“It is not known exactly when Senator Constantine became a supporter of the Silicant Rights Movement. Some believe that she had been a supporter long before they attained consciousness. Others believed for many years, that she herself was a Silicant. Some things are lost in the winds of time.”

- Excerpt from: The Long Embrace – A Military History of the Great War, by Ambassador Rachel Kelley, USF University Press

 

Chapter 7

 

Gail and Sumi-ness descended the winding staircase to the basement of the senator’s home. The house was set into a hill, and one basement wall overlooked the valley. The narrow room was dark, lit only by occasional flashes of lightning out the picture windows facing the lights of the city below. A couch and several high back chairs were occupied by three perfectly still androids. Only their softly glowing eyes were visible in the dark. The low hum of their android power plants was lost in the sound of rain and thunder from outside.

“Who attacked Sillecore?” Gail asked.

One of the androids on the couch spoke. “We do not know. Neither did the pirates who lived above the factory. One of their transports suffered a core breach. After that, the attackers left.”

Gail stood before the android with the light blue eye lenses. Saibot was an off-white color and appeared blue when the lightning illuminated it.

“Are there scans or images of the attackers?”

“No. But we do have heat signatures of their stardrives,” said Vomisa, a red android who sat in a chair to Gail’s left. Vomisa was sculpted to look female, but was not as realistic as Sumi-ness. She handed Gail a data pad with the heat signatures displayed in shades of red.

“Can you get a match on known Federation starships?”

Vomisa shook her metal head.

Saibot stood up and moved before Gail. It had a standard androgynous shell, slightly shorter than her. “Madam, we were able to recover bridge camera footage of the attackers before the reactor blew.”

Saibot nodded to the data pad and the image changed to a blurred green ship with rectangular wings. The same type of ship that was glimpsed from the bridge of the SS Bourke.

“Does the military know about this?”

“No. But they have a ship in the region. The SS Kelley,” Saibot said.

Gail handed Sumi-ness the data pad and turned to face the windows. More lightning flashed and lit up the sky above the capital city.

“The Kelley has been attacked by pirates. It’s possible they were avenging Sillecore.”

Gail turned back to Saibot and motioned to the data pad in Sumi-ness’s hands. “I have to show that to Admiral Ganner.”

Saibot slowly shook its head. “But that could jeopardize the hidden processing plant. It could cost many Silicants their freedom.”

The other androids rose and surrounded the statuesque senator. She was not threatened by their movements. She was their liberator. Her involvement in the Silicant Rights Movement, though largely unknown to the public, was crucial to the sentient androids known as Silicants.

“I would never do anything to harm your cause. You all know this. These ships are not from Federation space. They come from beyond and they are dangerous. Not just to carbon based life forms, but to all forms of life as we know it.”

Saibot and Vomisa both put a hand on the senator’s shoulder. The synchronization of their movements always amazed Gail.

“We are with you Madam Constantine. Always,” Saibot said.

She nodded slowly and let a thin smile crack her lips. “I think it’s time we recall Eighty-eight and Thirty-seven. Have them make their way back here as soon as possible. Great change is upon us, my friends.”

“As you wish,” Saibot said.

* * *

Commander Trimble had returned to her quarters to quickly pack some last minute items. She was going to meet Captain Raider at the space port along with the few remaining officers assigned to the Sokol. Rain dumped from the skies in sheets, soaking her to the bone as she ran from the aircab to the safety of the overhang at the entrance to her dormitory.

There was another aircar parked near the entrance and she noticed it as the door opened. It was a black government aircar with darkened windows.

“Commander Trimble, please join me for a moment,” a voice called out over the sound of the rain falling.

She wiped water from her face and approached the open door. Inside she could see Senator Hoque, the conservative leader of the senate. Aren’t I popular with the power players tonight?

“Please. I’ll only be a moment,” Hoque said.

She sat down in the fine leather seat as the door swung down to keep the rain out. It was highly unusual to meet a senator like this, especially after having just had dinner with one of the opposing party’s leaders. She wasn’t even in the diplomatic corp and she knew that much.

