Week 52: Inverse eBookend (Season One Finale) [Unedited]
This coordinated implosion of the ground was much more for show because neither Janette nor Burdlit had felt its effects. Yes, there was a gaping recess which wound its way around the Power Authority from this side of the planet to the tune of being considered bottomless, but the pit extended only out as far as them and introduced a comfortable albeit barren plus straight path forward which extended directly from their stationary position for as many miles as they would have chosen to take it. Peculiar was not the word. Convenient did not give the occurrence justice. The Deew was quite calculative in its means, and the biological weapon functioned affably of its master's and mistress' ends - the operational general who it always served and the botanist who it now seemingly obeyed.
"We do still work well together, Janette," Burdlit decided.
"Yes," she acknowledged the convenient secret which he kept that allowed her a perfect chance to use the Deew for the purposes of finally dispatching the intruder. For being on the cusp of chaos, there had been some good times - but no way would Janette ever forget or forgive the culprit who put everybody through this madness to begin with. She turned around to eyeball Burdlit and said as much, "We once did work well together."
A sigh was to be his initial response, "So it's like that?"
As serious as Janette had ever been, she stated, "It's over." A part of the botanist was not quite sure what more Burdlit should have expected. The operational general was being highly inappropriate if he expected her to, in some way, feel sorry for him.
In the foreground of the miles-long stretch of path, a shuttle startled the relatively calm air (all calamity considered) - alerting Janette and Burdlit to its presence during an unimpeded descent. The biological weapon could have gone after the vessel as it had the intruder's ship earlier but stood down, allowing the botanist's escape transportation to touch down. She felt the warm breeze of the vertical takeoff and landing thrusters at her back and turned around to witness an instance of personal salvation in time with the operational general's own eyes which were already pointed in that direction and could much more easily follow the signification of their mutual departures and utter divergence of their paths, moving forward.
Or so Burdlit thought. With the nose of the shuttle pointed toward Janette's and his position, he could not have seen the back, ramp door open up behind; and the operational general could not have seen the next events coming. From around that back, four members of his original contingent rushed out into the open with a purpose focused to the tips of their laser rifles' slim and pointy barrels. For him, this also appeared to be the end of the road if he wished to make it off the surface of Dio Qze.
"Ma'am," the soldier with the slate computer happened to be one of those four and greeted Janette by standing to the side and offering the botanist a free pass to the shuttle.
Janette accepted the deference to her stature with a nod. She then proceeded on her way past the contingent and toward the shuttle. With the botanist wedged off from Burdlit by the advantage of their forceful presence, they wasted no further time in taking him into custody. His weapon confiscated by the first soldier, wrists fusion-cuffed together by the second soldier, and path ushered by the prodding of the third's laser rifle; the disgraced operational general was brought before the soldier with the slate computer.
"You don't even know who the real enemy is," Burdlit said. But the contingent was in good company as he admitted, "I sure didn't."
Only, as the soldier with the slate computer's eyes continued to follow Janette's back, she could imagine. Questioning a superior officer was never a good thing without the requisite, concrete facts to be able to support the potentially treasonable offense, but a rush to judgment concerning Burdlit and his antics would not help to uncover those facts either. For soldiers however, there still existed a path to clarity during times of confusion which happened to be paved with the simplicity of following orders. That might not have answered her questions, but with all this staggering amount of potential betrayal looming around, it sure helped to once again be able to put one foot in front of the other in order to at least carry on past a warranted fragility after this type of experience.
Ironically, Janette was well within her rights to have been able to handle this unusual situation in any way that she saw fit, and that included sacrificing the contingent. They might not have liked it, but those were the rules - and knowing those rules, charges of impropriety would be hard (if not impossible) to prove.
Consequently, Burdlit had only turned on the contingent, once Janette came into the equation, to wound a few of its members and prevent the entire group from following him. Now he clearly lied to them about his aims, but that was as much about protection as any other aid that the operational general had extended to them down in Inner Corridor. The Deew would have taken everybody out had he not confined them to the transport module with the burden of slow-moving, injured parties. They would have never made it out had the group ventured too far away from that elevator.
