“No. You can't do that!” He said, his right eye was already tearing up. The feeling of being weak and helpless because of the lost connection to the suit and his enhancements not being able to connect to the system was nauseating. He felt as lost and as scared as a child.
“They give you false courage with their machines,” Sandy told him, “They want you and the others to rush into combat gleefully and without any fear.”
Tom had already understood that the suit and enhancements did something like that. “So?”
“So, fear is natural. The mouse is afraid of the snake, it stays away. Otherwise it will get eaten, the fear protects the mouse. Artificially brave mice, would just die.” The man said.
“Who are you?” Tom asked the man, “A rebel leader, I suppose.”
Sandy shook her head, “There are no leaders, Tom. Sync will be free again, we are all working toward the same goal. We don't need leaders when we all work for the same cause. We don't have to turn ourselves into robots that follow orders.”
Tom let his head droop down, he was tired. “I don't even care. Kill me, or whatever, just make it quick.”
Sandy put a hand on his shoulder, “We want you to come to our side. We have to take those implants out, so you can think for yourself.”
Tom shook his head, “I would have one eye left. I don't think I could live that way any more.”
“One eye that really belongs to you is better than an eye that is sending signals back to the fleet up there, believe me,” The man said, “You wouldn't even stand out, the Free Republic has tortured and maimed many people on this world. You would fit right in, nobody would think you were one of them.”
“I would have to think about it. This isn't something I can decide on the fly,” Tom Grier told them. The girls face suddenly had a sad look cross it.
“There's no time for that, it'll all be over when you wake up,” she said spraying something right into his face. The world went blurry and then dark, he could see shapes moving around. There was no sense of time passing, but there was a bright light and then people wearing surgical gear. Tom wanted to tell them to stop, they were right there in his face but he couldn't say anything. Suddenly the world was black again.
The Carrier Umbrage
The Admiral was furious. Everyone on the bridge was tense as his hover-chair paced back and forth during his loud rant, “How could we lose an entire platoon? How can a whole landing party become incapacitated? What kind of rebel device can do that?”
The Colonels were standing at attention, being judged. Their positions and their lives could come to an end if the angry Admiral decided to end it. The Admiral was confined to a hover-chair but it had it's own holo-screens and was as well connected as any enhanced person.
One of the Colonels spoke up. “They defied convention. We had not prepared for the possibility that the rebel army was so decentralized. They have no leaders, for all intents and purposes the civilian population and the rebels are indistinguishable.”
“To hell with the civilians, then!” Admiral James "Jim" Robinson shouted, “Kill anyone who even looks at our Marines sideways, zot them all! Also have that village, Jexas, wiped out by Onyx flight, immediately.”
“Yes,sir!” They all said before leaving the bridge.
Admiral Robinson was in overall command of the fleet, but he did not personally command the ground troops and Onyx flight. That was all down in the Command & Control Center by other officers, the Colonels would relay orders to the Controllers who would relay them to the ground troops.
“We lost last time because too many were willing to sit on the sidelines, and I am not going to let that happen this time.” He told nobody in particular. Admiral Robinson was a true believer in the Emperor, that they could make the Free Republic great again.
Team Four had been bushwhacked. The other teams arrived to find three immobilized platoons and one platoon of Marines with holes through their carapaces. Evidentially they had continued to try and fight the rebels who had attacked. One Marine was missing, not even his armored suit had been found.
Admiral Robinson brought up the holo image of his beloved Sarah. He spoke to it, “I don't have too many days left to fight, but I will fight to the end of them, you betcha!”
It was eight years ago on Cain when he had first saw Sarah. She was leading the charge against the enemy rebels, even though she had been second in command. The leader had been listless, but she had been energizing the troops.
Sarah and James Robinson had hit it off great. She didn't mind his age or his hover-chair. She saw age as wisdom, she saw the chair as a medal of valor. He had lost his legs in combat and she thought this made him a hero.
The fall of Cain hadn't been her fault, but the old Admiral Borner had blamed her to keep his own reputation intact. Robinson had been injured, again. He would have been there for her if he hadn't been carried to a hospital ship on a medical shuttle. Robinson had been decorated for his actions at Cain, then found himself promoted to Admiral.
His beloved Sarah had been disgraced. Although he had tried to change the past with his new position, he could not have her reinstated. It wasn't until a few years ago that she rose to prominence again, this time at the side of the Emperor. Admiral James Robinson was jealous but he admired the Empire and the way he had grabbed power from the old regime.
Sarah belonged to the Emperor now. Robinson understood and accepted this, to a point. His feelings for her remained, though.
The side of the Umbrage opened and a half-dozen fighter ships of Onyx Flight shot out from inside and toward the green planet of Sync below. As they flew into the atmosphere, shielded from any worries of friction, they targeted the small village on their scanners.
Each of the six fighters dropped four bombs, each bomb communicated with the others to pick their targets without any human involvement. The buildings below would be their priority target. By the time the bombs struck they were traveling so fast that they had ploughed through the targets and embedded themselves several feet below before the proximity sensors set off the explosions.
The small village of Jexas was now a series of smoking craters.
“What was the military point of that?” One of the brass in the Command & Control Center messaged the open forum aboard the ship.
Admiral James Robinson responded personally, “The point is that we aren't going to be satisfied if the whole planet doesn't look like that before we leave. Let them fight, we'll adjust. If any of you don't want to go along, then get off my ship! Get out of my fleet!”
No one in the fleet dared to challenge the Admiral.