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Interfactional IC story

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  • Interfactional IC story


    Dried twigs cracked underneath my boots as I made my way through the preserve. This was one of the few places that the mega cities hadn’t expanded into and compared to the noise of the city it was peaceful. I found it very beautiful and counted myself fortunate being one of the few that had a keycard to this place. The smog wasn’t quite as bad here, I supposed the trees filtered out a lot of the sulphur and carbon monoxide in the air.

    Up ahead a small figure became visible in the reddish light of the afternoon. I knew I would find her here, she always said being in this place helped her think and she often had spoken of her childhood when she used to visit this place.

    “Honghu”, I asked quietly, reluctant to disturb her. “The last transport is leaving for the Unity within the next 6 hours”.

    Her back was still turned to me so I couldn’t see her face. For a long moment I listened to my own quiet breaths as I waited for her to reply.

    “I will be there within 6 hours Kody.”

    Her voice seemed distant and seemed far older than her actual age. Not scratchy like a crone’s rather timeless as the voice of the ocean that had been murmuring for millions of years. She was still facing away from me so I left without saying another word.


    I heard his footsteps as he walked away and blinked away some more of my tears.

    The red glow of the sun filtered through the smog and cast a soft red glow over the dying forest. There used to be birds here a long time ago, but they had most likely died from the bouts of acid rain that came from the factories further to the south. It was beautiful here, but it only served to remind me of what this place once was, when the sun used to cast a yellow glow that lit the dust motes and the trees were green and alive not brown and dying. I stood among ancient ruins still beautiful only because they whispered the grandeur of better days.

    This world was dying and it felt like my heart was dying with it. The memories of my past were like this forest beautiful and treasured, but fading from this world nonetheless. It was so hard to break away from the past, to remember all the wonderful things and not look back with regret. Earth would always stay in my heart no matter how many light years separated me from it. This place held my roots nothing would change that.

    I bent over and scooped a handful of dirt into the jar.

    “And while your children will walk among the stars they will always remember you”, I said to the stillness of the forest.

    As I walked back to the shuttle the long trunks of pines silently watched my departure. A honor guard that lined the way as walked towards a new world.

    Pholus Lunar Outpost

    Start Journal Mission Year 2101.06.26.

    This is communications officer Kody of the starship Unity. The Unity has been destroyed in the attempt to get to Chiron. The majority of escape pods have made it to the surface, but a portion of the bridge crew has crashed landed on one of Chiron’s moon Pholus.

    Method the pilot of the escape pod claimed technical problems with the navigational jets, I actually put it down to ineptitude as I think in the heat of the moment he mistook the moon for the planet.

    There were only about 20 survivors that made it to our escape pod. Captain Buster is with us, but I do not know if he will survive. He has been shot and there is nobody with us that has the required medical training to help him. Of the other surviving officers there is first officer Drogue, Method who handled navigation and Honghu the ship counsellor.

    I have searched the communication frequencies and have located signals emanating from seven different landing areas. It’s comforting to know that there are more survivors although we cannot spare the energy yet to send a signal.

    While we have all the resources to start a new colony, we have too few people to make it viable. It is my hope that sometime in the future the others on the planet will be able to send a rescue mission so we can rejoin humanity. In the meantime construction of a dome is underway as we know it will be many years before help will come.

    Fortunately for us we have located frozen water deposits under the rock and have a nearly unlimited supply of oxygen and water. The colony pod’s hydroponics is supplying us with more than enough food, as it was meant to handle a few thousand rather than 20 people. The one thing we are short on is energy as many of our solar panels shattered in the crash.

    End Journal.
    Last edited by Kody; June 30, 2004, 05:12.

  • #2
    Begin Log, Mission Year 2101.06.27

    After the
    Unity's demise, I fled with much of the bridge crew to the final remaining escape pod. In an attempt to pilot the pod towards the planet's surface, I mistook one of its moons, Pholus, for the planet itself, and was forced to bail there. I made the excuse that the pod's navigational jets were malfunctioning, and I think the rest of the crew bought it.

