Chapter 23: The Empress Alana
Copyright© 2017 by Hunter Johnson
As the hologram cleared Jason could see a beautiful woman with long black straight hair and a blood red dress. She had startlingly hazel eyes and looked self-confident and sophisticated. She was the epitome of simple elegance and was sitting next to a distinguished looking gray-haired man, who looked healthy, strong, and alert.
“Empress, I’d like to introduce you to your great nephew, Jason Kargo, and to Admiral Peter Kane, Admiral Andrea Phillips, General Matilda MacArthur, and General Linda Andrews. Behind us are Colonel Phoebe Harris and Colonel Janet Malone.
“Pish, Morgan! You all can call me Alana, at least for this meeting. Jason, welcome to the Empire, Cassius and I would like you to stay with us when you finally get here.
“I’m pleased that that useless blight on the Empire, the so-called Patriarch, has not managed to prevent you getting here.
I’m surprised by the company you appear to keep, Nephew, but I shouldn’t be. Your great, great, grandfather had a similar skill at acquiring, befriending, and leading amazing people. I’ll refer to you as Nephew and him as Grandfather, henceforth. The great, greats are superfluous and I can never remember how many greats are needed. Besides, it’s a bore.
“Jason, we are going to need your help in extricating your grandfather from the morass he’s in. For the time being he’s in no immediate danger, but he’s in the deepest trouble in the longer term. The issues are political and you are the key. I’ve done as much as I can and more than I should, really. We’ll talk of that again later, when you are here with us.
“Now can someone tell me, succinctly, what this is about?” Alana finally asked imperiously.
“Aunt Alana, I shall begin. Two months into the trip one of Papa Zora’s priests tried to poison me one night, via my replicator. My guard animals,” said Jason pointing to the dogs who manifested in front of him in all their glory sprouting lightning and spitting fire, “caught him and dragged him into my room. He had a large briefcase of vials that were poisons, targeted at males, which damages them. It’s widely distributed by the priests throughout the Empire. It took two crushed shoulders to extract that information but he died of self-poisoning after telling me of others on the ship. The priests have been poisoning males in the Empire for nearly three thousand years, via replicators.
“Mob pirates directed by the priests attacked us next. Priest saboteurs had rendered us almost defenseless. We did what we could and repelled them and thwarted the determined boarding attempt, thanks to on board marines and pilots.
“We went on the offensive after rearming ourselves and captured the nearby cruiser, which had been stolen by the priests. After interrogating them, we captured another four cruisers trying to intercept us.
“We discovered two planets where Papa Zora was growing clone armies, and took over those planets. With the help of the clones, we captured the fleet stolen by Papa Zora, and met up with Admiral Kane ... whose family is held hostage by the priests, and General James who was trying to free him.
“We have recovered evidence, on the battleship, of heinous crimes committed by Papa Zora. We also discovered his extensive intelligence penetration of the Empire. That led to this approach to you, to advise you of these facts, and to seek your counsel and that of the Emperor.
“Before we ask your thoughts and answer any questions you may recall Admiral Peter Kane who will brief you on the rest of the information you need to know.”
“Empress,” began Admiral Kane, “I was captured by the Patriarch who is holding my wife and son captive on Nirvana. I was under constant guard on Nirvana and forced to meet The Mob Leader Nimrod Khong along with the priests who had originated a plan to attack the core planets of the Empire.
“Papa Zora has known people from The Mob for thousands of years and didn’t meet those whom he had expected. He didn’t take to Nimrod Khong.
I was able to persuade them all to change direction. The Mob will, in a matter of weeks and with some small Priest support, attack five to seven of the more remote industrial planets of the Empire, in order to acquire much needed technology and expertise. They will take scientists and engineers as well. They intend to ship off hundreds of thousands of people for sale to party’s unknown to me.
“Jason was a great surprise. I knew about your expedition, your majesty, but I didn’t expect so young and expert a leader.
