The StormKeepers Chronicles
Volume IV "Masters of the Galaxy"

Copyright (c) 1998 by Low Ee Mien
All references to Hercs and the StarSiege Universe (c) 1998 Dynamix Corporation

Chapter 5 : A Matter of Some Misunderstanding

Primary Medical Center
SK HercBase #3
StormShadow Valley
Planet Mars
1037 hrs

Deep within the newly constructed, and-yet-to-be-officially-named SK HercBase #3, Dr Sinclair (Senior) paused to take a rest from his studies of "Applied Medical Nanotechnology on Human and Humanoid Subjects". Waving away the razor-sharp page of holographic text and graphics floating an arm's length away from his comfortable synth-leather doctor's chair, he watched the image dissolve into a hundred million three-dimensional dissociated pixels and literally disappear into thin air.

Taking a deep breath of meticulously filtered, processed and recycled Earth-normal atmospheric mix, Dr Sinclair stood up and surveyed his domain, of which he was the currently undisputed master. In stark contrast to some of the darker and more confined places in the StormKeepers' base, the medical center was a big, bright and cheery place. With sixteen beds, a state-of-the-art operating theater, and medical equipment of all kinds, some of which had only just begun to arrive on the supply transports, the place was a testimony to the kind of lengths that the StormKeepers would go to take care of their own. Poking cautiously at a carton labelled "Synth-Flesh Type #6 Reconstruction Module #697-014", Dr Sinclair wondered where all these stuff came from. Either the StormKeepers were an extremely wealthy "renegade" squad, or they had access to technological resources he would not care to ask about. Or both. Dr Sinclair shrugged. What did he know about logistics, supply lines, and politics anyway. So long as he could do his job well in here, it was good enough for everyone.

He looked up at the ceiling and thought of the immensity of the base he was in. The tight, confined spaces on the ground floor (labelled "Level G0") was just a front, compared to the tip of the iceberg that was HercBase #3. Two floors above, and taking up a full three levels' worth of basement, was the massive Herc Bay, where even now assorted models of Hercs were being unpacked from shipping crates, assembled and tested by teams of skilled technicians and mechanics. Elsewhere, on different levels, the base was expanding in multiple directions. Tunnels were being built to link the currently isolated base to the rest of the StormKeep, the large, roughly circular expanse of Mars where the StormKeepers reigned. The StormKeepers certainly had plans for this place. Big plans. Of what kind, many wondered, even among the SK's, but only a privileged handful really knew.

Pondering on the grand scheme of things, Dr Sinclair tried to recall how he had ended up here. It had something to do with his son [SK] Sinclair, of course. Against his father's wishes, the younger Sinclair had somehow begged/borrowed/stolen an ex-Imperial Forces Basilisk, teaching himself Herc piloting skills, and earning some pretty impressive merc's fees on the way.

The trouble began when young Sinclair, who used to call himself Sinclair II to differentiate himself from the elder Sinclair, had managed to get into some really complex political trouble with the Imperial forces back on Earth. Sinclair II had been a skilled but relatively naive mercenary, giving his services freely to the highest bidder.

And some of these bidders were not exactly on the Empire's "friendlies" list. Which resulted in the Sinclair family's Imperial persecution, and subsequent flight across empty space, into the safer realm of the StormKeep. How the SK people had managed to smuggle his entire family, including himself, his wife, Sinclair and Basilisk and all onto a Mars-bound transport away from Earth, was something else that the senior Sinclair never bothered to ask, and probably didn't want to know.

Dr Sinclair strolled around the medical center, weaving his way around the empty beds and yet-to-be-unpacked cartons strewn around the floor, when Michelle, his assistant nurse, breezed in through the double doors. "There's been a medical emergency, they should be arriving soon", she announced, "Sinclair and..."

The elder Sinclair froze for a brief moment, and managed, "Sinclair? What happened?" Michelle frowned for a while, until she realised that she had it the other way around, "no... no, not him, it's actually some new guy, a pilot, haven't seen him around here before. Sinclair and Jeffr are bringing him in now."

It was all business from then on. The doctor and nurse got down to work, preparing the medical center for their first patient, pushing boxes out of the way, powering up diagnostics equipment, watching the green lights come on as each module came up and performed its POST Power-On Self Test routines.

Presently, a floating hover-bed burst through the automatic double doors, pushed by none other than the younger Sinclair and Jeffr themselves. They were obviously in a big hurry and were still trading comments about the situation.

"... but I still say, dammit, he shouldn't have stepped into the way of that last Bolo in the first place", Jeffr was saying, "if not, he would not have taken that last EMP blast". All Herc pilots knew from basic theory that, to a Herc's electronics systems, a hit from an Electro-Magnetic Pulse cannon was a deadly show-stopper.

Sinclair rebutted with "... yeah, but it was a page right out of Hanuman's Storming Guides. He stopped that crazy circular run-about, and we took care of it, fair and square."

"... sure, sure, textbook maneuvers yes, but I still say you don't get into the way of an EMP cannon charging up and ready to fire, at least not with your shields and energy down, and the Eman's short on both of that."

"Yeah, I'd say he's pretty brave for a newbie... well, oh, hi Dad", Sinclair grinned at his father when the party of three arrived in the operating theater.

"Yup, Doctor Squared is in, please take a seat", Michelle murmured, giving the patient a preliminary assessment with a portable medical scanner. It was a well-known fact in the extended but close-knit StormKeepers family that Dr Sinclair held dual doctorates in chemistry and medicine - a rare achievement, indeed.

"Okay, okay, calm down and give me a straight summary", Dr Sinclair ordered.

Taking a brief glance at the unconscious patient, Jeffr piped up, all his formerly cool demeanor gone now, "This guy is Dire Wolf, he just transferred in from someplace when this alert came on and Louie put him into one of our spare Hercs. He took some major beating in there. An EMP cannon got him at near point-blank range and shorted out all the electronics, gave him some serious shocks, and when the Herc toppled over, he suffered a concussion to the head." Jeffr left out the part on the pitched battle before that, and how Lollipop had to clamber out with his tool kit and cut Dire Wolf free of the nearly-collapsed cockpit that had refused to open up and release its dazed occupant.

Michelle was zipping down Dire Wolf's jump-suit top to place the remote heart monitoring devices on his chest when she muttered a slight "hmmm...". All eyes turned to the patient, at the moment still oblivious to the rest of the world.

Dr Sinclair gathered up the metallic tags hanging on a chain around Dire Wolf's neck, and looked from Jeffr to his son to Michelle. Finally, he managed to say, "Tell me if I am way off, but, StormKeepers don't wear these dog tags, do they?" He froze, rooted to his feet, when he read the lettering on the metallic tags : "Dire Wolf, 2nd Lieutenant, New Terran Defence Force (NTDF)". An alphanumeric sequence followed after that, in tiny print.

A whistle escaped from Jeffr's lips, "Holy sh.." he began, and was cut off by Hanuman who had arrived on the scene unnoticed and was standing right behind Dr Sinclair.

"I think we have a problem", was all that Hanuman said.

... continued