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chapter five
Part Nine

"We've got visitors!"   Vogel called into his microphone as he swung his Hornet around.   Twenty metres before him he saw Dani Bennett, sweaty and dirty but otherwise in good shape.   On either side of her were two members of the Tribe, older members by the looks of it.   One was bent over; gasping for breath, while the other stared up at him as though facing the devil himself.

Dani was calling to him, a reaction that struck him as odd for it looked like she were verbally challenging his steed.   When Vogel switched on the forward external microphone, her voice came through his speakers, " cease fire, it's all been a mistake!"

Vogel double-checked the status board.   Another shooter, farther up the river had joined the fracas even though Alpha had captured the second shooter.   Bravo Squad was pinned down by this one.   Charlie and Hornet 1 were trying to attract attention.   He flicked the Command Link, "Did you hear that, sir?"

* * *

Tremblay had, and although he was looking at Kalter, he was a million kilometres away, or perhaps, more accurately, fourteen years, seven thousand, six hundred and fifty two kilometres away.   "Patch me through external speakers."

A flick of the thumb and it was done.   Tremblay began to speak, "This is Captain Martin Tremblay of the United Network Command Authority, Peacekeeping Forces Astral Corps.   Identify yourself please."

"Dani Bennett, Network Engineer for Facility Rehabilitation."

"And the others?"

"We're tired but fine."

"Who are the people with you, Ms. Bennett?"   Civilians could be so dense sometimes.

Dani looked at Spottyrivers, nodding for him to speak.   Spottyrivers looked up at the armoured raptor before him.   It looked like the beak of a hawk and hung in the air effortlessly.   He couldn't imagine in all his years that he'd be speaking with such a creature.

"I am Chief Spottyrivers of the Cheyenne Lakota.   Reservation Six."   He held up the paper Dani thought could end this and, with halting English repeated what she had told him to say, "I have an Executive Order signed by United States President Sergio Shea over a century ago giving us ownership of this facility."

Dani interrupted, making sure to drive this point home, "Captain, these people have proof of ownership, we need to end this now!"

Tremblay let out a breath.   The Chief, now they were getting somewhere.   He triggered the Command Link, "Get the Hornet's spread out and put me on all six P.A's!"

Vogel didn't understand this order; three of the Hornets were engaged in enemy action, moving them meant allowing their opposition to return to their original targets.   But he didn't question the order either and seconds later the six of them had taken equidistant positions around the combat zone.

"This is Captain Tremblay.   Astral forces are ordered to cease fire."

The command reverberated throughout the valley.   In seconds the Network half of the firefight ceased.

Dani turned to Spottyrivers, nodding for him to speak again.   He looked at her and flared his eyebrows with the same gaze he would've given her had she asked him to levitate.   With a shrug he turned and began to speak at the flying monster before them in their native Lakota.   These were strange days indeed.

"This is Chief Spottyrivers.   Stop firing and surrender."   He looked at Dani again.   She was smiling.   He smiled back and then added, "We have prevailed!"

* * *

The transport shuttle glided across the open valley between the towering jack pines.   Inside and just aft of the primary airlock was the tiny cabin, well appointed with four worn, but comfortable seats and a cranky beverage station.   The Hartwell Aerostar built Tolex line was nearing the end of its service cycle, which was too bad Victoria thought.   What they lacked in luxury by today's standards, they more than made up for in reliability.

She glanced over at the small DAR-LIN display on the wall before her.   The high-resolution projection system seemed pointless.   The projection area was far too small to make High-Rez worth the effort but the image that was there was crystal clear, Wells had to admit that.

Currently what she had on that display was the flight display information.   The topographical map of the region and the progress this craft, Shuttle SHANE McKAY, as it made it's approach to Cheyenne Dam No.1.   Wells glanced down at the portable display again reading over the report from Cimarron.   Cold and efficient as usual.   Good.   It might need some reworking before it was posted, had to make sure anyone reading it would come to the right conclusions.

But even with that effort Victoria somehow felt General MacPherson still wouldn't grasp the urgency of this region.   Too bad for him, soon to be too bloody bad as well.

The SHANE McKAY banked softly and descended near the Conestoga that had been the topside base of operations for Dam rehabilitation.  Wells thumbed the display controls on her seat to the external view and scrolled around until she found the welcome party.

That was another nice thing about these Tolex shuttles, they were equipped with a wide array of recorders, even had some units that would eject just before a crash, should that happen, just so there were adequate records.   Wells loved a machine that fed her beast and these craft, despite their rough edges, provided a veritable info-buffet.   That was probably why they remained the favourite for Information Management use.

There they were, an unlikely couple for sure, Engineering Specialist Dani Bennett and Lakota Cheyenne Chief Spottyrivers.   She glanced at her portable display again looking for his first name; no record of it was listed. Oh well, she made a mental note to change that.

The pilot, a dull eyed Fleet weenie whose dream of Space Combat had passed a decade earlier, turned around in his seat and tapped the portside hatch release control by his seat as he rose.   Victoria Wells followed suit, tapping her restraints from "emergency stand-by" to "open", and stood, clutching her portable display like she would a small purse for a night out.   She frowned a moment as she remembered that there wouldn't be any of those for a while, all the more reason to get assets in this region quickly.

* * *

Dani Bennett stood with Spottyrivers as the bulky and ugly craft soft landed before them.   It was all still magical to the Chief beside her, but Dani wondered how low down the ladder this event warranted for the Network to send their Emissary in this old junker.

When the hatch opened and Wells stepped out Dani's expression changed.   She'd seen Victoria Wells at the Rapid City compound last time they went for supplies.   Dani didn't know who she was but the Colonel in charge of operations treated her like royalty so that was something.   Dani stepped forward with her hand out.

* * *