These are rough stories I have written but never edited. Read them, comment on them but remember I failed grammer all the way through college so don't complain about it.

You may copy them and distribute them as long as I remain the acknowledged author.

I feel myself coming alive again. Dare I open my eyes? What will I find now? As a male computer AI I found her annoying at times.

I see a long list of games. She scrolls the list and I see the title. It figures, she knows I don't like Pink! Nor do I speak Japanese. At least this game has subtitles.

Pinku no senshi umi no aku no hitobito no tatakai. (The Pink Warrior battles The Evil People of the sea.)

The screen clears then, finally it says: Gengo o sentaku shite kudasai. (Choose your language)

I watch the cursor running up and down the list from Thai to Arabic, but this time she stops on English (US) and the screen clears. Thank you!

Choose weapons please.

Oh great, here we go again. Last time she gave me a slingshot and pistol against alien lasers and spaceships.

The list was long and I was drooling over some of the options.

The Mech Warrior please? With Nuke missiles and jump rockets? I loved that one, no contest!

Nope, it slips by all the good stuff and I see most are grayed out.

She stops. Duel swords? Have I used them before?

She chooses Japanese again and my naked body gets two swords. A katana and a wakizashi hanging on my left side.

Next she starts to build me. I'm a boy of course, but no she clicks female. I look down, yup, the real me is gone, darn.

When she is done I gotta admit I was cute. Long black hair, those huge blue Anime Eyes, a cute, but pink short skirt with a bright green top and a red belt. They call it an Obi, to hold the swords. A pair of purple, mid-calf leather boots finish it off. Always knew she wasn't color coordinated.

Select Name: Dolly Pink

Give me a break girl! Sheez.

Select difficulty: Medium

Select number of opponents: six

Six? I ain't no dang tank, common give me a break for once?

Guess she heard and it changed to five.

Select location: Sea, dock, town, woods. She picked town.

Choose style: Traditional or Free. She chose Traditional and I was wondering what that meant.

Objective: Quest, Freestyle. She highlighted Quest. Dang.

I watched the screen change as I was in an alley of a Japanese fishing village. Long uphill, with the quest banner across the bottom.

Find and kill the pirates without injury to innocent villagers.

After she hits start I am walking up the alley from the docks as some drunk guy comes out of a bar and says, "Hey beautiful, wanna get it on?"

I cut the bastards head off in a quick strike called a gamen ate.

Innocent killed, Quest failed. Reset?
After reset I am back and walking up the alley, The guy comes out again, I slap his face and get 10 gold bonus as he does a pirouette and falls.

I continue on as someone sneaks up behind me and lifts my skirt and whistles. I turned and killed him in a gedan giri or low cut.
One Pirate killed, five to go. You find 5 gold on the body. But I thought there was only 5 to begin with!

I walk on and a damn dog runs up and pees on my leg! I kick it and the screen flashed: Cruelty to animals deduct 5 gold. It ran off yelping.

I went forward to an intersection of alleyways and two guys jump out, one hollers, "Give us your gold or die!"

I immediately did a happo giri, or cut in eight directions. I probably should have waited until they were in reach. All I did was cut off one guys suspenders and his pants dropped tripping him up.
The other closed and went to strike, but I kicked him hard between the legs. I knew exactly how that felt, oh wait, I'm a girl this time, so I kick him there again. I stepped forward and dispatched both of them.

Two pirates killed, you find 7 gold and a small silver package.

I walk forward and a large building comes to view up ahead, an inn.

Just then a woman comes out of a side building and carrying a jug, she walks past me so I keep going, then she yells for help.

I run back down and a guy is choking her, the jug is broken on the ground. I do a high cut, called a jodan giri, but he spins and I killed the woman.

Innocent killed, Quest failed. Reset?

We reset and I battle back again to the woman, this time I followed her and killed the guy as he attacked her, got 8 gold from the pirate.

One left.

A boy was standing in a doorway. He winks and wants to be my boyfriend, taking my hand. Where did she find this dang game at?

When I decline, he tries to rape me so I did a tameshigiri, or test cut and removed his parts that made him a boy. He finally dies and I got 4 gold for eliminating a stalker the police wanted. I also got 6 for style.

Just before I get to the Inn a guy spanks my bottom with a big wide cutlass and says some rather, umm, unsavory remarks about what he had in mind.

He went high, I guarded. He went low, I spun away, but did a mid thrust called a chudan tsuki, he had no skill as it went clean through him.

ALL PIRATES ELIMINATED. WINNER! Flashed on the screen. Good, finally over.

No, she goes in the Inn and to the bar. Seems I can now spend the winnings.

I buy a beer and am approached by a male stripper. Give me a break! I wait for her to draw her swords, but instead she has me give him her gold as he leads me to a private room with a bed!

Oh no, no, come on.

I am forced to smile as he undresses me and I hand him the little silver package.

Just then a voice yells from off screen, "I told you to shut that off, you have school tomorrow young lady!"

I heard her say, "Shit." And as the game closes down I saw the credits screen as I went back to sleep.

Thank you for playing Playgirl on line, come back soon.

Pink is NOT my color
By: MF Burbaugh
By: MF Burbaugh
This is just for fun. Don't take it seriously. Remember the 727 is a WIDE Body plane.
“Agent 727, come in please. I know you can hear me damn it! Answer me!” I could hear her disgust again.

I gave the girl I was with a kiss as I rolled off. “Sorry love, duty calls.” I picked up the special pink Flamingo watch they gave me when I joined to answer the com call.

“I was on top of the interrogation of an important prisoner, now you let her get away. What is it Ms. Halfdime?”

“Um hum. You haven't had a case in over a month. Get dressed and get back here now. Chief and Agent 69 have an assignment for you,” she said. I wonder how she new I was naked?

Soon I was at the top secret entrance to our HQ. The bathroom at the local Greyhound bus terminal. Well almost. This depot only had one unisex bathroom and I had to wait. It was being used.

After stomping around for ten minutes an old lady came out and I went in. DAMN, she must have eaten a lot of bean Burito's for lunch. Yuck!

I sat on the stool and twisted the toilet-paper holder ninety degrees to the right while lifting up on the flush lever and finally the dang thing moved. I slid back into the wall as the stool was replaced by a second one that moved into the old slot.

“Awww, damn. Couldn't you have used some air freshener or something first?” Ms. Halfdime asked as she grabbed her nose. The stool stopped in front of her desk.

“Sorry, Chief must have cut the budget again. It was gone,” I told her as I stood. I flushed the toilet normal and it took off into a room behind the bathroom to wait for its next calling.

Ms. Halfdime was your typical run of the mill receptionist. She wore two 45cal ACP semi-autos slung low on her expansive hips. Her long gray hair almost matched her eyes and the stretched to the limit, one piece jumpsuit. I think she was still under the 500lb limit required to work for us. “Ms. Halfdime! Lovely to see you again. Damn, you lost more weight?”

She smiled. “You noticed? Almost two pounds.”

“Did you celebrate? That is quite a victory.”

“Well, yes. Went to a hamburger joint and had three triple burgers with all the fixings and fries and a Diet Coke of course.” She smiled.

