Lisa was staring at the dead landscape of the Imperial Capital when Dennis the Tour Guide from Hell spoke again.
"You need to wake up soon."
"When?" she asked.
"Right, about, NOW!"
Lisa woke up in her hospital room.
Standing over her was a completely bald man wearing wire rimmed glasses. Something in the back of her head told her that this man was a hostile. She clasped her hand over his ears and pulled him down. Their foreheads collided with a load whack. The man staggered backwards away from the hospital bed.
Lisa noticed another person in the room. She was a redhead in her forties. The woman was attempting to invade Lisa's mind. Lisa gave the woman the thousand-meter stare and mentally projected a one word command.
The woman fell backwards as if she had been physically pushed, she grabbed her head as if she were trying to prevent it from exploding.
Lisa mentally projected another command.
The woman fainted and fell to the floor.
The man had recovered the blow to his forehead and was staggering forward. Lisa rammed her right fist into his face at full force, shattering his glasses and dropping him to the floor.
"Ow!" One of the broken lenses had cut Lisa's right ring finger.
Lisa grabbed a wad of toilet paper from the small washroom to cover the gash on her finger. She quietly opened the door to the corridor and peeked out.
No one was guarding the door.
Stupid of them, she thought.
Lisa needed to get outside of the psi-shielded section of the building. If she recalled correctly, the stairs to the roof would be to her right.
The phone on the desk of Captain Roberts rang. He answered the audio-only call.
"Office of Naval Information, Captain Sir Louis Roberts speaking."
There was a rough and uncultured voice on the line.
"They got Gordon."
Roberts was more than a bit annoyed to hear this one voice on this particular line.
"You're not supposed to contact me on this line." he said.
"They made it look like he slipped and fell in the shower." replied the rough voice. "Goodbye, Captain."
The call ended with a loud click.
Sergei was in his office aboard the Emissary when he received a full-video call by the Chief Gunner from one of the Engineering decks.
"Yes, Mr. Coffin?"
"It's about Ditzie, sir."
In the viewscreen image behind the Chief Gunner, Sergei could see Ditzie opening a large white hardshell travel case and pulling out a child sized helmet for an EVA-suit.
"What's the problem?" Sergei asked.
"She wants to inspect our spinal mount weapon."
In the background, Ditzie had pulled out her suit's life support backpack.
"UNCLE BILLLIEEEE!" she yelled.
The Chief Gunner turned back to answer.
"THE LOXXXX TANK ON MY PEEELLLLESSSESSS NEEEEDS TO BEEEEEEE REEEPRESSSURRRIIIZED."
"It's back by the airlock."
As Ditzie walked out of view with the life support pack the Chief Gunner turned back to speak to Sergei.
"I don't mind her pushing the big red button," said the Chief Gunner, "but I don't see how she could be qualified to ... you know ... inspect the big gun."
Sergei had had almost the same conversation with Dennis.
"She is," said Sergei, "damned near as old as this ship, and she was designing high energy weapons when our grandparents were still in diapers."
The Chief Gunner looked back toward the airlock and then turned back to speak to Sergei.
"I don't see how that could be possible."
"I asked her Uncle Dennis about that." Said Sergei.
"He told me," Sergei replied, "quote, there are some things that should not be done to the human genome, close quote."
In an anonymous white van slowly flying within the perimeter or the naval base, three ninja suited people were arguing about where to go next.
"There's no way we simply walk into the bastard's office," said Lance. "Security is one of the few things that ONI is actually showing competence in."
"So?" Said Joanie. "We don't know what they could be doing to her right..."
Joni brought her right hand to forehead as if she had a sudden headache.
"What is it?" asked Eneri.
"I felt something," she said, "a disturbance."
"Where?" asked Lance.
"Off toward the base hospital," she said, "I think..."
In violation of regulations, the apparently new door at the top of the stairwell was locked. Lisa sat down at the top of the steps with her back to the door to gather her thoughts. She was cut off, alone, and surrounded by an enemy. This wasn't the first, nor the worst, time this had happened. Twenty-two years ago there was Objective Alpha.
As a little girl Lisa was told by the parish priest that Hell was very hot place with special ovens for roasting the souls of little girls who didn't love and obey God.
As a Marine Corporal, Lisa discovered that Hell was in fact a cryogenically frozen and airless rock drifting through the eternal night of interstellar space.
Through the interrogation of prisoners and the reading of documents discovered on wrecked enemy ships the navy had discovered that the Zhodani had constructed a secret base on a rogue planet located roughly midway between the systems of Yres and Menorb. The navy sent a major task force to take out the base. The action was officially listed in the history books as the Battle of the Two Suns. To Lisa, it was simply her own private manifestation of Hell.
Part of the planned operation was the assault landing of marines on the rogue planet itself. As the landing was carried out, a reserve force of Zhodani ships appeared and struck at the Imperial task force.
Without shipborne fire support, the first wave of Imperial Marines were effectively massacred. Of the platoon of marines carried by INS Allamu, Lisa appeared to have been the sole survivor.
