Chapter 1 - Field Work
2 Months Later
The bar was bustling, criminals and low lifes played cards and shared drinks with conscripted men and wandering traders, as was life on a Zupponn mining company colony, it wasn’t a complete mess, the glasses were clean, and the decor was fair, except for a tacky water boat that was suspended from the ceiling. Cromwell had discarded his normal command suit and ceremonial sabre, instead opting for something more low key, an outfit that’d have him confused as a miner, and a headscarf, as was common wear on an asteroid colony, he couldn't have people recognising him, here of all places. While once in league with the Allied Nations, the position of the ZMC had changed drastically in recent times, leading to a neutral position, and with the kind of reward any Third Alliance or Immortal group would offer for his head, staying disguised was a priority.
As a space opened at the bar, he took the place, "Double gin and tonic", the bartender gave cromwell a strong look back, "Triple gin and tonic then my good man", The tender smiled, "We'll get on grand if this lot don't get you first".
The drink was watered down, probably cheap gin, but Cromwells informant was late, and he'd have to pass the time some how. Had something happened to him, better check.
"Newton, anything coming through on channels that would affect my informant?"
As Cromwell thought the question, Newton appeared out of nowhere, standing behind the bar, no one noticed him, as he really wasn't there, this was just a projection onto the skin of Cromwells eyes, and a live data link, carried most likely by a cloaked Ministry of Intelligence ship somewhere nearby.
"Extra security traffic is being picked up by a MoI ship, the Lady Godiva, and it's tracking a..."
A hand touched Cromwells shoulder, Cromwell froze, he was either about to be summarily executed, or....
"How are you doing?"
It was the latter fortunately.
The table was small, but partially secluded by a mosquito net, probably best to atleast try and be subtle with this meeting. Cromwell handed his informant a small brown package after they exchanged pleasantries.
"Just as asked, sample R7770, a programmable bio-robotic nanite virus, just enough for your needs, not a nanite more."
The package slipped into the informants coat.
"Keep it down, I have no intent of having my brains sifted out from my head by security, anyway, the information you wanted?"
"You served on the Belkarus, an Akkadian vessel during the first battle of New York, correct?"
"I did, what is it you don't already know?"
"The Spirit of Ragnablok
, you were on the bridge of the Akkadian flagship, you must know something of what happened to her, how she went down?"
"That's the thing, she didn't, as heartless as it sounds, I was looking forward to seeing that ship cracked open, but no, halfway through the battle, the vessel disappeared entirely, but, that's not what the reports said, they said the ship went up in a massive fireball, not that reports have never lied before"
“Well that’s my suspicions confirmed now, would you have any reason to believe the vessel was taken by a certain group in particular?”
“If it was Akkadia, I would have know eventually, but apart from that no.”
“OK, well you’re the first informant to get me solid information, so thanks”
“Let’s just say it’s going to be a good month for freedom fighters, radicals and terrorists.”
“OK then, I’ll bid you…. 2 ‘o’ Clock”
Cromwell glanced around back to the bar, there were two men, both in dark gray uniforms, tinted black helmets, and combat boots that looked like they could crush bricks. Batons, a good inch in diameter, and 16 inches long hanging from their belts, and carbine rifles on over the shoulder straps. They were questioning the bartender, who as was certain, pointed their way.
He signalled his informant, who immediately pulled his hat down, and moved into the corner of the cubicle, putting on the best asleep bum act Cromwell had seen.
“Don’t move a fucking muscle”
Cromwell took a breath in, as a gloved hand reached over him, pulling the scarf off his head.
“Stand up, and hands in the air, turn around slowly!” The officer sounded young, maybe twenties, shame.
Cromwell complied, the officer shoving his baton in front of his head, and thin beam of light came from a slit in its side, the officer moving it down to scan his face, as part of some recognition system.
With that the enforcer nodded to his partner, who lifted his rifle. The shot came from behind Cromwell, striking the would be executioner in the jugular with a high caliber pistol round, practically decapitating him, the amateur officers not noticing the flash of a barrel, with that Cromwell struck the second officer, a clean punch to the jaw, dislocating it, then an uppercut for good measure, his baton sent spinning into the air, Cromwell grabbing it on its way down. With that came a loud whistle from outside, as riot officers began to pour into the bar.
The first two were met by glass bottles across the helmets as half the patrons sided with the law, and half with the madness. smoke grenades were lobbed hitting behind the bar, and quickly filling the room.
An enforcer lunged for Cromwell who gave back three sharp whacks with the baton, two deflected by his own, but the third striking across the visor cracking it, and knocking the man unconscious. the two who were hit on the entry were now up, and not in a good mood, spraying laser fire into the smoke, Cromwell took cover behind his chair, his informant kicking over a table, getting behind it. With the noises of hurried footsteps Cromwell could make out a guard running down the aisle towards them, Cromwell stuck out his baton and sure enough a lumbering guard tripped over it, Cromwell grabbed the knife on his boot, discarding the baton, and stabbed the officer between the vertebrae twice, before cutting the strap that held his carbine in place in the process. Now this was a fairer fight.
