Pariahs and Peacemakers

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Eleven

The crew of the Senate Security frigate Ubiquitous Light relaxed in a plethora of ways at the back of the cargo hold that they’d retrofitted to be a type of communal area. Some gambled using a whole host of contraband, some congregated together to talk and listen to music and others just sat around recalling stories and boasted why their race was superior to the others. A sudden unnatural lull of silence swept across the group as most eyeballed their CO stood in the gap in the bulkhead. The last noise to taper off was that of a boozed up serviceman who bellowed loudly at a joke that was much less funny than he gave it credit for. Colonel Larik Kass never spoke a word as he took over exaggerated steps towards the upturned crate which served as the main gambling table. The only female at the table struggled to gulp her mouth full of alcohol down her rapidly drying throat before he arrived. Larik took no notice however and swiped an unopened bottle that was set down in front of her. He cracked it open on the crate’s edge and allowed it to swill in his mouth for longer than was natural. All eyes were on him and he didn’t wish to let the people down, he was a showman after all. “Colonel Kass to the bridge, Colonel Kass to the bridge,” buzzed the synthetic voice over the internal ship PA system. He placed the bottle downed amongst the scattered cards and dusted his hands off.

“Clean this up,” he said sternly with a blank face. “Now.” Without any other words leaving his mouth he vacated the cargo hold. Eyes followed him all the way to the door and activity exploded as soon as he crossed the threshold. He tended to have that effect on people.

On the way to the bridge, Larik soon regretted his theatrics. The beer he’d tried in the cargo hold he’d not inspected thoroughly enough. It was likely designed for Sarcurian physiology. It wouldn’t kill him like a Caliterrian beverage may have done but he’d certainly be having very uncomfortable stomach cramps for a few hours to come. The bridge was far more active than he had expected and far more so than it should have been. Alarm bells sounded. He slalomed passed runners and assistants who seemed to traverse the walkways as if using sonar, knowing just when to crisscross and intersect to avoid possible collisions. “Ah, Colonel Kass, what a pleasure,” welcomed Ship Master Rhean Vi’Ton not entirely sincerely. Larik was used to it. He usually got attitude from Caliterrians merely because he was Human. He didn’t generalise as he’d met plenty of helpful and friendly Caliterrians on his travels but it was difficult to shake off the perceptions of the norm. That was when he noticed that all the senior ship staff were present around the tactical display. “I thank you all for your promptness. We find ourselves in a troubling and uncomfortable position.” The Caliterrian then proceeded to explain the tier one data that had been streamed to the frigate from the High Senate. Information pertaining to a race long thought dead, myth or fairytale. “Why am I telling you this now? Our sensors have just picked up a cruiser matching the Votheen’s signature not one jump away from our position. Our orders are to intercept this ship and take it by force. We need to know where they came from. This race should be in quarantine. They are up to something and are believed to be in possession of a Shiva class bioweapon.” Everything went quiet, those not angered by the name Votheen had now grown very silent upon this revelation. Eyes grew wider with every sentence and jaws became victims of gravity. “It is believed they have already unleashed this upon the people of Atlas. If you are up on the news vids, the plague there has recently been analysed by Indatech scientists and although the public are not yet aware of it, it does share many similarities to their stolen property. Talks are currently underway for a planet wide quarantine to prevent its spread. There may be a cure on board and you should consider this one of the primary objectives.” He shifted his gaze to Larik who didn’t catch it until a few seconds had passed, he was still in the process of digesting all this new and frightening information. “Are your men up to the task, Colonel?”

“Yes sir.” A spontaneous reaction that leapt from his face far quicker than he could suppress it. At that moment he couldn’t have even begun to realise what he’d signed himself up for.

The factory district on the outskirts of Atlas’s capital, Hansel, was the most run down region of the city since most products were now imported. The authorities tended to keep clear which allowed illegal sports like cage fighting and street racing to thrive. The Atlas Underground Liberation Movement also liked to exploit the free reign that was possible here. Many a body had been thrown into the disused factory furnaces. A large skycar touched down next to one of the smaller buildings which had probably been condemned a decade earlier. An opportunistic group moved toward the vehicle from the shadow of a side street but soon changed their minds as a pair of armed and thickset heavies yanked a beaten male out of the back seat by his hair. They proceeded to drag him an arm a piece across the dirt track to the entrance where they were cleared to enter the factory unit by a pair of eyes that peered skittishly out of the slit. Daniel Field attempted to take in his surroundings but couldn’t exactly see much passed his inflated face, his head slumped down and swayed at will. The inside of the dilapidated structure seemed more depressing than the outside. The floor grit had begun to scratch away at his exposed knees, it would have probably been unbearable had everything else not have hurt the same amount if not more. With his eyes out of action he tried to rely on other senses. The air had a stench of rot about it, likely age old processed food or a body, and it seemed the rain had found a way in as liquid could be heard dripping and slapping against the cold hard concrete like a makeshift metronome. Dan’s supports fell away which caused his weakened body to crumple onto the floor as his head hit the ground with a displeasing crack. He’d expected this since the hit on the Governor had failed but he had had no idea his punishment would be so severe. The tip of a cane probed his ribcage inquisitively. “Get up, you useless piece of shit.” It was a gruff voice and a voice Daniel had become very well acquainted with. He tried his hardest to support his weight on his hands and knees but everything shook. Leon Winter, a much older gentleman who had begun to go grey gracefully, was one of the most important politicians for humanity and had quite a senior seat in the Human Confederacy. What wasn’t common knowledge however was that Mr Winter was the brains behind the resistance movement. From his position he could influence a great number of people and Daniel knew all too well the extent he would go to protect his little secret. He wore a suit which likely cost as much as an average house and seemed to take great pleasure in lording over his beaten lackey. “You have no idea how much trouble you’ve caused, Danny.” He paced allowing Dan to see the source of the metronome. He couldn’t have been more wrong about the rainwater. The body of a young boy, eight years of age, hung by his feet by a chain from an exposed girder in the roof. A machete had been embedded into his skull which the blood ran down on its descent to the ground. It wasn't just any boy. It was Daniel’s boy. He had known nothing of his father’s shady profession. He thought Daddy was a banker in the city. The emotional turmoil almost floored him. It hurt far more than any physical pain ever could but he was determined not to shed a tear in front of the devil himself. “You son of a bitch...” He whimpered as his head touched the floor, he refused to look any longer on to what he’d caused.

A glancing blow impacted onto the back of his neck not that he felt it, punishment for the name-calling. “You and your back water Atlas bunch have seriously jeopardised an ongoing operation of ours and you’re going to fix it, Danny,” he demanded without implying he was asking. “I need Eric Cooper dealt with. He’s a weak link and you know as well as I he’ll talk if pushed. Being up for treason, murder and terrorism are all good motivators too.” He began to leave but Danny called out with hatred.

“He’s in custody what the fuck do you want me to do?”

“Be creative, Danny, work outside that box for once. For your wife’s sake,” Leon snipped as the lights gave out and Daniel was left with only the husk of his son for company. He now allowed the tears to flow freely. He solemnly decided he had to carry out the task or die trying but he would get even with the old bastard. He would rue the day he dared to harm Daniel’s family. He was going to tear down his world around him and Daniel’s poor boy would be avenged tenfold.


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