Sierra Two Two: Chapter 5

Official STARFIRE history based on ULTRA STARFIRE! We are just getting started, so come inside and see the teaser. More on the STARFIRE Stories Page

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Sierra Two Two: Chapter 5

Postby Cralis on Tue 20 Jul 2010 00:17

27 AUG 2086 ~0930 (SUN Pendleton Local Time), Muuran’si

Muura. My own name. Muura Murchan tried thinking to himself to occupy his mind during the trip. My son deserves Lercana. He carried out our plan, swiftly, and without error. My time was nearly up and I can serve our people better by being an ambassador to the Solars. But urg... I have to survive this wretched flight.

The ride from orbit was rough. The atmosphere was turbulent from a series of storm fronts that were moving across the northern ocean. The shuttle’s path weaved across the upper atmosphere to avoid the 200-mile tall thunderclouds, slowly sinking deeper into the thicker, more turbulent atmosphere. Most of the shuttle’s occupants had extensive training and experience with shuttle rides, but Muura had only made the trip once – from the surface to orbit. And on that flight he was too uneasy to feel any motion sickness.

On this trip Muura felt sick. The constant bumping from turbulence was causing his two stomachs to convulse as if he was on board a sailing boat in the open ocean. Those were decades-old memories I’d rather have continued to forget. The Solar’s doctor offered him an injection that worked to stop the sickness in humans, but without knowing how it would affect him, he declined. If I’d have known it would be like being back on that vezzanan sail boat, I might have taken my chances with their medicine.

Either way today is very special. Today we are headed back to see my son, now Lercana Murchan of a united Soffran people. Initial reports from the Solar’s surveillance indicated that his family’s plans to implant successors to each of the break-away nations had gone relatively well. So far only the elimination of one politician claiming succession rights had made it into media reports. It was still early, but initial media transmissions and intercepted communications seemed hopeful that few members of the old governments had any desire to fight back. Most had been detained or convinced to step down. Now it was up to the people to accept this change.

Over the last 4 days Muura had been in negotiations with Ambassador Kusari and Captain Harding. Before he returned home he had wanted to build the framework for a treaty that could benefit his people and allay fears in the Solar Union about the stability of the returning world government. The truth was that the Sofforan were no threat to the humans. But the Ambassador had made it clear that they feared a future where the Sofforan could become a threat if left to continue waging war now that they knew starships and space travel was possible.

Now, only moments from touch-down, did he realize the full implications of their concern. The Solar Union was afraid that the Sofforan would learn advanced technology and then use it to bring the war to the stars. I would rather the Sofforan people have the opportunity to re- learn to live in peace and build a new empire as a united planet. That wasn’t possible until Captain Harding forced the Preco into negotiations aboard his starship and the Preco used the opportunity to get themselves killed. Now I will spend the rest of my life making sure that is the future for my people.

Muura focused on that thought as the shuttle begin to slow for a landing. If my son has not been foolish, and my people can accept this treaty and the conditions Ambassador Kusari said he would unveil at our announcement, then we can finally have hope for the future of a united Sofforan people!

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Captain Harding sat between Colonel Eir and Ambassador Kusari on what he hoped would become a historic conclusion to Sierra-2-2’s first contact mission. To the left of Colonel Eir were Lieutenant Commander Andrey and Lieutenant E’ban in the traditional black and gold naval dress uniforms. Across from him sat Gunny Morris, Sergeant Grellewan, Corporal Durn, and Major Nessur. All three were wearing traditional ‘Dress Blue’ uniforms, meticulously groomed and with every medal, ribbon, and button polished to a shine. Major Nessur was armed with his service pistol and the Mameluke - the traditional officer’s sword passed to the Solar Union Marine Corps from the United States Marine Corps. Both Gunny Morris and Sergeant Grellewan carried their Marine Corps NCO sword as well as the P44 service pistol. While they would not be attending the actual meeting and announcement, they were the only guards brought on this flight to protect the delegation while away from the shuttle.

