Faragon, was on the opposite spectrum and struggled with these things.
Ken grinned and even found time to help the Drach before their instructor called them all into attention.
Their drill instructor was a Botnaar. Roy wasn’t sure where he had picked this up, but Botnaar were often called the Petharians of the Milky Way galaxy, and while they belonged to the toughest sentient warrior species, they supposedly always felt inferior to real Petharians. That this wasn’t the case with Staff Sergeant Leven. Roy doubted there was anything or anyone Leven felt inferior to.
It was now a good ten days since Roy had arrived at Camp Mattis. Everything was intense and demanding and required everything he could give. There was not an ounce of energy left when he finally hit the rack. There was never enough sleep when the day began with the glaring lights and obnoxiously loud drill instructors, but truth to be told and deep down he actually enjoyed it. The same seemed to hold true for the new friends he had made. While he got along with almost everyone, the four individuals he had med for the first time back on Sol Hub also ended up in the same unit, which was the 71st Recruit Training Battalion, Bravo Company, 2nd platoon.
These first days right after receiving and their assignment to their actual companies and platoons started not with the expected drills, but with classroom classes where they were introduced to the history of the Union, the Union Armed Forces and the Union Marines in particular. They were told about the chain of command, taught to identify rank insignia. They were taught how to organize their gear and footlockers, how to build a proper bunk, how to stand in attention, and how to maintain proper grooming.
Unlike the Union Navy or other branches, the so-called Basic Physical requirements for the Union Marines were much stricter. It allowed for much less diversity. Only Union species within BaPhy1 and BaPhy2 meeting certain additional physical requirements were admitted, this was also called the Marine BaPhY. Those physical requirements excluded a number of Union member societies, but was not do discriminate against others but had to do with a host of logistical and technical reasons. Despite the more stringent and restrictive BaPhy attributes, still, almost eighty percent of all Union member species met Marine BaPhy and that meant a Terran Human at the low end of Baphy1 could end up in the same unit as a Petharian at the extreme other end of BaPhy II.
In those initial classes on Union marine history, Roy had learned that there has been different ideas and approaches to deal with these extremes. One such idea was segregation. To create separate units for each type, this was immediately dismissed, mainly because segregation was breeding ground for elitism, discrimination, and inter-branch discord.
Another one was to further limit admission based on physical attributes. This too was not considered any further.
Over the decades and centuries, a perhaps complicated but quite organic developed method percolated to the top and became codified in rules and regulations.
Everyone was taken to the very physical and mental limits of body and mind, but never beyond.
Despite some popular notions and ideas. No one was broken and then rebuild. The Marine Corps did not want anyone who could be broken by anything, on the contrary, it wanted unbreakable, individuals able and willing to give every last iota to achieve the objective.
The philosophy was simple, there were no humans, no Petharians or any of the many beings meeting the basic requirements, there were only Union Marines.
Uncle Sam sometimes said. “Marines are not born, Marines are made." He had also said, “Marine Uniforms come in all sizes, but still would not fit everyone.”
Now less than two weeks into his journey, he began to understand what that meant.
Their platoon’s drill instructor Staff Sergeant Leven was a living example to that. Aye he was a Botnaar, but Roy never really noticed, Leven was their DI and nothing less.
Leven had them in attention standing right before their footlockers and bunks.
It was technically only the sixth day, he did that, but it already felt like routine. The DI would inspect bunks and footlockers, and if he was to find the smallest of wrinkles, the slightest item not exactly squared away he would toss the mattress and everything on the ground, empty the content of the footlocker onto the floor and demand it to be corrected. This demand for correction always went alongside some form of physical challenge, like a hundred sit-ups for a humanoid or an exercise equally challenging to a Petharian, Botnaar, Saurien, or whatever species the recruit might be. However, Leven only did this when he indeed found something that did not meet his and this Union Marine Corps standards. While the smallest crevice and wrinkle resulted in a well-rehearsed, by the book tantrum, a perfect bunk or foot locker earned a grunt, not an open acknowledgment, but an approving grunt never the less.
