Chapter 22: Dion1
Dass reported over the intercom that he was contacted by Haversom, and the Rimfire was ordered back to Dion. To facilitate quicker loading of supplies, the entire ship's complement was drafted into loading, including Fireflight. Welcoming anything that would get my mind off recent events, I hurried to change into something more comfortable. As we loaded boxes across the airlock, Dass came walking briskly down the hall, followed by a severe-looking woman. They appeared to be having an argument, or rather she seemed to be yelling at Dass.
Dass ignored her until he steps over the edge of the airlock, when he quickly spun to face her. He was inside the ship, she was still on the station, and he was about to give her a piece of his mind. "Commissioner Crystal," he said, "you may heap all the insults one me you like while we are both on board the station, as the commander of it has given you free access. However, in my ship you have no such invitation or ability. If you wish to discuss this in a rational matter, on my bridge, you are welcome to do so. If you insist on acting like a spoiled ten-year-old, please go away."
He curtly turned and walked off, leaving her enraged. She turned her head to gaze upon us 'low-lifes' who were loading the ship, and shook her head in disgust. She stormed off down the hall, almost knocking over Mox who was coming in the other direction with an armload of fresh fruit. As she stormed past, he turned and gave her a wolf whistle. If looks could kill, Mox would be atoms. The incident over, Mox told us to get back to work. For the rest of the day he was whistling a popular tune. The work was hard, but nothing I wasn't unused to. But the same could not be said of the others. With a few exceptions, everyone was out of breath when evening approached. Finally the work was done and we took a breather before saying good-by.
Throughout the day, I noticed Tharis was looking rather disturbed, like he had something to say. It was eating him up and without warning he blurted out, "I'm leaving."
Our reaction was understandable. Most of us asked why, and a few wondered if they did something to offend him. "This has nothing to do with any of you. Not even Celine, well at least not directly. I've known Emilia for a long time and we came to love each other, but our work separated us. Now seeing her again made me realize that I still love her and that I want to be with her. She still feels the same and asked me to transfer over. This station needs a commander for the mekton wing stationed here and it will allow us to be together. We've even discussed marriage. Celine's death made me realize how important it is to live. While I felt alive when in battle with you, my teammates, my friends, I feel there is something missing. Emilia is that something and I have to be with her no matter what. I hope you understand and forgive me."
All of us were stunned by the news. I was so rapped up in my personal struggles, I didn't notice how much time he and Emilia spent together. But now I understood, and was happy for him. "Congratulations, Commander." I offered cheerfully.
Though not everyone was as pleased with Tharis's decision as I was, they did accept it. Karin didn't like how our fighting strength was being depleted and Cedric was worried about being the only Elaran in Fireflight. Aleoi was the most disappointed, saying nothing to Tharis and even refusing to look at him as we said our farewells to Sunlight1. Crystal was also there, and she addressed us, "If any of you are good Elarans, stay here. I am prepared to offer you protection of the Council of Lords if you are willing to abandon this insane plan. I can even offer you sanctuary, Conners."
"What the heck are you talking about lady?" I asked.
"The age of war is past us now. Peace will prevail if we let it. The people you follow are determined to keep was alive. If we accept peace, it will come. It will not come if we constantly prepare for war. There must be at least one of you who would prefer life back on Algol, to enjoy the warm summers again. Isn't there one sane person among you who has something better to do with your lives than follow these madmen?"
I looked around for reaction to Crystal's offer. Arisa was quivering in the back row, about to say something. Taking a stance I often used with stuck-up costumers, I walked towards Crystal until I was literally in her face. "You are a loony." I said poking her chest to emphasize each word, "Do you honestly think that throwing down our arms will end the Axis threat? There are bigger stakes than your short-sighted mind realize. The UAA is not about war or peace. It is about survival. Fireflight or Rimfire wouldn't be necessary if it wasn't for Axis. Even when Axis is beaten, there will be another madman looking for power at the cost of innocent lives. An international force is needed to keep the peace. One nation alone can't do it. Haven't you read your own history? Your planet is only beginning to learn how to work together and here you are, wanting to tear it apart. If you knew about the life I lived, you'd know that peace is a noble goal to fight for. As one of the great men of my world once said, 'The price of liberty is eternal vigilance'."
I could tell I was getting to her. But she still kept her composure. "And do you think that stockpiling weapons is going to work?" she countered, "Normal people are reasonable. Axis considers the UAA a threat, thus its military stance. If there is no more UAA, there will be no more Axis. What will happen if the UAA get too powerful? It will oppress the masses. Look around you. Do you see anything here that is demilitarized? You know the dangers of space weaponry. I would think that you of all people would know that. Why do you think I offered you political asylum? Power can, and will, be abused."