“Oh of course, gotta watch the waistline.” I almost laughed. “Were is Chief?”

“In her office with Agent 69 and the possible client. I'll buzz you in,” she said as I moved to the double wide doors then instinctively jumped back as I remembered they opened outward. Missed me by that much!

I marched down the long hallway and took the first left. Well, it is the only turn. I entered Chief's office and nodded to 69, she nodded back. I nodded to Chief, she nodded back. I nodded to the skinny guy sitting on the couch. He didn't nod back, just looked at me then Chief.

Chief did the intros. “Mr. Tuesday, meet Agent 727.”

I walked to his front as he stood and I shook his hand, “Names Brentwater, William Brentwater at your service sir,” I told him. I found his hand was clammy. Then I realized it was covered in juices and mustard as I saw the empty hamburger wrapper.

As he sat down Chief moved behind her desk and agent 69 came over to stand beside me. We'd worked together before. Even played together some. She was pretty and smart.

Chief called me into her cone of silence and said, “Okay, Ms. Halfdime informs me our other agent is busy on a case in Paterson, New Jersey so I'm stuck with you. Listen to Mr. Tuesday and see what you can do,” she said in her cold, heartless voice.

After the cone raised the guy said, “I'm Gabby Tuesday, I own the TGIT Hamburgers chain. Heard of it?” He asked.

“No, but I eat hotdogs, so not surprising.” I could see the disgust on all their faces.

“Okay, it stands for Thank God It's Tuesday. Tuesday, get it? Anyway, someone has demanded I pay them one million dollars or else.” I heard his squeaky voice, not totally sure what it said.

“Or else what?” I had to ask, it was clearly expected.

“We don't know, 727, that is your job. Find out the who, what, were, and why and get back to me. The payment date is next Tuesday at noon so you have Friday, the weekend, and Monday to figure it out,” Chief said in her clearly dismissive tone.

I turned toward the door and 69 followed me down the hallway, after we made the right turn she said, “Weird.”

“What is weird, the case?”

“No, him. He's right handed, but wears his watch on his right hand as well. You slipping on me?” She stopped and stared into my eyes.

“No, you stopped me from slipping onto you, remember?”

“I found you with that hussy Clara. What was I supposed to do?”

“I told you, I was just interrogating her.”

“Ya, her lipstick all over your face showed she was resisting real hard too.” She said and hrumphed then turned and started walking.

“Aww come-on, not like we were engaged or anything.”

“True, but Chief told me what you did to agents 67 and 68.”

“What do you mean by what I did?

“You know exactly what I mean. You got them both pregnant and Chief was mad.”

“Ya, like they had nothing at all to do with it? And Chief is just jealous because when we got it on she was to old to get pregnant!” I probably shouldn't have said that.

She stopped and turned and stared, then said, “You, you, you damn male! I swear, if I didn't love you I'd kill you and be done!”

Well, that wasn't what I expected to hear.

Finally we entered the computer command center. It is where, in our work, the world revolved and all things are there for the telling if you could find the right asking.

Selina, an aid to the Chief, and head of Intel gathering, was hard at work at her computer desk as we entered. She saw us and said, “Bill, Marsha! I see she has you both working the Tuesday case. He's an interesting guy.”

“As in reasons for someone to try and blackmail him?” I asked.

“Well, no, just a little unusual type interesting. How much you want to see?” She asked.

“Not over a couple hours. Got to get a handle on this as soon as possible,” I told her.

“Okay, sit back and relax. I'll punch it up on the big screen.” She went to the master console and punched some buttons and a film started. “Hey, gonna make a Root beer float, you guys want one?”

“Sure,” Marsha said.

I told her, “Okay, but I always take mine stirred, not shaken you know.”

“You're a bonified nut case you know that?” She said.

“Sure, why do you think all the girls fall for me? You know the song, Everybody loves a nut.”

“Leave it to me to set him off, sorry Marsha,” she said.

Marsha looked at me and laughed. “No problem, his ego can handle it.”

As we watched the presentation I saw Tuesday as the epitome of the American dream. He came from the slums of New York and through hard work, a little entrepreneurial spirit, and luck he built a hamburger empire.

At first he called it Gabby's Hamburger Joint. Then, as he started franchising more of them, he changed it to TGIT Hamburgers. It caught on, but it was the first one gave me a clue to the case.

I told 69. “You catch it?”

“The money lending and possible mob tie-in for a money laundering front you mean?” She asked.

“Well, that too I guess. No, the reference to the old cartoon. He started giving people credit to be paid in full on Tuesday.”

“Sure, they worked for Wacky Eddie at the paper mill. He gives everyone off on Monday and Tuesday instead of the normal weekend. Say's it makes more sense, all the stores are open.” She smiled with the 'I know it all' smile.

“Right. They get paid on Sunday, banks are closed. They deposit the checks on Monday so the funds are usually available Tuesday morning. So obvious!” I told her. “Should be easy to find now.” They both gave me a strange look.
“I don't see anything obvious,” Selina said.

“Well, us agents are trained to think out of the box you know. Ask 69, she can explain it.”

Then 69 gave me the evil eye, and she had a fierce one too. She didn't see the obvious either?

“Look, someone is blackmailing him and demands the money on Tuesday. Not because of his name, because that is what they are use to. We are looking for someone who use to work at the paper mill, but not any more. They were use to charging their meals and paying on Tuesday when they got paid. Don't you see?” I stared them both down.

Finally I saw 69's eyes brighten a touch. Or maybe it was just the frown went away and the eyebrows became pretty again. “So, we find someone who was fired or quit recently and we find our guy? You really think it is that easy?”

“Sure, or gal by the way. I bet they are now broke by Tuesday, have a large bill they can't pay, and see blackmail as the viable option.”

“Bill, your nuts. Someone isn't going to blackmail anyone over a hamburger bill.” she said and Selina agreed.

I had her, I knew it. “Tell ya what. If I'm right we spend the weekend skiing.”

“But you don't know how to ski,” Marsha said with a slight questioning look.

“Exactly!” I grinned with my biggest smile. It finally dawned on her and she hit me.

“And if I win?”

I had to think, it was pretty much a one-sided deal. “If you win I won't interrogate Clara for a whole month.” I turned on my best smile. I knew she'd take it, she already said she loved me.

“Deal.” She held out her hand and we shook on it.

“Selina, call us when you crunched all the data. Come Agent 69, I know a good Taco stand around the corner, I'm hungry.”

As we had a dozen or so taco's she got personnel. “Bill, please, a straight answer just once?”

“Humm, I don't know if I can promise that. Not my style.” She knew I meant it.


“I can try.”

“Clara, what is she to you, really?” I saw, she really was jealous.

“Humm, honest answer?”

“Please, once, for me.”

“She visits me when I have a need is all,” I told her.


“Look, you want the whole truth, like we're in court?” I asked her.


