Criticality 20


Enforcer I
“Lieutenant Marileva Dike-Sims,” General Pile said of the Space Force identification picture which was being projected on the furthest wall of the conference room. “She’s the current captain of SpaceStation Colt and the target of this operation.”

Along the sides of the conference room table from the wall which doubled as a view-screen to the foreground was MC, Python, and Recoil on the left with Cindra and E-Man on the right. As usual, Chipshot had his seat at the head of the table which meant that his back was turned to the projection of the image. And as usual, he was not missing anything – having been fully briefed previously; but the slumping posture of crossed arms, a penetrating gaze of disapproval constantly beamed in the direction of the General who was seated at the opposite end of the table, and a mouth which happened to have been kept respectfully closed outed him on where his opinion was at regarding this mission. Karyn, Autopsy, and Neckbone were, again, in the field and unavailable for this briefing, but Acro and Acra Lin were noticeably absent, and that was as verbal of a protest which could be levied short of crossing the line into insubordination.

“Wait a minute,” Python interjected, “didn’t we just enforce the Space Force Doctrine on the remainder of Roy’s Rebels under the Lieutenant’s authority?”

soldier-with-gasmaskGeneral Pile shirked Chipshot’s annoying gaze in order to nod his head and turn to address Python, “That’s correct, and now you’ll be enforcing the Space Force Doctrine on Lieutenant Dike-Sims because she happens to be in breach of similar provisions which Roy’s Rebels committed against her. Only this time, the Space Force is the target of unconscionably treasonous behavior.”

With that explanation, Python nodded his understanding and sat back. It was another opportunity for him to use his talents to rid the universe of another bad person – what did he care? Perhaps by doing the bidding of the universe’s greatest good and continuing to follow these orders, personal salvation would come. That was the idea anyway.

“What’s the Lieutenant’s track record?” MC spoke up now. “What do we need to know?”

“Death Corps, Planet Exile, the Zero Universe,” the view-screen changed images with the General’s words. The latter two featured images of such destruction and death that he took a moment to conveniently preface the visuals in further pleading his case while staring back at Chipshot, “And, Lieutenant Dike-Sims is coming for the Space Force next.”

“I bet that Stalkord is absolutely loving the Lieutenant for what she did to Death Corps and Planet Exile,” E-Man surmised.

The observation was met with an earnest disagreement by General Pile, “Stalkord doesn’t blame Lieutenant Dike-Sims for those instances. The Pillorian Regime had infiltrated and tainted Death Corps, so she saved him the trouble of having to disband it. Conversely, her destroying of Planet Exile actually made me smile because it put a dent in his relationship with the New Alliance.

The Zero Universe is another matter altogether. Again, I don’t mind the results because the utter destruction of civilian and military alike assisted the Space Force in a big way by chopping out over seventy-five percent of the New Alliance’s fleet, but the means have obviously thrown up some red flags as a cause for concern. What happens when the Space Force chooses not to bend to the Lieutenant’s will? The events of this other universe are an unwelcome preview of what’s to come, and we’d be foolish not to heed the warning signs. We’d be suicidal to disregard them outright.”

That last statement was aimed at Chipshot who now added a slight scowl to his facial expression. He and the General would be having words in private after this meeting.

“Can you please loop these Zero Universe scenes back?” E-Man asked. “This devastation is unbelievable. It looks like the entire universe collapsed upon itself. I know that I don’t really feel anything for the New Alliance’s society, but…those poor people. Is Lieutenant Dike-Sims an Ethereal?”

“We’re unsure about that,” General Pile stated. “What we do know is that the Lieutenant is a Crimson Red Belt.”

“Acro’s clan sister,” Chipshot chose to point this out here, “and you can bet that he’s not going to be happy about our assignment.”

The realization hit like quick jab to the throat and caused a collective gasp in the room as the five Enforcers who had not known the correlation turned to the General for some sort of direction. He scratched his right eyebrow in order to hide an initial moment of disdain for Chipshot’s guile before saying, “I would always give a fellow soldier the benefit of the doubt,” and extending his left hand to the looped images, “but this is not the first time that a person of Lieutenant Dike-Sims’ caliber turned on the Space Force. In fact, what you’re watching is the punctuation to the original turn, so it behooves us to be prepared this time around and prevent the cycle before she has a chance to close it out. If we wait for her to make a move, our response will invariably come too little, too late. There’s a slim window with which to be reactive or presumptive, and the debate remains open as to who will shut it first.

