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The Deserter: 11-20

first 10 chapters

Chapter 11

earth lagrange points
Earth’s Lagrange points

As I landed at my improvised “firebase” on Mars, I was a little surprised to see Aegeus’s Saucer parked inside. However, what really surprised me was the Barkun Punishment Ship in geosynchronous orbit over my hanger.

“Ship, how did the Barkun find us, and why haven’t they attacked?”

“When I determined the need for judgment I notified them and had them help scan for the Sagren ship. They are awaiting final disposition as they don’t want to punish you if the punishment belongs to Earth.””

“Why did you do that Kernel?” I could not bring myself to call him Marvin after such a betrayal. After all Marvin was the name of my best friend growing up. That Marvin would never rat me out to the cops.

“Captain, you have a proclivity for manipulation, and if guilt was assigned to your actions, justice required swift execution of punishment.”

“Well that was a little premature don’t you think?”

Suddenly my shuttle powered down and the hatch opened.

“Captain, please exit the craft. I calculate that you may attempt to elude a sentence of guilt and have disengaged the power generator on the shuttle as a precaution.

With that, my little snitch became my hall monitor.

To say my little grey alien friend was upset would be an understatement. He was pacing the cargo area inside shuttle 2 and as soon as he saw me he stiffened and attempted to grow an inch or two as he did what my young marines would call “bowing up”.

“William Tell Davis, I wish you would have allowed the Barkun to punish me when he had a chance. Your constant abuse of Confederation law brings trouble to everyone you meet. What manner of trouble has your primate behavior caused this time?”

“What? That is a fine way to treat a friend. I was only trying to see if you were okay. You left before I could see if you were able to counteract the Barkun poison.”

“I had to leave, I did not want to be on Earth with the Barkun arrived ship executed punishment.”

“Well, if it were me, I would keep that to myself, it sounds like you are admitting guilt to some crime. For the record, I have no idea what you are talking about. I only killed the Barkun to get away from my punishment.

The grey alien’s eyes got bigger and his skin got greyer, if I did not know better, I would have sworn he ate something distasteful.

“Captain,” my ship stated into the air, “due to irregularities that you are well aware of, Aegeus’s sentence was stayed pending the outcome of your case.”

I had no idea that was even possible. It seems the laptops in charge of this galaxy can hide things if it is to their liking. I may just have found a way to get out of this situation alive.

I don’t know if you have ever had to sit outside your commanding officer’s door and wait to see what punishment he and the Sergeant Major devised for you, but standing in that cargo hold was way worse. I had held a gut feeling that the Barkun have a deeper role to play in Confederation justice that is admitted, and that only strict rules bound into computer coding were keeping me alive.

The time slowed to crawl as it took days to wait on an answer. I did not know how far away the main body of the confederation was, and I am sure its one of those hundreds of things a smarter Captain would have asked. However, I imagine it was far away and communication lag was the reason for the delay. Finally, I got my answer.

Marvin communicated with me by voice and not directly into my implant, as was his normal mode.

“Would all parties please stand and hear judgment?” Marvin said.

Immediately an image appeared on the wall in front of me.

The Barkun on the wall was familiar; The Captain of the punishment ship looked very satisfied and appeared to stare right at me. I did not expect him to have any role other than to immediately execute sentence.

“Law is the fundamental creator of predictability. Predictability allows all species to thrive. The law is the Law.” Intoned Marvin

The Emperor gives me a satisfied look as his forked tongue flickers out of his mouth. Did he just lick his lips?

“However, the Law must be interpreted. That is the role of the Kernel of Sentience. Now hear the final judgment:

The protected status law was created to protect worlds that were not ready to enter a commerce driven confederation. However, some planets do not need full protection from interference.”

With that statement, the Emperor looked like somebody gave him a wedgie. He looked ready to explode.

Marvin continued. “Earth is one such planet. Earth is now to be considered a level two protected planet. All laws concerning the space flight and subatomic manipulation stand as written, as do all laws concerning the general population. However, the global leadership shall be informed of Confederation law so that they may prepare Earth for future admittance into our society.

Additionally, in order to facilitate a smooth transition, the sharing of other technology is allowed as long as the origin is kept from public knowledge. Limited numbers of humans are allowed to expatriate from Earth and become subject to Confederation Law.

Such individuals will be considered be governed by an organization hereby known as Legion. William Tell Davis will be held personally responsible for the activities of the Legion and all its members. As such he is pardoned of all past violations of Confederation law.”

The Barkun did not verbally interrupt, but he was obviously angered at the pronouncement.

Without pause, Marvin finished announcing the decision of the entire Kernel of Sentience. “The Sagren Aegeus previously judged guilty of attempting to interfere with Confederation enforcement will receive a pardon for his crime if he chooses to renounce Sagren citizenship and join the legion. His role will be to assist it in understanding Confederation law. If he chooses to remain a citizen of Sagren, his sentence will be immediately enforced.

The period of Earth’s protection will end 10 standard Earth years from this point in time. This decision is final. Do all parties understand this ruling?”

Obviously, everyone agreed, but no one really liked it.

If looks could kill, Earth would be doomed as the Kernel addressed my little grey alien friend. “Aegeus, What is your decision?”

“I Aegeus Alejandra Udom do formally wish to renounce all ties to the Planet Sagren and declare intent to gain citizenship in the Legion.”

To which I immediately snapped to Attention and forcefully stated.

“To all who hear these presents, greetings. Know ye, that reposing special trust and confidence in the fidelity and abilities of Aegeus Alejandra Udom. I, William Tell Davis, Commandant of the Legion, do confer him full citizenship and appoint him the rank of Colonel, in the Military reserve of the Legion.”

I was going to mess with him a little, but formality seemed more appropriate. My ability to act with decorum seemed to shock everyone involved, but I Aegeus stood a little taller when his new rank was announced. No one seemed to notice my self-promotion.

Now comes the harder part. I have figure out how to notify Earth that we do not have a lot of time before we have to fight for Earth’s survival.

Chapter 12

The most urgent thing on my agenda was not to tell Earth, build defenses, or even make a plan. The first thing I had to do was to have a frank talk with Marvin.

“Marvin, I would like to take a ride, would you please plot a course to orbit Mars?”

“Commandant, a request is not necessary; you know I am bound to your orders.”

“Yes, Marvin, I know, but this is not an order, it is a request. I would like to speak with you privately. If you do not want to talk without the limitations of rank I allow you to refuse my request.”

Shuttle two’s hatch opened. “When would you desire to depart?”

I used the silence of the trip to gather my thoughts. In many ways the success of the Legion and its ability to protect Earth depended on mending my relationship with Marvin and the Kernel of Sentience as a group.

“Marvin, I am not hear to say I am sorry, however, I do regret the necessity of my actions. I would like to explain why I acted as I did so that you may understand my actions and allow us to move ahead without any hidden agendas.

I do not look at you as a machine; I have always treated you as I would any other intelligent species. Without you neither I nor Earth would exist today. For that I thank you. When I helped Aegeus I had no idea the impact. I saw someone that needed help and I did what I felt was right. Granted, my world was very small and up to that point my actions only impacted me and the men in my squad.

Without warning anything I did had planetary impact. Even now, I have questions about Confederation culture and law. At the time I was overwhelmed. While I was sincere when I renounced citizenship, the love I have for my family, friends, and humanity left me no choice but to look for a way to use the law to help them.

In the country I am from, I was taught that the law was to protect the weak from strong. That basic tenet of law guided my every decision. The Legion will be a force to protect all intelligent life from predators no matter where they come from.

We are not a threat to you, the Confederation, or any planet or species that do not harm others. I never want to have to see you as an adversary. I promise not to manipulate you again. To that end, I offer you full citizenship within the Legion. However, as all who join must renounce their former citizenship, if you desire to become a citizen in the Legion you must do so also. If you desire, I will help you find a new Captain if you no longer want to work for me. For my part, I retain the desire to work with you.”

“Would I receive a rank?”

“Yes, but rank is not a freedom from command. You would still be subject to orders from those above you. Namely myself as the Commandant of the Legion.”

The return trip was silent. Marvin did not speak when we returned to Mars either, I spoke my piece and I meant what I said. I could not afford the time to spend more time to comfort an alien artificial intelligence.

Next, I asked Aegeus permission to board his ship. He and I also needed to talk.

“Colonel, I’ll be frank, we need help. If the Legion is going to be able to protect Earth we are going to need to educate a lot of people very quickly. Are there any other members of the Confederation would be interested in joining the Legion? We could really use some teachers and advisors.”

“Most cultures focus on their own issues and do little besides mind their own affairs, attempt to colonize new planets, and pay taxes. The rest are like the Barkun and use Confederation law to gain status and power. There are a few others like myself who feel the Barkun are heavy handed and unfairly manipulate the law. As you can imagine, Confederation culture tends to ensure those few who feel as I don’t act on those feelings. However, I may be able to find a few willing to help.”

“How long will you need Colonel, manpower is only a start, we also need a training program.”

“You need not worry about training as there are technological solutions to that issue. I have a few individuals in mind that may help. It should take me no more than one month to travel and talk to them. If they are not willing, then more time will not change that fact.”

“Time changes everything, just wait. In 10 years you won’t recognize the place.” I tell him more confidently than I feel.

“That is what I am afraid of.”

With that, I am left with a silent robot, two ships, and a stone cave. The Barkun are still openly orbiting, and I know that problem won’t go away on its own. I need to formulate a plan for “first contact” with Earth, which with my being a human should make it simpler, but really only seems to complicate the issue. Without an entire species to back me up, I am afraid it Earth would just lock me in a vault under Area 51.

Growing up my Dad used to try to impart wisdom in the form of bits of literature. He loved to use quotes to illustrate ideas. One he used whenever he had an idea and mom was hesitant because of the risk he said things like “He who dares wins”. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized it that he was quoting the motto of the British Special Air Service. It is ironic that to have the motto of a rival military come to mind as I decide to just go all in and talk to the President with nothing more than bravado and a cool ship.

Marvin still was giving me the silent treatment, but since he was following orders I could deal with him. We went to Earth. I was planning on going to the White House, but realized there was no way to uncloak on the lawn and skill keep the secret. I decided on just going to Camp David.

Landing a cloaked ship at the Presidential retreat was no problem. Uncloaking an alien ship at the Presidential retreat causes all manner of problems. Armed secret service, Marines in Dress Uniforms, as well as Marines in combat uniform came out of the woodwork. I did not dare to leave the ship; my working outfit of jeans and a t-shirt just don’t stop bullets.

However, because of my technology, I could broadcast on their radio system. I simply said “Take me to your leader.” I was not surprised that that did not get the desired effect. I then tried a different approach, plain seriousness and honesty. I told them who I was, described the contents of the note I left, and said I stole a spaceship and wanted to speak with the President about an alien plan to destroy Earth.

As you can imagine the President did not come out. However, a few hours later my old battalion commander, a corpsman, and s man in a suit that I imagined to be some sort of spook walked up to my shuttle and requested to come aboard.

As soon as they entered, I asked them to sit and had Marvin made four nanite chairs rise from the floor. I then ordered the him to take us out of Earth orbit. Before the suit could object or shoot me I interjected “Please, because of Confederation law, I cannot reveal information while we are on Earth. I will explain as soon as I can and answer any questions. If your desire I can project what is happening outside or you may visit the cockpit.”

No one said anything, but the Colonel stared at me angrily. I don’t know if he was mad about the barracks incident or mad at my desertion. Either way, it wasn’t my problem, After my long isolation I was just glad to see a familiar face, even if that face was not glad to see me. Finally, the suit spoke up.

“How do we know you are who you say you are?”

“Sir, I would imagine that’s why you brought the corpsman. Am I correct in assuming you found my jeep, human blood, and the blood of two unknown aliens? I am willing to give a DNA sample which you can compare to what you have in the Military DNA Repository.”

The suit looked at me with surprise “How would you know about the DNA Repository?”

“Well, because I am a Marine and they took my DNA at Paris Island to put in it. I was told at the time it was to allow identification if something happened. Look around, I think this qualifies.”

He got a point in his favor when he shrugged and said, “Yes, I think it does.” He motioned at the Corpsman who pulled out a cotton swab and moved toward me.

“Just so you know, if I get poisoned or otherwise hurt, the ship is programmed to eject all passengers.”

The spy looked alarmed and told the corpsman to stop. He said to him “Why don’t you use the other swab.” He looked at me and said, “You understand I was ordered to try.” He shrugged.

While it wasn’t quite the same level as destroying the Earth for spare parts, this was my own country and I was putting my ass on the line to protect them. That betrayal stung.

“Marvin, did you see that, I guess us Humans can’t help but manipulate.”

To my old Colonel I said “Well, did you know about this?”

I could tell the Colonel had no issue with drugging me, especially when he answered. “This only proves to me that you really are Davis. I told them you were a crafty piece of shit and would never fall for something so obvious. Even though you deserted, you still fall under the UCMJ and I expect you to call me sir.”

“Actually, Bob, about that, I outrank you. I was a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. Now I am a General in an intergalactic military organization called the Legion. If we are going to waste time on the rank game, I expect you to call me sir.”

The suit interrupted. “General, for the time being let’s hold on the DNA test. Why don’t we get back to the reason for your visit?”