"You are a living example of such abuse. I am an Edgerunner. I have done things on a daily basis that would make your head spin and your stomach turn. Right now, you are looking at the most powerful person in this system. Not because of my origin or my cybernetics but because I desire freedom. Currently Axis is the greatest threat to that freedom. So they have become my enemy. I know members of the UAA and know that they won't get too big for their britches. If they do, they'll have me to deal with. An Edgerunner knows the value of freedom and the cost of keeping it. If you're so worried about rocks being dropped on you head, maybe you should return to your condo and hide under your bed. Reality is no place for the timid or the seriously paranoid."
Arisa worked her way up to me and took my hand as Mox spoke up in my defense, "Lady, you annoy me. My father died in battle for the Crystal Palace. My sister died in the final months of the Archipelago War. All the time, you fools stood around and said if we threw down our guns there would be peace. Was there? Sure, we all want peace, but good intentions won't stop bullets, or the Axis. Go peddle it somewhere else. C'mon folks, we gotta get home." Mox turned and walked into the ship.
Crystal and I glared at each other as everyone else boarded. Emilia tugged me past the airlock as it closed on both sides. We continued our staring contest as Rimfire pulled away from Sunlight1 and until we couldn't see each other any more. The trip back to Dion was slow and uneventful. We all missed Tharis and tried to adjust to life without him and his adventurous spirit. Of all the people on Rimfire, Tharis was the one who understood me the most. He lived as close as any rich Algolian could to an Edgerunner. More like a wanna-be than anything else, but it was all I had. I have made several attempts to improve my friendships with other people.
Eiran still looked at me like an older brother. His plans for an urban mekton was coming along very well. Computer simulations would smooth out most of the rough edges, but after that production and field testing was all that remained. Karin was a different story. My efforts to get her to loosen up and relax were wasted on her. I suspected she was still mad about losing the volleyball game on the fan carrier. I left when things looked like they might turn ugly. Tammis was still a bit depressed about Celine. We all were, but there was nothing that could be done. With the help of some of my game chips and a computer, I was able to get his mind off her for a while. For most of the trip, he volunteered for flight duty claiming the silence of space helped him get over Celine's death.
On the morning of the third day after leaving Sunlight1, the Rimfire pulled into orbit around Dion. A shuttle met us soon after. Fireflight and about half the crew are off-loaded. It took the shuttle about twenty minutes to land on Dion1, and Haversom was waiting for us at the airlock. He looked very angry. Behind him, a tall black-haired Murian stood. Laian gasped in recognition when she saw him. "Majall." she whispered.
Haversom motioned for us to follow him. He didn't say a word, but he looked like he was ready to destroy something-or someone. Majall walked with enough serene peace to make you sick. He stepped beside Laian and tried to take her hand. Without a word she pulled her arm away and used Cedric to block her from him. Majall looked mad, but remained silent. Once we got into Haversom's office, Haversom spun. With his rage barely concealed he stated, "Tell them."
Majall walked to the center of the room, dragging Laian by the hand. Without looking at her he said, "I'm afraid to say that Laian will be leaving you all. Lady Attican has decided to re-enact the Murian policies of isolation. All adepts are being recalled, and the force shield will go back up in two days."
He began to leave with Laian still in tow. "Come, sister, it is time to leave."
Haversom slammed his fist on the table, "Damn it, first you offer to lead us to a new age of peace, and now this! Without the Murian presence, the UAA will fall to pieces, you know that. Why, damn it, why!?"
"The Lady's decisions are not for your mind to understand. Come, Laian." He began once again to drag Laian out.
Haversom walked in front of them. "Laian, you are under oath to the people of Algol. If you wish to go I will absolve you of that oath, but you must want to go. I will let no other drag you off against your will."
Laian looked confused. I have seen several abusive relationships and Laian was showing all the signs. It was clear to me that she wanted to stay, but feared defying Majall. "This is for your own good, Laian." Majall said, "We both realize that I know what's best for you. This is for your own good."
She looked at him then at us still confused about what to do. I activated the reflex boost as it was time to interfere. I told him to do something anatomically impossible outside the airlock. Majall forgot all about Laian for a second and stared at me in pure hatred. I could feel his mind inside my skull and tried to resist him. He soon gave up, perplexed. I walked up to him as he said, "You ... you're psychic and more powerful than me. This is impossible. I shall grind you to dust then sing of your death."
"You'll be doing your singing soprano, Jerk." With lightning speed I grabbed his family jewels with my cyber hand (with the foresight to deactivate the touch sense right after I knew I got my target) and with a combination of enhanced strength and Gun-fu grab techniques proceeded to make crushed nuts. His scream fulfilled my prediction as every male witnessing this flinched.