Thanks to Ken’s efforts, Staff Sergeant Leven passed Faragon’s bunk with a grunt. He was less pleased with the Drach’s efforts regarding the foot-locker and sure enough, Leven emptied the top drawer of Faragon’s locker all over the gleaming clean floor. “Fan-head, after you squared away your footlocker you will detail clean the hall.”
It was a tradition as old as the corps itself, Drill Instructors applied nicknames to recruits and because of his elaborate fan-shaped membrane connected head spikes on each side of his elongated head, Faragon was called Fan-Head. Faragon, so Roy knew was not really offended and was certain many Drachs before him received the very same or a similar nickname.
Detail cleaning meant Faragon had to use a small hand rag and apply a cleaning agent to the quarter-mile-long hall connecting the dorms of all six platoons of Bravo company.
The DI then inspected Ken’s locker and bunk and grunted. “Curly, next time you help, your friend starts with the footlocker. It takes less time to fix a bunk.”
Because there was not a single hair anywhere on the body of the Triple Strong, Leven gave Ken the nickname Curly.
While Leven had no objections to Mike’s footlocker, he pointed out a sloppy tugged cover blanket and sent the big mattress and covers of the Tyrannous to the floor. “Spike-Face, fix your bunk and then you too will detail clean the hall, starting at the other end.”
Roy was pretty sure his footlocker was okay, but he too had been in a hurry to get his bunk straightened and feared for the worst.
“Greenie, you are to report to the Captain on the double!”
Roy knew the platoons were organized under a platoon commander, and the platoons, in turn, were attached to a company with a company commander. Now in the field, platoons were often led by a Lieutenant and companies by a Captain, but this was a training battalion. They all learned about the chain of command in the first weeks' classes and in one of them a Captain was mentioned somewhere, but he had no idea where he had to go or why.
“Yes, Sir. This recruit will report to the Captain.”
Leven actually sighed. “I said on the double, recruit. Out the door, all the way to the end of Bravo Company training grounds. Admin Building and follow the signs to Captain Perrigo’s office.”
Roy followed the directions of the Staff Sergeant with very mixed feelings. He could not think of anything that would warrant to be called on the carpet by a Captain no less.
As he reached the building described by the drill instructor, he noticed two Marine corporals in full dress blue standing guard at each side of the entrance. Both held the parade version of SITKU carabines, fully functional of course but with high polished dark wood panels, chrome detail, and a real mono blade bayonet.
Both Marines looked as if they had seen a real ghost, despite their attempts to look at their best marine stoic stone chiseled expression.
Just as he approached, a third marine, an officer also in dress blue and Lieutenant bars had stepped out of the door and glared at him. “Good grief, recruit turn as fast as you can, and run to wherever you came from.”
Roy was not sure if he should obey or ask more questions. He decided that this was an officer and he was not even a real marine yet, to forgo the questions and obey.
He had already turned when he heard a familiar deep voice. “Delay that order, Mr. Masters, and come inside please.”
He turned and there in the door stood Admiral Stahl. The young marine lieutenant, of human stock, had turned almost as pale as a genuine Kermac.
Stahl said. “Lieutenant, I requested that recruit come and be present, why do you feel it necessary to counter this request?”
“Ah, Sir… Admiral Stahl, Sir. I did not know. I…”
“I like a written explanation on my desk by tomorrow.”
Stahl waved Roy. “Come on in Son, I hate to interrupt boot camp but you do have an appointment remember?”
Roy blurted out. “The Wurgus?”
Stahl nodded. “Yes, the Wurgus. Now get your behind before your Captain so he can do his part to make this an official thing. I am Navy, not Marines after all.”
One of the corporals guarding the entrance dared to speak. “You, are always Marine first Sir, In my opinion. Sorry for speaking, Sir.”