“The fleet stolen by the priests was taken by him and his forces.
“I’ve had his staff prepare for you brief holograms of the pirate defense and his counter attacks. His presentation was far too humble. He follows clearly in the footsteps of the Archduke and is a credit to the family,” Peter Kane said fervently.
“Our legal team has prepared a full brief of all the evidence we have collected on Papa Zora. The ship was replete with evidence of other crimes, and of his activities in the Empire,” said Jason before continuing.
“Papa Zora now intends to use the fleet that he no longer has, to attack the core Mob worlds. He does not know he’s lost his assets, yet; as far as we know. We continue to feed them disinformation.
“The two major problems are the impending Mob attacks on the Empire and the long-term issue of the Patriarch.
“You now have the Papa Zora evidence, Jason’s campaigns, and my information in the form of a report on the Mob intended targets.
“I both regret and am proud of my role. Had I not been involved, they would have hit the core planets with two clone armies and the full forces of the Mob. I regret being captured and helping Papa Zora under duress. Now I hope to be of as much help to the Empire as I and we can.
“We are happy to take questions and seek your views,” said Morgan James returning to direct the meeting.
Jason saw Bertie was sitting with his mouth open. Jason waved at him. The Empress was looking cool and composed.
“Greetings, cousin Bertie! Thanks for getting this meeting together.”
“It was my pleasure. This is a once in a lifetime experience and I’ve been around a long time. Jason you’ve found out more in two months about that priest snake than we all found out in thousands of years. That information is priceless to the Empire. I hope we can find ways to reverse the effects.
“I’m sorry for babbling on. Alana, over to you.”
“Bertie, I couldn’t have said it any better. Thank you all for what you’ve done so far. The Empire will be grateful, very grateful indeed. Cassius may have to eat all the food he ordered on your ship for less of a reason than he hoped. Well, he was right about the food, I’ll give him that. He has good instincts.
Jason, why did we not find out about the poison?”
“Alana, he planned how to do it for a very long time.
He acquires a poison from a very sophisticated race who are as yet unknown. He makes replicators and services them, and also loads food into the replicators. That’s when they put the poison into the replicators.
“He owns medical pod technology, and the related information, and AI technology. He programs the pods not to recognize the poison as poison. We tested that component, and know it for a fact.
“I suspect he kills or intimidates any researcher who isn’t a priest working on the problem.
“He tried to cripple military ship speed, by saying it’s a risk to men, and he’s probably done a lot of other stuff that I don’t know about. He was certainly active in crime and people trafficking, for reasons we don’t know,” said Jason.
“That’s very interesting indeed and very clever detective work. My compliments, Jason. It’s a very plausible scenario and it was a very clever evil plan of his.
“Cassius will be informed about this as soon as we can take a walk. We are aware of the likelihood that something serious is afoot and that we are under surveillance. We are trying to catch the perpetrators and counter intelligence is actively on the problem but I fear they may also be compromised. I’m concerned more is going on than we are all aware of, but it’s clear major events are about to occur.
“There are problems that have their origin in our constitution which have reduced the Empire’s ability to act on Nirvana.” Alana said. “The matriarch can protect Nirvana, but cannot intervene there. The Emperor is in a similar difficult position. This is part of the fundamental structure and constitution of the Empire and the relationship between the priests, the Empire, the guilds and the houses and the Emperor. The powers of each and reach of each is clear. That, Jason, is what makes helping your grandfather so hard.”
“Aunt Alana, let me suggest something to you. Our Patriarch, cursed be he, wants your protection so he can use all his assets to attack the Mob core worlds after the Mob attacks the Empire so he can be a hero not a pariah. He has to have manufactured a story to get your help.
“Now you might need to have a last-minute reason to remove your troops. I’d suggest as follows, we notify you we can help the planet when we are in a position to look after the best interests of Nirvana. Consider your nephew a volunteer to your cause, to protect and remove Nirvana from evil influences, and free up your fleet for what we know is a real threat to come.