"Remember, this is for your own good.", I mocked. As blood seeped through my fingers, objects flew about with no direction or pattern. It was clear this was Majall's doing, but his current condition left him unable to control his powers. A blue field appeared around and expanded outward from him, forcing my grip to open. Despite the reduction of pressure, his screams continued. The blue field grew brighter and he was lifted out of my hand and hovered in the air a few feet away from me. Soon the field was opaque then it started to dissolve.
Where Majall once stood, another figure took his place. Fearing the worse, I readied my PUG and aimed it at the new person. The field evaporated and now there was a delicate robed woman where Majall once floated. Her eyes were covered in shadow, but what was showing of her feature were beautiful. Her delicate hands each had only three fingers and a thumb. Laian gasped her name: Lady Attican.
From what I have heard, she is the leader of the Murian people and the most powerful ESPer on the planet. What a time to forget my Mauser. "I must apologize for the arrogance and bullying that Majall has preformed. It is not the usual way of one of my students. He will be disciplined once he has recovered from his ... injury. What he said, however, is true. In two days time Muria will once again be sealed off. No, commander, I cannot tell you why. And yes, I know that the UAA will eventually collapse. I have known that from be beginning. But the UAA sill has many things it will accomplish, things that will lead to lasting peace on this planet, and for that you can all be proud." she turned towards me, "As for you Nathan Conners, you intrigue me. Your arrival and newly acquired abilities have made you an anomaly here. Only you can alter the course of my predictions. You actions might insure the UAA's survival, condemn Algol to everlasting war, or something else-including having no affect at all. I am unable to make any accurate prediction which you are a part of. Never before has anyone manifested psionic abilities from mere exposure to other mentalists. You are the unknown factor, a new unique brand of psychic unheard of before in Murian history and I would like to study you further. But I know the futility of holding you against your will and therefore will not insist you return with me to Muria for training in your powers. However, I shall make you an honorary citizen of Muria as is done for every non-Murian psionic. If you change your mind, you will be allowed into Muria. But you will remain there for as long as our force-field is operational. Laian, you may stay here or return-that is your decision to make. You do not 'abandon' Muria by choosing to stay with the UAA. Let no one tell you otherwise. General, know that you have my blessing on your endeavors, and also know that if I could tell you why I am doing what I am, I would. Please forgive me-one day, you will all understand."
With a burst of blue light she vanished leaving no trace of her time here. When Larani, Laian, and Haversom asked questions about my powers, I feigned ignorance explaining that I thought they were hallucinations from eating the food of another planet and that I had no idea what my abilities were. Freed of Majall's influence, Laian offered to help me explore this 'new' part of myself. She was impressed about the way I supported her and stood up to Majall. Actually, she was only half right. While I did do all that for her sake, I was more upset with Majall for revealing my secret ace in the hole. If it weren't for him, I could have kept my psionics secret forever and exploit them whenever needed. Now people were aware of what I could do and any enemies could take necessary counter measures. But as the afternoon progressed, I tried to look on the bright side. Now I could label and define my talents with the help from an expert.
The remains of the day passed slowly. Haversom was in a really rotten mood, and stayed locked away in his office, sending messages everywhere. The station and city was busily growing. After only a month, there was about half again as many people on the moon now as when we first arrived. There were more shops open, and the small town was beginning to look alive. I, however, was railroaded into spending the day with Laian as we researched my psionics.
We learned that I had three definable talents: Telekinesis, Empathy, and Mind Block. While the first two were known to me, Mind Block was a small surprise. "It's like armor for the brain." Laian explained. As it turned out, that was my strongest talent, few people could look inside my mind and witness the gears turning. This was the talent Majall detected and protected me from some Psi Blast Laian said she detected. I had to take her word for it since I didn't feel a thing. The news of the Murian pullout from the UAA is officially announced at 2:00 that afternoon. At first everyone is shocked and dismayed. Shock soon turned to anger, and talk began about the Murian 'betrayal' of Algol. Keeping my ear close to the street later that evening, I heard rumors varying from the UAA being disbanded to talk of another war. There was also something about a strange character who just arrived on a shuttle the other day. Nothing solid except for a few bits of electronics failing for no good reason.
After a few good hours of snooping, Haversom came over the general com, "As you have all heard, the Murians have pulled out of the UAA, and are going to raise the force screen again. This is true. What is not true is the rumors that the UAA is breaking up. I have spoken to the leaders of the Alliance, and they assure me that the Murian pullout will in no way affect the day-to-day functions of the UAA. Operation Overwatch is still in affect, and will be until I have specific orders in my hand to the contrary. Lastly, one week from today, Emperor Korax will be visiting the facility here. Please prepare a proper welcome."