Gray Panthers: Earths Revenge (20 page)

Both junior officers chorused, “No sir.”

“Very good, dismissed gentlemen,” Johnson said as he rose to leave.

Later Matt sat down in his berth and said aloud to himself, “How in the hell did this cluster fuck ever get put together?”

The image of a civil war sailor appeared before him. “Lieutenant Andrews, I am Beater the avatar for the ship. Was that a rhetorical question or do you desire an answer? As an officer on this mission you have full access to mission parameters.”

Recovering from the shock of the avatar appearing unexpectedly he replied, Yes, that was a rhetorical question

“The crew of the Arizona Space Ship Beater was selected based from their past experience. Both crew chiefs were held the same position on their previous weapons platform. The reason they were chosen is that as special operators they were trained to always think outside the box, and they are both instilled with completing the mission. The weapons and navigation officer, while not a veteran, is the most knowledgeable human in the field of astrophysics. He is also from a family of military and he would sooner die than dishonor his family name. The executive officer was responsible for all major overhauls on the ship and knows the ship better than anyone except for one person. The alien crewmember is the most knowledgeable living creature on the Beater. He is from a long line of warriors and will die before failure. The commander has extremely long credentials in his history of special ops. After retirement he was also a successful smuggler working out of Florida. He took items that were hard to find in Cuba there and returned with small arms for a planned uprising against the US government. When the bloodless coup replaced the government with a constitutional government he went back to being a charter boat Captain. The OPFOR contingent because of their training and time together was determined to have the best chance to improvise as needed to complete the mission. The Dart flight was deemed the best because they were not constrained in their thinking by their time in the military. Their ability to adapt as things changed around them was evident. The high personal loyalty they have towards each other and their fear of failing you was also a determining factor. We do not know what they think but we do observe action and deed. They are a dedicated to you as you are to them. Does that answer your question lieutenant?” Beater asked.

“I guess so, Beater, I know that the avatars on the other ships represent historical figures. How did they come up with your avatar?” Matt asked.

“I am the embodiment of the raider Captains who fought for the South during the War Between the States. The similarity is that we are the smaller out-gunned side having to use raiders against a superior force.”

“Thanks Beater, what exactly are we risking ourselves for on this mission?” Matt asked.

“Lieutenant you are not authorized to know that parameter of the mission in case you are captured and interrogated. The chance of any human standing up to the interrogation by the Libra is considered infinitesimal at most; at best you will die before giving out any information.”

“Thanks, Beater, you gave me a good idea. You can go now,” Matt dismissed Beater. “Personal log, brief entire flight that the mission is to use this stolen ship to go to the Republic and try to either buy our way into the Republic or buy protection against the Libra if captured. Close log.”

Arizona Space Ship Beater In Deep Space

4 September 2128

Dart flight was sitting together in the mess. The entire group was suffering to some degree due to the effects of no longer being in normal space. The side effects of using the FTL drive included nausea and dizziness. Short Blade entered the mess and went to the chef unit.

“Liver and onions rare with a glass of water please,” The little alien ordered. Once he opened the unit and removed his food, he saw he was alone as the entire flight had disappeared. Taking a seat by the entrance to the mess Short Blade took a bite of the liver as a pair of OPFOR enlisted men came in. Both men took a couple steps into the mess as they quickly turned around holding their noses and mouths and exited the mess.

Guns was running a simulation on his starboard weapons simulation. Every time he attempted to manually track a target, he had to fight the urge to puke.

Commander Johnson was on the bridge as he noticed the effects of using the FTL drive was having on his crew and himself. He now understood why the previous Captain would not go more than two days using the system as he looked at the coffee cup in his hand with contempt.

“Beater, do you have a moment?” the commander asked.

“Yes Captain, may I be of assistance?”

“Is there any way to reduce or eliminate the effects of using the FTL?” Johnson asked.

“The same effects were noted by the Flem. They were researching for a fix for the problem but never found one. They did have a work around for the problem though,” Beater volunteered.

“What is the work around?”

“Sir, inside each berthing area there is the ability to engage a stasis field. They were originally used so the crew could be put to sleep during long trips so they would not consume food. It also stops the aging process while in use. Since there is nothing to hit while using the FTL, I would recommend using it to save the passengers and crew from being incapacitated by the time we arrive at our destination,” Beater recommended. Commander Johnson looked at his XO Commander Poland.

“Commander Poland, I would like a duty schedule for every rated pilot to take 12 hour shifts while we are using the FTL. All crew and passengers will be restricted to their berths with the stasis fields engaged unless there are mission essential tasks that need to be performed. Any views on that commander?” the Captain asked.

