As it sat on the plasticrete pad beside the Vengeance with the five other attack gravs, AG-1 with it’s flat black paint looked almost as deadly as it actually was. 25 meters long, 10 meters wide and only 3 meters thick, AG-1, with its raked back atmospheric control surfaces and recessed weapons pods, could accelerate in excess of one thousand meters per second or hover in total silence. It could travel under water or in a ballistical trajectory outside the atmosphere. Its main pulse blasters mounted on the top and bottom of the craft in hemispherical weapons pods were capable of hitting a target no more than a meter in diameter from 10 kilometers without damaging anything to either side of the target or of destroying a city block with one long blast.
ta’Kall pulled himself to the top of AG-1 and stood there to address the crews of the other attack gravs. “Alright, listen up. Were tasked as a roving response team. Our job is to make sure no one interferes with our ships departure. We are responsible for the area from pad 11,052 to 12,400. Warrior, Loki and Atlantis will cover security for the rest of the port. Now, I want you to listen closely, if we actually get a call the closest team will respond and then wait for me to get there before any actions are taken”
“Colonel what if our people are in danger or being fired on?” A pilot in the group worriedly asked.
“You had better hope it doesn’t happen sergeant, because if it does, even if your justified in firing on someone, most likely both our asses will land in the fire”, ta’Kall said seriously. With a long look at the soldiers standing around the attack grav ta’Kall went on. “I want all fire control systems to be locked out.”
A low mutter of discontent came from the crews as they heard this.
“I know you don’t like it, but all we want to do is intimidate whatever intruders we might have to deal with.” With a smile ta’Kall added, “They won’t know that your weapons can’t fire. Anyone that’s looking down the muzzle of a pulse blaster that just swivelled to cover them is not going to be excited about doing anything but standing very still.”
Muffled chuckles came from the crews as they envisioned this.
“I reckon that we might need to carry some shovels to clean off the ground after they shit their pants, Colonel” drawled a veteran sergeant to the amusement of all.
“I reckon you’re right, sarge”, ta’Kall drawled back to a round of open laughter.
“You have your personal weapons if we actually get in a armed confrontation, and if necessary I will give you clearance to unlock your fire control systems. May God help us all if it comes to that,” ta’Kall finished in a grim voice.
“Alright load up and prepare to move out,” ta’Kall said. Then he dropped down into AG-1 through one of the top access hatches and moved forward to the command center located behind the pilot’s compartment. With a sudden smile he sat down at the com console and spoke to the Vengeance for a few seconds. A minute later he could see a ship’s ensign run to AG-3 with a shovel and throw it in the side troop hatch. “My complements to you, sergeant Mason”, he sent over the com to the crew of AG-3. As he listened in over the com he could hear the whoops and hollers as Mason was razzed by his crew.
“Okay people, lift off by the numbers and take position”, ta’Kall called over the com. He then turned and looked through the hatch between him and the pilot’s compartment before he spoke again. “Take her up and move to the center of our sector, Lt. Jeran, then hold her at about 300 meters.”
To those on the ground who watched, one moment the attack gravs sat in a row beside the Vengeance, and a bare handful of seconds later they had all silently slid into the air and accelerated out of sight. The only thing to show they had ever been there were dust devils caused by displaced air.
After several hours of patrolling with no incident, a call came from the Vengeance. “AG- 5 mark beacon on freq. 2300 and close on it. It is the personnel carrier Mubaru, commanding officer Sendal Xeis. There is a platoon of ISS security ordering him to allow them to board the Mubaru to search it.”
“Roger Vengeance control, this is AG-5, I copy and am complying”
“Vengeance control this is AG-1 command. We are also vectoring to approach the Mubaru, we will close from the opposite direction of AG-5.”
“AG-5 this is AG-1 command move in and hold position without forcing any action but deny access of the Mubaru to the ISS men. My ETA is 2 minutes, ta’Kall out”
With a whistle of displaced air AG-1 streaked toward the Mubaru while weaving in and out of the traffic pattern of lifting ships. Two minutes later it slid out of the sky to hover ten meters up, on the opposite side of the ISS agents from AG-5.