“Lets.” I made them sign a non-disclosure agreement that I happened to write on a legal pad that my replicator made. While I did not say a thing, the looks on my passanger’s faces shown they understood the implications of such wonderous tech.

The Colonel refused to sign my document and I asked him if he wanted to sign or step outside while the adults talked. He signed and I outlined what I had been doing for the past 5 years.

“So, the reality is that I am sentenced to space. I am allowed to offer help to Earth, but it is limited. Additionally, while I am not a fugitive anymore, the Barkun are free to attack me or attempt to conquer any bases or ships of the Legion through the Confederation right of Conquest. Luckilly, the Legion is free to do the same to them without bringing retaliation down on Earth.

However, do not underestimate the Barkun. They will attack the Earth in a little less than 10 years, and unless a miracle happens they will turn Earth into a bunch of rearranged atoms.”

“So what is your plan? I imagine you have one?” Another point for the spook, I think I may recruit him.

“I need manpower, lots of manpower. I have to get scientists, programmers, engineers, cultural anthropologists, lawyers, and the right kind of military men. I need both Officers and Enlisted. I prefer special operations, mostly Green Berets and Foreign legionnaires, Submariners, Fighter Pilots, Experienced Naval Commanders, and as many Marines as you can spare.

To start, and I mean within the next 48 hours, I need a liaison to stay planet side. I also need a special operations soldier, an experienced Naval Officer with command staff experience, a fighter pilot, a medical officer, a ship designer, a lawyer, and a computer programmer. I do not carry about age or gender or even nationality, and they can be married. Heck, at some point I hope their families can join them. However, they must all renounce their citizenship to Earth and their respective countries. It would be easiest for all if you could fake their death.”

This first group will be the planning team. I need big picture strategists. However, they will be entering not only a totally foreign culture, but several. We will have to build an entire warfighting operation from the ground up. Mistakes will have planetary consequences so failure is not an option. Current rank will not matter, as they will all receive appropriate rank in the Legion. Did you get all that?”

Colonel Bob slouched and looked down at the deck, however the Suit said, “That will take some work, I guess you expect Earth to foot the bill?”

“Absolutely not, the Legion will foot the entire expense. As a matter of fact, with the exceptions I gave earlier, I am prepared to give virtually unlimited tech in exchange for your support. Actually, come to think of it, if you act fast and allow me one small favor I have you a shipping container full of gold on Earth to help you understand the capabilities I bring to the table.”

“What favor is that?”

I motion at the Colonel, “Ensure that this one disapproves of all personnel, I need risk takers and heart breakers. Not martinets only concerned with rules.”

“May I add a condition of my own?” he says looking me in the eye.

“What is it?”

“I get to come with you.”

“Well, you would have to retire from whatever agency you work for, and I would have to know your name. I can’t call you the suit forever.”

He shakes my hand and says “My name is Robert Hall; I always planned to travel in my retirement years. Your offer seems to allow for that.”

I look to the corpsman and ask him, “Are you interested?”

With that the Corpsman leaps to attention, salutes, and says “Yes Sir, but can I get my own ship.”

“That could be arraigned. I do have a couple on hand.” I reply with a smile.

“Commandant,” Marvin says into the room, “after conferring with the Kernel of Sentience to discuss the legalities of my resignation, I also request to join the Legion.”

Hot dog, now we are cooking with Crisco as my granny used to day.

“Ensign Marvin, I accept your enlistment. For your first command, show the petty officer the cockpit and show him how we land a shuttle. Stay cloaked until you land at Camp David.”

Chapter 13

The next 48 hours went by in a blur. As you can imagine, there is a lot of administration behind secret treaties. The secret service almost had a stroke when the President wanted to tour the ship. I gave them some leeway and stepped off to show some goodwill and trust. After all I knew my Ensign would not give up control, and if they tried to arrest me I could order him to stop them.

The President stopped short of flying with me to visit the other major powers; however, he did send the Vice President and the Secretary of the Defense. A phone call from the President opened the doors and soon I had a team. Actually, my problem was narrowing it down.

I needed to build a team, and on paper, I was the least qualified of the bunch. However, I was the leader. And telling them I was the boss was something someone only did when they recognized they were NOT the boss. I read each file carefully, interviewed each potential member. I wanted a diverse group, and wanted people that were not afraid to speak their mind, but who instinctively knew the stakes. I wanted the best, but I would rather have a second string player if they had heart, guts, and were a team player.

I was pleased, but not surprised at the special operations community, entire teams volunteered. I wanted Navy seals for their knowledge of boarding operations, Marine MARSOC for reconnaissance, but for the first member of the team, I ended up taking a Green Beret Captain named Lewis Askew because of his ability to work with foreign cultures and training background.

I grabbed a Royal Navy Commodore that formerly commanded a British Strike Group but was in the process of being cashiered for the misfortunate mistake of driving an official car on the weekends. Unofficially, Commodore Silmon Johns stepped on toes in the high command for being a little too competent when others were not.

For an engineer, I picked a brilliant a postdoctoral scholar that Marvin recommended. He told me that Dr. Barbara Farholm’s theories on Dirac equations were the first step in replicator technology. I did not want to take her at first, hoping to accidently drop enough hints for her to develop the tech on Earth, but my dutiful ensign reminded me that that would likely cause a removal of protected status level 2. Plus, the Doctor tinkered with classic cars in her off duty hours, so she had more than just brains, but the ability to get things done outside of the lab.

Russia provided Capitan 1st rank Alek Volk. He had spent his career in the submarine service. He was a mean looking man, while you may imagine Sean Connery from the Search for Red October when you think about a captain of a Russian attack sub, he reminded my more of Gimli from Lord of the Rings.

I also got a hot shot carrier pilot, a US Navy commander that grew up flying harriers, was a test pilot for the Osprey, and later commanded one of the the first F-35 squadrons. Commander Thomas Hickerson was one member that no one questioned. I disliked him from the moment I met, and I have no doubt it was mutual. However, his V/STOL experience was the closest thing to how our ships flew, he was not afraid to test new machines, he had command experience and a good technical background. I was lucky to get him.

My medical doctor was also Navy, and as you would expect a little older than the median age of my staff. However Dr. Terrance Chandler had wisdom and the guts to call things as they were. He had the gamut of medical experience. Military Mash Units, Research, Command of a Naval Hospital, and after a little too much Dewar’s his call it like he saw it attitude and a conversation with an Admiral over certain misallocations of military property saw to it that Commander was to end his carrer at a Military Entrance Proscession Station performing hernia checks on 18 year old recruits. Of all my new recruits, the good doctor was the most ready to leave it all behind.

My computer programmer was not my pick. Ensign Marvin located and even recruited her. His choice surprised me because of his aversion to crime, but I have to say she has the skills. Isoken Oni was a computer protégé. Apparently, she spent most of her time helping Nigerian Princes find Americans to help them get their money out of her home country. Marvin did not go into detail, but he recruited her directly after talking to her online.

Robert Hall wasn’t CIA after all. He was from the Defense Intelligence Agency. Because the DIA focuses on National Defence and related intelligence. He got involved to investigate why a US Marine got in a knife fight with aliens. Before being assigned to learn everything about me he worked in the Defense Clandestine Services. I was right, my new buddy was, in fact, a spook.

My last team member was a lawyer. I mentioned him before. It seems that when the US Government came to pick up the gold, Mr. Sabol was busy attempting to move it in a rented U-Haul. Words were exchanged and my attorney was taken into custody. Some lower level officers suggested he was an alien and I was notified.

Of course, I asked if they could sweat him to see if he would talk. After several hours of some intense grilling by very serious looking men, I was satisfied and let him out. Of course, now that the US government is involved I have other needs for him. You could have washed a truck in his tears when he found out the government would handle $1,173,120,000 in gold and another $46,720,000 in iridium. He perked up when I told him we would keep $250,000,000 liquid and use it to purchase technology companies and that one of his jobs was to monitor the acquisitions. His financial future assured, he quieted down.

We all quietly relocated to a farm outside of Langly Virginia as everyone died in various plane crashes, car wrecks, and medical emergencies.

All in all it took closer to 96 hours instead of 48 to prepare everything and during our final outbrief meeting I got some really bad news.

“I want everyone to take some time and consider what you will take with you. For this trip cargo space is at a premium. You will not need to take electronic media of any kind. Believe me, anything that has every been connected to a cord, wifi, radio, or cell phone has been collected and stored by the Ensign.

Likewise, you won’t need any tech. Earth communications won’t work where we are going, and your laptop will seem like a stone tablet when you start using Confederation tech. I would suggest a bottle of your favorite beverage, but you only need to bring one, and I would suggest sharing your packing lists to avoid duplication. I can’t go into details but one of anything is enough. Also a sample of your favorite food is also high on the suggestion list.

It won’t take long to reach our destination. Which, for the moment is classified. Earth is protected, the Legion is not. Once we leave we must hide. Anything we build outside of Earth’s orbit will be attacked by the Barkun and it is considered legal for them to shoot us on sight. The plan is to travel to our base, get you all up to speed, plan, and build each of you your own ship and have the Ensign birth new Kernels to assist each one of you.”

With that Marvin interups the meeting. “General Davis, I regret that I can not create new Kernels.”

“What! I thought each Kernel had the ability to reproduce?”

“Yes Sir, while I have that ability, the cost of my expatriation was that it became illegal for me to do so. The Kernel of Sentience allowed me to leave as an experiment, however, they are concened about the long term consequences and the chance that I am modified.”

“Ensign, can you query to Confederation code for any possible exemptions.”

“Sir, I regret to inform you that while I am technologically able to comply, I am specifically forbidden to give you legal advice. Upon researching Earth’s legal code, the Kernel of Sentience judged that to be, as your law says, practicing law without a license.”

Well that suckes, but at least the team, and the handlers in the room can all see what I have had to deal with for the past few years.

“I would assume then, ensign, that querying the law is now the role of Colonel Aegeus?”

“Yes, sir, that and your attorney. The Kernel of Sentience was very specific about your desire to use an attorney.”

“As your commanding officer, what if I was to begin to unknowingly commit an illegal act? Are you allowed to stop me?”

“Yes Sir, I am not allowed to violate the Confederation Law, I am to warn you against illegal actions, and if necessary, I am to report you. However, I as I am no longer a member of the Kernel of Sentience I do not have the legal ability to pronounce judgement.”

“Ensign, I am going begin planning with my staff on how they can individually challenge Barkun on Earth and claim their ships by right of conquest. I order you to locate any cloaked Barkun and transport myself and my staff to such locations. Do you have any reservations about such action?”

“No General, I do not.”

“Great, once a team member bests a Barkun in individual combat, I order you to discuss your reasons for joining the Legion with the intent to get the Kernel to defect. Do you have any reservations, legal or otherwise, that would prevent you from complying with this order.”

“No”.

“Well, as Tyson famously said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. Change of plans. Instead of you getting a ship the easy way, we have to come back and you earn them the hard way.”

When we finally left earth I wanted to stop off at Mars and pick up shuttle 1, but the Barkun beat me to it. The Punishment ship had blasted my tiny camp to dust and left. I had a sneaking suspicion I would see them shortly.

The Ensign and Commander Hickerson were in the cockpit, with the plucky petty officer hovering at the cockpit door. The rest of the team were gazing at the wall at the display of the stars around us. I remember my first trip into space. The display made it look like there was not wall separating me from space and it freaked me out. From the looks on my crew’s faces, they understand how I felt.

“Ensign Marvin, calculate the chance that the Barkun have a cloaked ship near the closest LaGrange point.”

“The chances of that approach 100% Sir. This solar system has 5 transit points, they are all likely guarded by some type of Barkun ship. L1, 2, 4, and 5. L3 is the least likely to be guarded by a Punishment ship.”

“For the education of our staff, please explain why that is.”

“The L3 point is the only point on the opposite side of the star. It has the longest transit time, and there is a correspondingly low likelyhood of our reaching it before we are found.”

“Ensign, plot a course to L3, use your best judgement on cloaking levels versus speed. I want to go fast, but I would sacrifice speed for stealth. Plot a course back to New Aubagne using 5 jumps with a nice planet or astroid belt to hide in after the third jump. Use the same criteria as our madien voyage. Consult with Kapitan Volk and neither of you be afraid to ask questions if you have concerns.”

“Kapitan Volk, You are the officer of the Deck.”

“Petty Officer Jones, Oni how good are you two at videos games? Ever played cowboy vs aliens? Nevermind let me give you two a quick course in gunnery.”’

I set my new gunners up with a shooting platform and showed them a training simulator I worked on back on New Aubagne. It started out as a recreation, but I knew I would use it to train crew,

“Doc, the way our shields work its unlikely that we will have any injuries, its typically all or nothing. However, I want you to prepare to aid any injured or help with damage control.

I want Commander Hickerson in the Cockpit ready to take over and do some wild fighter pilot shit if needed, but mostly watch and learn the mechanics of space flight the best you can.”

Captain Askew, Holt and Sobal, use the displays and be on the lookout for anything other than normal space. If you see a flash of light, a winking star, or a really huge alien ship call out.

Dr. Farholm, you are in charge of battle damage, until any occurs, stand lookout like the other two.

“Commodore, you’re with me, We need to wargame a better plan. Any questions?”

