Ghosts

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Chapter 15 – “Watchtowers”.

The journey took Angelo da Silva’s personal ship through five jumpgates towards the Black October region once more. Several jumps later, he burst through the final gate and inhabited the region for a second time.

A quick radar scan showed no nearby ships to concern him. He set his autopilot to move towards the BCX Mining Fields’ moon and read once again through the documentation he had been given by Zylinski, Valon and the agent, Alison Wessex. Once read he roamed back towards his private chambers to catch up on an hour or two of much needed sleep. Two hours later his alarm clock went off, and sluggishly Angelo pushed himself out of the bed, thankful that the ship had got this far without being attacked.

Moving back to the cockpit he switched off the autopilot and manually targeted one of the asteroid belts for what he trusted would be a swift visit. The belt seemed empty but Angelo piloted his craft through the belts setting off a mineral scanner on the huge asteroids. By the time he had reached the end of the belt, he knew this was not the asteroid belt he sought.

A second trip through another field revealed the same lack of information, dormant rocks, devoid of mineable minerals. A lifeless asteroid field that held little value to anyone, hence the region’s abandoned status. If it wasn’t for the Hollow Rocks asteroid field there would be little reason for any pilot to visit Black October.

With a tired yawn, he set off for the next asteroid cluster, three hundred kilometres away, the rocks looming irregularly large even in the distance. Upon swinging around the first giant asteroid the view beyond caught Angelo da Silva by surprise. Metal frameworks rose up out of an asteroid, the girders curving around the shells of ships being built.

Angelo slowed his ship to a sudden stop, reverse thrusters kicking in with force. Too busy looking through his window at the shipyards that circumnavigated around the giant rock, the pilot forgot to release the drones.

He activated his ship’s computer and analysed the status of the view in front of him. He could clearly see the ships were incomplete but zoomed in his view-screen at the dormant ships.
Worker drones swarmed about, attaching huge steel plates to the hulls, piece by piece building the ships. It looked like little human activity existed nearby but a small docking station had been built four hundred feet to the side of one of the ships, a station that although it seemed deserted may not have been.

Several minutes later, his curiosity diminished, he released the camera drones one by one. They buzzed off automatically, videoing the nearby shipyard. Angelo waited several minutes more, and then set back off towards the jumpgate, knowing his job had been done. Setting the autopilot back on once more he sat back on a couch to the rear of the cockpit and considered what he had seen.

Aboard Heart of Oak, its owner ambled around calmly within his personal chambers. As he walked and talked his ship’s comm’ screen was visible in front of him.

‘Are you seeing what I’m seeing?’

‘I am, Alison. It’s interesting. Exactly what the source told me – a shipyard.’

‘Do we know who owns the shipyard?’

‘Nope, it could be anybody, Alison.’

‘I assume not us?’

‘No, Alison, it’s not ours. I know that much.’ The man stopped moving, hit by a sudden thought. Alison Wessex waited for him to continue talking, seeing his distracted facial expression.

‘Have you heard from our pilot?’ he asked after the pause.

‘Not yet. We know that he has done his bit, the drones are up and running and the pictures are perfectly clear.’

‘The pictures are too clear for my liking.’

‘There is the possibility that his ship has been ambushed?’ The agent offered up with concern.

‘I cannot see that. He is well trained. The man is likely to find a way to escape. At a guess, a pilot like him will automatically drive for the gate, any damage would be limited enough to push through to the next region.’

‘And if he doesn’t make it?’

‘We can’t do much about it.’

Alison considered the response. ‘I agree. Let us be frank here, he knows the risks that we have put him in. It is likely the area is defended by some form of guards.’

‘It may be defended, yes, although the region is essentially empty of visitors and commercial interests. Very few people go there. Some still go to the other belts.’

‘Yes, but consider the fact that as the other unwanted belts suddenly were seen to have highly marketable minerals, companies would certainly scout for other rocks of new value within nearby areas.’

