The continuing saga of Thibodaux James Renwalt and hsi adventures as the richest and most powerful man in the universe and his fight to preserve the Galactic Federation
by Dale Musser
Publisher Dale Musser
Published in Science Fiction & Fantasy
The continuing saga of Thibodaux James Renwalt and hsi adventures as the richest and most powerful man in the universe and his fight to preserve the Galactic Federation
The twins were eight. At some point in the preceding week they had passed that milestone in their life, but we weren’t exactly sure on which day. We had been drifting unconscious in the ALI prior to crashing on Desolation, where the twins were born. Many instruments on the ALI were damaged in the crash and we didn’t bother to track the daily solar cycle during the nine months that followed; so we could never be certain of the day they were born. It wasn’t really important, because annual birthdays weren’t celebrated in the Federation. Milestone birthdays were, however, and those occurred at every fifth Federation standard year.
A galactic standard year worked out to 9,002.35 Earth hours; this equivalence was derived by taking the average number of hours per planetary year for a thousand planets in the Federation. Each planet practiced their own planetary calendar; however, all documents, schedules and significant events dated according to the Federation calendar.
It was the general belief of those in the Federation territories that every five years a person’s life changes direction in some way. I’m not sure why or how this belief evolved; and anytime I asked for an explanation, I received incredulous looks from people and comments like, You don’t see it? or, Come on, Tibby, everyone knows that! So I dropped the issue. Consequently, the passing of the twins’ eighth birthday wasn’t viewed as any huge event.
I only relate this detail because it anchors the time when the Reduviids first made their appearance in the war with the Brotherhood. In the beginning we didn’t call them Reduviids. Up until this point, they were merely Brotherhood assassins and terrorists. It was Ming who named them after a genus of Earth insect. How exactly he knew the term isn’t clear, as the Reduviids of Earth were not native to his own country of China. Reduviids or Reduviidae, to be scientifically accurate, referred to insects commonly called assassin bugs – rather nasty little creatures found on the North American continent of Earth. They were called assassin bugs because they hunted down and killed other insects. Ming started referring to his assassin terrorists as Reduviids right after the Dapapa’Dwkay Annual Equinox Celebration attack, where he killed thousands of citizens and government officials by means of a dirty nuclear device.
Over the past few years, Ming had stopped sending messages to me directly after each attack and opted instead to broadcast to everyone in the Federation. He accomplished this by hijacking the video feeds for the major channels that transmitted via the Cantolla Gate communications system, in order to reach the majority of the Federation planets instantly. Unfortunately, he kept his messages brief. Once he initiated a broadcast, the signal became traceable; however, he never transmitted long enough for the Federation to complete the trace and pinpoint his location. His rants were invariably full of boasts, threats and vitriol, after which he would hightail it in his ship to some unknown sector.
Although our Federation forces were successful in knocking out a number of Brotherhood bases, we discovered, using the computer database captured during the battle at Windsor, that the Brotherhood seemed to be growing rapidly in might. Even with all our advancements and efforts to expand the Federation military, we were still losing planets to the Brotherhood. Nearly 900 planets had been stripped away from the Federation in the past five years. Of these planets, liberation efforts were, of course, a priority where the Brotherhood had enslaved the citizens and pressed them into military service by way of drug addiction, electronic slave collars and mental conditioning. These methods ensured the enslaved soldiers would carry out the wishes of the Brotherhood, even though they acted against their will.
Thus far, Federation efforts to locate the Brotherhood base believed to be in an asteroid cloud of Sector 3 had been futile. While the Brotherhood managed to build nearly a dozen more asteroid-ships, we were no closer to finding them than before we began searching these regions. The enemy also recently discovered how to operate the Deep-Space Communicators, which afforded them a means of instant communication between their ships and bases that had been, until then, only a Federation advantage. Fortunately, they had not yet been able to figure out how the Cantolla Gates worked and, in spite of several attempts to capture a gate, their efforts to obtain this technology had thus far been thwarted.
Shortly after the battle at Weccies the Brotherhood’s use of the Ginuluvti-nussfero-rufo fungus to record conversations within the Capitol and military sites stopped and the two technicians at the robotic cleaner center, whom we believed to be behind the spying, vanished. The FSO tracked them as far as one of the non-aligned planets and, while they were not seen boarding it, the space yacht FLAME OF BRIGHTNESS was reported to have been on the surface at the time of their arrival. The yacht was seen leaving the planet a few hours later; however, its destination was unknown.
Even though the presence of the fungus was no longer a threat on Megelleon, both Rear Admiral Regeny and Admiral Wabussie continued to operate from their temporary offices on the DUSTEN and utilized the Cantolla Gates to meet with subordinates elsewhere when needed. Kala and the twins, on the other hand, moved at will between the NEW ORLEANS and our Megelleon estate; and I simply used the appropriate Cantolla Gate to access whichever location they were occupying when I wrapped up my day on the MAXETTE.
