The Youngstown Campaign...a visit by Rich
AN UNEXPECTED GUEST
Emmett Bregmann was sitting in the food court (which had become a sort of "town square"), going over his notes. Major Sanchez, Commander Rana, and Subadar Sakai came over, and at his nod pulled out chairs. All three were carrying trays with some kind of rice-and-vegetable dish; it was the Gurkha's turn to cook. Although there was a long tradition of waiving the dietary laws for soldiers "travelling over the black water", most of them still ate very little meat - especially when they couldn't identify the source.
Bregman had already noticed that Sakai was never far away from wherever his Commander was. He'd also noticed that the Commander didn't miss much, and the Subadar didn't forget
much. They made a formidable team.
He noticed a stir at the next table and looked up. Colonel Paul Davis had just entered the mall, accompanied by a trim middle-aged woman in a uniform he didn't recognize. Several people were looking now, and they looked either happy or apprehensive. He spoke up, "You'd think by now people would get used to the sight of different uniforms, especially around this place."
Commander Rana answered, "You'd think so. It seems to be only the Rangers who are interested; perhaps they recognize our guest."
"Or her uniform; which is more than I do." said Major Sanchez.
Sakai spoke up, "Green, with a sunburst vest on the left shoulder, extending across the chest. That's the dress uniform of an officer in the Federated Suns. The 'foxhead' insignia with the number "2" indicates the Analysis and Speculation department of Military Intelligence. Also she's wearing spurs, so she's a mechwarrior." Seeing the other's reactions, he added "I've been doing background research. Lieutenant Miles has extensive records, and she allowed me to access them."
"When did you have the time ?" asked Sanchez.
"More to the point, who the devil are the Federated Suns ?" inquired Commander Rana.
"That's the 'state', if you can call it that, ruled by House Davion. It's all very medieval.", replied Sakai. Then he seemed to realize what he'd said, "I suppose that would make her some kind of client representative."
Sonya Zhukov was approaching the pair, and she was smiling. Evidently at least some of the Rangers did
recognize the woman, and were happy to see her.
Bregman was confused again. Apparently there were still a lot of things he hadn't figured out.
Sonya led the new arrivals over to the table. She introduced all of them, including Bregman, then said "This is Lieutenant Colonel Maria Seydlitz." Then she turned to the Lieutenant Colonel and asked, "or are you here as Ambassador Seydlitz ?"
"I'm only a Deputy
ambassador, and I'm here in both capacities; and before I forget, congratulations on your promotion, Sonya."
"Thank you, ma'am," replied Zhukov. "But I'm not sure I'll get to keep it. I screwed up a few days ago..."
"Did you compromise the mission ? Was anyone hurt ?", asked Seydlitz.
"No, and only me," answered Sonya, "and I've recovered."
"Then stop worrying," said Seydlitz, "If Ian demoted every officer who screwed up, this regiment would be staffed entirely with Corporals."
"I take it you know the Colonel, then." said Commander Rana.
"You could say that - he and Jack Fetterman saved my world, for starters. Maybe they saved my sanity as well, although I'd like to think I had at least a little to do with that." No one knew how to respond to that.
Sonya broke the silence, "How is Johan these days ?"
Maria replied, "He's doing very well at University; he's torn between becoming an officer and becoming a professor. He still talks about our time on New Moab, you know; and he hasn't forgotten how you used to make him run the obstacle course every morning."
"I was running it anyway," said Sonya, "and he seemed like he needed something to do."
"Which he did." said Seydlitz. "But as pleasant as this is, I didn't come to a completely different universe to talk about the good old days. I need to see the Colonel as soon as possible."
Major Sanchez spoke up. "He and Major Fetterman are both in the field; but I'll contact them both. I'm sure they'll be happy to see you. In the meantime, have you eaten ?"
"I have, thank you." Maria replied. "But I wouldn't say no to a cup of coffee, if you have one."
Bregman was torn between bombarding their guest with questions and sitting with his hands folded and his eyes straight ahead. The tall, trim woman had an attitude which in some ways reminded him of Commander Rana, and in other ways of his eighth-grade math teacher. Her manner wasn't unfriendly, but she seemed like someone who only really relaxed among friends, and Sonya was obviously the only person at the table who qualified. Sonya, on the other hand, acted like the woman was a favorite aunt; the kind you put on your best manners for.
When the Colonel and Major Fetterman entered, there were smiles and handshakes and even some hugs; these three had obviously known each other a long time. Captain Crook and Lieutenant Miles were with them. Bregman knew the pressing duties which all of these officers had; only something very important would justify calling all of them out of the field at the same time. After some brief conversation, everyone retired to the Colonel's improvised "op-center", leaving him alone with Captain Zhukov.
"So," he said, "You and the Lieutenant Colonel go back quite a ways, I guess ?"
"I was just a trooper when she came to New Moab," replied Sonya "and she and the Colonel were old friends from long before then. I was studying to be an officer, and she helped me a lot. I think anything else is probably not my business."