‘I am aware of that, Alison.’

‘CEOL must have checked it out.’

‘I do believe that has been done.’

‘And?’

‘And what?’ The pilot clicked on a command screen that rested against a steel wall.

‘I see our work is going well?’ The man changed the subject sensing a change was needed.

‘Yes. We have our best staff on it. We recruited some excellent scientists. The engineers too have settled in well. Losing that station was not the set-back we feared, however the cost of life was traumatic.’

‘They were avenged,’ the man replied with deep sadness.

‘What more could you do?’ Alison Wessex stated solemnly.

‘I wanted more.’ Marco Koivu scowled grimly as flashbacks of the incident appeared in his mind. ‘I wanted more,’ he repeated solemnly.

‘This region has seen too many private and public stations being attacked recently. By the way, we have had reports of more CEOL hardware having been found on Dead ships.’

‘Yes. I have seen that.’

‘Any reaction?’ The man’s allusion of a lack of interest frustrated Alison Wessex.

‘That is the Dead. Until we know more, it’s hard to say more, Alison.’

‘Aren’t you curious?’

‘All will be revealed over time.’

‘You know more about this than you have told me,’ Alison Wessex decided aloud.

‘I do and I don’t. There is place and time for revelations. This isn’t one of them,’ the man said devoid of malice.

‘So, I need to wait?’

‘We all do. I cannot discuss how the CEOL hardware was to end up on the Dead fighters. Not yet.’

‘Patience is a virtue?’ Alison Wessex enquired dryly.

The man nodded back at her question.

‘So, should our pilot survive the return journey, what do you want him to do next?’

‘Oh, that is not such an easy question to answer.’

Pleased with causing the man some confusion rather than the other way around, Alison Wessex smiled.

‘You mean, do we go for the shipyard, Alison?’

‘Yes, take it down?’

‘Why not?’

‘It could be a military shipyard,’ Wessex offered up.

The man smiled.

‘Are you smiling because you think it might be military?’

‘No, Alison, I’m just smiling at your surprise at my previous statement.’

‘It might cause mayhem if we do destroy it. And, could he take it down alone, Marco?’

‘Even if he could, would he attack it?’

‘Not if he knew it might be a military establishment. In his heart he is still a military man.’

‘True. Luckily, it isn’t.’

‘How do you know?’

‘They are not so open to view, nor hidden in the stars. They are just manufactured under contract. It won’t be military.’

‘So we’re sending him in?’

‘As I said, I’m not too sure. I have another mission for someone. It just depends on whether we need that shipyard to be controlled or not.’

The strength of the man’s words surprised Alison Wessex. ‘Controlled?’

‘Control or neutralise the base for political reasons, yes.’

‘Ok. So, what do we do now?’

‘Leave it with me. I’ll have a think about it.’

‘The pilot should return eventually. Let me know.’

‘Of course, oh, and Alison, you’re help this far has been fantastic. I know that I’m not the easiest to work with. Heavy is the head that rules.’

Stars twinkled like diamonds in the blackness of space, their grace lost upon the approaching hunters who sought their kill unceremoniously; mercilessly aware of the strain they brought to their prey.

Freighters on their journey home from successful trade runs, distanced themselves from the hunters aware of what lay ahead, faces glistening with sweat, tormented by fear from deep within their hearts. The war cry dominated their thoughts and drove the dignified faith they held onto, inspired a passion to once more see their homes and loved-ones.

The war cry drilled through their optimism a further time, stealing the last dregs of spirit left within them. The words sounded out in their heads in slow motion, a slow motion nightmare.

‘We...are... Dead.’

Crushed spirits and thoughts soon to be lost in time occupied the pilots of the trade crafts. The freighters directed towards jumpgates, their pilots knew they would never make the jump, seeing a camp of pirate ships waiting front and behind them, a trap well set.