You have your orders, and when Dash and Lug Nut return, they’ll be helping to coordinate with you on how best to carry those out. If this were a debate, I’d humor additional questions on the subject.” Effectively shutting the room down with a rabid preparation which could only come about from living and breathing the mission statement which sustained him, he welcomed the words that his Enforcers general had invited between them after this meeting concluded. But at the conclusion of that impromptu temperature check, hurt feelings were not expected. Some things needed to be said, and some of those things needed to be digested by his subordinate officer. Like say, this was all old hat for him.

“Does the Lieutenant have any acquaintances that we can exploit for the purposes of taking her down?” Recoil questioned after shrugging off the fact that Acro might have been one of them under different circumstances. This was always his way though. In his estimation, it was almost useless to take the person on toe-to-toe when targeting a person’s family could bring any person to their knees. He was respected within the Enforcers, but some wondered silently if a little bit too much pleasure was being taken by him in targeting those who could not naturally defend themselves – especially little children. Well, those were the actions of a futurist, and that mentality sure made it easier to take what General Pile was ordering (against Acro’s clan sister no less) with a grain of salt, in stride, and without argument.

What people might do was a harsh burden of proof, but was that not the proactive mandate from which the Enforcers were founded upon? Black ops was a sort of all in kind of thing where picking and choosing missions based off of personal mandate (or bias) alone could cause the entirety of the outfit to collapse under the strain of uncertainty. Nowhere was it written that an Enforcer’s family member or friend could not turn against the Space Force. They always hoped that this would never happen, but a violation of the Space Force Doctrine was just that – a death sentence, and justice of their enforcement needed to remain blind in its doling out.

Well, Chipshot was not buying it, and out of all of the people who were in that conference room, he was perhaps the person who was most necessary to be on the same page with the mandate of the Enforcers’ organizational existence. His opinion of this was critical because he was their second highest-ranking field leader. If he faltered in his belief of the very constitution of the Enforcers which doubled as the Space Force Doctrine or rejected it even partially, the entire outfit would go from being a Space Force splinter group to being a rogue terror cell in a modest instant. Everything would fall apart then.

“Lieutenant Dike-Sims is one of the Space Force’s greatest military minds,” General Pile complimented before taking some of the praise for himself, “as she was groomed under the command of one of my closest friends, Captain Ricardo Cairce. Her inner circle consists of nine generals. I’ll provide you with the individual files which we have amassed on each, but here’s the quick briefing.”

The slides of the General’s presentation continued to turn as he progressed through his oration, “Edmund Sims is the Lieutenant’s husband and a civilian who has become as dangerous as her. Interestingly, they are an item physically and metaphysically through some otherworldly link that she created. You take him out, and they both die. He’s definitely the weakness in that relationship.

Major Ciba Due Dimry is Lieutenant Dike-Sims’ second in command, militarily. She is also the current commander of SpaceStation Colt, so the idea will be to isolate the both of them off of the ship but not let the cat out of the bag that they’re being targeted. I know, it’s hard to imagine that they would not be anticipating our movement against them, but the plan is the plan, so let’s stick with it.

Nadala Agënt is SpaceStation Colt’s acting science/medical team lead, but this is as deceptive as it is dangerously underestimating of her true nature and abilities. We believe that she is the Lieutenant’s interim third in command at this juncture, but she also happens to be one of the nearly extinct Ronds. Had I not witnessed her superior officer’s abilities in the Zero Universe, I’d be very concerned about hers. As such it still portends a grave challenge to our deficit of supernatural depth.

Thumby is a Pillorian by citizenship. The power of his mind more than makes up for his unimposing physical stature. And I don’t mean he has mental super powers or anything like that. He’s both school smart and street smart. Packed within that two-foot pudgy frame is an incredible brain at the top of his rhinoceros-looking head. It’s earned him the position as SpaceStation Colt’s engineering team lead.