The soldier with the slate computer took both pieces of information into consideration when keeping her cool with Janette and not losing her cool with Burdlit. She ordered, "Let's go," and led the procession on over to the shuttle with the contingent's prisoner in amenable tow.
From the front window where Corinna and Jocelin sat in the pilot and co-pilot chairs respectively, Mexico stood watch over that somber processional of the contingent and their Carriveaua captive plus the subdued reunion which was occurring via an interestingly heartfelt hug between General Canoy and the new woman as she made her way up the back, ramp door that he noticed out the corner of his eye. The shuttle was becoming crowded. Its normal capacity for comfort was maximized at ten occupants, which included the people up front that were tasked with flying. The count now stood at sixteen, and the more comfortable bench space along the sides of the vessel was being taken up mostly by the three wounded soldiers.
Introductions would be sure to come all the way around, but Mexico was honestly more interested in getting a handle on the relations of his passengers. Boyd had either not had the time or neglected to fill in the many missing blanks concerning the various different players here. As this information and its meaning would become unraveled, with due time, he decided to keep the forthcoming information to himself - at least for now, in return for the Enforcer's negligence. They...still had a score to settle, and if any one of these people could assist in that endeavor, the contribution would be welcomed and welcomely exploited.
"Make sure that the shuttle is ready for launch," Mexico suggested of his intendants as a way to subtly hurry everybody along with the hum of the thrusters re-powering up so that they all would not miss their chance at escaping this abysmal planet. But he also realized that safe passage was somehow guaranteed by the whim of the General and her acquaintance. This must have been a story in itself - worth uncovering, a sequel to these events of sorts. "¡Vaminos gente!"
There was no reason to stick around for when things really got interesting. Of Boyd's timely absence, the particulars of the postmortem were premature, and Mexico knew far better than to count the Enforcer out. For these other occupants who seemed to believe that an outcome of demise was even feasible let alone destined to have come to pass, he began to realize how impressionable and naive they were. This whole idea that somebody of much less universal skill and foresight than him could best the Space Force was foolish, and he was being (quite) polite in that determination.
There were reasons why the Space Force usually only sent one Enforcer to a planet. One was all they ever needed.
The theatrics over sending in a spacestation to destroy a world was just for show. It happened to be a ploy which was often used to scare the locals into compliance and save said Enforcer the trouble of having to destroy the planet...personally.
Now, Boyd did not have the powers of an Ethereal, the enhanced abilities of a Doran, or the resilience of a Slorg. But with Lalia as his strength and a yearn for freedom from the Space Force as his motivation, the edicts of his will flared up along with an unbelievable roar which also emanated from him as he made use of his combat gear's life force amped up protective personal shield to power out the Deew's masticatory clutches - sending parts and pieces of the flower from petals to chloroplasts in all directions within the cavernous holding area that was its original encasement. The debate would continue to rage on as to whether it was the Space Force putting Enforcers in positions to maximize their potential or the attempted (and sometimes successful) brainwashing which brought out this potential that was ultimately responsible for such forceful responses like these. Perhaps, in his case, it was a little bit of both. As he lay at the feet of the biological weapon - its entangled roots which were substantial in stature since their size happened to be completely relative when mapped against the plant (that they belonged to) filling up hundreds of miles worth of diameter in order to envelop Dio Qze's very core, something needed to be made clear:
"You should feel very lucky," Boyd said with a deep, airy voice which was provided courtesy of winded lungs. "I'm pulling out my second LUNC to deal with you." Deeply drained of life force energy from his most recent escape, he dragged his right hand that still held his first LUNC across the ground in order to form a tripod with his right arm, left shoulder, and both knees which could allow him to push up from his stretched out yet paining face down position. The Enforcer's left hand made its way down his left side for the destination of that leg's hip holster.
Interpreting disrespect in Boyd's reluctance to die and audacity to talk shi-, the Deew retaliated with a whipping root the size of house which ripped itself out the ground and struck the Enforcer from a hit detection standpoint along his right side - sending him flying miles into the air! It would be very limited in its attacks by literally being planted within the planet's soil, but that attempt should have been enough. Surely, if the strike did not kill the biological weapon's enemy, then the landing almost certainly had to.