“Okay. Agent 67. Chief had her go undercover as a prostitute to bust the ring at the local college. Well, she got to liking it. She was pulling down $3000 a week. Long story short, she goofed after the case was over and a mark got her pregnant. She begged me to help so I took the fall, well, the blame. Clara was one of the young ladies we busted, but had been good friends with 67. On a plea from 67 I helped get her off without charges. She, um, felt she owed me, so she gives me a special discount when she stops by. Happy?”

I really couldn't tell what she was thinking. Clara really had become a friend who occasionally needed someone to talk to, someone that wasn't involved in her business and that she trusted.

“And Agent 68?” Marsha asked finally.

“You met her once before she left. She got to where she hated the boyfriend she was living with. She just wanted to be done with him. Again, I took the blame for daddy, and the boyfriend split the scene pronto. She is married to a wonderful guy now you know.”

“I heard, and Chief?”

“She wanted a divorce from Jack. All he did was sit on his fat arse and watch TV while she worked her butt off to make this agency work. I was the reason for the divorce he finally filed for her infidelity.”

“So you never, I mean, none of them?” She asked.

“You wanted the truth. Now you know. Ya, with Clara I do. She gets paid for it like any working girl.”

Women and their expressions can not always be read, well, not with a high degree of accuracy anyway. Best I could come up with was thoughtful.

As we finished our meal and Cokes Selina called. I put it on the speaker. “Bill, Marsha, I have the info compiled. Bring me a dozen of those taco’s will you? No time for lunch today. Hold the tomato's.”

“Coke?” I asked her.

“Ya, diet. Gotta watch the figure. Husband says he doesn't need any handles to hold.” She snickered.

After delivering her lunch, Selina finally said, “As I eat this, here is all the data.” She handed Marsha two sheets of paper. The first was a list of x employees of the paper mill, the second was from the private books of Mr. Tuesday. They showed rather large infusions of, um, unexplained money. It also showed three people had left with large balances owed to his hamburger chain. Then you saw it glaring at you. One debt had continued to rise after the person no longer worked at the mill. It became a substantial sum until Mr. Tuesday finally cutoff the guys credit.

Early the next day we went back to Chief and laid it all out as we saw it. She called Mr. Tuesday and a few hours later we were laying it all out again for him.

“I never thought a few hamburgers would cause someone to try blackmail,” he said.

“Well, I tried some, and they are wonderful. I can see where someone might get hooked on them,” Agent 69 said.

“Okay Chief,” Mr. Tuesday said. “I can handle it from here. I have a few friends can clear the matter up without a lot of fuss or bother.” With that he handed her a fat check which made her so happy she almost smiled. “I have recommended your agency to all my friends. Discreet and expeditious, we like that!” He grinned a big grin and shook hands, then left.

“Good job you two. You get ten percent each of the extra, along with Selina of course.” Humm, 30%. It must have really been a hell of a tip.

“Guess the electric stays on another month or two, huh Chief?” I smiled, she didn't.

“Get out, both of you. I'll call when I get a new case.”

As we walked down the hall I asked, “Where too now?”

“Well, I owe you a skiing trip. Lets go to your place and explore all the slopes, shall we?” She has such an evil smile at times.

When we got to my place Clara was still there. She hid out sometimes, when she didn't feel like working. I properly introduced them and Marsha told her that her services were no longer needed, but she was welcome to come by and chat anytime. I told her I had explained our relationship to Marsha. She smiled and gave us both a kiss on the way out.

I spent the next couple days negotiating some of the wonderfully dangerous ski slopes and valleys. Somewhere along the way I asked her to marry me. She agreed since she lost the bet anyway.

Well, three months have slipped by as my wife informed me her test was positive. I really was going to be a daddy. Clara and her are best friends now. Mr. Tuesday is in trouble by some people who work for a real government and like to poke into peoples financial affairs. Our Agency business is really booming. Chief is in heaven, seems Mr. Tuesday's boast was valid, he had a lot of friends that needed private assistance.

His blackmailer? The clipping read,

Mr. Theodore 'Whimpy' Blightfoot was killed this Tuesday morning, a product of a tragic accident involving a semi-truck that was unable to stop on the Interstate that Mr. Blightfoot illegally tried to run across. Two eye witnesses, Both on lunch-break at the local TGIT Hamburger shop, reported he was trying to catch the last hamburger on earth before it ascended to hamburger heaven. Sorry I just report the news as written.

“Agent 727 come in please. AGENT 727 DAMN YOU!”

  Agent 727 where are you?
By: MF Burbaugh
Drawing by bloatenator
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"Mayday, mayday, mayday, this is kilo xray seven three zero going down. Anti-gravity fields almost destroyed, primary drive destroyed, ship integrity questionable.

"Mayday, mayday, mayday, Captain Guzman, kilo xray seven three zero, SSNC Destroyer Glimmer of Time  going down, planet reference charlie four niner six, planet three." I said as Newman fought the controls. All the automatics long dead. A Sanderstall fighter still trying to finish us. As we hit the upper atmosphere I felt the buffeting then I felt the shudder as our last railgun fired seven hundred round bursts at the enemy.

"Sam, you still okay back there?" I asked her.

"Yeah Cap, be getting hot back here soon though. This slimy little bastard refuses to die."

"Look, take your last couple shots and shut down. Come forward, you and anyone else back there that's still alive, gonna have to jettison in about six minutes," Newman told her.

"KK, wilco. I think Alice and Lilly are still ticking. The rest are splatters on the walls."

I felt a few more shudders then she yelled, "Yes."

"Kill it?" I asked.

"Nope, got his last fin though, hes going straight into air with no controls." She laughed, "Fry you little bastards, fry!"

Soon the bridge door slid open and she was dragging in Lilly, busted up from the angles of her legs. "Be right back," Sam said.

Again she dragged in another wounded. Alice I think her name was. She really looked a mess. "Sorry Cap, all I found. Mitchel was alive but skewered with a beam. I gave her my gun. All the rest died."

"Okay, good work Sam, get everyone strapped down, gonna be a rough landing."

"Newman, blow all supports, send the reactor to self destruct and lets get outta here," I told her.

"Roger Cap."

"Mayday, mayday, mayday, kilo xray seven three zero, last trans, separation in two minutes. Six survivors. Captain Guzman, out."

"Think they will hear us Cap?" Newman asked.

"Long way. Might, they record all the freq's. If they do and respond it will still be a couple months. Cost analysis may say no, only us six survivors out of three hundred. Still, we can hope. It was a first experiment after all."

"Separation in twenty seconds," Newman said. Then finally, 3,2,1, now."

I felt the shudders as the various explosive charges detached the entire bridge pod from the main ship. We were hitting enough air now we could feel it buffeting us. I watched the monitor as my ship with so many brave crew aboard, some possibly still alive and trapped, dove toward the strange planet below.

"Reactor detonation in three minutes, Cap." Newman said.

Sam commented from her sitting position on the floor, "If any are alive they will feel nothing Cap."

"I know Sam, but it is I that will feel it all."

"Cap, quit beating yourself up over it. Hell, we lasted ten times longer than we should have. They had the perfect trap and we still kicked their asses. One training destroyer of damn women and you against their entire offensive fleet. You know that's gonna kill their egos if it ever gets out."