Soon the dividing distance would be gone, orbiting fighters swiftly justifying a demon reputation with demonic actions. Fire tore into the vessels as missiles landed, some killing their victims without pride - evil intentions appearing, and the apparition of the ghosts revealed to be the Devil’s own poltergeists.

Spinning around frantically, attempting to escape the inescapable, the brave freighters drowned in the assault, over-whelmed by the monstrous regime who struck with force, death their goal, finality for all, an end for one, for themselves. Little could reverse their evil desires. Little could understand their reasoning.

Torn asunder, shields, armour and finally hulls breached, the once humble but proud metal-works fell to the same fate as those others lost to the demons’ piracy, doomed to be numbers, statistics to all those who were not family.

The devils ghosted away leaving behind the as yet unknown torment of others, the loving loyal to those no longer left alive in the system.

Amir Rai clicked several buttons, stopping the recording of Lynette de Cesare. He frowned, taking in her news-story, contemplating her words.

Lynette de Cesare already knew he would disagree with her angle on the story, more so her aggressive stance on the subject matter. Lynette denied herself any further consideration of her stance, stubbornly deciding that it was her decision and her story to tell. The silence aboard the ship was broken by Amir, and his words were what she expected.

‘People are going to be mighty pissed once this comes out. You know it.’

‘Of course, Amir, it is our job to report it. I don’t care about who gets hurt. The story will be released. Scandals are scandals. The fools involved drove themselves to the point of no return.’

‘Neither mercy nor compassion?’ Amir queried.

‘In this job? Never. Why? Do the Government show any for anyone else? The report will go out to HQ. Let them decide if they have compassion. I have none. Not for those pricks. Amir, edit it as usual, send it over and stop sweating on it. It’s my responsibility not yours.’

‘Ah, but should I not worry about whether my wage-payer is heading for disaster?’

‘Of course you should. Remember though, that we are all heading for disaster. You, me, Poole, Valon, Balev and those sports stars you worship, all of us, a disaster will hit us all someday.’

‘Nice reassuring job you just gave me, a wonderful pep talk. Also, I don’t worship them. I’m just a fan.’

‘With sport, there is no difference before a fan and a worshipper. Fools with money and fools that follow the money.’

‘You once told me to follow the money.’

‘Yes, but that was regarding Georgi Balev. And on that subject, what did you find, Amir? Anything usable?’

‘Lynette, the man is a black hole. Any news on him is what we know. He makes money from CEOL, which is all any of us know.’

‘But, it is not the truth, is it? I have said it before, CEOL started with big money and no knowledge of where it came from. It came from somewhere and people are sick of speculation and no facts. We need facts. Keep looking. I do not care where you look. I do not care for how you find it. Just find the facts, find the truth. Once this political scandal is over, I swear to all the stars in space, I am going to cause a shit-storm out there, a new scandal, one involving a certain Mr Georgi Balev.’

‘What did you have against him? Have you two dated?’ joked Amir.

‘Oh, God, no. And, can’t a journalist look for stories without it being personal?’

‘Yes, or course, Lynette. But you and Balev is personal. You don’t need to say it. It’s easy to read,’ Amir spoke the words, knowing that somewhere within his employer’s mind a white line was being drawn. Whether he had just over-stepped it with his journalistic curiosity remained a mystery still. The response from Lynette de Cesare was short, polite and showed neither malice nor boredom, but more an employer’s desire to get work done when people sat idle.

‘Send the story, Amir, and get back to Balev.’

‘Commander Zylinski. Have you seen the footage yet?’ Angelo da Silva enquired confident that the answer would be a resounding “yes”.

‘Angelo, are you sure it’s not a fake? That construction yard is truly out there?’

‘Yes, I filmed it myself.’

‘So, we have an unnamed, unguarded shipyard, building unnamed ships for an unnamed consumer?’

‘Yes. And they aren’t civilian nor trade vessels. What we have there are fighter ships. Difficult to tell just yet but some of the larger sections seem to be battleships being built. I would call it soldier’s intuition, Commander.’

