: “ Requiem des Garbes ("REQUIEM FROM THE GRAVE")


Strategic Advisor Schala's Stateroom
The Gan Estates, New Maynah

The hour was late, yet a single light was still shining brightly in the Gan estates. Inside, a woman was busy perusing piles of texts, some of them in languages not even spoken now. Scattered about her table, and all around her were texts of arcana and mysticism. Some with carefully added bookmarks, some left open to refer to later. Items even more obscure were being used as paperweights.

The woman gave a sigh and leaned back from her task, feeling the tired feeling in her eyes and back. Schala gave another tired sigh as she felt the bones in her back and neck creak sympathetically. She had been up since last night, trying desperately to chart the course of the prophecy, but the ancient texts were eluding her. Language was one obstacle. Languages used when the texts were written had entirely different meanings and contexts, points of reference that were so obscure she had to do more research or that never existed anymore. EVE couldn't help much, her knowledge was incredible, but it did not expand into the obscure or the exotic; things that were passed from generation to generation among the Family's Mystics.

The second obstacle was time. Events were hurrying along their course. Even now, she realized that the great powers were issuing a call to arms. Rallying their warriors to face the threat of the Darkness. She was working against the odds.

She took a look at the clock. It was almost three in the morning, New Maynah time. It was late. She leaned on the table, then took a sip from a mug, eliciting a look of disgust. Ugh, now I know how Sue could drink this stuff and stay awake. Strong cappuccino, with extra froth and sugar. Sue's recommendation and favorite. It tasted absolutely revolting, but the sheer amount of caffeine in it dispelled the tiredness. For now. Her eyes swam, teary and tired. Rubbing it, she took a short walk out to the window.

She opened it with some effort. A wind was building up. The wind chime in her window first gave a gentle tinkle before increasing in pitch. It first sounded like the gentle tinkling of a angels. Now it sounded like the dead had risen and were screaming their fury and folly by slamming each silver piece against each other. A storm was brewing. New Maynah's weather was normally balmy and warm. Not so tonight. She saw points of light on the horizon, streaking down from the heavens. Even the view of the capital of New Maynah was vague and foggy from here. Normally, the bright lights and pinpoints of brightness from the city looked like a magical treasure box in the night. Not tonight. Even the pilot lights, normally glowing bright like crimson stars from the orbiting shipyards were dim.

It looked as if the God's themselves were playing out their fury. Thunder rumbled in the distance before turning into a roar. The trees around the estate rustled and seemed to shake in fear. She could see a Walking Steel trooper in light powered armor on night perimeter duty seem to brace himself against the howling wind. It was that strong. All this, she thought, all this history, all of mans culture, all will mean nothing before the Dark Tide. It had to be stopped. At any cost. But how was she to convince the Corp?

Schala made ready to get back to work, before her door creaked open halfway. Outside was darkness, the rest of the Family were asleep. A small voice, tinged with fear floated in. "Aunt Schala?"

Schala recognized the voice. "Alicia, come in," she beckoned. A young girl, no more than five trod in, holding tightly a small doll. Her small face had Gan features, the strong nose, the friendly smile. But that smile was all wrong. She was scared. Alicia had latent talent. She could feel that.
Perhaps, in time she would be called to replace her as Strategic Advisor.

Schala turned from her work to face the young interloper. Her mother was off on business back on Earth to finalize a new contract for the manufacture of a new set of orbital hydroponics orchards for the colonies in the Outer Hells and the Outer Worlds for the Border Worlds. It took a fair amount of time, and her mother was away for long periods of time, but Alicia understood that. One needed to make a living after all. Even if you were a member of one of the ten largest corporations throughout human space.

"What is it Alicia? Why are you up so late?"

Alicia rubbed her eyes tearfully. "The storm, aunt. It feels like everything is so dark. So scared of it. I'm scared, aunt Schala. I can't sleep"

Schala held her arms out. "Come here then, Alicia."

