The forces of the fleet who arrived on Luna consisted of six battleships, seven cruisers and a couple of carriers, for fighters. On each ship was the logo of the Red Guard. The most powerful Confederation force in the stars. Winter’s Shadow now had control of the terrestrial forces, while they were the long arm of the law in space.
At the head of that was Colonel Audra Beckett. Age had caught up to her in a big way. However, she was still the picture of a military commander. In her uniform, standing on the bridge of her flagship, The Rising Autumn, no one could ever claim that their commander wasn’t perfect for the job. Years and years of service had left her with more than a few scars. What was called The Unification Wars were brutal. The Middle East had disintegrated into tribes again, following the massive reduction of fossil fuels and the discovery of Nova Particle fuel. Now, oil was used by so few people that they hardly ever drilled for it anymore. It was a commodity that was outdated, in every sense of the world. When the Confederation was looking to resume construction on the Orbital Elevators, several of the remaining Middle Eastern governments decided to take action and attack the African-based sites.
This began a series of wars against these nations. Wars that were so one-sided against them that the soldiers of those nations resorted to genocidal massacre as a means of getting their enemy to stop invading. However, their commander at the time, Brigadier General Sebastian Descartes called their threat. He knew that this wouldn’t end until the governments were destroyed. So, he did just that. The result was the death of almost 70 million people when the enemy started to carpet-bomb their own cities. They were desperate, reaching out to any tactic that they thought would work. However, against their airships, primitive fighter planes that used bullets, missiles and jet-fuel engines might as we have been shooting BBs at them. It was just about as effective. In the end, after they had literally destroyed every possible means of fighting and often obliterated their own nations, the governments of that part of the world surrendered.
Retreating to the mountains did them nothing. Against the power of the new Variance Fighters and the power of their airship artillery, their cave bases did nothing except prolong the inevitable. After being blasted with particle cannons and javelin-class torpedoes, those inside had nothing left. Some of the most tragic and defeated men were dragged out of those caves in shackles, being hauled into the brigs of the airships. Some tried suicide-bombing, but Sebastian was ready for that. He had his soldiers wearing special masks that had optical lenses that could detect any kind of explosive material. It was even more humiliating for a man who was to be a hero to his people to be stripped down and have the explosives removed before he could even think to hit the detonator.
Winter’s Shadow was the most powerful force the world had ever known. All of the world’s military forces became part of it. No longer did nations have their own military. This was a kind of unified entity that was above national allegiances. What’s more, great leadership was guaranteeing that anyone who opposed was utterly destroyed.
Meanwhile, in space, the Red Guard was on edge. It was strange to Audra why the Colonies hadn’t already tried to rebel. There was a force behind that. Preventing collaboration between colonies was nigh-impossible at this point. Comm Buoys were able to give real-time links between them and to Earth. It got rid of the delay that once existed over the vast space. Transport between Colonies was restricted to the extreme, but it wasn’t helping. Unauthorized transport ships were a dime a dozen. Ships that turned off all engines and drive core when they got close, using their momentum to carry them in. A clever tactic. The man-made asteroid zones were worse. Natural resource satellites that were abandoned after they were mined out. They were safely in orbit above the planet, but they were also an excellent place to hide anything they didn’t want the Red Guard to see. The reality was that there was far too much space to hide things. It was a bureaucratic mess. What made it worse was that they were horrifically under-funded. Audra hated politicians for a reason. But she was given a job. One she meant to get done.
Their shuttle was landing on Luna. With her was her second-in-command, Lt. Commander David McAvoy. He was a gifted soldier, and who was a shoe-in to replace her one day.
They looked out at the beauty of the city, each of them in awe.
“The power of engineering right here, ma’am! It’s amazing!” David marveled.
“Agreed. Though, at the same time, you’re one bad document or one wrong corner away from being a wage-slave to some of the most foul people to ever have power in the Colonies. It’s disgusting. But, there’s not much we can do about it. Under the law, it’s all good. That fact alone depresses me.”
“Then there’s the Carnival. People are none-too-thrilled to see Red Guard ships on a celebration of their culture.”
She nodded, thinking back to the first time she was on Luna for Carnival. “Yeah. My gut tells me that something’s going to happen here. I just wish I knew what.”
The man looked unconvinced. “Not a chance, ma’am! A curtain-call here would be suicide! We got damn-near an eight of the armada stationed outside! Any rebellious elements try anything, there would be nowhere for them to hide.”
She gave him a cold look. “Never underestimate a people who are pushed to the breaking point. I got to see first-hand what that can do. And if there is a better place to hide things, it’s here in space. Infinite space to hide, and our fleet only goes so far. Our budget is already in shambles.”