    I'm sad to say that Captain Buster did not survive the ordeal, as he died shortly after we landed on Pholus. Apparently an attempt on his life was made onboard the
    Unity, and without proper medical treatment, he was unable to be saved.

    End log.
    Last edited by Kody; June 27, 2004, 03:39.


    • #3
      She had been sitting there for three days now. It is so unlike her, Kody thought. She ate very little. And other than that she just sat there. Unaware of the others who were busy setting up the necessary facilities for the survival dome. Her eyes were unfocused and missing the sparkling lights that had always been there.

      Did she have a nerve break down because of the chaos that led to them landing on the moon? Was she upset because she couldn't be with many of her friends? Was she afraid of the many years ahead that they had to spend on this lonely moon ... She was supposed to have a strong psychological stability, and understanding or human minds. That was how she got the job of ship consellor in the first place. And now we need to find a way to console the ship consellor, Kody thought. What irony.

      Kody noticed that she was sitting close to the communiqué platform. Was she always sitting like this all the time? Or was it possible that she had tried to do somethings when others were not around? Some says she had empathy capability. How far could that work? Was connection with the other people possible if both ends were empathic?

      What did she learn that we didn't know ...
      Be good, and if at first you don't succeed, perhaps failure will be back in fashion soon. -- teh Spamski

      Grapefruit Garden


      • #4
        The work had been completed on the habitation dome and we had replaced the majority of the solar panels. It had been a tough 6 months with frequent blackouts at the outpost to converse power for life support systems. Now the secondary generator and backup systems were in place everyone could breathe a little easier.

        I was still worried about Honghu, but she seemed to be getting better. I think it was around the time we finished the communication tower that she started to improve. I guess it was the hopelessness of the situation that ate at her earlier. Now we had communications with those on the ground things seemed a little less hopeless and I heard her laugh a few times.

        I was talking to Method over the Spartan private communication frequency, it appears that many of the factions on the planet surface were organising themselves into command structures. I decided to have a wager with Method about who could collect the most positions from the factions. I was annoyed at Method at the time because he had found someone in the Spartans that was an old friend of his and had gotten 4 positions in the Spartans. When we started arguing over spartan communication we had Skanky and Honghu berate us for bickering over the public channels.... Maybe Method won that round, but I intend to to show him who's boss. So I decided to start a newscast service and see how long he lasts with defamity published about him. All in good fun of course.

        Although not all has been good news recently. Being the communications officer Drogue asked me to assert what the status of the factions on the ground are. It appears they've lost the majority of their datalinks in their landing while ours are still relatively intact. Furthermore, there is talk of war on the airwaves. I found it very disturbing and when I relayed recordings to Drogue he called an emergency meeting.

        Our decision was unanimous, we were to remain netural to all affairs on that occurred in the rest of the world. Of course it didn't work that way.

        The Morganites demanded technological assistance from the lunar colony. When we refused they called us the Cloistered Moon Nation (CMNs), and threatened to cut all contact from us. To placate them Drogue has agreed to broadcast an extra 10 energy to them. It means a lot of work for me as I would need to modify the antenna for a much higher frequency broadcast, which of course means replacing the coupling capacitors and adding extra energy buffers. I guess it’s necessary, with so few people we cannot afford to enter a serious disagreement with one of the factions on the planet.


        • #5
          (Viewed by: Spartans)

          Santiago braced herself against the bulkhead of the escape pod as the ship rattled as it started entering the atmosphere. There was a loud roaring noise likes hordes of dragons were screeching at their descent and the temperature had begun to rise drastically. The heat shields were down and there was nothing they could for the next 10 minutes as they bleed off the momentum the escape pod had gained from the Unity. They were entering too fast and were well outside the velocity red zone for the escape craft.

          We will survive Santiago vowed to herself yet again. It was her mantra and it would keep her strong no matter what the outcome. 72000 feet, the computer displayed, 71000 feet, they weren’t slowing down enough to deploy the parachutes safely. The chutes would be ripped to shreds the moment they opened at this velocity.

          She had a choice to make, but it was necessary. She turned to Kassiopeia her co-pilot and tapped out her orders on his arm using the Spartan battle language, it was pointless trying to yell over the roar of the atmosphere. He turned to her with a worried look, but obeyed her without question leaving the cockpit.