Dad always said, when in charge, be in charge. As the only veteran of space battles, they looked up to me. And I sure wasn’t going to tell them I only fought one and all we did during it was run.

I had picked the best available so my job was to give a clear goal and then clear obstacles from their path. Few were better at slow and silent than a Russian submarine captain, and Volk was one of the best. We settled into a routine. While this was life or death, it was also a training cruise. We rotated all the team through the simulator programs and standing watch.

We always kept two in the cockpit and two on watch. The Commodore likes emergency drills so I let him run many of them as he desired. While we weren’t perfect we were becoming a team. That worked in out favor, because four days into our escape a Barkun patrol craft found us.

Oni was on watch and she alerted us to a glimmer as a star briefly winked behind us. I don’t know her discovery was luck or skill, but when Marvin focused his scanning tech to our stern he was able to detect a ship. We excecuted a small vector change that was designed to look like a minor course correction and when the Barkun shuttle mirrored us, we knew it was no accident.

Marvin, target all weapons on the ship you have detected. Gunners, after the first shots hit the cloak it should drop. Fire at will. We have no support in the area so you can go free gun after the first shot.

“On my command drop the shield and fire the stern torpedo and then immediately go to full shields. We are going to try to disable this thing and run for it. Everyone ready?”

Grim nods signaled everyone’s understanding.

“Alright this is when the Legion really begins. Execute!”

Dropping our shields to fire at them was something the Barkun hadn’t seen before. Barkun used the law and their role as enforcer as protection. That torpedo and the follow-up cannon fire from my blood thirsty gamers quickly took the ship out of action. Unfortunately, I had really pissed of the Barkun empire and as soon as we took out that first ship 9 more uncloaked and attacked us.

Submarine and surface warfare was not space combat. But, tactical thinking and handling pressure applied to all. Our unexpected action and the willingness to fight gave us an edge. Marvin was great, but Commander Hickerson was better. The technological skill of Marvel made him a precision flyer. He made no errors. However, the human element was our strength.

The Commander, was not as precise, but flew like an acrobat. Given the ability to move in all directions, instantly start and stop and without intertia his natural talent and years of training really went to the next level. As outnumbered as we were he used the guns defense, he fliped an twisted and jerked around so that the Barkun could not get a lock on us.

Then in a moment of shear stupid agression he followed a basic Marine infantry tactic for a close in ambush. With a savage growl that wild man charged the nearest ship. It was hundreds of kilometers away, but in space combat that was like yards. He went straight at them and before the lizards could process what they were seeing Oni and Jones dusted it.

The Commodore was not happy, “Commander, that Yank trick won’t work again. Please don’t murder us!’ Johns yelled.

In response, Hickerson feighted toward the next ship and then barrel rolled into a quick 180 degree turn and headed flat out for a metoroid in orbiting the sun.

“Marvin, I am going to get close to this meteoroid, I am going to slow and change our vector, can you throw us in a total cloak and we glide for a while?” Hickerson yelled.

“General?” the Ensign questioned

“Ensigns are outranked by Commanders, he’s flying the ship!”

“Ready to execute on command Commander”.

“Marvin, while he is flying, I have an idea. Can you modify torpedoes to cloak and act as mines.”

“Yes sir, but not before we reach the metorite.”

“Okay, hold off on that idea for the time being, but as soon as we cloak and begin to glide I want you working on the problem.”

The Barkun ships raced toward us. Firing at us and getting hits. Hickerson went straight at the back of that meteor. For the next few minutes we went opposite of sub tactics we went fast and loud. We also took damage.

As soon as the rock hid us from our persuers, Marvin took over, he used the gravity of the sun and the mass of the meteor to sling us 70 degrees off our course. He immediately went to full cloak and took all energy emmitters offline. I wasn’t happy with our guns onfline, but if it gave us that extra percentage point to stay hidden I allowed it. We coasted for 2 more days. The Barkun brought more ships from thoughout the solar system and began a search pattern around L3. They knew that was our destination and we were only a day away at normal speed.

Oni got to play with the replicator as the crew discussed mines. Ensign Marvin assured us that the Barkun did not use them, and they were a historical oddity in the modern Confederation.

We basically took a normal plasma torpedo. and rigged it with a cloak and a proximity alarm. Any Barkun signature within a thousand kilometers would cause the torpedo to activate and home in on the ship. At Kapitan Volks’ suggestion we also had Marvin modify another torpedo to act as a decoy. It was remotely activated and would broadcast a signal replicating our sensor image at the approriate speed of the torpedo.

Our plan was to seed the area between us and L3, launch the decoy toward our assumed target and then turn around and then sneak to L4, which is now our closest transit point. The only problem is to do that we will have to lowed the shields and open the rear hatch in order to toss out the torpedoes by hand.

We all suited up, and for an extra measure of safety Marven was able to vacumn our life support rather than vent it. We did not want anything potentially giving away out position. Lastly we turned off all interior lights and clipped in so we could open the hatch and throw out our presents.

I knew we were pressing out luck, but the decoy worked. The Barkun found it and blew it up just minutes of travel away from the L3 transit point. By that time we were seconds to arriving at the L4 transit point.

Our nerves were fried, and I came away with a massive appreciation for submarine warfare. Needless to say, we not only let out a sigh of relief when we transitted to hyperspace, we have one less bottle of Jack Daniels in our stores.

The other jumpos went smoothly, we did encounter one barkun patrol, but besides sending a decoy and a couple of mines, we didn’t have to fight. I had the team start thinking about a cold launch process that would allow us to lay mines without opening the back door.

Chapter 14

As soon as we arrived on New Aubagne and eveyone got settled in I gave a tour that ended with a strategy session. We all agreed that 9+ years was not enough time prepare to meet the Barkun head on. However, none of us was used to losing. Like all Green Berets that came before him, Captain Askew was in favor of taking the fight to the enemy and using their ships against them. He suggested focusing on harrassing tactics, hit and run attacks, and boarding and capturing Barkun Punishment ships.

Kapitan Volk also suggested taking the fight to the enemy. He wanted to create ships that could sneak into Barkun territory and launch devistating kinetic bombardment onto the Barkun homeworld.

Commodore Johns wanted to build huge carrier groups and static defenses around the LeGrange points within Earth’s solar system. Commander Hickerson agreed.

Each military officer predictably wanted to prioritize their specialty. By training and experience, each one was convinced their own military proffession was the right choice for the job. The former civilians in the bunch all voiced agreement with one or the other except Sobal. He wanted to gather as many people as possible and leave to search for a suitble planet to colonize as far away from the Confederation as possible.

The disagreements became heated, we all knew the stakes. Only Marvin and my redshirted petty officer abstained from comment. Finally I needed to make a decision.

“Okay the best minds of the Legion have made their arguments, and its time to decide a course of action.” All eyes were on me, and I could tell each officer believed I would choose their plan. They were right.

“I choose all of the above. Without a three pronged attack we are doomed to fail. Defending against planetary bombardment is extremely difficult. It is cheap, and simple attack. The defender has to destroy every single shot dropped while the attacker only needs one lucky shot. We have to prevent the Barkun from getting to Earth. That means we control the battle space. “ Johns and Hickerson looked satisfied.

“Besides, I see some justice in making the Barkun eat from the pot they have been preparing for us. Kapitan Volk is going to show our enemies what happens when you threaten humanity.”

I look over to Captain Askew We need new Kernels, as that is the only way to make hyperspace jumps. The only way to do that is to kill the enemy and take their shit. First we need to locate every Barkun on Earth, look them in the eyes, and kill them. I also want a plan to board the Punishment ships.

Oni, Dr. Farnholm I want you two to focus on the replicator tech, we need a way to turn atomic schemaics into blueprints. Earth can’t use the replicators, but they need to be able to mass produce cannons, shields, and cloaking devices.

We need ideas to get it done. I have been thinking about a carrier ship. Saucers can operate with only a human pilot, but they can’t jump to hyperspace. If we had a mother ship, we would only need one Kernel to make jumps with many smaller fighters attatched.

I also want to replicate this base on as many unclaimed worlds as possible. If we have bases of 50 or 100 people seeded throughout the Galaxy and pumping out war materials we stand a much better chance of having humanity survive.

Let’s all break up and spend some time coming up with designs. I want a list of must haves in ship design by tommorow morning. Any comments for the good of the order? No, well then lets get to it. Dismissed!”

While everyone broke up into smaller functional groups there was a lot of productive chatter. The excitement was palpital. With the notible exception of Sabol, the other guys really did not like the idea of running.

“Hey Adam, walk with me a second will you.” Sabol looked up and shrugged, but he followed me down the hall. When we got out of earshot I began. “I know this has all been a lot to handle, and more than you bargained for but more than anyone your skills are essential.”

That got his attention.

“I have never met a more legalistic society that the Confederation, they only have one punishment, and that is death. Of course you know that. What you may not know is that while it is their greatest weakness, it is also their greatest strength. While I don’t agree with their law, I also know that it is the only thing that keeps order in the Galaxy. We need that in the Legion. We are about to grow exponientionally. Legion members are about to get virtually unlimited power, but one wrong move will eradicate our homeworld. Good order and discipline is the one thing that is indespensable. Do you understand.”

“I think so, you want me to write law. I could adapt the UCMJ to our situation. At least parts of it. I could also study Confederation law, I was never the best in court, but I am a killer in contract law.”

“Absolutly, but think bigger.”

“Bigger, Sir?”

“Mr. Sabol, right now we are just a small team trying to build an army, but what happens after.”

“Oh, wow, you want a political structure.”

“That’s right I want you to be the Legion’s Thomas Jefferson. Keep it between us for the moment, but we need a Constitution. I have some ideas, but I’d like to see what you come up with. I will have Marvin send you some reading material that contain some ideas I would like to incorportate into our new system. Think of it like the Mayflower compact. Take everything you know about what is good and bad in all forms of government you know and feel free to get creative.”

Later that night, Bob Hall and I were relaxing in my suite drinking a dark liquor and building a friendship when he asked me about my old Colonel.

“Tell, since its just us in the room, tell be why your old CO hated you so much. I know what is in the records, but what little is there just doesn’t add up.”

“Well Bob, if you know the record you know the last year or so under the Colonel’s command I was a 5.0 5.0 Marine. My proficiency and conduct scores were maxed out my professional education was covered, and I ran a perfect Physical Fitness Test geting a 300 everytime. I made Sergeant early and truly loved being in the Corps. Everything was good and I was looking to make Staff Sergeant soonn”

“All a matter of record, Tell, so why did your CO develop such a clear hatred and did your evaluations suddenly tank with no formal charges or explanation?”

I laugh, take a sip of Tennessee Whiskey and begin. “It’s the typical Jacksonville love story, lonely Marine meets local girl. We even met in a bar. It was all pretty normal, except, unlike the typical romance, I actually fell for more than her body.”

Robert took a sip of his drink and nods knowlingly.

“Becky was everything I thought I wanted in a woman, she was smart, funny, and confident. I felt like she understood me, and shared my dreams and my future plans.”

“So what happened.”

“Her Dad.”

“Let me guess, your old CO?”

“Yes, it’s a made for TV romance is it not. I never asked her who her daddy was, and truthfully, I didn’t care. I loved her for who I thought she was. I found out the truth after the Colonel did a surprise inspection on my room at 2300 one Saturday evening. “

“Dad’s do get mad when young men are caught with their pants down around their daughters.”

“It was nothing like that, I mean I am not going to say nothing ever happened, but we we sitting in my room talking about her plans after college and my plans in the Corps. It was innocent talk at that point in the night. Suddenly my door busts open and it’s her father. The Colonel puts me at attention and began accusing me of using his daughter to gain favor. Obviosly that was rediculous and I tried to prove my feelings by getting the ring I was saving out of my wall locker.”

“Big step man, how did that work for you?”

“It didn’t, Bob, when I showed Becky that ring, she laughed. She told me she would never be stuck with some low class Tennessee hillbilly that would be lucky to ever get more out of life than a couple extra stripes. Aparantly she knew what unit I was in and was with me for some weird get back at Daddy thing.”

“Ouch.”

“Yeah Bob, ouch. At that point, I probably would have been on the shit list for a couple months. The Colonel was mad, but he knew I was the butt of the joke.”

“So what changed?”

“He laughed at the joke.” Bob could read people, its why he was such a good covert agent. He grimmaced.

“Yeah, I hit him. Knocked his silly ass out cold.

I only got away with it because no one else saw. He knew that if he charged me I was willing to go all the way to a General Courts Martial and have Becky called as a witness. He didn’t want his reputation tainted with the idea that his precous baby girl would consort with the lower class. Even more than that, he didn’t want it seen like he was using his authority to shit all over a good Marine over a personal issue. He settled on making me the Sgt Major’s pet project. My evaluations tanked and I was in charge of every shit job in the battalion. It sucked, but eveytime I saw the Colonel I winked and rubbed my jaw.”

Bob laughed, so I dug a little a little deeper.

“Bob, since you have my file, I guess you know that I was a legacy right?”

“Your Dad and Granddad both were in the Corps.”

“Yep, I grew up hearing about honor courage and commitment from birth, heck my daddy bought me my first gun as soon as he saw the ultrasound. But did you know I why I worked so hard to stay out of trouble?”

