Episode 8: Looming Conflict
It has been three days since the battle at Alpha Centauri Twelve. This time has passed by swiftly but not in vain. There have been a number of disturbances along most outer colonies and in some asteroid mining facilities. Dana was able to report to me that some of the supposed accidents were actually provoked by hidden devices. Now that the mine collapses had a cause, we needed to find a perpetrator. Mara, Vance and I had been busy looking for clues on who was attacking the colonies. Meanwhile the Captain made a number of changes in the crew of the Proxima Eclipse. We speculated that most of these new soldiers had a greater loyalty to her than to Starlance itself which made us worry. The investigation on these soldiers revealed that they possessed a lot of experience serving under Captain Villanova. Also to note is that the carrier is almost fully repaired and will be ready to depart soon. By now the Star Shadow was permanently assigned to me. I was to be a special elite unit of Squadron Sigma. Another two missions yesterday and the day before helped me to gain this special title, though I am still an ensign.
Hours before my shift began I was doing research at my personal terminal in my quarters when a transmission began to play. It seems that all monitors on the ship and possibly the station were playing this.
“To all forces of the Starlance and colonies related to this corrupt military force. We of the Centauri Liberation Front declare that we no longer require your protection services. This declaration also releases the colony known as Proxima Centauri One from Starlance control. We will guide this colony into a future with true freedom!”, declared a man with no uniform or military markings of any kind. These people were risking their lives by doing this, Starlance has been known to abandon those outside the protectorate. He continued, “Although we have the means to protect this colony we ask of Starlance to promote a peaceful transition. The leaders at Proxima Centauri One have agreed to step down and allow a new leadership, a civilian leadership, to take command. A number of mining operations will also be joining us. If there is any hostility towards us we will defend ourselves to the best of our ability. Starlance has become a very expensive operation, one that we are no longer willing to fund. This coupled with their more recent failures have forced us to take the matter of our security into our own hands. We will wait for a response from Starlance until this time tomorrow.”
The transmission ended and I quickly rushed out of my quarters. As I moved towards hangar bay sixteen the Captain ordered all soldiers to move into the nearest briefing room and that any who were working to report to the nearest monitor stations. Once in the briefing room she began to inform the troops.
“This is a ship wide report on the current situation.”, unlike before, information was flowing out of the bridge, something that felt odd yet satisfying. Perhaps this was a show of the trust the Captain has on her crew. “As you all have seen, there is a new force rising against Starlance, they seem to be a peaceful force. Communication lines are currently cluttered with data transfers and other transmissions. It seems there are more colonies involved in this and that might decide to break off from Starlance. This means that money and resources may become limited. Starlance depends greatly on its protection contracts and industrial sponsorship. If any of these is cut off then the security force will lose some of its power. It still falls to us to maintain peace in this sector and guard those colonies still under the protectorate. I await information from high command and will inform you all of what is decided. Dismissed!”
Concern flooded the briefing room. Could we be at the edge of war without knowing it? It was a possibility. It would all depend on how Starlance High Command reacted to this power split. As the Captain said, without the support of the resources from the mines and colonies the security force could become more vulnerable. This would entice other forces to take action and try to wrest control from this new faction.
I ran through the corridors again moving to the hangar bay, expecting to see Mara and Vivian but they had not arrived. Our shift was yet to begin and it was too early. Turning back to go to the Major’s quarters my communicator sounded, it was Major Caplan telling me to return to my own quarters. At my quarters was everyone of my friends and allies, Mara explained that we needed to change our meeting places every now and then. I found the choice rather amusing, some of us had to sit on the cold floor while the Major gave us his thoughts on the matter.
The new development was proof that Starlance has much less influence in the systems than it once did. In addition to this more colonies would surely follow, there must be many more which have yet to announce their allegiance.
“It seems there are perilous times heading our way. We must devise a strategy to cope with this, Starlance is sure to have a more difficult time now. This does not answer our other mysteries though. These people may have some weaponry but surely they have not the capability to build a ship like the one that attacked us. More over, the force that attacked Alpha Centauri Twelve is most likely unrelated to these people as far as we know. It would serve no purpose to attack one of the other colonies.”
Major Caplan provided us with some good insight, though more information was needed. The actions of Starlance High Command were also very important. There are many things at stake. The relative peace among the colonies is mostly enforced by Starlance. We surmised that new political problems might arise. There is also a sense of unity in terms of exchange systems and commerce.
Our meeting was done fairly quickly and about an hour later we were all called once again to the briefing rooms. This time a transmission from Starlance High Command began to play.
“This is an open message to the so called liberators. For now you will be allowed to continue with your dealings but know this, Starlance has reason to believe that you are the ones responsible for the attack on the colony Alpha Centauri Twelve as well as dealing with pirates. As for all Starlance forces you are to stand by until further notice. High Command will resolve this issue as we best see fit.”, this message was delivered by a low ranking soldier. The Starlance High Command did not seem to want to be seen much these days. It is things like this that hurt morale in these military forces. The leaders, these esteemed heroes, were necessary to bolster confidence.
Captain Villanova prepared a number of missions for the crew. With the carrier soon to depart she decided to send scouts to a number of colonies to see what was happening. Something that I found strange was that she also sent scouts to a number of Starlance outposts and fleets. Even the main fleet would have a scout sent to. As I expected she assigned me to one of those missions, I was to gather information on the colony Proxima Centauri One.
During my preparations in my quarters I received a message from my sister Dana. She told me news that were disturbing. Her nursing staff is at the colony I am about to spy on. In her message she described the people had decided to firmly back the Centauri Liberation Front. There was no foul play, no use of force or economic sanctions. This was all done through dialog, she explained, and thus there was no way the CLF could have attacked the other colonies. Dana also informed me that she was allied to these liberators and was helping them with the best of her skill. I wasn’t surprised but I do worry about her well being.
I reached the coordinates set by the Captain, this time Major Caplan joined me on the mission. His experience would serve us well, he knew what to listen for. We monitored their transmissions for a few hours. Most of the data that was being transferred was not coded, mainly dealt with simple access codes and communication between families. What remained of Starlance in the colonies had left by now. This group seemed to have had this movement well planned. There has been no actual conflict, no battles to be fought. A single event was noted in the form a small pirate transport arriving at the colony. Even then there was no fighting. The transport left supplies and, according to some data we acquired, were willing to lend a hand with trading. With all the new information we had gathered we decided to return to the Proxima Eclipse and report to Captain Villanova.
The Captain was pleased with our mission. She told us to remain on the bridge, there was a message to be received soon from high command. Not only this, the Proxima Eclipse was finally ready for launch. The message arrived, she received orders to move the fleet to the colony and engage our new enemy. Though this made little sense, since there were no hostilities from the group’s part. Nonetheless the Captain decided to make the preparations for launch.