Tigron is one of the greatest fighters that either universe has ever known. We believe that he’s officially defected away from the Pillorian Regime in order to join Lieutenant Dike-Sims and currently serves as SpaceStation Colt’s security team lead. This speaks to a larger issue that we’re noticing with all of them and the problem which you-all need to know is a problem. She’s got Humans, Ronds, Pillorians, and even Dorans united under her cause. Did I mention that she is a Doran? As in their Queen…? So much has happened with the story of SpaceStation Colt, but the moral is the influence – hers. If it’s aligned with the Space Force, there are no issues, but if it’s not, we’ll have an entire universe coming down on us in order to unseat us. The devastation of the Zero Universe and the multicultural makeup of the spacestation’s crew are the only clues that we need to set the stage of the ultimate precursor.

Off of SpaceStation Colt, the Lieutenant’s generals are scattering throughout the universe most likely to spread her message. At the top of the list is Intendant Xach – a Doran Military loyalist who was initially enthralled into following her because she holds such a high genetic rank, but we now believe that he honestly took a liking to it and obeys of his own free will.

Intendant Xach and this person – Major Beavy Beave are each stuck on the Doran Homeworld as it sits in flux with the rift opening access between our universe and the Zero Universe. The Major is a flight whiz, but he’s currently grounded because of the rules of traversing to, from, and through the Crystal Planet. You’d think that we could take our eyes off of them at this point, but no, they’re brokering unauthorized peace accords with the Doran Aristocracy in clear violation of what Leader One: Jerry Stuyvescent would condone. This is another example of the egregious behavior that we’ve been watching for some time which makes the decision to send the Enforcers in to deal with it a no-brainer. That’s the Crystalline System.

Terry Terrison is an Ethereal, and we’ve lost contact with him somewhere out in the Exilis System. Rest assured that I’ve made some moves to counter his impact and blunt his effectiveness. It’s all that I can say at this time.

Major Houser Reynolds has traded in his position as the third in command of SpaceStation Colt for a Doran mothership and a trip back to the Terran System. Again, none of these movements are those of an organization who has the Space Force’s best interests at heart. Organized yes, yet if they were not about to pull something horrific, a reasonable person would involve us in their planning rather than trying to circumvent our jurisdiction at every turn with a flagrant guise of the covert.”

“I’m assuming that you’ve already had the identical conversation with Briar One and the rest of the Enforcers who are stationed on Earth?” Cindra asked when the slide show completed. Her man would certainly want to know these details, and although everybody seemed to always be worrying about her, she found herself genuinely concerned for the prospects of his safety as this mission not only taxed but expanded the Enforcers’ limitless authority into the realm of the infinite. They had never quite dealt with anything this massive before, but this did not mean that the Enforcers were not dutifully prepared to deal with things. It was just that the conservatively cautious never chose to throw caution to the wind ever.

Everybody was aware of Briar One and Cindra’s relationship. Like Acro and Acra Lin’s marriage, it was all out in the open for not only the team support structure but to prevent any of the shenanigans of impropriety from tearing apart the Enforcers. To them, the unit truly was everything, so General Pile did not beat around the bush in assuring, “The Earth Force Enforcers were the first to know. It took me a little longer to get to your group because I’ve been having to deal with a couple distractions, but as of right now, both sides have been fully briefed. You’re all dismissed.”

Of course, that meant all except for Chipshot, but the General did not preface it this way in order to prevent a scene of disunity from being caused. When the other five Enforcers got up to leave, his subordinate officer remained seated which was technically the norm for these meetings – the parking lot phase, so no mind was paid by those who exited.

Chipshot was curious, “What could you possibly say?”

“You shouldn’t be so quick to give Acro power over you,” General Pile went right into it. “He’s more than capable of taking it from you without your fawning assistance.

With people like Acro and Lieutenant Dike-Sims, there is no controlling them. You can only hope to detain their thoughts for a moment that they’re not using to contemplate your destruction. Notice how I didn’t say ‘contain them’. What a joke that is. Outmaneuvering is the key. Hopefully, interest is eventually lost, but it’s all that we can do until either their level is reached or somebody takes them out.”

“So is this a suicide mission?” Chipshot had a point, “You just said that people like Acro and the Lieutenant cannot be stopped.”