In the rear of the shuttle were eight more Marines in combat armor. Three were part of the color guard and had mounted the Solar Union Standard, Solar Union Navy Standard, and the Solar Union Marine Corps Standard on one of the flag bearing mounts on their combat suit. The three other color guard Marines were armed with ceremonial laser rifles, but all had P44 laser pistols and a few extra explosive surprises in the event they had to defend the contingent. All of the armored Marines were intended to conduct the introductory color ceremony upon landing and then stay behind to protect the shuttle.

Captain Harding hoped that the show would impress the Soffran as much as it impressed him back home. After disembarking from the shuttle and greeting the welcoming party, the Lercana - correction the old Lercana who is now insists on being called by his first name, Muura – would lead the contingent to meet the new Lercana and make proper introductions. After the announcement ceremony they were to sit down and discuss preparations to finalize and sign a treaty between the Solar Union and the Murchan government.

The assault shuttle was obviously slowing while making a wide circle, losing altitude in preparations for landing. A quick glance at the one of the in-flight wall displays told Captain Harding that it was the middle of the afternoon in Muuran’si, the capital of the Muurtan empire – and now the capital of the entire world. Harding looked at Muura to make sure he wasn’t going to look too sick by the time they landed, and noted that he seemed to be handling the bounces and jolts of landing better than the actual flight.

Less than a minute later there was a quick deceleration followed by a soft jolt, and the shuttle was on the ground. Captain Harding watched Ambassador Kusari stand, offer his hand to help Muura stand, and said, “It’s time to participate in history, Ulor Murchan.”

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Muura stood and steadied his stomachs while he waited for everyone else to stand. When he was sure he wasn’t going to be sick, he walked around Ambassador Kusari to lead the group to the back of the shuttle where the color guard had already exited and taken up their assigned places to the left of the hatch. There the Marines stood proudly, at attention, and saluted as he stepped out of the shuttle’s hatch. Muura walked down the slight ramp to the ground and started waving to the crowds of people that had gathered.

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Captain Harding stopped momentarily to salute the colors and the Marine color guard. Following his example, every member of the Solar Union contingent stopped to salute before walking forward. Captain Harding could hardly believe the reception. From the shuttle’s landing in Imperial Square, stretching through several miles of a massive urban boulevard, were a row of Muurtan soldiers in a straight line formation several soldiers thick. The citizens of the capital stood behind the soldiers and, for at least a mile or so, filled in the entire flat space of the square. Whether it was road, something like grass, walkways, it didn’t matter - all were full of cheering, yelling Soffran who were obviously excited to see Muura. He waved and excitedly gave expressions that Harding took to be like a human politician blowing kisses to the crowd.

Stepping away from the shuttle he followed Muura and Ambassador Kusari, himself followed by the officers and Marines who were part of the Solar Union contingent. About one hundred feet or so from the shuttle were a line of vehicles with an echelon formation of soldiers left and right of a small group of Soffran. In the center stood a slightly smaller Soffran who had the same facial features as Murra. He was wearing flowing black clothing and a large cape that extended from a metallic ring on his head. He was surrounded by a handful of Soffran with similar clothing but lacking the head piece, and one or two Soffran female escorts.

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Ignoring Ambassador Kusari’s pleading for him to stay with the delegation, Muura didn’t hesitate to step walk away from the delegation. He was headed towards an opening in the crowd where the Sofforan soldiers were clustered at the head of the main avenue. The avenue was lined with Muurtan Guardsmen, and it stretched for miles. There he knew he would find his son, Lercana Murchan Adon, surrounded on both sides by Sofforan armored personnel carriers and amidst a cluster of guards and advisors. As he neared the group, he could see his son and the emotions of excitement and confusion on his son’s face. He knew that his son must have believed him to be dead, at least until Ambassador Kusari sent a request for this meeting. Muura knew that the message must have caused both relief and concern as much had happened in the days immediately following his kidnapping by the Solars.

About 30 feet from his son, Murra lifted his arms high and said loudly, “Lercana Murchan, my son. It is with regret that you came to the throne believing I had perished. But it is with great joy that I return to our world, a world with balance restored. I have returned with words of peace for both our world and that of our guests! I have returned to celebrate in the victory!”

As Muura finished the sentence, he pointed at the delegation of Solars that was forming up just outside the shuttle hatch. Then he waited. He waited while the massive crowd surrounding the square screamed and cheered. He soaked in the excitement, relieved that the people, at least, were not upset or disappointed with him. He had always enjoyed the support of the populace and he reveled knowing this triumphant return confirmed their trust and conferred it to his son.

