Back at the port on board the Guard Cruiser Vengeance, Colonel ta’Kall was called from his quarters to the bridge.
“Stamos, you wanted to see me?” ta’Kall asked as he stepped out of the gravity lift onto the bridge.
“Yes I did.” Captain Stamos, a slender man of medium height with piercing gray eyes, said as he turned from the com center at one side of the bridge.
He continued. “I had one of the ratings running com exercises when he intercepted a series of coded messages on a battlefield freq. I had him try and crack the cipher. The code is a current one in use by Imperial Marines. From what we can decipher there is a battalion of them deployed somewhere in the city on a seek and destroy mission. I notified the watch officer at high command and a couple minutes later received orders for all guard forces on planet to go to yellow alert. Admiral Hunt doesn’t believe it has anything to do with us, but we are not to take any chances. All troops are to be recalled at once and all ships prepared for immediate departure. We are also not supposed to let any one else know that we are on alert or recalling all portside personnel.”
Rating Jores still monitoring at the com station suddenly stiffened and turned to captain Stamos. “Admiral Hunt ordered the battleship Fury to observe the city from orbit, and they report a detonation of approx. one kiloton of high explosives across the city from the port. Admiral hunt says to go to full alert.”
After a few minutes further discussion with Captain Stamos, Colonel ta’Kall left to round up the rest of his battalion. His only stops before leaving ship were his quarters to pick up his service side arm, a Mark 4 blaster, and Talos’s quarters to get her.
Fifteen minutes later they arrived back at the Planets End and mustered all the troops still there to search for the rest of the battalion. A half hour later the last partying soldiers were reported as found and on their way back to the ship.
With a weary sigh ta’Kall rubbed his face as he checked the last name off of the roll call list. “that’s the last one that was unaccounted for” he said.
Talos turned to the troops who had been searching for their fellow soldiers “All right you guys go get some sack time while you can. The whole fleet is on yellow alert, so we’re probably not going to get much rest before we’re back doing busy work” she finished wryly.
With voices kept low enough that Talos could pretend she hadn’t heard them, the troops muttered and grumbled about being on alert as they streamed out of the Planets End.
Waiting till the last of them had left she and ta’Kall shared a laugh over the good natured grumbling of the soldiers.
“I would really worry if they ever stopped grumbling and complaining” Talos said after she stopped laughing.
With a tired chuckle ta’Kall agreed “I do believe that grumbling and complaining are part of the job description of a contented soldier” he stated with a twinkle in his eye. “Come on let’s get some of that shut eye ourselves. Tomorrow will be here all too soon” ta’Kall said as he got to his feet. Turning to the proprietor who was behind the bar, he reached into his pocket and then flicked a gold coin to him as he called out “Sorry to crimp your business so early in the evening, good sir.”
Feeling the weight of the coin in his hand, the proprietor very hurriedly rushed to assure that no offense was taken and that anytime they wished to return they were more than welcome.
After they left the bar ta’Kall and Talos walked through the dirty streets, headed toward pad 1115 where the cruiser was berthed. As they walked they kept a close eye on the dark alleys that opened up off of the street at regular intervals. Though it was unlikely that anyone would try to attack them, it never hurt to be prepared.
Suddenly, only a block before the buildings of that section of the port gave way to Plasticrete ship pads, something moved in one of the alleys. Without a word, the two soldiers separated so that they made two separate targets instead of one and cautiously prepared to pass the alley by.
Suddenly stopping, Talos looked intently into the alley.
“What is it Talos?”, ta’Kall asked as he followed her lead and turned to face the alley full on.
“It sounded as if someone was crying there for a second. I thought I saw something, but it wasn’t very big”, she said as she cautiously approached the alley.
Drawing his blaster ta’Kall moved to the side to get a clear field of fire. “Be careful. It could be a trap. If it is, drop low to give me a clear shot.” After a instant’s thought he dialed the force setting on his blaster to stun, just in case he had to shoot close by her.
Suddenly, as she entered the alley a figure erupted out of it and knocked her down as it ran past. As she fell, she started to holler don’t shoot, but ta’Kall reacted instantly, firing before she could call out. The figure, now seen to be a child, was knocked backwards almost ten feet as the blaster discharged across his chest in a wash of bright energy.
Both of them rushed to the small figure laying sprawled on the ground.
“My God!” ta’Kall cried out as they saw the young boy clearly for the first time. Blood was caked on him, and there was a large wound in his shoulder. Kneeling next to the small body he quickly checked for a pulse. “He’s still alive, but his pulse is weak. Let’s get him to the ship, it’s the closest place with a full trauma center for gunshots.” With a sick look on his face at what he had done, ta’Kall continued “I don’t see how he’s alive at all. On someone his size even on stun a blaster shot should kill, especially with a wound like this.” He said as he gently checked the small figure.
ta’Kall carefully picked up the small body and cradled it against his chest. Then he and Talos quickly faded into the night as they hurried down the street to the ship pad where the Vengeance sat.
The Vengeance a 1000 meter long mass of scarred battle armor and weapons sat in deep shadow. The only thing distinctive about it was the strobe lights on top that warned off aircraft from coming near. The deep, black surface of the huge ship faded into the night so well that it was hard to tell where the ship ended and the shadows began. Out of sight behind the bulk of the Vengeance were more than a thousand ships covering hundreds of square miles of port. All the ships of the Altairian Guard small enough to land on a planetary surface were there. Cruisers, scouts, troop transports, and couriers were there to pick up the rest of the surviving Altairians and load supplies. Tomorrow the whole fleet would head for orbit and then begin the long voyage to Banners World in Beta sector.