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T.I. S2 E04: The Black Network (FB)
A freebuild for the Galactic Imperium. Also, an apology to the MP community for the lack of posts and uploads - I've been on holiday
About this creation


19 February, 2097
Markham Shuttle Terminal, outskirts of Regentis
Qoter

The normally quiet terminal in the suburbs of Regentis was packed with travellers, visitors and passengers, all scurrying around like rats in a maze. The recent attack from the ancient droid known as One had spiked travel to Qoter by an incredible level. Everybody wanted to go to the planet of cities, creating traffic the like of which the terminal had barely seen as people were shipped in from every corner of the system. Mourners and well wishers crossed paths with celebrators and party goers as each individual dealt with the attack in their own unique way.

For Risa Donovan, that way involved trying to keep her face still as two guards went through her bags and inspected her weaponry, their eyes checking over each pistol.

She gulped and adjust her hood, taking a quick glance at Dustin who was leaning against the wall behind her. His bags had already been searched, and he wore that constant smile of his. Risa nodded at him and turned back to the guard. He was middle-aged with a stern face and a bowl cut. However, he went about his duty with practiced efficiency. He'd clearly worked here for a long time.

He looked up from her pistol and spoke, his voice tired. Obviously, he didn't envy the rush of passengers who had dismissed the main Regentis airports and chosen to arrive here, all trying to avoid the air traffic. It would have been a long day for him, that was for sure.



Guard: "So then, Miss..."
Risa: "Oh...Botha."
Guard: "Sorry, Miss Botha. Just got to confirm a few details again with you. Unfortunately your, what was it, brother? Yeah, he wasn't very talkative."
Risa: "Right, of...of course. Please go ahead."

The guard nodded to his partner, a younger man who was both checking Risa's other pistol and noting things down. The young man nodded and turned his attention to a screen built into the desk.

Guard: "So then, you're packing some serious firepower. Military or law enforcement?"
Risa: "Um...My...brother and I are part of the military. We always take our guns with us."
Guard: "Ok, protection or whatever. I saw your license and ID number, so that's fine. Just wanted to confirm the reason for your stay."
Risa: "It is....um...what's the word....difficult to talk about. You see, my...friend fought that beast of a droid and...well...he's been gravely wounded. Surely you can see why I wanted protection."
Guard: "Ah, alright. Friend of a soldier, got plenty of those in today. And where exactly where you from again?"
Risa: "America, but originally South Africa."



The guard nodded and turned his attention back to the gun. Risa sighed deeply as her nerves calmed. Damn. She really wished their cover story hadn't relied so deeply on her acting ability. She glanced at Dustin, who smiled at her and gave her a thumbs up.

She inhaled and focused again, rehearsing the accent that Dustin had taught her during their shuttle flight. The plan was to pretend to be two Afrikaners, Boers as Dustin had called them, who were travelling to see a friend. However, Dustin had pretty much spoken Afrikaans the whole time, selling the story to the guards, but putting an awful lot of trust is Risa. Which, to be honest, she really didn't know if she deserved. After all, her Earth accents where terrible, despite Dustin's best efforts in convincing her they weren't.

Guard: "I gotta say Miss Botha, I'm impressed with your choice of fire arm. Gentin 25, am I right?"
Risa: "Yes sir..."
Guard: "One of Qoter's best, if I remember. These things were built to last, that's for sure."
Risa: "Oh, thank you! It was...um...a friend who gave it to me. After the Shift."
Guard: "That's one fine friend then. I tried getting one of these me-self; cheapest I could find was 60,000 credits. Wishing I had your luck, if you don't mind me saying so."
Risa: "Thank you. You are... too kind."
Guard: "Nah, just jealous. Well, it's been well looked after in any case. Guess that's what kept her going I suppose."
Risa: "Yeah, I'd like to think so."



The guard turned the pistol over once more before nodding to himself. His associate quickly logged the weapons under her fake name and ID number, before packing the other pistol, as well as Risa's clothes, back into her rucksack.

The older man offered her the pistol with an outstretched arm, a slight amirk on his face. Risa gave a smile in return as she accepted her gun, silently relishing the comforting feeling of the cool metal against her skin. Moving quickly, she stuffed the gun into her satchel, securing it tightly and returning her gaze to the guard, who had just finishing tapping a few more notes into his own datapad.