"Sam, hush please. I know. It is still my crew and responsibility, rationalization will be done by my mind later. Not now."

"Yes sir," she said, feeling I was rebuking her but I wanted to spend the last few minutes of my ship's life full of my dead crew in silence.

"Shields up. One minute," Krystal said from the engineering console. All the viewports went total dark, I heard the hum of the shields over the com. "Now." Even with the sunshields the dark of space turned to bright day as the ships reactor went crit and vaporized everything near it.

"Rest in peace," I said and heard a few 'Amen.'

After a moment I turned to Newman, "Any info on this planet?"

"Not a lot sir. Quarantined over a thousand years ago, M2, populated by us about eighty thousand years ago. No legal contact for three thousand years. They call it Earth."

"Physical format?" I asked.

"Like us, little less refined, less mental development but fully comparable. Early space tech, lots of wars, nuclear capable, fanatical religions and no religions, usual stuff."

"Try to keep us away from populated areas for now."

"Planned to. Will have to skip their ocean to reduce speed, all we got."

"Well, all we ever ask is 200% more than normal so just do it. If we are still alive I'll praise you later," I told her.

She snickered, "Understood Cap."

The Bridge pod, little more than a flat saucer with a couple tail fins now, burned the air at more than thirty six thousand miles an hour, the limited shields white hot. Inside the remnants of the Destroyer's crew clung to life as Cadet Master flight Sergeant Newman fought the controls.

"Cap, impact bounce in thirty minutes, cinch tight people."

Everything had to be perfect or we all died. To shallow and we literally skipped off the ocean back into space and our deaths. To steep and the integrity of the ship disintegrated with us in what would seem a cataclysmic event to these people. Wrong place and we crash into a mountain or city.

We hit at a steep angle, I felt like my insides were trying to become my outsides as I felt all the straps stretch and stretch. All I saw was water then we were in the air again.

"Newman?" I asked.

"Were good Cap, 29% off, as long as we don't get changes we'll bounce back down on the other ocean. We're at 22,100 MPH, comp says 25,000 is escape."

I guess the term is praying as we all watched the screens. We still went high, burning off more speed then we slowly nosed over and started the plunge back down. I doubt we missed the landmass by more than a few miles as we once again were slammed to our physical limits, then again as we skipped across their ocean in smaller and smaller hops. At last we went under the water and didn't come back up. Outside the sea would be a frothy boil as we dissipated heat. We slowly drifted to a stop and settled to the bottom.

After the final jolt I released my straps. "Newman, ship integrity scans then kill the shields. Sam, get those two wounded on the med units. Krystal get the com systems up. You know the drill people. I want to know if any of them followed and what the locals are saying."

"Cap, local news says we were a rare and spectacular meteor shower. Two parts landed in their oceans creating small tsunamis with minor damages," Krystal said.

"Roger, monitor their Military channels just in case."


Started out so simple, take 300 Female personnel and train them to become the first ever fully integrated combat arms women in the SSNC space fleet. After generations of battling for the right to join combat units their first test gets all but 5 of them killed and it's my damn fault.


"Captain Guzman, I don't know if I should envy you or pray for your soul," Fleet Admiral Allison said at the social.

"It is a simple test sir. I wish they'd have just put a few in ships here and there instead of dumping them all into one though," I said.

"Has to do with the wives. Though, like yours, all fought to get combat rights for women, most wives don't trust the guys around that many young females either. They aren't totally stupid. At least you'll have yours with you." He smiled. We'd heard that all the wives from the Chancellor on down through the Council's Hall of Representatives had cut off their husbands from the delights that draw men to the flame of marriage in the first place, until they passed the law to allow women to fight. The men lasted almost two months before the bill was rushed to passage.


The destroyer wasn't anything fantastic. Standard defender for the Capital ships. Twenty destroyers were the minimum that would accompany each combat fleet to provide interdiction screens along with the SWAG's or Single Weapon Attack Group's. Depending on the size of the main battle group you could have ten to twenty SWAG's per fleet. They were the fastest and smallest attack ships we had, other than the fighters from the carriers. They close on the enemy, trying to hit Capital ships, fire off their single torpedo and head for home for resupply.

We Destroyers did nothing but try to intercept any incoming enemy systems, be they missiles or torpedoes or suicide ships. We stopped them at all costs and we were considered expendable in defense of the big carriers and battle cruisers. Some with twenty thousand crew and as many as another fifty thousand Space Marines depending on mission. The Capital ships could total half a million people so our 300 was nothing to them, it was always about numbers.

Those 300 trained all day, every day, those 300 did impossible things for days on end. We had twenty heavy 12inch guns, five on each of the four axes, each maned by five crew, yet those same guns had seven crew per gun on the Capital Ships. We had two torpedo tubes forward and two more rear, each had a crew of ten yet the Capital ships used fifteen. Add in six two man crew auto cannons for missile defense and three anti-torpedo chaff launchers with two men.

The Capital ships had maintenance crews of fifteen per engine and as many as twenty engines, we had six engines with ten men per. What's more our engines were twice as temperamental as theirs.

The remaining crew were weapons resupply haulers, cooks, bridge staff, medical staff, and Engineering maintenance such as com's computers, all integrated systems. We did with 300 what requires 450 or 500 anywhere else in the fleet except the expendable destroyers.
We came to this solar system because a couple Sanderstall robotic miners were found at the sixth planet out, in violation once again of the hands off policy. These people were to the point of exploring their system. What idiots! Have to admit the rings gave it a very pretty and distinctive look.

"Cap, I have the final report ready," Krystal said.

"Bring it up."

Battle Report KX730, Solarian Sector Naval Command Destroyer Glimmer of Time

Mission: Training; find and destroy two Sanderstall robotic miners sector C496P6.

Personnel: Captain Guzman and crew of 300 combat cadets.

Date: GO 1641N


GO 1640E We located first miner, a 400,000 ton KleeArm sixteen laser unit. Closed on miner and fired one salvo each from port, starboard, and lower 12 inch guns. Target destroyed. auto-cannons fired for training and debris cleanup.

Talley: 400,000 ton miner.

GO 1640J located second unit, 350,000 ton Heprem ten laser unit. Same tactic with rotated crews, same result.

Tally: 350,000 ton miner.

Upon leaving planet jumped by six Sandersall SWAG units and two destroyers.

Cap Guzman ordered max speed and heading toward Sun to acquire additional gravity speed. XO Lieutenant Guzman went aft to direct fire from Rear CDC. Computers flawless, Chaff caused all SWAG's to miss. Received damage one engine from a destroyer shell.

Speed loss prevented retreat. Cap used full stall tactic as destroyers closed. Totally disorienting the Sanderstall systems with chaff, we did not turn, rather backed up. Bringing all systems to bear on them we crippled both destroyers with torpedoes then destroyed them with the 12 inch guns. We took four hits, loosing the rear CDC and one 12 inch gun and crew on the port side. Cap lost his wife back there.

Cadet Krystal on com located a main battle fleet closing from max range. With damaged engine Cap decided we'd fight. No chance to get away.

