Angular Trifecta (43): Remembering Where One Was When…
Space Station Konxeru
Every space station had a normal cruising speed of nine astronomical units per hour, meaning that they could reach the sun from Earth in almost seven minutes. This was what happened to be advertised, but occasionally, perfect outer space conditions and/or some unauthorized modifications had been reported to cause the Space Force’s most powerful vessel to theoretically top speeds of a staggering eleven astronomical units per hour which cut over a minute of significance off the time. There were some very smart people involved with the original design and creation of these ships, but Captain Borcuk did not get all into the speeds and feeds. Sometimes, she just liked to blow out the spark plugs a little bit.
“What’s the ETA of our arrival at Dio Qze?” The Captain asked, having long since already agreed to Boyd and Lalia’s silent yet lopsided terms without any hint of reluctance. To be honest, there was very little hesitation at all in her decision to move forward with this miniature campaign, but that was due in partial fact to the idea that this was an ‘actual’ campaign – not the political kind which awaited the stagnation of this powerful spacestation for a dreadful months-long news cycle worth of bothersome and mind-numbing partisan attacks as it secretly oversaw the Galaxy Bloc elections and the Space Force’s manipulations (of those) on Venimus 3.
A time once existed when Captain Borcuk had been generally interested in the structure of government and its perpetuation, but that time had passed, and now she was cynically ambivalent toward all its forms. For her, having served numerous leaders of various political persuasions across decades and having helped to depose just as many, she realized an ultimate truth that only a person in her position could fully acknowledge as an unequivocal and the universal law: It did not matter who was in office nor did voting help, hurt, or work. Despite who the leaders were and the shortsighted opinions of those who took their civic duty seriously, time moved on.
Sure, people had died for these rights, but in the Captain’s eyes, they were either stupid because their cause outlived the chance to see it be realized or she was responsible for helping to take them out and those so-called martyrs had no idea about that as well. Regardless, time had not stopped on her or anybody else’s account. And not so surprisingly, these beliefs were not rooted in any sort of ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality. This was the way that the universe worked, and in several additional aeons, would anybody remember, recognize, or care about these past couple centuries?
Did the current inhabitants of the universe ever refer back to the specific events from aeons ago? There was the answer.
If anything, Captain Borcuk expressed a great humility in comprehending the edicts of the universe and her place within that lengthy ether. Historians and futurists aside, the next coming war could remake the rules for all of existence, so again, her advice would always be to play the game how it was being called at the time. Some just did not desire the schizophrenic mania of power and influence and were content with adding to their lifespan (rather than subtracting from it while chasing a deadly race with no finish line) by living a life of consistency. Whatever that was to her or meant for her, she thrived in the slow lane – watching others speed along, heading nowhere via a self-deprecating accelerant toward extinction.
From her distinct chair in the center of the Cockpit Section, the Captain oversaw SpaceStation Konxerus’ operations as well as the three panel workers under her command who sat up front at the forward console stations: Left Com, Right Com, and Weapons Com. Each panel carried out a different function, ranging from piloting controls to intra- and inter- ship communications to the use of the vessel’s six swivel guns which were already online as a matter of deferential principle. The responsibility for answering her question was held by the panel worker at Right Com:
“ETA is in nine minutes and fifty-four seconds, Ma’am.”
Satisfied with the response, Captain Borcuk fingered her Ear-To-Mouth Com and alerted, “Boyd, we’ll be in position in about nine minutes. Happy hunting – of whatever you’re looking for down there.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Boyd said into his own Ear-To-Mouth Com from the Docking Bay Section with his free left ear nestled next to Lalia’s during their long, concluding embrace. As the expected decision to return to Dio Qze had come down quickly – sooner than he would have liked, there was not enough time to do anything other than shower up and put on fresh combat gear.
“You owe me your presence at dinner,” Lalia whispered a hook of encouragement. It was not her place to confuse matters or make the issue any more difficult than it already might have been since she had likely authored the scenario, but offering clarity in Boyd’s obligations helped to simplify his missions somewhat. The Space Force had groomed him as an Enforcer while her love had caused him to question the meaning of that label.
But a soldier without a purpose was a liability to oneself and their unit. Lalia knew this – what it meant to become a distraction, even without being in any way combat field-tested herself, and it was by no means her goal to interfere so detrimentally. Duty needed to continue on. She simply sought to redefine that purpose along the lines which would allow Boyd an opportunity to reclaim his own autonomy. True, there existed great power over him, the Enforcer’s actions, and also his most current leanings, but what lady friend did not possess a similar amount of control when it came to their men? He welcomed her influence.
They stood together – clutching one another tightly, among the foreground of the middle level to the docking bay with Boyd’s fighter playing the foreshadowy background. Time had not quite frozen in this instance, but their aim was to make the most of its remainder regardless.
