Once he was closer and able to distinguish details Elder saw a crew of space-suited figures grabbing each person as they came close enough and tossing them into the hanger bay the line ended at. Elder hoped there was something to cushion the landing since his emergency space suit gave very little protection against bruises.
As he was almost within reach, Elder heard over his radio receiver, “All right, release you hold on the line and when we toss you, curl into a ball and someone will grab you inside.” Elder followed instruction. He had survived thus far, now was not the time to die for not obeying orders. As he was grabbed, Elder saw the other figures were climbing out of a large net. Then he was flying towards the net. Curled up as he was, he could not guess when he would hit but since he knew he would, he had no trouble with it. What trouble he had was climbing out of the net, even with help, he was just not used to this sort of situation.
Once out of the net, Elder was ordered to form up with several others from the BALKANS and report to a debriefing officer. The formation marched out of the hanger bay and down a corridor, Elder quickly realized that they were headed for the legal section. That was an easy deduction since the ALPS and the BALKANS were the same class and had the same modification done to them over the years.
The formation joined several dozen other space-suited figures in a workout gym near the legal section where they were ordered to remove their space suits. As the people stripped out of their suits, Marines came and took the suits away. Elder looked at his temporary companions and then decided not to. Several were in various stages of undress, obviously caught while asleep or in other similar situations. Those caught in that situation quickly separated from the others and moved to the rear of the room. No one watched them as they did so, unless it was covertly.
Two more formations joined the group in the room and in those formations were some more caught in various stages of undress, including one woman in nothing more than a towel. Elder’s ugly blush began to feel permanently burned in. Even though those in a state of undress placed themselves away from the others, Elder knew that they were there and images kept drifting up in his mind – including a few of the woman who had tried to seduce him back when King Mitchell first took his throne.
The gym was probably as crowded as it could get when a Navy Junior Warrant Officer came to the door and called off six names. Once the six people whose names were called worked their way to the door, he led them away. In a few minutes, the Junior Warrant Officer was back, his bulk filling the door, and again he called six names. Elder was in the seventh group called, the woman wearing only a towel was also in the group so Elder tried to maintain perfect restraint in her presence. Remembering Constance and their child helped.
The group formed up and began marching forward. Just a few hatches down the corridor the Junior Warrant Officer, Elder did not try to read his nametag, called out for Elder to enter the office. Elder did so. Inside the small office were a Lieutenant Commander and a Lieutenant. The Lieutenant Commander had the insignia of Naval Intelligence and the Lieutenant had the insignia of Naval Police. At least there was not an agent of the ISA, which made Elder grateful considering his experiences with ISA agents. The Lieutenant Commander motioned for Elder to be seated even before Elder started his salute. Torn between the requirement to salute and the requirement to follow orders, Elder followed orders and sat.
“Master Midshipman Elder, I am Lieutenant Commander Adam Reynard Leif Boris Elric Paris and this Lieutenant Mary Claudia Meryle Dora Rosetta. This incident is the worst case of mutiny in the history of the Imperial Navy. You are the Master Midshipman who was with Sous-Lieutenant Palmer when he received the orders from Fourth Fleet?”
“Yes sir.” Elder had been through this sort of thing before and now knew to give only the answer asked for and to not volunteer anything.
“Explain the situation as it happened. From the time Sous-Lieutenant Palmer started to communicate with Fourth Fleet to the point where you relayed the orders to Lieutenant Captain Tomalo.”
Elder paused before starting to speak, he had to make sure that he did not forge anything nor add something that did not happen. After about five seconds, he was sure he had it straight. Starting with the discussion that he and Sous-Lieutenant Palmer had just before the telepath had broken off and made contact with Fourth Fleet, Elder slowly plodded through the events asked for, often pausing to make sure that he had everything straight before moving on in his narrative. Neither investigator asked any questions until Elder was through.
Lieutenant Commander Paris tapped something on the desktop in front of him, looked at the result and asked, “How did you come to know and be friendly with Sous-Lieutenant Palmer? You seem to have known him prior to his being assigned to the BALKANS Master Midshipman.”
“Yes sir, I did. We met when I was a Graduated Cadet. When the BALKANS returned to base after taking King Mitchell home, one of the women my wife knew came to us because her husband had been killed in a terrorist attack. Sous-Lieutenant Palmer, then an Ensign, was part of the team the dealt with her as a result. He and I hit it off, he wasn’t impressed with rank because of his special ability, and so the difference didn’t matter to him.”