“Captain, with the AI available I think that makes great sense. I admit, I’m not up to one hundred percent myself. How soon do you want to have the schedule in effect?”

“Let's have the roster take effect in four hours. I will have the first shift,” Johnson ordered. The new duty roster was commed to all personnel ten minutes later.

Young was going to ignore the order as he decided he had too many things to do that were mission essential until he bent over to pick up a dropped battery and found himself hugging a waste receptacle as he puked up his breakfast. He decided at that time it was prudent to follow his orders and tracked down all his personnel who were already finishing up their tasks in preparation of finding relief from the effects of the FTL drive.

Jimmy and Guns just looked at Short Blade in wonder as he tore into a piece of nearly raw liver. The trio was in the mess reviewing the ships maintenance schedule. Short Blade let loose a voluminous belch as Guns lost what little he had been able to hold down. Jimmy just got up holding his mouth, making it clear he was headed to his berth. Short Blade looked down on Guns as he tried to clean his mess.

“Guns, leave that to me and go to your berth. I will ensure there is no maintenance missed and if I need you I will come and get you.”

Guns looked up and was going to reply when he saw a piece of raw meat stuck in Short Blades teeth as he drooled slightly. Guns simply nodded his head as quickly got up and headed for his berth. Short Blade picked the meat from his teeth as he laughed to himself. Just as the old crew could not handle the FTL, now the humans were just as vulnerable. After cleaning the mess on the floor, he went to find the Captain.

“Captain Johnson, I do not need to go into stasis as I am not affected by the FTL. I wish to volunteer to remain on duty.”

“Short Blade, I’m surprised that you never learned the adage, "never volunteer." I want you to work 12 hours on and 12 hours off so you overlap 6 hours of every shift. You can start in 8 hours from now. You’re dismissed until then, and thanks.”

Short Blade happily went on his way, ecstatic he was able to be recognized for doing more.



Gray Panther Headquarters Arizona

4 September 2128

Abby was getting more annoyed then normal. The countries that Dan had made agreements with to modify ships to space ships all had some type of complaint or problem. The plant in Viet Nam was producing more components than were being used. A quick check confirmed that over half the countries were doing the same thing. He decided enough was enough as he commed Grub.

“Grub, I want you to setup an AI for each country’s building program. Each AI will be responsible for keeping costs down and theft to zero. They will monitor security as well; we don’t need any potential unfriendly country copying our technology and starting a local arms race. Each government will be informed the AI is there to support their efforts. That AI will then be installed on the last ship built for each fleet,” Abby instructed as he started to feel better now that he had a fix for the problem.

“Sir, what if the local government doesn’t listen to their AIs? What will our recourse be?” Grub asked.

“What would you suggest in that case, Grub?” Abby asked amused waiting for an answer.

“I would close down the project for each country that fails to comply with the contract. Then, as Dan says, make the sons a bitches pay restitution for everything. After words everything already manufactured would be forfeited to the Gray Panthers. Others would hear about it and not want to lose out,” Grub stated.

“Damn, Grub, I didn’t know you had it in you to be such a hard ass. I want you to create a document to that effect and make sure it gets distributed to each of our friends.”

Prescott Arizona

5 September 2128

Dan woke early and slipped out of the hotel room for some fresh air. Dan thought the old town of Prescott was like a place that time had passed by. Walking along the park in the town square he felt a shiver of cold run down his spine as he decided he had enough fresh air and decided a hot cup of coffee was in order. The little diner’s doorbell tinkled when it opened. The customers all looked up at the stranger from their tables. Dan just nodded as they went back to their breakfasts. Dan sat at the counter and ordered a coffee as the smells from the kitchen only made him hungrier. Looking around the diner there were a half dozen people quietly eating, all looked too well dressed to Dan until he realized it was Sunday and they most likely were on their way to church after breakfast. The owner came up to Dan to refresh his coffee and get his order. The owner looked like he was pushing 90. He was gaunt and slightly bent over yet exuded a sense of contentment.

“Nice place you have here,” Dan said between sips of coffee.

“Thanks, mister, we lost the old place for a while but when the president was elected, our family got it back free and clear, and I was released from prison for being a social terrorist. It restored my faith in being an American.”

“How about a short stack of pancakes and some sausage please?” Dan asked. He was happy to see an example of Americans once again taking control of their lives. The door tinkled as it opened and Juanita walked in. The stares lasted a little longer than they had for Dan. She sat down on the stool next to Dan and made a point to bump into his.

“Fancy meeting you here, I would have expected to see you, I don’t know, maybe in bed with me when I woke up. I see why you wanted to come up here for the weekend, it’s a beautiful old town.” Juanita turned to the diner's owner, “I’ll have the same as my friend here please."