          Santiago flipped a few switches and turned on the retro-thrusters on full reverse. A second kind of roaring could be heard outside the craft and the velocity counters began to creep into the yellow zone. A minute later the thrusters spluttered as they ran out of fuel, they were meant to guide landings not slow the craft down. 26000 feet... 25000 feet, it was now or never, she flipped he cover for the parachutes and slammed her fist down on the large red button.

          There was a violent jerk and the horrible sound of straining metal, the roaring had stopped, but there was still a loud whistling noise. Santiago opened the blast screens, with the retro-thrusters gone she only had the wing and tail flaps to navigate by. The world rushed up towards her.


          Captain Googlie placed carefully double checked the settings on the cyrostasis pod as the captains gathered around wondering what to do. She had saved us all, Googlie thought, someday we’ll be able to revive her and she will lead us again.

          Maniac was staring to the north. “I think there’s water there”, he finally commented, “As well as a unity supply pod we can probably use”.

          The Spartans looked around at their surroundings one last time and prepared to move out.

          Attached Files


          • #6
            (Viewed by: Spartans)

            Zeiter wrote:
            Today was my first recon mission. I, as the rookie, was chosen to pilot the scout rover and investigate the surrounding areas. My crew and I soon came upon an amazing structure, quite unlike anything I've ever seen before. Rising up out of the dust, a sort of monolith stood towering over us as we parked the rover and began to climb out. Strangely, I felt inclined to go up to the monolith and investigate it more closely, but I remembered my orders not to investigate any strange structures at this present time, so I forced myself to stay where I was. But was almost as if a voice was calling me, wispering to me inside my head to come closer...

            We continued to explore to the west where we found some wonderful, lush terrain for future base sites. We radioed back to Sparta Command, and were notified that they were sending the other colony pod this way. I feel very optimistic as far as our faction's prospects go, and, although I realize that surviving on an alien world will not be easy, I feel confident that we, the Spartans, will be up to the challenge.

            As I sit here and munch on my daily ration, I think back to the voyage, and to my joining with the Spartans. The other factions seemed tempting, but I knew that when the sh*t hit the fan, that the Spartans would be able to handle it, and now I am honored to be with this veteran faction. I have pledged to myself that I will never fail to fulfill my Spartan duties, and I will always strive to bring honor and glory to this magnificent faction.


            • #7
              (Viewed by: Spartans)

              Kody wrote:

              A beeping sound woke me up from my musing. It appeared that one of the remote survey droids, droid 065 had found something interesting. I idly wondered if it was native life or another of those monoliths as I downloaded its data. An image slowly formed on the screen as my eyes widened.

              It looked like alien wreckage, I sent instructions back to the droid to complete a first level scan as I alerted the others in the outpost. Method arrived first as the results from the primitive scan started coming back. I ignored him as I concentrated on the data. The wreckage was mainly composed of some kind of titanium alloy melded with a resin like shell that covered softer organic material. What was surprising was the scans showed that the organic material was still alive. I checked the age of the titanium components and whistled softly as I realised it was over a millennium old.

              “That’s impossible the living part can’t still be alive”, I heard Method say behind me. With so few people it was important that colony members were well versed in a number of technical fields. Method had recent completed a masters in Biology so I guess he knew what he was talking about.

              “According to this data all the external mechanical components have been sanded away by the dessert. What you see is the organic part of the wreckage that has managed to continuously repair itself over the last thousand years”, Method sounded excited. “It’s managed to keep its shape and continue regenerating meaning that after all these years the DNA has remained stable. Don’t you see the meaning of all this.”

              I shook my head slowly.

              “It must have mechanisms that can indefinitely repair DNA or perform infinite transcriptions without error. Plus the telomeres in normal cell division get shorter each time a cell divides, the fact it has remained stable all these years suggests the makers have found a way to get around this.”

              Feel rather silly I asked, “What’s a telomere?”

              “The stubs on the end of DNA strands that stop DNA from unravelling. When it gets too short the cell attempts to divide and instead the DNA completely unravels. Basically this means if we can figure out how the organic part of the wreckage works we might be able to modify DNA to make it immune to aging effects. Immortality.”