Smiling, the General would prefer it if Chipshot did not routinely twist his words, “I also said that outmaneuvering is the key. Who knows, maybe they’ll take each other out, and yes, I’ve put Acro in this conversation. He’s either an ally or he’s not. In many respects, I need to know where his loyalty ultimately is – especially with the impending war with the New Alliance looming over all of our heads. Look, he always said that he’s on the team, but I must test that loyalty and make sure. Is it with the Djibouti Clan? Is it with the Space Force? Does it lie elsewhere? I don’t know; I’m just asking.

Acro is the most dangerous type of fighter – a pacifist. He doesn’t need to make use of his physical skills to kill you when he can use his will to allow others to do the work for him. Think back to any government. When was the last time that a government leader did their own dirt? Ruling with an ideal is the ideal, and he’s mastered it.”

Astute as always, Chipshot countered, “However, why should I put any faith in anything that you have to say or trust you in the slightest – by that logic?”

“You shouldn’t,” General Pile explained. “Trust the fact that Acro will do away with me much sooner than he would do away with any of the rest of you because I’m dangling the life of his clan sister in front of him like a carrot. I’ve knowingly crossed a line because I want to see how he responds.

Will Lieutenant Dike-Sims turn into this harbinger of death? Actually – well probably, yes. That is still a concern – not a big one because if you are on her side, I doubt that you’d be harmed. But, the Space Force is not just going to bow before her whim. Honestly, who does she think that she is to even try? There’s a little something called the chain of command, and impatience is never an excuse for anarchy. It’s a different school of thought. The question is what happens when we decide not to subvert our values? Acro is potentially the answer to that quagmire, and I’d prefer not to leave these variables to chance by taking an active role in their manipulation.

This can tear the Enforcers apart, but it’s also why Briar One and you are in charge – to bring them back together. Believe me, I’ve lost my family over this and had to sacrifice some of my closest friends. The position is unenviable, but you may find yourself in it. Judge not.”

Chipshot sat across from the General in silence for the awkward part of three minutes. What could he have said lest he be judged?

The Jensen-Gyro Home
“Do you mind if I use your bathroom,” Julian asked while checking his watch and making his way up off of the couch, “before I get ready to head out?”

“You know where it’s at,” Edith said as she uncrossed her legs which happened to have been folded at the knees and put down her eBook reader for the purposes of getting up from the reading chair to courteously see Julian out. After all, he was working double shifts in a sense, so although his fellow Police Force officers were covering for him during the daytime, his responsibility to stay up on the continuing daily rigors ran well into the late evenings with nightly preparation after leaving here. Being second in command of the Second Earth Special Police Force – there was no escaping it.

Making sure that Commissioner Gyro’s family was cared for still presented itself as an immense honor, but this was no different than the obligation that any Police Force officer would proudly take up to fill in for another officer who happened to be either unable or incapable. Normally, this particular type of responsibility was reserved for the families of wounded or deceased officers, but waiting for times like those to give of oneself to another wreaked of a routine which was associated with life-altering events such as weddings or funerals in being that they were expected to do so and basically just going through the motions.

For people like Julian, they preferred to do nice things when the situation did not necessarily call for it because then, when the situation did demand it, his presence would be deemed as being that much more genuine in its sincerity. He excused himself, “I’ll only be a quick moment,” and headed for the downstairs bathroom. Once again, they had learned from past mistakes about flushing the upstairs toilet. Ardina and Devore were savvy. One could only pull the same tricks a couple of times on them before they caught on to the patterns of the seemingly capricious attempts. In learning from these mistakes, it was decidedly best to just avoid any semblance of contact with the children’s senses whatsoever. An overnight stay because of a devastated Ardina who would not stop crying and in turn a woken up Devore would be hard on Edith and draining on the Police Force officer.

As Julian turned the corner, the doorbell rang which Edith questioned, “At this time of night?” She then shifted her eye contact from the direction of the front door to that of the Police Force officer who had halted his short trek to the bathroom and said with disappointment in her voice, “I’ll get it.” There was really no other choice. Too much more noise and there would be an even bigger problem awakened times two.