Alicia shuffled up to her, still clad in her pajamas and sat in her lap. "Aunt Schala, why is the storm coming? Why can't it all be sunshine like our
home everyday?"

Perceptive child. She was asking the question on more than one front. "Alicia, everyday cannot be perfect. That is why we are here. That is what it means to be human. The dark days only make the days of brightness all the brighter."

Alicia looked up at her aunt as she stroked her hair gently, "Will the storm be over then, Aunt Schala?"

She gave a sigh and gently rocked her. "I don't know, child. Not this storm. I do not know what will happen." Thunder cracked in the night sky like a sharp whip. Alicia screamed and held her closer in fear.

Alicia seemed to regard the question and nod slowly. "I'm scared, Aunt," she looked up at her, "Sing me a song, Aunt - my favorite, please!"

She smiled, but looked at the clock. She could spare some time. Her heart demanded it. "Very well, little Licia."

Schala rocked her gently as she begun an ancient song. As old as the Families itself. She sung of times past. Of the exodus from Terra. Of the glories of ancient earth She sung of ancient times covered in the sepia tone of history. Schala crooned of times gone by. Of the dark times. Of the joining of the Families. Of the history of the Family Gan. The building of dreams. The building of an empire.

As she finished the last of her song, she felt her succumbing to the sands of slumber. She was asleep. She gave a bemused smile. Children looked so innocent when they slept. Free of the worlds cares and worries.

She stroked her hair gently. Watched it waft in the night wind in azure tendrils. "Ahh my dear Alicia. Soon you will grow into womanhood. Then the dreams of childhood will fade away. Then you will love, take to wife and continue the Legacy, as we have done. "

Schala looked out the window, "If the Prophecy does not come to pass."

New Maynah's cooling winds wafted into the room, bringing with it the scent of freshly turned earth and the pleasant scent of ozone. The storm was coming. She gently rose up, bearing her and placed her on her bed before smoothing away her hair. She tucked her in, making sure her doll was beside her before kissing her goodnight. She turned back to her table.

A storm indeed.

She could only hope she made the right decision in sending Maximilian to the front of the invasion. His part was obscure, but one snowflake could force the avalanche of destiny to fall the right way. She sat back at her desk and continued her work. She did not notice the coming of dawn.


Laifen & New Maynah High Orbit

The next 48 hours were a rush of activity; the movement and shuffling of troops, the recalling of capital ships and starfighters, the marshalling of logistic support and munitions and all the impedimenta of a modern army. All across known space, the few ships and troops the Homeguards had were being marshaled for one titanic task.

The one that all of them had been trained for. The defense of their home and their loved ones. Protecting Tanfen base and property against the alien threat.

In the embattled Mei Wan Archipelago, where Tanfen troops locked in constant conflict with Porhen Industries Cadre over the valuable mineral resources of the planet, there was renewed movement. Each of the islands in the archipelago were virtual fortresses, dotted with AA guns, VLS missiles, mines and countless defensive measures. Each island was valuable. The Archipelago was virtually full of rare minerals for mining. But because it was in No Man's Land, neither the Union nor Andorra wished involvement. Thus did the conflict between the two mega-corporations continue.

Then the order came. Though Tanfen could ill afford it, troops were being pulled out of the Archipelago. Even the Corp realized the threat of the invasion by the alien invader. Though no required by the Charter, even TSF units not on Homeguard rotation were being tapped to defend hearth and home.

Justin Bellamy, Chief of Tanfen's Air Space Forces continued pulling out troops and ships. It was discreet enough as it is. But as always, some eyes were watching.


