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Strategos (Cover Art)

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Strategos (A Great Captain Roberts Tale!!)

Chapter 21 - Within and Without
[]


The scalpel blurred…


…and she smelt the smoke as it cut through bone. "Let her go." HE was here, and the men-in-white quailed.

"You cannot interfere!"

"I'm interfering." She could almost see him, a shadow flickering in the room, the edge of a jacket, the faint smell of old oak and leather.

The tang of blood on her tongue, in her nose, the screams.

She looked down and saw her bare feet smeared in blood, hands red to her elbows, loose surgery gown covered in red.

The feeling of the stolen surgical tool in her hand, the sight of the girl holding the scalpel, watching her reach up and push the bone of her skull back in place where they'd cut it, the tube of resin she used to close the cuts, the sticky scalp material stinging.

Amanda asked aloud…


"Is that the last of it?" Giles heard her asking, then answering herself, in a voice that was her but wasn't, like a man using a vocoder modulator without bothering to try to match intonation or accent, "For now, they're locked in intrusion countermeasure loops."

"But they're not gone?" the girl again, sounding worried. The OTHER her answered, "No, I don't have that capability. Probably never did, but I can freeze them out in a looped function for now."

"Now's not a solution, Desmond!" she again, plaintive, wounded child voice.

"I know," the other her. "We need Erin's software, we need Guardian."


"So explain to…

…me why again?" David Foster sat just out of Sarah Inslee's reach. "I mean, you must understand this is not what the Star League was about."

"The Star League? No, this is about House Cameron!" she said. "Everything, including your precious Star League was about keeping the Royal Line in power-right up to the point it failed!"

"House Cameron failed," he stated. "Richard allowed Amaris to get too close-"

"NO! The organization of the House failed, but the Royal Line continued," she asserted. "My ancestors were members of a Royal Regiment, Captain Foster, not some bunch of…of scrub colonials!"

"Taking slaves?"

"The Coup originated in the territorial states!" she snapped. "It's no worse than what they do to each other and at least our way is organized, done with PURPOSE!!"

"What purpose?"

"Preserving the rightful heir of the Director General of the Hegemony, maintaining order, guaranteeing the succession." she glowered, "ALL that loyalty stuff that even the Great Kerensky who sent us out here forgot about!"

"Slavery."

"Survival!" she barked, "You missed it, Captain, in your rich, safe inner sphere, you missed the chaos, after Kerensky left, Our priorities were 'Survive, Stabilize, Rebuild'-and we only got to pick two of those!!"

"You know who the Clans are, qu-yes?" Foster confronted her.

"I know what those idiots from the Ministry of Communications tried to sell us!" she almost spat. "Supposedly Kerensky's 'descendants' gone mad, only that's not how it works! Soldiers who abandon their duty don't found exotic super-societies of advancement. They do exactly what happened out here-there are literally CENTURIES of experiences and revelations showing what mass deserters do when they don't have a member of the Cameron Line to lead them!!"

"You do not believe in the Clans?" he wondered aloud. "You can look at me and say that?"

"I've seen worse," she said casually. "It happens with lines that get too 'pure' and start having inbreeding problems-like mine, because for several generations we limited our breeding to Terran Hegemony descent only. The last Basileus loosened it up-now you can be a full citizen if you're at least fifty percent pure, and can hold rank."

It was like hearing a demented mirror of the Clans themselves. Inwardly, David Foster was sickened and horrified…and fascinated in the same way a more ordinary man might be fascinated at the sight of a horrible accident in progress.

Only this one had, apparently, gone on for a very long time indeed.


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