Revised: Emissary's Run, Damn Robots. Chapters 1-3

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Starts a little slow but it picks up. Please let me know what you think.

                                        Chapter 1

 

 Date: 7/March/2781

 Time: 0212 Hrs. Ship’s Time   

 Loc: Medical Deck/C.N. Cruiser Emeris

 

 

It was always the same. The dull red flashes of the emergency lights. The ship’s decks lined with the dead or dying and those things that were ripping them open. Theymovedso fast from body to body that he was no longer sure if what he saw were memories or nightmares. The screams, the panic, all in broken flashes like corrupted data on run back. The running fight to the escape pods, all launched. They had to make it to the bridge deck, make a stand there, control environmental systems. All dead.Ambush. The launch, they had to get to the Captain’s launch.

 

          “No!” Ben Corbin’s voice was more exhaled air and hoarse grunt than anything like a spoken word. His throat was dry as a New Gobi afternoon and hurt like hell. He could feel his heart racing. He tried to focus on slowing it. Bad dreams or not, it was fuzzy but what had happened was real enough.

Not alone.

          “Dr. Norton, Commander Ogrun, please respond.” A woman’s voice. Was he awake now or still dreaming?

          “Ogrun here, send it.”

          “He’s awake, Commander.”

          “I’m en route.”

          “Where am I? Sam, where’s Sam?” He heard himself say in a weak, hoarse voice. He was on his back in a medical bay. Near as he could figure anyway. Gray walls, bright lights, the low hum, steady beeping and whirring of equipment.

          “Just take it easy Mr. Corbin, you’ve been in a coma and you’re experienced severe stasis shock, but you’re safe now.” Her voice was closer now.

          “The hell am I? Where’s Sam?” He asked between hoarse coughs. His voice wasn't just hoarse he was slurring his words. “Water.” He said more than asked.

          “Try to stay calm, Mr. Corbin. Your body’s been through an extreme shock.” The woman’s voice said in that annoying cadence of a too often used professional phrase. The kind that requires little or no thought to form, just one of those insert name here, generics.

           “I can’t move. Why can‘t I mo...?” He tried to say but the effort just resulted in more coughing. He tried again to lift his head to see who he was talking to but only pain answered the call. They must have sedated him. He must have seemed hysterical when they thawed him out. He couldn’t remember. He couldn’t remember anything after the bridge.

          “The lack of motor function is more or less a result of your injuries and such a long stint in stasis, Mr. Corbin. You should regain your mobility, in time. Meanwhile trying to move around won’t be pleasant.” As she spoke she moved into view.    

His vision was blurry and he could only see out of one eye. The left half of his head and face seemed to be bandaged. She had a clear canister in her hand and put its drinking tube to his lips.

          “It’s water Mr. Corbin.” She said when he hesitated a second before drinking deeply. Too deeply, he began coughing again, harder now and pain shot through his body. “Not too much just yet Mr. Corbin.”

          He couldmake out her light brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, not tall, wearing the ubiquitous white lab coat of medical personnel almost everywhere. This one had a big red cross on the sleeve that covered most of the upper arm. Some kind of uniform or crew’s coveralls under the lab coat, maybe. He couldn’t see clearly enough to make out the insignias but even if he could he probably wouldn’t recognize them. Seemed like every asshole with a starship has their own uniforms these days.

          “There are other physical complications as well,” She continued. “But we’ll get into that when you’re stronger and better rested.”

He thought she patted his arm but he couldn’t be sure. He felt numb as long as he didn’t try to move. He couldn’t focus, about to pass out maybe.

          “Where the hell am I? What happened to the ship? And, and where‘s Sam?” He managed weekly.

          “You’re aboard the Commonwealth of Nations Cruiser, Emeris, Mr. Corbin.” Someone else now, the voice from the com system he figured, he couldn’t be sure.

“As for the ship you were on, United Colonial Freighter, Ossamer, we are currently patching her up in order to tow it back to a safe port for further investigation.”

          “I don’t know any damn Commonwealth. Who the hell are you? Where is Sam?” Commonwealth … The man said it like it was supposed to mean something.

          “My name is Ogrun, Commander Ogrun, Mr. Corbin.” The man said as he moved into Corbin’s line of sight, looking over the doctor lady’s shoulder. Both of them looking to the fancy hologram projected over her forearm. Corbin’s vision was starting to clear some and he could almost make out their features. The man was tall, dark complected, dark hair and wearing yet another unrecognizable uniform. It had one of those preacher’s collars with emblems on either side. Looked official… must be another well to do private militia or some crap like that. They were always popping up, thinking they had the right to police the system.

          “As to the Commonwealth well, that is a very long story.” The man continued. “When you’re up to it I’ll explain. I also have a few questions I need answered, but you should rest now. All you need to know for the time being is that you are safe and that those who attacked you have long since ceased to be a threat.”

“What the hell? You don’t know what you’re talking about. Those things slaughtered them, the crew, and the passengers. Listen to me…” He was cut off abruptly by another coughing fit. They waited patiently for it to subside before the doctor offered him another sip of water which he reluctantly accepted. “Listen to me! These things, they, they weren’t human! They were aliens!” Corbin’s voice cracked and his words were replaced by another coughing spell. From the blank stares he was getting he reckoned he must have already been ranting about it when they’d thawed him out. Only after another sip of water and a few moments to catch his breath did he continue. “I know it sounds crazy but it wasn’t raiders or rebel holdouts damn it. They were aliens.” He waited for a reaction but none came. “Aliens! I don‘t mean refugees from the bad lands without a work ident. I mean big, mean fucking aliens.” Still nothing, just more patient stares, as if they were waiting for him to get it out of his system. “I know how it sounds, I’m not nuts!Hell check the damn logs.” Reflexively he tried to raise his head, pain shot through him again, and everything went black. “Oh shit, I can’t see!” Corbin groaned through clenched teeth. 

          “It’s alright Mr. Corbin it should be temporary. You’re overexerting yourself. The stress is causing your blood pressure to rise and the swelling in your brain to increase, putting pressure on the optic nerve. Please try to stay calm.” She said as she flicked her fingers enlarging the hologram and relocating it over Corbin’s body.

          “What the hell do you mean ‘should be’ temporary?” He asked but no one responded.

“We have to leave here. We've got to contact the Colonial Authority.”

          “Alright Commander, you’ve seen his scans, his vitals and his agitated state. This isn’t helping. He needs to rest, Commander. He needs time in the tank. We are only making things worse.

          This is exactly why I didn’t want him conscious at this point. He needs at least two weeks in the tank before I’d recommend attempting to bring him up to speed or question him further and at least twice that long after the surgeries.” The woman said.

          “I know what happened, I was there. Where the hell is Sam?” Corbin said as an annoying alarm started to sound somewhere in the room.

          “Mr. Corbin please try to stay calm, you’re safe now, we will answer all of your questions as soon as you’re stronger. Please know that Mr. Garrett is alive and receiving the best care possible. I’m going to give you something to help you sleep now.”

