Pariahs and Peacemakers

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She eased into the seat opposite after rejecting any refreshments as per usual from Miss Chambers. She was agitated and fidgety, being grounded was the worst possible thing for Shayara. She had become a Conscript because she didn’t like staying in one place too long, she was an explorer at heart no different from any in history. She also had a sense of duty to finish what she had started. It stung that she had been relieved in favour of useless Senate trackers, when she could do their job in a fraction of the time. Still she remained cautiously optimistic, Alexander had called her for a reason and AI Greaves sounded like it was urgent so either she’d soon be on her way or this was a reprimand to teach her to leave well enough alone in the future.

Senator Wilhelm had whiskey again, she observed. It was surprising the guy wasn’t intoxicated more often as he didn’t exactly do half measurements. She guessed he must have worked up a huge tolerance to it over the years. “What do you think about this whole thing, Shayara?” he instigated, the captain was unsure whether he had an ulterior motive or not but nevertheless he’d get a straight answer regardless.

“Could be corporate espionage. The fact the Luminary can’t remember a thing is quite convenient but Doctor Crow assures me it is feasible judging on how unstable she was when she entered the stasis pod. I’ve just got a feeling there is more to this though.” The Senator grumbled approval as he stood up and moved to his window which allowed a penthouse view of the city scape of The Keep.

His desk surface rotated to reveal a holographic display which energised showing an unfamiliar star system and his assistant AI. “I agree, Captain, which is why I asked Greaves to sweep for any mention in the Senate archives of Aurora. We got a few hits.” He paused unsure on how to word it. “The most worrying of which is that Aurora could be a prototype weapon created by Shiva Branch of Indatech. You can imagine how serious this is if it’s true.”

“Fuck,” Shayara managed to breathe knowing full well the weapon’s potential if Shiva were involved.

“Show her, Greaves.” The star chart zoomed in to an unfamiliar system on the edge of uncharted space.

“Before I was hampered by the core AI, I managed to retrieve several small data streams pertaining to Aurora. After analysis we believe we have the location of the facility that worked on the project. Interestingly the status of the facility is irretrievable.”

“I fear it may have also been attacked by the same individuals that hit Hope’s Deliverance. I want you, Captain, to take the Pariah and investigate the site,” the Human Senator concluded.

“You’ve forgotten one very important factor, Wilhelm, I’m stuck here just like you.” The senator allowed a smug smile to cross his face but locked it down moments after it surfaced.

“The Senate has already allowed your departure. Humanitarian effort. Aiding in the evacuation of Atlas who are currently experiencing civil unrest and a pandemic. You have family there, no?” Shayara rose to greet Alexander’s outstretched hand and gave him a wry smile back as they clasped.

Vad Turso exited the Senate Security detention centre with a few more bruises than he had come in with, both physical and to his ego. After the interrogation in the stasis field with Colonel Larik Kass it had gotten physical with another officer. He was assured afterward that it was to ascertain whether he was telling the truth but he couldn’t help wonder whether they needed to work out the frustration of arresting the wrong man. A call from someone far above their heads had asked for Vad’s release but who he didn’t know. He had no friends in high places. Not to say however that the smuggler had gotten away scot free. With handling stolen goods and black market trading he’d been imposed a very heavy fine the like of which he couldn’t have dreamt of being able to pay. So for payment his ship had been confiscated. His main business asset and home was gone and he didn’t have more than a hundred credits to his name. It was either this or a maximum security slammer on an asteroid belt or a god forsaken moon somewhere and he knew that this was preferable, only just.

He found himself within the lower reaches of The Keep using whatever pocket shrapnel he had left to drown his sorrows. He downed his twelfth measurement before being escorted by The Keep enforcers out onto the streets of Engevaal’s capital Curalie via a rubbish chute. After a few unplanned winks in the heap at the bottom he wondered the streets still blind drunk until the early hours. It wasn’t like he had any place to be anyway.

Its active camouflage prevented a visual ID and its masked emissions and highly encrypted data streams made the Human stealth frigate You Can’t See Me nigh on invisible. Commander Isaac Jericho sat hunched in anticipation, going near uncharted space carried many risks and going against the Senate carried considerably more. It gave him a slight thrill. It felt good to know that the Human High Senator was not just a lapdog for the aliens. Isaac was by no means xenophobic but he worried like many that the crippling need to please the galactic community could inadvertently cause them to leave Human identity behind. Captain Kate Anders made her way toward the experienced soldier as she could tell recent events had troubled him. “Senator Wilhelm requested you personally and would like to express that he will take any repercussions handed out from this trip of ours,” she reassured.

“That’s not what bothers me, ma’am. I’m curious as to why I was hauled off of the front line against the extremists to be bottled onto a ship that doesn’t exist to a region of space that also doesn’t,” Isaac commented offhand. He gauged her reaction appropriately, he knew that she didn’t want to tell him but had to. After all what good was a fire team Commander out of the loop and down on morale? He needed information to do his job better and she was unwillingly going to give it. The pair paused their conversation for an extended period as two crewmen passed their position arms filled with paperwork that was destined to be filled with black censor bars and buried somewhere below sea level in a secure vault of deniable operations. “I’ll level with you, Isaac. We have a missing Shiva branch project and the facility that produced it has gone dark. We are heading into a lot of unknowns and I need the best.”

“The best available or the best of a bad bunch?” Isaac quipped as the Captain rolled her eyes.

“Something like that. Let’s just say your reputation precedes you. Do not disappoint.” She ended and with that she took a hard right up onto the bridge. Isaac stood in the hallway musing her last comment. He seemed to have that effect on people, especially superior officers. He knew it was because he’d on occasion ignored orders from command to achieve an objective. The gamble had always paid off and he was known to be the one you called on when you needed something done but brass still weren’t fond of him. The proximity alarm aboard sounded amongst his pondering. “All hands on deck,” blared Kate over the PA system.

“What the hell is this?” shot Shayara in a rather concerned tone that even she wasn’t prepared for. The giant crimson shield wall that confronted them beyond the view screen reminded Jarner of the shield domes back home on Nazzha and in all likelihood was probably based on the same technology. “Why would the Senate quarantine an entire region of space?” Before the crew could react the Pariah must have drifted within the activation range as multiple energy drones circled the ship. AI construct R051E was interrogated by multiple lower level AI programs demanding a Senate IFF and zone clearance. Construct R051E didn’t even prepare a response before they withdrew at weird angles that looked most bizarre on the sensors to Shayara. She couldn’t quite place it but they looked confused. “Sensor malfunction due to EMP strike, I assume the AI’s overloaded themselves.” R051E presumed much to the relief of the crew.

“Drones disorientated, Captain. The gap’s left us just enough room for us and the Pariah to make it through the cordon. With any luck the Senate and the Pariah will think it was just a software glitch.”

“Excellent.” Kate smiled.

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