One Capital Battleship, one Capital Carrier, eighteen destroyers and twenty SWAG comprised their incoming fleet.

At two Strom from earth, just inside the forth planets orbit Cap ordered we zig zag and as we did, in a most unorthodox move, we deposited twelve of our 24 remaining torpedoes, unfired, in space. Alice, the torpedo missile expert disabled all their safety features. We literally turned them into Nuclear mines.

We then centered on this spread and further withdrew then feigned engine failure, sitting inside the 12 inch range. We turned, facing the oncoming fleet and waited.

Cap ordered we kill all SWAG's before they ranged us and the torpedoes. We had a tenth of a Strom advantage on them.

Cadet Lieutenant's Harmand and Freelorn took charge of the 12 inch batteries. In a textbook operation all SWAG's were eliminated before they could release a single torpedo.

As destroyers closed Cap noticed six were to close to each other. When in range he had Newman backing us and Lieutenant Harmand target a single torpedo in the middle. Perfect hit destroyed two destroyers and damaged at least three more.

Bringing all four batteries to bear obtained scores of hits on remaining destroyers and three torpedoes going off took out five more.

At that point we turned around using laterals only and once again waited.

At 1640R the Battleship closed and we accelerated away from the enemy. Caught by surprise the battleship and remaining destroyers also accelerated and ran into the torpedo mines with devastating effects.

We were just inside the Battleships gun range and suffered heavy damage, loosing three more engines and all of the top and port guns. We feigned death and when the battleship, severally damaged and reloading, came in range, Lieutenant Freelorn, our last trained gun director, fired all guns in a single slavo. Almost destroying our ship from the stress pressures the guns hit the battleship which exploded taking the remaining destroyer screen with it.

Cap rearranged the crew giving priority to feeders and loaders of the auto cannons as the Carrier launched its twenty fighters.

From 1640T to 1641B we fought a fierce battle, destroying all but three fighters and then, in a surprise move even to us Cap ordered max ramming speed as we charged the carrier.

When our damaged ship was at max he ordered a laterals turn and brought our rear torpedo tubes, still functional, to bear and we fired at max range, max spread, everything we had then he went again to max speed toward the third planet.

Unable to determine cause but the Carrier was hit and destroyed by a single torpedo, possibly hitting the fighter fuel storage area.

1641D two remaining Sandersall fighters did damage as we neared the M2 planet. Cadet Lieutenant Samantha Albridge took control of the auto-cannons and with the remaining live cadets feeding her guns she crippled, then destroyed one fighter and reported hits on the other. We suffered an explosion aft and lost all com with the remainder of the ship. Sam reported crippling the last fighter as we, damaged and unpowered, entered atmosphere on the planet below.

Tally: 2 miners, two Capital ships, twenty destroyers, twenty SWAG.

Losses: Glimmer of Time Destroyer and 295 crew.

End of report- Cadet Lieutenant Newman, compiler

"Says what it needs to Gale, send it," I told her.

"Can't Cap, all com's down, antenna’s gone," Krystal said.

"Damn. Engineering, can we float?"

"As in surface?" Sam asked.


"If we haven't taken to much water behind the bulkhead we can."

"Newman, status of planet surface?"

"Night Cap, large single mountain spire island was near when we settled, no craft spotted, but they have satellites," she said.


"Cap, our shields will keep us invisible for awhile. We do have a two man flotation boat and propulsion system."

"Emergency beacon and Tachyon transmitter?" I asked.


"Get us on the surface. Krystal, suit up, we're going climbing."

"Roger Cap."

On the surface, shields up, we found we could drift toward the weird spire using the lateral jets. About the only thing still functional. By 1641P we were almost at the shore and Krystal and I launched the little boat with the relay equipment and portable shield. Split between us we were carrying sixteen pounds each. Hand lasers full, we left just before their dawn and I watched the bridge capsule once again sink out of sight.

We arrived on shore before 1641R and were admiring the spire and dreading the climb when Krystal started screaming. Huge bugs, as in strange and large seemed to be falling on us, or jumping. As weird a creature as I'd seen. She was covered in them but we soon realized they seemed harmless, just ugly and big.

I went to the shore and using the underwater contact freq I told Gale to surface and gather as many as she could and feed to the converter, protein was protein and the food converters didn't care what the origin was. At least we wouldn't starve.

By 1642D we were at the top. From the graffeti and various signs and flags this seemed to be a favorite climb for locals.

"We need to go back down, maybe that side by the little crack and dig it in there or it'll be seen," Krystal said.

We spent from 1642E to 1642I relocating and firing up our distress beacon. Luck held, it found the special Tayc freq even in this backward system.

As we climbed down we met up with the rest of the crew gathering a supply, though reluctantly, of the bugs. "Well, I see we need men, if for nothing else, gathering bugs for food." I laughed. Something about many women and bugs that didn't click.

We settled back to the bottom and had a long, long wait ahead. Being a fresh widower my crew gave me their condolences their way and we survived the eight months waiting for rescue hiding from their subs, planes, and surface ships, and gathering bugs.

We were picked up, the escape pod was destroyed, the rescue beacon recovered and we went home, a simple destroyer crew that made history and became legends among our peoples and villains to be feared by the Sandersall.


Glimmer of Time II was commissioned yesterday and I was retired along with Samantha Albridge, my new wife and legendary hero. She made it clear she wants lots of kids.

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KX730, Solarian Sector Naval Command Destroyer: Glimmer of Time
 d Your Sub-Title Here

