Episode 23: Red Tape

“A frontal assault won’t work,” said Captain Ortega. “Dyson’s forces are largely defensive in nature. They appear offensive at a first glance with many small vessels designed to overwhelm initial resistance, but that’s largely a means of keeping a fleet occupied while the larger ships are established as a beachhead. In a typical scenario, if that isn’t enough to assure victory then the Dyson forces bring in their… weapon, whatever it is.”

“I understand, Captain,” said the lieutenant on the other side of the vidscreen. “I’ve logged your notes and sent them to Astroguard. I can’t personally do anything else to send you aid in this situation, though. Fleet Command has already issued their orders, and I can’t patch you through to anyone who can approve another ship to come get you. If you head back to the front, you can probably meet with Astroguard or an affiliated military.”

“By the burning fires of fate, you’re not listening to him!” shouted Captain Calen, pushing her way into the view of the camera and brandishing her Maelstrom Ray at the screen. “Even a Morcalan armada led by the Suzerain herself would take heavy losses! Your police force can’t stand against this true army if you won’t listen to the intel!”

Ortega had originally asked Calen to stop pushing her way into his official communications, but the breaches of protocol had grown on him after his call had been transferred for the fifth time.

“Ma’am, Astroguard is well prepared. Captain Ortega’s information is already on its way. Believe me, reports from a captain with his record will be weighted appropriately. Fleet Command knows what it’s doing.”

“You have a lot of faith in Fleet Command” said Ortega. “I hope you’re right. In my experience, they’re good people but they let procedure dictate their actions more than common sense. Is the fact that I have Doctor Silas Rogers in custody enough to change my situation?”

“There aren’t any prisoner transport ships in your area, and the ones closest to your region lack a security rating high enough for someone of the Soul Survivor’s threat level.”

“Do yourself a favor, learn to call him Doctor Rogers.”

The Lieutenant nodded.

“Aye, sir. I need to end the transmission. Good luck out there. Oh, and it’s big honor to meet you, sir, I’ve always been a fan.”

Ortega grinned and saluted before the transmission cut out. He collapsed back into his chair as the smile left his face.

“Fame makes you weary,” said Calen.

“These calls make me weary,” said Ortega. “Fame is nothing. He was just doing his job, and his job was to inform me that they won’t be listening to me.”

“A nameless, honorless curr like him lacks the spark of life. It’s people like him who cause your Astroguard to be self-shackling.”

“It’s people like him who keep the Astroguard running so that the people in the field can keep the operations going smoothly,” said Ortega. “Right now it’s annoying, but this is an unusual situation. And his name is Lieutenant Eldermar. It was written on the tiny plaque under the rank insignia.”

“Don’t make excuses for weakness,” snarled Calen. “On Morcala, someone in his position would be well served by ignoring the orders of his superiors and finding someone who could make a difference. It would lead to promotion.”

“That’s not unheard of for the Astroguard,” said Ortega. “It’s part of why I became a Captain so quickly.”

“So your culture recognizes greatness when it sees it, but doesn’t understand it enough to foster it,” she said with the faintest hint of a sneer. “Do you have any more plans, great one, or are you willing to accept my plan as superior?”

“Your plan has us flying back into Morcalan space to be shredded.”

“A glorious death in battle while fighting for a slim chance is a better fate than living on the run for the rest of our lives.”

“Emperor Dyson won’t spread far enough for us to worry the rest of our lives.”

“True conquerors don’t have a reason to stop. Unless you plan on making a run for Glorian space or finding a way to travel like the Void Pilgrim, I’m not convinced that there’s anywhere we could run that Dyson wouldn’t follow. Striking now is ideal, before he becomes fully entrenched! By the Farthest Fleet, you WILL acknowledge this!”

Captain Ortega slumped further into the chair.

“I’ve always agreed with that,” he said. “Time is crucial to any counter-offensive like this. I just disagree with your methods.”

“So if my plans are too dangerous and your plans are too cautious, how do we proceed?” asked Calen.

“Captain?” said Ensign Trell, looking in from the door to the bridge.

“Yes?” said the two captains. Ortega winced and noticed the look on Captain Calen’s face, not sure how much was due to him and how much was due to Trell’s interruption.

“Captain Calen,” said Trell.

“Do you have something to add, Ensign?” Calen asked, putting an extra emphasis on the rank.

“It occurs to me that we have access to a renowned strategist and master planner on this vessel. It wouldn’t be without risk, but the Soul Survivor might be able to formulate a strategy that would work for both of you.”

“His name is Doctor Silas Rogers,” said Ortega. “And absolutely not. His plans are more dangerous than anyone realizes. He’s brilliant, and possibly deranged. Reactivating him now when he’s finally powerless is madness.”

“Actually, I like this plan,” said Calen. “These are desperate times, and siding with another warrior is sound strategy.”

“I really don’t think-”

“Captain Ortega, I have tolerated your hesitations on MY ship in recognition of your reputation as a fierce and capable warrior and of your rank in the Astroguard, as much as I despise their methods. Since you and your guest arrived at our doorstep, you have stayed my hand and tried my patience too long, wasting Trell’s valuable time on cleaning away the condensation in the Soul Survivor’s dome.”

“Any moisture might be enough to reactivate him,” said Ortega.

“And right about now, that sounds like a wonderful idea,” said Calen. “Trell! Fetch a pitcher of water, and pour it into our other guest’s dome.”

“You can’t!” said Ortega, rising from the chair.

Captain Calen raised her Maelstrom Ray and aimed it at Captain Ortega. The champion of the Astroguard stared at the dangerous weapon for a moment before sitting back in the chair. He could tell by the way she held the Maelstrom Ray that it wouldn’t miss.

“Now listen to me,” said Calen. “Trell WILL reactivate Doctor Rogers. You WILL allow us to call him The Soul Survivor if we wish, as his infamy has earned him a title. And when he provides a plan for us, we WILL enact it.”

“How do you know he’ll just make a plan for you so easily?” asked Ortega.

“Oh, he will,” said Calen.

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