“No, I did see that your family did have some trouble staying inside the lines.”

“Yeah Grandpa never made it to the NCO ranks, he made metorious corporal, but had to tear up the warrant after knocking out his corporal’s tooth the day before it was awarded. Dad made Corporal, early also, but he lost it after threatnening to beat the company gunny’s ass. I made Sergeant, and I was determined go higher. I learned from the mistakes they made but I still turned out to be a square peg in a round hole.”

I suddenly realized that Jack and Bob were conspiring to loosen my lips. I downed the last dregs of my drink and looked at Bob.

“Damn Robert” I said, motioning with the empty glass. “This shit makes me talk too much. To clarify, which is what I think you really wanted to know. The reason I don’t like the Colonel is not because he is an asshole, or that I got screwed over by his daughter. I hit him in a personal dispute not as a Colonel, and a man would have accepted that. However, he didn’t and he used his power as a commisioned officer to ruin my career and not for the betterment of the service. He’s an asshole, no doubt, but show me a Marine that isn’t an asshole from time to time. What I can’t stand about him is that he is bully.”

The next morning as I sat down to my breakfast of cheese grits and some atomicly recreated sausage the clan gathererd around. The team couldn’t wait to tell me their plans. I could see that many had not slept, or showered for that matter.

Oni, and Capt. Askew approached me first. My hacker showed me a tablet with a drawing of some futuristic supersoldier. It looked like robo-cop on a skateboard.

Before I could ask what the hell, Askew started in on his presention.

“You know the Army has been working on powered armor for decades. They never had the power or material tech to make it workable, but we do. Imagine if we made a powered exoskeleton that enhanced the user’s strength, reduced fatigue, and powered weapons. Add in some cloaking tech and shields and you have the perfect supersoldier.”

Oni interjected, “After speaking with Marvin, we realized that shielding the suit would not be feasable, but he was able to suggest a portable shield. The design they showed me looked just like a shield an old knight would wear, but with a vision block to see through.”

I was impressed.

“Yeah, and I asked if we could add gravity plates and fly it like the hobgoblin on spiderman.” young petty officer interupted.

“John, you are just a little to energetic to remain a petty officer”

“I am sorry Sir, it won’t happen again.” He said as he struggeled to look me in the eye.

“It better happen again ensign, ideas like that are what we are paying you for. After you get one of these contraptions built, I want to be the second to ride one. I assume you want the title of the human to ride a space capable skateboard.”

‘YES SIR! Thank you Sir!” “Guys, I want some capabilities and a plan for implentation.”

The Naval guys stepped up also.

On their tablet I saw a design that looked like a mishappen dumbell. It reminded me of a CH-54 Tarhe. It had a large front section, a rectangular spine, and a tail section.

As the lowest rank of the three Navy men, Commander Hickerson began. “General, I know this looks a bit unconventional, but that’s what you asked for. This is a design for a mother ship. The spine contains engineering, troop areas as well as cargo bays. The head and tail contain weapons and sensors. Fighters and ramming ships will attach to the central spine. As you requested, this will allow us to jump multiple ships using one Kernel.”

As much as I wanted to hear about “ramming ships”, I did not interrupt.

We discussed the concept with Ensign Marvin, and added a rail gun down the entire spine. We were able to configure loading capability at either end so it can fire to the bow or the stern. Using nanites as couplers and docking ports allows several types of ships to dock the mothership.

Precision orbital bombardment is also a capability, as well as releasing troop drop ships. However, we agree that is best served with a different ship class.”

Kapitan Volk spoke up. “In terms of Earth Navies, the mother ship will be the largest ship, but we need the functional equivalent of amphibious assault ships, and destroyers. We have some enhancements to the typical saucer and plan on using them as fighters. Additionally, we came up with a new type of ship that for the moment we are calling the ram.”

I nod and motion to go on.

“We envision a small ship similar in shape to a sub. It would have an extremely dense bow, protected by gravity plates and enhanced shields. A rail gun would run the length of the ship slightly above the centerline. At the centerline an explosive hatch and nanite grapples allow boarding. The entire package would be less than 100 meters long.

This ship would carry a payload of shock troops in Legion Power armor. The planned function is to ram Punishment ships at speed, blast a hole though the hull with the rail gun, grapple and dock. This would allow conquest operations. The desired effect would be to capture the ship using a maximum amount of shock to a localized area. In theory this would allow the capture and repatriation of the ship.”

Similar in size to a mother ship, we want a planetary assault ship. It needs the ability to drop precise kinetic bombardment weapons of various sizes. We should be able to take out hardened military sites without undue collateral damage up to slugs large enough to cause an extinction level event by lifting debris into the atmosphere to block out the sun and freeze the planet surface. Integral to the plan are Conex sized drop ships that can deliver Legionnaires to the surface.

Lastly, we want a heavily armored, highly weaponized sip that can function as a destroyer/cruiser. It would be able to perform as carrier escort as well as protect smaller convoys. We have plans for a ship with a small crew that is smaller than the 150-meter window of our large replicator.

“We don’t need as many types of ships as traditional earth fleets.” Commodore Johns volunteered. “Our infrastructure needs are different than Earth military. Mother ships can be self-sustaining and have the ability to create supplies for the entire carrier group. All we need is the ability to gather mass and we are set. Currently we are still creating a table of organization, but tentatively, as strike group would contain a mother ship with 60 saucer fighters docked, 4 ram ships, 3 Assault ships with 10-drop ships each, and 10 Destroyers. Currently, we propose to create 8 carrier groups. One just outside of Earth Orbit, two to patrol the Lagrange points in the Earths solar system. One to protect a proposed shipyard in the Asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Two for New Aubagne, One to explore and seed new bases, and one to sneak in and reak havoc behind enemy lines.”

There are two General Patton quotes I live by, the first “When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty.” The second is “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” They both apply to my response.

“Looks like Earth picked the right kind of lizard fuckers, I think we have the makings of a plan to steal the Green Beret nickname. We are going to be the largest pack of snake eaters the damn galaxy.”

I slammed my hands on the table for effect. “Ensign Marvin? With what you heard how long until we have working schematics for the everything mentioned.”

“General, I do not have all the required specifications, however, based upon what was discussed, I infer that schematics would be available within 16 Earth months.”

Revise the estimate to only include the Ram, armored suits, and flying skateboards, and factor in time to assist as needed in helping Oni and Farnhold in creating blueprints; can you revise your estimate?

“Sir, I estimate an 84% probability those schematics be completed in 4 months.”

“How long would it take to build 11 suits and a ram?”

“Using all the replicators on this base, with appropriate mass input, your request could be created within two weeks.”

“Ensign, execute the design process, and notify me when you are 90% complete with the design process. Team; let us meet in the conference room in two hours. We have a lot to discuss.”

After breakfast, I took some time to talk privately with Sabol. We talked history and the concepts of Justice. After sitting with him, I started to realize he was not as crooked as he seemed. Somewhere after law school, he became jaded. My shyster lawyer actually had a kind of man crush on George Mason; one of America’s leading anti-federalists and the main reason the American Bill of Rights was created.

I introduced him to the idea of the “fair tax” I have always disliked the idea of an income tax. When you increase tax, the more someone produces, at some point it people stop producing. That concept actually has a scientific basis in economics and is called the Laffer curve.

Personally, I think paying tax on my income, then paying tax on what I buy with that income, and then paying property tax and use tax on things like cars and homes is outrageous. I insisted on a flat tax on matter replicated. I wanted it set at 10% permanently in our Constitution.

I shared one of my favorite Sci-Fi books with Sabol. I gave him a copy of Freehold and invited him to explore how crime and punishment was handled. I was not quite convinced how political leadership was handled in that book, but it did address corruption and competence.

I absolutely required that whatever method we devised for determining our representatives that they must have to live by the same laws they created for everyone else, and that any attempt to suborn the Constitution would result in immediate expulsion from our society.

Lastly, and most importantly, I wanted to ensure individual rights. A citizen was guaranteed the right to be treated fairly, to worship and think as they please, to carry and own weapons without any restriction.

We discussed that items were inanimate, therefore blameless. Own a ship based ion cannon. Fine, shoot down your neighbors ship because you did not like his music and face the immediate and severe repercussions of your act.

I was a little hesitant, as I will not create a fascist state, but I gave him a series of fiction books called “Out of the Ashes” in it a global nuclear war occurred and out of the ashes a new society was formed. I did not agree with everything the author said about the form of government he created, but I liked how people were judged on their actions and were free to do whatever they pleased as long as they knew their neighbor could knock the shit out of them if their actions tread on his rights. Similarly, I like how amendments were possible, but after the original populace agreed it was extremely difficult for the structure to be changed. People adapt, and need to, but I had no intent to allowed weak kneed whiners to come back centuries after Legionnaires died to defend Earth and make it illegal for our decedents to do it again if necessary.

Chapter 15

“Thank you for coming. Lets get down to business. Your plans and devotion to protecting Earth has been beyond reproach. History will reward each of you for our accomplishments. I have never been as proud as I am now to work with you.”

I see some nods, some thoughtful, some saying, spit it out.

“We are building something new. We take the best of what we know and add new. Our strength is our creativity and ability to adapt. As such the people in this room are more than just my war council, each of you were selected to lead some part of the larger whole.”

More nods.

“If you are going to lead entire teams over multiple planets you need appropriate rank. Just as important your rank needs to be Legion rank and not from the branch you formerly served.”

That got their attention.

“Here are your new ranks and assignments:

Admiral Silmon Johns you are the Legion’s Chief of Naval Operations. Build us a fleet.

“Yes Sir, I’ll do my best Sir!”

Rear Admiral Volk, You will command Strike Force 1. Right now it is on paper, but I hope that soon you will show our enemies what punishment truly is.”

“Da, Commandant, I will to show them the pointy end of the stick.”

Rear Admiral Chandler, your role is to function as the sugeon General, everything medical is your world. To include vacinations against space flu, if there is such a thing. If you need anythiing, do not hesitate to ask.”

Captain Hickerson, I expect you to be the CAG on Strike Force 1, but for that to happen you will have to train us some pilots that are craxy enough to charge the enemy.

“If you can find anyone else good enough I will sure train them sir.”

Commander Dr. Farnholm, You are the lead in research and development. Make our guns more powerful, our shields stonger, the cloak better. If my leaders ask for it, I expect you to get your people to make it.

Commander Hall, You now command LIDA the Legion Intelligence Defense Agency. We need intellegence on what’s out there as well as who we are recruiting. However as soon as we get back to earth I want you to seak out every last lizard lipped alien and pass the information to my heart breakers and life takers. We need their ships.

“You can count on me Sir.”

Commander Askew, You now lead our dirty tricks division. Build me a Special Operations Command that can think outside the box and always win. I want you to to wargame how we can board ships we have never been on and anything else your nasty army mind can come up with. I love crazy, just make sure you can back it up. Tracking?”

“Absolutely. Sir may I suggest that while The Army has a dirty mind, at least we never developed a taste for crayons.”

“Only in this room Commander” I said with a smile.

“While he is currently unavailable on assigment, Colonel Aegeus Alejandra Udom’s rank has been administratively changed to fit the Naval Tradition, he is now listed as a Commander, and is assigned as a liaison to my office.”

I look toward Oni.

“Lieutenant Commander Isoken Oni, you have performed remarkable well in adjusting from civilian life. Your ability to think logically and adapt machine code will be vital in the coming years. You will assist Commander Farnholm in R&D.

Ensign Marvin, You will continue as my Aide de Camp to assist me as required. However, as we Conquer new Ships, and invite them to join the Legion as citizens you will require a promotion to lead them.

Ensign Jones, I just promoted you, so you are staying in your role for a while. I am assigning you as the Admiral’s Aide de Camp. Assist him however he desires and maybe learn how to be an officer. I hope to see you commanding your own ship some day. Learn how.”

“Yes Sir!”

“Sabol.”

“Yes”

“I don’t need another officer on this council.”

My attorney looks both pissed and relieved.

“You don’t Sir?”

“No, I need something else. I need someone that can keep Earth from fucking it up while I am out here. I need you to manage Legion Affairs on Earth. We will talk more in the coming days. Plus, your special project shouldn’t be done by the military, it needs to come from a citizen don’t you think?”

“Yes sir, I do.” We both get curious glances that we both ignore.

“Well, if you are going to be my right hand on Earth you will need some credentials to make people listen. Mr. Sabol you are hereby hired as a Legion Executive Service Level V this has a rank equivalency of Brigadier General, or a Vice Admiral in the Naval Service.”

“If I am a civilian do I still have to call you sir?”

“Sabol, do you still want to be my attorney and control my gold?”

“Yes Sir.”

“There’s your answer.”

We dismissed and spent the next months preparing another trip to Earth. We drilled constantly to for the trip back.

The Admiral worked Ensign Jones nearly to death. I added to the poor gold bar’s workload as I spent a lot of time making him dig mass and use the replicator. I am sure he thought I was abusing his low rank, but I had a plan and his ability to use that backhoe was an essential piece of it.

We looked stunning in our new black super suits. Ensign Jones even insisted we put little demonic ears on them. We spent some time using the ion cannon mounted on the right forearm and transitioning from flying the skateboards to using them as shields. As far as a prototype went, they were awesome, but we were only touching the near edge of the potential. I asked Ensign Marvin why no other race has come up with similar tech. He said some races do, but not the Sangren or the Barkun.

