THAT WHICH GODS DESTROY - Act IV - Erich von Shrakenberg


            The swirling, glowing chaos of hyperspace had always allured him. Eric remembered on his first trip out system from he stayed in the observation blister and watched the orange-red swirls as they looped and unlooped. All of it fighting against the Newtonian laws of motion; hyperspace seemed to be alive and it was all his for the taking.

            After so many years in space, Commander von Shrakenberg was comforted by that which drove others mad. The glowing swirls were like a warm bath at the end of the day. Here they can't get you, Eric, he thought to himself. In hyperspace, they can't contact you, bug you, or get to you in anyway. For now, it was truly HIS ship.

            Henri Lefarge looked up from his report when a beeping appeared on his console. He put down the clipboard and started adjusting controls. "We've arrived at the beacon, captain."

            "Very good, lieutenant, jump us into normal space."

            With a wave of his hand, an iris of black appeared in the midst of the chaos, and the EFS Stornoway was sucked back into normal space. As the orange glow faded to the starry void, the planets of St. Michael's Star opened up before him on the viewscreen. "Jump successful, sir."

            "Thank you, M. Lefarge. Plot us a course to the fleet base around the second planet. Inform those yarddogs of our arrival."

            "Yes, sir."

            "You have the bridge, lieutenant. Guide us in." The captain got up and headed for the elevator.

            Henri took up the big chair flawlessly as he replied, "Aye, sir, I have the bridge."

            It was late according to ship time. Eric was still awake. He was still bugged by the fact that Internal Security knew there every move. Either there was an informant on board... no, he didn't even want to _consider_ that. The captain had to trust his crew for his and his ship's very survival. No, someone rigged the comm channels during construction. At least, that's what he hoped. There was only one way to find out.

            Von Shrakenberg finally made it to his exec officer's room. He pushed the door button and heard it beep. No answer. He beeped it again. Then, a very groggy woman's voice came in on the other end, "Uh... ya?"

            "Johanna? It's Eric."

            "Eric? Oh, I... it's three in the morning!"

            "I need to talk to you."



            "All right... just a moment." There was some noises of shuffling around, then finally the door opened. Before him stood Johanna, wearing a silk nightgown covered by a thick bathrobe, her normally bouncy blonde hair was a shaggy mess. "What?"

            "I need you to run a diagnostic of the comm protocols for me."

            Her sleepy confusion turned to anger. "You woke me up for THAT?!"

            "No, I need to keep this quiet. There might be extra ears on the bridge so I needed to see you alone."

            "What are you talking about?"   

            "I think InSec's bugged our communications."

            Johanna's eyes flashed. "Okay. I'll check in to it now."

            "No, you can wait till we get to the base..."        

            "Damn it, Eric, I can't go to sleep with THIS on my mind! Geez..." she pivoted and went back to her room. As the door closed, he could hear her yell out, "men, hmph!" Von Shrakenberg smiled; the problem was now in Ingolfsson's capable hands, no matter how tired she might be.


            The station at St. Michael's Star was the closest one to Hrothgar, if you didn't want to go out of your way to Phoenix. Ashdown was a nice place, but that system was only now being colonized; it barely had a constabulatory. So it was either head on St. Michael's or follow the 3rd Fleet. The second planet was barely Terran; on a cool night in their winter, the temperature dropped to 75 degrees. Originally a jungle of vegetation, it had been tamed into an endless stream of plantations. It was an agricultural world, much like many of the frontier systems, but it was more prosperous than most.

            Since the population was rather large now, it rated a fleet repair station, allowing for the anti-smuggling patrols that were now in vogue with Earth Fleet. Joy, thought Eric, but it was better than being in permanent orbit around Proxima Centauri. The EFS Stornoway settled into an easy parking berth within the orbiting station.

            Everyone was on the bridge when they finally stopped. "Very good, M. Lefarge. Commander Ingolfsson," she turned to the blonde woman, now in a better mood than she had been a couple hours ago, "I want you to put together a skeleton crew to stay on board while the yarddogs check it out. Everyone else is allowed 24 hours shore leave." A cheer went up from the bridge staff. Eric raised his hand and they quieted down. "First, check with the commander here, before you start heading down to the surface. That is all."

