1
"Take my love. Take my land.
Take me where I cannot stand.
I don't care, I'm still free.
You can't take the sky from me."
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GCV Timestamp: 0030 Hrs 10-31-3082
System: Polaris
Sector: Polaris-1
Vessel: Warmonger Class Super Cruiser
Designation: Difference of Opinion

"Supreme Commander, Hadden2would againlike to extend it's thanks to you for acting personallyto deal with the escalating pirate situation. "

Supreme Commander Karl Reines' continued glad-handing the Hadden liaison for a few moments more, but mentally turning over recent events. The whole thing stank, that much was obvious, but he could not put his finger on what was so wrong.

His alarm chirruped. It was time for his shift. Absently he passed through corridors and by crew, lost in a flood of data and after-action reports.

"Admiralty on the Deck!" called the Watch Officer, snapping a taunt salute.

"Anything to report?"

"Not much,sir. We had a few false alerts, caused by some rogue bodies. TacScan estimated they were left over debris from a comet. They have been ambling at about 50km/s, occasionally slipping out of detection, but have been holding course steady. However as precaution, I had the ship make a quick evasive maneuver with sensors full active. No change in analysis. We will bypass them in a few moments as we end our patrol and enter the jump point."

"Very well. You are relived." The W.O. snapped another crisp salute and tiredly headed toward the lift. A flash of insight shot through the Reines' mind. Ambling bodies.

"Lieutenant !" He called to the W.O., "when were the bodies first detected?"

"Approximately two hours ago, 360 k by k3distant."

It all fit, if a target was effectively stationary or going to a fixed point…it could be sighted at visual range….Which would mean..

" Navop Emergency Thrust, Activate PT-"

"WARNING, ACQUIRED!

WARNING, ACQUIRED!

WARNING, ACQUIRED! Screeched the computer, far, far too late.
Status displays winked from emerald to amber in an instant. The ship rumbled and shook, electronics sparked and flared, screams intertwined with frantic damage reports. The hull was breached in multiple sections, reactor containment was failing. The flagship of GalCom, mortally wounded in only a few seconds of engagement. The bleak irony of it all drew a sardonic smile to his lips.

WARNING, ACQUIRED!
WARNING, ACQUIRED!

Gazing through the mangled viewer, he could almost see her amongst the stars.

"Damn you, Kyra…"

Universal Combat:
The Silent War

Chapter 1:
The Blood of Patriots and Tyrants

GCV Timestamp: 0800 Hrs 5-22-3081
System: Sol
Sector: Earth
Vessel: Peacekeeper Class, Heavy StarBase
Designation: GalComHQ (aka Arrant Judgement)

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"The Imperium will not tolerate this situation for long. This...murderer must be handed over-"

Sounds, voices in the dark. It was all a jumble, no distinction between the past and the now.

"Death to the Butcher!"

"Stop him! Don't let him near the life s-"

Timeless nothing, ebbing unto light. The world slowly coalesced before Kyra, but somehow off center. Her hand found the reason. Massaging the dry flesh of her face, a patch covered her right eye.

"Events have been rather pressing of late, we haven't been able to schedule the expected

regeneratives."

The source of the voice was one in need of regeneration himself, a sloppily cut suit drapped over an aged ailing frame. His two canes and portly stomach did little to add to this image of perfect health.

"Of course, considering the current political climate, I daresay it fits the persona thrust upon you."

"What do you mean old man?"

"Hmph. What a tired cliche. Back up and start again, even with one eye it should be obvious.".

Annoying as refusal was, the old man was right. A quick glance around the room told Kyra all she needed to know. No windows, one exit blocked by a heavy door, numerous obvious recording devices backed up by innumerable ones concealed. It was cell, pure and simple. Question was why? The answer was just as obvious as before.

"Gammula? A GC nation?"

A sly smile spread. "Correct. For the most part" He added reservedly "The Gammulan Imperium is a GC state, the Hegemony of Bandit Kingdoms however, is another story." A sharp clang signaled the unbolting of an extremely heavy lock.

"Excuse me sir,"tThe bulky yet timid orderly interjected, "The visiting time is long past expired."

"Very well." With a heavy grunt, he lifted himself upright upon the two canes. "We'll be in touch Kyra, and I'll have a terminal installed, so that you can catch up on current events."

