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Scars of Victoria (Cover Art)

Scars of Victoria[]

Chapter 17 - Progress Pending[]

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Appreciating the Sunset[]

Outskirts Mount Lee - Victoria, Capellan Confederation - 12/10/3048


Victoria’s sun settled below the horizon glowing purple pastel as light caught ice particles in the air. The winds changed and chilled Kuan-Yin’s face through her balaclava as she sat on a bright orange All-Terran-Vehicle.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” She looked over as Aria did the same on a bright red one.

“It is. Reminds me of home although on my world there are warmer colors.”
She shivered into her woolen layers and put her furred hood up over the polarized goggles, “and climate. Have you taken Minoru up here yet?”

Kuan-Yin looked toward Mount Lee whose shadow settled on the domes peeking out from the Talus. She leaned forward propping her elbows on the handlebars. “No, he’d probably say something smart rather than be quiet and appreciate it.”

Aria revved her engine, “Being smart is what he does. Can we go back now?”
“Did you run out of your thermos of hot tea already?”
“Yes and being cold is only one of the reasons I need to head back.”

Both women rolled across the talus toward one of the secured entryways into Leeward’s Arcology and the Linear City that connected it to Fort Lee through three different underground railways. Their quads running on electric over the narrow roads until they reached the garage.


Committing a Sinful Act[]

Shengli Advanced Technologies Labs, Leeward Archology - Victoria, Capellan Confederation


Minoru peered through the loupes at the circuit board as he soldered the last circuit connections into place. The ECLSS pack was hoisted into position by an engine hoist and carefully maneuvering into position behind the newly reassembled suit. He heard the latches click as it fit into the frame above the power pack. “Yes, it fits! Odihe is complete.”

Aria and William had left him with a checklist of items before they went out for their ‘date’ night. “I really wish I wasn’t still banned from downstairs. There’s nothing to do now but check the suit’s integrity and that is going to take forever.”

He wheeled ODIHE (Ordnance Disposal in Hazardous Environments) ‘Odihe’ through the ramps of the empty VIT Aug Labs passing cleaning robots beeping in their own language under the constant surveillance of the lab’s own security and fire suppression system. Minoru hopped back in surprise as one of Doctor Cardoza’s robots appeared from the dark, its metal arms reaching silently toward him.

Its voice box came to life with a scraggly electronic buzz. <{“Working on the sabbath is sinful.”

“When did robots pick up religion?”}>
Minoru caught his breath from the fright.

<{“We follow the Code of our creators. As it is written, so it shall be done.”}>

“Your creators are imperfect people Blue, and their syntax is often worse.”

The blue light above its head lit up. <{“I detect Heresy!”}>

It’s arms waved wildly about it clenching like that of a praying mantis.
<{“Exterminate!}>

<{Exterminate!”}>

“You are getting a good laugh out of this, aren’t you, Riva?” Minoru looked up at the camera domes in the ceiling.

Riva’s robot ‘calmed’ down after shining it’s flashlight toward him, <{“You wish to take this one to the helium gas integrity chamber, affirmative?”}>
“Affirmative.”
“Allow me to assist.”
“I’ve got this. Thank you. Please leave Blue.”

Blue did an awkward about face before heading back into the dark toward Dr. Cardoza’s robotics labs.
“I can’t believe that show is still going on, I never got it. Must have been lost in translation.”

Minoru rolled ODIHE into the chamber, rolled the Hostile Environment Suit’s covering over the helmet mounted firmly in the neck dam. He pulled a cylinder of Helium off that shelf, plugging it into the gas adapter to fill the ECLSS’ rebreather with the inert gas.

“Well, that’s basically it.” He said noticing that his voice had retained its newly acquired but comfortable bass rather than a Helium screech. Minoru exited the transparent plastic chamber to activate the air sampler. ’24:00’ began to count down.

“Goodnight, Odihe. See you tomorrow after class.”

He returned to his room plopping down in his bed before going through his mental to do list out loud.
"ECLSS installed check, Differential Equations worksheet check, Integrity test started check."
One of them lingered as it had for almost a week, "Kuan-Yin Christmas Gift? Let's mark that as, ehh...
in progress."


Testing and Chatting[]

On the Road to Leeward Archology - Victoria, Capellan Confederation - 12/18/3048


Minoru and Dereck sat side by side in the back seat of BCJ truck driving back to Leeward from the shoot-house and obstacle courses near Fort Lee across the Viaduct that served as the freight route for anything secret or to big to fit in the tunnels beneath them. Concrete domes with protective shutters over glass tops poked out from the Talus on either side from the green spaces that provided high ceilings and sunshine to its subterranean inhabitants. Vents spewed steam from the heating systems and harbored the densest and brightest concentrations of purple stone lichen beneath them.

