Awaiting deployment

The Deployment Bay was intended to mass armies, and the one hundred and fifty Empirical Storm Troopers gathered there looked lost in the space around them.  They had grouped together in roughly the middle, and readied their equipment.  Each Trooper had a chameleon suit and chameleon backpack intended to blur their movement against the background.  No chameleon technology yet could make a man invisible, but fooling the human eye was easier than most people suspected.  The backpack contained gear relevant to the Trooper's specialities: comms gear for some, explosive for others, quantum mechanical analysis tools for yet others.  Each trooper carried two weapons, one a particulate weapon that accelerated tiny sharps -- shard of razor sharp metal -- to relativistic velocities, and the other a phased field weapon that operated in roughly a third of the E-M spectrum.  They looked like warriors.

Edward listened to the steady stream of status reports over the comms earpiece.  The EST might not look like they were doing much, but they had arranged themselves to be able to see any part of the bay and were ready to adopt a defensive strategy at Edward's command.  Their orders were overdue, and Edward was getting nervous.  The status reports were reassuring though, everything was quiet, and there was no sign of AI activity that didn't fit the parameters of operation of the ship.  This did not appear to be a trap.

"Door opening."  The voice in the earpiece sounded like all the rest of the voices: there was little physical differentiation in the EST.  "Probable human entering.  Male.  Looks nervous.  Apparantly unarmed."

Edward waited, and five seconds later he got a status update from an identical sounding voice.  The message codes confirmed it was another Trooper in his command.

"Long-range analysis confirms human male, unarmed.  Skeletal function is at 93%.  Target favours his left leg very slightly."

Edward evaluated this, and decided that this might be the delivery of their orders.  He ordered the EST to let the visitor approach.

Dr. Shiva was stopped some fifteen metres from the commander of the Emprirical Storm Troopers by three of the other Troopers drawing their weapons and targeting him.  He swallowed hard, and shouted out an hello.

"Our orders are overdue," said Edward, forgoing any politenesses.

"There appears to be a problem with the relay station," called Dr. Shiva.  He hated shouting, but was too unnerved by the weapons trained on him to risk dropping his voice.  "The instruction for your... commissioning came from the Jean d'Arc.  We have since lost contact with the station, and believe that this is why you have received no orders."

Two distant Troopers stood up from where they'd been sat and put their backpacks on, and tightened their suits up.  They ran through a weapons check.

"Er, is everything alright?" shouted Dr. Shiva.

"You may leave," said Edward.  "We will obtain our orders."

As Dr. Shiva backed away across the deployment bay he saw the Troopers board a small shuttle vessel.  He wondered if the ship's AI would prevent the vessel's departure, but he could see the first set of airlock doors opening for the craft even as he found the door from the bay and opened it.

He closed the door behind him and leaned against it feeling his heart pounding in his chest.  He doubted that the Captain would be pleased with this development, and he wondered what would happen to the Jean d'Arc.

The End

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