Chapter 23: Dion1
This news lifted the people out of their depression the Murians created. Within hours there was a bussel of activity. Streets and houses were being cleaned. The refuse generated sent the SARC (Sewage and Recycling Center) into overdrive. As for myself, I paid little attention to the preparations. The Kargan leader might have been big stuff to everyone else (especially Larani and the others from Karga), but to me it was just another leader of a nation I held no loyalty to. Aside from myself and Rapid Fire, the UAA was the only thing I felt I owed any allegiance towards. Tammis even asked if I had a spare Night City weapon to present to the Emperor as a president.
"Tammis, a gift is suppose to be something from you. Not an item you mooched off a friend. Check with the techies here. They've been studying all the Earth gizmos brought over here since before I joined Rimfire. Look around you! The shops are full of people purchasing gifts for Korax. Join the crowd."
"Well what are you giving him?"
"Nothing. Why should I? He does not lead any nation I have visited. I haven't met him face to face and know what he is like."
Tammis was shocked at my uncaring and disrespectful attitude, "But he's royalty! Doesn't that mean anything to you. Remember how nice you were to Ymri?"
"Ymri had done something for me beforehand and we needed something from her. Plus I was sleeping with her sister-in-law. In any case, she was someone I did not want to offend. Korax's visit it just for PR. Raise the troops' spirit and all that drek."
As we talked, we passed by an alley between two buildings. Suddenly I heard a dart fly by my head, missing me only by millimeters. Pushing Tammis out of harms way, I dove behind a pile of garbage the populous hadn't gotten around to picking up and activated my reflex boost. But when I raised my arm to defend myself, it wouldn't move. My right eye had gone blind also. "Dorian, these dark alleys suit you well. This way I can't see your ugly face."
"Your martial arts cannot save you again Cyborg." he said stepping out of the shadows.
"You have a lot of nerve coming here. I thought you hated technology."
"There are many things you don't know about me Mr.Conners."
"Yeah, I thought you were smart. But since you're attacking me on UAA turf with one of my teammates, I'll have to reevaluate that conception also."
"I am smarter than you think. When the Kargan Emperor sees your mangled body dropped outside his shuttle, he will see the price for defying Axis. As for your friend...."
He gestured and two agents dragged the unmoving Tammis into the alley. One of the agents had a knife at his throat. "He is not dead, yet. But any move you make will be at his peril. Now you will tell me everything you know about the UAA. I want to know their strengths, weaknesses, mektons, everything you've learned."
I snarled in defiance, "I have learned something asshole. It's how to turn your powers against you." I opened my arm panel to the chipware socket and pulled out one of my skill chips. "This chip continuously sends out an electronic signal." I bluffed, "Whenever it is interrupted, the station's computer sounds an alarm. Your little null-field is alerted everyone in a UAA uniform to my last location, here. Do what you will, there's no way you'll leave this station alive."
"How do you know that?"
"I can read your mind."
There was his mistake. If he had indeed used telepathy, he would also learn about my psionics, assuming he could get past my Mind Block. I detected satisfaction from Dorian, satisfaction from finally defeating his adversary. I pulled my pistol from my holster. The task was slow and difficult enough for Dorian to see what I was doing. He stood their confidently as I aimed for his head and claimed that he was the product of rampant inbreeding. With the rush from the boost arriving, I threw it at the agent holding Tammis. It was a throw controlled by my telekinesis but made to look natural. What looked like a stroke of luck, the gun hit the agent's head with the barrel pointed at Dorian. As Tammis was outside the area affected my Dorian's power, the impact set the gun off.
Dorian fell back with a chest wound. Instantly my arm and eye returned to normal leaving plenty of time to shoot the other guard. Tammis was just regaining consciousness and I left him to find Dorian's body. There was none. Only a trail of blood ending in the middle of the alley with no traces of a secret door or any other avenue of escape. "Wha happened? Last I remember, you pushed me aside then there were stars." he asked.
"Dorian's here. But I took care of him for the time being. Come on. We ought to get you back to HQ. Haversom will want to know about this."
Truer words were never spoken. He considered calling off the Emperor's visit, but after an exhaustive unsuccessful search it was decided that Dorian had either left the station or was dead and therefore no threat. But right now I didn't believe any of those conclusions were true. The week passed slowly with no sign of trouble or of Dorian. As preparations for Korax's visit marched on, anti-Overwatch propaganda increased dramatically to alarming proportions. There were constant reports that the UAA is executing political prisoners and abducting dissidents.
Aleoi commented that this would have almost be funny, if so many people didn't believe them. Commander Crystal went public calling for the disbanding of the Overwatch program. During the interview, I noticed Lord Delaney in the background. Fortunately on Dion, and the colonies in general, the attitude toward the UAA and Overwatch was much better. In fact, there was a debate on the usefulness of the Overwatch program held two days before Korax arrived. Larani was surprised to see Dar Koma, who vowed to stay out of politics, as one of Overwatch's most verbal supporters. As time for the visit grew near, everyone was shocked to hear that Queen Ymri was considering pulling Elara out of the UAA, and pulling Elaran support for Overwatch.
