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[Freebuild] Rogue Orders

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Chapter 24: Rogue Orders.


Vashin Tulka looked around the dim bar he had ended up in somewhere in a remote settlement in one of the least populated provinces of New California. Where the dregs wash in. He thought as he surveyed the patrons. Any one of them could be the one he’s looking for, assuming he could trust his contact. It had taken weeks of searching, making contacts, asking the right questions. Captain Aurixx was right. He thought, recalling the conversation that had before he left the Shadowfall.


“Six days.” Aurixx’s voice was full of disdain and loathing. Vashin had noticed the digipage on his desk when he had entered the ready-room and guessed that it contained the orders they had received shortly after the incident. Despite Vashin’s success in his engagement with the Octan fighters, the Shadowfall had been ordered to return to the main MANTIS fleet. Aurixx had told him personally to reassure him that it was no criticism of his actions. “For six days, we were the front line of MANTIS operations on New California.” Aurixx continued.  “Face to face with the enemy, where corporations are made and broken.”And now we’ll spend the rest of our careers on patrol duty supporting the main fleet.” He stared into Vashin’s eyes, a burning desire flaring behind his pupils. “I don’t know why they covered up what happened... I don’t know why MANTIS let them. But I know the answer is in the signal you were tracking before you engaged the Octan ships...” The air hung thick with tension as Aurixx prepared himself to say something he would rather not have. “I cannot order you to do this.” He said, his voice low and husky. “But I can ask.” He allowed a moment for Vashin to to take in the meaning. Any official business would be a simple matter of giving the order so a request meant ‘off the record’. “The fleet leaves Andromeda tomorrow. Once we’re gone, so is any chance of finding out what that signal was... Unless I send you on a routine patrol shortly before we depart... And you don’t make it back in time.” He gave Vashin a moment to take it in. He was asking him to be voluntarily left behind. On his own with little corporate support. “I can’t tell you that finding the answer will put everything right.” Aurixx added. “But at least you’ll have an answer”.


As Vashin surveyed the dim backwater bar once more, he wondered if he had ever really needed that answer, or was he just here out of some potentially misplaced sense of loyalty to his captain. It didn’t matter now anyway; the fleet was a Galaxy away from here. “I take it you’re the one.” A low gravelled voice said from over Vashin’s shoulder. It belonged to one of the patrons, a man with long black braided hair, a grimace upon his face and the garb of a professional mercenary. He was the latest link in a chain of contacts but whereas the previous links had merely led Vashin to more links, this one had claimed to know who it was Vashin was looking for. It would come at a cost, however. The man’s eyes were wrought with suspicion as he looked over Vashin. A wry smirk grew in one corner of his mouth. “You even look corporate.” he added. Vashin had hoped it wouldn’t have been so obvious. “You have the payment?” The man asked.

    “If your information is reliable.” Vashin responded. “It’s worth nothing if I can’t trust you.” The mercenary considered his words for a moment.

    “Let’s get a drink.”


Vashin swallowed a mouthful of the bright green liquid the mercenary had ordered for him and couldn’t help pulling a face. It was some kind of distilled larvae juice. He’d had it before around MANTIS but there it was always drunk with a mixer - now he knew why. The Mercenary smiled a wry smile. His name was Drakin, a disreputable ‘hand for hire’ that, like so many, had flocked to the Quarrel to offer their services when the conflict between Octan and MANTIS had escalated. The corporations never admitted to hiring mercs publicly but over the past few weeks, Vashin had heard plenty of stories.


    “I did jobs for a guy once.” Drakin began. “Hard to find type - always moving around. He did a lot of deals under the table, took a lot of jobs that shouldn’t be taken. To get those jobs done, he needed mercs... and smugglers.”

    “You think I’m looking for a smuggler?” Vashin inquired. Drakin hesitated to answer, considering his position.


    “You have the payment?” He asked in place of an answer. Vashin reached down to a bag. Lifting the item in it carefully, he placed the MANTIS fuel cell on the table between them but kept his hand firmly on it. Corporate fuel cells were, it turned out, highly sought after among the non-corporates; the were cleaner and more efficient that the recycled or refurbished units most of them were getting by on. A MANTIS fuel cell like this could keep a family in light and warmth for around a year. Somehow, he doubted this one would go to anything so noble and while he could ill-afford to lose a fuel cell, being out on his own now, it would be worth it if this mercenary had what he was looking for.


“I have the payment.” He told Drakin. “Do you have the name?” Drakin stiffened. He doesn’t have it. Thought Vashin. His mind raced, surveying the surroundings. Could it be a trap? Who was nearby? Where was his pistol? Where were Drakin’s hands? Where were his eyes looking: Vashin? The cell? Nearby associates? Vashin tensed, ready for a confrontation.

    “I don’t have the name.” Drakin finally admitted. “No-ne here does... But I know who you’re looking for.” Vashin remained cautious and kept his hand on the cell. Let the merc feel like he has to prove himself if he wants the deal. “The pilot on the job was some box-runner.” Drakin explained. “Pretty as hell but twice as crazy in the seat; they said she was his best pilot. Not sure why, she had a knack for all hell breaking loose. Anyway, few months ago I’m in here and who should walk in just days after the first reports of your little incident. She comes back a few times, makes a few contacts, picks a few fights. But no-one knows her name. Few weeks later, her and her friend take an interest in Octan’s report that the whole thing was just a malfunction. Never saw her again after that. ”

    “Can those contacts get in touch with her?”

    “Remember the guy I did the jobs for?” Drakin answered. “They call him the Forwarder. You want to get to her, you need to go through him. When you get a pilot with a bad attitude, a French accent and red hair...” Vashin processed the information carefully. It was hardly proof but surety was in short supply these days. He figured the merc was drawing reasonable conclusions though; it’s easy to write things off as coincidence rather than trying to fathom the connections between disparate events. Slowly, he removed his hand from the fuel cell.

    “The red-haired woman.” He said, a final subtle question - is she the one I’m looking for? Drakin cautiously reached forward and took the cell...


“The red-haired woman.”



Creator's notes:

Captain Aurixx and Vashin are finally seen in person, having appeared previously in text only in Wraith and White Hawk.

Aurixx's office is a minor redress of Riddaeon's from Upsilon. The bar is the same establishment from Old Times.

I have quite an ensemble now but I'll post a summary before Season 2 begins.


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