“According to the report Sous-Lieutenant Palmer made when he received the order from Fourth Fleet, you were the one who recognized the possibility of a suicidal attack. How were you able to do so Master Midshipman?”
“Pre-Imperial history is a hobby of mine sir. When Captain Mizutani first visited me, back just before he first took command, I was struck by the fact that he wore a kimono and did some checking. I had already known, vaguely, about the kamikaze myth and came across it later when I studied the culture of Nihon. The culture of Nihon is very similar to medieval Japan. When the world was colonized, the colonists tried to make an ideal medieval Japanese society. They kept a lot of technology but resolved to have the technology serve the society and not shape it. Once the Empire came, Nihon was quite set in a medieval style culture with a slightly less advanced technology than the Empire. However, since Nihon did not have space flight, they realized that a fight would be worse than useless. The Empire took Nihon in and agreed to have the native nobility stay in power as long as Nihon stayed loyal to the Empire. Nihon has never been much of a tourist destination so the nobility there could have conspired in secret to lop off the head of the Imperial Government and become independent in the ensuing chaos.”
“But you have no proof of this, do you Master Midshipman?”
“No sir, but it fits together.”
“Yes, that it does. Moreover, the actions of Captain Mizutani bear out what you suppose Master Midshipman. Very well, report to Marine Barracks Fifteen and stay there until this matter is resolved or you are otherwise ordered.”
Elder rose, saluted and left. One nice thing about standardized ship classes was that since he knew the layout of the BALKANS he knew the layout of the ALPS.. He found Marine Barracks Fifteen without too much trouble. Inside he reported to the Marine Junior Lieutenant who acted as if in charge and waited by his assigned bunk. He saw no one that he knew in the crowd and just wanted to lie down and gather himself. This had been a confusing day. However, as he looked around he noticed that over a dozen people were gathered in one area and were looking at something. As tired as he was, he decided to investigate before trying to take a nap..
Everyone was watching a series of holovids displaying the battle. After a moment Elder realized that not only were the two Class-G Dreadnoughts but also a section of three Class-H Battleships were fighting the BALKANS and a swarm of Class-V Attack Fighters,. Elder quickly realized that there were two swarms of Class-V Attack Fighters, one from the BALKANS and one from everyone else. How could the pilots keep track of who was on which side? Moreover, why were so may of the Class-V Attack Fighters from the BALKANS still loyal to Captain Mizutani? Surely, they had heard about the orders from Fourth Fleet, surely they realized Captain Mizutani had to be in the wrong here.
It was then, as he tried to make sense out of why so many of the wing of Class-V Attack Fighters carried aboard the BALKANS would stay loyal to a traitor captain, that Elder realized that the number of Class-V Attack Fighters that were defending the BALKANS was considerably smaller than he had first thought. Many of the small ships were fleeing the battle scene and once free of the buzz were going ballistic and obviously presenting no threat to the forces attacking the BALKANS. Elder looked more closely at his ship, realizing now that it was no longer his ship, but under the control of the rebels. The BALKANS was badly damaged, the long semi-tubular shape was bent at two points where the two asteroid missiles had hit it and there were gaping holes all along the hull. Captain Mizutani had lost; there was no way that the BALKANS could ever fly any more, much less be a weapon of war.
It seemed that Captain Mizutani realized that as well. Silently, the BALKANS exploded. Class-V Attack Fighters were vaporized in the huge explosion or were smashed by flying chunks of what used to be a great warship in the Imperial Navy. The remaining ships, which had time to react because of their distance from the explosion, began moving away from the center of the explosion and dodging chunks of debris. Elder wondered how many people were still ABOARD THE Balkans and how many were rebels. If there were any still aboard who had still been trying to obey the orders from Fourth Fleet and escape, they would now be classified as among the rebels. Elder felt sorry for them and for their families. Elder walked away form the holovids and lay on his assigned bunk. He pondered the recent events since he had nothing else to do. After several minutes, he remembered that the Operations Center was in the center of the ship in order to give it some extra protection. He had been in the Operations Center and he had been rescued. Anyone left on the BALKANS was probably a rebel since it was likely that the Operation Center had been among the last areas rescued by the logistics of it. Elder remembered the hours of waiting and let the matter settle, he could not see how there would be many, if any, loyal crew left aboard the BALKANS. With that comforting thought Elder slept.