Bregman guessed that she probably didn't think it was his business either.
Ambassador Seydlitz studied the monitor and said, "You're thinking of going there next," she pointed at a spot on the map, "but your ultimate goal is... here, I think." She was pointing at an area north and west of Mosquito Creek Lake.
"If we can manage it, yes." replied the Colonel "but we haven't worked out the 'how' yet. Why don't we all have a seat, and you can brief us on why you're here...and why you arranged for us
to be here, since I'm guessing you had something to do with it."
"A bit, yes." Maria replied.
As Sanchez took her seat, her mind was racing. How, and why, would this woman send the Regiment to this reality ?
"Let's begin with the obvious," said the anbassador. "The FS is not
cancelling your contract. In fact, if you agree, we'd like to extend it. But we can discuss the details later. You might want a shareholder's meeting for that. It might be fun to invite Mr. Bregman to observe one of those, just to watch his reaction." Everyone smiled at that, including Sanchez. Hailey had been right, she had
been set up.
"For those of you who don't know me," said the ambassador, "I currently serve in the Federated Suns Military Intelligence Analysis Department, which is why I have access to the reports you've forwarded through Captain Adila, as well as the ones which my colleagues think that you think they don't know about. I also hold a position as Deputy Ambassador, most recently to Old Terra; actually, it's pretty much only Old Terra, and it's really just a cover for my real job, which is really more of a target - the Word of Blake."
Sanchez was going to speak up, but Commander Rana beat her to it."That would be more helpful if all of us knew what it meant."
It was Fetterman who answered. "Jerome Blake was an idealist, and something of a visionary. He created an organization - I guess you could call it that - dedicated to recreating the old Star League, which dissolved centuries ago, in order to unify all of humanity under it's leadership. They preserved the communications technology which everyone else had lost when the League fell apart. That kept civilization from falling apart completely, and it also gave the organization tremendous political power. They're based on Old Terra."
Sonya remembered what Calvert had said, when they'd first met. "Is this like the 'Clans', then ?", she asked.
"In some ways. They had, or claimed to have, a similar goal," replied Fetterman. "But whatever Blake may have been, his disciples are intolerant fanatics. They think that the way to restore unity is by destroying anyone who doesn't want to join it. Come to think of it, they have that in common with the Clans as well."
"Neither one of them play well with others, that's for sure," said Captain Crook. "The Word of Blake may be the single greatest power in the inner sphere...and they're the enemy of almost all of the others, the Federated Suns included."
"Thank you, gentlemen," said Commander Rana, "I think I get the basics. Please continue, Ambassador."
"Thank you," said Seydlitz, "The short version is that Lieutenant Miles is right. There is
a Hellmouth in our reality, and it's on Old Terra, and the Word of Blake isn't talking about it publicly. Privately, some of them seem to think it's a sign from whatever gods they believe in, if they believe in any. Of course, we know differently."
She continued, "When the rift opened up, I had a pretty good idea what it meant. It wasn't difficult to convince my superiors that it needed to be investigated. It was a bit harder to convince them that the Regiment were the best people for the job."
"All right," said the Colonel, "I'll bite. Why are
we the best people for the job ?"
She ticked off points on her fingers; "One, you're good at what you do. Two, you won't try to take advantage of the situation, at least not too much. Three, I trust you; and four...because you were the people in my dream." she replied.
"You've been having dreams, Maria ?" asked the Colonel.
"For a while now; they were very disturbing at first, but I've gotten used to them." she replied.
Everyone was just staring at her, then Sanchez spoke. "Oh my freaking
God," she said, "Lieutenant Miles was more right than she knew, wasn't she ?"
"Yes, she was," answered Seydlitz. "All the evidence says that these two universes had a common source. Both have Hellmouths, and both had demons. In our universe, the most dangerous demons were eradicated during the time of the Star League. If any remain, and we're not sure if they do, they've been keeping a very low profile."
"Hold on, please," said Miles "Are we saying what I think we're saying ? Because if the inner sphere has demons and Hellmouths, then it should also have..."
"Slayers." said the ambassador.
"Of course," she continued, "with the demon threat neutralized, there was no need for any... I think the word you use is "potentials", correct ?" Sanchez nodded. "No need for any potentials to become active. Our version of the Watcher's Council apparently dissolved almost three centuries ago, and I wouldn't even know that
if the dreams hadn't led me to dig into certain old records."
"But that changed recently."she went on. "I didn't actually know why until I read Hannah's excellent summary of the information which the ISWC so kindly provided. When your Miss Rosenberg performed her 'activation' spell, it seems the effects reached a bit farther than she intended. I imagine I'm not the only one effected; you might want to look into that when you get home, Commander Rana."
"So, If I'm getting this right, You're saying that.." said Crook.
"That I'm apparently a Slayer. As far as I know, the only one in our universe, and possibly the oldest one ever to exist."
This was another one that I didn't plan. I think this story is writing itself.