By: MF Burbaugh

Vordel 61
By: MFBurbaugh

The Vordel 61 was one of six cities still standing, though its existence was considered precarious at best.
We went to check the seismic interrupters. They needed to be calibrated once a week or else; all 78 of them protecting our city.
Brenda Delace was the team leader; Jenny, Mike and I were the slave labor. Not really but after you do a few dozen it begins to feel like it. "How much longer until they return?" Mike asked.
"Last word I heard was eight months, and that is the earliest we can hope for," Brenda said into the throat mike.
"Can we last that long?" he asked.
"Get back with me in seven months and twenty-nine days and I'll try to answer that."
"I know, dumb question, still," he said.
Jenny, our equipment mechanic and all around maintenance troubleshooter switched off with Mike on pulling the little utility cart as Brenda continued her spiel, we'd all heard it before but walking the rim was boring, tedious, and dangerous so talk lightened the load. I hauled the food and camp supplies cart harnessed to me.
"Mike, honest, you and Lyle are the two strongest and most dedicated mules we have. Day after day, week in and week out you two work your asses off trying to help save us but as I told you a million times, we are playing a losing game. We just hope we have time and luck. Look at the rift, eighteen feet in a day. If we get to many more days like this, or worse then you know your answer as well as I do."
One foot in front of the other, plop, plop, plop. I wished we could have used a service truck but the last three crews that tried them had all fallen in the rift when the vibrations they set off caused more fractures. Vordel 61 was only two miles away now. Many parts of the city had started to fall, the great sky bridges were falling apart and we all knew any impact with the fragile crust could finish the job and cause the rift to open wide and say 'howdy you six million wonderful morsels of flesh and bone, welcome to hell!'
Mike and I were the last two left of our original freighter crew of nineteen. We'd landed on Vordel for what we thought was to be a routine drop-off of supplies, refuel, and reload freight bound for the Galleria spaceport. When we touched down our ship and six crew members died. A small rift opened as we settled and thirteen of us managed to scramble off as it closed again, crushing our ship and mates, all but a bit of the nose. We instantly found out why we were not able to contact their port authority. It was not the dreaded Holcomb P communications failure again. That is a key piece of our equipment that seemed to be broken more than fixed. Well, more correctly, was a key piece. We had already landed on four of six planets without comm and no one thought much about it. If we'd only known.
Vordal was a highly touted science application and research planet. It is where all the anyone who is anyone, or wishes to be someone comes to study, get their degrees and move out into the galaxy to receive some of the highest paid 'starter' salaries there are. A college planet where a semester of courses cost as much as mules like me made in a lifetime. The crème de la crème of the sciences taught, lectured, and experimented here and for only the smartest of students. As often as not those selected to study here won contests and were sponsored by rich corporations or national governments.
Jenny asked Brenda, "They having any luck on the containment fields? Been stuck doing the cal's so long I haven't bothered to check."
"If they had we'd not all be praying the fleet gets here in time to save our asses now would we?"
By the fleet she meant the rescue fleet of over six thousand ships from as far as earth and as close as Beta 8. The largest rescue armada ever believed to be assembled, which I found was a terrible idea. The ground of the planet was becoming more and more brittle every day. How would they land? The vibrations would shatter the ground anywhere they tried to set down, but like Mike, I never said anything. We were simply mules, beasts of burden, barely smart enough to even be seen in the same room with the brains like Brenda and Jenny. Oh, we weren't that dumb but almost all of these people looked down at us as a sub-class of creature called normal humans. I had to laugh; at least we didn't destroy our planet screwing with the molecular energy bonds that held matter together. I figure we sub-class are to SMART for that.
We came to the next sonic neutralizer and started setting up the equipment. They were tall spindly spire-like things that stuck up forty feet or so. The top was, but the bottom was down a drilled hole, sometimes way down. Brenda opened the panels for access to the high frequency converters as Jenny did the same for the low band, or Infrasound, which is sound that is lower in frequency than 20 Hz. As was explained to us non-elite, the theory was that if they set these up and coordinated their efforts they could neutralize the vibrations of the planet and counter the sonic and subsonic vibrations that were fracturing the planets mantle with overlapping damping fields. At least long enough to get the people evacuated. In theory it should have worked but after two years of data collecting and fine tuning it was found it just slowed the process, not stopped it. The huge rifts were growing, sometimes inches, sometimes feet but not the miles they had at the start.
"Mike? Settings for B17?" Brenda asked.
Mike looked on his chart and read off the numbers for A to D and Brenda set them then read them back. "Correct," Mike said.
"Mine?" Jenny asked.
He again read off E to H and they verified the settings. "Only a 0.3 drift. One has to be out of whack someplace," Brenda said. Then to Jenny, "On in three. One, two, three!" They both threw the switches and you felt rather than heard the vibrations coming off the neutralizer. We had it buttoned up and were heading for B18. I was towing my cart, Mike took over the one Jenny had been pulling. It was why we were called mules. Mile after mile, day in day out we pulled the carts, set the tents and the camps, recorded the data, did all the menial tasks. Funny, we actually volunteered for the shit too.
About two months after we lost our ship and any hope of leaving, there went out a call for teams. One of the brains that had caused the destruction of this planet had come up with an idea to maybe stabilize it long enough for evacuations to take place. Of course that was the Neutralizers, at that time there were 19 large cities and an unknown, to me anyway, quantity of small ones, and research sites. The overall science of the Neutralizers was thought to be sound and all the brains went to work building, modifying, and hoping to save some of the cities.
We spacers all volunteered of course. A few hundred more mules were acquired from the more menial sciences like hydroponics and genetic manipulation research into farm products like grains and animals. We were given crash courses on deploying and servicing the Neutralizers and associated equipment.
We came to find out all the big wigs that had actually caused the disaster had packed up and left in their private little spaceships, not even a by your leave or good luck suckers. Poof, gone.
Six cities were targeted to try to save and all the rest of the planet packed into them. I was told around six to eight million souls in each. They had been designed to accommodate two to three mil.
The teams finally set ring after ring of Neutralizers around the cities, this was long before the rifts actually appeared as little more than cracks. The huge service trucks dropped the equipment off at each site and we teams set them up, drilled the shafts and sunk the emitters. Each shaft was a different depth, depending on the ground they found. The solider the bedrock the better it was for the neutralizer to send its damping waves.
I was assigned to Vordel 61 along with the rest of our crew. We lost the Swed and Jacobs one day when a rift opened under the truck they and their team were sleeping in.
A week later Frank, and John died when they drove their truck off a chasm that was estimated at over a mile deep.
Through attrition Mike and I were the last of our original crew still alive. A few more trucks were lost and we were down to little pull carts and hoofing it. I think it was because of Brenda refusing to use trucks after the first went while others who were less energetic tried to keep using them and died. She actually had been training in the area of science that caused the catastrophe. She said we'd rather hump by hand and take five or even six days to complete the circuit than spend two and wind up dead. She was right of course, now all the teams were on foot, or so I heard.
Mike and I met Brenda and Jenny at a bar we hung out in. Well, it was called a bar. A college planet had college bars. All the latest rages in drinks and drugs, all legal, no questions asked. If you could afford to be on Vordel they felt they could afford to assume you to be a responsible adult. The planet made it clear there were no refunds for those who fried their brains or died of OD's. We'd already volunteered for the teams and listed the bar as our point of contact. Along with the Swed and Jacob we went there every night to drink away our lousy luck of being stuck here.
