PHASE II : THE TYR ARC ( 7 of 28 )

: Das Ende des Anfangs ("THE END OF THE BEGINNING")


Command Galaxy TS-801A-Starry Memory
Attached to Tanfen Homeguard 6th Squadron, Landreich Sector
Tyr VII System
1 hour ETA to Sutari branch, Tyr VII

One could only stare outside for so long at the monotony of space before growing bored of the whole thing. Max still could not understand what those space realism painters saw in the beauty of space. The only splotches of color in the sea of drab black were the tiny pinpricks of distant stars, the faint purple of gas nebulas and planets that look like multi-colored pearls set in the cloth of night. Other than those highlights, space was, to him, at least, one large, drab tapestry. His mother, Keiko Gan, had one picture hanging in her stateroom by the hero Jason "Bear" Bondarevsky, whom she said had drawn it in space after his retirement. All he saw was simply a segment of space, the Milky Way, if memory served him right. Even after all these years, he still did not understand what the painting was, or what it meant, though his mother had explained it to him once. She said that it outlined the possibilities of the human spirit, which were infinite and the infinite variety of souls in a sea of humanity. That was the meaning of the painting.

Max sighed and stood up. It was another hour until arrival at Tyr VII, sector base of operations for this entire sector. The Chief Executive Officer was Lord John Tan, his uncle. Tyr VII was one of the Corp’s main manufacturing facilities for nanochips, specialist foods and was home to a decommissioning and refitting yard for the Union Navy and Homeguard Militia. If there was to ever be a hub and center for the whole system, Tyr VII would be it. He had read up on it on his way here. Population of some 100,000 people, mostly middle to lower class. One main planetary starport, run by the Corp. Relatively well off in terms of trade, especially in Tyrran caviar from an indigenous landfish, of all things. Tyrran caviar was a delicacy in Andorra and certain parts of Confed, though the landfish that produced it was far less famous by comparison. That accounted for some 45% of the planets Gross Planetary Product. The rest was in light industry, processing and manufacturing facilities.

That said, he still had no idea why he was sent here on his first task for the Family. The room itself was silent. Celes was in her quarters. Marle and Richard seemed to be in the gym on C deck. The rest of his bodyguards were in their quarters. Might as well, I need to get a good workout anyway, Max thought aloud as he descended the stairwell, deeper into the ship. It was a relatively tight fit on the stairwell, only one man could go up or down at a time. Both a design limitation due to space, as well as a defensive option, limiting the speed and amount of force boarders could bear at one time.

His footfalls echoed on the metal deckplates as he walked to the small gym on board. Though this Galaxy had been commissioned and built years ago, sometime after the Secession War, or so the pilot said, it had been refurbished recently and upgraded to become a command ship. The Galaxy’s extensive cargo space had been ripped out, along with all the partitions to form three decks, though each was somewhat tight, averaging a head-space of about seven feet to allow for the installation of several quarters, enough for about a dozen people at most, along with a small gym, mess hall (if it could even be called that, since the glop from the nuker could barely be called food anyway) and armory. The only thing unchanged was the cockpit and turrets, still run as a two man arrangement along with one man per turret for a total of four crewers. All in all, it was a significant improvement over travel in a shuttle. He had almost given up on the damned things-they were tight, cramped and staying too long in one gave you claustrophobia.

As far as he understood, this was to be his personal command ship for the duration of his career, until the Family decided he deserved better. One couldn’t complain much, as such a ship would have cost millions of credits to any free trader. However, he did wonder why he wasn’t assigned a newer vessel, one of those just recently laid on the Laifen Shipyards, but was given this instead. Max scowled at the floor as he imagined some Lai or Tan zipping off to their assignment serving the Families in a new command ship, instead of the refitted one he had now.

He noted with idle amusement the way his shadow lengthened, and then shortened as he walked from pool after pool of light from the overhead corridor lights, as if was always running ahead of him, trying to keep up. The engine of the Galaxy kept up a dull thrum that you could feel in your bones. A few techs passed by and he nodded pleasantly. He tried to be friendly, but the techs all seemed as much in fear of him as he was of trying to communicate. All he got was a few "milords," before they scurried off to their tasks. Strange. As he approached the gym, he heard swearing, heavy grunting and the clanging of blade on blade. As he came closer, standing right before the door, the noise was almost at a pitch reserved for a shouting match. Some doors were not pressurized on the ship, and thus, unfortunately, not soundproof.