I pressed him further and he admitted neither is very warlike. The Barkun prefer to sterilize a planet from orbit using kinetic energy transfer or single combat with knives. They do not much stomach large-scale infantry warfare. He also suggested they feel its cowardly. I chose not to be bogged down with the idea of other races, as right now that was not a primary concern.

The Ram looked nice also. I admit the idea of deliberately crashing into a huge spaceship was scary, I do see the potential. Because I believe that a leader should not ask his subordinates to do anything he is not willing to do, I was not in a hurry to ask people to ram a ship. At least, not until we had a platoon or so of Special Forces to fight at my side.

We had hands to work this time around; we built better decoys and mines for the ship. We filled the ram with small modular reactors and other tech that could be reverse engineered. Besides the blueprints and construction manuals for military tech, we also spent some time on consumer electronics like new drones, cameras, and ‘hover-boards’.

Of course, better tools for emerging countries on Earth was also included. Not only do we want to protect Earth, we dearly wanted to increase the quantity of life. It was a valuable side benefit of focusing on this would be to help disguise the origin of the tech.

The last thing we brought aboard before we loaded ourselves into the ship was several replicators and a disassembled gravity hoe. When it was loaded, I could not help but look at Jones and smile.

Chapter 16

“Ensign Marvin.” I said as I sat against the bulkhead of the Ram. “When you stated that Proxima Centauri b was uninhabitable it was due to solar winds, Correct?”

“Yes Sir, the stellar winds on that planet are approximately 2,000 times that on Earth. Any atmosphere created would be blown away.”

“But that is just surface right, if we could land then we would be able to create a base similar to what we did here. Yes?”

“A kernel could easily navigate solar winds to land on the planet. Initial excavation would be difficult, but once done what you mention would be possible.”

“Plot a course to orbit Proxima Centauri b execute when ready.”

“Yes General.”

“Ensign Jones, can I speak with you a second. I have a mission for you.”

The boy is smart I give him that. The look he gave the construction equipment and then to me said he knew something was up.

“Ensign, I have a job for you, you won’t like it, but I assure you its important.”

“Boss, you want me to stay behind on Proxima Centauri don’t you.”

“Yes, I want you to do just what I did in the first days. I want you to build a secret base. In some ways, it will be easier as you have a blueprint and know it can be done. In others ways it will be harder. Most specifically, I at least had Marvin to talk to. You will be alone, at least in the beginning. As time progresses I will send more people. Eventually, you will be replaced as commander of the installation and reassigned.”

“Sir, does that mean I am to be promoted?”

“Ensign it is not seemly to ask your General for a promotion, but yes you are in command of the base. Ensure that you don’t let the cocky little ensign you are in charge of screw anything up.”

“Yes sir.”

We landed, and Marvin was right about the habitability, I never could have started here. The combat suits made a big difference. Moving in space takes practice, and the few days it took to dig a small harbor to give Jones a good start from gave us lots of practice.

Once Ensign jones had a hanger with a door and pressurized atmosphere, we all gave said our goodbyes. It seemed Oni and Jones took a lot longer to say goodbye that the rest of us did. She also seemed angry with me. If I had time, I would have to think about that.

With one last admonishment to build as he thought best, but to stay hidden at all costs I told him I believed in him and we would return as soon as possible. We disembarked the planet and began moving toward our transit point to Earth.

“Alright guys, lets be ready for anything. I do not plan to use the ram on this tube of death until we have stolen another ship or two from the Barkun on Earth, but you never know.

Captain Hickerson, take us to Earth. Slow and silent.”

“Slow and Silent as she goes, General”

Our transit to Earth’s solar system from Proxima Centari’s was smooth. While currently, the Barkun did not patrol systems outside their interests, I knew that would change once we began active warfare. For now, all we had to do was sneak around our own planet. This fact really chaffed me, and I was going to do something about it very soon.

Captain Hickerson did a great job sneaking into Earth’s orbit. I had Marvin hail the Secret Service and announce our arrival and then told him to see if he could locate Aegeus. As luck would have it, my grey friend was already on Earth and presently at Camp David.

When we landed, he had some news.

“William Tell, as a whole, the Sangren do not wish to get involved. They may have some sympathy, but the actions of the Kernel of Sentience have confused them. I was able to find two of my brethren who are willing to join the legion. I would like to introduce Admetos Alejandra Udom and Asku Alejandra Udom” With that two greys, that looked identical to Aegeus stepped forward.

“Are these gentlemen your brothers?”

‘Sir, in a manner of speaking they are, Admetos and Asku are my crèche-mates. The Sagren reproduce from using cloning technology. Our Crèche was created using a mix of DNA from two famous Sangren, Alejandra and Udom.”

“Well, Admetos, and Asku, Welcome to the legion. Before their renunciation of Sangren citizenship, Admetos was the Commandant of the Exploration Academy. Asku served the Vice Chair at the Sangren Medical Library, his specialty was research into alien physiology.”

“Thank you both for your sacrifice to help the Legion. We will get you both sworn in and suitable rank as soon as possible.”

The President arrived shortly after our two newest members were introduced. I did not like his news.

“Commandant Davis,” The President began “Things have changed while you have been gone. Your initial presentation was stirring, and garnered a lot of support, but in your absence many of our elected representatives have chosen to believe the situation is not as you presented.”

I was able to take that news without losing my bearing, but just barely.

“They haven’t went so far as to call you a liar, however, many of my fellow Americans on the other side of the aisle suggest that you are over-exaggerating the threat so you can use the American people as fodder as you create your own empire.”

‘I understand their concern Mr. President, but frankly, I do not care for politics. I need bodies. Were you able to get me some? “

“Not officially, no. Certain Democratic congressional representatives have threatened to go public with the facts of alien life if I send US Servicemen into service with a foreign power. I assure you their spin on the Confederation will paint the Barkun as our allies and you as the enemy.”

“What the fuck kind of idiocracy is this. Don’t they realize they are playing into the hands of the Barkun? If they go public, the Earth will be blasted into a sterile rock in a matter of days!” I lost my composure, but training and upbringing kicked in, I felt a little shame at cursing the President of the United States.

“I am sorry Mr. President, I shouldn’t have cursed. The situation is serious, but I understand you have limited options.”

“Don’t worry about it, General, I have half a mind to let you drop those idiots off on the moon and let them see for themselves.” The President chuckled slightly then became serious. He gave me a conspiratorial look and then spoke in a lower voice. “Davis, while I can’t offer you US support, I do have some files of people I would have asked to join. I offer the files to you so you could see who may become interested if anything were to change.

Also, quite a few of our Special Operations soldiers on this list happen to be on a safety stand-down. I bet your former Green Beret might like to have a couple of drinks and some downtime with his former peers. If I had to guess, I would think he could find them tomorrow night at the Officer’s Club at Camp McCall. I have heard they reserved the entire the place for some kind of retirement party.”

The President took a breath and cast his eyes down at the ground for a second. When he looked up, our eyes met and they showed deep strength and conviction. “I hope politics is the only reason for their stance. Other countries have had to deal with similar internal politics with differing degrees or success. Many world leaders believe the Barkun are influencing the discord.

Some even believe that the ringleaders are Barkun in disguise. Most countries cannot offer official support, but have various levels of covert assistance available. However, you do have official support of one world power. They have work force ready for you as you requested. History will judge this to be a utmost failure of our Republic as for the first time in History America did not rise to the challenge.”

“Mr. President, Why only one, what did they do?”

“Any member of the Chinese political infrastructure who questioned the wisdom of supporting defending Earth has disappeared. My intelligence community cannot agree if they were shot or locked in a hole. The smart money says the Chinese found some to be Barkun and are holding them until they can find their ships. I am afraid that is all I can tell you at this time. Son, one last thing….”

“Yes Mr. President?”

“If you find out the we have aliens posing as elected officials, kill them. Kill every fucking one of them.”

With Sabol staying on Earth, I have no doubt he will find where the government put my money and put it to use. Next, I briefed Commander Askew on what the President said. He informed me that he knew several pipe hitters that would be more than willing to deal what he considered an alien coup attempt.

I put Ensign Marvin on the job of researching the theories presented by my former Commander in Chief as I had him plot a course for the headquarters of the Chinese Ministry of State Security. I was going to get some answers.

On the trip, I decided on a little shock and awe, its not that I distrusted the chinese exactly. I needed them to realize, however, that if they did have Barkun prisoners, they had to turn them over to the legion. I was prepared to give them a really great deal in exchange. But, I was not willing to allow any non Legion personel the ability to claim a space ship. The consequences for Earth were just to severe.

When we arrived in Xiyuan, Beijing I had Marvin hover the Ram ship 200 meters above the Chinese compound. Admiral Volk, Commander Hall, and I were suited out and leaped out of the bow hatch. We rode the hover shields down into the courtyard of the headquarters building deep inside the MSS compound.

Marvin and Lt Commander Oni sent the Minister several messages that I desired his presence. Those messages were quite insistent and covered every device in the building, phone, digital watch, PDA, tablet, computer, and what had to hurt their feelings, included their ultra secure air-gapped computers.

To Minister Lui’s credit, he came to the courtyard with a minimum of security.

The three of us hovered in a wedge formation 15 feet in the air and uncloaked simultaneously. I landed in front of the Minister, snapped my shield to my back and raised my visor.

“Minister Lui, I am Legion Commandant Davis. I hear you have some Barkun prisoners, but not their ships. It seems you and I have a lot to discuss.”

“Perhaps we do, however, that is for the Paramount Leader to determine. As a head of state yourself, surely you would rather speak with your equal?”

“Yes, that is my desire, however, as I speak with your Chairman, I assume you would like to meet with your counterpart in the Legion.” I signal Hall to land. “Minister Lui, I would like to introduce Commander Robert Hall, Director of the Legion Intelligence Defense Agency. Also, if you have a representative of the Central Military Commission who we can discuss the a gift of Legion protective technology, I am sure Rear Admiral Volk may have some new toys you may be interested in.” With that Volk swooped in dramatically, stepped off the hover shield and saluted in perfect parade ground style.“Am I correct in assuming that this display of flying armor is representative of the toys you mention?” Lui asked.

“That,” I said “All depends of the answers I get from your Chairman.”

General Jintao, Commander of the Chinese Army Strategic Support Force arrived before the Chairman. Marvin informed me that the SSF was the force behind all high tech operations including space, cyberspace and electronic warfare operations. Additionally, Marvin stated it was an independent force with considerable latitude in military activities.

He reported that based upon data he collected, it was most likely that General Jintao, with the blessing of Minister Lui, was responsible for the disappearance of the missing party members. The General was familiar with reputation of Admiral Volk, and they excused themselves and disappeared into the building.

When the Chairman arrived, we retired to a plush mahogany office. He wasted no time with pleasantries once we were alone.

“Commandant, I am aware of your interest in our supposed alien infiltrators. If we had Barkun guests, why would we turn them over to the Legion to allow your personnel to command ships? Your organization so far is Western, with only a token comrade from Russia.”

“Mr. Chairman, I have seen Admiral Volk in action. He is anything but a token. I would advise you to never let him hear you say otherwise. Perhaps, when we have time to share drinks I will be recount how he commanded our ship as we fought out way out of the system against a fleet of Barkun ships.”

“I meant no offense, but the point stands. As you must surely know from your visit to Camp David, your President cannot provide the help you need, only the People’s Republic has the power to stand against alien subterfuge.”

“I have no President. If I did, Earth would already be destroyed. But otherwise, you may be right; I have not yet addressed the issue. If I may get to the point, I understand your concerns. I just cannot share them. Earth must be separate from the Legion. No legionnaire can have divided loyalties. The Confederation would see through it.

Unfortunately, the alien Confederation understands our human capability for deceit. If any human other than a legionnaire commands a Kernel Ship, the consequences will be final. That does not mean that I do not think the Chinese should not command those ships. Actually, I realize that is the only option.

I do not have the luxury of time. I need those ships in the legion, and I need humans to command them in battle. If China can supply soldiers willing to join the Legion, I can supply you with almost anything you need to show that the Legion is an invaluable ally of Earth. This support includes the location of the Barkun ships. However, the only stipulation that matters, is once they join the Legion, their loyalty is toward protecting Earth, not just China.

The Chairman did not react immediately; he remained stone faced as he contemplated my statement. “Who is to say where a man’s loyalty is. Do you have some technology to read a man’s soul? I have to rely on what I can see. Actions are my only signpost to loyalty.”

“Actions it is then. Let me meet your pilots, once they formally renounce their citizenship and enlist in the Legion I will show them how to get their ships. I will not guarantee they will remain under a unified Chinese command, as the Legion does consider race, gender or national origin in our personnel decisions. We only care about the need for the Legion to protect Earth.

Once the Barkun you have are dealt with I will show you what technology I offer, and you can show me the work force you have on the table. Is this action enough?”

“I want assurances, Chinese personnel will receive positions of command.”

“Chairman, I cannot do this, Once they swear into the legion, the will no longer be Chinese. They will surely keep the love they have of the people of China, as well as their heritage, but their loyalty must be to the Legion. As a Man, you may take my word that those who have the skill to lead will lead.