“This is Colonel ta’Kall of the Altairian Guard. I am under orders to deny access to all Altairian ships by unauthorized personnel, unless you have a search order signed by the emperor himself,” ta’Kall’s voice boomed out across the landing pad from speakers set in the side of the attack grav.
“We are Imperial Secret Service agents and have the right to search at will and without warrant any vessel we deem necessary”, a large agent who seemed to be in charge said.
ta’Kall gave a mischievous grin and said to the men in AG-1 “Watch this,” before he keyed the speaker on again. “We are under orders to lift off to orbital formation and then depart the system. These orders have been personally signed by the emperor himself. Section 5, subsection 211, paragraph 2334 of imperial regulations states that a party under direct orders of the emperor may not be hindered by or subject to any other authority that would interfere with the carrying out of said orders unless the latter party has orders signed by the emperor that directly specify that the preceding party submit to the latter party. It is an imperial crime to interfere with the before mentioned party in the pursuance of their orders”
ta’Kall climbed out to stand on top of AG-1 as it lowered to the ground in front of the now slightly intimidated ISS agents.
In a conciliatory manner ta’Kall addressed the group again. “I realize that you are under orders to search our ships, and I sympathize; but at the same time I also am under orders to prevent any interference with the fleet’s lift off schedule. Your searching these ships comes under those orders. Lawfully I can forbid access even to the point of armed resistance”, As ta’Kall said this the lower main pulse blaster on AG-5 tracked around with a soft whine until it covered the group of ISS agents. “And I know that is the last thing,” he paused and then continued with a smile, “any of us want.”
Most of the ISS agents looked like they wanted to be anywhere other than where they now were. Though obviously not scared, the leader of the agents slowly nodded his head and agreed, “You are correct in your legal rights, and I would be a fool to argue with you over them at this particular time” he said as he pointedly looked at the pulse blaster that covered them. Turning to his men he spoke a few words and then looked back at ta’Kall and said “This won’t end here,” before he led his men away.
ta’Kall turned to Captain Xeis who was standing on the end of the boarding ramp to his ship with two of his officers. “If you have any more problems just give another call and we’ll be here” Then he dropped back down into the attack grav.
The next call came a couple of hours later after most of the Altairian fleet had lifted to orbit and only a few hundred of their ships remained on the planet.
“AG-3 this is Vengeance control, vector to 3329; you have traffic control priority, this is an emergency response, the passenger liner Proxima has called for help. Two passengers, a woman and a child, were detained as they tried to board and are now in the custody of ISS agents. Your orders are to throw a perimeter around the ship. Allow no one to leave the area. Then wait for AG-1 command element to arrive and take over. His ETA is three minutes behind your arrival time”
“This is AG-3, we are closing on the Proxima at high speed”
“AG-3, this is AG-1 command. Take it easy when you get there; don’t force the issue over custody of the child and woman, but at all costs don’t let them remove them from the vicinity”
“Roger that AG-1. AG-3 out.”
A few minutes later ta’Kall in AG-1 reached the Proxima. Both attack gravs grounded, one on each side of the ISS agents. Stepping out of AG-1 ta’Kall took in the situation at a glance.
The ISS agents had two people in the back of a hover car. A little girl huddled in the lap of a woman, both of them looked scared. A short, squat man in ISS uniform was arguing with a ship’s officer of the Proxima, probably the captain. As ta’Kall walked down the side ramp of the attack grav, the little man hurried over to him.
As the agent reached ta’Kall he shouted “What do you people think you are doing? I am an Imperial Secret Service agent. You have no right to interfere in my apprehending these criminals.”
With a slight smile, ta’Kall turned to the captain of the Proxima who was now approaching them. Reaching out he shook hands with him. “Captain Hillard, a pleasure”, he said reading the captain’s name tag. “I am Colonel ta’Kall. Has the agent here shown you any identification to prove who he is?”
With the glimmer of a smile, half relief and half amusement, which he quickly suppressed, the captain, a tall distinguished man with steady, steel gray eyes, responded. “No as a matter of fact he has shown me no formal identification, just a verbal statement to the effect that he is an ISS agent”
ta’Kall Turned to the ISS agent and looked down at him as he politely asked “Can you provide identification proving that you are who you say?”