The warmth of her assault battle dress seemed to be sucked into the eternally frozen ground as she laid flat on the surface waiting for the Zhos to find her.
Then a voice, almost familiar to her, spoke to her out of the aether.
"Marine, this is Bard Refuge." The voice said with the emotionless precision of a system traffic controller over her suit's radio. "Do you copy?"
"Bard Refuge, this is Corporal Holland," she replied, "I read you loud and clear."
"Bard Refuge to Corporal Holland, you appear to be alone and surrounded by Zhos in approximately company strength, we can engage those ground targets for about the next seventy seconds, but you need to get below ground level." Said the voice. "There is a crater northwest of you at approximately thirty meters."
"Roger that." She said as she sprinted toward the crater.
As she dived into the crater the sky suddenly lit up.
Laser beams became visible as the frozen methane and ammonia ice on the surface suddenly boiled into vapor.
Lisa looked up and with the magnifying function of her helmet sensors saw the silhouette of a Lightning class cruiser against the starscape, the swarm of escorting fighters and her laser turrets shining like a constellation of stars in the infrared as she passed overhead.
"Bard Refuge to Corporal Holland," said the almost familiar voice. "Your area appears to be clear, there appears to be a squad sized group of marines about two klicks to the southwest."
"Thank you Bard Refuge." She replied."
"We serve the Imperium." Said the voice with a slight hint of emotion before the Bard Refuge passed below the horizon.
At the top of a hospital stairwell, Lieutenant Colonel Lisa Holland suddenly sat straight up.
Was that Dennie who spoke to her from the Bard Refuge twenty-two years ago? If it was why didn't he say something about the incident to her or one of her sisters?
In another part of the dirtside section of Regina's naval base another junior officer was beginning his work day. Lieutenant Chris Nash, like many graduates of Rim-Job High under Admiral Santanocheev's command, felt that he was well overdue for a promotion. And being stuck in a dirtside bureaucratic position didn't help matters at all.
The phone rang as Lieutenant Nash was sitting down at his work station. He tried to sound cheerful when he answered it.
"Facilities management, Lieutenant Nash speaking."
"This is Commander Achter-Alterman of INI, I need to ask a couple of questions."
"Pardon me sir, but are you the Commander Eneri Achter-Alterman of the RIMI class of Eighty-One?"
"I was in the class of Ninety, I read all of your books, sir."
"Okay." Said Eneri. "About my questions?"
"Go ahead, sir."
"Has the Office of Naval Information taken over any part of the base hospital?"
Lieutenant Nash brought up the records on his workstation terminal.
"Yes sir." He said. "Part of Building Gamma."
"Is that section psi-shielded?"
"It was, sir." He replied. "I do not see any record of the shielding having been maintained for the last twenty years, or so."
"Alright, that's precisely what we needed." Eneri said. "May I ask a personal question of you?"
"Go ahead sir."
"Are you related to Captain Kenneth Nash of the Ageone?"
"Sir, I have the honor of being his son."
After the line went dead the Eneri the Historian made a mental note to try to schedule another conversation with the son of Ageone's captain. Perhaps he could shed some light on the incident that triggered the Fourth Frontier War. Unfortunately, the surviving members of the ship's company of INS Ageone, including Officer Candidate Dennis Sterling, all signed one-hundred year secrecy oaths.
There were few things that were as bloody annoying to a historian as a secrecy oath.
But at the present moment Eneri the Spook had a job to do.
"Joni, break out our dirtside blues."
"Righto!" She replied.
"Lance, take us to building Gamma of the Base Hospital."
"Okay, Boss." He said.
Eneri then punched in the number of the Marine Provost Marshal on his phone.
"Hello? Joe?" He said. "It's Eneri. I need a big honking favor from you."
Doctor Nation Plankwell returned to consciousness with a migraine level headache. Her brother, Doctor Cosmo Plankwell was kneeling on the floor next to her.
"How the..." she muttered.
"I don't know." He said. "She wasn't supposed to wake up like that."
He helped her to stand up and then they made their way to the door of the room.
Beyond the door, standing at the nurses station to the left, was Lieutenant Colonel Holland, two Naval officers, a Marine Colonel with a honking big mustache, and a full squad of military policemen, all were wearing psi-shield helmets.
"Oh, bloody hell..." Nation muttered.
Cosmo decided to bluff his way out of their predicament. He strode forward, pointed at Lisa, and shouted a command.
"Arrest that woman, she's committed to our care!"
"I never consented to be your patient," said Lisa. "I'm not going anywhere."
The Provost Marshal, Colonel "Steel Joe" Duglashvilli, stepped forward and spoke.
"Doctors Cosmo and Nation Plankwell, you are under arrest for practicing psionics in violation of existing Imperial Suppression Orders!"
As the squad of Marines swarmed forward to arrest them Nation spoke up.
"But we're working for Department Six of Naval Intelligence!"
Simultaneously, Lisa, Eneri, Joni, and Steel Joe snapped off an identical reply.
"There is no Department Six!"