The Meiwan Archipelago
Island 8/ New Lertyis
Tanfen Mining Facility 12
Homeguard Landing Pad 6

Private Christianson Sims, No-2193612973 of the 8th Laifen Homeguard looked up at the sky yet again. Another troop transport was landing. It was his ride this time. He had never seen so many troop transports coming and going. He wiped the sweat from his brow as he stood in the sweltering tropical heat with his squad-mates as they waited in full muster for the shuttle to land. He had been stuck here for the past four months, defending this hunk of rock and the mining facility nearby. From what he heard, there weren't enough Homeguard to go around as it is. And the most times a transport ever came was once a month for supplies and maybe troop rotation. Now, the damned things were coming one a day. And not to offload supplies, but to remove troops. All this was welcome, he hated Meiwans damned climate anyway. But the thought of dying always pervaded his mind. Not that he was afraid, rather he welcomed it. He thought, Is this my final shuttle ride?

He watched with idle curiosity as the AA guns surrounding the base begun to activate and move as it tracked an unseen object. It was most probably a Porhen Scimitar doing a recon pass over the base. The most they'd get is fuzzy pictures at that. Tanfen bases had jammers to screw up visual recording equipment. Orbital recon satellites were constant targets, easy kills for both sides' star-fighter wings. It was too costly to keep replacing one every few days. Both sides had been doing live recon for some time as it is. He bet his money that even now, a Tanfen Recon Marauder was doing the same thing at them. The guns simply tracked the ship, not firing since it was too high and out of range. After a while, they shut down, barrels lowering since the target left the area.

He broke out of his reverie when he heard a voice. His sergeant, a petite demanding female shouted orders "Now buck up boys! This here shuttle is going to be taking us for a big operation the old man's been planning. The details," she grinned "are not for us mudbugs to know. But scuttle butt is good old Tanfen is defending their turf against someone or something. What, the old man hasn't said."

The transport landed with a roar as its retros cut in. The ramp lowered itself and yawned wide, beckoning with the promise of air-conditioning. Sims heard his sergeant bellow "Saddle up! Move by squads front and center! Move it! Move it!"

He hefted his rifle and jogged up the ramp, off to God knew where. His squad, second to last formed up and trooped up into the transports bay. The troop ships bay was bisected by dozens of reinforced seats. The overhead lighting was dim red, combat conditions. Beside the loading door, an orange light flashed. The loadmaster waved him in with a neon green light rod and like an usher pointed to a row. Each row consisted of ten seats, divided into even rows of five.

He followed his squad leader and sat down at his assigned seat, strapping himself in for the ride. Damn, at least Tanfen made their troop transports comfortable. Small recompense for doing garrison duty on that damned world. He dropped his duffle bag and unhefted his rifle. As the last squad went in, the loadmaster slammed the bay-door shut. A hiss of pressurization and a dull clang signaled that the hull was sealed.

With a roar, the transport lifted off vertically. He could feel the G-forces slam him in his seat as the ship angled up from a vertical take-off into a high 45 degree orbit climb. He felt gravity leave him for just a moment, before it came back, with a dull roar in the back of the ship to signal that the anti-gravity generators were on. The combat lighting turned back to bright neon.

He felt a comradely tap on his shoulder. Private Oldman gave a grin "We're finally off that damned hot-house eh? Sims?"

Sims nodded, relaxed, and gave in to the memories. It was so clear in his mind, the flames, the stench of C-8 in the air, the stink of ozone, the burning, the sickly sweet smell of burning flesh...and his own anguish, screaming as he dropped his rifle and ran into the burning ruins. Of how he picked up her limp body, horribly burned and charred from the blast. He also saw the gooey plastic remains of a recorded message machine, and the timed bomb that went with it. His eyes seethed with anger. The scum took the most important thing he had. Vengeance, he recalled vowing, as he gently closed her wide open eyes, and removed her locket. A keepsake he bought for her a long time ago. Now, the only thing he had left of her.

A few hours after that, they had conducted a city wide search. Tanfen Internal Security was nothing, if not efficient, and very pissed off. He volunteered, no, demanded to be part of the team to take them in custody. Sims recalled finding the scum in a sub-level beneath Laifen, near the gigantic warehouses that were filled with the goods Tanfen manufactured. He seethed with righteous anger as he slammed in the door leading to their dingy little hide-out. That was when he first found out just who his mortal enemies were. The four smug terrorist scum were laughing away, and drinking, and what gave them away, they talked in Euro-Indo.

