Medron glanced around the meeting room’s large table, Rosa, John, and Selphi on the left side with Terra, Robert, and Rydia on the right side, all waiting for him to begin with relatively patient postures. Assuming they were being compared to hungry lions looking at antelope. He smiled at each of them in turn, subconsciously tugged the black leather glove on his left hand, and sat down in his chair at the front of the table, the creaking of his black leather jacket and the clinking of the chains hanging off it easily audible. Other than the glove masking the artificial nature of his left arm, the others wore the same uniform, making them look like some kind of biker-gang reunion. He liked the look, partially because it led people to underestimate them. He smiled again and inserted a data cube into a slot on his end of the table. Here on Outreach, the Dragoons made sure the meeting rooms they rented out to mercenary units were the best this side of a ComStar installation and Medron was more than willing to pay for the best they had. It wasn’t like the Dragoons charged an arm and leg after all. Unlike some people.
He smiled at Robert, the oldest man in the room, and his old rival raised an eyebrow in response. “What?” he asked and Medron just laughed.
“Nothing. Just remembering the past again,” he answered with another smile.
“You’re too young to get lost in the past, mayfly,” Robert grumped back. “Leave that to the zombies.” The others in the room laughed good-naturedly at Grissom’s self-deprecating humor and Medron joined in. It was nice really, working with so many people who’d come from Solaris. Everybody in the room, except for Rydia from the fighter wing, had spent at least some time in the blood pits, and even she’d picked up on the inside jokes they tossed back and forth.
He loved working with people he could joke around with.
“Anyways,” he jumped in, his voice dropping an octave to a serious tone just above a growl. “I wanted to show you this transmission from David before we started looking over any possible contracts again.” He leaned back, hit the ‘transmit’ button, brought his right hand back up to rub his chin, and watched as his people began to read the message.
He dropped his eyes to his terminal and read the transmission again, feeling his expression tightening. The first time he’d read it, he’d felt like breaking something. Actually, he had. The wine glass hadn’t stood a chance when he clenched his left hand around it. The Marians had lied to him and his people. Twice. Probably more times than that. He glanced back up to check out his people, and nodded approvingly at their tense bodies. The message didn’t pull any punches, and if even half of it was true, the Marian Hegemony could be brought up on charges with the Mercenary Review and Bonding Commission. Falsifying contract terms was a very serious offense to the Dragoons. The problem would be proving that the “errors” were purposeful.
John finally looked up and glared at Medron angrily. “Can we kill him?” he asked and Medron’s eyes opened wide in surprise. He hadn’t expected that exact response from John. He turned to see the others, one by one, raising their heads to look at him and John, all looking like they agreed with John.
“The Marians kinda outnumber us,” Medron finally responded, rubbing his left wrist between jacket and glove absentmindedly. “Granted, I like your idea, but I think they could out-bleed us,” he finished with a whisper and noticed the others nodding in reluctant agreement. A single mercenary unit trying to take on a major government wouldn’t stand much chance after all.
“You have no idea how much I could make them bleed do you?” John growled, angrily. “Need I remind you that I grew up in the Confederation…under Romano’s reign. I learned a few tricks surviving,” he finished in a menacing voice and Medron shifted to the right, trying to open a little more room between them. He hadn’t realized just how dangerous John could be. Sure, he’d had more contacts on the left side of the law on Solaris than anyone else Medron knew, but John had never once acted like this, even when Sardelis had them at gunpoint. There was obviously more to John than he’d thought. Out of the corner of his eyes, he noticed Rosa and Selphi sliding away as well, Rosa’s knee brushing up against his as she moved. She pulled it back and looked at him with an apology on her lips but he just brought up his left hand to silence her. Accidental games of footsy were nothing to worry about.
“Ah, John. I’m sure ol’ Sean has a lot of guards,” Medron whispered nervously, trying to talk some sense into his old friend.
“I’ve learned a lot of tricks,” John growled back.
“I’m sure some of them are Wobblies. Do you really want to go up against them?”
“We’ve done it before.”
“Point,” Medron whispered, sighed, and rubbed his temples with his gloved hand as his mind raced. So much for talking sense into him. Maybe redirecting it would better. “Ok, John. How about we just make his life a living hell, so he can suffer for what he’s done?” Medron asked and John blinked as he thought that over.
“That could work,” he finally whispered with a nasty smile. “What do you have in mind?” Finally he was listening.
“Well, how closely did you read the letter?” Medron asked patiently and John blinked.
“Did you read something in there that I didn’t?” he finally asked and Medron just smiled back. He finally had John’s full attention.
“He’s my brother. I got a lot out of this message,” Medron returned, putting on a smile that matched John’s perfectly.
“The ‘playing in sandboxes’ part?” Robert asked and Medron turned his smile and a nod towards the old man.
“The poem too I’m betting,” Terra added and he gave her a nod as well.