Normally, Edith would snatch the door open and give the morons a piece of her mind, but she was the wife of a Police Force commissioner, and these were troubled times, so she utilized the security cameras which transmitted an image of the house’s front areas to a peep screen which was built into the side wall of the staircase that led upstairs yet pointed downstairs in the direction of the door. Whispering with exaggerated motions of her lips, she mouthed over to Julian, “Space…Force….”

“Oh shi-,” Julian said to himself as he forgot about his bladder and rushed up the back stairway in order to wake the children. He started with Ardina who was just happy to see him and pulled her from the covers. No resistance was offered, and she really was a good girl, but here was the point where some additional responsibility needed to be heaped on. “Please get dressed. We need to go out for a moment.” Devore was next.

“Okay,” Ardina agreed and complied. Children were a blessing, but disciplined children happened to be resplendent during uncannily precarious situations such as this. Luckily, the day’s school clothes from earlier were lying in a pile right beside her bed.

With one down, there would be no time to get Devore dressed because they needed to go. And they needed to go now, so Julian liberated him from the crib and brought the child’s blanket along with them. Groggy, he was trying to fight a battle against sleep and awareness in having his schedule disturbed and interrupted, so the Police Force officer gently shushed the child and met up with Ardina who was standing anxiously albeit quietly in the doorway. These kids definitely had the instincts of their Police Force commissioner father and Police Force commissioner’s wife for a mother who had been through it all and possessed a wily and cunning nature all of her own.

“What in the universe are you doing here, again,” Edith chided upon opening the door up to Dash and Lug Nut, “at this time of night.” She recognized the Space Force soldiers from the time when General Pile had visited late.

“Where is Commissioner Gyro?” Dash asked simply.

Edith lied, “He’s in the bathroom.”

“So it’s normal for Police Force Officer Kazar to be over here at this time of night?” Lug Nut questioned before pushing open the door and pushing past Edith for the purposes of entering the home as an uninvited intrusion.

“Don’t go in there!” Edith screamed as Dash used his strength to overpower her and press her body up against the doorway.

Lug Nut pulled his LUNC and charged through the house with the mentality of a hunter and the audacity of Space Force jurisdictional authority. Dash completed his subduing of Edith by attaching fusion cuffs to her flailing arms which played literally and figuratively into his violently grasping hands because they were behind her back.

Winded from the exertion, Edith found herself humped over as Dash went to swing her around into a more compliant position which happened to be facing forward. Questions were sure to follow, but she made brief light of the situation, “What gave it away: Julian’s car parked out on the street in front?”

Speaking of whom, Julian had taken the long way around – through the backyards of other houses and wrapped around at an angle which put the Mustang between him and the view of the house as he completed a crouched sprint while carrying two very cooperative kids. It looked easy in hopping those fences and lugging the children this entire time, but his body was kept in shape, and times like these were the reasoning as to why.

Julian then handed Devore to Ardina who took ownership of situating herself and her brother in the back seat. He saw Edith being swung around out of the corner of his eye before ducking down behind the cover of the Mustang. It was now or never, do or die, and kill or be killed, the LUNC within his shoulder holster began to speak to him.

If Lug Nut succeeded in getting a struggling Edith completely inside of the house, there was going to be no chance of Julian getting her out. He dropped the LUNC into his hands, popped up over the hood of the Mustang, and sent streams of pulses through the front door.

Sly in her remarks, Edith had seen it coming, but her comment had diffused Lug Nut’s restraint on securing the front of the house by dismissing the obviousness of a different ploy. Out of instinct, Julian’s letting loose of those LUNC pulses created a needed separation that she used to put distance between herself and her captor. There was no looking back because the Police Force officer had hers in stepping up in front of the Mustang to keep the Space Force soldier at bay.

A gem of teamwork was demonstrated when Ardina opened the Mustang’s passenger side door, allowing her mother (who had no hands available) the opportunity to get inside. She would earn extra ice cream tonight and for days to come which could be consumed well past the scheduled bedtime – heck, anytime for that matter.

Julian continued to light up the front of the Jensen-Gyro Home as he backed his way around the Mustang to the already open driver side door. Lug Nut was badly out of position and had needed to take cover out of the openness of the foyer which forced him to retreat more deeply inside of the house. There was no chance of getting off any retaliatory shots because the vantage of the shooter had yet to be ascertained. The Police Force officer continued to blanket the front with pulses until Dash began to fire down from an upstairs window – at which point, the vehicle was screeching off down the street!