“I think I like you aboard the Devi, Corporal. Make the transfer request.”
The Admiral of the Fleet walked along with the white-coated scientist as they entered an elevator car. The spacious, well-lit elevator car carried them both at great speed downwards.
After he had left Britannica, planet he had not returned to Annapolis tower but made a side tour to Ceres and Piazzi Town.
Ceres, the largest object within the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter had been colonized and utilized long before Union membership. While Piazzi Town, at the bottom of Naga Ocean was the capitol, Dawn City with its mother festivals had become the biggest and most popular settlement.
Piazzi Town had two parts. There was the surface settlement, not far from Ahuna Mons, a large cryovolcano. The surface settlement also included a Class C spaceport mainly for intersystem traffic. From the surface part of the Piazzi Town, a bank of large high-speed elevators connected to the second part of the town, which was on the bottom of a mud/brine ocean known as the Naga Ocean. It had originally been established to research Ceres own life forms, but quickly grew partially to extract valuable minerals out of the mud-brine and partially to commercially grow and harvest the Ceres Tube Worms, which were popular food items to several Union member species.
However, neither the extracted minerals nor the Tube worms were the reason McElligott had come to this asteroid.
The elevator ride took almost 20 minutes despite its speed, giving attest to the depth that had been reached.
The town had grown and was also home to several research facilities. One such facility was operated by Lieberman-BioTech. Lieberman was conducting highly classified research for NAVINT and the Fleet. Earth or now better known as Terra was one of the very few societies in the known universe that kept researching and developing biological and chemical weapons. Only a few societies known ever went that direction in the first place, and those who did abandon any such research with the dawn of directed energy weapons.
Not so Earthers, of course. Earthers never abandoned any weapon technology and were able to weaponize the most innocent or peaceful process and idea.
McElligott almost grinned as he sat on the seat row that extended out of the smooth metal walls to provide comfort while descending.
Over at Pallas, the second-largest asteroid within the sol system and not all the far from Ceres, centered around Willhelm Stadt, old pre-Astro Chem giants such as Bayer, Hoechst and BASF started producing Dioxins, Furans, Polychlorinated biphenyls, and other highly toxic chemicals. The early ISAH engines relied on PCB's as the most efficient way of cooling certain components and the demand for these coolants became immense. Other Chem giants followed and of course, research never stopped. The infamous Agent Orange was also reinvented and improved on Pallas and used as a main chemical weapon and very successfully against the Piostla.
Admiral McElligott remembered well how Agent Orange II was used in diffuser and sprayer bombs delivered by Translocator cannons inside the living ships of the Piostla with truly horrifyingly effective results. To this day, Pallas was the primary Chemical Weapon research center of the Union Military.
McElligott made a mental note to call General Beilstein, who was the lead officer of the Joint Armed Forces Chem Development program to get up to date on what they cooked and brewed up on Pallas.
On Mars, Human Terrans worked on the ATLAS program, the Alternative TransLocator weApon Systems project. In McElligott’s opinion one of the most important of them all. He was a strong opponent of the current weapon philosophy.
Ever since Stahl came back with these almost magical weapon system known as Translocator cannons, all other weapon systems were more or less ignored or abandoned. With the exception of the Loki torpedo, which as insiders knew utilized a clever version of the ParaDim shield technology which was part of the old Seenian technology that came with the Devastator.
The Old Highlander knew about the extraordinary steps taken to secure those secrets and so far no Union enemy was able to get their hands on it. In his eyes, however, it was only a matter of time, someone or something managed to break through all the safeguards and duplicate that tech. In his eyes, it was foolish to put all eggs into one techno basket so to speak. The universe was a big place and chances were great that the Union would meet a potential adversary who had similar weapons or shields that were opaque to the Translocator effect.
He had to admit and agreed with the fact that modern Translocator technology was far different from the one Stahl came back with, but it still worked on the same principle.
This was the main reason he sponsored, initiated, and encouraged alternate weapon technology.