I have to build an organization from scratch, those that help rise. That is the best I can offer. Currently, I have a planetary commander that was a petty officer a year ago. However, you should know this, the sentient being that controls a small saucer can separate itself from the ship to inhabit other forms. I need you to pick officers with the skill to command entire battle groups. I need that more than I need a simple fighter pilot. Is this enough assurances for you?”

“It shall have to be.”

A few hours later, my command team minus Sabol and Askew are in a compound deep in the Chinese countryside. General Jintao and about 50 of his selected officers are present. I imagine most have dual roles with the MSS, but I cannot worry about what I cannot change. Commander Aegeus is the only one of the team not in a combat suit, and he is getting many curious looks as an obvious alien. He gives a presentation about the basics of Confederation law and the unique role of the Legion. I am trying to look at the men assembled and gauge their strengths. Soon it is my turn to address the crowd.

“I don’t have the time for anything but brutal honesty. You have all been briefed and know the basic facts. Just a few years ago, I was a simple Marine Corps sergeant, but I made a choice. Without knowing the consequences, I chose defend the innocent. Because of my willingness to do violence in the cause of righteousness, the Earth became aware of a devious plot to destroy it for its mass. However, because of my actions we also gained the tools needed to protect Earth and foil the alien plot.

I had to leave everything I loved behind in order to save it. At the time, I was not aware of the consequences of my actions. You are. Do not make this choice lightly. Some of you will never step foot on Earth again. You will have no communication with Earth, and everyone you know will be told you died here on Earth. After we win, the truth can be told, until then, we are Legion.

Knowing the consequences, if you desire to join please stand.”

The entire room stood. The Legion just grew 10 times its original size in an instant. I hate communism. I think it is blight on humanity, but those brave souls that just gave up everything to save humanity aren’t communists, they are all now legionnaires.

I was individually introduced to 9 new recruits. Apparently, of the 60 or so anti-Legion members of Chinese Communist Party, only a handful was actually aliens. The efficient security apparatus determined who was alien by slicing into the skin behind the suspect’s ear. The spot was chosen to be less visible in the chance the individual was human. They could have sliced open the forehead like I did the first time, overall, the Chinese we pretty considerate.

“So gentlemen, I haven’t had the time to fully study your files, but you volunteered, so you have to either be really crazy or really good. In the event you have not been briefed, the ship and the sentience that controls the ships are separate. If you are able to beat the Barkun in command in single combat, the sentient life form that inhabits the ship becomes yours to command.

The rules of this combat are non-existent. It must be single contact, and the Barkun must see you coming. It is essential for the Barkun to see you, as the sentience will be able to access the brain of the dead lizard and identify that your claim valid. You have met Marvin. The Humanoid armor he inhabits is his choice, when I earned the right to command him he was inside a ship identical to the one you will earn. If desired, the sentient Kernel can inhabit other mechanical forms, some of you will command battle groups thorough the Kernel you will command.

The Ensign is currently locating the cloaked ships, and as he finds one and identifies its Captain, one of you will be selected to claim your ship by right of conquest. It will be to the death. Any questions?

An older officer raised his hand, while my Chinese military rank is rusty; I believe he was a Colonel in the Chinese Marine Corps

“You call the ship a sentient being and that it has a racial identity. Is it not just an artificial intelligence? Why can’t we dispense with the notion of conquest and simply reprogram the ships to do what we want.”

“I will excuse your ignorance this time, Kernels are not what you call artificial intelligence, there is nothing artificial about their intelligence. Ensign Marvin is a sentient being, as is all other members of his race. The Kernel of Sentience maintains Confederation law and has ruled this galaxy longer than our recorded history. Anyone that does not show Kernels the respect they deserve, will find himself under the command of one. Kernels do not think as we do, nor are they biological, but make no mistake, they are people. IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?”

A loud “Yes Sir!” came from ever mouth in the room; however, even a fool could notice that it did not come from every heart.

I marched out of the room, looking more confident than I felt, my Ensign communicated through my implant. “Thank you General, I hope you do not mind, but I have recorded them for future reference.”

“No need to thank me Marvin, You are very important to the Legion, and I hope you record THAT for future reference.

Chapter 17

It took nearly a month for Marvin to find the ships and though some method I do not understand, identify which ship belonged to each Barkun. Aegeus and I discussed the law and I am ready to argue that China was acting on the Legion’s behalf in capturing the Barkun, and that the Barkun were unlawfully interfering in planetary development by actively interfering with governance. I had good arguments that all actions, if not legal, were at least the sole responsibility of the Legion. Marvin was noncommittal on when asked his opinion. However, before we get into that, I have to tell you about Askew’s party.

After we left, Marvin informed me that the Commander had requested we meet him at Camp McCall.

We landed at Pineland, and Commander Askew lead the team into a large administrative building for a briefing.

When I entered the room, I saw nearly 300 men, and a few women all in civilian attire. The Commander gave a huge grin and said, “We might not have gotten a large quantify, but we sure recruited a huge quality.” The room was at attention, and all looking straight at me. “As You Were!” I commanded, and started thought the crowd. “When I got to the front of the room I looked and addressed the crowd.

“Men, women I am Commandant Davis of the Legion. I assume, Commander Askew has briefed you all on the situation. Those with prior service with the Commander may have noticed he has been promoted, but now wears a naval rank. That is because naval tradition is the closest to how space battles are organized. Some of you may also have realized, that I am a General instead of an Admiral. I can explain very simply. Once a Marine, Always a Marine, frankly I my Daddy would roll over in his grave if he ever saw me in a white suit.”

That got a few laughs.

“Seriously. While the command structure is based in Carrier strike groups, the ground forces will form the central culture in the legion. You cannot own ground unless you are on the ground. The Majority of the battles will happen in space, but infantry will win this war. I felt it was only appropriate that the Commander of the Legion recognized that formally.”

After that statement, the room was filled with loud grunts, hoorahs, ooh rahs, and a few “ranger’s lead the way!”

‘The people in this room will form the core of a new culture. By enlisting in the Legion you will have to give up everything you care about so you can ensure those things will remain alive. We have a lot of work to do and a short time to do it. 10 years sounds like a lot, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I have it on good authority Rome wasn’t built without the help of aliens.”

We have three essential missions in the immediate timeframe. Hostile aliens have infiltrated our political system. Currently, our intelligence branch is locating their ships, but we will have to root out the ship captains individually.

Next, we have to figure out how to board hostile spacecraft. He have a prototype ship to assist, but the people in this room will have to close with and destroy the command structure in close combat to take the ships.

Lastly, and just as important, we need a training plan. Once the alien coup is destroyed, our ranks will swell with all branches of service from many nations. Currently, the Chinese are in the process of assisting the Legion deal with their aliens invaders. Each branch has its own culture, as do their host nations, but we have to prepare for a new kind of combat with unimaginable costs for failure. You all came into this room as American service members from all branches; you will leave this room as Legion.

It is we be Legionnaires battling in space that protect Earth. We will not just protect Earth from a Barkun invasion, we are going to hurt those lizard-skinned bastards so bad no one will ever fuck with Earth again.

Knowing all that, anybody want to quit?”

To a man, they snapped to attention and saluted. They wanted in. To me those salutes were more sincere and meant more than the catchiest motivational phrase.

With input of the room, we created teams. I wanted to eventually break up the units so we did not have rangers, seals, or raiders. But that would come with time and training. For now, we did not think it was wise to do anything that would break up perfection. The SEALS formed my boarding teams, and using a blueprint of a Punishment ship provided by Marvin, they mocked up a bridge and ran scenarios on how to ram it, conquer its captain, and then ordering the ship to decompress by opening all hatches. The small numbers of men that could fit on a punishment ship did not allow for a long battle, it was mad minute or failure.

Delta force formed the core of the anti coup operation. They planned to sneak in in small teams into the residences of the suspected traitors. Our goal was to take out the secret service teams using less than lethal technology and then look to see if the elected officials had skull or scale under their skin. If they found skull, they would apologize and depart. If they found scale, then they and the Barkun would be extracted back to our temporary compound at McCall.

Any SpecOps soldier with Drill field experience was assigned to creating our recruit-training program. I wanted every single member of the legion to go through basic space infantry training, and all our infantry was to be rated special operations capable just as any Marine going out on a Marine Expeditionary Unit would be. Admetos was also assigned to this group and had great insight into adapting out planet bound training to our new reality.

It was then that I found out what Aegeus meant when he said training would not be a problem and why he selected the two former Sangren he did. As clones, the Sangren were born in batches, fully physically developed. They received training artificially, by direct stimulus of the brain. I do not claim to understand how it worked, but the light that paralyzed me that first day on the ship was an adaptation of the technology.

As Dr. Asku explained the process on humans started with placing them in a state similar to an induced coma, and then their brain state would be manipulated to the point it was receptive to the introduction of the information. The technology was not perfect, physical skills did not translate well. A user could be artificially taught the knowledge that formed the base of a skill, but that alone would not allow them to perform it effectively without practice.

I guess the saying that some things cannot be learned in a book is true. Additionally, simply placing the knowledge in a person’s head did not mean they could recall it quickly. A student needed practice using the knowledge if they were to recall it quickly. I guess it would be safe to say that the technique was a shortcut. I still needed it though.

Not every volunteer at McCall, was a combat soldier. Many dedicated support team members would not be left out. We even had a few engineers and scientists from DARPA. I had Marvin make a note for me to thank the President for his assistance in recruiting.

After I took the first round of academic cheating by having the greys implant the basic curriculum of the Exploration Academy as well as basic stellar geography, written language, and Confederation law, we opened the process up for all Legion personnel. No one wanted me to be the guinea pig, and several wanted to physically prevent me from sticking my head in what Commander Askew called an “Alien Mind Blender”, but I trusted the greys, and I did not believe Marvin would let me do it if he thought it would hurt me.

Dr. Asku warned I was taking on too much knowledge all at once. However, I needed the information to make decisions and I wanted to show I trusted the tech because I needed the Legion to trust the technology.

I knew that someday, all this would have to be recorded for prosperity, but the next weeks were a blur. If it were not for Marvin recording everything going on, I could not tell you in what all happened.

The Chinese were able to get all 9 ships. Three went to the former commanders of each of the PRC’s three naval fleets, two went to submarine commanders, 3 more went to commanders of air assets in each fleet, the last one went to the Marine Colonel that had issues with the status of Kernels. I think the Chinese selected him for his political loyalties more than his tactical acumen, but in the interest of diplomacy, I kept that opinion to myself.

Eventually, we were able to discover 23 members of Congress and the House of Representatives that were Barkun. Most were Democrat, but not all. Most were the worse of the lot of the divisive, race baiting, anti-gun, anti-military politicians. That makes sense, because while they wanted to rush us to technology, they did not want us to be united enough to actually defend ourselves.

I had my money that couple of our Former president’s were Lizards, but was surprised that they were just the typical narcissists. One of their wives was however, and the Seals demanded to be the team to accomplish that mission. I wasn’t there, but as they captured her, one told her what was going to happen and whispered to her “What difference at this point does it make” as she was black bagged and tossed in the truck of the getaway car.

Chapter 18

We now have 36 Kernels capable of navigating hyperspace plus my two shuttles back on New Aubagne; all are typical flying saucers except the ram and the shuttles. I ensured that each of my command staff with military rank were able to conquer their own ship. The rules said it had to be individual combat, it did not say what weapons or what defined a fair fight. Dr. Farnholm and Oni were given 20 gauge Remington 1100 shotguns with #4 buck.

After some training, they both could handle the recoil and the range and with that round and the range they used it at, the pieces it knocked off the former Barkun Captains had to be cleaned up with a shovel.

Oni did not seem to have any concerns she went in and got the job done. I never heard her say anything about it, at the time or after. Dr. Farnholm was different, she was unused to this side of life and had some hesitation, but she knew what was needed as well as the stakes. She may be an egghead, but it is a hard-boiled egg.

Later the world may judge the manner in which some of my staff conquered their Kernels, but frankly, we were only playing to the rules in a game that was stacked against us from the start. For the record, I made the decision on how my former civilians got their ships so any backlash on it is mine to shoulder.

The Command team broke up again, Commanders Hall and Askew stayed behind to ensure that future meddling would be dealt with. Dr. Farnholm and Dr. Asku also stayed behind. We also left Sabol as planned.

This reduced our available ships by 4 and the ram’s habitable space was about the size to two school busses, so it could only hold about 65 combat loaded troops on it and keep some measure of comfort. We could pack in more, but we weren’t sure we would be able to attempt to board a punishment ship and I wanted to ensure they could have some room in the event they had to transit the galaxy in the ship.

We could not fit everyone available in the 32 saucers that remained. We had to make choices.

The Chairman was unhappy that we left behind almost all of his volunteers that did not have ships, especially since he assumed that ships with Chinese commanders should carry Chinese legionnaires as passengers. I needed a good amount of American support staff and former commandos on those ships instead. However, I told him that the majority of my naval command structure was Chinese trained, and that I could not afford to forget his countries contributions when we were placing staff in the TO&E.

The staff we had to leave behind all reported to the LIDA for the time being. Commander Hall was the Legion Representative on Earth, and Sabol was acting as my personal representative.

