Cameo 4

The sky was a piercing blue, and the dark, ugly silhouettes of Frontier Panstellar ships scarred it from horizon to horizon. In the distance, the staccato shrieks of railgun weapons echoed through the forest. The air was heavy with ash and smoke and wavering heat as the island burned.

Lines of soldiers marched past Dr. Samantha B Howard and Corporate Officer Hugo L Parson, Rank Gold, who had been given a generous field promotion and told he could keep it if he maintained his level of competency. Dr. Howard knelt over the decapitated corpse of Archangel Mark II. With a knife, she carefully stripped off a length of skin. An officer that came with the rescue fleet, his broad chest showing his Platinum rank, walked up.

“Dr. Howard and CO Bronze Parson?” he said in a gruff, choppy voice.

“CO Gold Parson,” Howard answered, her voice dry and her eyes sharp, “and Vice President Howard.” She flashed him her corporate ID. The platinum officer’s eyes widened, and Parson, just realized who he’d spent the last several months with, turned a curious shade of pale. After a brief, stunned silence, she continued:

“CO Platinum Rupert, you have the command badge for this operation so I’m assuming you’re the commanding officer. You now take orders from me. Salvage what you can from the computers in both the Poseidon Projects and in the Nautilus Facility. Using the technology purchased from the Gate merchant, we can recover a significant amount of the data. Send both the Nautilus and Poseidon files to the archives at HQ, and delete any remaining copies. I want them both buried under an ocean of bureaucracy. I never want to hear about them again. Send the Deviance project files to my personal offices for further review, and send the Archangel project files to the HQ labs. I want every single one of the surviving HBO soldiers retired with a generous offer, and if they don’t accept it or feel chatty about their experiences, I don’t want to hear from them again either. Capture the Archangel Mark I, but kill everything else on the island and then carpet nuke it. When the fleet leaves, there must be nothing left alive here.”

The commanding officer swallowed and nodded. After the few requisite seconds for the sequence of events to sink in, he turned and started barking orders at his subordinates.

Howard knelt down again beside the mostly naked corpse of Bluejay. Finally, she would have samples from all three. With the phenotype of the Mark I, the intellect of the Mark II, and the physical capacity of the Mark III, the project would be finished soon.

That, and the Deviance project, her personal pet. Only three people had gotten out of the Nautilus facility alive: Mother, Dr. Titus Antigenes, and herself. It was no coincidence; they were the three that dared to take the Deviance vials. Unfortunately for the other two, they had received dangerous prototypes. Only one vial of the finished product had ever been manufactured. It would be a lot of work to recover the lost research, but it was within her grasp.

NAUTILUS had been devastating, but there was some silver lining. With disaster slicing through the tangled web of bureaucracy, she would be able to get the projects finished and in the field. A smiled twitched across her face. She could hardly wait.

Cameo

Cameo 4

The Sword and the Star Arcosion