Hoque was alone in the car, save for the android driver. He was still dressed in his black senatorial robes. He looked at her with intense eyes.

“I understand you had dinner with my colleague from across the hall.”

Trimble nodded.

“How did that go? Did they try and win your allegiance to their foolish Alliance Party?”

Trimble frowned and looked out the windows of the aircar.

“Senator Hoque, I have to be off world in a matter of minutes. I’ve been recalled to my ship. The discussions we had were under the confidence of Madam Constantine and my superior officers.”

Hoque leaned towards her and lowered his voice. “Did anything they said make you uncomfortable? That woman wants to take down the Federation.”

“I will admit to being put off by some of what was said tonight. Politics are not my favorite thing.”

Hoque smiled and backed off a bit.

“Unsavory politics aside, Commander, there comes a time when all citizens must stand up and be heard in order to serve the common good of the people. If you have anything you think I should know, I would appreciate a heads up. We are heading into debate over this Alliance resolution and quite frankly, we could use all the help we can get. If you should change your mind, contact me on a secure channel.” He leaned back in his seat and looked out his window at the water droplets falling down the glass. “Good luck on your mission, Commander.”

She politely thanked him as the door popped open. Getting out of the car she turned to look back as it rose into the rainy night. A bolt of lightning lit up the night, silhouetting the aircar as it climbed away into the sky. Rain fell on her face like glitter, backlit from the city lights.

* * *

Silvery sparks fell from the second level of the Sokol engine room as a welding crew affixed new shielding. Commander Trimble covered her face as her communicator beeped for attention.

“Trimble, go.”

“How much longer Commander? You’re holding up the launch,” Captain Raider said.

Trimble patiently waited for the sparks to stop falling. One of the welders raised his face shield and gave her a thumbs up.

“We’re good, Captain. Cleared to launch.”

The ship jerked forward in response. Trimble braced herself against a railing. The Chief Strategist slid down the outside of the ladder from the second level and moved in front of Trimble.

“We’re okay down here, Ma’am. You’d better get back to the bridge.”

“Aye, Chief. Carry on.”

* * *

By the time Trimble made it to the bridge the Sokol was ready to engage the new tunnel drive for the jump to the Kelley’s last known position in the Outer Rim. Captain Raider stood over the helmsman; he looked up when she approached.

“Now the mains are refusing to come on line. Got any ideas?”

Trimble glanced at the graphical display on the screens. Everything looked fine. The mains were just not spinning up.

“Gremlins?” she asked.

Raider shook his head and pushed off. He was clearly upset with all the delays and didn’t appreciate her humor. Trimble swiped her fingers across the screens until she found the problem.

“Looks like a manifold is closed,” she pushed a few buttons to open the port manually. A graphic indicated the manifold opening. Within seconds the mains were spinning up.

“We’re going to have these glitches for a while Captain. This ship’s never been on a shake-down cruise.”

“It’s going to be a trial by fire. Look at this,” Raider said. He activated the main viewer.

The security footage obtained by Senator Constantine played out.

“This was taken on board a transport that was attacked in the same region as the Kelley.”

The green fighters were clearly visible as they swooped down on the helpless freighter, shooting energy weapons as they passed. The video only last a few seconds and it ended on a paused image of the menacing fighters.

Raider sat down and continued with the pre-tunneling checklist. Trimble stared at the main viewer. A nervous knot twisted her stomach as she realized that they could be heading off into war. Exactly what Admiral Ganner and the Senator had been warning about.

_______________

Author’s Comments:

I really like some elements of this chapter. My former background in film production has lent itself to some wonderfully cinematic moments. The androids and the Senator talking secretively in her basement with only the lightning of an approaching storm to light them. Not only visually interesting, but a tad cliche with the coming storm. But I liked it.

I also love the transition from rain to falling sparks to get Trimble from the surface of the planet to her starship. A decent director would have fun with that one in a movie version of this story.

The newly built starship Sokol has all kinds of issues getting launched. I wanted to suggest a universe in which technology did not always work. Especially if it was new and untested, as this starship was.

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