Sergeant Mason, slightly out of breath from hurrying tossed his kit through the hatch of the shuttle and reached up to pull himself through. A hand came out of the hatch and helped pull him into the small craft.
“So you’re the reason that my schedule’s been shot to pieces” An irritated voice that belonged to the hand said.
“Sorry, I didn’t know that I was going myself until 30 minutes ago” Mason calmly replied as he looked at the pilot.
The pilot a tall lanky young man, after a last exasperated shake of his head gave a reluctant smile “Oh, what the hell”. Giving Mason a real smile as he turned toward the cockpit he finished “Everyone calls me Ace. Come on, you can sit up here in the right hand seat. Were the only ones on this flight, so I could use the company”
Mason followed the young pilot to the cockpit, strapped in and casually asked.. “How did you come by the nickname Ace”
With a smile that didn’t match the momentary look of desolation in his eyes Ace answered “I made Ace on my first combat fighter sortie” after a moments hesitation he finished “at Brenner’s Rift”
To make ‘Ace’ you had to have ten confirmed single kills, to do so in one flight, especially your first, was against all the odds.
Mason with a contrite look, spoke sincerely “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize”
Brenner’s rift had been one of the worst defeats of the war. A full TAC fleet had been led into an ambush there. Only one badly damaged corvette and two space fighters out of 25 other ships and more than 60 fighters had survived to escape. If Mason remembered right both surviving space fighters between them had more than 40 single and assisted kills. A record that had never been broken. A feat no one wanted to try again. Out of the 10,000 men that had crewed the TAC fleet only 70 survived.
After a couple of minutes of silence Ace shook off the dark memories from the past and with a carefully concealed curiosity in his eyes asked “So why are you going over to the Proxima in such a hurry?”
“I’m going to escort a lady and her daughter that are on the Proxima to Banners world. They were threatened before we left and the Colonel thought it wouldn’t hurt to have someone baby sit them, to make sure that nothing happens”
“Better you than me” Ace said with a smirk. An almost universal dislike of soldiers, of any kind, is to be assigned to guard duty.
Mason kept a straight face as with a twinkle in his eyes he said “Yes, it’ll be rough, but I’ll have to make the best of it”
Ace, with a suddenly suspicious look turned in his seat toward Mason “You look like your going to enjoy this. You shouldn’t be looking forward to baby sitting duty so what’s the deal”
“I’ve met the lady before, and have no problem with spending as much time with her as I possibly can” Mason said with a look that wasn’t seeing anything in front of him.
A few minutes later standing in the small landing bay of the Proxima Mason and Ace shook hands in farewell.
“I hope to see you again Ace, you take care of yourself” Mason said with a warm smile.
Ace with a light shrug and a smile turned to go as he said over his shoulder “You too Mason” then with a wider smile finished “and be careful of that baby sitting duty. With a pretty woman like you described it could turn into a life time job”
With a last wave to the departing pilot Mason lifted his kit to his shoulder and turned to walk away, while under his breath he said “I should be so lucky” After reporting to Captain Hillard, Mason went to his quarters and unpacked. He then took out the weapons kit that the armorer had given him. It wasn’t a normal pistol. The armorer had told him that it was a fairly new development out of the Altairian weapons labs. When he had stopped in the armory to get a weapon he had found that ta’Kall had already arranged it. With a excited smile the armorer waved Mason after him to the back of the armory. “You’ll like this” he said over his shoulder to Mason. “I owe ta?Kall and he said he wanted you to carry something inconspicuous. This just came out of the shadows. The labs developed it about four years ago and the shadows got it (the shadows being the men and women in the intelligence/spy arena). It’s only been about a month since I got it, it’s still classified so don’t go showing it off ”
Reaching into a safe set into the rear bulkhead he pulled out a thin rectangular shape. Slowly unwrapping it he revealed what looked like a thin flesh colored rectangle .5cm thick, 6 cm long and 4 cm wide.