Guard: "Well then, Miss Botha, your weapons have been authorised and approved. As for your stay in Qoter, well, I'd wish you the best but given the circumstances..."
Risa: "Yes, thank you sir."
Guard: "And you keep that brother of yours out of trouble, orright? Language barriers can be tough, so just keep on your toes."
Dustin: "Dankie man. Ek sal uit die moelikheid te hou!
Guard: "Look kid, no idea what you're saying. Just...be patient is all I can offer the pair of you."
Risa: "Certainly. Thank you."



The man nodded as the younger guard passed over the rucksack and stepped back. The pair gave a quick salute which Risa returned, a sign of respect between fellow military personal. A feeling of unease welled in her gut, which she forced down. Despite her ousting from the military being nothing but a hoax, she had still lied to these people. It felt wrong to accept respect for a rank that wasn't hers.

Still, she ignored it for the moment. They needed to get going. Tank's apartment was in the heart of Regentis, and who would know if he was still there after his battle with One, and the lost of his oldest friend. No, better to be quick rather than conflicted.

Guard: "Best of luck to you pair. And good luck with your friend."
Risa: "Thanks again, and a good day to you as well."



Dustin waved heartily at the guards before turning and strolling off, Risa right behind. Her frustration grew until they were out of earshot where she let out a hushed whisper edged with venom.

Risa: "Well, thanks for all the help."
Dustin: "You did great. The accent held up, and your story was believable. Besides that, the data was all accepted too. What's to complain about?"
Risa: "How about the fact that you put it all on me?"
Dustin: "Well, there is that. But what can I say? A language barrier certainly makes it believable."
Risa: "Yeah...still though. It was a lot of faith you put on my acting ability. Which is still awful by the way."
Dustin: "Nah, I knew I could rely on you Risa. Now c'mon, buses are out the back I believe."

Risa scowled slightly but had to admit that she didn't mind the praise. After all, Dustin was trained in deception and creating false identities and false stories was second nature to him. And yet, he trusted her with the load of carrying the story across. It was a funny way of training her to think on the spot.

Still, it hadn't exactly been enjoyable. Silently, she gripped her pistols and adjusted her hood. A friend, or indeed friends, lay ahead.



Frank watched the pair of travellers head toward the door, their conversation hushed and partially muffled. Probably didn't matter, he wouldn't have been able to understand it anyway. Even after all these years, hearing those accents that the Shift had brought to Qoter never ceased to surprise him.

He tapped his datapad once more, confirming the notes he'd taken, and began walking back into the crowd control. Ross, the new guy, was right on his heels, a look of concern behind his goggles. Franks sighed, though it couldn't be helped. The new guys always got twitchy when handling guns.

Ross: "Sir, I-"
Frank: "I'm no sir, Ross. I'm your co-worker, not your Commander. But yeah, go ahead."
Ross: "Oh, sorry. Um, well I was checking those guys in and, I don't know, it all seemed a bit odd to me."
Frank: "How so?"
Ross: "Well, I've got an Aunt who's from Africa, and she speaks English fine. I mean, it just seems rare for someone to go this long without learning at least some common phrases. Besides that, there were two of them, a man and a woman, one who was a soldier and was carrying weapons. I don't know, it seems off to me."
Frank: "You're saying Risa Donovan, a global criminal, just strolled right through those doors, handed us her weapons and walked out?"
Ross: "Erm...yes?"

Frank sighed again, much loudly this time. The young guys, always leaping at conclusions.

Frank: "Look, I know criminals. No criminal would be that calm when dealing with the police, especially when their weaponry is involved. Plus, there's no way a soldier would know how to encrypt data like that, trust me. And besides all that, there's thousands of people arriving every day. It's crazy Ross, mental. We don't have time to be chasing up these imaginary criminals, not after that attack. So just let it go mate. C'mon, there's a whole lot more people to check through. Let's go."

Ross nodded and whispered a silent curse at his own stupid at jumping to a ridiculous conclusion. Frank grinned to himself. He'd learn. What kind of person with blood on their hands would walk through security without a care in the world?



01 March, 2097
New York City
Earth

The morning air was crisp and cool, as if winter was giving a final farewell as spring began to take its place. Of course, Solomon Cross barely registered the weather outside as his climate control pumped out his ideal temperature, just the right amount of heat. He exhaled deeply as he unfolded his arms for the third time in as many minutes, his robotic-lined glove whirring with the movement. It was strange how quickly he'd adapted to the device covering his hand, the only thing that prevented the shaking and the nerve damage from taking over. Still, it did serve as a reminder. A constant one at that, telling him to never fall to that level ever again. Not while he still drew breath.