But the triumphant cheers didn’t last long. It didn’t even last a full voza* before Lercana Murchan walked out from center of the cluster of troops and personnel between the Sofforan armored vehicles. As he walked he raised his hands and at the gesture the crowds quieted. Four personal guards followed the Lercana at a distance of two maha*. The Lercana closed until he was literally within an arm’s reach of Muura, and at that moment the crowd in the square was as quiet as the insects on a moonless night.

Lercana Murchan had an expression that Muura had not seen before, of both grief and happiness, of fear and confusion. He croaked out a little whisper.

“Father?”

To Muura it sounded like a question. To think that after all the years of training, mental and physical hardening, and preparation for taking on the responsibility of Lercana, that his son would be emotionally overwhelmed right here and now.

“Yes, Adon.”

Adon shook himself slightly and raised his head, shaking his body slightly to remove any hint of emotional distress.

“I had believed you to be dead, and our new fight to be with the Solars.”

Muura frowned a little and shook his head. “I am sorry Adon, by the time I knew it was a deception I had already been taken. But look at you! Lercana Murchan! Of a united Soffora. I was sure that I was giving my life for our plan, and to re-unite our people, but I am here today as proof that the Solars are not as violent as we believed.”

Muura raised his arms and Lercana Murchan, his son Adon, came in close and grasped him with all four arms. The crowd roared as Adon’s whisper was almost lost in the roar, “It is good to see you alive father. It is good to know that we are not facing an ever larger conflict that we might not win. It is good…” Adon’s voice cracked, “…it is good to have you back to take the throne.”

Muura leaned away from the hug, still grasping his son’s shoulders, and looked him straight into the eyes. “Adon, you have earned the throne. My time was nearly done, and I can serve a greater purpose now for all of our people. Would you oppose me in that?”

Adon thought for a moment, than whispered quietly enough that he almost could not be heard. “No father, I will not oppose you. I will honor the throne with your wish.”

“Then no Adon, I have not returned for the throne. The throne is yours. You have earned it by taking back our world as we have planned for generations. I will crown you myself before our people!”

Adon looked up and scanned the crowds around them. It was as if the cheering was adulation for the accomplishment that only weeks ago seemed impossible. The noise continued unabated all around them, centered upon them, and on Muura.

“Then it will be as it was. Our family has waited far too long for these days. Let us ride to the Great Halls where we can discuss the future…and the Solars.”

27 AUG 2086 ~1100 (SUN Pendleton Local Time), The Great Halls of Muuran’si

The Soffran military had never been exposed to the concept of anti-armor guided missiles or anti-tank mines. Because of this, once they learned how to build vehicles based on combustion engines they had built each generation of armored vehicle larger than the last. Soffran personnel carriers were monstrous beasts with eight wheels over 10 feet tall, and the body of the transport was at least fifty feet long. It was slow and smelled like gasoline, but it was heavily armored, carried more than thirty people, and only susceptible to the large canons mounted on the Soffran equivalent of a tank.

The trip only lasted about twenty minutes, but it was long enough for the delegation to be weary. Nobody was able to see outside the transport, and Muura traveled with his son in a different transport. After a quick stop the transport maneuvered back and forth a little, and then the large door that dropped to the rear of the transport swung open. Captain Harding stood and started to walk down the descending ramp when Ambassador Kusari leapt to his feet and took a few wide steps to stay ahead. The other members of the delegation stood and waited for Captain Harding to proceed.

Captain Harding waited for Ambassador Kusari to exit the vehicle alone, and then led the delegation down the ramp between the two large rear wheels of the transport. The transport was parked in a slanted column with the other half dozen transports of the caravan, but on a marble-like surface. Harding’s first instinct was to look up at the local sun, and he realized that there was a large glass roof over the parking area. Letting large columns lead his eyes down to the parking area, he could see that the avenue ended at the mouth of the glassed-over area. Walking around the transport, however, gave him a complete view of the place. There he could see that the overhanging glass stretched for acres supporting only by marble-like columns of white and grey, and led into a six story structure that resembled a massive castle. Each story had windows and balconies, and they stretched across the visible surface of the entire building. It appeared to be shaped like a “U”, but his trained eye realized that this was only a receiving area, or front, and that the rest of the building stretched far behind the visible walls of this…courtyard.

“That must be the Great Hall of Muuran’si,” said Ambassador Kusari.

Awe struck, Captain Harding could only nod his head in agreement.

“Incredible,” murmured Major Nessur.

As he disembarked with the delegation, Captain Harding thought to himself. The Soffran must be grand architects…I wonder what else we don’t know about their culture because we focused on their war? Captain Harding just shook his head while he thought. This is the perfect example of why it is better to see a new alien culture first-hand instead of just reading the reports.

Several Soffran officers said something to Major Nessur, and he listened intently at his earpiece for a moment. The Major turned to Harding just as his own earphone started translating the words.

“Captain, he says we are to follow him into the Great Halls.”

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Captain Harding and the delegation were paraded around the interior halls of the Great Hall for several hours before he realized that Muura was not with them. The tour had gripped the attention of the delegation because, for the first time, they were seeing a comprehensive history of the Soffran people as recorded by the Kingdom of Muurtan. What made it more impressive is that the history was more than 2000 Terran years long. The fact that a Soffran year was less than an Earth year hardly mattered.

The Great Hall literally had vault-like passageways that encircled the inner chamber and was more than four stories tall. Recorded on the walls were the history of the Murchan family, their ancestral founding of the Muurtan empire, and everything that had transpired since. Muura never shared the existence of the hall and none of the Preco cared, so not even Ambassador Kusari’s reports gave any hint that such a historical record existed on Soffran. Through-out this mission the ambassador’s staff remarked about events that they didn’t fully understand, but the history written on these hallways would fill in the gaps. It was quite impressive.

Eventually Captain Harding’s felt as though he had learned all the history he could handle, and when he checked his watch he realized that he had been touring the history of Muurtan for more than 90 minutes. He was near the back of the delegation party so the rest of the staff could pay closer attention, so he motioned for Lt. Cmdr. Andrey to come talk to him. While there were only eight members of the TSU delegation, more than a dozen Soffran officers and soldiers were either listening to the tour or escorting the delegation. It took a moment for her to notice his gestures, but she then took the few steps back to him.

“You were next to Ambassador Kusari in the transport. Did you hear them say anything about a schedule?” Captain Harding whispered.

“No sir, the liaison told the ambassador that they would be taken on a brief tour before the delegation would attend the revealing ceremony” Andrey replied.

“I see.”

Captain Harding wanted to ask Ambassador Kusari when they were going to move on to the ceremony. But as he looked at the party, he realized that Kusari was not with the delegation, and then he realized that he could not remember seeing him for most of the tour. He felt a little panic at the thought of what Kusari might be up to.

“Commander, where is Ambassador Kusari? Is he, or was he with the history tour?”

Andrey looked around, obviously unaware that the ambassador was missing from the group.

“I… I don’t know sir. I never thought to keep eyes on him.”

Captain Harding broke away from the party and approached one of the Soffran officers that were trailing the group. As he walked up to the soldier he noticed a look that resembled surprise, and the officer whispered something into a handheld radio device. Harding touched his lapel translation device as if to make sure it was still operational, before asking his question.

“Son, where is Ambassador Kusari?” Harding said.

After a few second the translation came through on Harding’s translator and spoke in Soffran. The officer responded and after a few seconds Captain Harding’s own earphone gave him the translation.

“The ambassador? Let me ask.”

The soldier turned away for a second and motioned to the other two next to him. The soldier was speaking quickly and quietly into his radio and received an answer that indicated the ambassador was in the throne room negotiating with the Lercana. As the soldier started to say something, Captain Harding had already heard the conversation translated and interrupted him with a curt demand.

“Take me to the ambassador. Now. And these two Marines are going to accompany me.”

I have a bad feeling about this, he thought.

Continue to Chapter 6

* voza – a unit of regular Sofforan time, approximately 2.2 Terran Minutes. Based upon a division of the Sofforan yearly orbit around their sun.
* maha – a unit of regular Sofforan distance, approximately 28 feet
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Cralis
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