          “I don’t want to sleep. I need to com my wife damn it, tell her I’m not dead, warn her! You can’t lock me up, people have to be warned.” Corbin strained against the strong urge to cough. He felt himself fading. He had to make them understand. The coughing won out in the end as he felt something wet on his chin. The coppery smell in his nostrils and the taste of blood in his mouth brought back the scenes of carnage from the Ossamer. The beeping noise got louder and more frequent. Blackness touched him as the sedative mercifully took hold. He drifted back into nothingness to the sounds of frantic voices shouting orders and that damn beeping.

         

 

          Ogrun was waiting outside of the medical alcove when Dr. Norton emerged, somewhat ruffled.

          “How is he Doctor?” Ogrun asked.

          “Relatively stable, considering.”

          “Good. You were right of course. I shouldn’t have insisted you revive him.” Ogrun paused for a moment as he considered how best to broach the subject of his orders regarding Mr. Corbin’s care. “Doctor, would it be possible to stabilize him enough in his current condition to perform the nano surgery and the necessary augmentations now rather than later, I mean without having to put him in the tank first? With full nanite emersion and simultaneous regeneration of course.” Ogrun asked, watching for her reaction as much as waiting for her answer. The Doctor continued to manipulate icons and remote interfaces on the holo image, projected over her forearm as she briefly considered the question.

          “Well, physically yes.” She said with an absent shrug. It took a moment for the implications sink in. “As long as we can safely induce coma again he should remain stable enough for major surgery in the tank.” She could get so wrapped up in her work that she would almost forget he was Intel at times. She knew he would be scrutinizing her reaction. He was probably even putting it all on glass. “I don’t really see how that’s relevant though.” Norton said as she flicked her fingersexpanding the hologram into a larger free floating image between herself and Ogrun. Presumably so she could use both hands to interface. “In his current state I can’t possibly see putting him through the stress of debriefing him much less getting his consent for the procedures. I think you’ve just seen that for yourself. We had to gel suture a dermal-patch over the left side of his face just so he could speak, Commander. He needs to heel if he's going to be able to handle the stress without stroking out. Not to mention trying to explain to him what else will be necessary to repair his body.”

          “You misunderstand my question Doctor. I have no intention of reviving him again to explain things, not at the risk of losing him. He is too important right now. Circumstances and time constraints call for unconventional methods. We don’t have the time to let him float around for two weeks, gently break the news to him, hold his hand while he gets his head around it and then, if he feels like it, perform the necessary procedures he will require just to function. You know better than anyone, the lengthy recovery time we’re looking at post surgery.”

          Dr. Norton baulked at that, though she knew better than to be surprised. The Commonwealth always came first. When necessary the rights of anyone can and would be suspended in order to protect it. Not only her patient’s rights but hers as well, if it came to that.

          “Performing the augmentations now without his knowledge may result in undue resentment and a much more lengthy recovery. It’s rare but he may even reject the nanites themselves.” Her words didn’t appear to be making much of an impression. “This is what I do. I’ve seen it before, time after time in emergency trauma cases. Even though next of kin have consented, some people refuse to accept it and it takes them much longer to adjust. Cybernetic augmentations of this kind are common place to us. As you know Mr. Corbin doesn’t even know they exist at this level. To say nothing for the shock of what else he has to come to terms with.       

The nanites rebuild and integrate themselves into the subject’s nervous system to allow the subject to use the same neural pathways that controlled the damaged or replaced tissue and organs. As well as control the cybernetic replacements as if they were his or her own. His state of mind could possibly affect that integration process. I don’t recommend this course of action, Commander.”

          She changed the image suspended between them to a full body scan of Corbin. “If we put him in the tank now we might be able to save most of the shoulder, some of the ribs and clavicle before we repair the tissue damage. The lung and eye among other things will of course have to be flash cloned, but still it’s something.” She said indicating those areas on a body scan as she spoke. “When he’s well enough, and able to comprehend, we can explain the augmentations that are available. Once he’s been informed and had some time to adjust I seriously doubt he will object.” The doctor continued but she had a feeling Ogrun’s mind or rather the Legislate’s was already made up.

           “I’m well aware of how the common nanite functions doctor, thank you. Again, time is a major factor. I need to avoid putting him in the tank twice if possible. If the augmentations can be performed in conjunction with the necessary surgeries to repair the trauma, and can be done safely, that should significantly decrease his time in the tank. Two dograts with one bolt, so to speak. As far as Mr. Corbin’s mental condition is concerned the Legislate Defense Council, per your recommendation, is sending a mental health team. I've been assured they have a great deal of experience in the field. In fact they are already working the case. What little we’ve learned of him from the old Colonial records, leads the LDC’s experts to believe he can handle the mental strain. Granted it will be a difficult adjustment for him but I’m confident that we’ll be able to deal with that when the time comes.”

          “With all due respect Commander, the LDC’s experts? I doubt they have more experience with these matters than I do.” 

          “Never the less Doctor.” Ogrun could tell Norton didn’t like it but he knew she would do it. She had little choice really if not her then someone else. She had been Fleet at one time and you never really left the services. She knew how things worked.

          She also knew how important this was. Not to mention it was a once in a lifetime case. She was arguably one of the best in her field, and he knew she wouldn’t leave it to someone with lesser skills. Ogrun had expected her to protest but he hadn’t even dropped the other shoe yet. Better now than later, he thought.

          “I apologize, Doctor, perhaps I should have started with this but you also need to know that the Legislate Defense Council has authorized a full mil-spec upgrade. The arm, eye, shoulder, ribs and collarbone all of it.Including AUG-9 reinforcement of the spine and torso, as well as a 30% increase in capacity for the lung. That will make most of the conventional repairs you had in mind a moot point anyway. You will have full access to any and all of the most current mil-spec profiles you may not already be familiar with.” Ogrun said.

          Until now she’d done a fairly good job of keeping her emotions in check. Surprise was now actually visible on Norton’s face as she completely minimized the holo image between them.

          “Why was I not informed of this earlier, Commander?”

          “It’s a fairly recent development Doctor and frankly due to the nature of this operation it is need to know information.”

          “Well I would be the one who most needed to know don’t you think? I’d have to completely rewrite his treatment plan and surgical protocols. I mean is this even legal? I mean, without his consent.”

          “I understand,I’m telling you now Doctor. I need to know if he can survive the more extensive augmentation procedures as you repair the other damage to his body."

          “Well yes, but that wasn’t really my point, Commander.”

          “I realize that and as I said it’s a fairly recent development but, so far, legal concurs with the decision. Corbin having no known next of kin that has responded, his previous military service and status as a stasis recovery leaves consent in the hands of the Commonwealth. Regardless consent is not your concern.” Ogrun paused for a moment before continuing. He knew she would do it but he wanted her on board, all the way. He didn’t want to be too heavy handed unless he had to be. The Doctor was smart, accomplished and a former Fleet officer. She could be an asset to the mission if she believed in it or hindrance if she didn’t. “Doctor Norton, I realize you’re no longer an active duty member of the Commonwealth Defense Services. You are however, one of the best at what you do. That is why the Legislate requested your help. We need this man alive, cooperative and moving under his own power as soon as possible without compromising security. You know as well as I do Doctor that there are factions on both sides of the alliance that would rather not see Mr. Corbin live once the facts of this operation and his part in it get out into the public stream.”