He passed his hand over the door release, causing the door to hiss open. Marle and Richard were there, both in tank tops and fatigues, sweating heavily and cursing, grunting and roaring at the top of their voices as they both attempted to behead the other with a powered down regressive blade.

“Hah! You are getting too old, Marle!”

She grunted, parrying a heavy chop before flicking it aside and going for a kidney lunge. “Not before you, you old goat!”

Richard slammed down, causing a small shower of sparks and making Marle’s blade jerk back. “We’ll see! Kurae!”

And with that, she turned her flaw into a counterattack, swinging her blade back for a backhand.

Richard held his blade up to receive it, before turning it forward into another lunge. “Nice try... no cigar!”

The fight went on both ways, for several minutes. Max could only watch and see as two very different swordsmen duked it out. It appeared that Marle was more accomplished in using a blade, and preferred sword-work over brute strength, frequently using every part of her blade, as well as her body, to deliver a flurry of blows. Her opponent seemed to favor tangling maneuvers that were designed to disarm an opponent rapidly, as well as using his greater strength against her. All in all, it was a fascinating contrast of tactics.

Slowly, both stopped as they regarded their new visitor. Richard stepped forward, wiping off the sweat off his brow with a flick of his wrist. “Ah, care to join us,” he paused as he made some effort to correct his speech, “... Maxim for a little sparring match?”

Marle stood back and rested her deactivated blade on her shoulder as she looked at both of them expectantly. “Come, lets see what the Family Gan teaches their younglings!” She raised her reg blade into an on-guard position.

Richard raised an eyebrow at Max, giving a silent question. Max took a look at Marle, and then at him again before nodding.

“They taught us how to use the shock lance and the vibro pike at the Laifen Academy, but only the basics for swordsmanship, Richard. I would like to learn more from you.”

Richard nodded approvingly as he proffered his own regressive blade to Max, grip first. So the lad was both humble and willing to learn more. Excellent. He was not like the other whelps, many of whom had more pride than sense. Max held the blade, felt the balance of it and tested its keen edge. His thumb found the activation switch, causing the blade to vibrate and give off a bone-numbing hum. The blade, starting from the guard upwards slowly turned red, then white hot. He could feel the heat emanating from it. He did a few practice swings with it to familiarize himself with the weapon, nodding thoughtfully to himself when he heard it humming through the air. In close quarters, the weapon would be deadly. When he was sure that he had a good grip on it, he then turned it off and watched the blade grow cold.

Marle raised her blade and approached Max. “En garde, milord.” Max held his own blade up at high guard, a move which enabled him to intercept most high-angled blows. Marle grinned and stalked around him, holding her blade like a sabre, making tiny sharp circles in the air. Then, she lunged. Max did the automatic thing drilled into him. Parry, then thrust back. It was all over so fast. He parried, right enough. When Marle’s blade was at the end of his, guard to guard, when he was supposed to twirl it aside and stab back, he suddenly found himself disarmed, with her blade at his throat.

“Nice try milord, but you have not the heart, though you have the potential. I saw what you intended a mile away.”

“Heart? What did I do wrong, Marle?”

Richard broke in. “It’s not what you did wrong, but what you did not do, young lord. Now, show me what you learned in the Academy, your sword kata.”

Max nodded, and raised his blade again. And then begun the intricate sword dance taught at the Laifen Academy.

Richards commentary followed him as he took the blade through its paces by attacking an imaginary opponent. Cut. “The regressive blade is the melee weapon of choice for the Loyalist Marines, as well as other military arms in the governments. It is made from a metal alloy that has high conducting qualities, thus its ability to cut through almost anything.” Lunge. “Small enough to be handy in close quarters, unlike the vibro pike or shock lance, the reg blade is perhaps the best close combat weapon money could buy. The versions we use are not mass-produced but are made by swordmasters for each man and woman to suit their style of combat, though most choose the shortsword or claymore.” Stab. “Each one is a work of art and a deadly weapon, and the true measure of a man is not his marksmanship or gunnery, but up close, in glorious mêlée combat.”

Richard watched the lad go through the standard kata’s taught in the Laifen Academy. Pretty good, for what limited teaching he had as a Walking Steel trooper. Rough on the edges, with room for improvement. The lad seemed to lean more on technique, the result of which was quite different from his own roughshod fighting style.

“No, no, no! Don’t they teach you anything back at the Academy?”

Max paused and lowered his blade, looking back at Richard. “What did I do wrong?”