No Tanfenner ever spoke Euro-Indo in a casual conversation, they either used English, or Chinese, but not that guttural language. Only people from one small part of Andorra spoke that. Specifically people from the region that Tanfens mortal enemy, Porhen Industries called home. He now knew his enemy-Porhen. He remembered them looking in shock, as he shouted for them to drop their weapons. They refused and begun drawing their weapons, stolen ones from the look of it. He had no choice, and he killed them all, all except one. That last one, wounded though he was, was gurgling, begging for mercy. Time seemed to dim for him then. He recalled the shouting of an officer, to tell him to take him in. Then he felt the blood-lust, the anger, the loss of his beloved. Then the next few minutes were a blur to him. He recalled a whirling frenzy of stabbing and hacking, and realizing afterwards what had happened as he held his vibro-bayonet in his hands, and the mutilated Porhen agent before him. He was demoted, and sent to Meiwan as a private. But he knew he did the right thing. Yes, the right thing.

He broke out of his reverie. Too late to worry about that now. He only hoped that S'hoon Hon would ferry him towards the next best place to kill Porhens. He enjoyed that, yes, he would. Everyone of them, he would dedicate to her. Few understood the threat Porhen Industries made to humanity. Their atrocities in the name of profit and power. Now he did. And he would dedicate his life towards eradicating every last one of them from the face of the galaxy. And woe betide anyone who stopped him. Yet, he had a strange feeling in his gut. He felt Porhen would not be the enemy this time, if at all. Something strange was afoot.


New Charybdis
Van Housen Mansion
Porhen Industries Board Room of Celestial Dusk

The noble's of House van Housen, House von Trisp and House Trinharko, the majority shareholders of Porhen Industries sat in their boardroom, discussing this change of events.

"Just what are the bastard Tanfenners up to?" a wizened old man, middle eastern in appearance answered that. "Justin Bellamy and the Division Chiefs of Tanfen must have good reason to begin stripping troops and reserves from all over their territories."

Another woman, blond and elegant gave a sneer "Perhaps? For sure it is! Tanfen was never one to simply move their Homeguards around for no purpose. They are actually tapping troops slated for TSF duty to the front lines! The reason we are here now, fellow House members is to discuss just what to do in the light of Tanfen's troop movements".

Loiusa van Housen, a brunette dressed in an ornate dress, the de regiur fashion of the Porhen Industries upper class nobility suggested, "Perhaps a raid is in order? Maybe with this, we can finally kick Tanfen out of Meiwan?"

The old man hissed and thumped the table, "We may outnumber them four to one, but I for one do not intend to waste more lives accomplishing what we tried once before, with even worse results!"

Louisa nodded, and acquiesed. Porhen once attempted to take over Tanfen's main base of operations, on Island 5, and had over a thousand troops para-dropped to swarm and overrun them. Over a hundred Cadre died in the first few minutes when Tanfens' AA guns cut in and ripped them apart. The rest were ripped to bits by defensive emplacements and entrenched Homeguard units. And that was over a ten to one advantage. Since then, Island 5 has always stationed more than 300 troops. And they had only about a hundred Homeguard at the time of the raid.

She knew Porhen Industries cared not for human life, since it was so cheap. The amount of Third Stage worlds with their impoverished people was never in short supply. The rabble there would sell their soul just for the barest scraps. But they had not the lives to spare this time. This years batch of Cadre Sekuritat were not that many either. Though they did not tie themselves down, unlike Tanfen by agreeing to being a Homeguard Militia, but that did not mean that they could blatantly walk around with armed troops bearing their symbol. It was a delicate situation at best. A balance between a "private security force" and onsite security for Porhen. They certainly paid their lawyers and the Premier of Andorra enough for the privelige to keep the Porhen Sekuritat Cadre in operation.