His most recent, most ambitious, and perhaps most complex project had just begun in a secret facility on Ross Torus. Something he called Project Fish.
Another one of those secret developments and research projects, however, was right here.
Just as his mind was about to reminiscence about this place, the elevator ride had reached its destination.
Even down here, almost 3000 meters submerged in thick, sub-zero muck and mud of minerals and salts was a vibrant Union settlement. The town on the bottom of Naga Ocean was busy, well designed with inviting parks, water features shops, and restaurants.
His journey did not end here, but a bubble taxi took him and the white-coated companion to a building almost three klicks from what the locals called the central elevator tree.
Only after a series of very advanced security checks and another elevator ride did he arrive at his destination.
And only now did the man in his company speak. “Welcome to Complex 19, Admiral.”
Elligott waved his hand. “Let us cut through the chase and come right to the reason I am here. As you know there was a setback and the expected delivery from Edgar’s planet will not arrive.”
“Yes, I was informed, Sir.” The scientist gestured over a row of odd-looking equipment. “But we only wanted the equipment from Edgar’s so it won’t fall into the wrong hands. Everything is duplicated here and for many decades, Sir. We are working on this project, as you know for quite some time.”
“It is one of many projects I am supervising, please fill me in.”
“For this, I have to take you back quite a bit, Sir.”
McElligott looked around and sat down in a lab chair. “Go ahead, Dr. Ruhtkamph.”
“A few scholars and initiated experts know that there is a transcultural sect out there, believed to exist ever since the fall of the legendary First Empire, a cult worshipping Dead in a bizarre way. The Necros as they are known to us, so legend claims are led by a near god-like entity known as the Necro King.”
The scientist found the old Admiral all attentive and motioned with his hand that he wanted to hear it all.
The scientist did. “Most scholastic sources agree that this Necro King is or was a keeper of Imperial technology, tech far beyond our understanding and even beyond Saresii tech of the First Age. Anyway, the Necros are not a species or limited to a single culture, but over the ages have tried to infiltrate other societies. They must have done so many times over so much time, we know of several attempts. They tried with the Spindlar, the Petharians, with the Saresii and with us.”
“I know all about that,” McElligott said. “We, or more precisely John Decker defeated them and prevented the Necro from becoming a real threat for us, but in those days they managed to infiltrate the Kermac and that is the origin of the Secret Experiment and all this, right?”
“Yes and no, Admiral. This particular aspect goes back to the 21st century and around the years 2018 till about 2022. “
McElligott put his right hand to his chin. “Wasn’t that the time of the Abducted Thirty?”
“Yes, Admiral. You seem to know about a very little and now almost forgotten event when Freons abducted thirty Earth Teenagers, all of which had psionic talents, considerable talents. No Freon ever developed any psionic talents and their tech at that time was way too primitive to even create effective mind shields.
Anyway, the Freons identified psionics rightly so as a potential and very dangerous weapon and means of control. The Saresii and the Kermac were already very active in that regard and known to the Freons.”
McElligott waved impatiently. “Don’t stop all the time, Dr. Ruhtkamph, and keep going.”
“It was during that time, a traitorous Gray Cat sold a number of Saresii Tech, tech from the First Age of Knowledge. One of the items was a Psi talent detector, used by the Freons to identify and abduct these Earthers. However, as fate was against the Freons they were intercepted by a Saran war barge and the thirty were taken to Sara, the planet was still the center of the Saran Empire at that time.”
“As I said, Doctor. Keep going. If I have questions I will ask them.”
“Yes, Admiral.” The scientist cleared his throat and went on. ”In the course of events, one of the thirty teenagers planned and executed a terror attack. Killing several of the talented teenagers, a number of Sarans and he himself was almost completely consumed, but his head, brain, much of his spleen and other bits still contained a spark of life and were preserved fast enough and obtained quite secretly by agents of the house of Mukummh and transferred to Petra, planet. Now comes the part that ties those events far in the past to all this.”