After the battle at Weccies, it was determined that the original organization of three Federation fleets must be restructured into five flotillas, in order to more effectively respond to the escalating threat of enemy invasion throughout the territories. To accommodate this change, additional men were promoted to the rank of admiral, most of whom chose the newly designed MAXETTE-class carriers as their flagships. Admiral Stonbersa, however, elected to continue using a starship as his flagship, though he decided to transition from the older GARREN to the new PRIZAMET – the last starship-class craft to be built for the Federation military. With the advent of the Cantolla Gates, the demand for these giant starships had steadily diminished as the number of civilians, businessmen, diplomats and officials who needed to utilize these ships also declined. At this point, starships were more routinely used for accommodation of troopers and their families and transport of fleet support goods and materials. Among the promoted officers was Captain Slater of the Mars colony, who had been serving as an advisor to the Federation military. He was finally commissioned as an admiral within Federation ranks and assigned responsibility for all ground fighting troops, for which he instituted several new training and fighting techniques. From an organizational and technical standpoint, these developments allowed the Federation’s military forces to become stronger and more efficient than they had ever been. Even so, the war was not going well.
“Good morning, Admiral,” Marranalis greeted me as I entered the MAXETTE War Room.
“Good morning, Captain. Anything happening that I need to know about?” I asked.
“There were three terrorist attacks targeting Cantolla Gates last night at Klarkac, Quarmac and Udandaf Prime. The only serious damage occurred at Quarmac; the Cantolla Gate there was destroyed. Neither gate at Klarkac or Udandaf Prime was damaged, but there were casualties at all three locations.”
“How many?” I asked.
“The most current report indicates 37 injuries at Klarkac with three dead, 118 at Quarmac with 14 dead, and 43 at Udandaf Prime with six dead. Of that number, seven of the dead were troopers and 20 additional troopers were injured.”
“Why were there so many casualties at Quarmac compared to the other sites?” I asked.
“Quarmac hosts a larger facility and more traffic through the gates than the other two locations. They actually have a two-gate station there, compared to most planets that operate only one. The explosions took place at a position between the gate staging areas, clearly in order to impact the greatest possible number of civilians and troopers.”
“Damn,” I muttered. “I suppose they were suicide bombers again?”
“Yes, sir. We have vid footage showing three bombers entering the facility and detonating as they neared the gates.”
“Internal devices?” I asked. The Brotherhood had begun to use humans as bombs, literally placing high-explosive devices inside the bodies of the enslaved bombers. By means of drugs and brainwashing techniques, the bombers were sent to their deaths, often unwittingly, as walking weapons of destruction and terrorism. Men, women and children were used indiscriminately, so security had no systematic means of identifying the body bombers in advance of the explosion.
“It appears so,” Marranalis replied.
Back on Earth we had animals called dogs that were specifically trained to discover bombs and contraband by scent. Their keen sense of smell even made it possible to detect substances implanted in the body. I had cloned a number of dogs from the genetic stock recovered from the Earth genome banks and, while they served admirably with the police and troopers in many tactical situations, the sniffer dogs were not effective in Federation this situation. First of all, the implanted devices were quite small – no larger than a pill or lozenge. Secondly, these capsule bombs were encased in a hermetically sealed capsule made of inert material, rendering the enclosed explosives components completely imperceptible to scent. In spite of their miniscule size, these bombs produced a tremendous explosive power equivalent to 1,000 sticks of Earth dynamite.
“Any idea as to how they were detonated?” I asked.
“We’re assuming it was done remotely,” Marranalis answered. “There are no obvious indications from the vids that any of the human bombers suspected that they were going to explode; nor did it appear that they activated the bombs themselves.”
“But how would someone positioned remotely know when to activate the bombs at the right moment? Anyone controlling a detonator from inside the building and close enough to observe these subjects would have been injured in the blast as well.”
“Maybe they’ve found a way to tap into the vid feeds for the inside security cameras. It’s a strong possibility.”
“Is the FSO looking into it?” I asked.
“Not officially, sir, the FOI is,” Marranalis stated. Though it had taken several years, the FOI (Federation Office of Investigation) had finally been cleared of all Brotherhood infiltrators and was, once more, able to function in its intended capacity.
“I’m assuming they’re sharing all intelligence with the FSO and with us…?”
“Yes, sir, we’re receiving hourly updates on all their activities and findings.”
“All right. Anything else?”