“You fight as if you were drilled to do it. That is not how a swordsman fights.” He gestured at his heart. “What separates the trained amateur from a true swordsmaster is here. In the heart. You must fight with your heart, and your spirit. All of it. Your heart and soul together form a focus sharper than your blade. The Japanese called it ki. The Chinese called it the ‘trance,' that state where you are not simply wielding a blade, but are a part of it. You can feel every inch of it. The ring of steel is like the beat of your own heart. Each swing like an extension of your body.”

Max looked dumbstruck. “Please demonstrate, Richard.” He held out the blade.

Richard took it back, tossing it once in the air to readjust his grip. He looked absolutely serious. “This is how a Loyalist Marine fights. With heart, soul and passion.” He followed all the katas Max used, but the difference soon became obvious by the way he executed them, the vigor in his hacks, the precision, the way the blade sang as it cut through the air like a living thing. Max could have sworn that the blade seemed to cut trails of light through the air. It made all the difference.

At the end of it, Richard stopped and lowered his reg blade. “That is the difference. It matters not what blade you wield milord. It's what's in your heart that counts.”

“Can… you teach me how to fight like that?”

Richard grinned. “Thought you’d never ask, milord. Come! It's time you learned to fight with the weapon of a true warrior.”

Marle chuckled, “Nice work, sir. Looks like he likes it.” She then tossed her blade over to Max and leaned back on the wall, toweling off her sweat. Max was learning things he had never been taught in the Laifen Academy, practical things that were never used in a formal mêlée, like using your knees, your fists and your legs as weapons in addition to a blade. Not to mention, in one painful instance, a headbutt. If there was one thing Loyalist Marines knew how to do right, it was how to fight up close and dirty, and win.

Before minutes had passed, there was a beep from the shipwide comm. Apparently from the cockpit.

“Milord, there’s something you should see.”

Max lowered his blade. “I think we should be on the bridge, milord.” Richard sheathed his blade and gestured to Max to follow him.

“Looks like I’m gonna be stuck with cleaning up this place,” Marle heckled sarcastically, none too excited at the prospect of cleaning up the gym. The blast door hissed shut, cutting off her grumbling.

Max wrinkled his nose. The problem with a Command Galaxy was that with all the tight spaces, anyone who’d just gone through a workout smelled to high heaven, and there was nothing you could do about it. Richard filled the entirety of the corridor, blocking out the corridor lights as he headed for the bridge.

“Richard, may I venture a guess as to something?”


Max grinned, ”I’ve seen how you fight, you use your strength and size. Marle uses her skill and speed. Can I stereotype Celes as a critical hitter, the one that doesn’t fight a lot but goes for the throat?”

Richard gave a shudder. “You shouldn’t stereotype people like that. Being big and muscular doesn’t mean I fight like I do. Nor does small size indicate speed. Celes doesn’t even follow your description milord.”

“Then how does she fight?”

Richard took one straight look at him “She fights well enough, but I have seen her go berserk in battle. When I was with her on Meiwan, she tore four Sekuritat troopers to shreds up close, with only her reg blade and Archer.”

“A beauty like her... berserk?”

“Believe it. And she is effective at it as well. Let this be a lesson Max - don’t judge a ship from its hull.”

“Okay, we’re at the bridge, can you… er… move aside so I can get in the cockpit?”

“Oh... sorry, Max.” He moved aside to let Max get in first. Damned Galaxy’s, smaller than a rat warren at times, or so it seemed.

The bridge was a small affair, with enough space for two pilots. The rest was filled with status readouts, computer screens and control panels. The pilot turned at his approach from the pilot’s seat and saluted. There simply wasn’t enough space in there to actually bow, and the Code covered that well enough. Duty came over propriety.

“Any luck getting in touch with Sutari?”

The pilot shook his head. “No, sir, not a thing. The jamming's too strong. Even our tempesting rig can’t get through this damned interference.”

Max nodded. Looks like he would have to report in person to the boss himself. The big cheese-Lord John Tan himself.

The pilot flicked on a secondary monitor and gestured for Max to have a look. “I thought you’d like to have a look at this milord. It felt strange, so I decided to let you know.”

Max had not served a tour in his Family’s Walking Steel Regiment without picking up a feeling for danger, that sixth sense every well-trained soldier possessed. As he approached Sutari branch on Tyr VII, he saw craft of almost every description in private hands. Old Ferrets, a few Centurions bearing the markings of a mercenary company, a Demon with private licensing, and several shuttles on piggyback with jump capable transports. The thing that ignited that sixth sense was that not a single craft was "going" to Tyr. All were leaving. Privateers and the other independents of the galaxy had that sixth sense where danger was concerned, much like rats that knew when to leave a sinking ship. Which was exactly what they all were doing. Something was strange. This was a major space-lane, and Tyr was an important, if not major world in this system.