          With that she focused her gaze more intently on Ogrun, wondering what else he felt she didn’t need to know yet and just how much he knew himself.

          “His living could mean strengthening the alliance. At least that is our goal in this. That being the case I’m sure you realize his life will be in danger. These upgrades may make the difference in his survival. It isn‘t pretty and it isn‘t fair but that’s where we’re at. I need to know that I can count on you.”

          She didn’t answer immediately. Ogrun looked from Dr. Norton through the door at Corbin’s sedated form. He was gaunt, pale and looked half dead as it was. Ogrun looked to the sentry droid floating silently in the corner as if to make sure it was paying attention and got a nod in response to his silent query. Finally he returned his attention back to Norton and said.

          “I have a holo-con in 30 with the LDC and Fleet Com. I cannot, for the time being at least, fill in all of gaps for you regarding this mission, Doctor. I myself don’t even know the full extent of the Legislate’s plans for Mr. Corbin. I ask you to trust me when I say that even though the LDC’s orders are in the interest of the Commonwealth and may seem drastic they are in Mr. Corbin’s best interest as well. I understand your concerns and rest assured all official authorizations have been sent to your personal ComNet hub and will be filed with the Commonwealth Practitioners hub on Earth. You can’t be held liable for any treatment or medical procedures authorized by the Legislate or Fleet Com regarding Mr. Corbin.” Ogrun said.

          “That’s not what I meant Commander; I’m not concerned with personal liability. I am concerned with the rights and over all well-being of my patient. I’ve already dedicate quite a bit of time to Mr. Corbin’s treatment plan that will now have to be extensively revised. It isn’t just an ethical question. His mental state and willingness to accept change are real factors. As you said Commander the Legislate needs his cooperation. Well I can only imagine it will be more difficult to procure after we’ve preformed these procedures without his consent.” Norton said.

          “The Legislate and Fleet Com have considered that Doctor. Let me worry about his cooperation. I need you to get him on his feet and keep him healthy. I know you realize how important his well-being could be to the people of theCommonwealth. The expansion of this alliance could save many lives.” He pause as it looked like Norton was about to speak. When she didn’t he went on. “Do we have an understanding Doctor? More to the point, can I assure the LDC and Fleet Com of your full cooperation?”

          “Yes Commander I understand all of that and I’ll comply with the Legislate’s mandate, with reservations. If my medical opinion is to be repeatedly overridden then I can’t be responsible if the outcome is less than optimal.”

“Very good Doctor. I understand.”

“I wasn’t finished, Commander. I need you to know that if this mandate had been a serious risk to my patient’s physical health I would not have agreed to proceed. That is me drawing a line, Commander. If you plan to ask me to cross it in the future you need to find another doctor to treat him.” She said, not at all liking hisveiled threat. If that’s what it was.

          “I don't believe that will be necessary Doctor and your reservations will be documented. Keep me updated on his progress and your surgical schedule. Use your ship’s secure hub to access any information you may need on the current mil-spec augmentations.”        

          “I don’t have a ship’s secure hub clearance Commander.”

          “Yes, Doctor, you do. See the deck officer at the main security station for your codes.”  With that Ogrun turned and headed for the corridor hatch, leaving the doctor to her work.

         

                                                 

                                                 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

Date: 23/April/2781        

Time: 2317 hrs. Ship’s time      

Loc:  Med deck/ C.N. Cruiser Emeris

 

 

          Screams, blinking red lights washing out the color of the blood on the walls and deck. He was running, looking back over his shoulder to make sure Sam was still behind him as he turned down the next corridor. Slamminginto a solid wall of flesh and muscle.Raising his pistol as he falls backward. He looked the bloody mouthed thing straight in the eye as he was going down, not human, big, so damn big. Its head cocked to the side, it looked... curious. He hesitated; he didn't know how long, it couldn't have been more than a second or two. Shoot! Damn it, SHOOT! He thought as it raised its arm. He unloaded the last 12 rounds in his old service magnum’s magazine directly into its chest. It went down. Reload, damn it! Reload! No time, Get up, get up, reload! Slipping on the blood wetted deck as he got to feet. Someone else firing, Sam, more of them coming. “Sam!”

 

          He opened his eye with a jolt. He was disoriented, he was … floating. Still dreaming? He wondered for a split second until he realized he was underwater. Shit! He tried to yell, but couldn’t, something in his mouth. Instinct took over and he struggled to find a way out. Pain shot through his body, his foot was caught. He was floating upright behind green tinted panels, in some kind of transparent box. He panicked; he thought he was drowning for a moment before he realized he could breathe.

 

They had said something, those people before, the doctor, something about a tank. At the time he thought they had meant the brig or a well-padded room.

People rushing around outside the clear barriers, he couldn’t make out what they were saying, just panicked muffled voices. It wasn’t water he was floating in, at least he didn’t think so. It didn’t feel right. It was something thicker or was it him.

          That train of thought hit a brick wall when he tried to reach forward and stabilize his floating body against one of the panels. Only one arm responded. He looked absently to the source of the problem. Now what…

          He couldn’t tell exactly where the arm, or what was left of it, ended and where this cylindrical cuff covering the stump started. But he guessed it was somewhere around mid-bicep. The cuff was bulky and mechanical looking with hoses and wires coming out of it running upward to the top of the tank. He still wasn’t sure if he was really seeing what he thought he was, his head was fuzzy and so was his vision.

          “Other physical complications” my ass. He pounded on the barrier with his fist and his whole body came alive again as pain surged from behind his eyeballs to the soles of his feet and radiated out to the rest of his body. Instinctively his body tried to go fetal and he almost passed out. He took a moment to let the pain fade and his head clear before trying to get to the top of the tank. This box must have a damn lid. But as he did he felt more wires and tubes. There must have been dozens of them, coming out of his head, his side and even his back. It was no use anyway, his ankle was still tethered to the bottom of the tank. He tried to reach the ankle strap to free himself but another wave of pain shot through his body.

          For lack of a better plan Corbin resumed pounding his fist against the wall in front of him, weaker now though.His struggling slowed, he felt himself fading back into unconsciousness despite the pain. He saw movement above him, a platform or catwalk at the top of the tank.

          The Doctor was there now, she was yelling orders and checking holograms projected all around her, bringing some closer pushing others away. She turned and approached the tank wall directly in front of him. He slowed his breathing and tried to collect himself as best he could. All things considered, one armed, floating naked in a vat of green slime, he was doing pretty well. He wasn’t sure how it was possible but he could breathe. She stopped short, careful not to step in the shallow puddle of liquid surrounding the base of the tank. Almost close enough to wring her neck.

          She reached out pressingherpalm against the barrier between them and mouthed something. Maybe “Be calm” or “You’re alright” he couldn’t tell. He didn’t care. He looked her in the eye as best he could for a moment, pointed to where his arm used to be, pressed his own hand against the barrier and shot her the bird.She took a step back as if he’d shoved her. Norton gave another order to the figure on the catwalk, while she quickly selected icons on thehologram floating between them. Warmth coursed through his body as words in big block letters appeared on the transparent surface in front of him. His head spun and his vision worsened as he tried to read the text. Everything went black.