“Yes, sir. There were a number of attacks on luxury cruise ships at Paccision. Fortunately, one of our frigates, the KALBALL, was stationed in the vicinity along with several fighter squadrons. They scrambled to the aid of the Paccision ships in ample time to prevent loss of life; however, numerous injuries were reported and all cruise ships sustained severe damage. Our fighters managed to destroy two of the enemy units. I’m afraid the rest got away.”
“The KALBALL… isn’t that Nybidong’s ship?”
“Yes, sir,” Marranalis replied.
“So it was the Ruwallie Rasson fighter squadrons that came to the rescue. Damn good bunch. I’m glad the Senate finally got around to admitting them into the Federation. Ever since the Ruwallie Rasson trader ship responded to the incident at Maisha and saved millions of lives, the Ruwallie Rasson have consistently stepped up to the front in the war against the Brotherhood.
“Don’t you have some good news?” I added with frustration.
“Well, sir, the Senate has voted to increase the military budget for next year. Also, the lunar prison colony expansion is now complete and ready to house more prisoners.”
“Hmm. Anything else I should know about?” I asked.
“Sir, you’re supposed to meet with Admirals Regeny and Wabussie within the hour. Also, this evening you and First Citizen Kalana are scheduled to attend an inauguration dinner for Leader Pheosa at the Capitol on Megelleon.”
“Is that tonight? I hope Kala remembers it,” I said.
“Ah, yes sir, she does. She’s the one who told me to remind you,” Marranalis said without looking directly at me. “She said to tell you to meet her at 21-70 Federation time so the two of you can travel to the Capitol together.”
“I’m surprised she didn’t say something this morning before I left,” I said. Actually, I was not surprised, as domestic chaos had ruled in our suite that morning. Lunnie’s pet namias, Mimic, had escaped its cage during the night and, of course, Lunnie and Reide insisted on chasing it about, leaving Kala to scramble after, if for no other reason than to keep them from smashing everything in the place. I slipped out the door while they were busy cornering Mimic in one of the back rooms. Namias were strange creatures, very much like Earth monkeys, only they had a very round head, huge eyes and overly large round ears that flapped back and forth. They were known for their sense of curiosity and their uncanny ability to mimic any sound they heard, hence resulting in Lunnie’s choice of Mimic as its name.
“Anything more?” I asked Marranalis.
“No, that pretty much covers the important stuff. Oh yeah, A’Lappe said that when you get a chance, he’d like to talk to you.”
“I wonder what innovation he’s come up with now,” I said. “I guess I had better go meet with Regeny and Wabussie and get that off the list. You know where I am if you need me.”
Since Admirals Regeny and Wabussie moved their offices to the DUSTEN, the ship’s corridors and meeting places had become rather crowded. The protocols established by Regeny shortly after the attempt on his and Leader Tonclin’s lives required that four bodyguards accompany each admiral during their movements; one stood at attention near the officer during closed-door meetings and the other three positioned themselves outside. The congestion resulting from this protocol finally became apparent to Admiral Regeny when the entire admiral staff gathered for a meeting. The corridor outside the conference room was completely blocked by the 44 trooper bodyguards standing in formation, shoulder to shoulder, row by row. I had complained for years to Admiral Regeny about this problem; but it wasn’t until that moment that he realized the folly of it. After some lengthy discussions, an agreement was reached to assign only one bodyguard to each admiral while onboard a Federation ship, two guards when visiting surface bases and facilities, and four guards when movements included off-base travel or locations outside of secured government facilities.
So, with my singular bodyguard leading the way, we headed to the Cantolla Gate that provided access to the DUSTEN. Moments later, I seated myself in the small meeting room adjacent to the DUSTEN’s War Room, where Rear Admiral Regeny and Admiral Wabussie awaited my arrival.
Join BookDaily now and receive featured titles to sample for free by email.
Reading a book excerpt is the best way to evaluate it before you spend your time or money.
Just enter your email address and password below to get started:
Instant Bonus: Get immediate access to a daily updated listing of free ebooks from Amazon when you confirm your account!
Dale Musser was born in 1944 in a small rural community in Pennsylvania. From 1967 until 2012 he was employed as a structural and piping designer in the marine and offshore industry, the cogeneration power industry and in hard rock metal mining. His work at three shipyards and assignments with several engineering and naval architectural firms during his career in Virginia, Texas, and Maine took him to such places as London, U.K., Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., Scotland and Mexico. During this time, he was responsible for the design of reactor compartments for nuclear aircraft carriers and submarines for the U.S. Navy and the structural designs of numerous offshore semisubmersible oil rigs, tanker ships, supply boats, and other vessels and equipment used in the offshore industry. After the death of his wife in 1999, Mr. Musser changed careers and went to work in Arizona and Utah in the hard rock mining industry. He retired in fall of 2012 and currently resides in Mesa, Arizona; however, his plans for the near future involve a move to New Mexico.