“It’s far from my thoughts and I’m sure yours, for me to conquer Nirvana, as I can’t make it mine, but it may be of help for it to be a protectorate of my current house, Kargo, the distant nephew who is not yet of the Empire. Nirvana used to have protectorate status in the past. It clearly needs it again as they have requested your help.
“All of this will be mixed up with what will happen with the Mob, and Papa Zora will be seen to be of blame. The poison will enrage the population and make the protectorate choice a very logical one. It was just by convenience we were in the vicinity as intelligence was telling you war was breaking out or some such idea. If we mess up it would be on our backs. You can distance yourself if we do not succeed in our efforts. Of course, this discussion has never happened. We could ensure that we ‘help’ the planet in the future with its problems,” said Jason with his engaging grin while he raised his eyebrows.
“Well, Bertie you are an academic and military politician of some experience, what are your thoughts on this off the wall proposition?
“My first thought is blow politics, I’d be happy to help Jason strangle the Patriarch for you. My second thought was how can I join you in doing what you are doing and how can I help.
“As you began, I couldn’t see how it would all work. I thought ‘the Patriarch will sneak out of this.’ I love your solution. I’m proud to be a Kargo. It’s true that the Empress has intelligence information of an impending attack on the Empire and her fleet is vital to protect the Empire. You’ve told us about it. We have intelligence that Nirvana isn’t under imminent threat from the Mob. It’s also something you’ve told us. You are available to help solve major problems with Nirvana and help it deal with risks and threats it faces. That’s an elegant solution. You will indeed solve the problems.
“The protectorate idea is a great one. It solves so many problems and the Empress, the Emperor, and the Empire all have plausible deniability.
“Empress, this young man has a great mind even though I suspect some of the technicalities have their origin in the lawyers. He got the information and a solution we all need, and has assembled an excellent waterproof approach that we can get behind,” said Bertie.
“We have received all the information and it’s decoded. Due care will be taken when we present it and to whom. I’ll show Cassius the holograms and information in my office. I make sure it’s cleaned before every meeting. He’s not been for lunch with me at the University for some time. We can make a meal of what you’ve sent us.
“Best of luck, Jason. I hope you’ve enough forces to do what you need to do. That bastard has it coming,” Bertie replied.
“Farewell, Aunt Alana, I’ll see you as soon as I can.
“We Kargo’s do what we can for the Empire. Someone has to do it, and if not us, then who?” Jason said in a whiny voice wiping his brow with the back of his hand and then grinned broadly.
They all laughed and Morgan cut the connection. ___________________________________________\
Andrea hid the fleet behind a gas giant. It was within easy shuttle range of Nirvana.
Linda together with Matilda MacArthur organized the teams to assault the compound and capture Papa Zora.
Jason spent the day with the cyberwarfare group, IT specialists, and the communications team. He learned how easy program development was in the Empire. He learned to use his interface, and to work with the AI. He defined the program in his mind and the AI produced a model. He revised the model on the hologram, and the AI developed the program when he was happy with the model. He also learned to optimize and debug programs the same way. Some parts of the program were in different dimensions. He saw the programs operating in different dimensions easily. The crystals did a great job. Before, he had worked with the computer at too low and laborious a level.
The cyberwarfare clone group had heard about Jason’s viruses and the havoc that had been created using them. Chief Adams told him that their programs were focused versions of his viruses. Their programs aimed at systems disruption and then systems control. They created disruption during battle and then their programs took control of the enemy’s computers to block all use of the system. Counters to the technology were well known and allowed easy system recovery. Adams wanted to capture the enemy’s computers and their data. Viruses like Jason’s that caused disruption were known in the Empire, but had not been around for a long time. Sophisticated AI systems rapidly developed defenses to track, and attack intruding programs. There were ruthless penalties in the Empire for cybercrime. Cybercrime largely involved system intrusion, to steal information or money. The wild virus technology was likely to be successful in the short term because it was so new, even though it was an old concept.
