Pariahs and Peacemakers

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Ten

The conference went as grimly as expected. The High Senate knew of his deception but the consequences of his actions were yet to be seen. Thanks to construct R051E they now knew that the project that had gone missing was of the biological weapon variety and that a long since exiled race that had once been at war with the senate was behind the attacks. They were known as the Votheen but other than that they knew very little. The alien AI hadn’t exactly been forthcoming. The Votheen were thought to be under quarantine so finding them moving freely and with increasing hostility on the edge of uncharted space was extremely concerning. The Caliterrian Guardian they’d picked up hadn’t exactly been a welcome guest. Jarner had hit him with a stun round once they’d all recovered from the crash. He was to be considered hostile until proven otherwise and the Human Senator agreed with that assessment. They had been recalled to Engevaal which worried Shayara as she’d likely be arrested on sight for treason. Nevertheless the Senate would have to thank the Pariah for unveiling the threat. Without help the Caliterrian would never have gotten off of that station alive and without help she wouldn’t have either which is why she took the time to check in on Isaac. He’d been in with Doctor Crow for quite a while and with his wounds treated he seemed to be in a rather well and chipper mood given the circumstances. “Surviving, are we?” Shayara smiled broadly pleased he was on the mend.

“I feel better than I look if that’s what you mean and a damn sight better than the rest of my crew.” He winked with his one good eye, the other obscured by the bandages across his face.

“Oh, I’m sorry, poor choice of words.” She blushed.

“Not at all. We were a ragtag team pulled from every corner of the galaxy. Not even met them before a few days back but it still burns to lose guys in the field. At least we know what’s out there now though, ay?” he summarised optimistically.

“So that’s that?”

“Yup and we live to fight another day.” He grinned from ear to ear but flinched not long after as James patted his shoulder forgetting about the damaged skin tissue underneath.

“Maybe wait a few weeks before you throw yourself back into the fire, yeah? Pun intended.” He removed his hand but the residual burning sensation lingered for a while longer.

He may have been on the most important posting on the planet, yet Tobias Harley still found chance to watch the local news vids on the tablet he stashed in a discreet compartment beneath his chest plate. He unfolded the display to size but he needn’t have bothered. The outlook hadn’t changed for the past week. People were rioting, the mystery infection was spreading and X amount of people had died since the last time they’d told you the number. Scientists were stumped and had reached out to the best minds at Indatech to help them determine what in the Sunlight booster hampered the virus in the hopes of engineering a cure. The infection’s origin could wait for now. “The rioters are moving along the high street, on their way to the Governor’s building for a mass protest at noon.” Tobias regurgitated the reporter’s spiel to his nearby spotter who waved off the smoky haze that had just been expunged from his nostrils not a moment ago. He shrugged. “I assume we’ve got enough people on street level to deal with it and if not we can manage crowd control.” Shane Dyer brushed off very matter-of-factly. Shane was a career officer who Tobias guessed probably got beat up a lot in school and decided to become a copper to get back at the world. He’d also probably had a white pedal car with flashing lights on the roof when he was small and got beaten on for stopping kids older than he was.

“Aren’t we busy? If I’d have known you’d rushed me to watch TV I’d have brought snack,” quipped Amy Mason as she entered the Neo-City Bank’s top floor office block that they’d requisitioned as a sniper’s nest. Tobias’s eyes didn’t leave the screen but he acknowledged her presence with a simple nod and by informing her that, “There’s nothing good on.” When he finally did look in her direction he noticed something was off. She was smiling which in its own right was peculiar but that wasn’t it. Amy was a good friend but a little bit of an unknown. She always had been. She had never had children, had never married, had never had a boyfriend from what Tobias knew. She wasn’t bad looking, in fact she was rather cute with her expressive eyes, freckles and auburn hair. However she was ripped and a bit of a tomboy which he guessed put a lot of guys off. Hell, she could break most guys. He would never voice any of these opinions however. He included himself in the count of guys he assumed she could kick the ass of. “We expecting any trouble?” she asked curiously.

“We’re always expecting trouble,” Shane offered with a chuckle.

“A demonstration is planned in an hour’s time. We’re on overwatch. Whether we have the man power to repel it or not we’ll have to wait and see,” Tobias informed glumly. “Word is that the resistance are going to try and kill the Governor.” The trio sat for half an hour before anything even passed through. A convoy of armoured vehicles rolled up a street that was supposed to be well guarded. Tobias zoomed in, “Are we expecting company?”