He decided to have a second opinion. “Can you call Corporal Celes, please?”

The pilot nodded “Aye, aye, sir.”

Celes arrived, her eyes still the same piercing red, and her uniform still prim and proper. Max could almost swear she was a robot that only needed infrequent recharging in her quarters, and every so often a dustoff. If he didn’t listen to what Richard had said just now, he would have believed her to have an administrative job, but then again, none in the Loyalist Marines were flying desks. He still couldn’t believe a woman like her would go berserk in battle.

“You sent for me, milord Maximilian?”

Max turned over to Celes, ”Celes, what is your opinion as to why all these private ships are leaving Tyr?”

Celes stood up, looking out the viewport and gazed at the waves of ships leaving Tyr and burning for the jump-point. Her epaulet had the half tarot card of an intelligence analyst that had training from TISD. Though she was a Corporal, that made her intrinsically more valuable than the average trooper. Being a Loyalist Marine meant that she was a rare one. “Lord Maximilian, it seems some sort of crisis has initiated an evacuation of sorts by the independent community. They have always been a yardstick to measure galactic politics. This can been correlated with the lack of communication with Sutari branch. It is logical to assume that some sort of crisis has forced this evacuation.”

“What sort of crisis?”

“Unknown, milord. There is insufficient data to suggest a response, though a raid by one of the major powers, or by one of the larger fringe element factions, may have elicited this.”

“Other than that?”

“A natural or deliberate disaster of some sort may elicit such a response.”

“Likely factions involved?”

“At the size and scope of the evacuation, it would have to be major. Perhaps one of the other two governments, or the Kilrathi. I cannot extrapolate more than that, milord.”

Max nodded at Celes response. It was delivered in a cool, analytical way, more like a readout than anything else. She certainly didn’t go out much. “Thank you, Celes.” She nodded and stood back, silently regarding him.

The pilot chirped. “Incoming Homeguard units, milord.”

An element of Hellcats, along with an element of Thunderbolts with the tri-colour shield insignia of the Homeguard appeared on the screen, closing fast at the only ships going to Tyr, instead of leaving it.

“This is Homeguard Flight Alpha. What is your ID and purpose here in Tyr?” piped the lead Hellcat.

“This is the Galaxy command ship Starry Memory with the 8th Tactical Air-Guard from New Maynah. Authentication code SI230948.”

The pair of Hellcats along with the flight of Thunderbolts still stayed in loose encirclement position, with the T-bolts farther away and still having a passive missile lock on the Memory and the lead escort T-bolt. Active light-up would have taken only seconds. In a dark galaxy, one couldn’t trust another ship, even if it flew the colours of your own side. The Hellcat element leader responded.

“Wait, Memory. Confirming your ID… confirmed. Welcome to the Tyr System, Lukaris Leader.” Lukaris was the TISD code for Maximilian. It didn’t do to advertise to all and sundry the grandson of the President was traveling. Even on a supposedly secure transmission. Porhen Industries and the Corp’s enemies would jump at the chance to reduce the number of heirs to the Family in any way possible.

“Thanks, Alpha Leader. Care to tell us what’s been going on?”

There was a pause of hesitation. “Er… it's best if you speak to Lord John personally. Apologies if we can’t provide CE. CEO John’s been keeping every thing that can fight and fly in the air for the last four days on tight perimeter defense.”

“Understood. Not a problem, Alpha. Memory out.”

Alpha flight reformed, before resuming its patrol. Their engine contrails faded into the darkness as they continued the journey seemingly alone. There was no one else leaving, or going to Tyr, or so it seemed.

“ETA ten minutes, milord,” chimed the pilot.

“Thank you,” said Max before he left, going back down to B deck, and his own quarters, with Marle, Richard, and Celes behind him.

“One thing still confuses me, who does the Homeguard actually serve?”

“It works this way milord-the Tanfen Homeguard Militia is drawn from Laifen and New Maynah, and funded and trained by the corporation and partly by the Union in terms of training and some equipment. When on or near the Homeworlds, we are the acting Militia. Then, we answer to the acting local government, which is basically the Corp anyway. When rotated out of the system, we answer to the local government of the system. When transferred by the Corp to defend a Tanfen installation, we act as hired security in defense of the installation, in subsumation of the local authorities. When called in a state emergency we answer to the Commander in Chief of the UBW Navy, unless when it relates to the defense of the Homeworlds, in which case we have a right to defend it first. You still got me?”