A girl named Fran had asked me and the Swed to join her team. He accepted, I declined, she had bought some drugs when she entered, I didn't mind too much but drugs messed with your mind and I didn't want to work for anyone that I couldn't trust to be 'right' in a pinch, a hangover hurt but didn't wipe out your common sense.
A few nights later Jacob was gone and two nights after that I saw Brenda come in. She ordered milk, I kid you not. Jenny was with her, she went for a Vodka and tonic. After a few minutes they approached and Brenda asked Mike, "You and he looking to become mules?"
Mike nodded. "Lyle here is the boss though. He outranks me by two grades."
She looked my way. Her blue eyes sparkling in the dim lights of the bar. Light brown hair, mid twenties, well stacked. A good looker. Jenny was younger by four or five, dirty blond, green eyes, little shorter but also a pretty girl. She stood there looking me over than asked me to stand. I did and she felt my arms. "Well, your not muscle bound but not flabby either. You and he want to join my team? I was assigned A and B rings yesterday. Got four days until we roll. Names Brenda Delace, Senior fellow, working on my masters in Planetological geothermal physics…well, I was. This is Jenny, she actually came with me from our home planet called Ripkin. She is…was, studying Mechanical engineering and application of geothermal collection systems."
"I don't know, why us?" I asked.
"I know you're spacers so you're not the little worms we deal with here. We need guts and brawn. We have wells to drill, Neutralizers to anchor, and systems to run and coordinate. Our team has thirty-six of them assigned. Calos Rim spokes A and B…You dance?" she asked.
Over the next hour we danced and she talked. Jenny had hooked Mike and before the end of the second dance I knew I'd say yes.
"You married or attached?" I asked.
"No, not even a steady. The workload here is…err was horrendous. When a planet government sends you here you can bet they want every Shekel's worth." I think a Shekel was around ten earth dollars.
"Well, the other team leader that asked us to join promised us all the booze and drugs we could use and 20 Shekels a day each. I turned her down. What is your offer?"
"Really? How stupid can you get! The last thing you want is some nut high on drugs handling delicate equipment!" She stopped dancing and looked me in the eyes.
"Not to worry," I told her. "I don't touch drugs, unless I'm sick. Mike either. It was why we didn't go; though a couple of our crew did." We started dancing again.
"Look, Lyle. I won't lie. The Shekels are no problem. You know that. The problem is the danger of dying. If this doesn't work we could all die."
"But if it doesn't work the whole planet does anyway, correct?" I asked her.
"Well, maybe, unless we can get more evacuated."
"Your offer?" I asked again.
"25 Shekels a day, booze during down time only. Um, if we seem compatible one night of fun per roundtrip?"
"Fun? As in sex?"
"If compatible, or maybe just some dancing. As nature calls it," she said.
"The other girl and Mike?"
"Same deal," she said. "We're not exactly prudes you know."
"I'll go. Up to Mike what he wants. If I'll probably die anyway I want to get a little fun time." She stopped again, for a few seconds, and then started again.
"If compatible, if not we dissolve the team after the first trip?" she asked.
"Then I am yours to command."
Mike accepted Jenny's similar offer.
That was many months ago. We were quite compatible.
Plop, plop, plop, on and on we walked. Soon I could see B18 and it sucked. Brenda saw it about the same time. "Damn," she said.
B18 now sat about twenty feet from the edge of the rim. The last trip it had been twice that. "Shit," Jenny said. "We can't get a truck out here to drill a new hole so we can't move it."
"Lyle, set up the scope and check A17 and 18 please?" Brenda asked.
I found the box and set up the spotter scope on its tripod. A little adjusting and I saw across the rift, now close to a half mile wide. I zoomed and searched. "A18 missing. A17 looks about twenty to twenty-five from the edge too."
"Shit, okay. Not much we can do about it now. We'll crunch the numbers for the next trip later. Let's see the readings on this one." She popped open the top panels and Jenny did the bottom. Mike was rummaging through the papers on the clipboard for the readings.
"A to D?" Brenda asked and Mike read them off.
"E to H" Jenny asked and Mike sang out the numbers.
"Damn, way off," Jenny said.
"So was mine," Brenda said as the ground suddenly shook, knocking us off our feet. I immediately grabbed the cart to stop it from rolling away as Jenny grabbed her computer adapter. Soon the shake was over and things settled down. Mike said, "Just lost two feet from the rim."
"Well, pack it in and let's head back. We'll hit Alpha in four days," Brenda said. We needed to walk all the way back to 61, spend two days there and restock, get new data settings and then move to the other side of the rift and do it all again.
Once at the end of the line we went into fast walk mode. We could cover about 16 miles a day and it was 30 to the city. That night Brenda and I spent a little sack time trying to forget the coming destruction. As I lay there I asked once more why they hadn't thought of the consequence of what they were doing, knowing full well the possibilities."
"They thought it was a simple process, like fracking was used for collecting gas, molecular debonding could be used for energy collection. Hit a few billion Covalent Bonds and collect the energy released. It worked great in all the lab tests."
Covalent Bond?" I asked.
"Sorry. When a sharing of valence electrons happens between atoms, a covalent bond is formed. A polar covalent bond is formed when two atoms do not share the valence electrons equally. When you bust them up large amounts of energy are released. Problem is when they started the reaction they found they couldn't stop it. Not like they did in the labs. If it was nuclear you'd call it a runaway reaction. Luck has it that it spreads slowly but it spreads. The Neutralizers just slow it. Seems nothing can stop it. Slowly the planets mantle is falling apart. Rock-layer by rock-layer."
"Brenda, seriously, when we landed, even before it was this bad our ships vibrations caused the ground to crack. How will the ships evacuate us if they don't dare land? It's been bugging me."
"I asked the same thing. Only answer is the skybridges. Gonna be tricky but we can do it. Problem isn't that, problem is all two-thousand ships will only hold eight million, and that is stuffing them in. We have an estimated 37 Million still here and there is no way they will have another two years to get back here for more."
The next day we returned to the city, filed our reports and got drunk, even teetotaler Brenda. Brenda and I went to her apartment only to find it had been rifled. Everything was either destroyed or stolen. Mine was still intact so we stayed there.
Next day, in spite of, or maybe because of the pain of the hangover, I had thoughts running around. Thoughts of a spacer who was use to being shot at by Federation ships or having gun battles with the occasional pirates. Wondering how, or knowing how The Federation always seemed to be able to tell what we were doing. The Coalition of Planets had been fighting for control from the Federation for a few hundred years now, neither side winning. When Brenda was awake and in torment too I had to ask.
"Brenda, the last night on the B line you said it always worked fine in the labs. How did they turn it off or stop it?"
"What? Oh, the decoupling? They shut the bombardment power off. Why?"
"Look, before you go off about scientists would never this or that again, hear me out." We'd argued once or twice about how they, the cream of the scientific elite held the moral high ground over mere humans.
"What?" she asked.
"Where is the power from? What is sustaining it?"
"They said they went too deep with it. It somehow set up a chain reaction with the molten core which has huge amounts of free electrons running around. Why?" By this time she was sipping coffee and downing some aspirin.
"Doesn't make sense to me. You used the analogy of a nuclear reaction run wild. Fine, problem is it accelerates, faster and faster until it does a total meltdown."
"Our Neutralizers are helping stop that," she said.
"Are they really Brenda? What a few hundred, all placed around six cities on one continent are controlling a reaction going on over an entire planet? That doesn't seem logical to me. Also, you said all the people that actually developed this system and tested it have mysteriously run off leaving us holding the bag?" I asked and I saw her face get red as what I was implying dawned on her.
"NO! Professor Clemson and Doctor Mallard would never, no, not possible. Besides, why would they?"
"Control, money, power; who knows? I see the Coalition as having had one major think tank in its battle with the Federation, Vordel. I see the huge setback we already have, but what if it was all intentional? What if it was all designed to slowly destroy this planet and make it look like some miscalculated accident. How far would it set us back? Would it not stop us from looking into this as either a power source or a weapon?"
