Name: Johnathan Helms
Genetic Identification Code: NK092123533291
Physical Health: Superior
Mental Health: [Authorized Personnel Only]
Education: Master’s Degree, United Commonwealth of Colonies War College
Occupation: Rear Admiral, United Commonwealth of Colonies First Fleet
Criminal History: [Classified]
Citizen Status: Confirmed
Location: London, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Rear Admiral Johnathan Helms looked out of the air-car window and watched the lights of London zip by below him. Even after more than a year planetside it was a foreign sight. The career naval officer was much more used to seeing the running lights of warships than the blinking lights of a dance club.
<It’s necessary,> he told himself for the thousandth time as the air-car hurtled toward his destination.
As a high ranking fleet officer his car had priority in the traffic queue, so other air-cars automatically moved over for him to pass. You had to be at least a Captain to rate government transportation like this. Now that he thought about it, it had been years since he drove himself anywhere. The thought made him chuckle.
“Everything ok, Sir?” The man sitting next to him asked.
“Yes, Chief, everything’s good.” Helms paused, and really thought about what he was feeling for a second. “But I want you and your team on alert when we get to the restaurant; just in case.”
Another privilege of his rank was a personal security detail. Back when he was a junior officer he thought that meant he’d have a half dozen heavy infantrymen that followed him around in full armor whenever he went out. The truth was far less exciting. His PSD was three men from the Fleet who’d volunteered for the duty. It was a coveted detail with the opportunity to get face time with the brass. That at least meant that the three sailors assigned to him were competent; but this was Earth, and any chance of them getting into a hairy situation was highly unlikely.
<Keep your friends close and you enemies closer.> The ancient saying originated from a man who did just that and got stabbed to death for it. It might not have worked out well for him, but the meaning behind the saying was still credible.
The rear admiral’s mission tonight was to do just that. He needed to bring a man in close to him. The man wasn’t an enemy per say, but he wasn’t an ally either. He was a means to an end. But if the man became an enemy, there was a chance he could bring down everything Helms had worked half a century to achieve.
<It’s necessary,> he repeated the phrase in his head.
He’d looked at the problem from all other angles, and there was no other way. It was this or be stuck in his current rank forever. If the Admirals passed your submission over you usually didn’t get another shot.
The air-car started to brake as the restaurant came into view. It had a broad terrace about half a kilometer up one of the larger buildings on the outskirts of London. The terrace was covered in plants that had long since died out on Earth, but it made the guests feel like they were dining somewhere other than metropolitan London.
“All I have is one man standing at the docking ramp.” The driver of the air-car reported.
“Set us down,” the admiral ordered. “The man I’m meeting likes his privacy.” The driver acknowledged the order while Helms dialed a number on his PAD.
“Good evening, Rear Admiral Helm’s office, how may I assist you Sir or Ma’am?” The professional voice of his assistant answered.
“Commander, I’m going dark on comms for the next hour.” It was another request of the man he was meeting tonight.
Helms disconnected the line and scanned the terrace for any other threats.
The driver had a good eye. As far as the rear admiral could tell there was only a single man in view. The air-car settled onto the docking ramp with only a minor bounce. A professional pilot would have been chewed out for such sloppy performance, but the PSD guys weren’t pilots. Helms had received a quick briefing on the team before stepping off, and all three came from an engineering department on a battleship that was in for a refit.
<Only on Earth.> It hadn’t taken the rear admiral long to figure out that things worked differently on humanity’s home world than in the rest of the Commonwealth.
The chief was the first one out of the air-car. He scanned the area quickly before walking around to Helms’ side and opening the door for him. Once Helms’ exited the vehicle, the man on the other side of the platform moved to greet them.
“Rear Admiral Helms.” The man’s eyes scanned the admiral and his PSD. “Follow me please, Sir.”
The PSD formed a triangle around Helms as they followed the mysterious man off the ramp, through the empty terrace, and into the heart of the restaurant.
“Johnathan, so glad you could join me.” The man seated at the far side called.
Helms’ eye immediately went to the two men clothed in black smartcloth standing on either side of Thomas Gold.
Even in an age where appearance could be deceiving, the rear admiral knew that all three of the men in Thomas Gold’s security detail were former military. He also knew that they had to be from R&S units. Their size, lethal frames, the constant sense of impending violence, and Thomas Gold’s wealth all pointed to that conclusion.
