The aftermath of the battle left few survivors; hover trucks busied with ferrying those Ice Hellion warriors who were more severely wounded back to the complex. A shuttle had already carried Sellen Cage and a few more lightly injured to an audience with Jax and the now ever-present Billy. Elias was back on the Frigate, as were a number of new troops who had been used to swell the ship’s complement. There was little fear of local insurrection as word had quickly spread of the demons’ prowess. Not only that, Billy’s coup de grace had been felt half-way round the planet.
New recruits were plentiful and Jax could begin to think of strengthening his command; there was still the return to Winfield to consider, as well as how to deal with the vagaries of the more friendly AI.
“Maggie is probably wondering what to do next,” commented Billy, when there was a lull in activity, “that is if she’s managed a coherent thought since she realised what she had let herself in for.”
His laughter echoed around the command centre, his image doing a little dance.
“We need to pay her a little visit,” mused Jax, “before we send anyone to Winfield. I really don’t like the thought of leaving her out there. Who knows what mischief she could get up to?”
“Not much,” said Billy dismissively, “believe me, I know. Chuck a couple of missiles down her throat and that’ll be the end of the matter.”
“An elegant solution,” agreed Jax, “but I would like to make sure her threat is definitely neutralised. We’ll send a team in to deal with her once we’ve tidied up here.”
“Shame that I can’t be there to see it,” mused Billy.
“We could pack you back into your travel case, fix up something...” Jax said cautiously.
“Nice try,” laughed Billy, “but I much prefer it here. Anyway, what would you do without me?”
Jax bit back his first comment, realising that their relationship, although constrained, could be to everyone’s advantage. The problem was that Billy was at the moment in the driving seat. He had originally thought of suggesting to his Khan that they move their base of operations, however putting all of the Dark Falcon’s forces within the reach of a still to be confirmed sane AI was a little risky.
“Fine. I guess we just need to work out a few ground rules, then.”
“Not to worry, my needs are quite simple. I can see the beginning of a beautiful friendship here...”
Elias watched the bustle on the Bridge with a fatherly eye; how different it was that the Frigate was fully manned. Granted, many of the troops were green, although the backbone of the crew were experienced Dark Falcons. Hans and his Elementals had been assigned to the ship, as had been Binetti. Von Jankmonn had been confirmed as Captain, much to his own amusement. His comments about the Frigate being just like a fighter, but slightly larger had not gone down well with the remaining naval crew, but he would do. Ultimately when they arrived at Winfield, the expectation was that others would be given command. Now a full Dark Falcon, Von Jankmonn hankered more for command of the fighters in the docked dropship, so Elias could see no real problem.
“Entering the bay now,” Arn’s voice crackled through the speakers, “Hans and his team are forcing entry.”
There was silence for a few moments and then Arn spoke again.
“This place is huge, although there’s not much activity. One or two robots working, but they are ignoring us. Frak! That is one big ship. As Billy said, it’s a wreck. Even to my simple eyes, there is no way it’s ever going to fly again. We will...”
His transmission was abruptly cut short and the Bridge crew could do nothing more than wait.
“Hello, what do we have here?”
Arn knew who it was, but was more concerned as to Hauser’s whereabouts. He signalled Conn to disperse the troops, Hans’ icon showed him closing rapidly on Arn’s position. The young man would have felt much happier if the Elemental had been in charge, but Elias had insisted that Arn deserved the promotion.
“Maggie, how nice to hear from you,” he said as he checked his HUD, “all alone are you?”
“That has never been my problem,” replied the schizophrenic Warrior-Queen, “but it is nice of you to give me one or two hostages.”
“An interesting perspective on our position,” replied Arn, relaxing as he saw the Elementals moving into position, “you are imprisoned on a broken warship, in the middle of an asteroid, with no possibility of escape. We, on the other hand, have a warship standing off this rock, fully crewed and with a more than eager complement of fighters, missiles and energy weapons. Oh, and by the way, Billy says hello.”
“That worm! He tricked me ad will pay for that. Hauser!”
An armoured figured moved slowly into the light, his arms held outwards. In his left hand he carried a small hand-held device on which a light flashed intermittently. Arn quickly communicated to his men to hold their fire.
“Arn,” said Hauser, “how nice to see you. It’s been a while.”
“I see you have finally shown your true colours,” commented Arn, watching as Hans flanked the rating.
“If you don’t want me to use this,” commented Hauser, waggling the device, “I would not make any rash moves. You might remember Elias’ little detonator? I salvaged it and have wired up a few packages of my own. One false move and boom, we all say goodnight.”
“What?” screamed Maggie, “how could you?”
“Now, now,” said Hauser placatingly, “we both knew that our relationship couldn’t last. I merely took one or two precautions, negotiation tactics you might say. So, Arn, what are you willing to give me so that we can rid ourselves of this crazy b*tch once and for all and leave this sterile rock?”
“Death,” said Arn calmly, raising his laser rifle and firing.
The detonator flew high into the air as Hauser’s body jerked convulsively, its lights changing from red to green. Charges round Maggie’s core exploded first, their impact muffled by the remains of the once great warship.
“Everyone out!” screamed Arn as successive charges exploded, lighting the hanger with hellfire.