Cedric and myself tried several times to talk with the Queen in an attempt to get an explanation but all we got was the captain of her royal guard. He gloated over finally being able to defeat Pounce and the others. When pressed for details, he admitted that they did have to attach six more VR stations and the last 'surviving' guard blew up the building she was in just before the simulated Edgerunners reached her, 'killing' them all. However the only information about Elara's pulling out of the UAA was a vague rumor that Lord Delaney was behind the Queen's change of heart.
Finally, the day arrived, and as the shuttle approached the colony, everyone turned out to the flight deck with their best on. As the shuttle landed, the first out of the hatch was a shrouded Imperial guard. His voice rang out across the bay, as he announced the arrivals. "Presenting his Imperial Majesty, Korax I."
A large imposing man then stepped out of the shuttle, "Presenting his lordship, Arkon Veridan." A tall, then man then exited. "Presenting her ladyship, Ariel Veridan."
To everyone's shock, Ariel exited the shuttle behind her father. She waved to Eiran across the landing bay and smiled. As Korax and Arkon met with Haversom, Ariel discreetly found her way to Eiran's side and grasped his hand. Arkon sent them an icy glance, but said nothing. Ariel stiffened a bit, but didn't let go. Haversom greeted the trio to the station then went off with the Emperor and Arkon to a confidential meeting. After the exchange of basic pleasantries, Ariel drew us aside. "It's so good to see you all again. Especially you, Eiran. But there are some things going on that you need to know. I'm sure you heard about the Murian force screen being re-activated. Well, it's gone up, and Dr.Tal is trapped inside! He was taking Lathrin and his girlfriend to see one of the wise ones. I don't know if they ever got there. No one, not even my dad, has heard from Tal in days. It's our fear that he is stuck inside. My dad says Tal knows how to breach the field, but he fears that they Murians might arrest him to keep him from letting out any Murian secrets. Also, Eliza has disappeared. She went out one night for some dinner and never came back. Kerion is worried sick! Everything is falling apart, what do you think we should do?"
The news of Eliza's disappearance was devastating to me. I was too torn up to participate in the discussion the others were having. Aleoi wondered if what happened to Eliza and what happened to Arisa's brother were connected. Laian confirmed that there is no known way past the force field and that if Tal was inside, there would be no way out except through the good graces of Lady Attican. Karin humorlessly suggested that the UAA traded me for the doctor. As a joke, Larani pretended to briefly consider it stating her assumption that I could either find a way out or make one.
But everyone else came to my rescue stating that the idea was foolish and had little chance for success. The discussion with Ariel confirmed something I had long suspected, Axis has several secret agendas and none of them were good for us and the people of Algol. Later Tammis announced that there was little more they could do here and suggested that we get something to eat. While exploring Dion for a decent restaurant, Ariel spotted one of the fancier ones, "I have heard the Kargan restaurant critic spoke well of the one in Bruns."
Enthusiastic about this place, The Golden Star, she pulled Eiran to the outside to examine the menu. He almost fainted when he saw the menu. I used teleoptics to learn why. The prices were unusually high, even for a place of this high class. But it didn't phase Ariel for an instant all she did was ooooh and aaaah at some of the more exotic (and costly) items. Eiran glanced back helplessly. It was clear that he didn't have the money to pay for dinner here. None of us had, except for me. Reluctantly, I pulled out my portable computer and checked the balance on my bank account. The interest compiled and most of my earnings looked like it was enough to pay the check. "Come on." I said defeated, "As long as we're in our best clothes why not make the most of it?"
The Golden Star had a space theme with black carpet and wallpaper. Fireplaces provided light for the spacescape paintings which lined the walls. Usually when I ate at a place like this, the client paid the bill. Now, when it was my turn, I hoped that they would behave better than I and not take advantage of my generosity. After bribing the head waiter fifty credits we were shown to our table. The main dining area had a large chandelier set up to look like starlight. As expected the meal was well prepared and rich enough for the owners to justify their prices. I followed all the rules of etiquette learned through experience and was rewarded by better service. They even offered to exchange Karin's entree when she saw just what destanlo was.
Tammis looked like he would rather have a burger and soykaff but he still ate his spiced steak with enthusiasm. Ariel and Eiran had a wonderful time however. They talked throughout dinner about almost everything and deeply enjoyed each other's company. Seeing them there was almost worth the fact that she'd ordered the most expensive item on the menu and hardly eaten any of it. Larani made an effort to make the other tables think she was my date, making polite conversation. The conversation strayed from politics and more towards business and other subjects. "Actually my business is very close to closing several major deals with various manufacturers and there is some thought to purchasing a small factory for the production of products we ourselves have designed." I said vaguely describing the situation at Rapid Fire prior to my leaving.