The rear admiral had been in the Commonwealth Fleet for over fifty years and even he didn’t know a lot about what went on with R&S units. R&S units were the modern equivalent of the pre-expansion special operations forces. R&S was military jargon because the four branches of specialized soldiers began with either an R or and S. All the units conceivably did the same thing, but each took pride in specific aspects of their mission.
The infantry units were the ones that began with R. They had Recon and the Rangers. Recon specialized in reconnaissance as well as search and destroy mission behind enemy lines. Rangers on the other hand were the elite shock troops that got called upon when the infantry was on the five yard line and needed to punch it into the end zone. There was only one Brigade of Recon infantrymen in the entire Infantry Corps, and only five Ranger Brigades; only sixty thousand troops in the entire tens of millions of infantrymen under the Commonwealth banner.
Infantry had the R, so Fleet had the S. The Fleet’s elite fighting forces fell under the SEALs or the SAS. The SASs bread and butter was ship-to-ship combat. They specialized in infiltration of enemy warships during battle, disruption of that enemy’s ability to fight, and if necessary complete destruction of their crew. SEALs on the other hand were masters of the orbital insertion. They were regularly loaded into drop-capsules and fired from battleship tubes into a hostile planet’s atmosphere. Once on the ground, if they survived the reentry, they would proceed to wreck all kinds of havoc on the enemy’s war fighting capabilities. They were particularly talented in demolition.
What that meant for the rear admiral at the moment was that his PSD full of engineers could probably be taken out by one of Gold’s bodyguards while the other two watched and drank a beer. Thomas Gold was making his position clear. He held the power.
“Thank you for meeting with me, Mr. Gold.” Helms approached and shook the man’s hand.
“No, thank you, Johnathan.” Thomas Gold’s smile never reached his eyes. “You managed to do in one ten minute meeting what I was incapable of doing for the past few years.”
When the rear admiral first approached the President and CEO of Gold Technologies about supporting his candidacy for full admiral he’d found it strange that a facet of their arrangement be the mentorship of a young lieutenant. Now that Helms knew the whole picture, he felt sorry for Lieutenant Gold. Having a father like Thomas Gold couldn’t be easy.
“Don’t worry my friend.” Thomas seemed to be able to sense the thoughts behind Helms’ eyes. “Everything will work out according to plan. In fact,” a beep announced the arrival of a new message on the rear admiral’s PAD. “You’ve been added to the list for my golf outing this weekend. The Commander of First Fleet will be there, and I think you two will have a lot to talk about.”
“Thank you, Sir.” The rear admiral was still in awe of the influence Thomas Gold wielded. Helms was on the full admiral’s staff and he didn’t get to see him more than once every other week, and it was never a social call.
“But back to business.” Gold was driving the tempo of the conversation. “What’s the newest development on my son’s deployment schedule?”
“As I said before,” Helms fell back into something he knew very well, briefing. “Lieutenant Gold is being given command of a new class of gunboat; better armed and better protected than previous models. As far as a command for an officer as junior as him he’s going to be as protected as possible.”
“I already know this.” Thomas took a sip from the glass of wine next to him. “What is the new information?”
Rear Admiral Helms couldn’t stop from gulping. He didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news. “Lieutenant Gold’s gunboat is going to be assigned to Task Force 33.4, under Rear Admiral Nelson.”
Helms saw the apprehension dawn on Gold’s face. Nelson was a warrior. A combat commander who didn’t give a shit about Fleet politics; which was why they kept him in the most dangerous areas of space and away from anything he could screw up. Thankfully, Helms had been a Captain in one of Nelson’s task forces; so he had a working relationship with the man.
“I know Rear Admiral Nelson,” Helms quickly went into damage control. “I’ve personally requested that the new gunboat be kept out of harm’s way.” Thomas Gold’s hard stare made him add a qualifier. “But this is the Fleet, and the York Sector is a violent place to be. Nothing can be guaranteed.”
Thomas Gold was quiet for a long time. Long enough that the two men standing behind him started to stir restlessly. Finally, Thomas Gold picked up his wine glass and extended it to Helms.
“Let’s hope nothing happens to my son… for your own sake.”
<Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.> Rear Admiral Johnathan Helms couldn’t help but wonder if the man who’d first said that contemplated his own stupidity when someone drove a knife into his spine.