The two sat quietly as the car got into town. The lights were out brighter. The blimps over the city were shining down. Everywhere you looked ,it was like the world was becoming a happier place. Street vendors were readying for the business and shuttles were already coming in. Carnival was tomorrow. They couldn’t help but be excited.
Harley sat up in bed, her friend making little noises as she left her arms. She threw on a shirt, her underwear and pants, heading out. There was someone she wanted to see.
The car came to a stop in front of a hotel. A member of the local government was there to meet them.
“Colonel Beckett. It’s an honor, having someone with your reputation staying here.”
She shook her head. “I won’t be. I stay aboard my ship. A soldier never abandons her post.”
The man looked confused for a second, but shook it off. “Of course. Well then, we are grateful to have your forces here for security. The rumor mill is all over the place. Can’t be too careful. The people may not like it, but the bulk of the money in Carnival comes in from Earth. Tourism is a boon here on Luna. So it can’t be helped.”
Typical bureaucrat. “You shouldn’t be so quick to discredit the feelings of the people, councilman. You never know when you’ll need them.”
He let out a dark chuckle. “I think not. Unlike the treacherous colonies, we are loyal to Earth.”
She started to walk away, turning back to him. “That kind of self-indulgent attitude will come right back to bite you in the ass someday, councilman. Greed alone won’t save you from the public’s ire.” She didn’t wait for a response. As she was leaving, there was someone coming out. It was a girl with blood-red hair and an eye-patch over her left eye. No way. It can’t be. Could it? The figure never faced her directly, so she couldn’t be sure. No way. She would never leave Earth. Neither of them would. She got back in the car, heading toward the site of the Carnival, to check on security positions and getting a lay of the area. That person, she couldn’t shake the feeling that it was someone she knew. Someone from a long time ago.
Harley got to a very nice-looking apartment building. It was very ritzy, but far enough out of the way to keep things quiet. As she walked inside, a young man in a nice suit was waiting.
“Harley! It’s been a while. How was that date of yours?” There was enough of a wink in his eye for her to see where he was going.
“None of your damn business, thank you much.”
He chuckled, “careful, girl. You’re getting yourself a reputation around here. Breaking all the girl’s hearts.”
The cold look didn’t leave. “If they’re that easy to break, how is it my fault?”
“I’m just sayin’. You need to be careful. There are already two girls looking to hurt you. You wanna make it three?”
“Whatever. Is E in?”
“Yeah, he’s upstairs. Working on our..celebration.”
“Excellent.” She went running up to where she knew the person’s apartment was. It was dark inside. He had always liked it that way. She knocked on the door.
“Who is it?”
“Someone who happens to like you. I know, weird thought.”
“Yeah-yeah. Come on in. Bitch.”
She chuckled, closing the door behind her. As she entered, she reached up and undid the eye-patch. “It’s been a long time, brother.” Her glowing blue eye came upon him, but he seemed not to care.
He walked over, hugging her tight. “You too, sister. I’ve been missing you. You’re out gallivanting so much that I hardly hear from you anymore.” He pulled back. It was strange, looking at the two of them, they seemed so much alike. The hair color was different, but it was clear that that was dye. They were equal in height and their faces were almost identical.
“You gonna rag on me too?”
“No. Just worried about you. You ain’t looking so good.” He walked over to his desk and sat down. “How have you been?”
She frowned a bit. “I’m tired, Eli. I’m tired of this life. I’m sick of doing nothing. Until the Revolution, there ain’t shit I can do! I’m tired of wearing this damn eye-patch all the fucking time! I’m tired of having to hide who I am.”
He also frowned. “I’m sorry, Harley. I know how hard it is. But you won’t have to wait much longer. In a couple of days, we’re back into it again. What we’ve been planning for for ever since, well, since we got here.” He walked over to where she sat on his couch. “I’m not going to abandon you, sister. Ever.”
She hugged him tight. “I know, brother. I won’t either.”
“Now, get ready. After all, it’s going to be Carnival soon! We all know what that means.”
She smiled at him. “Yes. Yes we do.”
At the grounds, there was a young man standing. He had a very smug look on his face, seeming to take nothing seriously. So much work to set up, his smile grew even bigger. this is going to be one hell of a party! A car drove up.
Audra got out. “Ah, you’re here. Glad to see that you’re enjoying yourself.”
“Can’t wait for the festivities! I wonder what it’s going to be.”
“Contain yourself, Lieutenant. We have a job to do.”
He flashed a winsome smile at her, standing at attention. “Of course, ma’am! First Lieutenant Graham Snyder, reporting for duty!”
Until next time, a quote,
“Luna’s public executions are the highlight of Carnival, you know. The festivities reach their peak as the blood of heinous criminals washes away all the crowd’s sins.” -The Count, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo