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Chapter 29 - What Could Go Wrong[]

17 May 3041
Inner End (Federated Commonwealth)

"ATTENTION!! PRESENT ARMS" Sergeant Major Chester Pullman ordered as he raised his own hand in salute to the fallen. Two lines of uniformed "soldiers" snapped to attention and saluted, forming a path between them. As each transport casket made the journey down the path towards the waiting Dropship, Master Sergeant Harry Caldwell cited the fallen's name, rank, home planet and other details in a short eulogy. At the ramp of the Dropship, a detail led by Captain Gweneth Rolando lifted their comrade gently and carried him/her up the ramp and into the Dropship. This would be repeated fourteen times.

Not far away, twenty local police watched in a silent formation. Since they had not yet been cleared of any criminal charges, though not under arrest, they had been allowed to enter the Space Port for this somber task, but under "guard". Another group of uniformed "soldiers" were standing in formation saluting not far from the police. These had all been in orbit and not involved with the action on 11 May. To cause some tension, these "soldiers" were armed, enough so that when they had first been seen by the police that they called for backup, which was standing silently 500 meters away, four STG-3R model Stinger Light 'Mechs from the local militia.

Stinger Mechs (Taking Aim - Farseer Animation Version)

Stinger Light 'Mech preparing for trouble.

Jessica Hammel, MIIO, stood between the "soldiers" and the police, mainly as a buffer. It had been her that had convinced the local prosecutor to allow this gathering from where they had been confined to "house arrest" until he made his decision on prosecution. Though there had been movement on this front. Eleven of the wounded, those that could be safely released from the hospital for this, were grouped together at the head of the procession being watched over by several medics. All had bandages showing from under their clean uniforms, several leaning on crutches, most sitting in wheelchairs.

"ORDER ARMS" Sergeant Major Pullman commanded when the last casket was loaded aboard the Dropship. "COMPANY COMMANDERS TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR COMPANIES!"

Executing a smart about face, his polished boots glinting in the sunlight, Sergeant Major Pullman headed for the gathered wounded to check on them. He had not been allowed to since the attack. Jessica Hammel moved to link up with him, she had spoken to each of the wounded as part of the investigation. Seeing one of the police officers start to move, she waved him off. Another command caught her by surprise.

"BATTALION, FORWARD MARCH!" This caused her to turn her head, and she saw Captain Gweneth Rolando and all the "detainees" in a formation marching towards the warehouse they used as their housing. The police had cautiously moved to keep the armed "soldiers" from mingling with the "detainees". Well, at least the damned 'mechs are not moving to do something, she thought silently.

Reaching Sergeant Major Pullman, she stood silently while he made small talk with each of the wounded. When he finished and the wounded were loaded back onto waiting ambulances, he turned towards her. "Thank you for this, Agent Hammel."

"It was nothing Sergeant Major. They deserved to be seen off by their comrades. But I do have some news for you. Would you care to walk back or ride?" Jessica Hammel asked

"Walk. We have been cooped up for quite a while, the exercise will be good. What kind of news?" Sergeant Major Pullman replied

"Have you had any contact with anyone outside of this investigation since the attack?" Jessica Hammel asked

"No ma'am. I have not, nor have any of my people." Sergeant Major Pullman replied

"Well, I got a call from the prosecutor. He is pretty riled up. Seems a lawyer says he represents all of you went to see the prosecutor demanding all of your release. Know anything about this?" Jessica Hammel said

"No ma'am. Only lawyer I know about that would even know about us handled the Jumpship and Dropship petition. Have not spoken to him since they awarded the ships to us." Sergeant Major Pullman replied

"Well, it is a complication. But in truth, your actions were self-defense. So, he has nothing there. All he really has is civilians in possession of military grade weapons, firing said weapons inside a city limits and bullshit like that. I have submitted my recommendation for no charges to the prosecutor and also submitted all my findings and recommendations up the chain to my boss. You know who that is?" Jessica Hammel explained

"Quintus Allard, king spook himself." Sergeant Major Pullman replied

"Actually, Quintus Allard retired. His son Justin Allard is now the Intelligence Secretary." Jessica Hammel said

"Speaking to the son is like speaking to the father, Ma'am." Sergeant Major Pullman replied

"Be that as it may, both listen to us out here in the field. Your group contributed to something bigger than you know, so cross some fingers, you might all be free to go very soon." Jessica Hammel said

"Still no clue who attacked us?" Sergeant Major Pullman asked

"That is classified, Sar Major. Free advice, be extremely careful sending communication off planet, any planet. There are people watching, dangerous people. People you do not want looking at you. Catch my drift?" Jessica Hammel said

"M-Fer's. I hear you ma'am and thank you." Sergeant Major Pullman replied as they reach his "quarters", and he went inside to be with the rest of his people.

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