              Some of the other members of the outpost had arrived and started studying the data. Everyone seemed very excited about the find and after a quick discussion we agreed on sending the probe to get physical samples.

              The image started to wobble as the probe lurched closer to the wreckage. Halfway to the wreckage a strange buzzing came across the audio feed. Suddenly the video feed was engulfed in a purple flash and all data feeds from the probe cut out.

              There was a complete silence in the room, before I carefully rewound the recorded video feed image by image. In the five frames before the purple flash there was a slight movement in the centre of the wreckage.

              “Automatic defence system?”

              “We need to send a survey team down there to get a sample back for analysis and see what other kinds of technology we can pick up.”

              “We don’t have any shuttles available.”

              “We can contact the Spartans”, I suggested. “They have rovers so will be able to reach the wreckage the fastest.”

              A babble of voices called out their objections. “How do we know that we can trust them?” “They’ll use the technology for themselves.” “First Officer Drogue declared that we were going to maintain neutrality with all the factions.”

              “Drogue isn’t here and if we don’t get that technology soon one of the surface factions will retrieve it with or without our help”, I said looking around. “A vote on the issue”

              “Who says we collaborate with the Spartans in retrieval of this scientific find?” 6 hands were raised.

              “Those against?” 3 hands were raised, leaving 7 people deciding not to vote.

              “Then it’s decided, I’ll contact the Spartans and offer them the coordinates in exchange for a full exchange of technologies that result from the find”, I finally said.


              • #8
                Viewed by Spartans. Written by Maniac.


                The cries of the protesters outside could be heard inside the deepest corridors of Sparta Command's Headquarters. It had been a stormy social summer this year. Tensions had been growing steadily lately, and now they had erupted into open strikes.

                Lieutenant-Colonel Riveira was swiftly walking to the conference room, sided by his aide Command Sergeant Major Perez.

                "What's the latest, Miss Perez? Who are these protestors? What do they want?"

                "I have the analyses right here, Sir. They are a group of common workers primarily from the nascent mining industries north of Sparta Command. They are fed up with the low wages, bad living and working conditions and feel they are entitled to a better life." Perez explained while looking at her papers.

                "Wouldn't we all want that?" Riveira sighed, while his thoughts shortly shifted to the harsh life they had all suffered the last decade.

                Perez cast a worried look at her superior. "He really ought to take some time off duty." she pondered. The constant responsibility day-in day-out was getting to him.

                "Anyway", Riveira suddenly continued, "Have we heard from Captain Zeiter recently?"

                "Yes sir. He has confirmed the orders to return to Sparta Command as soon as possible. If necessary, we will soon have the forces to impose martial law."

                "Good. Let's hope we don't actually have to use them..." the Lt-Colonel commented.

                The two had arrived at the doors to the conference room. Posted at each side of the entrance stood two elite soldiers of the Factional Guard. Inside a delegation of the protesters were waiting, to state their demands to the highest authorities.
                Riveira stopped for a moment before entering and inhaled deeply.

                "Time to deal with this matter I guess... Say, what was the name of their leader again?" Riveira asked.

                "Foreman Brian Domai, sir. He'll be the tallest guy among the group."

                "Thanks." Riveira gave a short smile to Perez, before nodding to the guards, as a sign to let them in.

                As the doors to the conference room opened, the small delegation inside turned silent from their private conversations, and all turned their heads to the pro-tem leader of the Spartan Brotherhood marching in, followed by CSM Perez and the escort of Factional Guards. Domai could be very easily noticed: a muscled gaint of perhaps two meters tall.

                "Welcome dear people", Riveira started, slightly lowering his voice and raising his volume, while walking further to the table in the middle of the room.
                "Please. Have a seat", he gestured friendly at the chairs on the other side of the table.

                The workers shortly exchanged glances with each other, and decided to sit down.

                "Now that we're all more comfortable, let's discuss the issues at hand. Mr. Domai", Riveira said while looking straight at the Foreman, "I've heard you have problems with your living conditions..."