‘I would agree. If it’s warships, we are not looking at military ones? I’ve not ordered nor been told of any new Henry Poole ordered ship replacements nor additions. I would be told, of course. So, pirates? Copperhead?’

‘That’s not going to be a legit company or someone such a Copperhead, clear as daylight. Pirates? Maybe? A few ships do not make a war-fleet. I’d consider them Neon One or similar.’

‘Dead? No, they just use the rewards of war, the occasional stolen or evacuated craft left a-floating. So, Neon One would be my guess,’ declared Zylinski.

‘If you’re right then they may be a bigger threat than we consider, Commander.’

‘The statistics of our war-zone prove they are enough of a threat.’

‘They prove that the attacks do not have Neon One traits to them. But who is it that records the traits of the attacks? Those who died? It’s easy to base decisions on facts, Commander, but we both know how those facts can be easily manipulated to an agenda.’

‘Always cynical, Angelo.’

‘I am not going to change much, Commander. I have been taught cynicism by life.’

‘Who taught you your excellence?’ Joked Zylinski.

‘That shit’s self-taught!’ Angelo da Silva replied back cockily.

‘I wonder then, who does own those ship yards? Has your agent asked you to investigate it further?’

‘No, Commander. I assume they will do? That would make sense. Follow a covert ops mission with a more detailed covert ops mission.’

‘Or a “destroy the enemy” mission.’

‘You’re assuming I’d do it?’

‘True. So, what is the story then, I wonder. We need to watch that sector. I might send my own intel scouts out there.’

‘Once I have completed my own missions? We can’t lose this contact. Too many cooks in the kitchen might cause problems.’

‘Yes, of course, Angelo. The priority is the Dead.’

‘What if they were the Dead?’

‘Then we have huge problems. If they are building, then they are becoming more organised.’

‘Neon One?’

‘Neon One? Oh, you’re thinking that they are acting together, an alliance, brute force merging with raw intelligence? I pray that you’re wrong. The last thing we need is that.’

‘How is Faith now, Commander?’

‘It’s up and running. Damage done has been undone, or is slowly being restored. Weeks are needed, even this long after the attack. The base is ok. Scars will not heal, for the people, and the metal. The metal we can repair but we as people we will remember for a long time, and collectively we bear the scars of the metal. We, the people, we are the station, the lifeblood that flows through the metal.’

‘How are your pilots?’

‘Ah, wounds healed, mostly, but some bear the same scars as you and I. We don’t forget who caused them. Some see it all in the right manner. Soldiers fight, soldiers get hurt. I suppose it’s the circle of life for soldiers. Others bear the anger that you hold, that I held, that so many warriors greet daily, a need for revenge.’

‘I bear no revenge desire.’

‘You don’t? Not even towards the Dead?’

‘I bear a peace desire. They just get in the way of peace.’

‘How very serene of you, Angelo. How’s that going, all good, I expect?’ Zylinski found amusement in the man’s comments, finding a release for his own pent-up stress.

‘You jest, but, left to their devises the Dead would be even worse.’

‘They’re getting worse. We both know of that. This station and its people… I have got a station full of people who fear the worst. Not just the Dead attacking in space but now, their homes, their sanctuary. If they cannot feel safe here, then I personally have failed. I will not allow that. It’s my duty, more so my own desire.’

Both men sat quiet for several seconds until the Commander broke the silence.

‘A right pair of care-bear peacekeepers we are,’ he stated calmly.

‘Yer, but in bringing peace I get to cause mayhem. It might not be the most Zen-like method, but taking the scum down brings peace.’

‘In the short-term, there are always more scum to replace them, bolder, braver, and tougher.’