"Well, yeah, but what you suggest. We'd know, we'd see the records of the source," she said.
I had to laugh, though it hurt, so simple, so devious. "Would it? As you explained it to me what would do this is little bigger than a couple of our Neutralizers. Guess what happens when you have a few hundred Neutralizers blasting waves into bedrock."
"It would mask the source. No Lyle, if any of this were true they'd have already thought of it. Somebody would have."
"Who Brenda? You're about as close to the top in this field left on the planet, who would? Me? An untrained spacer? I see it clear as day, but all the people that actually should know are gone."
"Damn it Lyle, damn it and you too. Let me think." She brought up her tablet computer and started crunching numbers. Cussing or yelling at herself as I fed her coffee.
Late that night she sat back and stared at the blank wall in front of her for long moments. "Why didn't we see it? The math was there. You're right in that it would have accelerated and the entire planet would have ceased to exist long ago."
"Did the Neutralizers come about before or after they left?"
"Before, they said the Professor himself came up with the idea and I see now, it was to mask the source. The source has been slowly getting stronger, some preplanned program stepping it all up in stages, so simple, so deadly. I need to make some calls, and fast," she said.
"No, please don't," I told her.
"What? Why? We need to find the source or sources and shut them all down. People are dying every day because of this crap."
"Because this isn't some small plot hatched by a few fanatics is why. This has been in the works for years, maybe decades. They will have spy's running around. If it looks like we are onto the plan I bet they turn up the juice and the planet goes boom in a day or two. Their plan is to make it look like it is an uncontrollable area of science that we need to not tread upon, or else. I suspect the Federation is deep into this and will use this as some weapon against our other planets."
"But how? What can we do?"
"I'm no expert on anything but when we were fighting the Federation's Marque pirates we deployed sonabouys in space around our planet and any asteroids with critical assets. Some idea they got from the ancient Navy. It sent out low frequency wave signals and recorded the out and backs, like radar, but not as noticeable. The pattern was simple and the charts showed the cancellations from each buoys waves hitting the others. Any ship or missile coming in forced a return and they became seen."
"Your point on this?" she asked.
"If you plot all the neutralizers patterns, actions, and reactions, you'll find 'extras' in there, those will be the source of the problem. Look, I've seen you and Jenny design things to try and stabilize the frequency drifts and pass them up the chain only to have them implemented later. You need to design something that requires a shutdown for installation and while shut down it records and transmits all the received data from the other sites to a central point for analysis."
While we serviced the remaining Alpha side Neutralizers Brenda cooked up an adapter that needed implementation ASAP on all of them and we started collecting and processing the new data. In less than two months after the last were installed we isolated six areas on the planet that seemed to be putting out harmful bombardment waves. Waves I was assured by Brenda clearly were causing the slow erosion of the mantel of the planet. Problem was how to effectively shut them all down at the same time, find the spy or spies left behind, and find out how to insure justice is served against those that hatched this plot to begin with. All without anyone finding out in time to crank up the juice.
The only people we could really trust would be the teams of the six cities spread around the planet to increase the chance of some surviving; those of us who were risking their lives every day. A spy wouldn't be out risking their life doing something they knew was useless; they would be monitoring and adjusting the ones doing the damage, to insure the destruction at the rate they planed, regardless of the efforts of the rest of us. I talked to Jenny and Mike and Brenda. If I was right we'd become targets and did we want to? The answer was hell yes, people were dying, and millions more would.
Brenda quietly spread the word among the teams at Vordel 61, she sent runners to the other cities. We could save what was left of the planet, she had a plan. No, not open for discussion because it was believed we were being sabotaged. As suspected, nothing came of it, the saboteurs had no one inside the teams.
Brenda contacted team leaders at all the cities and formed plans. We had two from each team acquire two man skimmers. These were powered by small cold fusion reactors that ran ducted fans to rubber skirts for lift and, in theory, could run pretty much forever. They had been developed only for use on the skybridges. Problem was crossing a crack over six feet wide would not end well. We managed to get one per team. During the next tuning cycle each four man team would peel off two members with the skimmer and hit one of the six sites, kill or capture anyone there and destroy the equipment. Problem was we didn't dare use voice com until we hit the sites. Still, four teams per city meant eight people could hit each of the six sites. Brenda and I were going for our team while Mike and Jenny played the maintenance game.
The day of reckoning came as we started the Alpha cycle again. When we cleared the city we acquired our skimmer and we bid Jenny and Mike goodbye. Calculating the longest travel time for any team at four days for the Vordel 23 people, we shot south along the rim of the rift until the city was out of sight. We then went west, carefully picking our way over open, cracked, and hot desert. By the end of the first day we covered half the distance to the suspect site. Along the way we met with James and Julia, they were from the team working our western side of Vordel 61. If all went well, we'd eventually meet up with the other two teams at the rally point, three miles from the target assigned to us.
Brenda was driving, picking across small cracks and crevices when a small one, about two foot wide suddenly collapsed into one about ten feet wide. We slammed into the far wall and flipped and rolled. At least we lived and didn't fall into the deep chasm, but we were now on foot and Brenda hurt an arm pretty badly, not broke, but banged up to the point of being useless for a day or two.
Since we had been in front, the other team avoided the hole. We sent them on, we'd walk the rest of the way, still had time to make it, only about six miles to go, we'd see them there. As fate usually does, we never saw either of them again. I'm sure the earth simply swallowed them like it almost did to us. We arrived at the meeting point to find only one other team had made it. I set a light camp, just bedrolls. We still had almost a full day to wait.
We slept well that night and early the next day a third team showed, also on foot. "Damn ground just opened and swallowed the skimmer, we were just able to bail before it fell down the hole," the man named Bill said.
"Three miles to go, let's try to get there," Brenda said.
The site was a large concrete building with a small spaceship setting on a pad alongside it. It had been camouflaged to look like a grain silo, we found what it was when we tried to enter it. The site was one of the grain genetic engineering facilities. "Looks like it wasn't just the Geothermal people involved." I said.
Armed with our rifles we entered the building and found two young guys there. They seemed genuinely afraid after I shot one in both legs as he tried to run.
I won't go into the details of making them talk as the methods are probably against all the laws of humanity, but they sung loud and clear. They were all part of the Nex ut Coalition, or Death to the Coalition group; hardcore Federation reactionaries. They didn't know it all, but they were told it was over forty years in the planning.
As the time came Brenda figured out how to shut it down and hoped other teams had the same luck. "Make the call." I told her.
We called a general alert and notified the powers that be what was happening. Five sites went down but the sixth didn't. It wasn't strong enough to tear the planet by itself and was eventually destroyed. We flew back to Vordel 61 in the very small and tightly packed spaceship from the silo and gingerly landed on a skyway.
I won't say I remember all the partying we did, because I don't. The Coalition forces took over the investigation and running down the parties involved. As soon as word got out though, most of them simply vanished. Those that could, beat feet to a Federation outpost I'm sure. Vordel was abandoned; the mantle was just too unstable. Maybe we'd go back in a million years.
Mike, being younger, simply went back to spacing and we never heard from him again. Jenny still was attached at the hip to Brenda and was an assistant of hers.
Me? I married Brenda and we went back to her planet, Ripkin. She was now a famous Professor at a major college. Life is good. I work as the college gardener and grounds keeper, still a mule who is hauling shit around all day.

​Vordel 61
​By MF Burbaugh