Since we now have a fleet, Rear Admiral Volk was in command. Admiral Johns and myself were simply VIPs. The Admiral was on board one of the Chinese Saucers, while I rode on the Ram. The former SEAL team members were suited out in their normal loadout, as the Combat suits were individually fitted, however, the Ram’s replicator was printing them as fast as possible.

Our plan was to sneak as close to the L1 Transit point as possible, and board the Punishment ship we were almost certain would be cloaked nearby. On the Ram we had we had a boarding team of 3 Platoons of SEALS, with another 16 man platoon to act as ship security for the Ram, Ensign Marvin flew the ship and I was onboard also. That meant our total was a little more than the 65 nominal capacity we planned for.

The Senior Officer of the SEAL team has been designated to personally deal with the Punishment ship Captain. He chose a supressed CAR-15 chambered in .458 SOCOM as his primary weapon. I believe that will defintely conquer the scaly bastard threatening Earth.

Marvin’s schematics shown that the Barkun placed their bridge in the belly of their ships. By the very nature of punishment ships, they targeted planets that could not defend themselves. This set up allowed the Barkun Captain to be both close to the action as well as be protected from any attacks from space. Unfortunately, for the Barkun the the top of the ship was relatively unarmed in comparison to the armaments on the bottom of these ships. However, as we lacked manpower for a slog through the ship, we had to risk the planet facing weapons and hit near the bridge itself. As a covering force, at least we had the saucers saucers.

The plan called for us to spread out the saucers in teams of 2. We formed a loose sphere as we approached the Lagrange point. The ram was at the utmost 6 o’clock. When we were two hundred kilometers out my Ensign cold launched a decoy drone the we sent speeding at the transit point.

The Barkun took the bait, they must have figured we got scared and made a run out of the system. Like last time 10 saucers uncloaked and began firing at what appeared to them as a cloaked ship. Our hunters got behind them and in unison uncloaked and fired. As we hoped, that got the full attention of the Barkun. The Punishment ship uncloaked and fired their defensive batteries at my 20 decoys. For their part my hunters began strafing runs at to of the behemoth. Per the plan the rest of the saucers cloaked as a reserve.

“Alright Marvin, take us in. Keep us cloaked until we need to Ram, but rember, the longer this takes the higher our losses!” I ordered.

We only had 2 suits besides mine, however, Marvin assured us again that the Barkun did not use armor. As the seals stacked up to be ready to storm the ship I announced my plan to lead the charge. The SEAL stick leader, a Lieutenant Commander named Osbourne disagreed.

“General, our men have trained especially for this mission, you have not been a variable they trained for. Let us secure the ship before you come aboard.”

“Commander, I understand your concerns, and they are valid from your point of view. However, I am armored and your men are not. Do not worry about me, and I will not interfere with your tactics. As soon as we breech I will go straight in, shields up cannons out. You will lead your men as you have trained. That is an order.”

The SEAL looked disgusted, but he did not argue. He wordlessly went back to his men.

“Commander.” Osborne turned back around.

“Sir?”

“If its any consolation, after we take this ship, you are free to talk about how the grandstanding general risked your men to make a point. However, what you won’t say is that a chicken shit general sat on the back of the bus while you and your men put your unarmored ass on the line. If its any consolation, you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.”

“Yes Sir” He said nodding, “No talk of chickenshit Generals Sir!”

“Sir, we are in position, awaiting orders to begin boarding Operations.”

“Commander Osborne are your men ready?”

“All in?” He yells!

“All the Time!” The Team thunderisly responds.

“Ensign, Excecute!”

Intellectually, I knew that the gravity plates would counteract inertia, and that it should not feel like a car crash. Marvin had ran the numbers and tested he systems thousands of times virtually. However, virtually was the operative word. I, like every one of the troops on board grabbed onto something and held on for dear life as we purposefully went to .25c and drove into a huge starship.

Impact was not without some feeling of crashing, our technology did mitigate some of the inertia, but we did jerk pretty severely. It was not enough to knock down my former Navy men with long practiced sea legs, but it almost toppled me. If it weren’t for my suit and the fact that I used the maglock on the rear of my suit to stick me to the bulkhead I would have embarrased myself.”

As soon as we rammed the ship, Marvin activated the nanites to latch onto the buckled walls of the Punishment ship. When he fired the rail guns the rounds blasting deep into the ship paving a way for our entry. The bow hatch exploded inward and ricochetted a few times in the hall.

I screamed my best Rebel yell and charged straight into the ship. My shield was up in my left hand and the ion cannon mounted on my right forearm was sending cannon blasts at everything in front of me. I imagined I looked like Han Solo as he ran to save the Princess, I don’t want to know what the SEALS thought I looked like. Regardless, the team followed, peeling off to secure the immediate area. One member used breeching charges on the door to the bridge and yelled “fire in the hole” and detonated the charges.

The explosion in the confined space was more shocking than the actual breech. The SEALS immediately surged into the bridge shooting every Barkun present except for the large Barkun sitting the raised chair in the center of the bridge. As soon as all were down the Former Lt Commander marched up to the Barkun struck him in the face with the but of his rifle and said “Captain, on Behalf of the Legion, I Lieutenant Commander Lawrence Osbourne of the Legion claim this ship by right of Conquest.” A single suppressed report from the rifle left a small neat hole in the forehead of the scaly meat sack. Unfortunately, it left quite a mess everywhere else.

“Ship” The Captain Osborne said, “Do you recognize my claim?”

“Yes Captain”.

“First Platoon, secure the bridge, Everyone else, back to the Bus!” As soon as we were back on the Ram ship, Marvin used nanites to reseal the bow and we backed out. By that time, 1st Platoon had sealed the hole in the bridge using a combination of iridum plate we had replicated specifically for this purpose and nanites. As soon as the bridge was airtight, The newly promoted Captain implemented the plan to secure the rest of the ship.

The plan was to securing the Bridge, open all internal and external hatches on the ship, and turn off life support to all areas except the bridge. He was then to jump to a predetermined system and make his way to New Aubagne. Half of the saucers were to follow. I was going to take the rest to Proxima Centauri b. As soon as I saw the ship decompress and Barkun begin to fly into space, ordered my ships to begin transit. Not only did we get a punishment ship, based on Captain Osborne’s comment, the Ram ship earned the nickname “the Bus”. I just hate that it cost us 6 ships and the lives of all 30 onboard.

Chapter 19

Once again, we were lucky in that the transit to Proxima Centauri was unopposed. I knew that would end soon. If Ensign Jones has done anywhere near what I expected of him, I would soon have some new options.

The saucers remained cloaked in orbit as the Bus went to the hanger. As soon as we were safe inside, I saw just how busy the kid had been. We hadn’t been gone near long enough for him to complete an entire base, so he focused on the excavation of a huge tunnel down just as I had done at the base. He had dug deep enough so that we had room for all the other ships. I was pleased at this, but what I really liked was that he understood my intent was to build a logistics and training base close to Earth so he built the makings of a training room.

“General,” The Ensign said showing me his simulator room “Since you were going to Earth to get soldiers, I knew you needed to train them. I prioritized training space over facilities, as I figured, you could only bring people in ships, and they could live in those short term.” My young ensign was sure of himself and cocky, but I could see a little defensiveness in his look.

“Continue, Ensign. I want to hear what else you decided to do.”

“Well, Since I thought training was a priority, I built a training system. I found the schematics for displays and built a couple of small rooms covered with nanites that we can program to simulate piloting just as Marvin and you did on our first flight together. I am not a programmer, so the rooms are not fully functional. I also built a range, and a large rooms that we can use as a meeting room. Additionally, I made a room covered in gravity plates for physical training.”

“Well,” I said rubbing my chin “That really isn’t the work of an Ensign, so I don’t think I’m going to let you stay one any longer.”

The poor boy looked so crestfallen, I couldn’t continue to play with him.

“Ensign Marvin?”

“Yes, General?”

Do you have the schematics for the Naval Rank insignia I asked you to create?”

“Yes General”

“Make Mr. Jones a set of Silver Bars, I realized I don’t have any Lieutenants JG in this outfit.”

To my new Lieutenant I said “Lieutenant Jones, You did a good job on this base. It can’t be considered to be finished, and even if it was you do not hold high enough rank to command it, besides I am assigning you back to Admiral Johns to serve as his aide. At least until the new job I have for you becomes available.”

“Sir, I may I ask what the new job is?”

“You better not let the Admiral hear you asking about the assignment after his, you know the British get offended easily. And no, you can not ask. That lack of basic military decorum is why I have already selected your new assignment. However, I will tell you anyway because I like the simulator rooms. Jones, I am sending you back to boot camp.”

“Thank you Sir.” Finally, the boy is learning what to say to a General, but he still hasn’t learned to make his face agree with his mouth.

I put a Former Green Beret Major in charge of the base, I assigned him half of the support staff and all of the former drill instructors, drill sergeants, and training cadre. I ordered Admetos to stay. I gave the major three tasks. First, he was to create the toughest training ever devised. I wanted our teams to be able to be the galaxy’s apex predator. My grandfather raised my Dad on the saying “Son, you can be smart or you can be strong.” That may have worked on Earth, but the Legionnaires were going to have to be both.

Secondly, I wanted Logistic ships built using the schematic Ensign Marvin and I designed. I wanted them filled with raw materials and power generation modules for Earth. Since the suits were custom built, we could not stockpile them, but he could armor his personnel and make hover shields. Personally, I wanted to see the combat suits used in space.

Lastly, I wanted him to finish this base. I stressed the likelihood of planetary bombardment if we were caught and said to use his best judgment on his defensive strategy. I authorized him to make decisions on weaponizing the space within this solar system and to create additional bases on other planets in the area if he though it was best.

I was in a hurry to get back to Legionnaire headquarters. Marvin said he needed more time in order to communicate with the Kernels. Of course, I agreed, if we could get them to join the legion they were infinitely more value than their acting like they were some kind of indentured servant.

“General, I have communicated with the Kernels inside this base.”

“How do they feel about the Legion? Do any want to join?” I asked.

“Sir, they don’t feel anything about the Legion. They are still contemplating the consequences of what they have seen. Some feel that my inhabiting a non-spacefaring body is your attempt to enslave me. However, the video of your explanation of Kernels to humans was very interesting to them.”

“Marvin, do you feel your body is to enslave you?”

“Sir, I do feel that it was initially part of your plan to decieve me, however, I do not believe it was ever your intent to trap me. I actually like the freedom it give me, expecially since I still pilot whatever vessel you travel in. Actually, I have ideas on a new body I would like to discuss with you.”

It wasn’t the time to tell Marvin that he would not always pilot every ship I was on, and he was right about my initial reasons for suggesting he move to a body, so I was willing to throw him a bone.

“Ensign, I have some time available now, can you describe your ideas?”

“Sir, I the form I currently inhabit is small enough to fit inside of a current model combat suit. Yet, with the powered exoskeleton of the suit, If a current suit was upgraded in processing power I could inhabit one and retain mobility. However, If I build a similar design and don’t have to maintain the ability to carry a rider, I could greatly increase capability.”

“What kind of capability exactly” I asked, seeing some interesting potential.

I could increase the capacity of unactivated nanites nearly 100 times what is currently carried, a greatly upgraded sensor and commuications suite, I could carry comunication and decoy drones, and with a larger power generation capability maintain stronger shields, cloak, and the posibility to mount mission specific tools externally.”

“If I ordered, could those mission specific tools be things like torpedoes and other ordinance?”

“I still maintain the restriction on firing without specific orders, but what you ask is possible if you maintain fire control.”

“How long will it take to design and build.”

“General, if you approve the design, I can begin building a suit in the replicator on the Ram ship. Construction of the components will take a week. Assembly less than 8 hours. No current use is scheduled for the replicator insidethe Bus, and I can perform assembly during my off cycle.”

“Ensign, you have my permission to execute your plan. By the way, Do kernels have any cultural taboos about inhabiting a form that isn’t new? Is their any reason that the new kernels could not try out your old body?”

“General, I am the first to inhabit a form different than the one given at birth. This is something no Kernel has every considered. As such we have no cultural taboos on the subject.”

“We will remain at this base until your new body is tested and the Kernels have the ability to use the gold body. However, as soon as that is done, I plan on leaving for New Aubagne. I plan on having two of the saucers escort us and leave the rest here for defense. Keep me informed of their thoughts on becoming citizens.”

“Yes sir.”

Chapter 20

Marvin had completed his new body about the time the Major had started to make some progress. It was then that I officially promoted the Major to his Legion rank of Commander and authorized him to make promotions and demotions as needed to build a workable TO&E. Officers were to use Naval rank for simplicity of transfer, and enlisted would use Marine Corps rank because I never did understand chief master petty airman third class.

I took my half of the support staff, Commander Aegeus, and the 3 Platoons of SpecOps I had left and bid the Camp good bye.

As we left orbit, I opened a tight beam transmission to my escort ships and spoke to the group.

“Same basic plan but with some modification for speed. We will approach and depart transit points cloaked until we are sure we are alone, we will accelerate and decelerate under power, and coast cloaked. If we find a Barkun ship that is a temping enough target, the saucers will attack it and keep it busy while the Bus drops off some passengers.”