“You’re kidding me right?” Mason uncertainly said.
With a smile the armorer motioned Mason to follow him to the small arms test range built into the back of the armory.
Mason watched as the armorer pulled back his sleeve and pressed the object to the top of his arm just above his wrist. The weapon glowed dimly for a brief second and then the armorer turned to Mason with a wide smile. “Watch this” He turned to face down the firing range and pointed toward a silloet at the other end of the range. With a blindingly bright actinic glare a beam extended from his arm to hit the siloute down range.
Mason gave a startled jump backwards “Shit, what is that thing?” he said after the armorer turned back to him.
Peeling the weapon off his arm the armorer said “It is a very advanced blaster. It takes a very small amount of matter and converts it to energy and then projects it through a force field barrel. I had it programmed to be very visible when firing, it can project several different forms of energy some of which are not visible to the naked human eye. You can program it to fire very strong pulses or to project a weaker but continuous beam which can be used as a cutting or welding tool”
Taking the small weapon in his hand Mason asked “How did you fire it and how was it attached to your arm”
With a smile the armorer said “Press it to your arm just above your wrist.
Mason gave a slight start when he felt the weapon seize his arm.
“It uses a semipermeable membrane that adheres to your skin and when you fire it, it locks to your arm with a small force field that holds on to bone structure in your arm”
With a interested look Mason asked “Why doesn’t it use the force field all the time? I would think it would be more secure that way”
With a proud smile like he had designed the weapon the armorer said “It would be, but it also would show up on weapons scanners like a beacon. Unless it is being fired it is invisible to electronic detection”
“How did you fire it? I don’t see a trigger or firing stud”
Reaching out the armorer grabbed Mason’s wrist. He peeled back a cover on the upper surface of the blaster and hit a couple of keys and then stepped back.
With a glow much brighter than before the shadow gun adapted to Mason’s nervous system. The erie sensation that went with the adaption process startled Mason and he started to rip the shadow blaster off of his arm.
With a shout the armorer cried out “Stop, don’t touch it. It’s just matching it’s self to you’re nervous system. I had it adjusted to mine and it wouldn’t have fired for you without resetting it’s recognition circuits.” After the recognition process was finished the armorer said “All right point your arm down range and think of a targeting laser”
With a skeptical look Mason did. “Wow” he said after a moment “It’s a entire targeting and range finder system” He then looked down at the blaster “Where is the laser sight? I don’t see one on it”
“That’s because there isn’t one” The armorer replied. “It projects the image of where your shot will go directly to your visual nervous system. It can’t be detected by the targeting system, only when it is actually fired. Okay now you point it at a target”
With a pleased grin Mason followed the armorer’s instructions.
“Now, in your mind take the safety off and think off firing it. Will it to fire”
After a skeptical glance at the armorer Mason concentrated on the shadow gun. With startling suddenness the weapon fired making Mason jump.
With a broad smile the armorer told Mason “Don’t worry I jumped a lot higher and harder than that the first time I fired it” After a look down range he continued “We’ll have to work on your marksmanship though, you missed the target entirely”
With a sheepish grin Mason admitted “I forgot to focus on the target”
“It takes getting used to. You have to focus on the target, on taking the safety off and on firing all almost simultaneously. Later you’ll even be able to control the beam intensity and composition by thinking about it. The only problem I have run into is that you have to be careful to not accidently fire it or change the settings on it with a careless thought”
Mason gave the weapon a respectful look “Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be around when this thing went off by accident”
With a pleased smile and a pat of his hand on the weapon now affixed to his arm Mason came back to the present. He needed to go find Mistress Hevanti and create a reasonable story to account for his presence on the ship. He wouldn’t need an excuse to explain why he was going to spend all the time he possibly could in Mistress Hevanti’s and the little girl’s presence. It would be clear to everyone what his interest was, and it wouldn’t be a lie.