Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Featured Writer

In the cavernous interior of the ships main docking bay, three coffin like tanks came to life. Inside each, the senior officers of The Crimson Lady were resuscitated. The tank lids retracted and a thin mist spilled to the floor, swirling among the thousand other sarcophagi that littered the hanger. In each was a member of the 1st/110th 28th Infantry Division (m).

Slowly, the men began to stir. Finally released from the frozen half life of cryostasis, Division Commander Sergei Orlof, his XO Lieutenant Colonel John Derbyshire and division CSM Paul Walker painfully stepped from their tanks for the first time in nearly eighteen months.

Rubbing the knots out of his calves, Sergeant Major Walker checked the comlink tattooed on his left wrist. “What the hell? We’ve been in orbit for almost thirty six hours. Why weren’t we defrosted earlier?”

General Orlof sat down heavily on the edge of his tank, and worked the kinks out of his massive shoulders. “Well, it doesn’t look like anybody’s been taking pot shots at us. Better get to the bridge and find out just what the hell is going on.”

The bridge of the carrier was worn from countless battles but remained spotless. Dust doesn’t settle in micro-g. The exec plopped down in his chair, and fishing a lead from the base of his skull, plugged into his console. He sat motionless, a blank look on his face as he absorbed a year and a half of encrypted messages from the Confederation council.

After what seemed hours, but in reality was something less than thirty seconds, the executive officer turned to face the men and delivered the message.

“Your not going to believe this. Apparently peace has broken out.”

“What,” Orlof bellowed, “are you sure about that?”

“Yes sir, the orders are straight from the Supreme Council. We are to stand down, and return to Earth. The Asiatic Alliance has sued for peace. The war is over. That would explain why weren’t attacked when we entered orbit. What should I tell them,” the young colonel asked.

The general looked over at the Divisional Command Sergeant Major. The two regarded each other coldly. They had been friends from the first, the CSM merely a buck sergeant placed in charge of the general’s barracks, and the general still a green officer cadet. Both nodded their heads in unison.

The General flipped open a small panel set in the arm of his command chair, and flipped a red toggle.

Below on Europa, above the Tesla Dome of the Asiatic Alliance colony of Thera, the vast face of Jupiter dominated the view. Children played in the parks, and the colonists went about their daily rituals lost in their thoughts.

If one of the colonists happened to be looking at just the right spot in the sky, they might have noticed an almost imperceptible pinprick of light detach itself from a larger yet still tiny point.

Slowly the speck grew, until it blossomed just above the dome, a breathtakingly beautiful flower that bathed the colony in the brilliance of thermonuclear fire.

With a grin the general turned to his XO. “Tell them; `Please repeat last message.’”

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