“Yes… I think. The gist of it is that we pretty much left to our own, unless defending someone else’s world or in a state of emergency, right?”

“That about sums it up, milord.”

“Then what of this LSP policy?”

He raised an eyebrow. “The Light Security Policy? Don’t they teach you that back at New Laifen?”

Max gave a snort. “I know what the policy is for. I want to know why, from a soldier’s point of view.”

Richard chuckled, “Ahh, good. There is always more than one point of view to any issue. Always consider a problem from all angles, young lord, to get the best answer.”

“My answer?”

“I’ll get to that, milord. The LSP was initiated sometime after the Relinquishment as a cost saving as well as a security measure. Having Tanfen Homeguard walk around packing milspec armament distressed the authorities to no end. That and the fact that the cost to equip all of the Homeguard meant an unnecessary expenditure. The extremists up at the Senate wanted the Corp disarmed to nothing. The Corp couldn’t have that, as you know with the Blood Feud and the threat of other insurgents, as well as the requirement to be a working Militia of the Homeworlds. Generally, the outsiders got scared of a Homeguard packing a heavy laser rifle and full body armour. And it wasn’t good for business either if your customers were scared of being shot. “

He continued “So, we settled on a compromise. The Homeguard are all equipped as light security troops, in exception of the ones called up for Militia duty both at the Homeworlds and as the mobile reserve for other worlds at the Union’s choice. Those can use near-milspec armament. As you know we have the capability to arm up to sixty percent of the Homeguard in the event of a crisis via depots, armories and bases throughout the systems. But the main reason, from my view is to protect the sensibilities of the public, and our customers. Having them know we’re armed to the teeth is not good for business.”

“Oh. I did realize the cost effectiveness, and the pressure from the Senate. But I didn’t know the public reacted so negatively. I thought TPRO sorted that problem out, depicting us as benevolent and benign?”

Richard grunted derisively, “Should have, milord. Should have. If it wasn’t for that mad tycoon, I forgot his name. That little bastard had the ear of some high people in the Confederation Senate. Did a great smear campaign, too, as I recalled. Even bought some self-serving war hero to testify against us. That bugger really hated our success."

“Hmm… I recall that incident a few years back. That gave my grand - ” he corrected himself, “the President some problems.” He sidestepped a walking tech as they both continued down the corridor.

“What exactly did the Families do anyway, milord, pardon my asking?”

Max rubbed his chin thoughtfully. He did learn the response in one of his current events courses. “As I remember, ISD forced an investigation into how he funded his own enterprises by opening an inquiry with the Confed Anti Corruption Division. After that little reprisal, he’s so far kept quiet.”

“What about that war hero?”

“Him? Small potatoes as far as the Families are concerned. TPRO dug up some interesting records of his service and let some higher-ups reconsider his case for court martial. As I recall, he’s awaiting his fate on some back-water posting for gross insubordination, negligence and God knows what else.”

“Cruel way to handle the opposition, eh?”

“Fair, actually. I for one don’t think violence solves problems.” They had reached his quarters. Max opened the door, letting them in.

Marle gestured at her chrono, then at the growing ball of dust in the viewport. Sutari branch, and Tyr were just ahead. Best to continue the discussion later. “Its about time you suited up for the big show, Max,” chided Richard.

“Argh,” he groaned, “not again.” The Tan’s were awfully big on ceremony, and knowing how things worked, first impressions counted the most. He had been advised this may have had to happen, and prepared for it, but hoped it actually didn’t have to take place. “It's either the gorilla suit, or my armour. Richard, which one do you think best for the ‘occasion?’”

Richard rubbed his jaw as he looked up and down at Max. Marle, who stood in the doorway behind Richard, called out, “I think its best we wore armour. Lord John was more martial than business.”

The Loyalist Marines knew their patron Family, and his mother’s family better than he did. He gave a sigh. “Armour it is. I assume you’ll all suit up, too?”