A sigh escaped his lips as he waited patiently, the occasional nerve filling his stomach. A nerve he quickly disposed off. The people that he was meeting with today were too important to show any sign of weakness. He had to be the figure of perfection, ego be damned. If he wasn't near perfect, he'd be thrown out faster than rotting meat.

Still, at least they'd agreed to meet at his penthouse; his territory. Physiologically, that gave him an edge. Which was very helpful. He liked having an edge in any situation.



The minutes ticked by, illuminated by the faint lights in his gold banded watch. He had gotten organised quite early, but it didn't excuse the others for being late. If only they were more like him, the whole operation would've run a heck of a lot faster.

Finally his comlink beeped, signifying the receptionist. He answered immediately, careful to keep his voice even.

Cross: "Yes, Rachael?"
Rachael: "Good morning Mister Cross! I have a pair of gentleman in the lobby to see you. Shall I send them up?"
Cross: "Sure, go ahead. That will be all."
Rachael: "Copy that. Thanks sir."
Cross: "Thanks Rachael."

Soloman ended the call, clasped his hands together, and waited. The numbers on his private office elevator began to glow as the lift began moving. He heard the whirr of the pulleys as the metal box ascended till finally it arrived at its destination. The doors sounded in classic elevator style and opened seamlessly.



Two men walked in, two very different men. One was broad shouldered and tall with a furious beard and attitude to match, while the other was an alien of some description that seemed to have trouble focusing his attention on his surroundings.

Briat North, the unofficial 'owner' of the worlds largest slum, the Skarr, and Druki Ooven, the Aurelian slave trader. Quite an interesting duo indeed.

Solomon stood and greeted the pair as they took in his large office. North seemed unsurpassed by the items that filled the room, though Ooven was anything but. His eyes flicked from item to item, taking it all in as quickly as his attention-span would allow. Solomon had to admit that his collection was...a bit odd, but he didn't really care. He owned some of film's most iconic helmets, plucked from the silver age of cinema.

Ooven grinned as his eyes took in both the Darth Vader and Iron Man helmets at once, his curiosity overflowing to the point of giddiness, causing to Solomon to shake his head in mild annoyance. Ooven hadn't been his first choice in a partner, but he had been the one that had exported the Aurelian members for Uek's experiment from System 55. Apart from a very dead Corvin, he was the only Aurelian that knew of Uek Ferris' little project, at least according to his knowledge.



Solomon strode over and extended his hand, his voice adopting as close to a welcoming tone as it could muster. North gripped his hand and didn't even try to be friendly. It was too far out of his comfort zone.

Solomon: "Gentlemen, welcome to New York! Briat, Druki, I trust I find you well."
Briat: "Well, huh? That's a laugh mate."
Solomon: "Ah, busy days I suppose. How is the Skarr doing?"
Briat: "It's 'doing' as well as always: horrible. The Imperium's been dropping more refugees than normal lately, and it's driving Northton into the ground."
Solomon: "Right...well so much for small talk, I suppose."
Briat: "Damn right Cross. Tell me, why on earth did you have to drag me and this sorry carcass all the way to your little throne? What's so damn important?"

Druki frowned at the insult, responding after a moment hesitation.

Druki: "At least a carcass once had a brain."
Briat: "Shut it weasel."
Druki: "I'm assuming a weasel is some form of insult? Well, I-"
Briat: "What part of shut it don't you get?"
Solomon: "Shut up, the both of you. I didn't pay for your flights for you to bicker all day. Please, take a seat, I'll explain why I brought you here."



The pair shot each other an unspoken insult before reluctantly taking a seat. A sign escaped from Solomon's lips. They'd only really met half an hour ago. Damn. This'd be harder than he thought. With a small cough to clear his throat, he begun the speech he'd written last night. Straight to the point, easy to understand. Perfect for these kind of negotiations.

Solomon: "Gentlemen, in case you haven't figured it out by now, I brought you together to discuss Uek Ferris, the brat that I know you both dislike, but fear too much to stop.
Briat: "Huh. Takes one to know one Cross."
Solomon: "Look, you've both had dealings with Ferris in the past, both for the same reason. He wanted men, correct?"
Druki: "...or women. He didn't really discriminate, to be honest."
Solomon: "Exactly, and did he ever tell you why?"
Briat: "Yeah, his 'project'. He told me that 'it'll change the system forever'. Some sort of weapon. That's the info I got."
Druki: "Same here. He made a deal with Corvin, I know that much. Kind of fell apart when Knightborn did, I suppose."