‘Yer, but still with a more limited life-span, the technology we have now is a double-edged sword for us and them. We can blow them up so fast that the more they get in range the shorter their lives will be. Will they keep doing it if their insane, warped sense of fun is limited compared to now? Also, our technology gets better, our networks are getting betting, our scanning range gets better. How long can they hide? Look at that unnamed faction’s shipyard, lost in space. We find them more now than ever. We are heading for a war. But after that will come peace.’

‘Are you sure of that outcome? I’m not so sure I can use that statement if the media call on me.’

‘Commander, we both can see the path they are leading us down.’

‘You never know, war might be avoided. That’s my plan at least. If we can get to the Dead first, we can stop a war, if the Dead are even interested in one. A war would involve planning, strategy, and a realistic drive to go to war. I’m not sure they are doing that. Maybe they are just chaotic, evil and becoming more chaotic, the evolution of a corrupted mind? Listen, Angelo, I have to meet up with Henry Poole. It’ll be fun as usual in a non-fun sort of way. I’ll have to go. Fly safe, Angelo. And, don’t go starting a war.’

Drake Black brought his ship back into sight of the Copperhead Space Station. Dialling down his thrusters the ship shuttled slowly towards the docking bay, an empty cargo hold emphasising that he was on the return leg of his successful journey.

‘Docking permission, please, command-control,’ Drake requested casually. He further added his ship ID before he received a response.

‘Negative, Junior says you have to stay out for a while.’

‘Did Junior say that?’

‘Affirmative, well not directly aimed at you but his orders count you.’

‘Are you kidding me, command?’

‘Negative. The bays are still being cleaned. We had a spill in docking bay five. That’s the only free bay for the moment, Drake. In a few moments we should have a craft leave bay three.’

‘Seriously?’

‘You know how stern Junior is, would I mess you about?’

‘I bet Junior is pissed.’

‘Just a little, we have all kept a low profile since but chemical spills in a docking bay take ages to clear.’

‘Yes, and on our busiest period of the week...’

‘Drake, Junior mad, Junior real mad.’

‘Not at me though.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘No!’ joked back Drake Black.

‘So, was it pilot or engineer error?’

‘Both blame each other. It looks to me like the craft was damaged in flight escaping a blockade. Not checked out until they landed…’

‘Sounds like pilot error then.’

‘He’s lucky to be alive if it’s leaked prior to docking.’

‘The pilot, Grimsby by the way, says it must have happened when the ship touched down indoors. The mechanics are looking into it.’

‘I’d laugh, but that might make me laugh even more when I see how pissed Junior is.’

‘Do the laughing now, out in space where nobody can hear you giggle, as you can now dock in bay three, and the laughter stops.’

‘I’ll cheer Junior up.’

‘You haven’t seen his face. Just get docked up.’

Drake pulled his ship around and drifted it into the docking bay. Junior was waiting for him as he departed his ship.

‘My office, A.S.A.P.’

‘It was only a chemical spill.’

‘Forget the spill. Get showered, changed, in my office in ten minutes. No screwing about.’ The strict face of Junior made Drake reconsider any further remarks.

‘Drake, this is some footage we have had sent over. The objects in question are CEOL hardware. The ships in question are Dead. The hardware is state-of-the-art, unreleased technology,’ Junior clicked a video player into action. Drake watched on as the video showed an object being connected to a ship’s computer.

‘What we know, Drake, is that the Dead are scaring the crap out of anyone and everyone whilst targeting using CEOL’s latest prototype. We have got hold of one of these and are reverse-engineering it. Most of all, we have used it as you can see, and it’s pretty lethal. What concerns us is how the Dead got hold of it and what they will do with it. We also believe that it is not an isolated item, they have more of them.’

‘Wait, so they have gotten hold of CEOL tech? That must have been some theft. I bet the fleet battle was immense. There’s no way CEOL left a hauler alone carrying that tech.’

‘You’re assuming it’s stolen.’

‘No, no, no, you can’t be telling me that you guys think CEOL deliberately supplied the Dead with that tech. What would it gain them? The Dead would still take down CEOL.’