She told me a little more about the history between her and her father, about how he spoiled her and practically controlled every aspect of her life covertly. It was a sad tale, even in comparison to the past of some of my Edgerunning associates, and didn't remain the topic of conversation for long. After desert and an after dinner drink, everyone was pretty much exhausted. As expected, I was left paying the outrageous bill (which included an equally outrageous tip carefully hidden amongst the menu items). It was an old trick by restaurants to squeeze a second tip from customers and one I was familiar enough with not to fall for it.
Eiran's room was next to mine and I overheard Ariel thanking him in the doorway for the lovely evening and leave to return to her own quarters. Eiran sighed, disappointed that she didn't stay longer. Considering what I dished out, she should be spending the night with me, not him. But I held my sarcasm and simply told him to be patient. At noon the next day, as I went about my assigned business of filling out papers and making reports about what happened at Sunlight1 and Rimfire, I wondered what was going to happen next.
Then Haversom's voice came over the com, as usual it sounded like he hasn't had any sleep for a few years. "All Overwatch personnel please report to docking bay 5." he ordered.
Relieved for a break in the boring task, I hurried to the largest open area on the base. It needed every bit of space to contain the throngs of uniformed people. Everyone in the UAA (which was almost everyone on the base) was crowded around. After fifteen minutes of standing uncomfortably, Haversom and Dass entered with Arkon and Korax. Haversom walked over to a pile of crates, and climbed to the top. From there he addressed the crowd, "At noon yesterday the three top administrators in Overwatch were found dead. The preliminary investigation indicates suicide. There was a note found. I wish to read you this note."
He pulled a slip of paper from his pocket, "Dear Algol. We can no longer bear the shame of what we have done. We have created a monster capable of enslaving the planet. We have given the Overwatch authorities too much power. We can no longer stop them. May God have mercy on our soul. Farman Salmac Taliss."
There was a hushed silence as everyone stood dumb-founded. "This letter is a fraud. Whoever wrote this hasn't a shred of common decency. If there was a conspiracy, they would have been at the very top. So in our opinion we have three more deaths to pay the Axis back for. Sadly, however, the press has gotten into it. There is a smear campaign going on against us. We are being painted as the blackest villains in Algolian history. This has to stop now. Either it ends, or Overwatch is doomed. The second Overwatch ship has been scrapped. That leaves the Rimfire. We have to be the white knights, if not, they will tear us apart. In two day's time, the Rimfire is going to make a goodwill trip to ALL of the orbital colonies. We must rally popular support, or we'll all be out of a job. Thank you for your time. Get back to work."
Easy for him to say. The backlash was severe when the letter is played on news stations across Algol. There were public protests at all planetary Overwatch bases across the world. There was a massive organized protest at the bridge of the Crystal Palace, blocking the entrance and exit. Lord Delaney claimed that the entire UAA was a Kargan plot, and officially presented Ymri with a request to withdraw Elara from it, thus killing it. Ymri's response was, "We'll look into it."
In Karga, protests came in the form of a protest in the High Council by certain lords, including Lord Kynis. There was something strange about all these protests. After watching the news, it finally hit me. They were too well organized and came too quickly after the broadcast to be spontaneous. There must have been prior preparation involved. Haversom welcomed the news because now there was a basis to suspect Axis was behind the deaths and creating all this negative publicity. On Dion1, the entire base is caught between two fronts. The orbitals gave their unconditional support of the Overwatch program, while the Algol-based factions are calling for it to be disbanded and in some extreme cases, calling for the arrest of members as traitor to Algol.
All of this was very hard on Ariel. She spent most of her time with Eiran and asked to spend the night with him. She was just too frightened to sleep alone. That night I heard the unmistakable sounds of sex come through the walls. As the inducer was put in place and set for the usual time, I patted myself on the back for doing such a good job with Eiran. He wouldn't be the man he was now if it weren't for me. Maybe they'll name their first child after me, Nathan Conners Alestain did have a nice ring to it.
After my rest, I continued to practice more with my telekinesis. Now I could move about ten kilograms in a non-life-threatening situation and control it with reasonable accuracy. Inspiration struck again. If I could life foriegn objects and make them fly around, perhaps I could use them to make myself fly. Well, it worked albeit not as well as I hoped. With my limited control and experience, I could fly at about the speed of a fast walk or slow run. Not as fast as a superhero, but it was better than nothing. My time playing dodgeball in zero-gee proved to be a great help now as I circled about my room testing the limits in a small space. Minutes, perhaps hours, were spent in the air. When I finally got around to glancing at the time, I found it was almost morning.
Landing in my chair, I began writing my experience in my journal. Just as the final pen stroke occurred, Ariel shout was muffled by the wall. It was a one word cry of terror, "Father!"
Then I heard Eiran's door open and someone run past shortly followed by another person. The second runner stopped briefly and knock quickly then went back to running. My Mauser flew into my hand as I hurried off after them. Following them was no trouble with the help of enhanced vision. I arrived at Arkon's quarters shortly after Eiran and Ariel. But the guards had also gotten there before me. I peaked around the corner and peered into the chamber. Arkon was lying on the bed, what once was his chest, was now a smoking crater.
Eiran turned around to see one of the guards before him. "You are under arrest. Do not resist or we will fire."