         

 

          “What the hell happened?” Dr. Norton went off.

“He was supposed to be kept under sedation for the duration?”

          “Ma’am all the logs showed Mr. Corbin received his regulated sedative via I.V. I don’t know what happened.” Sgt. Choler said. “We couldn’t put him back under until we’d check blood scan to verify there was no malfunction. The blood work indicated he did receive it. So we couldn't give him another dose till you got hear Doc, uh, Dr. Norton. Then we had to override the system and inject it manually through the overhead port once you gave the order ma’am.” Norton checked the logs herself and Sgt. Choler was right.

         

“Anything out of the ordinary leading up to this?Vitals? Programming feedback? Elevated brainwave activity?” Norton asked.

          “There were some spikes in brainwave activity. It was strong but under the circumstances I would probably be having some bad dreams myself ma’am. The activity was well within the safety parameters. I don‘t understand it.” Choler said looking strangely meek.

          “Neither do I, this shouldn’t have happened.” Choler’s demeanor wasn’t lost on her. She took a deep breath and tried to compose herself. “Let me know if the brainwave activity spikes again. He should only have about four more days, or three full cycles or so left before we can flush him. That is if this Charlie Foxtrot didn’t do any permanent damage. Run a full work up on Mr. Corbin, check all fittings and connections and start diagnostics on the nano installations and software. Drop a couple of independent monitoring probes in the tank to confirm your data. I‘ll monitor his progress from my quarters for now.”

 

“Yes ma’am.” Choler answered crisply.

 

          Reviewing the logs of Corbin's vitalsduring the incident Norton thought he handled it fairlywell.Which was only to say he didn't stroke out or arrest.

          “Let me know if there are any changes Sgt. Choler, any at all, and post the test data to my hub.” She said again over her shoulder as she headed for the hatchway.

          “Yes ma’am, all test data and any change in condition to your C.N.H.” Choler said, fighting the urge to salute.

          Almost as an afterthought Norton turned again to the twelve full time med techs now on duty. Who she knew had been working just as hard as she had.

          “You all did well; you acted correctly in the situation. Thank You.” Norton said hardly missing a step toward the hatchway. Somewhat uncomfortable about having lost her cool.

          The average Fleet med tech didn’t often have the opportunity to work so closely with a well-known civilian physician that specialized in their field, at least not while they were still in the services. A good reference from her could go a long way if any of them ever decided to leave the service or wanted to transfer to a dedicated fleet medical facility, vessel or even capital ship duty. So they had all been more than eager to do well.

For the time being she was on their turf and had to get back into the habit of using fleet terminology. Most Fleet personnel didn‘t refer to time in days at least not by the Earth standard 24 hour clock. Fleet counted time in cycles. Each cycle  was three 10 hour duty shifts or 1st, 2nd, and 3rd watches. They knew what she meant but if she was going to be seen as a figure of authority by service men and women she couldn’t continue to speak like a civilian.

She’d get herself on the straight line soon enough. Right now she was eager to get back to the shower she had started before her E-band alerts went nuts. So eager that she almost run into one of the anti-grav A.I.s on sentry duty in the corridor as she exited the tank room.

          “Oh, excuse me… Uh, I’m sorry your stencil is scuffed. Is it Acme?” She said unsure at the odd name.

          “Yes, Ma’am.” The sentry replied with a nod of its wide rectangular head. “It’s Archimedes, actually Ma’am. A quartermaster told me once that Acme was easier to stencil on the plating and it’s stuck ever since. Personally I just don’t think he could spell it.”

          “Well met then, 1st Sgt. Archimedes. Carry on.” She said forgetting again that despite her current importance to the mission she was no longer a Fleet officer. Frankly, it had been embarrassing at times. Thankfully this time it merely garnered a slight glance form Archimedes’ counterpart posted just across the corridor.

“Well met, Doctor.” Acme replied, without missing a beat.

She could tell this A.I. had been online a while. A ‘warranty job’, never would have been so conversational or included the friendly nod. It took them a while to pick up human mannerisms like that. Some never did.

          “Carry on…? Really K.C.?” She chidedherselfas she approached a bank of lifts. Her little role slip ups were the least of her worries at the moment. This kind of thing with Corbin was rare but not unheard of. A strong willed person can sometimes overcome chemical sedation when their subconscious gives them a strong enough jolt. It had probably been exactly what Sgt. Choler had guessed, nightmares. For Mr. Corbin those nightmares almost certainly had teeth. The thought caused a shudder to run down her spine but she shook it off. She had to focus on the issue at hand.

          She had anticipated the possibility and thought that she had compensated for it. She would have to review Corbin’s tox data very closely. His physiology was after all slightly different from the average patient she normally encountered.         

If they had listened to her this never would have happened. Corbin would have been kept in a medically induced coma for the duration of his time in the tank and not just for the major surgeries. She had been overruled by the LDC and whoever was advising them from the Fleet Medical Corps. They wanted him brought out of the coma post-surgery. Still heavily sedated during the final stages of muscle and dermal regeneration of course. It was true that doing so would reduce the time, post tank, to wean him off the sedatives.At least enough for him to be lucid. They might have saved seven or eight full cycles by doing so but only if Corbin’s thrashing about in the tank hadn’t caused any physical damage.

          She didn’t look forward to her next conversation with Ogrun, he was most likely already well aware of what happened. She thought as she slipped off her ship’s coveralls and hopped back in the steam shower. He would no doubt start an investigation, no matter what the data showed. Now that she thought about it she was surprised she hadn’t heard from him already. She’d have to make sure she was ready, when she did. She was certain he would have gotten the same E-band alert she had for an incident like this.What had kept him from responding in person, she had no idea.

          By now there were few people in real time ComNet range that hadn’t heard about another prewar ship having been discovered adrift. Hell it had probably made it out as far as the middle colonies by now. Granted they found derelicts from time to time but rarely ones as old as the Ossamer that had been casualties of the pre-war raids and never with survivors. It was just unheard of for anyone to have survived so long in stasis.

          The story was all over the ComNet public feeds before the government realized the importance of the discovery and tried to put a lid on it. It was a certainty from the start that Mr. Corbin would be a very sought after individual if he survived his injuries, not to mention whatever the Legislate had planned for him. How the damaged freighter maintained the stasis pods for so long was mystery to her and Ogrun had only offered what seemed to be a canned answer from the Fleet Technical Corps. Apparently that was still being investigated.

          Dr. Katherine Cynthia Nortonopened a window to her ComNet hub but Choler had yet to send the test data. She closed her eyes and leaned against the corner seat letting the soapy steam soak in as her mind drifted a bit.

Norton was 37 now and had retired to the private sector after seven years as a Fleet medical officer. Government service had been a convenient way to help supplement her scholarships and earn level five citizenship at the same time. She loved deep space and visiting other worlds, alien physiology fascinated her and at times she missed the services.Though back in the day she never would’ve rated quarters like this. Separate sleeping area and a sitting room that doubled as an office. Not to mention the private washroom. She thought as she absently scrolled pastCorbin’s old Colonial Citizen’s data pack and opened the file for his post-operative treatment plan as she washed.