‘Yes, the Dead would attack CEOL, and everyone else. CEOL may only be interested in the latter. We’ve noticed that the cargo we obtain from CEOL is less valuable. Coincidence or not, it’s an anomaly worth remembering.’

‘Piracy is up, it’s no coincidence. They are being wise, sending out weaker stock when the heat is on.’

‘Maybe, they do seem to be putting fewer eggs in one basket, but H/Q think differently. He has told me that we’re releasing a news story.’

‘But, that’s just scare-mongering.’

‘Something CEOL knows well, themselves.’

‘Yes, but it’s not fair on the public.’

‘Drake, how can you say that? Is it not fair to tell the public that the Dead may have become super-enhanced freaks? They’re slowly becoming like Pamplona bulls on steroids. The tech I just showed you is one of many that we have got from destroyed Dead ships.’

‘This is a problem, isn’t it?’

‘Yes, it is. He is releasing the video to the news in the next half hour, hence me wanting to speak so urgently to you. If you have any reason, any logical reason why he shouldn’t, tell me now or we go live.’

‘It’s short notice to come up with anything, other than, the public reaction. Will this PR damage ourselves and lastly how will CEOL spin this back at us?’ Drake Black spit-balled back what answers he could think of, knowing that what he said would not make much difference to the outcome. He stayed looking at the video. Junior tidied up a stack of documents on his desk for several seconds.

‘All of your points have already been raised. We know CEOL; nothing will change with them and their own rhetoric. We know the public and they will forever be in a panic, they should be in a panic. We are not the aggressors here, the Dead are, possibly even CEOL. However they got hold of the stock, and he is going to state that CEOL provided it; the fact is they have it to use on anyone they attack. This is some pretty nasty weaponry upgrades.’ Silence soon filled the room.

‘Ok, no further discussion is needed. We go live in a while I suppose. Watch the videos; you will see why we are doing this. The research team’s reports, the engineering stats and all of the gritty details are on my desk. Work your way through them. We need to alert our team.’ Junior walked out of the room closing the door firmly behind him, and slowly walked out towards the docking bays, sniffing the air as he went.

‘What can go wrong does go wrong,’ he mumbled softly to himself.

‘We go live now to Lynette de Cesare at the Faith Space Station. Lynette, Henry Poole has come under a lot of fire recently, in particularly over his stance on the Anti-Piracy tax. With the election approaching closer and closer, and the corruption that has hit his party, how are the people viewing Poole?’

‘Right now, he’s certainly not the favourite to win the election. Recent public polls indicate a seventy-thirty split against him, in favour of Benedict Valon. It’s not something that Poole has publicly commented on but it is no doubt a concern to his political party. It does feel like he is fighting a losing battle, and it’s starting to show.’

‘We heard from you recently on how several of his aides have fallen to corruption. We named unannounced names and revealed exactly what they have been accused of. How has this affected Poole?’

‘The people are calling it “The scandal that keeps on giving,” and that sums up Poole’s position. The more the scandal keeps “giving”, the more problems it gives him directly.’

‘Do we have any proof linking Henry Poole, the Prime Minister to these scandals?’

‘There is no proof nor belief that Poole himself has been involved with any of the corruption, which started, as we know, when certain large corporations, including Georgi Balev’s CEOL, were revealed to have paid for contracts prior to public auctions, sometimes without the usual publicly-open auctions even happening. The dishonesty has become more widespread than that and now encompasses far more.’

‘Has Poole responded any further on his previous statements?’

‘Poole, of course denies any knowledge, expressing shock at the circumstances, but the public cannot believe that he could not see the wood for the trees. Poole has vehemently denied that the issue is an epidemic and that the problem is as widespread as the media is stating.’

‘This is of course, Lynette, on top of other issues, the miners’ protests, the rise in Dead attacks, the piracy group Neon One, who earlier today released a video which is damning of CEOL, and of course Prime Minister Poole’s own connection, a friendship even, with Georgi Balev, a friendship that has often been brought up by political rival Benedict Valon, who at present looks favourite, surely to win the election.’