With a plodding shuffle, the old man headed out of the room. In the midst of the door well, he stopped, glancing over his shoulder to her.

"I rather abhor tired cliches, but this once I'll indulge you. "

For a few sparse moments they held each others gaze until she reluctantly broke the silence. "Who are you?"

"I've had several names over the years, some not as polite as others," He said with a wry smile" but amongst friends as you soon will be, I am Kettle Belly" He said patting his paunch. "Until then you can call me what the rest of the world does. S. R. Hadden".

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GCV Timestamp: 0930 Hrs 5-30-3081

The eyes lining the chamber were all upon her. Withering, hate-filled gazes trying to bore holes into her being. Her solitary eye blinked with a casual, resigned calm, totally without fear for the deathly intent surrounding her.

"The Tribunal will now reconvene." Silence fell instantly throughout the chamber, so deeply the respect for the Galcom's large ebony commander was felt. "Today begins the preliminary testimony of the accused, Commander Kyra Elorian of the heavy cruiser Surprise. This inquiry is pertaining to the events leading to the illegal obtainment and subsequent unauthorized release of a R.A.N.D.O.M 4class OTS missile upon Denib, the second moon of Gammula Prime. For the benefit of the media observers, let me reiterate; the subsequent damage and casualties will not be included among the charges."

"If-" he continues loudly above the roaring dissent " and only if the accused is court martialed, will she-"

Even the Supreme Commander's deep baritone could no longer drown out the escalating protests. None of it mattered, it was all pro-forma, a show of formality and order for the allies. In a way, Kyra knew this would be how it would be, if she had somehow made it back home.

It was a suicide job, she knew it as soon as she received the summons to Supreme Commander Reines' quarters. No mere Commander, not even one of the (in)famous Elorian sisters, got a personal summons to see the S.C. It just wasn't done and yet here it was.

Nothing of what he revealed was comforting, most of it which she already deduced from the rumor mill and variousreports. At least the weight of insecurity was gone and his total honesty blunted the impact.

GalCom was only a few short months from total collapse. Defeat after defeat at the hands of the Gammulan Republic was taking the resources and morale of the alliance beyond the breaking point. In the next coming days, the Vesperons would publically secede from the alliance in an attempt to save something of their territory. Other nations would certainly follow suit, several already had 'secret' treaties.

Pushing the multitude of -eyes only- reports and files aside, she stared into his eyes and simply said. "Just tell me where and how sir". Shock momentarily shaped his features at her ready ascent without him stating what was needed, but it was fairly clear and implicit. GalCom needed a dramatic victory to galvanize ally morale and potentially put GalCom on even negotiating terms with Gammula.

With a few key strokes, the holo-display flicked on projecting the nav map of explored stars. A few more strokes, and the Terran quadrant was highlighted, the remainder winked out. The image focused and zoomed on the Polaris sector.

"As you already know, in the Polaris sector lies the singularity to the Credian Quadrant. What you and hopefully the Gammulans don't know, is that just within the solar envelope of the Polarian sun lies a second singularity. We have reason to believe that it leads not only into the Gammulan quadrant, but the Gammulan system itself."

Kyra frowned " The singularity must not only be improperly mapped but unstable even for a singularity, or you would have exploited this already. So would the Gammulans for that matter."

"Correct on all points. Nearly 300 years ago at the height of the Terran Diaspora, the Pilgrim charting ship 'Kitten's Paw' experienced multiple systems failure in the midst of the Polaris system. By the time the Captain, a C. Blair, was quickened from cryo sleep, the ship was irreparably locked into the stars pull.

Its partner ship the Cylrah, noted that just before all contact was lost, that Blair frantically stated that his instruments were detecting a faint singularity near their position, just within the envelope and he would try to navigate it.

The Cylrah later performed some sensors sweeps in the designated coordinates, but predictably found nothing. They chalked up Blair's final message due to desperate hope and sensor echoes caused by the prominent singularity to Credia they later plotted.