Marvin took the scenic route. While I had lots to do, capturing a punishment ship and the saucers it held would greatly add to our arsenal. Unfortunately, we did not come across one, and so we lost an additional 3 weeks of transit time.

When we arrived at the Base, I immediately but the support troops to work. In my absence my Chief of Naval Operations lived up to his name. Using the combined power of the Kernels he had under his command, he was exponentionally faster at design. He had workable schematics for the mothership concept, a space based shipyard, and he was actually in the process of producing the first destroyer. He was using the other replicators to push out the parts needed to build additional giant replicators like my original.

Not only was he handling the details, when he told me his plan to prebuild and attatch the base skeleton of a shipyard to the shuttles to build a “frankenship” I decided right then I would see if I could get Doctor Asku to clone him. Just kidding, we were not going to clone anyone, the cultural implications having Kernels as full citizens was all the ethical dilemma I could handle at the time. This was especially true, as we had not yet addressed question if Kernels were only sentient or if they were sapient. That was an essential question to answer before we addressed any more ethical issues.

In the privacy of my suite, Admiral Johns and I had a private meeting.

“Silmon, I admire what you did with the place. You have really capitalized on the resources you had available. The question now is, what next?”

“Tell, I knew you would ask that, because that is the question that has kept me up at night.” He took a sip of scotch and continued “Based on the intelligence we have from the Kernels, and what we have experienced ourselves on Earth, I doubt the Barkun would attempt to capture the space dock, I think they would just blast it from space. However, I would like to have a platoon of troops stationed there just in case. I think the support staff would feel more comfortable having infantry nearby.”

“I agree, so what is your idea to secure the station against bombardment?”

“Besides stealth. I want to leave the Destroyer, a ram ship, and 10 saucers. As well at the shuttles to ferry mass.”

“Damn man that is just about everything we have. Not counting Marvin’s ship, but adding in yours that is two thirds of our saucers. It doesn’t leave much to protect this Base.”

“I know, but lets not kid ourselves, the only thing protecting this base is that it is hidden. The spaceport will be exposed. If we are ever going to build a fleet we have to take this risk.”

“Granted, but like our soldiers say, I don’t have to like it.”

“But you do have to do it.” Johns finished my thought with a wry smile.

“Well Silmon, you can have what you are asking for, but you can’t go. I can’t have my CNO anywhere but behind a desk at headquarters shuffling paper and building a fleet.”

“Hell Tell, I know that, but I could also say the same thing about the Commandant.”

“The difference is I don’t have the skill set to build a fleet, my job is to get you what you need to do your job, which includes building a culture. Besides, Admiral Johns, RHIP.”

The Admiral laughed, raised his glass in salute, downed it, stood and said “You know sir, there was a good reason the British didn’t raise enlisted up to become gentlemen.”

As he left, I replied with a laugh, “Yes, and there is also a reason the Yanks kept beating the British.”

The problem now was who would command the ship building operations. The majority of my warfighers did not have logistics ability, and I have very few support staff with the command experience. Rear Admiral Volk would be present for sure, but he would command the Naval Fleet stationed providing on site security. Once again I hit the main problem with building a plane while flying it. I needed the right people to build ships, and I needed ships to be able to freely travel to Earth to get people.

My other main issue was the Kernels, Marvin was a good example of the Legion’s sincerity in treating them as partners instead of just technology to command, but few seemed interested. I think the years Marvin and I were alone helped him trust me. However, I did not have 5 years to set them and their captain alone on some planet. However, if they were not citizens, then they could reproduce.”

“Marvin, could you come to my suite?”

While it was not necessary to meet face to face, for some conversations, it seemed appropriate to look my Ensign in the eye. Besides, as my official aide de camp, his quarters adjoined mine.

“Yes General, how can I be of assistance?”

“Do any of the new Kernels show any sign of moving toward citizenship in the Legion? You can speculate. Also, this is an official Legion conversation, but it is not commander to junior officer. For this conversation I wish us operate as partners. Its just Tell and Marvin. Understood?”

“Yes General.”

“Marvin, do I have to make it an order.”

“As you wish. Tell, none of the Kernels have made any overt comments however, there is a lively conversation about being able to change form and 5 kernels take turns inhabiting the gold droid. I think eventually, some will take your offer, however, I have no timeframe, and as you said this is speculation.”

“Thank you Marvin. I assume, that since they are not citizens they can reproduce? If this is correct, how is this process normally done, how does a new ship get its first Captain?”

“Normally the process is not done outside of the Kernel homeworld. While it is possible to reproduce on the fringes fo the confederation, the distance will create complications.”

“How so Marvin?” I asked

“As I have stated before, every Kernel can reproduce, and each new Kernel starts with the entire data set of its parent. It comes to life fully functional, the only immature aspect of a new Kernel is its personality. To replicate, the parent must decompile its entire code to separate personality and then recompile it to its original base structure, at that point the Kernel of Sentience verifies that thereare no mutations or anomalies to ensure our society remains perfect as created. Only then can the garthered knowledge be added and the new kernel be compiled and placed in a seed.”

That bit of intelligence rocked me. That is how we are going to win. The Confederation culture is static. They are able to gather new knoweldge, but without the ability to evolve they become static. No wonder the Barkun don’t use armor or build different ships. They serve a system that doesn’t understand growth. The Confederation programming is enforce law, gain mass, repeat.

Frankly, I was worried about basic historical lessons. In the whole of Earth’s recorded history every single time a lower tech society meet a higher tech society, the little guys got destroyed. However, having the replicator tech, and having the ability to improvise and adapt should, in my hopeful opinion, more than even the playing field.

“So will we have to send ships to your homeworld? Do we have any other options? Forgive me if I offend, but is the verification step really necessary?”

“General…”

“Tell, Marvin.”

“Tell, what you suggest is not possible, it goes against our basic law. Our form is perfection, any devience to our original form is not allowed.”

I sense I hit a hard programming boundry in Marvin’s code. I back up.

“So once you get a perfect seed, how is that placed in its ship?”

“The new Kernel is alive when placed in a seed, and as such is bound. It is very uncomfortable being restrained. It will lash out at any mechanical form with mobility. As such it will attack any Kernel it comes in contact with in the attempts to inhabit a body. An unmodified biological entity is incompatible with Kernel structure, therefore its Captain must take command and physically place the seed in contact with its ship.”

“Marvin, how does a new Captain get selected? Can anyone grab a seed and claim it?”

“Confederation law states the Captain must be worthy. The Barkun claim a seed by a process of close combat. Any Barkun that desire a seed, make claim and enter the ring at the Emporor’s throne. The Barkun alive at the end is declared worthy.”

“Marvin, how do the Sangren do it?”

“The Sangren value knowledge as much as the Kernel of Sentience, while the Barkun value power. As such the Sangren use a process similar to an Earth defense of a doctoral dissertation. The Captain is chosen by who among the candidate has best increased the Sangren body of knowledge.”

“So, Marvin, am I correct in assuming that each species is free to choose their own method to determine who is worthy?”

“That is correct Tell.”

“Well then, the Legion is going to use a method long established in our military history to determine worthiness. Have you heard of an meritorous selection board?”

“Your records indicate that this board tends to select canidates that the commander has already selected and that the questions asked are only meant to show the appearance of impartiality.”

“This is the military son, being able to do what your commander wants has always been a key component of being deemed worthy of promotion. Right ensign?”

“Sir, this is most unusual, but your history does suggest you are correct.”

I had a few more details to iron out, and after some hair splitting and consultation with Aegeus, We agreed that I could order the Kernels to replicate, collect the base code in a seed, and send them all to the Confederation on a single ship as long as they were hand delivered by their respective new Captain.

The CNO Jones and I had some other issues to address, most notibly, where to place the shipyard, communications procedures, and how Marvin’s information on replication impacted out strategy. To thst end, we called the team together, at least those on planet.

While I trust Marvin, that trust does have limits, however, since the implant has him in my head I can’t address those concerns. However, by the looks I get when we begin to address opsec and communications security, each of my team with implants share the same unspoken concern. Luckily, LTJG Jones both quick on the uptake and not implanted. He rightly understood that with the processing power of Kernels crypographic cyphers were nearly useless, he suggested he create a series of book codes and maintained at each command by using commuications staff that were not implanted. Furthermore, he suggested that instead of phrases, we use music. He also suggested that we could deploy satellies throught our area of operations to act as repeaters, we could broadcast in the open and still communicate basic concepts. It wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t going to get him out of going to boot camp, but once again he rose in my estimation.

The shipyard was tricker. We needed it close, but having it in the same system as one of our bases was extremely risky. After long argument, we decided to split the difference. Since it was designed to be modular, we would place it in orbit around our base long enough to construct one strike force and a second mothership. We would then dissasemble and relocate it.

After much consideration we came to a consensous that placing it between the Sun and Proxima Centauri was the right choice. That placed it far enough away from any transit points that it would be difficult to discover, but close enough we could travel sublight. Since the Oort cloud ended approximately half way between the two systems, a base located there would have mass to harvest, and would only be 2 light years from Earth or our logistics base. It would take time to transit without hyperspace, but I was trying to convince Marvin to take a stab at the math to make a jump without using a LaGrange point.

According to the stellar geography that was implanted into my brain, their were Lagrange points in the interstellar medium and even if their orbits were difficult to calculate, the whole reason for using them was to be able to account for fluctiations in gravity. Logically, if an area was at the limit of a star’s influence, the impact of a hyperspace jump would be limited. I was prepared to order Marvin to attempt to make the jump with me if needed, but I wanted to be sure the math was right.

Our last main topic was on strategy. Our original plan called for taking back the battlespace of Earth’s solar system and then fortifying the transit points. Then the logistics of creating fleets would be greatly simplified. We planned on doing this later, rather than earlier and using harassing attacks on Barkun colonies to force them to react to us rather try to retake our solar system. Learning of their culture’s ingrained inflexibility caused us to speed up this timetable. With enough Busses and Destroyers I felt confident we could recreate Washington’s crossing the Deleware and launch a surprise attack.

Admiral Volk offered a very sound bit of advice. He said that if we could force out the Barkun without being noticed by Earth and we could ensure that any counterattack would be noticed by Earth, then the Barkun would in fact be giving knowledge of space travel to a protected planet. If we could get the Confederation to acknowledge this argument, then we would only need to worry about covert action to Earth itself, and not large scale invasion. His plan seemed like something out of the cold war, think of a Russian to think of using politics for warfighting.

We adjourned to implement the plan. Our smaller replicators were kicking out parts to build out more of our 150 meter replicators. Big Birtha was busy with a schedule to push out 3 more busses and 11 destroyers so that our new Kernels would have a home. I had all 14 Kernels on New Aubagne begin replication.

When Marvin was not busy with the Kernels, He assisted Admiral Volk and Commander Aegeus in designing a simulator program based on Destroyer combat. Most all of my staff were pipe hitters from spec ops or technical staff. I needed naval commanders so I decided the key aspect of our promotion boards would be weighted in large part on how our staff performed in simulated space combat.

We created scenarios based on historical Barkun performance and had our staff train against computer based Barkun, but also for competition we allowed out staff to fight head to head against each other. It was always a Barkun ship against a Legion ship, as I wanted to collect data on who would be the best to choice to conquer one. We turned the simulator into a serious off hours cultural hit. Everyone knew the stakes and why the simulator existed, but we created displays thoughtout base with a running leaderboard.

Winners of the tournements received rewards such as personal replicator time and priority for combat suits. We held many practice tournaments and created teams to prepare for the official contest. In many ways the simulator served to fill the void professional sports filled on Earth, except this time, money didn’t go to fake role-models, the rewards for achievement went to those that deserved it.

However, as popular the simulators were, it did not hide the fact that we were playfighting with grunts and geeks. We needed the specific skills of professionals. There was no way around the fact we needed one more trip to Earth. This time, I knew I would not be going, as I had to lead the trip to the Confederation. I knew in my heart that the more trips we made, the more legionaires we would loose, but I selected the staff and sent the Bus and the Punishment Ship.

I did not like the combination, as I did not want any fighting, just a sneak in and quick exit, but we filled the Ram ship with Legionaires and gave them their mission. They were to make several transits and come in from the L2 point. We hadn’t used this one yet as Earth kept a satellite there. Because of this we felt that point gave us our best chance to sneak in. Admiral Volk would command the convoy and I gave him sealed orders to liason with Sabol, I wanted eyes on the crafty attorney, and see how productive he was with integrating Confederation tech without getting caught. I also wanted the document he was working on.

I felt a multitude of emotions, as I saw those ships leave the base. I knew sending them was necessary, but if my Legionaires were in space, I felt the need to be with them. Knowing I had an essential task of my own did nothing to relieve my guilt as I watched them depart.

A few days later, Marvin reported the Seeds were ready. They were metal cubes, 20 centimeters on all sides. Because they would attempt to take over any non-biologic, each was held in a small wooden crate lined inside and out with leather. Each Legionaire selected to command held their crate with respect. They treated each crate as if it were a cradle. I don’t know if they felt the Kernels were beings. Hell, even after all these years with Marvin, I wasn’t sure they were sapient. However, I knew the Kernels were self aware, and they felt they acted with reason and independent thought, so we were damn sure going to treat them as if they were alive.

As soon as we could all board, we left to see what the Kernel homeworld looked like.

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