Stall Hopkins returned to the small conference room with a glass of water and a cup of coffee. The coffee was far too hot to drink right now, but it would keep. The water would no doubt be welcomed. Only one person joined him in the conference room, and she'd just been released from a holding facility. After all she'd been through, a simple glass of ice water would be a welcomed luxury; especially one that she'd be able to lift to her own lips.
"Hold off on the coffee for a bit," he said, setting both down.
Hamako Akita took a sip from the glass. Closing her eyes as she set it down, she sighed. Akita was an agent, one of Stall's clandestine operatives, and she was here for debriefing. This was more than a little uncomfortable. Hamako had been planted in the Jovian System. Initially, she had been one of many. As far as anyone within the Ministry of Peace knew, however, she was the only one left alive. There is, to be sure, a great deal of surprise.
"So," Stall began, "you have to admit that this is a little strange."
"Mmmm," she answered, reaching for the coffee but thinking better when she touched the mug. "You mean because I wasn't willing to die, like the rest of them?"
"To put it bluntly, yeah. Every other agent was somehow ferreted out and put to death. We lose track of you for months, and then you just suddenly turn up. Honestly, Hamako, you don't find that just a little strange?"
"Are you kidding me?" She slapped the table angrily. "They did find me out! That's right, more sold out than discovered. Never found out who did it, though. The security officer who was hauling me in, he was planning on telling me the deal. Overconfident bastard. Can you believe that he started a monologue? We might as well have been in an old, predictable spy movie."
She shook her head in frustration. Draining the rest of the water, she tossed the glass away; it shattered in the corner.
"Way too overconfident. He hadn't even bothered to cuff me yet. Pinned me down and started gloating. He was big, I'll give him that. Beat me up something vicious. Left me just enough of an opening, though, while he was giving his little victory speech. Incidentally, you have no idea how hard it is to run through a space station with a concussion."
"No," Hopkins admitted, "I'm not particularly familiar with the sensation."
"Yeah, kind of tough," she admitted. "Managed to get myself on board a Mars-bound freighter and hole away at the back of a supply room for the take-off. Wedged myself into an apparently little-used supply closet at the lowest levels for the duration of the flight."
"How do you know it was so little used?"
"Well, I passed out for a while, and no one actually dragged me out. You know, this is all in the official reports. Actually, there's a lot more detail in the Deimos." She arched an eyebrow. "Are you just trying to catch me in a lie? That's not going to happen, sir. The truth is the truth. What's the point in lying about it? We failed to stop the revolution. Are you going to punish me for making it back alive?"
"No," he shook his head, "of course not. I head from Airmont Baldwin when they realized you'd arrived in Mingus. You might want to know that the Mayor told me he'd been aware of your presence on Mars two days before you officially reported to him."
"Check the reports. Mingus wasn't even my first stop on Mars. I started dropping hints that I was around when I figured out that no one had followed me. Wouldn't do to make it all that way and get caught. There were so many traitors in the Jovian System; it was hard to know who to trust. Mayor Baldwin turned out to be on our side, so I went to him to get me to Deimos. If it looked like he was turning coat, I was going to head to Lincoln City next."
"At least it sounds like we don't have too much to worry about on Mars." Hopkins forced a grin. "Maybe that's one of the chinks in the armor. The Jovian rebels won't get too much support outside of their own system."
"Jovian Free League, sir. They're more than rebels now."
"No," he slapped the table, "they aren't. We don't recognize them as anything but terrorists and rebels. Not the Olympus Union, not the Ministry of Peace, and definitely not me and my team. That means you, too."
Hamako shrugged. As she explained to him, the Jovian movement was for real; their leadership was sound. Hopkins might be her boss, but that was no reason for her to accept his word as gospel. The man hadn't seen what she'd seen. Agent Akita was experienced, and held her emotions in check when fellow agents - friends - turned up dead. She'd gotten out when others were caught and beaten for information. Hopkins knew nothing, and if her word wasn't good enough, that was his problem. This wasn't going away, and wouldn't be stomped out like the Earth side uprisings.
"They don't even need to recruit anymore. People are just volunteering to be a part of the cause."
"So they've got people offering to lend a hand. How much good could that do them?"
"New soldiers are coming into training every day. They've got some defectors from the original security forces drilling them. This isn't a collection of refuse cobbled together into a militia. The JFL soldiers are really soldiers. Come in skinny, build into muscle. Come in pudgy, slim down be made lean. Honestly, these people are manufacturing fighters."
Stall Hopkins sat silently for a while. Absently, he drummed his fingers on the glass that he'd pulled close. Lifting it, he stopped his arm several inches off the table. Water sloshed inside but never spilled. Just as oblivious, he put it back down, a clink as glass bottom touched table top. Hamako had no idea what Hopkins was thinking. Unwilling to cause more trouble for herself, she just kept quiet. After the debriefing was finished, she planned to request a leave of absence, and eventually parlay that into a resignation from active duty. Cooperation was the only logical course of action for today.
"How do we win?"
"Win?" The question took her somewhat by surprise. Stall Hopkins had a reputation for asking overly detailed questions, horribly personal questions, and making suggestions that were unbelievable rude or unacceptable. Never once had he asked her something so vague. "Win what?"
"I want that system back. Not just one space station. Not just one moon. Not just retaking the Ganymede initiative. I want it all back, and I want it as soon as possible. How do we make that happen? You were there for information. Give me some."
The agent sat quietly. She wasn't sure that she had what he was looking for. Minister of Peace Anat Meron could walk in and demand the same information, but it might not exist. At least, not from what Agent Akita had seen. There was no way that the Olympus Union could defeat the Jovian Free League as an ideal. There was no conceivable way to bring those citizens back under the thumb of Jones Oden. That was when the answer came to her.
"If you want win back the system," she started, and then hesitated. He looked at her more intently than ever before. "You're just going to have to kill everyone. Every last one of them."
"They don't have that many soldiers. If we had to kill them all, it would take time," he shrugged, "but we could actually do that. Faster is better but I suppose that'll do."
"Ah, no," she saw that he'd not quite understood. "I wasn't saying that you need to kill all the soldiers. Yes, absolutely, you'll need to do that too. It's than just the people with the guns."
"Well, sure," Hopkins actually chuckled. "We'll take out the pilots, the support staff and the leadership, too. Martell Andrews might be required a trial, but if we had to put him down to end this thing, then we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
She rubbed her eyes. This man was supposed to be bright. Why was his suddenly so blind? No one could be this thick headed in the face of presented information. Hamako would have to be absolutely blunt. There could be no mistake.
"Not just Andrews. You'd need to actually put down everyone. All of them. Men, women, children. Every last Jovian citizen."
Hopkins leapt up from his chair. After all this time, it shouldn't have startled her, but the movement set her jump back out of her own. At least her reflexes were still sharp.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"These people are for real. The Jovians aren't just following Andrews, or hiding behind the soldiers," she explained as calmly as possible. "Alpha Station threw its lot in whole heartedly. This isn't a case of a few sheep straying from the flock. I'll tell Minister Meron the same thing, if you need me to. Facts are facts. Jones Oden wants the Jovian System back? Better prepare to end the life of everyone not wearing an Olympus Union uniform."
"Revolution," he murmured, head bowed. "Actual revolution."
"Yeah," she nodded. "I'm not sure we can win this one."
Stall Hopkins looked up again. Meeting his agent’s eyes, he knew that she wasn't being facetious, or hyperbolic. Hamako Akita truly believed that the Jovians would win this one. He wasn't so sure that she was wrong.