The cyber assault technology was only permitted for the military and in crime prevention.
“Jason, we have enjoyed the rediscovery of the virus and have built upon your viruses. We intend to introduce them to disrupt the civil systems and the defense of Nirvana,” said Chief Adams. We have gained electronic access from inside the compound to one of the machines used by a secretary. The spies went in disguised as tourists. Before the attack we’ll cause havoc. Your methods help us add precious minutes to the time of computer dysfunction. Any time we buy is of great value. We’ll also block all inward and outward communication. We’ll do this when our covert group attacks the compound from within to find Papa Zora.”
Jason returned to the large conference facility next to the bridge. He could see the holographic feeds from the covert group. Two million troops along with Marine AIs and human tanks assembled in hangers throughout the fleet.
“Andrea my instinct is that Papa Zora will escape together with many shuttles. They will go around the planet, and try to escape. I’d like us to cover those eventualities and move the fleet to straddle the planet so he will have no escape. Let’s configure our weapons systems to destroy the shuttle and ship engines,” suggested Jason.
“Jason, dear, that has already been done. No one will escape the planet. We are very superior women, even more so since we are your women and do as you command or before you command. When we know more as to how your devious mind thinks, we’ll do what you think you might want long before you think it.”
“We’ll then deploy troops to all the cities to search out the senior priests. We’ll take control of the cities quickly. We are ready to neutralize the planetary defenses. That was easy. Peter Kane and Morgan James both had the necessary codes to shut them down. We pretended to be technicians and switched the systems off and then on. We’ll take control of planetary defenses from here when we launch our attack. The fighters will deploy to support ground operations. They are likely to have fighters of their own, but we have enough firepower for much more heavily defended planets. The assault gunships that Morgan James gave us are very dangerous. The human tanks are renamed Mech Warriors,” said Linda, “or as most call them: the Mechs. We intend to deploy them in the compound and use them to scare the daylights out of the reinforcing troops.”
“When we attack, we’ll broadcast that there’s a curfew as we are protecting against a possible enemy attack. Anyone on the streets will be at risk of being injured. We’ll warn the planet that anyone who attempts to escape Nirvana will be at risk of being shot down by the enemy. We’ll jump the fleet around the planet to cover all escape paths. Papa Zora will have one or more clones. We can identify the primary.
“Papa Zora will be tried by a military tribunal. This will be done immediately. He will defend himself as is customary. We’ll hear his defense. He will be interrogated by the marine telepathic division first.
“The other ships will straddle the planet and capture or shoot down every ship leaving. We’ll do both life sign and telepathic searches of the ships and escape pods. Papa Zora will be found even if we have to search every space on every ship. He may try and reduce his metabolism by meditating, but our equipment is very sophisticated and will pick him up,” said Linda confidently.
“Now, Jason darling, sit back, relax, or rub my shoulders and observe the attack commence. Watch your women do your bidding,” Linda said moving over to give Jason a quick kiss. “The secret code was sent to your aunt: ‘Aunty Alana, I hope to be with you soon,’” she laughed. “Perhaps ‘Papa Zora we hope you will be with us soon’ would have been more accurate; but sadly, it was not appropriate. She’s your aunt, Jason and for you I have to do the right thing, and not what I’d have liked to do. It’s always your family dear. What do you ever do for my family?” Linda said mock seriously as she watched Jason’s startled expression. She smiled and they both laughed.
“My dear you’ve a war to run, please take it more seriously and leave my family out of it. You might upset my aunt if she knows how you feel about her!”
He raised his eyebrows and Linda saluted him and turned back to her War AI. She smiled at Andrea who was listening to them both. Andrea then also saluted Jason.
“Yes, Sir,” they said together.