Solomon: "Yep, that's along the lines of what I know. It's a weapon that needs a lot of test subjects and will cause a lot of destruction. But, and here's the crux of it, he's told us nothing since then, and according to my Intel, he's been shipping in Ossillium."
Druki: "So?"
Briat: "Idiot. It's Ossillium. Dealing with the stuff's a death wish, if you remember the sickness it caused. Surely you haven't been under a rock that long?"
Druki: "Well, if it's so dangerous then why have ships been raided? Why have shipments been lost? Explain that to me North."
Briat: "It's hardly relevant now. How would I know what those bandits are thinking!"



Both men glared at each other, hurling insults like moldy fruit. Solomon grimaced and rubbed his temple with his gloved hand. Surely they could work together. How on earth has Uek managed to co-ordinate his own operation with these two involved.

Of course, he never forced them to meet in person he thought to himself. Too many strong personalities in one room where never easy to handle. Cross knew that much. Still, he had to keep pressing onward. His comlink blinked once, which he responded to immediately. His next guest, the crucial component to this whole venture, had finally arrived.

He let the two men bicker until the elevator door illuminated, indicating someone was on their way up. He straightened and addressed the pair, his eyes turning hard.

Druki: "...back-stabbing Imperial dog!
Briat: "If I'm really with the Imperium, why am I here with you, ya fish-eyed punk!"
Solomon: "Shut up!! We don't have time for this! Both of you, the point I'm making is that Uek's gotten all high and mighty over the past year. The power he's got, the power we gave him, you know it's gone to his head. Briat, you recommended him for the position after Tane axed it, and Druki, you stopped that Pax officer from taking the rank."
Druki: "Well...yeah. Colt wasn't happy about that."

Solomon: "Exactly, and I was the one that funded his little venture up till that point! Can't you see? The punk thinks he's in charge, thinks we mean jack to him now. And now he's going behind our backs and shipping in something that really shouldn't be put in his hands. I don't know about you, but I think it's time for a change! And I feel our next guest will be able to help tremendously."

The pair slowly nodded in turn. Solomon smiled quickly, a lightning smile that vanished in an instant. They at least had that in common.

The elevator doors sounded once as the car reached the top level, opening slowly to reveal the waiting occupants.



A tall woman strode out, dressed in fine clothing and wearing a brilliant purple cloak. Her beauty gave no indication that she was well into her forties, though her eyes carried the wisdom of her age. One hand was gloved in that same purple as her cloak, and Solomon felt his own right hand twitching as he noticed the similarity. She was beautiful after all and, well, it had been a while since his wife had ditched him.

By her side was a slightly younger man with a think beard and a very practiced gait, favouring one foot and letting the other scrape slightly behind him. He carried a slight natural smile, but his eyes were hard and sharp, revealing a hidden intellect in both thought and skill.

Teresa Matlock and Beldrake Smith of the Matlock Mafia. The other two he'd been waiting for.

Teresa: "Mr Cross, a pleasure to finally meet you in person!"
Solomon: "The pleasure is all mine, Ms Matlock. You're looking as radiant as ever."
Teresa: "Oh stop it. I'm not worth the compliments. And a pleasure to meet you two gentlemen as well."

Solomon grinned as he watched the pair slowly get to their feet, both slightly taken back. It was clear that Druki had eyes on her figure, but North's focus was elsewhere. He'd had more experience with the old gangs of earth, and he'd been no friend of her late husband. In fact, Mathias had made the hatred personal and seeing his wife, the current leader of the gang, would have brought up a whole lot of unpleasant memories.



Still, North had enough sense to shake her hand and let his history with the gang take a back seat to the future. Teresa took each offered hand eagerly, addressing the men in turn, her voice light yet strong. She wasn't easily pushed around.

Teresa: "So you must be Druki Ooven. I've heard a lot about you. Stealing those weapons from right under the GI's nose."
Druki: "Oh! Ah, it was nothing really..."
Teresa: "On the contrary! I'm sure Aurelia greatly appreciated the equipment."
Druki: "Well, thank you Ms. Matlock. You're too kind."