And yet what remained of Boyd's life force being fed through the protective properties of his combat gear was more than enough to shield him from the concussive blow of the jumbo lash attack. He just did not want to continue pushing his luck and fought against incredible g's to simply move his right hand over his left forearm where the minicomputer sat in order to summon his parachute.
As if the Deew was merely going to sit back and allow that to happen. It might not have been able to locate the elusive Class V Fighter when hidden by stealth, however it had not lost sight of the flailing Boyd and went at him like he was a pin cushion with a massive assortment of pointed, sharp, and spiky vines stabbing in his direction at the velocity of a staple gun which would just as soon crush his minute body than ever be capable of stabbing his comparatively tiny frame. But this potential perforation and all-around annoyance fought back. He continued to do so! From the unenviable position of twirling helplessly through the air, the Enforcer was not helpless. In fact, the biological weapon could argue that he was even more dangerous out in the open than confined to a stationary position - as itself was burdened.
Dual LUNC's plus a tumbling toss of Boyd's body meant that an automatic spread of pulses could be unleashed which were capable of cutting down anything in all directions that tried to get close. Like the circumference of a fireworks display, his shots pressed outward like a buffer of laser-laced insulation against the Deew's attempts to either smash or impale him, and he was still gaining altitude with no sense of coming down any time soon. This, of course, worked out perfectly for the Class V Fighter as well as the Enforcer. He could be scooped back up by his faithful ship in stride of its dashing flight rather than it having to find a safe landing place for him to be able to get on board during the fleetingness of that time.
Matching the speed of Boyd's being flung to the speed of retrieval, the Class V Fighter used its own momentum to create a soft landing for the punished body of the Enforcer within an open cockpit before closing the canopy and skying into an angled turn which evaded the rushing tangle of Deew limbs that tried to trap the ship inside a collapsing maze of woodwork. Then, it was gone again, but this was no time to breathe easy. He holstered both LUNC's and adjusted his posture within the chair to better allow him to dig in on the keyboard that sat between his legs.
Between those guns, the fighter's array of frontal and rearward missiles, its lasers and pulsars; Boyd had a substantial amount of firepower at his disposal but very little in the way of palpable targets to aim at. Sure, the biological weapon happened to possess an overwhelming bull's-eye, but the cause of attacking it head-on was lost on futility. As the cobwebs cleared from his mind, adrenaline began to not only pump up his cognitive acuity but also peak his mental awareness - both in tandem with the desperation of the situation. This was not so much the Enforcer grasping at straws as it was him pouring over recent events and looking for angles:
Janette obviously hates me because I spied on a good portion of her personal life, but even that observed existence had to be fabricated. I'd not seen any inkling of this current vindictive version of her which was obviously propagating under the surface. She's a guarded soul who has much to hide, but I'm almost too leery of prying any further. Save for those who've managed to evacuate - the totals of which are significant and positive, what could cause the botanist to shift so starkly in my public eye on the prospects of saving Dio Qze. That's gotta be an escape ploy: Use the destruction to mask her getaway and conceal her eventual reintroduction into societal plain sight.
That part where a person looked up only to have to duck was upon Boyd as the Class V Fighter had ventured to a part of the cavernous areas near their edge which featured what was left of the planet's core walls. The intuitiveness of the flight computer was miraculous in how it dipped and twirled away from the dangers that punched themselves out those walls during random and blind attempts by the Deew to guess the ship's rapidly changing locations. The jarring sentiment was a good reminder that no matter where Boyd's mind happened to be at the moment - working on whatever, he should have never forgotten about safety...first. Immediately, the Enforcer strapped down his shoulder harnesses and put on his lap belt. Head injuries within fighters were completely avoidable, and above all, it made him feel that much more secure to be locked in sturdily to the vessel.