Through the certitude of routine work performances which did not put undue emphasis on the military occupation nor offer it an undeserved place upon a needlessly piteous pedestal, Boyd reassured, “When I get back, we’ll have that dinner – just have to put a couple more hours in at the office.” This was his job. So where those, who were no longer drafted (as he was) to perform the same or a similar role, received heaping mounds of concern, praise, and a wealth of guilt which often doubled as an inaccurately false, conveniently empathetic, and politically elevated respect; the Enforcer veered away from the expectation of such sentiment. There was a certain arrogance for some of the enlisted who believed that just because they occasionally got shot at that they were in some way…special. To people like him who rejected the whole “support the troops” mantra for what it deteriorated into, he would ask that the insipid, gushing sappiness be offered to those who were most in need of it: More appropriately for those, from all other walks of life, who were incapable of (figuratively and literally) shooting back. In not making anything extra out of something that the Space Force had trained him extensively to do and he generally enjoyed (outside the serfdom part), Lalia welcomed his comfort.
There was no high horse. This was a nine-to-five, plus a couple extra hours of overtime – as Boyd had put it. After all he had done (and would continue to do) to protect Lalia, the last thing that the Enforcer wanted was to worry her needlessly. Would she still be worried about him? Absolutely. That was the nature of love. He just did not need to exacerbate the anguish by treating this like anything other than what its least common denominator made it out to be: Work sucked, and that was why it was called work. Otherwise, work would be called play. So for majority of people who were not allowed to do what they wanted for a living – relegating their passions to hobbies, common ground existed between them. His obligation was to cut out all the whining, do his time, and return back home to his lady friend. Professional.
The intrigue of being swept off her feet by a man who legally did not exist was not lost on Lalia either, so she added some additional perspective, “When waitressing for Chavessergio Hotel, I used to always take the fifteen minutes before the shift was set to begin and stretch that time out mentally – silently psyching myself up prior to the workday’s official start. It was rare that I’d ever allow anybody into this contemplative space to share in such a solemn superstition….
Usually, the people who unknowingly interrupted my personal focus were subtly ignored. That fleeting moment represented a slice of freedom from the daily grind. Thank you for letting me in (to yours).”
With the potential for all manner of communication being closely monitored and any form of emotion being thoroughly interpreted, Boyd’s and Lalia’s conversations were mild yet watered down. Even they needed to speak in codes. Their relationship existed along dual layers of the outwardly portrayed as well as the secretive. The Space Force watched them as well – almost especially so, in trying to decipher the Enforcer’s (seemingly promised) next move. This surveillance happened to be as much about curiosity as it was any sort of precautionary measure. One couple could not bring down the megapower. At least, this couple could not.
The only question was: Could Boyd and Lalia succeed in carrying out their bold and obvious agenda to undermine the Space Force without enticing the megapower to do away with the nuisance altogether or closing the funeral guest eBook on the extorted Enforcer’s family? The answer to this seemed to lie on the surface of Dio Qze and perhaps within the complexity of the unincorporated planets in general.
This, perhaps, also answered the other question as to why Boyd refused to eliminate Burdlit, silence Janette, and call in the spacestation for its intended purpose of destroying one lone and simple Galaxy Bloc world when he had numerous chances and various opportunities to do so. Much like the Enforcer was waiting out those three parties to see what they were capable of or would do if otherwise left to their own devices to flourish, the Space Force allowed him to proceed of similar accord.
These were the types of things that made Lalia’s manipulations all the more eerie. It was impossible for plans of this complexity to be discussed, and yet, extravagant plans were being carried out. However, all the Space Force was ever treated to seeing happened to be the very mutual, protracted, and ardent kiss which sealed Boyd’s marching orders.
A darkened metallic decor suited Boyd – Mexico thought as he and his intendants entered the sizable main floor area which made up a spacious living room. The amenities were nestled along the ends and promised to be just as swank. There was not much time to take it all in, kick back, and get situated within the accommodations which were officially now theirs as per the edicts of the continuing mission and the front that they were sent in to perpetuate.
From the wide side window which almost seemed to run for the length of the building, the focus of their arrival attention that would have normally been tied to making themselves at home was diverted to the fiery display of the unmasked Carriveaua vessel crashing down to the street below! Flames burst out in a curled blast radius which flooded the adjacent blocks and danced upward along at least a twenty story height from the proximately affected buildings of what seemed to be some rather well-designed architecture to withstand such calamity. Even the windows filtered out the retina-seering effects of the devastation so that Mexico, Corinna, and Jocelin did not have to squint during their front row oversight of the carnage.
“Señor Boyd does not deserve a place as nice as this,” Mexico admitted as it would have been a shame for him and his intendants to have already overstayed their welcome. From what he knew of the Enforcer, this really was just for show whereas there would be nothing for him to get used to since it was much more routine lodging for them. Glad to take advantage – clearly, the Space Force spared no expense and made no qualms about an unlimited tab. “He probably wouldn’t even know what to do with it. Idiota.”
Atop the roof, General Canoy brought her XRTP to a complete stop after touching back down – not too far from the docked shuttle. Her turret possessed no eyes but scanned the skyward periphery like a sentinel, awaiting any further foolishness on the part of the Carriveaua. Aside from the areas of those streets which were engulfed in the festering and unattended flames from the ship’s wreckage, the Deew continued to inch its way around what was left of the surrounding thoroughfares and had greatly encumbered the path forward as a result.