Corporal Lie and another of VIT-AL’s Security team sat in front of them. “ODIHE gave an impressive performance today, Minoru. Glad you could figure out how to work a shotgun with that thing.”

“We made the fingers human sized, although it does make them look proportionally small in comparison.”

Two semi-automatic shotguns occupied the space between them. “Almost a half-ton of bulk but tiny hands. The magic of robotics.
Next time you should try a magnum load in one of these; recoil’d break your shoulder if you do it wrong, but those tiny hands can crush cinder blocks into powder so it shouldn’t bother it any.”

Dereck looked back at the suit tied down to the cargo compartment behind them. “To think how far we’ve come in such a short time.”

“The suit was already functional when we picked it up at Shengli. No tele-presence made things much simpler, so the toughest task was changing the unit to incorporate Riva’s hands and a different helmet which you and Ryuun did in record time.

I guess Riva was right.”

The BCJ constables radioed in their arrival to their dispatcher who gave them an all clear to pass through the external doors sheltered within a short tunnel ahead. “Yep, that’s how it normally works. Riva is always right.” He said after he clicked off the transmitter.

“Well, that is why we came here. We might get the first production models started by semester’s end.
I’m also still banned from the Circus and since Aria has been spending so much time with Kuan-Yin lately William and I have been working at record pace.”

“Yeah, there has been a lot less ‘compiling’ going on in the lab lately.” Dereck said accentuating ‘compiling’ with his fingers.

A heavy metal door parted before them leading into the tunnels that ran into the utility plant which also served as the BCJ’s motor pool. Other officers waited near the smaller internal tunnels that served as the arcologies vital capillaries. The security detail unloaded ODIHE onto a powered jack, the tines of which folded back to secure the suit onto its flattop which dropped to hip height for stability.

Lie stood behind the controls of the powered jack as three other BCJ officers took up protective positions around the suit. “We’ll take this back to the lab.”
“Thanks Corporal. We’ll see you tomorrow.”
“No, you won’t, I’m off this week, going to Barns with the girlfriend, but I look forward to that pan fried chicken for Christmas.”
“We’ll save you some but Ryuun and Aria both have appetites so be prompt.”
“As long as the shuttle schedules hold I will.”

ODHE and its escorts headed in the opposite direction of Minoru and Dereck, “Everything is really starting to come together, Dereck. Don’t you agree?”
“It’s nice to see something reaching completion. I think our work will save a lot of lives.”
“Probably sooner than we think.”

“Maybe,
How’s things going with Kuan-Yin’s present?”
“I’m working on it. I still have a week. I’m not even sure she celebrates Christmas.”
“Well, you better have it ready by then anyway in case she does.
You don’t do so well without deadlines.
That’s why I’m here?”

Minoru gently slapped the larger teen’s back. “Is that why you are here? Because I was certain you were our comic relief.”
“No, that’s Ryuun.”
Laughter filled the halls as they headed upstairs toward the dorms.


Christmas Eve Dinner[]

12/24/3048


A brown haired and tanned women opened the door to bells jangling on the wreath, “Ola! I’m Maxine, you must Kai and Cassandra.”
The siblings stared at her then one another for a moment, both out of uniform for the first time in weeks. “Just Cass. Are you Max?”
“I am. Its so nice to meet you two.” She lunged forward to embrace them before gestured for them to enter. The surprise hug noticeably awkward for each of the teens. “I’ve heard so much about you even before,” Maxine deepened her voice to mock a ringside announcer, <<“The Showdown at Shengli!”>> before returning to her staccato patois, “I’m so glad you decided to accept our invitation. Please come in.”

“Everyone else is here you two.”

Kuan-Yin and Riva looked out from the kitchen as they entered hesitantly to stand in a parlor with an illuminated Christmas tree slightly taller than Kai. An aroma of earthy spices wafted on the steam; an oven alarm chirped behind them. “You showed up just in time. We’ve just finished everything.”

All five of them settled around a table overflowing with courses to accent the Capon at its center. Arroz Napalina with nuts and raisins, Kir Breton, canapes, spiced bread, fruit, colorful potatoes served three different ways, and more.

Max downed one of the canapes while the (Allard-)Liaos looked at one another from across the table, “This is the most food I think we’ve had since Minoru and his friends were here. How long has it been since you have all had a chance to share the holidays together?”