Alouetta van Housen, Porhens' Commissar of the Guard raised her hand. "Perhaps we are not seeing the point here fellow nobles. What are they moving? Troops and fighters. And how are they moving them? With ships." She gently tapped the table to reaffirm her point. "Find out where they are going, and we can mount an ambush. Their troops will be packed like sardines in their troops transports"

This caused collective laughter in the Assembly. Their laughter was cut short by the firm clapping of one man. He sat at the end of the table and was old. Not so old, but rather a man still in his prime. He had dusky skin and grey-black hair, with piercing black eyes. "Good, good. This is an excellent idea. Find out where the bastard Tanfenners' are mustering their troops. Then slay them all. This will give us a massive advantage in our operations. Imagine just how much in shipping they will lose with the loss of that many of their Homeguards. Alouetta, I leave you to prepare the
necessary arrangements. Remember, absolute deniability!"

She nodded. "Yes, milord president."

The president uttered in Euro-Indo ,"Danke-shun, pertemuan ini selesai. Anda semua boleh beredar sekarang" (Thank you, this meeting is at an end. You may all leave now). Alouetta served the President of Porhen not because she loved her job, but because she was born a van Housen. She did not see why Tanfen and Porhen could simply forget the past, and forget the decades of fighting and bloodshed. But she couldn't. She had her House. Her fellow Porhenners to protect. Duty, yes, it was always duty.

She raised the holophone and called up the Sergeant at Arms of the Sekuritat Direktorat. "I need a team to go into Laifen, and find out roughly where they are mustering all their troops."

The voice on the other end was harsh, like hot oil going down a metal pipe in winter. "There will be a terror team going there."

Alouetta gave a shudder. Their Cadre Special Ops troops were fanatics. They were actually willing to die fighting Tanfen if it would further her corporations cause. "I will ask them to download the data for you before they 'serve' the Cause."

"Thank you, that is all."

"There is one more thing."

"Speak, Sergeant."

"UIS has just recently informed me that we are not to initiate any sort of overt action against Tanfen. They have stated implicitly that the Union will be... displeased if we should make any move in Tanfen's time of weakness. Our plans of harassing their shipping will have to be cancelled. The Lords and Ladies of the Houses have been informed. However, our other plans will proceed as scheduled. Their production schedule for the Piranha production tender will be impeded."

She looked out the window of the now silent boardroom, looking at the reflections of dusk on the waters outside her House mansion, thinking, musing.


Fortress Home
Sub-level 15
Main Command Center

Su Yen Ng Lai was busy cooking up more fabrications to allay the public's concerns. The energy of anticipation fuelled Justin Bellamy through the night as he worked on. The artificial light's beneath Fortress Home dimmed to show it was night-time but Justin paid it no heed. The command center he was in was buried five kilometers beneath the surface of Laifen, more than enough to be safe from anti-matter bombardment.

Silent techs on 5 hour shifts murmured quietly as they went about their business. Justin Bellamy sipped a cup of coffee as he walked next to his counterpart, Commander of Tanfen Homeguard Forces, S'Hoon Hon. Behind Justin Bellamy stood Megan Bellamy, standing behind and to the right, as her position as aide to her uncle. She stood silently, her blond pageboy locks moving slightly in the air conditioning of the base as she regarded the two men and the spread out holo map before them.

Justin was busy coordinating with S'Hoon to ferry his troops over in his troop transports. He clicked his auto-pointer on an outpost. "Strip squads 51st and 84th from Outpost Speradon and ferry them on the next Tanfen courier shuttle to the staging point at Ymir."

Bellamy called Megan, "Ensure those squads have the best we have, break out our stocks," he added under his breath, "they'll need it. All of it."

"Yes, Uncle." She nodded as she keyed in the order in her datapad and sent it on its way down the hierarchy.

Hon sat next to him, gazing at the giant holoscreen, now filled with a map of the known galaxy. On it, blinking in green were Homeguard outposts, bases and branches, as well as Tanfen depots and subsidiaries. Hon took a sip of coffee and grimaced, "Ugh, don't the cafeteria ever learn to make good coffee?"