Having halted the XRTP processional to deal a blow to their Carriveaua oppressors might have seemed like a poor choice of planning in retrospect because of the biological weapon’s spreading trap, but taking to the rooftops gave the Galaxy Bloc soldiers and their nimble tanks some room to breathe – if not flee. Fortunes were looking upward, in a sense.
“We’ve gotta locate those people who landed over there and get them out of here,” the General said into her Ear-To-Mouth Com as the top of her XRTP parted to allow her access to disembark once the shoulder harnesses and lap belt were each disengaged. She stood up on the seat and pulled herself out the tank’s canopy before trampling across its hull and leaping down to the roof, followed by an assortment of nine other troops who had just done the same.
“We’re not going to be able to get in using the front door,” one of the Galaxy Bloc soldiers said – referring to the decimated area where the rooftop staircase used to reside.
More desperate than resourceful, General Canoy suggested, “Let’s grab some grapple guns and repel down the penthouse windows. You two, come with me. You three, spot us. The rest, keep your eyes peeled. There’s no telling if another Carriveaua vessel snuck through or what else the Deew has in store.”
The Power Authority
“We need to rescue Ms. Ueberrhein,” one of the soldiers from the contingent urged.
Another concurred, “Yeah, we gotta go after Burdlit. His treachery cannot be allowed to stand.”
“Fu– Burdlit!” One of the wounded exclaimed before grimacing away the cauterized char wound from a laser rifle pulse to the leg. Further emotionality would likely be kept in check as the soldier winced at the throbbing pain from a reclined position, the soldier’s backpack of gear being used for a pillow.
But the entire scenario was also nagging at the soldier with the slate computer when she attempted to explain away, “It doesn’t make sense. If he wanted any one of us dead, Burdlit could have done it at whichever time of his choosing.”
“That’s a rather small consolation,” a soldier who happened to be tending to one of the other wounded added. First aid was the extent of the battlefield medicine that any of them knew. Keeping pressure on the wounds and wrapping them to prevent infection was about all that could be done from where they all stood. Nobody had the tools and only small quantities of isopropyl alcohol to sanitize the affected areas, but that might not have been the right tact – hopefully, the thought counted for something.
One of the delirious soldiers offered, “I…never knew…that getting shot…could hurt this much,” before quietly accepting the excruciating pain, comforted by the fact that none of them would be left behind to die.
“It’s not like we can go after him,” the soldier with the slate computer stated. “He’s made sure of our path. Three wounded? That means three more to carry the injured – six soldiers down in total and only four left to protect the rest against this da-nable biological weapon. Burdlit knew exactly what he was doing and made our choice for us.”
An inquisitor asked, “Which is?”
“I’ve gotta get,” the soldier with the slate computer turned toward her objective to say, “that transport working.”
Encouragement came from all around, “Let’s do that then. What do you need from us?”
“Thank you,” the third wounded soldier said when ushered back into the contingent’s circle by the tenth and final troop.
That person advised, “The presence of the Deew is too thick outside this area. I checked. We can’t go toward Inner Corridor, ’cause I’m not planning on touching that thing. And we can’t go forward or any further into this level without being devoured. These laser rifles have been helpful, but they aren’t gonna get it with what we’ve just scoped out.”
And to top it off, the biological weapon had begun to turn that corner in pursuit of those two contingent members who had just arrived. Its spread was both methodical and wide, coalescing across all areas of the corridor – low and high, causing the soldiers to flinch into action with the lights on their laser rifles flickering frantically about as they snapped to the task.
“Get the wounded into the transport!” The soldier with the slate computer ordered to which, like she envisioned, six members of the contingent became preoccupied with that endeavor. With her being responsible for trying to get the elevator back into working order, this left only three with the tall order of fending off the biological weapon until that technological feat was accomplished.
With the Deew capable of being bent to Burdlit’s will but being amenable to protecting Janette, this was officially a standoff. These were mandatory grounds for needing to take her alive in order to figure out what exactly the botanist had done to the biological weapon, however the operational general’s anger was getting the worst of him.
Even with a suitable angle of attack, the Deew continued to throw up a wall which lined the outside track to the course that Janette was running. She knew very well what was happening, and this unspeakable partnership and the teamwork that resulted had nothing to do with anything that her team accomplished in augmenting the biological weapon.
Through its massive expanse, the Deew had been starving itself – burning through energy at almost an addict’s pace. With little replenishment in terms of the few Humans that it had ingested, the biological weapon had grown to an unsustainable breaking point of becoming thin, frail, and sickly to the view of a botanically trained eye. True, appearances were kept up and a browning of the foliage did not occur, but this was only because itself had become an internalized fuel source to allow for that ruse.
The Deew was dying and required the assist of a last ditch and dire attempt on the part of Janette. In her current predicament though, she seemed almost too willing to oblige, and this caused Burdlit to stop firing. He already knew that the botanist was willing to sacrifice the contingent for her aims – but all of Dio Qze? And people were starting to refer to him as a monster….
But none of this fit. Janette had always been about protecting the planet before. Why would she stop now? Why was the botanist carrying that canister around?
And why in the universe did she choose to open the divider between sectors as well as another whole quarter of Dio Qze to the Deew…?