                "You could damn well say that!" Domai intervened. "Our working conditions are a living hell. Our lving spaces are cramped. Hardly enough housing for everyone. Our wages are low. And even if we have sufficient money, the supplies of goods are often insufficient to fulfill our basic needs. It can continue like this no longer! We demand something is done at last!"
                "Yeah!" Domai's fellow delegates grunted in agreement.

                "I understand your concerns. But surely you do understand that we're stranded on an alien planet, and that resources are scar..."

                Domai suddenly slammed his fist on the table, interrupting the Lt-Colonel in mid-speech. The guards tightened their grips on their rifles, ready to react at the slightest hint of further agression.

                "Nonsense!", Domai thundered. "We've been hearing that excuse for ten straight years, and we're fed up with it. We have the support of thousands of workers. If our demands are not met, we will lay down all work, block the streets, in short: bring Sparta Command to a standstill."

                "Please, relax, Mr. Domai. I guess you don't believe us when we say that, but we are trying to do our best with limited means."
                Riveira faced a wall of incredulous looks.
                "Very well.", Riveira sighed and paused for a moment.
                "I'm afraid we are simply unable to meet your demands." he began.
                The delegation made preparations to get off their chairs and leave the room.
                "However", Riveira quickly added, "I just come from a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I am authorized to offer you an alternative proposal. So please listen to me for a few more minutes."

                "We Spartans hold individual liberty and the ability for personal initiative dear as core ideals. To conciliate these ideals with the needs and limitations imposed upon is by Chiron, the Junta has decided we are willing to offer you and anyone interested in following you the means and supplies to go found a new base on Chiron.

                We, the government, cannot offer you paradise with our current resources. But at least we can give you the ability to go and build up a paradise for yourselves elsewhere.
                Many of you may die seeking better luck somewhere else on this dangerous world. But at least you will not be captured in Sparta Command, and instead have the freedom to determine your own future.
                So leave. Go forth and expand to vast and new regions, to seek to become master of the world, and above all, Master of Yourself."


                • #9
                  Viewed by Spartans. Written by Maniac.

                  Lt. Col. 'Maniac', as Riveira's alias went, looked around the room. It had been years ago the full Junta leadership had been assembled in one place. But for this special occassion, Captains Zeiter and Googlie had redirected their rover troops back to Santiago Citadel. There the Military Headquarters of the Spartan Brotherhood was established. Only Captain Andemagnus of the Chiron Knights was physically absent, as he was exploring far south and couldn't have made it back in reasonable time. Especially with the recent fungal bloom delaying the exploration schedule. But even he was represented, through a holo-connection.

                  Maniac stood up, and the conversations between the people around the round table fell silent.

                  "Spartan friends, it's great to see all of us together again in one place. I think the last time this happened was as long ago as shortly after Planetfall. But then again, we have recently learned perhaps the most important information in our fifteen-year stay on this planet: I have called this meeting to discuss the scientific discovery and offer made by the Pholus Lunar Outpost."

                  Viewed by Spartans, Kassiopeia wrote:

                  Captain Antti "Kassiopeia" Helin took a bunch of papers and started dealing them around to the other officers. "We are using paper to minimize information leaks. Captain Andemagnus, your broadcast is on maximum encryption I assume?" Andemagnus nodded.

                  "Let us get started then. The people at the Outpost have been very skimpy on information, but as you can see from the images on page three", the sound of about a dozen leaflets being browsed, "it's definitely something big and interesting."

                  He continued: "The Lunar Outpost has sent probes to study the find, and they speculate that it's a crashed spacecraft of alien origin with remarkable organic capabilities, including technology to create immortal life."

                  The reaction to this was mixed - some were not believing it, some were abhored by the thought, some were fascinated by it.

                  "Why did the Pholusians contact us?" Andemagnus asked, suspicious.

                  "This is the tricky part. They have been unable to get a sample of the ship. All of their probes have apparently been destroyed by an autonomic defence system. They desire a survey team to get there posthaste, and with our rovers, we could be able to do it. The Spartans and the Pholusians would share any knowledge resulting from the finds."

                  "Thank you, Captain", the Lieutenant-Colonel said and addressed the Junta. "I believe that the possible findings would be very much worth the risk. Such advanced technology would give us an overwhelming edge against any of our opponents."