Justin gave a bemused smile, "If they did, they wouldn't be a cafeteria."

Hon thumped the table, causing the tables graphics to jitter a bit before refreshing itself as a new schematic showed; lighting their faces an eerie green. "You know Bel, its lucky the damned Union's financing part of the HG. Even the Corp would have trouble with the amount of logistics we need now."

"No shit, Hon. Gendou's been giving me the shits for heisting of so much of TMMN's reserve and screwing up their schedule to hell, but we've got to keep going to buy time."

He took another sip and winced at the bitter taste. "Those aliens seem to have overrun several of our research bases and industrial outposts in minutes. All we're doing now is reinforcing our base garrisons around the invasion site. But it's getting desperate. The freakers seem to run through our defenses as if they weren't there. So far, the Union's been trying last ditch delaying tactics. Minefields, scuttling ships at entry jump-points. Fuck, some of those Union boys have kamikazed against the little freakers!"

Hon gestured at one point on the map, "I just hope Sutari branch can handle its own. I've sent the 360th Laifen Homeguard Regulars, but the aliens are tough as hell. If it weren't for one of the Union boys ramming his troop transport into one of those Aliens'... 'capships' and taking it out, and I hesitate to use the word," he sneered, "since they look like flying cucumbers uglier than my mother in law, they would've overrun the jump-point!," he pointed a thick callused finger at a blinking jump point at the edge of the cancerous growth spreading from Tartarus.

Hon nudged Bellamy, "Bel, why the Hell do we have to keep giving this damned alphabet soup every time we have to give orders?"

He cocked his hand into the shape of a handgun. "What ever happened to, 'We're in deep shit, boys, shoot anything funny'?"

Bellamy sighed and slapped his forehead in frustration. "Look Hon, even I'm having trouble remembering all the damned Executive orders," he leaned back and spread his hands wide, as if to encompass something large.

"The Corp's too damned large for individualized orders, anything this large has to have some degree of standardization, that's why we have all this babble, Hon, bureaucratic and pseudo governmental it may be."

He gave a devilish grin. "That's why I have Megan as my XO." He pointed in her vague direction behind him. "That's why I have her memorize the entire Corporate Code. Executive privilege, Honny."

Hon gave a short bark of laughter. They were friends from way back. He ignored the jab on his admittedly unusual name and proceeded to jab him back, right where he knew it would annoy him. "Right, lecher, I think you're havin' her around to look at her tight..."

"I heard that, Commander Hon," sniped Megan back as she stood at attention, her unabashed face still staring straight ahead.

Hon gave a grim smile, "That's not all you're going to hear, Meg, there's still more bad news..."

Things weren't looking good. The aliens seemed to be unstoppable. All the Union Militia could do was to act as speed bumps. And even then, minimally. The alien threat was still spreading like a cancer from the Tartarus System. And with it, that mysterious sensor blackout. It was bad enough that the only courier corvette they could send to the regional branch at Sutari base had orders to the commander there, Lord John Tan to AOYOI. Act On Your Own Initiative.

So far, he had received scattered reports from survivors of the conflict, including unedited reports from survivors of the conflict. The Homeguard's antiquated weaponry were nigh on useless against the enemy. He gave a wry smile at the thought. Years back, the Corp proposed to arm the HG from Laifen and New Maynah with armaments from their armouries. It would have been cheaper and more cost effective in the long term. The cost to maintain the Corp's fleet of Arrows, Hellcats, Thunderbolts, and Longbow fighters was starting to become unfeasible. They were out-dated, and outperformed by most new line ships. Even some civilian models out performed some Corp fighters! And the fact that the Corp only made them on license and had to import in spares from Origin Aerospace only made it more annoying. If they used one of their own fighters, it would have been a damned lot cheaper. Transport and unit cost wise. It was a logical, efficient solution. The Union Senators gave temper tantrums. They put up absolute crap like - Unnecessary! What is a defensive militia doing with such weapons?! Militia should only be given equipment used before by the regulars right?! What's a Corp doing with weapons?! What's all this munchiness of a Homeguard unit walking with stuff the Navy should have?!