Teresa: "So that makes you Briat North, correct?"
Briat: "It would seem so."
Teresa: "I trust I find you well?"
Briat: "As well as the owner of a slum can be."
Teresa: "Ah, of course. You own the Skarr, correct?"
Briat: "I manage it. That's about all you can do with a hole in the ground."
Teresa: "But still, it's not often you can say that you have a whole city of people under your thumb."
Briat: "Trust me, that's stretching the truth."
Teresa: "Well in any case, I congratulate you on your fine operation of Northton. That must take some effort, considering it's original purpose, but some of my best men were trained there. I must say, it's good to finally meet you and hopefully make up for the sins of my husband."



Solomon glimpsed the quick look of surprise in North's eyes. It wasn't often that someone spoke highly of Northton, the actual city he ran. Due to the Imperium's cover-up of the Skarr, so few complimented his work in and around the place. This woman was clever indeed, knowing exactly want to say to bring others under her wing.

Solomon cleared his thought and asked the group to take their seats. Beldrake had already moved one of the armchairs into the centre of the group, before removing his leader's cloak and laying it on the other chair. Once he returned, the group went quiet and waited for Cross to speak. He smiled quickly. Finally, some level of respect.

Solomon: "Well, as I was saying before, Uek Ferris has over stayed his position. He's treated us like trash ever since we helped get him where he is. And Madam Matlock, I know what a pain he's been ever since."
Teresa: "Indeed. He's slowly building a foot hold in Qoter's underworld, pushing my gang out of their territory. Who knows when he'll come to Etrion."
Solomon: "Exactly. Now I think the time has come to knock him down a few pegs. Time to put this punk in his place, once and for all. Time to show him at we aren't pawns in his game. Wouldn't you agree, lady and gentleman?"

There was a chorus of nods from the three seated members. Solomon grinned as his eyes passed over them, until the stopped on the bodyguard, who was slowly shaking his head. Solomon frowned and opened his mouth to address him, but Beldrake got in first. His voice was deep, but measured, with an intellect waiting at the edges of his lips.

Drake: "You are severely limiting your thinking Cross."
Solomon: "Excuse me?"



Beldrake met his gaze, those eyes seeming to lock on and hold his attention. Something seemed...odd about him. Was there something he was hiding?

Drake: "You think that Uek is some upstart who's only Commander because you put him there."
Solomon: "And what if I do? Without us, he'd still be hiding in shadows instead of his kushy tower!"
Drake: "Look, I'm not saying you didn't help him, but he's certainly no upstart. He's dangerous, something you should all know."
Briat: "You're not wrong. All the more reason to knock him down."
Drake: "Oh I agree with that. He's already cost the Mafia over 570,000 credits worth in missed opportunities. But don't treat him so lightly, especially you Cross. Surely you are not foolish enough to not know his background."

Cross growled at the man before him, missing Briat's quiet nod and the almost fearful luck in Druki's eyes. How dare he lecture him on Uek's background. He helped fund the Core's operation for years! No one would know Ferris better than him.



He stood, his gaze now locked on Smith's, neither set of eyes backing down from the other.

Solomon: "Of course I know his background! My organisation pumped that agency with money for years! He was an assassin, yes, and he did lead the Core for a brief period of time, something he has made very clear to me. So tell me Smith, what am I missing? Am I wrong? Is that what you are implying."

Drake: "No. It's simply clear that you haven't done your research."
Solomon: "What's that supposed to mean?"
Drake: "Well, for one thing I was a Core agent for years. You missed that."

Solomon faulted mid-stride as his memory kicked into gear. Beldrake was a Core agent? How on earth had he missed that? He stared into those eyes once more and realised what he'd been hiding.

The covered guilt of blood-drenched hands.

Drake: "And since you have no knowledge of that, I'd calculate that you don't know of the Core's missions. Ever heard of Operation Firelight?"



Cross frowned at the name, still processing the information he'd been bombarded with. Firelight...he took a quick glance at the others in the room. Teresa Matlock sat without a care in the world, almost as if this had been her plan from the get go. North was eerily silent, while Druki's eyes were zipping around the room like a wasp in a hive. What did they know that he didn't? Damn it...things were slowly slipping out of his grasp. He hadn't expected the bodyguard of all people to pull the rug out from under him.

Drake: "So...this is the first operational SSP suit. Surprised to find it here. Adding to inflation I'd guess it'd be about...3.5 million credits, give or take a few thousand. A hefty price for an ornament."

Solomon brought his thoughts back to the moment as Beldrake glanced at his Space and Shuttle Protection suit mounted to the wall. He snarled as he realised that the man was bang on the price range. Scrim.