The scientist did not pause long enough for the Admiral to snarl something and went right on. “To restore that Terran, a device was utilized, believed to be of Saresii origin.”
“A Saresii Body shaper? I managed to get one for Project Fish.”
“No, Admiral. A Saresii body printer, as sophisticated and advanced only takes what’s there. The system they wanted to use to restore the Terran was a machine able to read cell blueprints and restore a body from it and since the Sarans back then lacked the expertise they hired what they believed to be a Kermac freelancing scientist.
That freelancer was, of course, a Kermac operative with two objectives. One was to steal that machine and to convert the Terran to Kermac. That Terran was, so our records claim one of the most formidable Battle Telepaths.”
“And you said this ties into the presence how?”
“The process was supervised by a male servant of the Mukummh who saw his chance to become a ruler himself. His name was Wathkamh, yes a very distant relative of mine.”
“Alright and that is the connection?”
“Oh no, Admiral. Wathkamh was warned to re-animate the dead, as this was and is forbidden. He did it anyhow.”
The scientist pressed a series of sensor contacts and a servo arm lifted an opaque cover of a transparent tube. Inside the partial skeleton of a human, with an intricate nervous system, vessels, and bits of flesh. It also floated in a greenish goo, while spinning arms above the thing waved tissue molecule by molecule.
What he saw was perhaps the most revolting and disgusting thing he had seen in his long life and he swallowed dryly.
The scientist had the machine cover the disturbing thing again and said. “We don’t know how or even if Wathkamh managed to contact the Necro’s but he became obsessed and a leading priest or servant of that cult. He raided the tombs of Saran and stole the mummified body of the last Saran warrior king, who supposedly was a direct son of Horus and tried to revive the king. We know not what happened then, there is a large gap in the surviving documents and reports of that time.
What we do know is that this machine, we believe it is of much older origin than even the First Age of Knowledge, has been used by the Necro Ker to experiment with dead Saresii, Terrans, and Kermac. They were unsuccessful, until the very last attempt, Experiment Vengeance Red.”
The scientist gestured to the covered tube. “We have the machine and we got what’s left of Experiment Vengeance Red.”
McElligott shivered involuntarily. “If this is possible, why is it called Forbidden technology and what exactly are we growing?”
“No one knows why it is forbidden.” The scientist snorted. “Superstition I think. Death is a threshold not understood by simple minds, often associated with spiritual balderdash and nonsense.”
The scientist looked at the covered machine. “The Necro Ker have successfully done it only once, so we don’t know for sure what we are growing to be honest, but the Kermac doing it the first time say they created the ultimate soldier. Psionic inert, stronger than a Triple Strong, unable to feel pain, unburdened by ethical considerations. Like a programmable flesh bot, sir. Solely loyal to you, taking any orders and of course cannot be interrogated.”
There was a voice deep inside McElligott warning him and telling him to pull the plug while it was still possible, but the idea of having an army of easily reproducible flesh bots loyal to him alone was the tempting lure and unlike the man he secretly despised and admired at the same time, he never found himself in the dilemma of having too much power.
Geha found herself in a fairy tale forest of big trees, soft mossy ground, butterflies, and minty fresh scented air. The forest had a dream-like yet artificial created character. Meandering paths, well-hidden covered benches, and resting places near gargling streams.
These resting places blended into the surroundings. It appeared a perfect hiding spot at least for the time being.
She sat down on a soft upholstered artificial tree stump underneath a leaf green canopy.
“Now what?” She said to herself.
She almost jumped out of her skin as the same soft voice that also spoke to her in that weird transportation device thing. “Please specify your question with additional parameters.”
This resting spot in the middle of a fantasy forest was apparently connected to a voice-activated Tronic.
“You wouldn't know how to contact Dr. Martha Masters right?”
“Masters, Martha Ph.D. biologist. A resident of Green Hell located. The requested individual is connected to GalNet.”