“Those two areas are the real message,” Medron rumbled and leaned back into his chair as he smiled at John. “David found something there on that planet. Something big. Something that he doesn’t want the Wobblies to find out about so he didn’t actually say what he found.”
“Well?” John grunted. “Are you going to tell us?” Medron nodded, took a deep breath, and smiled again.
“When we were kids, we used to play in the sandbox behind our house all the time. One of our more favorite past times was playing SLDF and Rim Worlds with our little toy ’Mechs. We’d make big forts out of the sand and blow them away.”
“Star League forts,” Medron noted simply and Terra’s eyes flicked down the message again.
“You think he found one,” she whispered after a couple seconds and he nodded at her with a gentler smile than before. “Did you build your own toys too?” she asked, pointing at another section of the message.
“No,” Medron muttered as he shook his head. “We were never that good. I wonder if there might be some kind of small factory or something at the fort. He’s not very clear there,” Medron finished, with a shrug.
“A factory,” Rosa whispered, her jaw hanging open in shock.
“He wouldn’t have told me to talk to ComStar for a small fort or a stash of ’Mechs or anything like that. A Star League factory though, or something big like that I could see,” he finished softly, wagging his right index finger as he made his point.
“The poem,” Terra whispered and Medron turned to look at her expectantly. “If he didn’t want the Wobblies learning about it, I’m betting the references to ‘Star’ in that poem were telling you to talk to ComStar,” she added in a conspiratorial voice and he smiled in approval. She was a fast one all right.
“Not quiet, but very close,” Medron returned, his voice colored by an impressed tone. “We used to mangle that poem as kids, so I know he meant ComStar. ‘Star light, star bright, will we see an acolyte tonight.’ He doesn’t want the Wobblies finding out about this, so that’s why he told us this way.”
“He designed the message to look like he was simply remembering how simple things were when you were kids,” Terra smiled and Medron nodded again with a matching smile. He loved having her on his team.
“Hopefully, neither the Wobblies nor the Marians have any idea what David found there,” Medron said as he turned to the others. “I’m going to have fun making them pay through the nose for what they did,” he added as his smile turned evil. “But first, we have to go to ComStar. Tell them what he found. What we think we found. That whatever it is, they don’t want the Wobblies finding it. Maybe they can do something with it. And as long as we keep it out of the grasp of those Marians I’ll be happy.”
“Tell Uncle Yanak,” Terra whispered. “The way the Wobblies have infested ComStar, I wouldn’t trust anyone else.”
“I agree,” Medron responded, happily, loving how fast her mind ran. So it wasn’t the only thing he loved about her. Just the only thing he could acknowledge publicly without getting hit. “I think I’ll be taking a little trip to Terra to see him.”
“And then?” she asked.
“David’s claiming that world. We’re going out there one way or the other and I want ComStar behind us if possible. If this is as big as I think it is, only ComStar will be able to do much with it. We need them.” He turned to the others at the table and they slowly nodded one at a time, agreeing with his statement. He turned to John and finally got a nod from him, then back to Terra with a questioning look as she brought up a hand for his attention.
“I’m going with you,” she whispered and he blinked in surprise. “Do you really think I’m going to trust you to get into something like this alone?” she growled. “The last time you got involved in intelligence operations, I lost my job over it. I’m not going to let that happen again.”
“Sure. No problem,” Medron whispered as his mind raced over the implications of taking a trip with her alone. It could be fun. Or very very painful if he annoyed her. And he’d learned over the last couple years that it was very easy to annoy her. “But how are we going to explain your presence?” he asked and she blinked back at him.
“I’d be there to see my uncle,” Medron whispered, his voice growing sly as an idea came to mind. It might actually be worth annoying her if it worked. “What about you?”
“I don’t know,” she returned suspiciously. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”
“Oh,” Medron whispered, his left index finger rubbing his metal wrist nervously. “Well, I have an idea.”
“Really?” she asked, even more suspiciously and he started humming an old tune. Then she recognized it. “Over your dead body,” she growled, her gaze pinning him to the back of his chair like a laser.
“He’s got a point,” Richard added and she turned her gaze to him, making him bring his arms up defensively. “Hey, set the gaze on stun! You need to explain your presence somehow, and saying it’s your honeymoon would do it perfectly. Taking a little trip to Terra for some ‘celebration’. Seeing the sights. Meeting Uncle Yanak and the family. It would be the perfect undercover operation,” he finished and she speared him with her gaze again before turning back to Medron.
“I bet you’d just love that ‘undercover operation’ wouldn’t you?” she growled and he gulped nervously, knowing exactly how a dear in the headlights felt.
“Ah…Is it even possible to answer that question without getting hit?” he asked plaintively and she glared at him for a moment. Then kicked him in the right shin so hard it brought tears to his eyes.
This was going to be a long trip.