“I don’t have to prove anything to you Altairian slime” He said with a sneer. Obviously fuming at the way ta’Kall and Hillard had ignored him, his face was red with anger.
The sound of the safeties being clicked off of the blast rifles carried by the troopers who had followed ta’Kall off of AG-1 was deafening in the sudden silence after the agent had spoken.
“If you can’t prove that you are an ISS agent, I must consider you to be an imposter. It would then be my duty to arrest you for impersonating an imperial official,” ta’Kall said with a predatory smile.
As ta’Kall spoke, a second squad of Altairian troopers clattered down the ramp of AG-3 and took up positions that putt the ISS agents in a cross fire.
Practically foaming at the mouth, the little man yanked a badge out and shoved it at ta’Kall. “I am special agent Nazta. I am under orders to apprehend all suspects in the terrorist bombing of the Imperial orphans’ hospital.” Putting his hand on the sidearm he wore, Nazta continued. “Now get your men out of here, or I will arrest you too.”
With a smile that was no longer humorous ta’Kall spoke. “You will not be arresting anyone.” Gesturing to two of the soldiers flanking him, he sent them to get the woman and child out of the hover car. Though they looked like they would have liked to stop the soldiers, none of the agents protested. After they joined the group, ta’Kall spoke to the woman. “Mistress I apologize for any inconvenience to you. If you don’t mind could you show me some identification, please.”
“Yes, sir, here it is”, she replied as with a shaking hand she pulled a card out of the bag she carried.
ta’Kall looked at it. “It seems to be in order Mistress Hevanti” He turned to Nazta. “She is an Altairian citizen, and unless you can produce a document from the emperor himself, legally you can’t arrest her”
“Then I will take the child”, Nazta angrily said, and reached out to grab her.
With a look of fear in her green eyes, the girl ducked behind the woman and held on to her leg.
“Mistress is this young lady your child?” ta’Kall asked. A flicker of disquiet ran through her eyes so quickly that ta’Kall thought he might have imagined it.
“Yes, sir, she is my daughter”
Turning to the young girl he knelt down and asked her name, but she just ducked her head. The only thing that showed of her face was one green eye that peeked through the long blond hair that now fell over her face.
CLANG! THUD! CLATTER!
ta’Kall quickly turned to see what had happened.
“I’ve never seen shit try to use a weapon before, but this shovel works just great for keeping it in its place,” a voice that sounded very familiar said.
An ISS agent lay sprawled out on the ground as Sgt. Mason kicked a small blaster away with his foot. “Sorry to disturb you colonel, but I didn’t think you wanted to be accidently shot.” Lifting the shovel up he continued “This thing came in a lot handier than I though it would. Not only can you shovel shit, but…” Suddenly conscious of the colonel’s intent glare and shake of the head Mason stumbled to a halt. “Sorry Sir, I guess I got a little carried away,” Mason apologized.
ta’Kall flicked his eyes toward Mistress Hevanti and the little girl before again looking intently at Sgt. Mason.
Giving a sudden start of understanding Mason turned to them “Mistress, little lady I apologize for my language. I should have thought before I spoke. It wasn’t fitting language for me to be using in front of you”
“Sergeant, please don’t apologize. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing your…mastery with a shovel.” After a pause as if looking for the right words and a quirk of her mouth in humor when she found them, Mistress Hevanti continued, “I’ve never seen one used to such good purpose before.”
The little girl stuck her head out from behind Mistress Hevanti and shyly smiled at Sgt. Mason before she quickly ducked back behind the leg she was holding on to.
Sgt. Mason slowly turned and headed back to his men while surreptitiously casting admiring glances over his shoulder at Mistress Hevanti.
“You’re under arrest, Colonel, and that Sergeant also” Nazta said as he grabbed ta’Kall’s arm. The look in his eyes gave the impression that he was not quite right in the head, like there was a fanatical fire burning in them. “I’m taking you in with her” as he looked at Hevanti “and that little monster” He jabbed his hand toward the little girl and pointed.
ta’Kall didn’t even look down at the hand on his arm as he turned to Capt. Hillard “Do you expect any more passengers or cargo?”
“No. Mistress Hevanti and her daughter are the last passengers, and all our cargo has already been loaded,” Hillard replied.
With a smile ta’Kall turned and addressed Hevanti and the child “Good! Mistress you and the young lady can board now.” He turned back to Hillard. “Captain you have permission to lift to orbit as soon as you are secure”
With an almost feral scream of rage Nazta released ta’Kall and grabbed his sidearm. ta’Kall reacted instinctively. With one hand he twisted Nazta’s gun hand up behind his back and with the other he grabbed a fistful of hair at Nazta’s forehead. ta’Kall pushed up on the hand behind Nazta’s back and pulled down and back on the fistful of hair he held, effectively immobilizing Nazta so that he was bent almost double backwards over his own arm.
As quickly as it started, all motion froze. The ISS agents stood with hands carefully held away from their weapons as ta’Kall’s troops, now lying in prone positions behind their weapons covered them.
“Carefully put all your weapons in a pile and back away from them” ta’Kall said in a dangerously cold voice. The look in his eyes convinced the agents that he was deadly serious. With a tense expression on his face, he looked at Captain Hillard “Go ahead and board. We’ll hold the agents here until after you have lifted”
With a quick nod of his head, Hillard turned and escorted Mistress Hevanti and her daughter across the pad and into the ship.
Nazta, still held by Colonel ta’Kall, started to struggle as he saw Hevanti and the girl leave. In an enraged but wheezy voice, because his neck was bent so far back, he called out “Don’t let them get away. You don’t understand. That little girl isn’t even human; she’s a monster.” With a renewed spate of struggling Nazta continued,” Kill her before it’s to late”
ta’Kall, the only one close enough to hear the low voice Nazta was forced to use, sadly looked at Nazta before he said “Yes, I believe I understand perfectly.” After a glance at one of the soldiers behind him, ta’Kall released Nazta and sharply shoved him away as he said “Stun Him” in a hard voice. Instantaneously, before Nazta could react, the blaster beam hit and knocked him to the ground in an unconscious sprawl.
None of the agents gave a protesting word or gesture. Expressions of satisfaction and amusement flickered across the faces of several of the agents, before they could control it, as Nazta who they despised lay unconscious on the ground. Less than ten minutes later the Proxima lifted. The low powerful subsonic vibration of its Lawson Anti-grav units as they fought the planet’s gravity made the people who stood there watching, grit their teeth against the force of the vibration. Then with a massive rumple that doppelered away as the ship gained altitude, the Proxima accelerated away from the port headed for orbit on its n-space drive.
As the noise of the Proxima’s lifting died away, ta’Kall with a few words and hand gestures signaled his men to board the attack gravs. Once they had boarded, both attack gravs silently accelerated away. All that was left was a group of bewildered ISS agents, none of whom wanted to be the one to report their failure. Nazta still lay in an unconscious heap on the ground, while the other agents stood there and looked at the empty ship pad as if the Proxima were going to reappear before them, as if all that had gone before was but a bad dream.
Thirty minutes later the call came, “This is Vengeance control. All Vengeance attack gravs report back to the ship. We lift in fifteen minutes, so hustle. You have clearance at shuttle bay one. Oh, by the way, Admiral Hunt sent word to tell you, ‘good job’.”
Over the com ta’Kall could hear the cheers from all the other AGs as he relayed the message to the troops in the troop bay behind him. With a smile he turned back to the com “Alright boys and girls, you heard what the man said. He wants us there soonest, so lets show him how it’s done.”
Almost immediately five rolling booms echoed across the nearly empty port as each attack grav went supersonic. In less than ninety seconds all five attack gravs had reached the Vengeance and were hovering outside of shuttle bay one.
Ten minutes later with all the attack gravs loaded, the Vengeance’s anti-grav units and n-space drives wound up for a fast lift off. Then, faster even than the attack gravs could move, the 1000 meter long Vengeance shot straight up for orbit. In its place it left a sonic boom that shook the ground.