“The Tar be thanked. Can I place a com to her?”
“You are not a registered GalNet user and the system can not detect an active CITI. You may place a charged com request. Audio only 0.15 credits per minute. Audio/ visual 0.30 minute. Avatar enabled 3.00 per minute.”
“I have no funds.”
“One moment please, the system will inquire if the receiving party will accept charges.”
It took only seconds and a field screen bubble appeared out of thin air right before her. Martha’s head floated there moments later. “Geha! Oh, Geha! I am so glad you are alright. Where are you?”
“I am not sure, but I think I am on Sares. I escaped a medical facility where I was kept against my will. I think maybe because I am associated with the Dai and a pirate.”
Martha spoke with someone Geha could not see and then she said. “I am not sure why you are kept this way. If they had criminal charges against you, you would be listed…” Martha’s voice trailed off. “You are listed as deceased, died of complications caused by inhaling Phantas spores. Something is going on.”
A new face appeared. The face of a very dark-skinned human, like Geha, had never seen before. “Geha, stay where you are for now. I need to talk to a friend of mine. As soon as I had a chance to talk to him he will come and get you to a safe place.”
Sam gave Martha a strange look. “That sounds very odd and I would not have believed you if I had not seen the report of her death and talking to her. I had a feeling you and now her are in danger, I really need to find out who or what is after you. If this is official Union business it stinks to high heaven and we need to bring it before the Assembly.”
Martha wanted to object, but knew he was right and asked. “What about Geha?”
“Let me call, Alegar he is a friend of mine and pretty high up in the Saresii society.”
To meet the battalion Captain was not really something a recruit would ever experience. That officer, if at all might walk by at a great distance while the Drill instructor barked everyone in attention. Roy was too new to really know what an officer’s responsibilities and daily tasks were, but they were certainly important and way beyond anything a new recruit needed to know or worry about.
Yet, the Union Marine captain in behind the desk in his office stood stiff as a ramrod in the room and was not sure how to behave, because he shared said office with none other than Admiral Stahl himself.
Roy was almost certain the captain was Pan Saran, as there stood a full-sized Quasimodo in one corner of the office, open to receive its operator. The six-ton battle armor had a purple shoulder piece with the word SPQR stenciled across. While fleet, so he heard allowed officers and senior enlisted to display certain aspects of cultural significance along with standard Uniform, the Marine Corps did not, except such displays on battle armor.
The Captain's eyes followed the tall human. Stahl stopped at the Quasimodo, an approving smile reached only his eyes as he said. “I see, you haven’t been with the 71st for very long. That looks like the markings of Tiberius Titans 14th Orbital Assault.”
The captain swallowed with apparent pride. “Indeed, Admiral Sir.”
Stahl turned to face the Marine Captain. “Fine outfit, indeed.” After a small pause, the Immortal officer said. “I know this is more than unusual, but this young hopefully soon to be Marine, has agreed to participate in a meeting that is quite crucial to the Union and now that we are at war, perhaps even more so. Mr. Masters made a promise long before he joined. I personally would have preferred this to happen after his graduation where he could quietly be ordered to appear. Unfortunately, our Wurgus friends have the most unusual calendar, to put it mildly. I am an Admiral by rank and not a Marine, despite my own desires and old previous connections, I like doing things by the book and thus ask you for permission to detach recruit Roy Masters for the duration of eight days for a special mission of diplomatic importance.”
The Captain was clearly thinking and then he actually sat down and consulted his desk unit, after a second or so staring at the screen readout only he could see he said. ”Recruit Masters is only 12 days with the Corps, not enough time to even begin to evaluate him. However, his DI thinks highly of him and believes Mr. Master has the potential to reach graduation day, even with a week of training missing. He will have to work twice as hard when he returns to catch up, but I am going to sign his approved leave of absence.”
Stahl seemed very pleased. “Let’s go, Roy. We don’t have all that much time to spare.”