With intensely pursed lips, Julian holstered his LUNC, and then pressed the solitary button on the fusion cuffs when Edith reached her bonded wrists over to him in order to free her. He then placed that hand on the steering wheel as well which gave him greater stability over the muscle of the Mustang with its accelerator being floored.

“Thank you, Julian,” Edith said before turning to Ardina. “Are you alright?” With a nervous yet hopeful nod from her daughter, she brought her sights to Devore who was resting comfortably within his child seat. Unreal.

They were not out of this yet, and those dual Class V Fighters which swooped down overhead and streaked past their changing and hauling position promised to make the trek back to the Second Earth Special Police Force Base a difficult one. Fortunately, Julian assumed, the Space Force (and subsequently these Enforcers who were now on their tail) needed at least one person from that Mustang alive for the purposes of tracking down the Commissioner, figuring out his plans, and forcing him to return – so the reckless raining down of laser fire might just have been out of the question. Funneling them toward a barricade was the next logical step that a Police Force officer would take in this case because he, for one, did not want any harm to come to any of his passengers.

As long as Julian could keep moving, they would all be okay, so the street and the map of Atro City which resided in his mind netted the primary focus. But this tact would only last for as long as there was a road. Thankfully, it was late, so not many cars were out, and he felt comfortable with running red lights. The Police Force officer still needed dire help though and fingered his Ear-To-Mouth Com to ask for some.

The Second Earth Special Police Force Base
“Fu–!” Pete exclaimed as he answered the call on his Ear-To-Mouth Com. “I’ll have the entire Police Force out there to assist. Stay alive, man!” He immediately stood up from the desk of his office and reached up to snag his trench coat off the coat rack which adorned the corner – very nearly tipping it over in the process with his urgency.

Pete would speak to Sec directly on his way out and provide the dispatcher with the orders that would call every off duty Police Force officer out of bed, send every Police Force officer who was already in the field Julian’s way, and get all of the remaining Police Force officers who were currently on duty but not necessarily outside over to help his partner. They could all comprehend the meaning of the page implicitly. The majority of them might not have known exactly what was up with Commissioner Gyro, but one thing that the rugged cop knew was that Police Force officers stuck together, and a show of force would be required to fend back the Space Force’s Enforcer goons.

“Are you the commissioner?” A man stopped Pete’s hurried progress at the doorway to his office – all but halting him in his tracks.

Impatiently, Pete replied, “Acting commissioner. Can you please excuse me. I’ve some place to be – like now.”

The man would not budge and politely asserted, “I wanted to make you aware that I’m about to turn your city into a war zone. You should at least be aware of my intention.” He stepped aside after having said that.

To Pete, that was new and unexpected. He now found himself in a bind – torn between a duty to his friends and a duty to sort this startling admission out, unable to move even with the man out of the rugged cop’s way and no longer blocking up the doorway. Red flags were being thrown up, alarm bells were ringing, and this Police Force officer’s instincts were being felt on the inside of him at the gut level.

“One second,” Pete growled angrily as he fingered his Ear-To-Mouth Com. “Slubbich, are you still mobile? This is Pete – no, I’m fine. It’s Julian; can you get to him? The Enforcers are on his as-, so you’ll probably need Vim and a shi-load of backup. Get with Sec, and it’ll be coordinated. I was trying to get out of here myself to assist, but I’ve been unavoidably detained.”

The man was just standing there – listening in on Pete’s conversation. In all of his uncanny honesty, he probably did not want the rugged cop to have to chase after him if there were any questions to what turned out to be a personal guarantee of what was about to happen with the events of the future. This whole entire encounter and setting could not have gotten anymore awkward than it seemingly already was, and yet everything was so unbelievably unforced.

“Thank you, Slubbich,” Pete sounded extremely concerned about Julian – his best friend and the Commissioner’s family when he concluded the conversation on the Ear-To-Mouth Com. Almost jittery but clearly rattled, he turned to face the man with pointed eye contact plus whatever the right words that the rugged cop could possibly find for a situation like this, and his voice cracked as he did so, “Who are you?”

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