         

          Her job was almost done. The surgery itself had actually been five separate major surgeries, performed in conjunction with continual nanite micro surgeries.After today she didn't envy Ogrun his job.Getting Corbin to cooperate might not be as easy as the LDC thought.

          Corbin was currently in the final stages of dermal regeneration. Most of the muscle, skin and other tissue had to be cloned and graphed in place over roughly the left half of his torso face and upper thigh. That was a lengthy process but only required minimum supervision as the nanites did most of the work.

          The prosthetic arm would be detachable at mid-bicep where this particular quarter sleeve shoulder unit terminated. That was pretty much the norm in a mil spec full shoulder/arm unit, unlike the more common civilian shoulder replacements. More often than not mil spec units lean more toward replacement than repair. It’s not only more cost effective in the long run, it’s also easier to maintain and increases the versatility of the service person receiving it. Civilian units had even been trending that way in the last few years, for the people that can afford the upgrade anyway.

          Just like a civilian blend unit, Corbin’s mil-spec arm will be built to resemble the organic one it replaces and it would take a careful eye to differentiate between the two if they didn’t already know he had one. Most people with cybernetic appendages choose blend models, at least initially. Although some people prefer the more versatile utility models or "gear units" without the synthetic skin covering. There are probably as many slang terms as there are different options and configurations. Passers, mods, copper jacks, heaters, wrenches, bandits, augs,etc… etc… No telling what the kids are calling them these days.

          The gear models are more easily adapted to accept attachments ranging from personal use to industrial application. Like tools or equipment interfaces. Not to mention they have a slightly larger power plant. That and they don’t have to worry about having the synthetic skin replaced or patching it themselves when it’s damaged. Both types are interchangeable, depending on termination point.

          The mil spec “gear” models could be armed to the teeth or configured in many different mission specific forms. She had worked extensively with them when she was in the service. A blend unit was the obvious choice for Corbin.

          The eye on the other hand will most likely take quite a bit of getting used to. Mil-Spec cybernetic eyes do not look like organic eyes and require a small connection point located at the temple, for hardline equipment interfaces. It’s a flat circular interface about 6.5mm in diameter and quite noticeable if not covered. Like a fleet grey dot on his temple.

          Unlike civilian interfaces mil spec models aren't manufactured to match skin tones. The contrast allows for quicker access for technical support and medical personnel.

          There was going to be a lot of explaining to do once he was conscious. The decisions that had been made without Corbin’s consent will only make those explanations all the more difficult. She exhaled almost laughing toherself as she imagined how that conversation would sound. “Sorry Mr. Corbin we could have saved your shoulder, ribs, collar bone, and forgone various other skeletal reinforcements. Not to mention replaced your eye with a perfectly matched cloned organ but we figured you would need the upgrade since people will most likely be trying to kill you in the near future. So we just went ahead and installed all the bells and whistles, we didn’t feel the need to wake you and ask your opinion beforehand. We were kind of in a hurry. Hope you don’t mind. The care and maintenance instructions as well as the warranty information on your new AUG-9 military grade parts will be posted to your ComNet hub, as soon as you get a ComNet hub, figure out what one is and how to use it. Just remember if you play with your augmentations too much you could go blind. Just kidding, you know a little bedside humor to lighten the mood. Sorry no returns, no refunds.” This whole situation was surreal. Of course most of the individuals that had made those hasty decisions to ignore his rightswere light years away and would never have to sit in a room with Corbin and face this man who has lost so much, then ask him to do more.

          The knowledge that how all of this went down could very well affect the future of the human race was weighing on her mind, to say nothing of her professional standing with her peers. Even if no legal action could be taken against her as far as the augmentations were concerned she knew she would face no few questions in the future regarding the involuntary nature of these procedures.

          She realized her mind was drifting in a direction she didn’t want it to go so she checked again for a data pack from Choler, still nothing. So she reopened Corbin’s records pack.

          She’d been surprised when she found that Ogrun had included the personal history files. Since she was positive very few people in the Commonwealth had seen them. Maybe some of what she had said about Corbin’s mental state had gotten through. More likely he was trying to humanize Corbin in her eyes, get her invested in the mission after her initial reluctance. She found it a clumsy attempt and unnecessary seeing as how her objections had been in favor of her patients overall well-being.

           It had been months since she had received the data pack. She had been so busy organizing Corbin’s surgeries, rewriting code for the nanites and monitoring his progress in the tank, that she had only skimmed the personal data until now. Truth was she really hadn’t wanted to know, it wasn’t relevant to his care. She had four days or so, before her patient would be ready and they could flush the tank. Add a couple more days after that to wean him off of the sedatives and he should be ready to revive. That was about how long she had to make a decision as to her further participation in this mission. She thought, as she read the scrolling holo and rinsed her hair.

 

Name: Benjamin J. Corbin

Birth Date: 13/10/2144 (licensed)

Death Date: Unknown (Missing in transit, incident #005-317B)

Birth Place: Algren City, Texas District

Sex: Male

Last Know Physical Description

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 185

Hair Color: Brown

Eye Color: Blue

Colonial ID #: 3233104

Marital Status: Married/ Female

Gov. Employment Status: Retired (Recall option expired)

Last Known Residence: Alpha City, Mars Colony, Housing Block 2615

Citizenship: Earth, Mars Legal. 129-A4 Visa …

 

          “Incredible” she said to herself as more information scrolled on lots of facts but facts only said so much about a person. 603 years in stasis. Technically that made him637 years old. She'd known that already but seeing the dates read out on the holo caused her mind to wonder at all the things he had missed. Things that would be common place to the average primary school student or only known to academics and historians. To say nothing of the more involved cultural and technological changes that had occurred while he slept.

          She was going to make damn sure there would be someone else in that room besides herself and Commander Ogrun when it came time to explain exactly what had happened and what was now at stake. Several someones if possible.She wasn’t sure how convincing she could be. How could they ask this man who had lost everything to do more? No, that was not her job, damn it, and she would have to make that clear to Ogrun. She’d be there to explain the medical and technological aspects as they pertained to his treatment but that was all.

          Corbin had a wife and lived in a world that had nothing to do with human kinds current problems. All of that was gone now everything and everyone he had ever known. Except Sam Garrett of course and his prognosis was still very much in question. She doubted any of that would matter much to the Legislate. The Commonwealth needed Corbin and one way or another they would get his cooperation. She was sure of that.

          She also understood that this was bigger than one man. These files were all she had to tell her about the person who had been her patient for almost fourmonths. His accent for example had caught her off guard. Most local accents had faded with hundreds of years of cultural integration.Corbin though, seemed to prefer archaic expletives and hand gestures. She forgot herself long enough to smile at that, as she read on and wondered what other surprises Mr. Corbin had for them that weren’t in these records.

