the rest of the governments I was involved with, excepting perhaps the Germans because of their sincerity to make up for the crimes of the Kaiser, and the Russians for their frightening enthusiasm.
After three days I had my answer. The emperor personally intervened and granted me and my staff access to the anomaly. I had a dozen scientists and Drakous ferried over to Japan and I had them set to work immediately. They reacted with trepidation and horror. Drakous simply stated, “that thing should not exist!”
I was overflowing with curiosity and awe. “Yet, it does exist my Martian friend, shall we find out why?”
A Singer ship had shadowed Drakous’s ship. He had invited them along. They might not have been formally invited, but the Japanese government wasn’t in any position to say no to their help and Drakous figured that we would need all the help we could find. Their small ship orbited around the phenomena for a moment and dropped a probe in. It dissolved instantly. Everyone looked in horror at that. They came down and landed a safe distance from the anomaly. The massive silicon creatures stood much further away from the anomaly than I was. For the second time in my life I had the privilege of seeing puzzled Singers. I wasn’t about to let this opportunity go to waste.
After three days Drakous and I had a rough theory of what had happened. Somehow the Japanese had stumbled into a crude version of the scientific concepts that allowed web-way travel. Phasing into other dimensions. Though clearly it did not phase all the way and simply vanish from the planet. Once we had an idea as to what it was we started working on a countermeasure. Through the careful generation of relatively small amounts of exotic energies. Very carefully tuned to the opposite frequency of the original energy signature of the ships antigravity drive we hoped that it would neutralize these anomaly.
The Japanese scientists had attempted to do something like this in the past. But they said that all it did was cause it to turn purple and start glowing alarmingly. The IEC had generators were capable of much greater power and precision than theirs were. As the first few blossoms of spring were starting to poke out of the local earth. I began the experiment.
The anomaly suddenly changed shape. It became much more ship like for a moment. Then it started changing colors, purple, green then orange. A pulse of gravity erupted from it. Drakous wanted to pull the plug but I yelled, “no, keep going. If it wants to fight then let’s fight!”
Drakous looked right in my eyes and asked, “wants a fight? Have you completely lost your mind!?”
“Just keep at it, if this was going to be easy then the Japs would have broken this thing up years ago.”
Gravity started drawing various objects towards it. Electricity snapped through the he air. I noticed that I wasn’t being affected. One of the stands for an energy emitter was pulled down and I ran over to prop it back up. Once it was back in place I was treated to an incredible show.
The anomaly was dissolving. Great gouts of energy erupted skyward. Suddenly a squadron of Singer ships arrived and flew around the energy in a tight circle. They were drawing the energies off. The danger was incredible. But I couldn’t help but be entranced. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Cosmic energies dancing, weaving, interconnecting, diving and exploding. I wanted to dance with it. I felt like it wanted to dance with me. Then I noticed something. There were men inside the thing. They looked like they were in pain. Huddling together, screaming for help. I ran over and plunged my arm into the anomaly. I felt an arm and started to pull with everything I had.
Forty seven men suddenly came out of the anomaly like water through a firehose. I whipped the first one over my head. He seemed impossibly light. Momentum carried the rest through. They looked utterly overwhelmed and confused, I screamed at them to run over the incredible din of the dissolving anomaly. I was face to face with the thing now. It was undulating in a million different directions but it was unquestionably shrinking. I shouted as loudly as I could, “keep it up everyone, it’s working!”
Out of the energy came tens of thousands of tons of metal. It was no longer floating immaterium. It was the hull of a battleship again. The Singer ships peeled off. Their part in this was done. The emitters could take care of the rest from here.
I ran to join the men I had rescued. They were in a state of shock. I motioned to them that we had to run, we were going to be bathed in dangerous energy pretty soon. So we got back to where Drakous was shouting at the top of his lungs. “Katy, have you completely lost your mind!?”
I looked back. The last bits of the anomaly were almost disintegrating down to nothing. With one last purple flash it was gone and the emitters were shut down. All around me were dozens of stunned employees, Japanese officers and one Singer who had been on the ground as an observer. They were speechless at what I had done. Especially since it should have been impossible for me to walk through that kind of energy.
It took days for some something resembling an explanation to be worked out. The rescued men had no memory of their time in the anomaly. It was theorized that they and the hull of the ship were kept in a kind of suspended animation for the past seven years. As to how I rescued them, I observed that I had more exposure to antigravity energy than almost anyone on the planet. For lack of a better word, I had built up a tolerance. This also explained how I was able to keep my head and save the Saturn when it was hit by an antigravity drive rigged to blow.
After that incident I got much more respect from Japanese Navy officers. With the anomaly dealt with I agreed to their informal alliance. The Montana had completed her rearming. It was time to get back to the war.