The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in sequence.
The first battlefield was The Battle for the Mind. Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue, Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family Business, Jewel’s Place, Shanghaied, First Mark, The Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, Self Sacrifice, Crash Down, The Lake House, Dancing with Egopods, Lunch with Aliens and Kilkian Alignment.
The second battlefield is The Battle of the Hands, Here are the previous episodes in this battlefield Learning to See, Maintaining Common Sense, Meeting Compagno, Unseating Dibolocos, The Journey Homeward, Ambush on Platinum 9, Refit, Retrain and Rethink, Saved by Rodent Weed, Convoys and Propaganda, Changing the Moon, Expanding Horizons, and Running the Blockade. Today we get Episode 32.
They arrived at the capital city, and the delegates were shuttled to the planet’s surface. They were assigned luxury housing in the downtown area. The compound had been built just for them. It had elaborate security systems and a contingent of troops assigned to protect them. They settled in and planned to meet together the next morning to begin the process of designing what system of government they would choose.
To everyone’s surprise the CDF commanders informed them they would be giving them an orientation for the next couple of days that would acquaint them with the history of the colonies, the past styles of government, the resources and economy of the different planets and the basics of political theory. It made sense when you realized that most of the representatives were completely new to politics. But on the other side of the coin, it also made sense that the military leaders wanted to have as much input into the new government as possible.
Jamison felt a certain amount of suspicion about the arrangement. He saw the distinct possibility that the CDF would ultimately not turn control back to their elected government. But no matter what fears he had, there was no real choice, except to go along with the program.
The first day they were escorted into a meeting room. It was arranged with lots of small desks, all facing a stage. Up on the stage were larger desks for three leaders to sit, between these leaders and the delegates desks, was a podium for whichever delegate had the floor. They were all assigned desks, and for now at least, a CDF officer named Commodore Galvez moderated the delegation.
Jamison was seated on the third row and a little to the right of center. He looked around the room and realized every single desk had a delegate at it. He settled in for the first day of instruction, presented by the CDF. He found it to be a lot more helpful than he had expected. He took extensive notes, on a console provided for the purpose. It was set up with some impressive tools he found genuinely useful.
When it came time to return the second day he was surprised to discover he was looking forward to further education. He noticed one of the desks was empty. He asked several others about the politician who had been there and he either got someone who didn’t know or else someone who seemed to know, but still answered vaguely. He then sent a message to Chambers and asked her if she knew anything about it. She didn’t, but promised to look into it.
By the time the first break came around a message was waiting, explaining what had happened. During the previous evening delegates were gathered informally and discussing what they hoped would be the policy and shape of the new government. Two of them had a heated disagreement about the best direction, and it ended with the two of them stepping out back, with their weapons. A little while later the CDF was quietly disposing of a body and only one delegate returned.
After lunch another delegate was missing. A few questions later and Jamison realized there had been another duel. By the third day they had eight fewer delegates than they started with. Those who were unaligned or aligned with the Dibolocos were fighting for who would be in control. This was a cruel way to sort out a new government. Jamison took note of how little the Dibolocos cared if their minions killed each other off. He also noted that the winner of the duels was gaining greater respect among the representatives. His name was Richards, and Jamison figured he would cross paths with him sooner or later.
That evening he saw Richards looking for his next victim. He challenged one of the unaligned men to a duel. The man refused to step out back for the fight, he said he would settle his battles through debate. Jamison thought he was being wise.
Then Richards smiled broadly and said, “Have it your way, but no one will listen to a coward.”
Jamison thought about that statement. The group was working out a pecking order. With the CDF not allowing them to begin active debate, they were finding other ways to wrestle for control. When Richards walked away from the first victim he started straight towards Jamison.
“How about you, sniper, or are you chicken too?”
“Gunplay won’t determine who’s right, only who is left.” Jamison responded.
Richards cackled out a laugh. “How do they expect us to rule the colonies with a bunch of cowards? We’ll see you in the slaughterhouse yet, boy.” And with that he walked away.
The other man Richards had challenged was visibly shaken, so Jamison walked back with him to his suite. But along the way they found themselves surrounded by hostile delegates who pushed and prodded the two of them out to the back alley where the duels were taking place. Jamison immediately felt the danger of people trying to kill him. He felt the presence of a Dibolocos nearby. Colopher spoke to his mind telling him to focus on the men and Kilkians would remove the Dibolocos. A moment later he no longer felt the Dibolocos presence.
Richards stepped out to the middle of the alley on the far end, and asked which of the two victims would go first. Jamison knew the other man stood no chance, so he stepped up. As he surveyed the situation he sensed there was a shooter on the roof too. The second shooter nearly guaranteed Richards the win.
“So how do you go about this?” Jamison asked.
Richards laughed, “We will use a timer, one of the spectators will set it for 1 minute, and when it beeps we both draw our weapons and shoot. Should be easy for a big shot sniper like you.”
“Okay. Mind if I take a practice shot first, to range in my weapon?”
“Knock yourself out. It won’t help.”
Jamison drew his weapon, set it on small explosion and blew a hole in the wall just below where the man was hiding on the roof, the blast killed the man who was thrown up into the air. When the body landed the eaves of the building were shattered, allowing the body to fall into the street beside Richards.
Jamison watched as Richards began trembling and sweating. Jamison asked, “Maybe you changed your mind about dueling?”
Jamison thought for a minute he was going to back down, but after a second he called out. “Start the timer.”
The men on the side did as he asked and after a long minute the timer beeped. Jamison ignored it and watched for Richards to reach for his gun. But he didn’t. The men on the side started yelling at Richards. They called him names and commanded him to finish what he had started.
Then he tried. Jamison shot him before his gun was clear of the holster. He had forgotten to reset it to the appropriate setting. So the man was blown to bits with most of the audience being splattered by the bloodsport they had been encouraging.
Jamison spoke to the group. “Are you satisfied now? Or does anyone else want to try their luck?”
The men found their way to their suites. Jamison walked his friend back to his suite, before returning to his own and vomiting.