 

 

                                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Date: 29/April/2781        

Time: 1027 hrs. Ship’s time      

Loc:  Med deck/ C.N. Cruiser Emeris

 

 

          “Com Central, Commander Ogrun.” Not over 1MC the ships general com system butOgrun’s secure com unit embedded behind his ear. Its tiny sub dermal audio leads insured that he alone would hear the transmission.

          “Send it.” Ogrun said, as he changed direction and headed for the nearest lift.

          “Doctor Norton is requesting you on med deck 7, Commander, expedite. I repeat exped.” Com Central replied.

          “In route, Ogrun out.”

           He needed no further explanation; he knew why he was being called to medical. Ogrun woke this cycle still not knowing, other than the dry facts of the situation, just how he would explain to Mr. Corbin the current situation. He’d had quite a bit of information to absorb in order toget into Corbin's head and be prepared to explain to him some of what has taken place since he'd been in stasis. He at least wanted to be able to hit some of the historical high points.Ogrun doubted those would be the questions he’d be asked though, at least at first. There were also some details about exactly what happened over 600 years ago on board the Ossamer that Ogrun had been ordered to get nailed down.

          As if it had been necessary the Bureau of Alien Affairs had lobbied the LDC for a firsthand account of the Ossamer attack, siting the ramifications such information could possibly have regarding the alliance. The LDC didn’t need the BAA telling them to get confirmation. Those questions had been the whole reason for having Dr. Norton revive him before he went in the tank. Unfortunately getting any answers out of him had proved impractical at the time. But really there would be little reason for the Gar Rei to make it up.

          The Bureau couldn’t care less about operational security, it was always looking for any new information they could get when it came to the Gar Rei. The carnage on what was left of the Ossamer’s logs was nothing new. He’d seen much of the same played out on other ship’s logs. Usually they were far to degraded to provide the whole story. Corbin's would be the only known first hand accountingfrom before the Gar Rei war. There had been other survivors of face to face encounters during the war, but not many. He figured it was more likely just the eggheads at the BAA wanting to satisfy old curiosities than anything to do with the alliance. Something to refute the conspiracy nuts that couldn’t accept the explanations regarding what had caused the war.

          Beyond confirmation the specific details of Corbin's ordeal weren’t all that important, at least not to Ogrun. He’d already been given the facts he needed about what made the raid on the Ossamer significant to our less than communicative allies. The Legislate Defense Council had made it clear. Bring the man up to speed, need to know at the discretion of Fleet Command on site, and get him on mission.

          It had been over 80 full cycles or about four months ago Earth time, since Commander Lewis Ogrun, attached to Fleet Intelligence aboard the C.N.S. Arroway, had received those orders. He was to rendezvous with a StarRaker jump shuttle and proceed immediately to sector 8-1-7. Once there he was to board the cruiser C.N.S. Emeris where he would receive further instructions. At the time he knew only that it must be damn important for them to pull him away from his current mission. Ogrun had not been happy about abandoning his work aboard the Arroway but orders were orders.

          Upon arrival in sector 8-1-7, Ogrun had been ordered to debrief a prewar raid survivor recovered from an old U.C. freighter found derelict. Supposedly the man had been in stasis for over 600 years. Unheard of, but due to the circumstances surrounding the attack on the Ossamer the LDC and our allies felt this man could be vital to furthering efforts to expand the alliance. Ogrun was not a fan of coincidences.

          Ogrun was to ascertain the validity of the recovery of these survivors, Benjamin Corbin and Samuel Garret. The latter being little more than a vegetable after their stasis pods malfunctioned. Upon validation Ogrun was to secure Corbin’s cooperation, if he survived his injuries. Some people would have called those orders public relations work had we not been at war. Originally Ogrun just thought it was crap, possibly some hoax or a plant by dissidents or even their allies.

          The Ossamer had been discovered on the edge of an asteroid field between Earth and Mars. Apparently it had suffered a violent decompression that sent it off course. The old freighter had drifted off out of established shipping lanes and was caught in a low grade gravity pool on the far side of the massive asteroid field. Magnetic interference from the field had probably prevented the Ossamer from being detected by the few search vessels the Colonial government had sent out. When the Ossamer wasn’t discovered anywhere along the normal shipping lanes it was officially declared “Missing in Transit” according to Colonial records.

          It wasn’t until 603 years later that a civilian salvage ship, not far removed from pirates, had discovered the ship and its two survivors. The salvage shipclaimsto have picked up on an automated distress call, most likely while illegally prospecting for mineral deposits in the asteroid field.    

Asteroid fields were restricted areas to all civilian ships unless they had a mining or scientific permit. Careless excavation of asteroids could knock them off of their benign trajectories into shipping lanes, causing hazards to other ships. Occasionally even accidentally sending one of the big rocks on a collision course with a colonized planet or orbital station. Miners called it “bumping” when large scale seismic charges knocked an asteroid off course. Licensed mining operations had to map out an asteroid’s trajectory before and after excavation to ensure it wasn’t bumped. If so it had to be corrected or they’d be liable.

          The Ossamer’s marginally functional A.I. had, presumably, initiated the distress call when the two occupied stasis pods had begun to malfunction. The salvage crew claims to have arrived in the nick of time to render emergency aid. Ogrun found the timing dubious at best. More likely they attempted to board the derelict space craft to assess its salvage value and remove anything that wasn't bonded or bolted to the deck before towing it clear of the asteroid field and filing a salvage claim on it. Boarding her had most likely been the cause of any malfunction but there was no way of proving it and it really didn't matter anyway at that point.

          The survivors had actually been located in a small launch docked just off the bridge. You wouldn’t know it was there if you didn’t know to look for it. Whether that was to reduce drag inner atmosphere or for concealment, he had no idea but it may have saved their lives.

          Samuel Garret was barely alive and probably wouldn’t live despite treatment. Mr. Corbin was supposedly stabilized but also in need of immediate medical care. A medical StarRaker jump shuttle was dispatched and they reported the find to the authorities. After some argument from the salvage company, a contingent of L.E.O.s (the civilian law enforcement agency within the solar system) were dispatched to the scene.

          Despite their protests the salvage ship had been detained by the LEOs and then by The Emeris. There hadn't been much to go on but what there was seemed to confirm the seeming validity of the find. Though the timing and circumstances of the discovery were still somewhat in question. To say nothing for the technical questions that remained unanswered. Ogrun had no cause to hold them. He couldn’t care less about salvage regs. Only that he could find no evidence of their participation in any hoax or malfeasance in regard to the two recoveries. The tracking device he'd had installed in their ship would make it not only easy to find them should he need to but finding out where they went from here might tell him something. Following Ogrun's preliminary investigation he posted his findings to the LDC and Fleet Com. The LDC had generously offered the salvage company a government voucher for what was probably three times the salvage value of the ship. In exchange the salvagers would agree to relinquish any and all claims. The salvage company found that preferable to the impounding of their entire fleet and the freezing of their ComNet accounts. Since it had technically been illegal for them to have been there in the first place they really had no leg to stand on had they wanted to protest. He had no doubt that the LDC would honor the voucher and credit the salvage company’s ComNet account. That is as long as they abided by theconditional nondisclosure agreement.

          Ossamer was to be patched up and towed to the nearest Mars station. Presumably for further investigation as no other explanation was given.

