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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 17 - A Place in the Land
[]


Drizzle…


…not unseasonal here, the local graveyard dates back centuries. It's big enough that this age shows in the presence of stone monuments and tombs among flat granite slabs and poured concrete markers.

People have been burying their dead here for centuries. The oldest graves have embedded holographics that flicker, or cloud with static, or don't work, but the emitters are there.

Tech that was so disposable it could be left out forever once upon a time, the next oldest degrades a lot-markers of rusty metal or cheap concrete, dating from an era of lost technology and financial ruin, some of the graves are merely indicated by plastic flags because they were marked with wood, or biodegradable plastic.

The Roberts plot extends for several hectares. The newest space was dug only a few days ago, awaiting the body in the coffin.

The Magistrate and the Base commander let Jeffrey out of his penance for this, at least. Dressed in a black suit, his older brother across from him as part of the Pall Bearers' party, along with their father and three men from town near their size and age.

Among the small crowd at the graveside, are old men in their sixties, seventies and eighties, old, obsolete Outworlds Military Corps uniforms from generations ago, brought out of storage and showing how age shrinks and bends the strongest men and women, scattered with stern black suits and almost-plain women shrouded in thin veils.

Seven Reservists from the Airbase stand with rifles grounded, as the coffin is lowered into the ground. Their uniforms are a mix of elements from the OMC, and from Clan Snow Raven, and the NCO directing the honor guard is an Elemental named Breed with a long scar on his face.

Reverend Nuell recites his benediction, and there are words said-many of them indecipherable with the age of the speaker. Given by men and women who survived serving with Her Grandfather back in the wild days when the Outworlds were hanging by a thread, and again advancing through the past. Missions and fights too small or minor to fit into the attention of historians, incidents from a life many lifetimes ago, desperate struggles and bold triumphs that would be forgotten anywhere else.

The flag folded, presented to Jonah, her father, folded in a hard blue-black triangle, the riflemen raised arms, and fired three shots each.


"Even the Clanners…


…respected him." Amanda observed, "Do you know how rare it is, to get a Clan Star Commander to even attend one of these?"

"Uh…no." Jonah admitted. "I didn't know that."

"Yeah, well, you should." she said, "The base is less than fifty kilometers east of your front door...Johnson, take the wheel."

"Aye ma'am." John climbed into the driver's cab of the carryall, a sort of six-wheel-drive station-wagon built on a truck chassis, while Amanda sat in the rear-facing back seat, facing her parents in the more normal forward facing seats.

"As I was saying, it's worth it to you to know their habits, I've worked with Snow Raven troops in the field, one of their officers showing up to bury a retired civilian is rare and you had a Star Commander and four senior leaders from the Marine complement of the airbase show up to stiffen three active-reserves, just to play honor guard at a funeral…and that isn't 'ordinary'."

"What would be 'ordinary'?"

Amanda shrugged, "A point of Solahma with some techs, and that's if it's an honorable Trueborn who died in combat."
"Dad never told me half those stories growing up." Jonah admitted, "It wasn't part of our life, even when he was campaigning for the Alderman's seat, I mean, we all heard about him BEING in the service…"

"But you never put it together?" Amanda shook her head, "Even I figured it out when I saw the ranks on that honor detail. Director Jeremiah Roberts must have been Legendary for that kind of turnout!"

"I thought you worked for-"

"I work with the Touman." Amanda stated, "MY paper's with the Outworlds Alliance, not Clan Snow Raven, I report to The President, not the Khans…though I get a lot of my external support from The Watch and I've got two Watch officers on my staff, one of whom you've met."

"Mister Seron??" Natalie asked.

Amanda nodded. "I've had to do a lot of study in the law-books, because part of my role ends up being law-enforcement…again, most of the time my jurisdiction's in the Unincorporated regions."

"Thus how you bullied them into letting you enlist Johnny." Natalie observed, "This is how you bullied those deputies when you…did whatever it was you did to Mister Farrous."


The Wake…


…was held at a Tavern where the Outworlds Alliance Flag was prominently featured. Participation was a requirement.

"You used to sing." Natalie told her. "Do you remember that?"

Amanda shook her head as Samantha and Daryl sang a duet.

"Well…it's expected." Natalie told her. "Here, choose something." and handed her a book of song sheets.

Amanda examined them skeptically.

"This one." she said.

"He loved that one." her mother said. "You remember more than you thought."

Outside the Tavern, shadows in the evening moved, closing in…


The proximity sensors…


…At the Quatre Belle shipyard were typical Clanner type units. The intrusion team's leader knew the type intimately, and the fact is, this close to their center of power. Clan Snow Raven's security was only slightly more vigilant than Clan Wolf's had been over Tamar.

Their stealth suits were top-of-the-line, which they needed to be, given the mission profile involved.

Most of the Yard workers weren't aware of the danger moving through on EVA…

There are simply some things that can't be allowed to exist, some things that, if they can't be controlled, must be eliminated…


Outside the Tavern…


…sniper rifles in the hands of paid professionals were emplaced, as the door-kickers advanced.
The target was worth enough to buy the very best, and while collateral would be unfortunate, the timing could be attributed to a different source.

The cover story was already being put in place.


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