‘Yes, the favourite is Benedict Valon, who is seen by some as the cleanest man in politics, a man who can back up his honour by the military background he had, a man who is driven against the pirates by a common bond with those others who have suffered at their hands.’

‘Does Henry Poole acknowledge the challenge he faces?’

‘Poole has not admitted that he is, potentially based on recent surveys, losing the election, nor would we expect him to. Poole was always going to be up against a strong opponent, but the scandal has made his job far worse. Poole himself has argued that the responsibilities of politics would have had the same temptations no matter who was in power and doubted the honour of the rival parties, stating that “when money is offered, it is only the richest man that walks away”, referring to his own belief that Valon’s own party would have succumbed to the same temptations. Of course, at no point had he admitted any liability of his staff as the cases are still ongoing.’

‘Some may say that “the richest” may not just refer to finances. Valon did not react nor reply to that accusation. Why was that?’

‘Nobody knows, maybe because it could be true and therefore not worthwhile fighting fire with fire. By arguing the case, Valon furthers Poole’s agenda, to label all parties as vulnerable. Even if by human nature it were to be true, politics demands a denial. Valon’s lack of response, of gamesmanship, is that denial.’

‘The election is only weeks away and Poole must have a trick up his sleeve. What do you think he is planning?’

‘One would assume that corporate votes, i.e. votes made by employees of large conglomerates such as CEOL and Aurora Holdings PLC, will strengthen his position. It is widely believed, in particular with CEOL that Poole and Balev’s propaganda against the Anti-Piracy Tax will play its part in swinging the vote in Poole’s favour. How much it will affect it is still open, but Balev is convinced that the tax may cause redundancies which will draw fear from his employees. Who wouldn’t consider their vote if they feared a loss of job?’

‘Is that not fear-mongering, Lynette?’

‘Some say so, but it would be justified should the election go against Poole. Upon implementation of the tax, CEOL may have to decide to let people leave for other employment to fund their tax expense. The fear-mongering would then become a truth, an ugly truth, but a truth Georgi Balev amongst others warned of in advance.’

‘A self-fulfilling prophecy. Lynette, with regards to the Piracy and Balev, the Neon One video was damning, accusing CEOL of working with the Dead in order to further an unknown agenda. Poole and Balev have both reacted angrily, calling it, “nonsense” and “slanderous”. As Neon One is considered a terrorist group, a pirate faction, such slander cannot really be stopped, however the video has been confirmed as factual, and the ships involved proven to be similar to those used by the Dead. Further to that CEOL have admitted that the technology used are their proto-types, claiming that it is just one of many technological advances that their thousand strong Research and Development department are working on. Balev refused to state how advanced the hardware is in its development cycle.’

‘We have all been advised that this has now become a Military Police issue. How has this been received by CEOL?’

‘Balev has said he will happily and enthusiastically work with the authorities in order to bring peace to this situation and in the wider piracy war. He has not commented on how the Dead got hold of the technology but at this point there are no Police considerations in place to say that CEOL have given the Dead the hardware. It is widely believed that this is just an embarrassing security breach for CEOL.’

‘All of this impacts on Henry Poole, doesn’t it?’

‘Yes, the only winner out of this, one could say cynically, is Benedict Valon and his party. The stronger the piracy agenda gets, the pirate factions get, the more the Anti-Piracy Tax becomes relevant. Poole has accused Valon of furthering the agenda within the media, deflecting from his own weaknesses in order to enhance his chances of election. However, this is undermined by the actions of the world around Poole, his connections to universal corporations, CEOL’s problems, the piracy increases, and most of all his own political parties’ actions. Right now, Poole needs a miracle. I personally cannot foresee it happening.’

‘Lynette de Cesare, thanks for your time, today.’

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