          To further complicate matters this Benjamin Corbin had been in worse shape than was thought at the time. The Emeris’ fleet medical officer, Doctor Owen and his staff did what they could to further stabilize the man, and keep him in a medically induced coma. Neither one of them would have lived long without life support.

          Mr. Garret was likewise stabilized and transported via StarRaker to a Mars medical facility to be evaluated for possible neural reconstruction therapy. Owen thought Garrett had about a 20% chance of recovery, if that. Zero chance if he didn’t meet the minimum requirements for the experimental therapy.     

          Despite the fact that Fleet vessels like Emeris had extensive medical facilities and could handle most anything the average terrestrial facility could the LDC had other plans. Dr. Owen was confident that he could repair the damage to Mr. Corbin and oversee his augmentations as well, but they weren’t going to take any chances especially considering Mr. Garrett’s prognosis. They were sending a civilian specialist to take charge of Corbin’s medical care.      

          Apparently Dr. Norton had been dispatched to Emeris’ location not long after Owen’s first report had been sent to the LDC. Owen hadn’t seemed to have any objections when Ogrun informed him. In fact he even seemed a little relieved. Owen was competent and he’d seen worse damage done to a human body, even repaired worse. It was the complications from the prolonged stasis that worried the old Fleet surgeon. This was an important mission and Owen welcomed any help he could get, civilian or otherwise.

          The whole damn thing was unprecedented there was no way to tell how it would go medically or otherwise. Ogrun had his orders though. If Corbin survived he could cooperate as a civilian or he would follow orders as a conscript.

          LDC legal had already anticipated Mr. Corbin’s possible reluctance to cooperate and had empowered Ogrun to reactivate Mr. Corbin’s military status. Corbin's twelve years of service as a Colonial Marine was apparently all the LDC needed to claim him during a time of war.

          It was stretching the law at best but Ogrun had been committing the timeline to memory all the same. The Colonial Government that Corbin had served under was established in 2091 consisting of those Earth nations with the means to colonize the Moon and Mars. Corbin and Garrett had already been frozen in stasis for some time when the Colonial Government was absorbed by the United Earth Government est. 2338 after the Colonial Government's woeful mismanagement of alien first contacts. Resulting in a number of failed military campaigns aimed at the forced colonization of alien inhabited planets.

          The United Earth Government was later dissolved as a result of The Veterans Revolution of 2505, followed by various failed power grabs by other groups. The Veterans Division for Equal Representation, that had led the original veteran’s revolt, established The Commonwealth of Nations in 2507. Just 21 years before the “Old War” with our current allies.

          Basically LDC Legal was taking the position that, despite the time lapse and any governmental changesMr. Corbin's duty status, according to the boys from legal, fell under the Commonwealth of Nations Security Act of 2641 allowing for his reactivation in the interest of Commonwealth security. CN Sec 2641 was established primarily due to the long months and sometimes even a year spent in stasis on long range exploration and recon missions. In order to avoid complications as to active duty status and rank once a soldier or crewman awoke from a long haul in stasis.

          Of course current Magnetic Particle Collision Drives all but made 2641 obsolete. It occasionally applied to ships whose mag drives were damaged and found themselves having to return to port under conventional propulsion.

          Protocol dictated a retrieval vessel and support ships would be sent after overdue vessels. Searchers would jump in and out along the curve that the overdue ship was supposed to have been traveling, scanning and dropping A.I. markers in case they missed the lost ship. That however wasn’t always successful and it wasn’t completely unheard of for a ship thought lost to come limping in on its reactor engines 20 or 30 years or so overdue. Before Corbin was recovered 57 years had been the record for time continuously spent in stasis, he'd looked it up.

          Ogrun hoped it wouldn’t be necessary to reactivate Mr. Corbin, at least not right away. He preferred to work up to that gradually if possible, let Corbin think it was his own idea. Unfortunately he feared that wouldn’t be the case. Corbin’s “duties” so to speak, would almost certainly cause complications regarding his security. If not before then certainly once the rumors had been officially confirmed. Ogrun and the LDC had made arrangements for that contingency. Including but not at all limited to the mil-spec upgrades to Mr. Corbin’s nano tech and cybernetics. Which even Ogrun had thought was overkill for what they supposedly needed Corbin to do. He knew there had to be more to it but the brass hadn’t bothered to let him in on the details. Couldn't be too careful he supposed.

           All things considered immediate reactivation might even work out best in the end. Corbin had been third generation military and from his service record Ogrun had figured him for a lifer. Like his grandfather and both parents had been. But the Colonial government of Corbin’s era had had other ideas. In its short sited attempt to quell anti-military and anti-colonization public opinion brought on by the high number of casualties during the Mars conflicts 2164-2168 the Colonial Government had started replacing grunts, like then First Sgt. Corbin, with robotic soldiers and autonomous drones.

          Mars had wanted to form its own government but the Colonial Authority would have none of it and sent in the military to put down the revolt and reestablish the flow of mined ores. Battles fought in the then near vacuum of Mars’ Bad Lands had high casualty rates. If you get shot in the arm in a class M environment like Earth or even one of the small terraformed zones on Mars you will probably survive with treatment. Get shot in the arm on a battlefield in near vacuum conditions, your pressure suit ruptures and you're dead if you can’t patch it. Faulty seals and poor suit field maintenance were also common causes of death during the Mars conflicts. You didn’t even have to be in a combat situation on Mars to die there. Mechs and drones don’t need to breath and are less affected by environmental conditions in general.

          Corbin had been forced to transfer to a mech tech battalion just to finish out his fourth tour. He'd been retrained to maintain and program the mechs as well as test them in war games and practical operations.

          Mr. Corbin had distinguished himself as a tech. Resulting in an offer of a free ride to engineering reeducation at the Military Technology Institute and an officer’s commission. Corbin turned it down and retired from the service. Refusing honors and officially appealing to the Colonial Authority to reevaluate its plan to completely mechanize its military combat arm, citing the need for human judgment over programming. Ogrun knew from the common historical records he’dbeen studying, that such appeals had fallen on deaf ears at the time. The Earth would pay the price in future conflicts for choosing to ignore those protests.

Ironically, after leaving the service Corbin and Garrett had started their own salvage and recovery business. Towing derelict space craft, satellites, probes, even space junk when needed. Whatever it took to keep Mars’ shipping lanes clear.Answering distress calls, rendering aide on scene when needed, all for a fair price of course. Some accounts speculate Corbin and Garrett were practically pirates themselves. But that’s another matter and has little to do with the mission at hand.

          Corbin and Garrett had been in stasis for some time before Corbin and the many others that had protested the mechanization initiative would be proved right. Ogrun had figure Corbin might be interested so he’d looked it up. Beginning with The Battle of Gonobus with the Romi in 2257 on their home world of RemuSeven. The Romi government controlled one of four large continents on Remu Seven. At the time it was one of five governments that shared rule of the planet. The accidental poisoning of a Romi official had led to near all-out war and is considered Earth’s first hostile alien conflict.

