An all-out sprint had slowed to a moderate power walk when Janette pushed her way through the base of a perimeter defense which saw the southern street plus the north and west parking lots gummed up from the presence of Galaxy Bloc’s mobile Treaders – utility vehicles that combined a nimble front tire turning radius with rear tank treads and twin, connected rooftop auto-turrets.
Without the credentials that she had coveted so highly so as to misplace them and cause this entire mess, any sudden movements outside of the urgent, expeditious variety might have been met with impediment by an allotment of foot soldiers who provided a dense buffer up against the Power Authority entrance – laser rifles poised and at the ready. Aerial Wingers – the one-person power gliders circled overhead and kept watch over the night sky as well as the pasture to the east.
“You are,” a soldier correctly answered the trick question, “Ma’am.”
There was no need for credentials and no need for Burdlit to buzz Janette in because all of the soldiers were well aware of her face and rank. From living within the shadow of the Space Force and the dominion of its control over the Quadron System, the unincorporated planets had been granted a measure of a pass when it came to approaching dangers. But Galaxy Bloc never stopped preparing via an intense training regimen and an impressive tooling of proliferation for these randomized hazards that might have and eventually (as with this very evening) wound up falling in their lap. Protection by association would only last for so long before somebody attempted to challenge the well-publicized secession.
Whether this current act of aggression was being carried out by the hands of an embarrassed Space Force who attempted to save face and repair a damaged pride with onerous and smothering demands for formalizing those extended protections or any number of third parties located throughout the universe that sought to do Galaxy Bloc overt harm, Janette had no clue. What she did know was that the soldier’s programmed response happened to be as pleasing to her ears as it was absent from Burdlit’s. The Carriveaua had their place and were useful to the purposes of assisting the unincorporated planets in achieving a measure of continued sovereignty, but this help came as a result of an uncanny knowledge about Deews. The soldier’s affirmation merely acknowledged the fact that the operational general and his people could be dealt with, as well, in the event of a double cross.
Of the soldier’s response, Janette stated, “Excellent,” before fingering her Ear-To-Mouth Com in order to page Burdlit and alert him of her presence.
“Yes, Janette,” Burdlit answered in stride of his dash up the stairwell between Level Y and Level Z, “you made it.” He chose to take the lead with his contingent in tow, so (in their following) they remained noticeably mindful of the space that the operational general’s thick tail occupied as it spiraled up the staircase behind him.
“Yeah,” Janette replied,” I’m topside and about to head down to Inner Corridor.”
While snapping open the door to Level Z, Burdlit questioned, “Are you sure that’s necessary,” and allowed two members of his contingent to rush out into the level before charging through the doorway himself. These were classic infantry tactics, meant to provide a leapfrogging continuation of cover as the remainder of the soldiers soon flooded inside (next) to watch his back. The operational general had done well to contain the fallout with proper troop positioning, but he had not yet secured the scene, so there was an honest concern for Janette’s safety. Her either falling hostage or victim to the intruder was sarcastically all that they needed right about now.
A grown woman of civilian deportment, Janette often needed to assuage the fears of the military-minded, “I intend on taking some soldiers with me. I’ll be fine.” She then prefaced her desire to be closer to the action with, “It’s just that when you get this guy, I’d like to be present.”
“As you wish,” Burdlit sighed at his acquiescence to yet another example of the foolhardy Human ego on display. He continued off down the corridor – leading this time with the barrel of his laser rifle out in front.
After selecting a ten soldier contingent of her own, Janette hustled toward the Power Authority entrance doors – lugging only a right-shouldered backpack and no weapon. She had faith in Burdlit’s methods, but her very eyes received even greater trust. This intruder was something different. It would be doubtful if mere guns were capable of bringing the person down, so the botanist brought a measure of ingenuity to the hunt.
A very personal violation had been inflicted upon Janette, and this ran much more deeply than a stolen codekey. It was a cut which burned and seethed within the wound, so she made no mistake of the intent to malice. Her life – her personal being, her privacy had been scoped out, invaded, and exploited. For how long? Weeks. Months. Possibly years.
Janette was to have been used up and discarded like toilet paper, and the thought of life not being precious did not surprise her in the slightest, but the realization that this intruder had pried into hers while it happened to be out of the view of the public sickened her to no end. Sleeping. In the shower. Other blush-worthy personal time. She shrugged that last thought away and only hoped that the pervert had been given quite a show.
This screamed of the Space Force’s doing. And this type of comportment was behind the real reasoning as to why Galaxy Bloc exited from their dominion. Absolutely nothing remained sacred from their eyes.
Or their ears – as Boyd would tell it. Part of a sinister three-way call which sixty-six percent of the participants believed was secure, he had heard Janette’s aims as surely as he had listened to the Level Y stairwell door shut with its reverberant echo – two levels above where the Enforcer currently stood, facing the entrance to Inner Corridor.