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The Great and The Good (Chapter Cover Art)

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The Great and The Good (A Great Captain Roberts Tale!!)

Chapter 16 - Unsalted Earth
[]


It was well into the night…


…when they pulled up onto the main Roberts Farm. "We'll set you up in the guest room, John, and call your father." Natalie said.

Johnny looked at 'his boss'. "Her house, her rules." Amanda said, "Call your folks, let them know I've shanghaied you into the life of a Privateer."

"Aye, Ma'am."

"How do you do that?" Natalie asked.

"Mister Samuel tells me it's because I'm both disturbing, and terrifying." Amanda commented, "Mister Bedwyr tells me it's because I don't let anyone pause to think, but my Executive Officer, Mister Nichols, told me it's because of The Secret."

"The Secret?"

Amanda shrugged, "Tone of voice and assertiveness." she said, "it's not hard. I got him out of a bad situation and took responsibility for him, then underlined it, and he listened. I assumed responsibility, and he fell in line with it because it got him out of somewhere he didn't want to be."

"Into a worse situation, I heard your stories to my grandsons." Natalie said sourly.

Amanda shrugged, "it's not all bad." she said, "it's better than some of the alternatives-I've seen the alternative. Non-violence only works if there's a better nature to appeal to, Mother. I have been in places where the men with the guns have no better nature to appeal to, and I have seen with my own eye what happens to those who try to oppose nonviolently without the help of those whom are not non violent."

Natalie scoffed, "Stories."

"NOT stories." Amanda stopped mid step, and turned, "You need to get it, Mother, and I don't think you do, this close to a strong military, even after I was abducted, after what happened to me, and to my friends." she reached up, and pulled her false eye out, "Look at it." she pulled her hair up in the light of the porch, "LOOK at what they did…and I'm the one who lived. The others didn't! And I've seen worse since!!"

She pushed the ceramic and plastic orb back into place. "On Devil's Breath, they were conditioning Children to be playthings for perverts mother. As young as five!! They're not stories, we retrieved the client lists!!" she snarled, "Brothels from the Draconis Combine to Tortuga, some in places you would think such things could never happen."

She composed herself, "Just like the people here, can hardly believe something like it. It could happen, even after it already has. Do you know why??"

Natalie stared at this girl who was ranting, with an expression of shock.

"Because, Mother, Good people don't do those things...but that doesn't mean there aren't bad people and they DO do those things!!"

Amanda composed herself. "So, someone has to stop them, because they cried out, and nobody heard. Mother, God left it in our hands-he judges, but he doesn't arrest or prosecute, and he doesn't step in to stop it, because he left that on us."

"Am I my brother's keeper?" a male voice asked, as the door opened.

"Yes." Amanda stated. Jonah Roberts is big like his son, a beefy man with a barrel chest and a permanent solar tan with the squint of a man who works outdoors. "God made that clear when Cain asked the question, it's obvious." Amanda added.

His huge arms scooped her off the porch in an embrace.

He let go quickly enough, "You're armed."

"Yes." she said, "I am. Is that a problem?"

He wiped tears, "no. You're home now."

"For the funeral." she said, "And, apparently, dealing with old business."

"You're going back??"

"Someone has to do it. I'm someone, and I can do something about it. I have a ship, I have a crew, I have a Letter of Marque and Reprisal, and the permission of the President. Besides, I inducted John Johnson into the fleet, and someone needs to show him what to do. If not me, then who??"

Jonah sighed "Come inside, it's going to get cold."


"So…I hardly believed it when the Watch officer showed up after your 'food hijack'." Jonah said as they sat in the living room with cups of warmed wine. IN the next room over, Johnny Johnson was talking to his father on the landline.

"Yeah, that was a mess." Amanda allowed, "Was it Mister Seron?"

"It was!" he said, "He was the man who confirmed your identity to us, and was seeking confirmation from us… How did you go from that, to a Presidential Commission as a Privateer?"

"I blew the hell out of a battalion of The Sons of Plunder, Liberated two worlds, and kept sending President Avellar reports on our progress." Amanda admitted. "Eventually, I guess it just kind of…took root. I've met the President in Person, and the Khans."

"LIke those fantasy stories you read as a child." he said.

"Maybe a lot." Amanda admitted, "But it's working, so why not? Forty thousand on Joan's Post, and tens of thousands more on Tresspass, and five hundred victims on Devil's Breath, all benefited from it. When we go out again, we're going to investigate more worlds, probably free more people."