                  "The Pholusians will have the information too. Considering their usually neutral stance, I suspect that they'd share the same information with the rest of the factions, with us paying the price of getting it in the first place", Major Skanky Burns said.

                  "We won't necessarily have to submit everything we find to the Lunar Outpost. If their probes can not avoid this defence system, they won't be able to monitor our expedition either", Captain Googlie noted. "We should give them something to avoid suspicion, though."

                  "Nothing says our rovers will be able to either. It is a big risk", Major Jamski said. "We are short on forces as it is, and losing good men at this phase might prove costly on the long run."

                  "We'll take a vote", Maniac ordered. "My personal opinion is that we should do it." The Junta finally agreed with him unanimously, and Captain Zeiter volunteered to lead the mission. It was to depart for the given co-ordinates as soon as possible.

                  Viewed by Sparta. Written by Maniac.

                  "And hereby I would like to officially announce the foundation of Gythium Harbour, and with it, the birth of the Spartan Federation!"

                  *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap*...

                  Riveira had just finished his speech on the official foundation ceremony of Gythium Harbour. And everyone was applauding. Domai was one of them. He stood on the first row. After all, he was an important person in the new Federation now: "base governor of Gythium Harbour". It had taken long negotiations for Domai and his supporters to obtain this governor position. For there were many within the ruling elite who wanted to keep all the power in the military, while Domai stood for more civilian rule. But eventually all parties had managed to reach a compromise: a partial decentralization of power towards individual bases, and the assurance that a base governor could be a civilian from now on, instead of one of the military elite. The military still firmly held all the ropes on the federal level though, and the base governors had little impact on the major production decisions. In other words, the influence of the local government was yet limited. But ah well, at least it was a start, so Domai thought. Now he had a place where he and his companions could work further towards a truly democratic utopia: Gythium Harbour, a little base with a couple thousand inhabitants, with hopefully more to follow, but most importantly: away from the constant interference of the hypocrit military. We'll see what the future will bring, so he thought...

                  Domai's look wandered through the ceremony hall. He saw many great names among the crowd. One of them was Perez, Riveira's main assistant. She too was applauding.

                  It was a happy day for Command Sergeant Major Esmira Perez. The coronation of more than a year's hard work. After drone riots in Sparta Command had been avoided in the nick of time, Riveira had placed her at the head of negotiations between a number of parties. Eventually they led to this reform transforming the Spartan Brotherhood to a Federation. Perez was proud of what she had achieved. The new constitution brought Sparta closer to what she believed it should be. Sparta was not about control, as some conservatives and militarists wanted it to be. In her opinion it was about freedom. Not freedom in the sense of a bunch of "universal human rights" as Old Earth's misguided democracies thought it to be. But freedom as in having the opportunity, through hard work and willpower, to realize your potential, without being discriminated against because of one's place of birth, race, beliefs... And the new constitution brought that ideal closer, so she thought. From now on every Spartan was allowed to move freely within the faction, and even found new bases with a certain autonomy. Also every Spartan had the constitutional right to join the military forces and move up the ladder, and after several years of servive gain full citizen rights. This was an abrupt change from the past. Until now, Sparta had been pretty much ruled by the original group of 300. They who under Santiago's lead rebelled against Captain Buster back in the Unity. But that was all over now. There were still tensions between different groups, but she was confident the balancing exercise could be maintained. A bright future looks ahead, she thought. We'll see what it brings.

                  More towards the back of the ceremony hall stood Captain Fernando Arroyo, a bit seperated from the main crowd. His mood was more sombre. He had little faith in this new 'federation'. Back on Earth, Arroyo had witnessed first-hand what loss of civil order could mean. In the 2046 LA riots he had lost his whole family, killed by plundering gangs. No, order and a central government was needed to keep society functioning without descending into chaos. Not this "freedom for the people" or "voluntary union of autonomous bases". Imagine what would happen if some lunatic like Domai or another base governor would leave the 'voluntary union' and declare independence? Oh well, Arroyo had at least one consolation: Gythium Harbour was founded not so far from Santiago Citadel. If Domai would get ideas he shouldn't get, it was a short drive for the rover platoons... And would such a military action prove necessary, Riveira's head would be the first one to roll. Then the spot of pro-tem leader would become vacant for officers with better ideas. We'll see what the future will bring...