Now, Burdlit might be racist, but he's not stupid. There's a clear difference between him and Janette. The pride, safety, and security of his own people actually means something dear. I can't even fault him for his actions because I've done many of the same things on behalf of my leadership. Ever since the first moment when we fought, we'd been linked together via a language that only warriors can decipher. It's why even the most vicious of opponents can have something else in common outside the obviousness of their shared hatred. An Ear-To-Mouth Com isn't even required to interpret the language from the operational general's body when that bond of mutual respect occurs. We've been able to read each other.
The Carriveaua might never make it to a point where they can challenge the Space Force's dominance in might or for influence, but that doesn't mean that I'm also oblivious to what they're doing for us. A strong and vigorous opposition is what affirms a megapower's status as absolute. Through their attempts to otherwise topple our order and wean the rest of the universe off our authority, we're that much more convinced of why we should lead. Conversely, they've now acquired a brand new enemy and visceral threat in the form of the New Alliance whose made a play - nobody knows how deep, but it only takes one hook from the Dorans for a snowball effect of subjugation to occur.
Above all, I find Burdlit to be somewhat reasonable. He'll set aside differences if it means protecting and aiding his people. That's the part that I've been able to gather from him. Of me, he's got to know - he'd have had to have read from my moves that I honestly do care. Even with Janette's unlikely betrayal, I'm the only one left on Dio Qze - fighting for its survival, and the most removed person from this entire situation...at that.
I didn't have to stay and don't have to continue. Maybe, I've just become fond of this place. The penthouse is nice, and it sure beats a cabin on SpaceStation Konxerus. Besides the specifics, Burdlit must sense from the generalities (which he's so good about levying) that there's more to me than 'just following my orders'. I can help him. But what would he've offered in return?
Then, it hit Boyd:
No stranger to Janette's manipulations, Burdlit added, "That sounds just like the person who could've ended all this by allowing a specially-formulated dispersant that the Carriveaua had designed to be administered to the Deew during the earliest stages of its rampage but decided to disable the sprinkler system."
Boyd brought up the schematics of the current Inner Corridor layout on his fighter's monitor and mapped them up against the data from his minicomputer that he had observed firsthand. Sure, the Enforcer only possessed one eighth of the possible information to use for this purpose - having only been to a single sector during his time underground, but that was more than sufficient to instance what he was looking for.
Opportunistic like only a plant could be, the Deew had grown up around the various vats, piping, and valve junctures which housed the dispersant. This was why the Power Authority, though thoroughly gutted, could not be outright feasted upon by the biological weapon. It was smart enough to know about the herbicide and intelligent enough to not risk breaching the liquid's containment. What an ironic reversal of fortunes.
The bowl-shaped area of Inner Corridor had been expressly designed to allow the dispersant to seep downward into the Deew's least fortified and most vulnerable spot which was its roots! With them having set and worked their way throughout the planet, they became the spinal cord that carried the neural impulses of the biological weapon's core-seeded whim throughout Dio Qze to all its expansive, floral-based limbs. And like any other annoying plants, there was only one proper way to deal with them: To rip the weeds out...at their roots.
Taking back flight control over the Class V Fighter, Boyd grabbed the twin yokes with his black-gloved hands, but his focus was much more on the weapon selector which was housed along the grips surrounding the firing buttons that his thumbs anticipatively massaged. To the Enforcer, the Deew was just another target marked for elimination - fu-- it and anybody who had feelings for the biological weapon. This was that dark side of him that made killing easy and the act so much simpler. He would have no remorse in the ushering of his will and would feel no guilt for taking the jurisdiction of the Ethereals in his own hands when delivering the sanction of death. Not even a second thought would be wasted on the deed but only to look ahead to its next opportunity - another chance kill.
This was the part of Boyd that he had held back during most of this campaign and also the part that Lalia had worked so hard on trying to tame, but she would understand in this instance. It was his ticket back to her, so he punched that as well as his ship's thrusters before opting for the pulsars this time around. With the fighter's targeting systems zoned in on a set assortment of points throughout the cavern, the Enforcer could not miss and did not.
Needing only to dent the Deew's hardened exterior enough to be able to puncture the housing that contained the dispersant, the radiant squiggle of balled-up energy (that the Class V Fighter fired) managed to sheer off an area of the biological weapon's once protective coating completely - causing a high-pressure drizzle but then a flood of the herbicide to pour into the bowl-shaped area. Like acid to the touch, some of the less entrenched roots jerked away from the stream of the spray while others of the less fortunate variety sizzled, wilted, and died under the faucet's wrath.