Cromwell Came up from behind the chair, placing two shots, that passed over the heads of brawling enforcers and patrons, and striking two chains holding up the boat, it fell a good three metres, crushing two guards and knocking a third off balance, giving Cromwell an easy shot. The helmets were strong, enough to save you from a falling mass of wood and metal, but not enough to save you from a laser blast, which as it connected, melted through the polymer visor, and making near unimpeded contact with the officers head. Now another anti-riot squad entered as the smoke started to dissipate, Cromwell grabbed the knife embedded in the tripped enforcers back, and threw it at the squad, who were trying to come in with riot shields, but not doing a good job of it, it hit a large glass lamp above the door, raining shards down, a quick distraction. Cromwell, and the patrons who took cover with some manner of arms, whether pilfered or of their own, fired into the mass of grey officers, but most of the shots just hit into their energized shields, dissipating into nothing.
”I have informed the Lady Godiva of your situation sir”
Newton's figure an unwelcome appearance.
”Not now damnit!”
”They are ready to forcefully dock with the colony, and I have projected and escape route at the back, through the alleys.
“Hey, I have an out, follow me!” Cromwell shouted across as heavy laser bolts started to pierce their cover.
Both men ran for the back of the bar, coming through to a small stockroom, each placing one last goodbye shot into the mayhem. The only way out was a ladder, the hatch was stiff, and Cromwell knew every second that past would have officers closing in on them, as they reached the roof, and closed the hatch, they could hear laser fire pinging off it moments later.
Cromwell, lept from the roof to the floor below, his informant following, they turned left, but were immediately cut off by advancing enforcers. A display on his oculus re-adjusted, displaying a new route. Both ran for it, with the sound of laser fire to motivate them, Cromwell in the lead, they approached a small open service hatch in the street, Cromwell jumping into it without hesitation, only to find himself in a small dark tunnel.
“there right behind us!” The informant shooting back at them as he came down the ladder, there was only one way to go, ahead, both ducking for low hanging wires as they went. The tunnel exited them right next to the docking array. As they came out, they were spotted by two officers who immediately reported them in before drawing pistols. Cromwell let off two shots from the carbine to force them into nearby cover, and both began to move faster than before along the docking arm, until they reached the only cover of a few discarded crates all of 15 metres from the airlock.
”That stealth ship would be nice Newton”
”They’re decloaking now sir”
There was a loud echoing bang as the vessel, a Deathstalker Destroyer
forcefully mated with the port.
”The Lady Godiva is reporting they can’t hack the airlock, they’re trying plan B sir”
”And that is!
Cromwell wasn’t in the mood for getting shot today while someone blow-torched the door open.
”Plan B for ‘bomb’, I swear it isn’t my humour, and you may want to make yourselves a smaller target for debris right about now”
“There blowing the door get down!” Cromwell covered his head as best he could, hoping his Informant would do the same.
The door flew forward with the shaped charge, the impromptu projectile completely crushing an enforcer who was trying to be a hero, and rush their position, the bang popped Cromwells left eardrum. With this came a torrent of fire from a squad on the Lady Godiva’s side of the airlock, plasma-bolts cutting down men, and forcing them back behind cover.
As the smoke cleared Cromwell made out the figure of the well known Jane Bolet, the woman who brought news of New York to the galaxy.
“You two, get in the ship!” Jane didn’t waste time, firing another burst of plasma into the reforming enforcer squad, completely removing the head of one officer, and melting away the shield of another.
Both men once again ran for their life, crossing onto the ship as the bulkhead closed behind them. They both let out a sigh of relief and exhaustion as the characteristic sound of plasma engines firing up was heard, out the airlock window enforcers choked on void as an emergency bulkhead closed, severing one officer into two messy halves as it fell.
Cromwell for the first time looked properly at his informant since the bar brawl. looking to congratulate him on the escape, instead he found his attention drawn away from that.
“Your shoulder?! Come on medical bay is this way on this class of ship.
“Dunno, I guess it happened in the bar. I think. It’s only a bit of flesh.” Cromwell looked at it as the nurse applied disinfectant, a good half inch of flesh, taken off with a cauterized wound, the edges of his coat black and melted by a laser blast.
“Good thing those guards couldn’t aim, or it’d be more than a little flesh… hey we’ve been through all this, and I don’t even know your name?”
“Y’know, I was going to say you’d be safer not to know it, but after that I think that it’s the opposite. It’s Hanzer.”
The Godiva dropped Hanzer off a mere half hour later at a criminal hideaway, he said he’d get picked up from there. And now Cromwell turned his attention to the next person he needed to speak with.
The bridge on these destroyers were small, and thankfully poorly crewed, with both officers on break, it gave Cromwell a few moments alone to talk with Jane.
“Well, I never thought I’d meet you, let alone be rescued by you Ma'am.”
“Cut the crap Cromwell, I stuck my neck out for you, so what is important it has the second space lord out in the field doing the work I do for a living?”
“Well… I need you to tell me about the first Battle of New York, specifically about the Spirit of Ragnablok.”
“You’ve read the reports, it was taken out by a wall of fire, mostly Briktoid, why do you need to know about a dead ship?”
“We didn’t find the wreck, and it didn’t crash on the planet, that’s for sure. So I’ve been doing some digging, a lot of digging, and I’ve found out it was captured by an enemy force.”
“Never? But what does this mean, Lost or destroyed, it’s gone”
“It is property of the Empire, if it is out there, it will be retaken, and those responsible will pay.” Cromwell had hoped to get more out of her, but this was it for now. The trail had seemingly gone cold again.