“Sorry, darling, I woke up and just decided to take a stroll then came in for a hot coffee when I got cold. After that the smell of the food was too much. Glad you got up before noon and found me. Up for a stroll after breakfast? There’s a man I want to see. During the last regime he sold me an old M1 rifle secretly. He has his gun store back now and I just want to see how he is doing.” The pair were interrupted as their food was put down and they ate in silence. Dan was thinking how he would like to be part of such a quiet nice town when he was finally able to turn the Gray Panthers over to someone else and resume his retirement. Juanita leaned forwards towards Dan.

“Don’t even think about it Dan, it’ll never happen, even if you walked away from it all you can never be just a man again. There will always be those who hate you and those that will try to take from you.” Juanita said reading he man's thoughts.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that. I hate when you read my mind like that.” The discussion was interrupted by a pair of diners that were leaving.

“Excuse me, sir, have you heard of the Church of the Coming? Miracles have been happening all over our nation. It has been reported by witnesses that the Lord is coming soon and…”

“And the Lord is pissed! Yes I have been a witness. Thank you for the invitation. I have an old friend I will be seeing this morning,” Dan said trying to keep a straight face.

“You were a witness?” the stranger asked incredulously.

“Yes, I believe it was the first miracle in Surprise. Since then the old and infirm have been healed and disappeared from their old lives. I also know where they have all gone to,” Dan informed the stranger.

“Where have they gone?” the diner asked with suspicion and slight awe.

“They have all gone to join the Gray Panther Army to defend their world from evil aliens. I know I’m a volunteer also,” Dan said enjoying the discussion.

Dan felt the tug at his sleeve as Juanita got up saying, “Sorry we have to leave now. Have a nice day.” She threw a hundred dollar bill on the counter as she pulled Dan towards the door. Once outside Juanita threw Dan up against the diner's wall.

“What the hell was that? Are you taking a break from thinking today? We come up here to get away from everything and you practically paint a bull’s-eye on your chest,” Juanita exclaimed. Dan just looked down at the woman putting him in his place and just kicked the back of his left foot with his right. This was not the time for a smug or asinine answer, especially as she was right.

“I’m sorry, I have no excuse, and it’s just funny to me that after I broke Abby out of the home we now have a new religion. With everything going on in the world and the universe right now I’m just happy I’m with you and it’s just the two of us. Let’s go see a man about a gun.” Dan gave Juanita a deep hug and she relented as they walked off to their car.

Walking into the sports store Dan saw his old friend, who looked to be almost 80, haggling over a used shotgun and waited till they were done. Walking up to the counter unnoticed, Dan asked, “You have any more black market M1 Garands for sale Juan?”

Without looking up Juan replied, “What would you do with another one? I doubt you can hit anything with the one you have already.”

Juan painfully got off his stool and limped around the display case and started to shake Dan's hand when the two slapped each other's back and hugged. “I thought you were thrown in prison years ago. How did you stay free?” Dan asked.

“After the government got my business, my bank accounts, and my house, they lost interest in me. They never knew I had three shipping containers of guns and ammo sitting buried in the desert. After the new president and administration took over, I got almost everything back or reimbursed for what I lost. The new money actually has value compared to the crap they were printing. What are you doing these days? I see a pretty girl with you, is she your daughter?”

“Juanita, meet Juan Edison. We were in Iran together. Juan this is Juanita my {cough cough} friend. I recently got a position with the Gray Panther Army. Job pays pretty decent too,” Dan said awkwardly. Juanita and Juan exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes when Juan looked back over to Dan.

“I’m glad you finally have a woman in your life. So what you doing in the Gray Army?” Juan asked.

“Actually, I’m the commander of the Gray Panthers. I found some gold in my mine and everything came together after that.” Changing the subject Dan continued, “You have any more M1 enblocs? I could use a couple and can’t find them anywhere.”

“Sure, for a rifle that’s almost two hundred years old it’s still damn popular. Have a couple new manufactures in the cabinet. Here yah go, no charge. Anything else I can get for you Sergeant Major?”

“Thanks again, First Sergeant Edison.” Pulling a business card from his wallet Dan continued, “If I can ever do anything for you or you want to join the Gray Panthers, don’t hesitate to ask, old friend.”

Back in the car, Dan was silent as they drove to their hotel. “Let's just head back for the ranch after we get our luggage.” One hour later Juanita broke the silence, “OK what’s the problem Dan?”

“Sometimes you just can’t go back, I need to stay in the present and appreciate what I have.”


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