Not exactly intending to look back out of any sort of concern for the Deew's well-being, Boyd had needed to make sure that this was not just going to be a whore's bath as the seeded bulk of the biological weapon which had grown within the core tried desperately to rip itself free from Dio Qze - swaying violently as it waved its taut trunk, flailing branches, and flickering leaves. An additional couple 'fu-- you's' were added to the equation as he continued to sky toward orbit (and an eventual escape velocity) via two rearward missiles which were sent on target of the flammable herbicidal liquid to ignite the plant beneath a blaze of victory...or defeat, dependent upon the side of those missiles that one happened to be on. And who knew after the investigations concluded - the Space Force and Slorgs were both savvy partners in the realm of terraforming, so perhaps they might be able to contain that fiery blaze of irony to a newer, more traditional core within the extended containment array that most synthetic planets used: Compliments of the Enforcer.
With a forceful blow of air through his mouth, Boyd finally exhaled as he sat back (literally) to enjoy the ride. Should that planet behind him become in any way salvageable, the Enforcer could see himself returning with Lalia, but that would have to wait for another moment. Since Dio Qze was now and finally in the (figurative) rearview mirror, he turned his 'professional' sights toward whatever was to be next, and in time with keeping him focused on the task as the Space Force saw it, he was handed his latest set of orders via the fighter's monitor:
Incoming Mission Communique
First off, congratulations on uncovering the New Alliance link to the Carriveaua assailment of the unincorporated planets. It was your tireless effort and undeniable detective work which have provided us with an interesting piece of intel that had been flying right under our noses.
I don't need to remind you of its implications, and at the same time, I'm not taken by surprise. I don't doubt that you weren't caught off guard either. It's expected behavior to test the waters with scouts before the commencement of an incursion. We've done the exact same thing by sending a few of your counterparts into the Zero Universe to see what we're up against. Because of them, the timetable for the all-out war with the New Alliance is estimated conservatively at six months.
This changes the time frames up for your...particular missions. Not so much the priority. Your priorities haven't changed, although - with this new information, your objectives have. The Carriveaua will have to be dealt with directly. That head botanist from Dio Qze will need to be located. I've already got people working on the election between Dominar Verasco and council member Mordo, but we need to be in control of these couple volatile pieces so that those elections are affected in the manner that we choose.
You're such the loaner though. Honestly, I don't even know how you pull these missions off by yourself with the amount of success that you've achieved. But this time, I'm pulling rank. I'm ordering you to bring along backup because even your luck or skill or whatever you'll have it be called can run out. This isn't to be morbid or even overly protective. I need to ensure that this Carriveaua angle is handled properly. There are no do-overs where the New Alliance is concerned, and we'll never get another chance like this one to not only strike them hard but uncover the depths of their penetration into our Epic Universe. There's no need for this to even be said, but their entry into Galaxy Bloc politics is probably a minute distraction as far as the rest of their incursion throughout the remainder of the vastness of space is concerned.
This needs to be coordinated. Set your ship on course for Second Earth. I'd like to discuss these next few steps with you personally as well as assign your new partners to assist with your updated mission parameters. I'll enjoy seeing you again. It's something that we don't get a chance to do much of these days which is to plan in concert. The Terran System-based Enforcers are their own silo. Your offworld group does its own thing. And the Quadron System-based Enforcers are in an utter disarray. Hopefully, Cheapshot can bring back some sort of order to them. Simply put, we all need to be on the same page.
You've probably already heard about that rogue Space Force Lieutenant and her Doran Aristocracy entourage which is headed our way. Don't be surprised if you're asked to assist with that situation as well while you're here. With the Ethereals becoming incensed with the antics of the Lieutenant and her associates, we're unavoidably stretched thin in having to deal with all this. Hmm...what else is new? Isn't that the mantra of your job security? Anyway - again, I look forward to seeing you. Take care.
To Be Continued
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