Hon and Bellamy both thought equivalent thoughts. Those imbeciles would most probably now be pissing in their pants at their stupidity. Not that it mattered to the frontline grunts and the average Union Militia man getting slaughtered out there. Fucking bureaucrats. Idiots all of them. Every war throughout history was screwed up by them in one way or another. He hoped that some alien bastard would slowly incinerate them inch by inch like ribs on a grill. All they could do was hope the fleet under Admiral Erin Hanton could stop the aliens in time.

He gave a rueful chuckle," Right. Now, I'll need billet's for my troops when they arrive here on Laifen, somewhere where they can be transported fast to the transports for the op,".

He called up the schematics and logistics schedule of Laifen, and all Tanfen subsidiaries, which was practically the whole planet anyway on screen.

"Hmm, we've already sealed off Bay's 350 through 389 on the Shipyards for the operation. What say this, I'll kick the maintenance staff out and you can take their bunks for the next say... 48 hours until the final drop?"

"Agreed, but you're letting'em get soft. Bunks! With beds? Agh! Back in my days in the..."

The door to the command center hissed open, causing a hiss of hydraulics and pressure. Through it ran a Homeguard lieutenant, hair ruffled and eyes wild. She literally ran and hopped over the consoles to pass over a datapad over to her CO, S'Hoon Hon. "Sir, urgent message from Laifen Spaceyards..."

Hon was all business as he took the pad and scanned its contents. His eye's narrowed as he passed paragraph after paragraph. If it was a piece of paper, he would have crushed it, but seeing it was made of duraplastic, he couldn't. Hon gave a look at Justin.

"We have a problem. Looks like 'terrorists' have holed up near one of our staging points near the New Empress Starfighter Manufacturing Plant off orbit from the Laifen Shipyards, and have taken over the main control room. The bastards are reprogramming the damned computers to manufacture Piranha drone's armed with A/M warheads! Heck! They launched a drone at the shipyards but our flak cannon took the bloody thing out before it could detonate, but they're making more."

"Bloody damn shit. Sounds like those Porhen bastards again. Most probably a reprisal squad for that little black bag on that operative Sue iced a while back. Either that or the little SOB's are itching to impede the progress of our Piranha production contract. Have your men tried retaking the control room?"

Even though the Corp's ISD people knew within an inch that those agents were Porhenners, there was nothing the Union nor Andorra could do. Just because a bad guy had an Euro-Indo accent didn't mean that he was a Porhenner. Neither did the fact he or she spoke Euro-Indo, which was practically unintelligible to anyone who wasn't born there anyway. The courts wouldn't have that as evidence. The best they could come up with was they were "terrorists" and "insurgents." That sort of stuff could be easily denied, hence this silent battle.

He slammed his hand down on the console, causing the coffee cups to jump in unison. "Damned well yes! Hell! I've already lost a Homeguard squad to those bastards apparently. The control room is at a T-junction, and they have a murderous crossfire. I don't have any other details yet, though."

Hon gulped his coffee down and continued, "Plus the fact those bastards have taken over the flak guns AI programming. They're virtually considering those drones as friendlies! And they've locked out the system."

"They mustn't know what we're doing. They're too close for comfort. We'll have to take them out."

"Justin, how long does it take to build a Piranha drone, with an A/M warhead?"

"Hmm... I reckon 45 minutes, an hour tops."

"Then that's the amount of time we have left before they launch another one."

The lieutenant brushed back her hair and gave another salute, "Er... sir, your orders?"

He passed the pad back to the officer, "I'll be there personally, get a shuttle ready." He then turned to Justin, "Keep the fire's warm while I'm gone."

He turned towards the aide. "Get me a direct line to the President!"