Cass was seated closest to the woman and broke the uncomfortable silence, “Well before mom died.”
Kai sat beside her and Riva while Kuan-Yin had centered herself on the bench seat. He picked up a hefty slice of chicken and piled sides atop and beside it. “We were hardly ever in the same place at the same time for security reasons.

The last time all of us were together was probably at her funeral, and neither of us has seen Quintus since then. Our Grandfather won’t let him visit the Confederation and none of us have been outside it.”

Riva refilled her drink and loaded up her own plate, “I think your Uncle Daniel will be transiting Capellan space shortly on AMC business. Perhaps he could take you with him and convince our father to bring your brother along. Although knowing your grandfather who knows, I’d probably have to lean on your grandmother.

I am presently planning a trip to a science symposium on New Kyoto next year. Feel free to reach out if you’d would like to see your cousins or visit your father’s statue in Solaris City.”
“Maybe we’ll consider it.”
“Be sure to talk it over with the Commandant beforehand and if he gives you any crap. Remind him you know someone who is on a first name basis with people who have a fleet of interstellar warships.”

The twins had been eying each other up throughout the dinner, “You’re looking very toned, Kuan-Yin. Have you been doing Yoga more recently?”
“I’ve been out and active with my new friends, Cassandra. Apparently, there are few idle forms of entertainment in the Combine, but sports are almost mandatory.
I’ve recently started learning Sijal, the Azami art of the blade. You know since I’ve been banned from the arcades and carnival.”

Cassandra leaned forward, “Really? Perhaps you would honor me with a demonstration some time.”
Her sister did the same, “It would be my pleasure.”

“Girls please!”


Gift Waiting For You[]

12/26/3048


Kuan-Yin returned to her dormitory to find an envelope addressed to her on the floor with a sticky note attached. ‘Sorry I missed you.'
She sat down on her bed with her duffel bag beside her, “You could have just given it to me next time we meet, you big goof. I doesn’t need to be on Christmas.”

Inside the envelope was a short poem will silly ink illustrations of running rabbits and swaying pines in the margins colored in with pigmented ink. She folded it again and put it beside the crocheted Minoru doll and its toy sized horned helmet.

“You are just so cute sometimes, Minoru. Thank You.”


New Arrival[]

Leeward City Starport - Victoria, Capellan Confederation - 01/11/3049


Leeward City Starport bustled with activity as aircraft from across Victoria and inbound shuttles of all types from Varangian brought travelers and cargo to the city. Although small compared to a proper dropship the 200-ton Ares Landing Craft retired from Jie Fang Legion service, tail number VHLC-546, seemed massive compared to the other shuttles and planes within the hanger terminal to the people on the ground beside it.

VHLC-546’s fifty passengers disembarked via a stair truck as crews began unloading the half dozen LEUs in the hold above them. BCJ constables and very clear markings cordoned off the remainder of the noisy and dangerous hanger while directing them to immigration and customs where signs directed all travelers to have travel papers, IDs, and luggage ready for inspection.

One man seemed distinct from his fellow passengers, taller, walking confidently dressed in a sleek tailored suit with sunglasses and trilby hat. He snapped open the black attaché case and removed his large watch and personal Commpad from the jacket pocket gently placing his sunglasses on top.

A Constable approached him and the others, “Does anyone have anything to declare before you pass through the portal?”

Hands raised skyward mostly declaring shrapnel injuries or bullet fragments still inside from the wars that had beset the Confederation for the past generation. “Anyone else have something other than shrapnel?”

The tall man’s hand raised, “I have two class five cybernetic limbs and silver eyes.”
Whispers went through the crowd, “Was he a Death Commando? Or Legionnaire?”
“Or with,”
such and such a noble during their heroic last stand against the Anduriens or Combine or present at one of the crucial battles that defined a generation of war within the Capellan Confederation. Silvered, or Cybernetic, eyes were as common as homeless with laser blindness, but Class V myomer enhanced cybernetics were one of VIT’s specialties. Leeward Medical Complex was one of only five facilities in the greater Inner Sphere where one could acquire them (New Avalon, New Kyoto, Vega, Victoria and Luxen, in Magistracy of Canopus or if you're COMSTAR Mars).

A young constable stood beside him behind the rope, “You have already sacrificed so much, the Sergeant doesn’t want you to sacrifice more time. You can go first, Mister.” He extended his hand to the other man who took it and gently shook it the myomer fibers moving beneath his gloves.

“Yuri Vulkan. Thank you, young man. My service is long past me, I'm just a sales rep from NETC now, but” He returned the sunglasses to cover his silver pupils, “It's good to know that Leeward is as accommodating as I’ve heard.”


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