“Don’t think so,” Shane admitted as he checked the scanners. “Oh no, hold up. They’re back up for the protest apparently.” A fact confirmed as uniforms funnelled out when they rolled to a stop. ACPD Blue, Amy’s unit, was to cover the main square and the Governor’s building while inside ACPD Red gave Governor Darren Kennedy close protection while civil unrest stirred. The support moved around the well-known statue of colonialism on their way to the Governor’s building. The statue was of a female cradling Earth and a male holding Atlas aloft, remembering the origins of humanity while at the same time celebrating Atlantan identity. “I don’t recognise any of these guys,” said Tobias curiously as he surveyed the scene through a telescopic scope. “Think I see a black beret.”

“Cross reference their ID tag. Probably special branch but it would be nice to know,” Amy noted just as Tobias pulled the trigger which ripped the head off the commander from half way up her torso. That’s when several of the officers began to shoot at their comrades and dart in all directions. The saboteurs looked to outnumber the genuine officers by quite a lot. “No need to, boss, she had your tags.” This was a tactic rarely employed by the resistance as it was so hard to get in behind enemy lines. They had a huge issue now though, there was no telling who was who and how many officer positions had been compromised. For all they knew the Governor could be already dead.

She’d seen the convoy arrive on scene and was initially pleased for the ground zero support. Jordan Brooker, the last member of ACPD Blue, had originally protested against her front door posting but she’d lost fair and square rock paper scissor style. It was astounding how many decisions were sorted that way in a professional environment. The vulnerability of being at street level wasn’t the worst of it, the two jarhead’s she’d been put with were from the Human Confederate Army Corps and were a few planks short of a treehouse. She guessed they’d travelled to Atlas via the twentieth century as they seemed to have a particular problem being posted with a female. They’d already insulted her numerous times the most recent of which asking if she needed help carrying her heavy weapon. She hadn’t bitten yet but she would and it would be immensely painful for all involved. So they stood in silence, waiting for something interesting to happen. One of the sexist soldiers, who she’d named Blank and Grumpy respectively, moved to greet the commander on site as the trucks rolled up. He was suddenly showered by goo and brain matter as her head disintegrated. That’s when the disposed’s partner sunk two into Blank’s chest at point blank range without hesitation. Grumpy had relaxed, wrongly assumed that they were friendlies and paid the price. Jordan managed to raise her rifle but a shot hit her left shoulder, spinning her around wildly and which caused her burst to chip away at the building’s stonework and shattering a ground floor window. She didn’t have time to worry whether she’d injured anyone accidentally as another round hit her spine and sent her bound for the ground. She looked up, too crippled and pumped to fear her would be killer’s gun barrel pointed at her face. The shot never came as his head exploded in a palette of reds and purples. Jordan allowed one last smile as she drifted off listening to the fifty caliber responses of her friends too far away to help.

Eric Cooper checked his watch that Governor Kennedy, his boss, had given him one birthday too long ago to remember exactly. All hell broke loose on time as expected. He stepped back to allow the bodyguards to funnel outside to confront the blood thirsty horde. Of course the resistance fighters outside were bound to fail but they hadn't known that when they signed up. They served a purpose quite nicely as a distraction. They’d either be dead or incarcerated within the next hour but that didn’t even make his conscience flinch. The rebellion or the resistance or whatever the greater public wished to label them was greatly misunderstood, yet it was gaining support slowly with some high profile individuals wanting change. That’s what they were going to give the people of Atlas. Dispatch the selfish leader who cared more for his own safety than that of the people and then once the people’s champions were in control they would bring to them a cure for the Shade virus. It was an ambitious but glorious dream and yet Eric was sure it would be so. He slipped into the office of Darren Kennedy. He had his back turned to the door, hunched over his desk. Seeing no other presence Eric withdrew a small concealed sidearm from his sleeve. He unloaded three rounds into the back of the oversized coward but all dreams of salvation evaporated as they were absorbed by an energy field. The Governor’s assistant felt what he assumed to be the butt of a rifle strike the back of his head. The Red team leader he had been sure had vacated the building stood over him weapon in hand like a club. “Far too predictable, Mr Cooper.” With that a boot hit his temple. Eric’s last coherent thought was that of fury. He’d been a pawn no matter how well he thought he’d planned.



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