          Assassination was common place in the political halls of all five of Remu Seven's ruling governments. The Romi took exception to what they thought was an overt act to assert dominance. It took two years to convince the Romi that it was accidental. Something to do with MREs and peanuts or right and left handed protein tolerances or amino acids, or something like that.

 

‘You don’t feed the natives.’

 

          Which was a well-known fact these days and that simple phrase was drilled into the heads of every fleet recruit. That same phrase had taken on a much darker meaning during the Gar Rei war.

          Unfortunately in a culture where assassination is a widely accepted political tactic, apparently it is also considered a sign of weakness to deny that you attempted to assassinate a rival when you clearly had. Luckily the other four governing bodies on Remu Seven were reluctant to wage a full scale interstellar war. Preferring to keep their military forces closer to home and only sent a few guided sub space missiles at Earth on principle. Earth’s Colonial government deployed Mechs and support crews to retaliate and to retrieve the hostages taken from the offending delegation that had accidentally done the poisoning.

          The mechanized combat forces got their asses handed to them. Eventually diplomacy won out, only half of the hostages were cooked and eaten during the Romi victory rites and eventually trade with the Romi was established. The Colonial government was forced to take a new, hard look at its all mechanized army, eventually phasing out a lot of the robot command and combat units and integrating human soldiers back into the military. Not, however, before many more military failures.

          Despite those early issues mechs are still widely used in all areas of military and civilian life, but the Fleet Infantry Soldier will most likely never be completely replaced. Some things mechs and robots just can’t do even with the current advances in A.I. He doubted the vindication in the matter would be much consolation to Corbin under the circumstances though.

                   

          Good as its word the LDC had sent a psychological evaluation team whose lead analyst specializes in reintegrating people back into society after long periods spent in stasis or as members of some of the more primitive unaligned colonies.

          Dr. Oshi Lu and her team had arrived two weeks ago from New Gibraltar. By all accounts very competent but civilians all the same. He seemed to be collecting them. She was a little too anxious to interview Mr. Corbin, if you asked him. Her enthusiasm under the circumstances was understandable though. Especially after he'd uploaded the SDC's data pack on her. Dr. Oshi as she liked to be called was 46, divorced twice, anti-war, anti-military, pro-alliance, pro-alien in general for that matter, anti-establishment for the most part, 5’2” and very fit. Both of her parents were high born diplomats that had met on Earth during the Pacific Islands Sector renegotiations. She had more degrees than Ogrun cared to count and was very well respected in her field. Basically a thorough intellectual who didn't hesitate to make her opinions known.At least that was the gist of the data pack. Her politics was a secondary issue and not his problem unless it interfered with her work. She had a reputation for getting results and that was what mattered. That said he knew he would probably lock horns with her regarding various aspects of this mission. Such as the involuntary mil-spec augmentations and the very real possibility of Corbin’s reactivation. Ogrun had decided to keep the possibility of what amounted to forced conscription to himself, for now. The rest he'd deal with as it came up. He thought as he stepped into the lift.

          “Hold the lift!”

Speak of the devil. He hadn't seen her in the corridor, she must have been coming from one of the office bays nearby.

          “Hold lift.” He ordered. Oshi may be 46, but she didn’t look a day over thirty. Which wasn't at all uncommon in a society that now had an average lifespan of 130 years. Due largely to government regulated diet and mandatory preemptive nano therapy. Both of which keep government funded health care costs down as well as prolong life and its quality. Thirty seemed to be the average age you started to see the benefits of nanite integration. Ogrun himself was 61, still on active duty and combat rated. He could pass for his early forties easily.

          “Doctor.” Ogrun said, with a nod. Noticing the hand full of holo sticks she’d brought. "I was just thinking about you."

          “Hmm ..." She said as she eyed him suspiciously not quite sure how to take his remark. He offered no clarification so she went on. "Today’s the day, Commander. I only wish I had had more time to prepare.”

          “Med deck 4, resume.” Ogrun commanded the lift as he gave her a quick once over. Her long dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She wore rectangular black poly rimmed glasses. He could just make out the glow on her cheek from the slowly scrolling digital readout projected on the inside of her left lens. He was fairly certain it was information on Corbin but really for all he knew it could be last cycles Razor Bird scores or a recipe for roast duck. She was wearing a white button down blouse, shirt tail left untucked, cuffs rolled up just under the elbows and oddly enough casual trousers with cargo pockets and athletic shoes. A little informal he thought but she was a civilian, what did he expect.

          Dr. Oshi looked up at Ogrun’s well over 6 feet of spit and polish and said.

          “I know what you’re thinking. The informal dress is comfortable for ship life and should help to put Mr. Corbin a little more at ease. You know not being surrounded entirely by uniforms and lab coats.”

          “I didn’t say a word Doctor.” Ogrun said as he smiled slightly at her intuitiveness. He would have to be careful with this one not much got past her.

          “You were thinking it, Commander.” She said back with another impish smile.

          “Did you receive the messages I com’d you? The suggestions on how we might proceed, Commander?” Oshi asked.

          “Yes.”

          “And?”

          “I’ll have to make that determination after I’ve had a chance to evaluate his state of mind Doctor. I prefer the direct route. Give him the facts of what happened, and what is needed of him now and gauge his reaction.” Ogrun said.

          “Evaluating his state of mind is my job is it not Commander. I would suggest caution, too much too fast may overwhelm the man.”

          “I’m aware of that Doctor, however, Mr. Corbin was military, third generation military at that. As such I believe he’ll appreciate the hard facts laid out for him up front. He didn’t just enlist in the government services to gain rights and privileges. In his day veterans didn’t hold the status they do now. You didn’t have to be a vet to vote or to hold elected government office. Not to mention the other advantages granted to our veterans under today’s legal system.”

          “Hmm.” Oshi rolled her eyes at that. Not having been in the service herself. She resented the favoritism vets were shown and like many people believed it to be unfair. All citizens should have the right to vote among other things. At least as she saw it.

          “My point is Doctor, the military and all of its directness was a way of life for him from the cradle. He chose service for himself not just as an occupation but a way of life. Under the circumstances, I believe withholding information from him may be seen more as deception than concern for his sanity.” Ogrun said.

          “A life he ultimately rejected, Commander, when he resigned from service.”

          “Only after the Colonial Authority had all but denounced what he was, a combat Marine. The Marine Corps in his day was a brotherhood, the kind that can only be forged in service. They replaced him with robots and turned him into a glorified technician.”

          “Hardly just a technician, Commander, but regardless of why, he did rejected it in the end.” She said.

          “True, but things have changed since then Doctor.” Ogrun said intentionally not looking her in eye.

          Oshi didn’t like the sound of that. Or for that matter what the LDC might have in mind for Mr. Corbin. She was about to ask when the lift stopped and announced. “Med deck, section 4, restricted access.” in the pleasant female voice of the ship’s A.I. Ogrun stepped aside and politely gestured for Oshi to exit first. She gave him a nod but eyed him suspiciously as she stepped out.

          Ogrun could tell those little wheels in her head must have been turning furiously. Maybe she'd goaded him into saying too much. No matter, he thought, she would either know soon enough, or if things went better than he expected it wouldn‘t matter.

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