"At the cost of being a Killer." he said.

"Yes." She nodded, "It's the price. The nightmares, the awful feelings, the anxiety? All worth it, when you stop the things I've stopped."

"You're like Dad then." he said, "We…we never got along well, Amanda. I never really understood his views or his position, even when he tried to explain."

"It's hard to explain." Amanda agreed, "especially to people who are distant from it, who don't see it in person, smell it, hear it."

"But why you?" he asked.

"Because I'm good at it." Amanda stated. "I have proof, I salvaged a Bonaventure, recruited a crew, organized liberations and rescues…"

"But there are professionals for that." he said, "The OMC, the Snow Ravens…"

"They weren't there until I started working." Amanda stated, "and they can't be everywhere. I can't either, but more is done with more hands. Do you know what was done to me??"

He shrugged, "I have heard…some of it from the Watch." he confessed.

"The Men in White, who took me? They cut into my brain sir." she said, "and put hardware in there, to make me into a weapon, and I had nobody to come save me, I had to do it myself, and maybe god nudged things to wake me up on that surgical table, but maybe it was just that they screwed up on me, whichever way it happened, I lost…everything but disconnected pieces that are only starting to reassemble." she sipped the wine thoughtfully, "In a sense, they made me to be their punishment in this life, or made their nemesis…and I'm good with that role."

"Is that you, or the Implants?" he asked her directly.

"Oh dear, they DID tell you things…I don't know." Amanda admitted, "After six years, I'm not sure it matters, because it's become who I am now. Complete with the cut that doesn't quite heal or the artificial eye, me seeing information overlaid in my vision, or my imaginary friend Desmond."

"Desmond?"

"He's my imaginary friend, sir, he tells me to be careful, to look both ways, to pay attention to my surroundings…and he's kind of always there, just out of sight. My private psychosis, a result of the implants, or what they did wrong putting them in. He was of great help killing Ananiel."

"Ananiel?"

"Manei Domini, commander of the Word of Blake Ship Erinyes." Amanda said, "Full conversion cyborg who relocated his brain inside his armored chest. Without Desmond, he'd be alive and I'd be dead or worse."

Natalie gasped, "The WAR CRIMINAL??"

"The same. He used that ship to murder millions on worlds. So many I can't count. Whole planets. I took that son of a bitch apart like a used tractor, and it was because I had my imaginary friend Desmond with me. I expect he's explaining to the REAL Angel Ananiel what he did with the name, and to God the why, facing judgment from the authority who can truly judge."

"You at least kept to that part." Her father said approvingly.

Larry Nichols (The Great Captain Roberts Character)

Larry Nichols

"Larry Nichols tells me the only Atheist in combat, is a liar. The praying starts when the shooting is imminent, and the book says God prefers consistency." she asserted. "Seeing as in the last two years I've taken on armies? I need to keep god on my side, because I might have to meet him very soon, with all my sins hanging over me."

"And you're bringing Johnny Johnson into that?"

"He was being groomed to be a domestic terrorist." Amanda stated, "Or for a life as a criminal. Mister Farrous, excuse me, Adept Rho Milos Farrous, was growing a domestic terror cell right here in your valley. He got to Jeff. So when they let Jeff out, you need to be careful with him. Because the milk seed was just the first step in a process that ends with dead innocents. If you don't get him out of that, you'll have two killers in the family, but one will target innocents."

"Here?? Why here?"

"Isolation." Amanda said, "Insular community, enough dissatisfaction to cultivate extremism, and honest, good people who can be duped by someone in a position of apparent moral authority."

"But you broke him, I saw!!" Natalie insisted.

"Roaches and rats. If you find one, there are more, the danger is what happens when you get a mole-hunt going, because that can CREATE the radicals you're trying to prevent. It's always more effective if the regular people spot the signs, and get involved in bringing the targets of it around to sense before they're too broken to save."

"And Johnny?"

"He volunteered, and the work needs hands." She said, "I'll watch out for him, maybe he won't have as many nightmares, but my business is a dangerous business, it's high risk work and it NEEDS hands, or you end up with the Sons of Plunder conditioning children to be sex slaves or pitting family members against one another in a death duel for their amusement, or selling organs..or worse. I've seen worse. It's why I have to go back out there…and why putting milk seed in the food for your defenders is a bad idea."


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