Pariahs and Peacemakers

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Twelve

Now Alexander had an idea of the motivation for the attacks and the name of the perpetrators he sort of knew what he was looking for. He’d sent Greaves through the archives once more, a risky endeavour judging that rumours were circling about reprimands. Wilhelm wanted to know more about operation Dark Aurora. Now he knew there was at one time a military campaign against the Votheen, it could be of relevance. That’s when the power died. Greaves materialised for a moment but vanished as if gasping for air. Something was wrong. He also couldn’t raise his PA which was a system that should have functioned on emergency power if this was indeed a power cut. He got up from his desk and moved through his office to the door. No response from that either. A scream gripped the frozen silence thanks to the also unresponsive climate control system as the Senator recoiled. He vaulted over his desk withdrawing his Predator sidearm which had been strapped beneath one of the drawers of his desk. He held a shaky aim at the door as it crept open. A group of special branch Senate Security soldiers entered as their laser sights trained on him. The leader, a Caliterrian unsurprisingly, moved forward with a pistol trained on the Senator’s head. “High Senator Alexander Wilhelm, you are under arrest by authority of Forerunner Sha’Ni.” Alexander threw his weapon to the ground and stood allowing himself to be cuffed.

“And here I was thinking this was a democracy.”

Jarner bolted upright in his bed covered in sweat. He’d not dreamt or thought about that period of his life for a long time. He’d tried not to. Slavery was not something he wished to remember. The graphic scenes he’d been exposed to over the last few days must have affected him more than he had thought. He lowered his head back to his pillow and took a deep blatant breath. He waited for his eyes to adjust to the lack of light before he attempted to traverse the obstacle course that was his living quarters. He reached the sink unscathed, dodging satchels and weapon parts, the lights around the mirror illuminated to his presence as he splashed water on his face from the motion sensitive taps. “Time and location,” he requested as the top right of the mirror displayed the relevant information. It was the early hours of the morning Galactic Standard Time and they were passing along a rarely used trade route notorious for its pirate activity. That fact was irrelevant as the Pariah was more than equipped to defend itself. Besides the route almost halved the travel time to Engevaal and time was a valuable commodity. The light around the mirror dimmed rapidly and the tap ran dry. “Oh. Okay then.” Jarner shrugged as he tried to move to the door but clattered a low hanging cupboard. “Son of a...”

Shayara had fallen asleep in the captain’s chair with her feet up on the controls hours ago. Her head was buried in her chest when she heard the soft breathing of someone next to her. “What is it, Jarner?”

“How the hell did you...”

“Light sleeper, so what’s up?” she asked as she yawned so wide her jaw clicked ever so slightly in anguish. That’s when she realised there was next to no illumination. The control panel was dead and she couldn’t hear the reassuring hum of the engine. “Where’s my power?”

“Not that light a sleeper then. R051E is unresponsive but we’re still breathing so take some heart in that. At least some systems are working.” Jarner smiled sympathetically and uneasily. Shayara started to drum into the controls using her holographic tool and raised a curious eyebrow. R051E had reported a corrupt data cluster in her logic array within the last few hours and appeared to be in her repair stage. The loss of power was likely to avoid complications by reducing the taxation on her systems. She should have warned Shayara about the unscheduled maintenance but she could forgive it, she didn’t yet know how deep the problem went. That’s when she spied the data stream which made electricity shoot across the hairs on the back of her neck like pylons. “Shit, whatever repairs R051E is doing has triggered our distress beacon!” Jarner’s eyes bulged from his face.

“Pirates will be all over us, we’re a sitting duck!” Shayara pivoted and rushed to the door almost knocking the Sarcurian off of his feet. “Pull the core, it might fry R051E but...scratch that...” Jarner trailed off as his eyes caught a glimpse of what was out there in space. Shayara stopped in her tracks and turned around slowly as her gut hit a dead spot. At first it looked like the stars were getting brighter. Then it looked like they had partners. At first came small cruisers and escorts. Then numerous frigates. Then something Shayara wished she hadn’t seen. Something she hadn’t seen in a long, long time. A capital ship the size of a dreadnought squeezed through the slip space rupture and even at this distance Shayara could tell it was on an intercept course. “Pirates?” asked the newly awoken James Crow as he stood in the hallway still in his boxer shorts.

“Worse,” conceded Shayara.



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