                  Viewed by Spartans. Written by Googlie.

                  Operations log – 2115, Rolling Thunder Brigade

                  North and west of Gythium Harbour, the officers of the Rolling Thunder Brigade were lounging by their vehicles and discussing the events of a couple of days ago, the founding ceremony for the Harbour base.

                  The rookies were restless, having fretted under the discipline of following in line down the crater rim above the Rio Grande river banks until they had reached the Delta, and now, freed from the confines of the rovers, were engaged in some impromptu wrestling and tag-team matches. This was by nature of an experiment, culling some fifteen of the youths born on Chiron in Sparta Command, and assigning one each to the rovers of the Rolling Thunder Brigade for on-the-job training. It was not expected to be dangerous, as the Brigade’s mission was purely exploratory, with the occasional prising open of the odd Unity Seed Pod that they might encounter from time to time. But theirs was mainly a mapping mission.

                  Sergeant Rynn Arokh (formerly pfc) was their training officer. She had been Captain Googlie’s driver, but following the Brigade’s visit to the strange monolith just north of Santiago’s Citadel, with the attendant morale boost everyone got from that enjoyable session, she’d been promoted to Sergeant and given charge of these youths. While a Lander, like all the original Spartans, she was one of the youngest. She was the daughter of one of Santiago’s closest associates in her Jade Falcon/Red Panther gangs, and had been smuggled aboard the UNS Unity while an infant, She was rumoured to be one of Corazon’s favourites.

                  Rynn badly wanted to join in the wrestling, but held back – after all, how much of a challenge would it be for an eighteen year old girl to take on thirteen and fourteen year old boys and girls in wrestling contests. Besides, she was now a Sergeant, and they were lowest rank rookies.

                  She wandered over to where the Officers were chatting, and leaned against the side of the old faithful RT-101, the rover she’d piloted these last few years.

                  Lieutenant Morales was speaking, his eyes roving northwards over the small fungus-covered bay to the spit of land that surrounded it. He pointed to the distant hill, also covered in fungus, and commented:

                  “I’m sure that it’s a Unity Seed Pod. Through the scope it looks identical to that one just south of us, on the crater rim. I vote we go explore first light tomorrow.”

                  Captain Googlie sighed. It was hard being a Spartan, with every man liking to think himself his own master, yet subscribing to almost suffocating discipline. Born Scott Allardyce, but given the nickname “Googlie” for his habit of always wearing his goggles up on his forehead, he was one of the few Landers who knew Deirdre when she was Deirdre MacPherson, before she had assumed the affectation of referring to herself as Lady Deirdre Skye. She had renounced the MacPherson name after her parents had gone through a messy divorce and, always the romantic, had changed her name to Skye, although Googlie doubted she’d ever been there. He’d run across her at some of the “Free Scotland” rallies, before that had become a reality, but had lost touch after she’d gone to Cornell. He wondered what it might be like to be a Gaian.

                  More of a reluctant Spartan, Googlie had met Santiago in her days as Battalion Commander of the City Guard for New Los Angeles in the 50’s, where he’d been running the US arm of his family’s import/export business. He’d helped her then, and she’d remembered when the UNS Unity crew and colonist roster had been filling out, and had managed to secure a berth for him there. So he felt a certain obligation.

                  He turned to Morales:

                  “I don’t think so. We have pretty strict orders, based on our initial run through these parts, and the only pods we’ll open will be after the Crater base is founded and the Junta have decided what’s best.”

                  Morales looked somewhat crestfallen:

                  “Well at least let us have some mock skirmishes while we do explore – it’s pretty boring for the old hands just retracing prior steps”

                  Googlie pondered.

                  “I guess we can do that”, he said. “Let’s plan something that will burn off all that excess zeal of the youngsters while being challenging for the veterans.”

                  He motioned Rynn to join them, and the three of them put their heads together to plot some surprises.