Flash forward one hundred years to our first contact with the Gammulans, much to our surprise they already knew quite a bit about our physiology already and some of our history. It was naturally attributed to their vast intelligence network. However, we do have eighth and ninth hand intelligence that the Gammulans learned of us through the capture of a fatally damaged Terran exploration vessel. The crew was dead and the computers fried beyond recovery long before they found it. However the bodies were in a condition enough to be studied, along with a sizable stash of some rather ancient and esoteric reading materials, specifically bound books.

Something that odd, would certainly stick out on a ships manifest and in during the time period, there has only been one vessel with enough physical books to warrant a listing upon the manifest. The 'Kitten's Paw'. It's to our fortune, that the Gammulans were not ablerecover anything more from the 'Paw' then some copies of Mark Twain. In the earnst to conquer the galaxy, they never followed up on the mystery on how a Terran ship could have appeared derelict within the Gammulan system.

Sensor technology and our understanding of the singularities has progressed a lot since the time of the 'Paw and Cylrah. If there is a jump point, we can find it, and hopefully stabilize it enough for ships to pass through. I want you, Kyra, to lead a fleet through, and bring Gammula to the bargaining table. By any means."

Without a moment's hesitation, Kyra stood and snapped a taut salute "Yes, Sir"

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GCV Timestamp: 1930 Hrs 5-30-3081

Two Canes was already waiting for her in the room as she came from the Tribunal.

"They certainly are setting you up for a huge fall." He said nodding at the broadcast playing upon the wallscreen.

"That maybe, but even so my hands are anything but clean. I did my best to reduce the collateral damage. By shattering Denib, I destroyed Gammula while still giving the civilians a chance to live. I do a lot of terrible things as a soldier, but Im not a monster." She gave a derisive snort. " I would love to say it was their stubbornness against leaving that caused the massacre, but I'm not that callous. I know their blood is on my hands and upon GalCom. If it takes my execution to rinse the taint, then I accept it gladly."

"You are a rare soul Kyra. In another time and place, you would have made a fine samurai. Galcom doesn't deserve you." He said sorrowfully.

"Mr Ha...Kettle Belly-" she started with a thin smile, her hand running across her belly "We've become close in the last week and I hope I won't broach upon that friendship with this request. When the time comes, could you see to it that my child is well taken care of? So that it gets to see the peace I fought for?

"Child?" Shock passed on the immutable old man's face for the first time.

"Yes. Fraternizing is frown upon, but when we were marrooned on Gammula, my crew found comfort in each others arms." She gave a small smirk " I was no exception. It's all I have left of Resnig now."

"Kyra..."

"I know it's a lot to ask so suddenly, but if today is any sign. It won't be long before I'm executed."

A small tear leaked from the old man's eye. "My god Kyra...didn't they tell you?"

"Tell me what?" She squeaked with tired trepidation.

"The embryo...the child absorbed too much radiation during the your flight home. It died, but because of your multitude of injuries, it was never purged from your system. It began to literally rot inside you and an infection set to your womb. The doctors had to remove it."

"You lie."

"Never, dear girl. Look under your bandages."

Her hands quaked uncontrollably, despite her fanatically attempt to tear off the bandages around her midsection. He had to be lying her mind screamed...but he was not. The scar was a thin healing scar across her lower abdomen. Her hands pressed into her flesh, expecting that certain feel, she had grown up with. It wasn't there, just a subtle intangible emptiness.

Hadden looked into the young woman's eyes and in that sad instant when the truth finally sank in, he could actually see her mind finally snap. It took eight orderlies in order to pin Kyra long enough for the sedatives to silence her raging screams.

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1 "The Ballad of Serenity", FireFly Lyrics by Joss Whedon

2 Hadden (Industries): A terran based mega-corparation. Since the Diaspora it contains business interests with nearly every known race. Rumored to be a member of 'The Movement'

3 360 K by K: 360,000(360k) Kilometers (Normally abbreviated Km. Navy crews tend to us K instead)

4 R.A.N.D.O.M - Random Access Nuclear Disruptor For Obsolete Matter

A highly devastating weapon, fired from orbit like a normal OTS (orbit to surface) weapon. Normally upon impact, it will destroy everything on the planet leaving it totally barren and altering its topology, weather, ozone layer etc. However, in the case of the Gammulan Massacre, the missile was fitted with a burrowing head and its tremendous force was used to shatter Denib from within.