Richard and Marle nodded and excused themselves, leaving him alone in his quarters. Celes had already left. As a noble member of the Family, and as an active officer in the Walking Steel Regiment, he was given permission to wear the royal blue capelet of the Family, along the body armor that went with it. First, he donned a royal blue tunic and leggings, then strapped the exaggerated open gorget/neck brace, along with the platolum breast-plate, finely worked with the Family crest; a dove holding a book, and a spring of olive leaves on a bisected shield on the front. The shoulder plates came next, then the side clamps on his torso, before tightening the shoulder clamps, which formed a rigid protective shell. Then on went the wristguards, also made of platolum and the matching kneeguards. Over that went the capelet, along with a holstered Archer. Finally, his captain’s bars were pinned onto the left shoulder of his tunic, underneath his shoulder pauldron, just below the Family crest.

He looked at the mirror in his small room and nodded. Just one more thing. He took out a blue beret, emblazoned with the Walking Steel colors, and put it on his head, adjusting it slightly. “All done, and ready for fun,” he said to himself. Of course, in a field situation, he wouldn’t have worn the capelet, nor would he be in royal blue. That was an excuse for a sniper to take him out first. Armor with camos over it would have been more appropriate. Different Family, different philosophy, I guess.

He walked out of his room, just as Richard, Marle and Celes walked out. It was disconcerting at first, seeing them first in undress fatigues, and now seeing them in full combat rig. The Loyalists didn’t believe in having ceremonial dress. To them, if your armor was clean, and your uniform was pressed, that sufficed for formal occasions. All three of them wore tri-kevlar armor, with the characteristic heavy shoulder pads, meant to offer protection, as well as shock absorption and recoil when carrying heavy weapons, along with the breastplate, wrist-guards and knee-guards. A reg blade in a scabbard on one hip, and an Archer on the other completed the ensemble.

Behind Celes, farther down the corridor came the remaining five of his personal guard, all suited up. Max took a look out a nearby viewport. Tyr was in sight. It was a brown dustball of a planet, promising roiling dust storms and dust that would choke engines and throats.

“Max, look over there, near the scrapping yards.” Richard gestured with his finger at the small orbital scrapping yard over Tyr in geo-sync orbit. Around it, and filling all of local space were dozens of transports. Freighters, both light and heavy. Lighters, tankers, shuttles, and merchant ships of all sizes, including dozens of Homeguard fighters. Around each freighter were huddled a few Homeguard fighters flying in defensive formation. If doctrine followed practice, this was a rare sight. All the Corps TASC units rarely gathered in such a large group. They were mostly sent out in elements and flights to escort the Corp’s extensive shipping fleet. Something major was up.

He squinted, peering at the symbols emblazoned on the sides of the ships. “Richard, I see about six different Homeguard company elements out there, see that one, with the horned horse head? That’s the 26th Light Tactical. But some of those ships seem to be damaged, and badly, at that. That Hellcat over there seems to be hanging on glue and wires. One of the wings and engines have been ripped clean off.”

“Knowing what I do about flyboys, that’ll be a problem to fix Max. That’ll cost thousands of creds for body work like that” Richard thoughtfully put in as he looked out the viewport at the gathered fleet.

“And that transport fleet, it’s the entire sector fleet. Most of the main ones anyway,” Max continued.

“They wouldn’t all be gathering here in one place. Time is money,” Marle put in. It was true. Those ships should be out on errands, transferring, picking up merchandise, and personnel and keeping the wheels of galactic commerce flowing. Every minute a Tanfen transport was in port was time spent in necessary maintenance, or business. Credits were being lost by the minute.

But they were all gathered here. And as he watched, trails of light flew up from the planet, to touch a freighter, before going back down again. Shuttles and light transports, ferrying something upside. “It looks strange. As if we’re evacuating this entire sector.”

“That would really be strange. There’d have to be a crisis or disaster big enough to warrant pulling out all our assets in Tyr Max.” Richard rubbed his chin in thought.

“Mmm…” Max sounded, deep in thought as to the possibilities of what was happening. His thoughts were interrupted.

The pilot's voice was on the ship wide channel. “All personnel, strap in for reentry maneuvers in T-minus 5 minutes.”

Without a word, Max and his guard went off to the main room on A deck and sat all around the central table, before strapping themselves in. He didn’t know the other Marines, other than by name for now. Huxley, Curaitis, Akiko, Mai, and Branson. All of them sat quietly while waiting for reentry. From his seat, he saw his escorts, their shields flaring red as they followed the Memory down to Tyr. He gritted his teeth as the Memory hit a patch of air turbulence, causing the massive ship to keel slightly. It wasn’t as bad as a combat drop, that was for sure. If it was, he’d be in a near uncontrolled fall. He’d seen lesser men heave their cookies at even the thought of a reentry pod drop from high orbit. He hoped he wouldn’t lose his nerves at the sight below.