Chapter 26
The Marquis' Revolt
ESS Ticonderoga, Outer Rim of the Martian Sphere
Date: Tue 14 May 123
Time: UST 1644

The door to the office of Lieutenant Colonel Duvalier of the 96th Fighter Wing opened up and an E-6 walked in, stood at attention in front of the Colonel's desk and saluted.
"Sergeant Serrano reporting as ordered, sir."
Colonel Duvalier returned Serrano's salute and said, "At ease."
Serrano went to the position of at ease and Colonel Duvalier looked around suspiciously, showing curious unease for a senior officer in the presence of an enlisted man.
"Are we clear?" he asked.
In no way sharing the Colonel's unease, Serrano replied, "We're clear."
With that reassurance, a sudden change came over Colonel Duvalier. He rose out of his chair with a start, slamming his hands down on his desk and snapping, "What the hell is going on here!? I thought you were going to put those people on ice!"
Completely unfazed by the Colonel's angry outburst, Serrano replied coolly, "Watch your tone, Surtr. Don't confuse the stripes on our sleeves with our true ranks."
His eyes absently turning to the three stripes on the cuffs of his jacket, Duvalier said in a low voice, "Don't call me that."
Unbending as ever, Serrano showed who was the true superior as he told the Colonel, "Surtr is more your true name than Pierre Duvalier. You'd do well to remember that."
"I don't like it."
"Stop whining," Serrano said harshly. "Now, we're still trying to figure out exactly what they're up to, but since this ship has joined up with the Saratoga, I have to suspect that they're going to try to move against Graves."
Colonel Duvalier's previous nervousness again rose to surface.
"What are we going to do? The whole plan will be for shit if they stop Graves."
"That's where you and those silvers on your shoulder come in," Serrano replied. "Not all the command staff buys Mfume's attempt to break down our scenario. Use that to your advantage. We'll use the witch's lies against her, too."
"What lies?" Duvalier asked.
"The Saratoga came here to hunt the Ticonderoga. She was declared a rogue ship. Tell people we're being escorted to face judgment as mutineers. If they can detain the actual mutineers--Mfume, Frazier, those nine troublemakers and their confederates--, they'll prove that they aren't part of the conspiracy."
"What about people who would be sympathetic to Graves?" the Colonel asked.
"Leave that angle to me. We'll catch the witch's lapdogs in a pincer maneuver and once we undermine Xenopoulos, the entire battle group will be under our control."
Serrano handed Duvalier a DataPad and said, "Here's a list of the prime candidates to approach. Don't fail us again, Surtr."
For a moment, Duvalier looked like a bird caught in a cobra's gaze. The threat in Serrano's words was not an idle one. However, perhaps out of mercy but more likely out of simple expedience, Serrano did not leave him to stew in his fears for long.
He nodded and said, "Back to the masquerade."
It took Colonel Duvalier a moment to regain his composure and adopting his borrowed role of commanding officer again, he said stiffly, "That'll be all, Sergeant. Dismissed."
Serrano went to attention and saluted, saying, "By your leave, sir."
Duvalier returned the salute, Serrano did a smart about-face and promptly exited the room. Once Serrano was gone, Duvalier sank back into his chair and just stared space for a while. When he came back to his senses, he picked up the DataPad Serrano gave him and went over the list of officers to enlist for this new plan.
Could he really do it? Could he really get enough people on his side to take the ship? He did not know, but cost of failure was enough for him to at least try, whatever might happen.