            "Oh, _thanks_ captain."

            "Hey, I figured with your _other_ duties, you better stay up here."

            She nodded once in understanding. "Yes, sir."

            "Good. Get to work."

            The captain made his way to the elevator, went down to the connecting level, and walked toward to the starboard airlock. Before he could get to it, though, it opened to a rather shaggily bearded man. The six foot sixer seemed to barely fit into the Fleet uniform. "Commander von Shrakenberg?"

            "Yes. You must be the yardmaster."

            He snorted a laugh. "Yeah, that's what they call me. Let me guess, your chicken soup dispenser has a blocked nozzle?"

            "No, we suffered some battle damage, and I just want to make sure this girl's all right before we jump to Deseret."

            "Battle? What battle?"

            "Hrothgar system."

            "Who the hell were you fighting out there? The leeches?"

            "We bagged an Enoch cruiser."

            The yardmaster's eyes bulged. "Why haven't we heard anything?"

            "InSec took over the system."

            "Buddha take it! Damn, then why did you tell me about it? Shit. If Internal Security's involved, it's best to keep your mouth shut."


            "All right." The yardmaster's eyes passed over the interior of the ship. "Fancy crate. We'll take a look over her while you're gone."

            "Thanks." the captain replied before walking out into the pressurized umbilical cord.


            It was a nice little pub. In the darkened stalls, the place was filled with pictures of hunts and prizes long since departed. There was a... sabre-toothed tiger's? head over the entrance. Apparently this jungle had once teemed with wild beasts. Today it was nicely domesticated and the jungle was a tenth of the size it once was. The air conditioning system kicked on and off a few degrees higher than what the captain was comfortable. After an hour looking over paperwork and sipping beer, he had opened up his collar and tried to keep cool.

            Then a man dressed in the beige of Tech Infantry sat down opposite him. "Excuse me, Commander von Shrakenberg?"

            Eric's eyes looked up from his paperwork at this bewildering figure in front of him. "Yes?"

            The brown-haired, French-looked gentleman before him seemed sloppy, with his uniform in a mess, and his hair sticking every which way. However, the two dueling scars on his cheek told a different story; this man was a organized, meticulate fighter. "Listen, I don't have much time, but I need to speak with you."

            "How did you find me?"

            He pulled out his wallet. When he flipped it open, there was a silver badge and his identity card. "Lieutenant Renalde Persimmon, Tech Infantry Internal Affairs."

            "TI? What do you want with an old Fleet man like myself?"

            "You want to know the truth behind the Enoch attack? Why you were ordered to destroy that asteroid?"
            The commander's ears perked up. Who was this guy? "Why would some TI cop know that?"

            "Because we're more than we seem." Persimmon put away his badge and looked him straight in the eyes. "Sir, there's a war coming soon, and it's not going to be between nations, over money, or about issues, but about the very nature of reality."

            "What's the bottom line, lieutenant?"

            "Internal Security is all that's left of the Technocracy, a group of mages that have been running humanity since the 15th century. After the fall of Harrington Industries and the 2nd Civil War, they lost their complete control over the race. The only thing that stood between them and regaining the Federation was the corporations and the Tech Infantry."

            "I know all that."

            "But with the corporations fighting among each other, we're all that's left. InSec works in the shadows for the Chairman. Internal Affairs does the same for the TI."

            "That still doesn't explain the asteroid... or why that Enoch cruiser was looking for us."

            "It's all about... shit! Get DOWN!"

            Eric reacted quickly as Renalde dived under the table. The next thing the captain knew, plasma bolts flew over his head, tearing up the bar room wall. The lieutenant was reaching for his revolver, muttering "Damn it all, I didn't think they'd followed me."

            "What the hell is going on?!" Von Shrakenberg yelled over the energy bursts.

            "They're after me," the lieutenant replied, reaching in his pant leg to pull out his backup sidearm, "and that means they'll be after you."

            "Who are they?"

            "Men in black. Assassins." Persimmon handed the extra gun over to the captain. "Trust me, they don't want you alive."




Experience --


Orders: 4 x 5 points = 20 points

Good Writing: +5 points

Early Turn-In: +5 points


Total: 30 experience points


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Text Copyright © 2000 by Marcus Johnston.  All Rights Reserved.