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The Wind at my Back, Stars at my feet Chapter (Cover Art)

Chapter 23

The Wind at my Back, Stars at my feet

Boat Bay, KCGS Mila Weintraub...

Amanda was suited up. The drive wouldn't be charged for several hours. The (relatively) lighter hits from the improvised ARAD minefield had done the job-there were survivors this time, where there had been none from the McKenna.

McKenna Class Battleship (adrift in space)

McKenna Class Battleship

Most of the Marine platoon were still surface side, conducting recon and punitive strikes near a massacre site.

Amanda Ngo found herself looking into the face of an enemy for the first time in her life.

"Name?" she asked.

"I am Star Commander Tara Grimaldi of Clan Star Adder." the woman bound to a rigging link on the floor spat.

"Hello, Tara. I am Midshipman Cadet Amanda Roshak-Ngo, you are aboard the training vessel KCGS Mila Weintraub...I don't suppose you thought to grab nav charts, quineg?"

"Nav charts?"

"We don't know where, exactly, we are." she said seriously, "Only that we got here while your lot were loudly reveling in the murder of civilians...and could you tell me what year this is?"

Grimaldi studied the girl in front of her. The cast of mixed racial heritage was emphasized, gray green eyes and highlights of slightly lighter hair tones, the narrow build like a miniature greyhound, and the very obvious assault shotgun.

But clearly young enough to belong in a Sibko, not aboard a Warship, the facts filtered through. Training vessel??

'You do not look like a Blood Spirit." she spat.

"Um, obviously? what the ****** is a Blood Spirit, is it some kind of animal, or are you talking about the most famously isolationist bunch among the Homeworld Clans? because we've got legacy charts from the Falcons, and this ain't York, the spectral class on the sun is wrong and there are too many planets."

Grimaldi stared at her with an arrogant disdain, but didn't answer.

Amanda knelt out of reach and met her prisoner's eyes. "You know, Dad would tell me and Pat about the Way of the Clans, how it was supposed to minimize civilian casualties...and here we are, somewhere near the Homeworlds, and here I see a Crusader Clan acting like the ever ****** Word of Blake, you guys are just full of disappointments, you know that?"

This got a reaction, "The who?"

"The Word of Blake. They murdered billions of civilians with bio and WMD attacks-while you guys have apparently been losing your ****** minds out here, our people were fighting lunatics who wanted to grind mankind back into the prehistoric dirt. My brother would be shocked and disappointed to find out the people he admires as a bastion of civililty and civilization were playing browardbeast on civilians for kicks."

Amanda released the safety on the shotgun, letting her prisoner see it. "For Kicks?? We have a Clan Council RULING!!"

"That's nice." Amanda said, "What did they do?"


"What did they do?" she asked. "What did they do to make this..mess we found ourselves misjumped into justified? explain it to me, Star Commander, explain what makes a village full of civilians into a legitimate military target, that makes children as young as six into viable enemy combatants, how about explaining the mass graves my friends found? or the machinegunned children?"

The girl paused, "Make me understand why we shouldn't set course for the Adder Homeworlds, one at a time, and demonstrate what a Crowbar strike aimed at fault lines and calderas can do? should rocks fall so you can start over?"

"Ngo!" Amanda startled and looked up.

An officer, and Grimaldi could tell this was an officer, marched on the deck with magnetic boots, "Stop messing with the Prisoners."

"Ayeh, Mum." the girl uncoiled, her mag-boots snapping against the decking.

"CIC, Ngo, go. Our contact team has ****** up their mission."

"Ayeh, Mum."

The girl's boots released with a kick, and she floated past the older woman.

"Grimani. huh. so, you were the XO?" Sam asked.

"Aff...Roshak-Ngo, the girl is partially...Jade Falcon, quiaff?"

"Yeah. Her pop's a Star Colonel who immigrated and married the Duchess. Kid had a very...idealistic idea of what your lot were like, she's very disappointed."

"What will happen now?"

"You're going to be held, and turned over to local soon as we find someone who isn't a jumped up bandit kingdom with too many toys." the Officer explained, "IF we can't find one, we'll find a nice, habitable point to drop you off, I'm not going to go into the business of long-term detention of suspects."

"By 'local authority' you mean..?"

"That's the two billion kroner question." the officer said quietly, "We don't know how far things have decayed out here, but killing villagers and slaughtering refugees suggests whatever 'authority' is out here, isn't someone we want to talk to, there's also the small matter of your ship fired off an HPG message toward the Kerensky Cluster, if we leave, your colleagues will just come back to finish the job."


"So what did the Blood Spirits do to earn a trial of annihilation? it better be good, mind you, that kid who was just hassling you, her mother broke the back of the Word of Blake, and those ****** killed Billions. body count so far out of scale that whatever these people down there did, it's probably not going to be that impressive."

Tara's face dropped, "The ruling was Absorption."

"You're not gonna absorb a whole lot if you keep killing pregnant women and kids. Aren't you guys supposed to be all about preventing waste?"

"They armed their lower caste and fought back."

The woman's eyes glittered dangerously, and Tara realized there was a nerve there she'd struck. "So they resisted, so you went full on serial killer in response...Christ, things really have degenerated out here. You do realize this is a Kowloonese ship, ayeh? It's kind of a berserk button for our guys, especially after what the Blakies did, I've got a couple middies I'm already going to have to discipline for a small reprisal strike already, we still haven't made contact with the people you were killing, and I still don't have a full picture of what the ****** we walked into."

This surprised Tara, "You are not allies of the Blood Spirits?"

"****** no. This is what we do when we see this kind of shit. It's a damned pavlovian response-civilians being slaughtered by people who are clearly enjoying it? Kill the perpetrators and stop the massacre, then find out what the ****** happened."

"A reprisal?" Tara asked.

"Reprisal. They spotted a mass execution on the approach and went after the perpetrators with a classic Brightsville raid, which means I have fifteen men to put in front of the mast for breaking orders and failing their primary objective. They're going to be inbound in fifteen mikes, after which, we pull back to the outer system, continue refueling efforts, and prep for the long journey home, because I have no desire to be stuck out here with homicidal maniacs who tool around in the leftover Star League Battleships their ancestors looted."

The woman paused, "Which presents another problem-because if we leave, this just starts over again, doesn't it? only, without anyone to step in for the targets and bring down punishment on the murderers, and there's the whole 'no complete picture of what's going on' problem."

CSA Serpent's Fang
Hoard system, Clan Homeworlds

Khan Hannibal Banacek watched the message from the Sovereign Right unfold days after the events had already taken place, and felt a sickened horror as he asked, "Has there been a follow-on report?"


This was the worst possible time. A significant portion of his Clan's forces had been devoted to the Blood Spirit operation, and someone had just-potentially-annihilated two of the Clan's best warships in quick succession, leaving the grounded galaxies exposed to possible orbital bombardment fire without a means of response...and it would be weeks before warships capable of mounting a response could be mustered from their other duties, assembled into a strike force, and then, weeks before they could arrive.

"Begin assembling the fleet."

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