VELVET GLOVE, IRON FIST - Act II - Erich von Shrakenberg


            When the shuttle door opened, you never saw a faster man rush out of it and through the orbital station. Eric von Shrakenberg was in a violent rage as he moved closer to the Stornoway's umbilical. Once he saw Lieutenant Morales at the gate, he simply shouted, "Follow me!" The TI officer and the small cluster of guards at the gate jumped right behind him. Through the myriad passageways, the few that were still on board cleared as their commanding officer and his grunts poured through them. Finally, they reached the door to the area in which Johanna was working. The commander stopped for a moment; trapped between fear and need.

            He looked over at the lieutenant and said, "Give me a gun." Without a second thought, Ricardo slapped a plasma revolver in his hand. Eric's other hand reached slowly to the gate keypad. Pushing the button, the entire makeshift squad moved to cover. As the door opened, it whirred to show an empty scene in the central computer core. Empty, apart from the sprawled body of his second-in-command, and several open piles of circuitry.

            Eric rushed over to her and held his cousin's head up. "Johanna, can you hear me?!" No response.

            Morales clicked his teeth and one of the squad, a Life mage, moved in next to the commander. Placing his hands on her, the grunt scanned Ingolfsson. The mage looked up at Von Shrakenberg and said, "She's all right. The lieutenant commander's just stunned. Close to some sort of explosion I think."

            The lieutenant looked around and saw the blast marks next to what used to be the comm station. "Looks like a plasma burst, probably from a revolver... but it had to have been a real powerful one to create that sort of blast. Something more on the industrial scale."

            "But she'll live?" The captain was not going to be overlooked on his own ship.

            "Yes," the life mage assured him. "but she'll probably be out for another couple of hours. That much energy in one place is enough to knock anyone out."

            "Couldn't we wake her up now?"

            The mage was only a trooper, relunctant to tell his CO no, but he was also a doctor of sorts. His first responsibility was to his patient. "Yes, sir, but I don't know what sort of effect that would have on her system. Let her wake up on her own."

            "Either way, sir," Morales stepped in, "we need to move her out of here. This place isn't secured."

            With much relunctance, they took Ingolfsson back to her room.


            When she woke up, the captain was right there. Eric had already ordered Morales to lockdown the ship, but that would only be a temporary solution. There were still about a hundred people on board ship at the time, and with the gate guard pulled to help him, someone could have slipped off in the confusion. Besides, something told him that he wasn't going to get any answers staying around this planet.

            However, maybe Johanna had some. As she opened her eyes, Eric leaned over and smiled. "Always said you had a hard head."

            Ingolfsson managed a smile back. "Always said you were a pain in the ass."

            "Are you feeling all right?"

            "I feel like a fell off a cliff."

            "Sounds about right."

            "What happened?"

            Von Shrakenberg moaned. "I was hoping you'd be able to tell me."

            "Last thing I remember, I was talking to you. Then there was this flash and..." She gestured an explosion with her hands, "...I wake up to your bad breath."

            "You couldn't just say thank you?"

            Johanna rolled her eyes. "Thank you."

            "But you were about to tell me something right before the screen went black, weren't you?"

            Ingolfsson collected her thoughts for a moment and tried to think. "Yes, something about the chip."

            "What about it?"

            "Damn it, Eric, I'm trying to think!" she spat back, "Okay, okay... I was saying that we could trace the chip by who made it, fingerprints, DNA, any number of different ways." Then Johanna sighed. "I guess I lost the chip, huh?"

            "We didn't find it. Whoever shot at you must have taken it."

            "Schisse." The commander said under her breath. Ingolfsson took a long look into her captain's eyes. "Eric, what the hell is going on?"

            "We're pawns, Johanna. If we want to be players in this sick game someone's playing, we've got to get some help."

            "Such as?"

            "It's time to call in the family."


            Commander Von Shrakenberg called off the lockdown. Under the circumstances, Eric doubted that it would be that effective anyway. Whoever the spy in their ranks was, it was not a person who would be easily found. Like he told his first officer, it was time to call in the family. From outside the ship, on the orbital station, he borrowed some time on the secure fleet line. With his precious time, he called back to Avalon.

            Soon the image of the Federation seal was replaced by that of his father. "Eric? Is that you?"

            "Yes, papa. How are you doing?"

            "Not so good. The processors are... what's the matter?"

            Eric smiled. Dad always had a way of getting to the heart of the matter. "We've had some trouble out here. Johanna's been shot at, we're not sure who. InSec, Internal Affairs... something's coming after us and we need some help."

            His father was very disturbed by the news. It's not everyday that some shot at your cousin's daughter. "What do you need?"

            "To get together, you and the whole family. It's time to show these gooks who the Von Shrakenbergs are."

            Eric's dad brought something up on the computer, off camera. "All right, I'll call Uncle Karl and get everyone together... Phoenix system, ten days. Okay?"

            "Yes, papa."

            "Then it's time to get packing, ya?'




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