Solomon: "So? I have a collection. Is that not allowed now? Look, we're getting off track. Could we please get back to-"



Beldrake spun and narrowed his eyes. Solomon faltered under the gaze, the words he was about to say stolen from his lips. He knew this feeling well. Uek had used it in in him many times. All of a sudden, they weren't locked in that state of animalistic patience. Solomon had become a sheep to the wolf that stood before him. Damn it! Damn it all!

Drake: "A hefty price indeed Cross, for a bunch of displays. All together, counting those movie helmets, I'd say...hmm...a bit over 6 million credits. All for you to display your wealth and nothing more. All too boost up that ego of yours. I'm not discrediting your success, but tell me, is this little get-together really because of a worry for us or the system, or is it because Uek has put you in your place? Is this for our benefit or your petty revenge? Answer me that Cross."

A breath escaped Solomon's lips as the words slammed into his brain. Was...was he right? Was this really for revenge of some kind, after Uek had threatened him after Knightborn's collapse? He ground his teeth in frustration as he realised that Beldrake was speaking the truth, damn him. All of a sudden, Cross really hated the Core.

Still, he couldn't give the bodyguard the satisfaction of hearing that. No, no he had to be tougher than that, otherwise everyone else would discard him and his plan would be in ruins. He couldn't let that happen.

Solomon: "Umm...well...well, of course it's partially revenge, but Uek's been causing losses for all of us! He's cheated and back-stabbed everyone in this room. I know he's dangerous, but together we can tear him down of his little pedestal. I know you agree to that."

Drake: "I do. So long as you see it that way."



Beldrake dropped his eyes and walked back over to the group, who had watched in annoying silence. Cross cleared his throat a few times and pretended not to notice Matlock's sly grin at her man. He'd have to keep his eye on her.

Solomon: "Yes, well...sorry about that. Now then, where were we?"
Briat: "Showing Ferris who's boss, I believe."
Solomon: "Oh course, of course it was. Well then, I have a plan in place, but I need your help and influence in the underground. My network of contacts is...well..."
Druki: "Limited?"
Solomon: "Exactly. But together, I believe we can take down Uek and restore our little ventures to their formal glory without him looking down our necks."
Teresa: "Don't forget that project of his. Whatever it is, I'm sure we'd be able to use it to, shall we say, improve our status.
Briat: "Seconded. Sounds like he's building a plague to me. Just the thought of thing to wipe the Skarr off the map."
Druki: "Huh. Thought you just loved the Skarr, you mangy dog."
Briat: "Shut it ratbag. I'll like it a lot more when it's dead."

Solomon sighed once again, eager to wrap up the meeting now that his image had fallen apart.



Solomon: "Look, it's a simple process, so long as we all agree on it. Nod if you want Uek to fall."

Four heads nodded in response and Cross smiled his quick grin once more. Slowly, he reached into one of his desk drawers and took out the items he'd been storing there; a set of three com-links, all shod in clean black metal. The little devices gleamed, the various metallic components glinting as the light bounced off them. He went round and offered one to each party, speaking as he did so.

Solomon: "Right. Now these are, shall we say, dark coms systems. They can only contact each other and can't be traced by outside sources. Their based on the original Core comlink's, though a lot more expensive."
Teresa: "Well thank you Solomon. I'm guessing this is to keep us all informed."
Solomon: "Exactly. The plan has three main stages, each revolving around Uek's movements."
Briat: "Ok?"
Druki: "Can you...clarify on that please?"



Solomon stood in front of the group and addressed them at once, answering the questions like second nature. Of course, he had to know the answers clearly, especially now. He had to appear near-flawless once more. Damn Core agent.

Solomon: "Well let me put it this way. Uek's got about 300 subjects for his project, plus his gang of Marauders, plus the Knightborn military."
Teresa: "There's about forty Marauders..."
Briat: "And well over a thousand in the military."
Solomon: "Exactly. He's building up his forces. We've got to do the same. That's Stage One. Build up your strength. Briat, get those Skarr Zealots of yours riled and chanting, for example."
Briat: "Those religious brats? You sure?"
Solomon: "Every bit helps. We need to build up if we ever have a chance of affecting Uek's operations. No one squad will make a shred of impact. Are we all agreed?"

Once again, a chorus of nods echoed throughout the office. Cross smiled once more before speaking, his tone taking on the closest friendly tone it was capable of.

Solomon: "Excellent. Well then, I'll be in touch. Welcome, everybody, to the Black Network."
Briat: "That sounds stupid..."
Druki: "Really. Sounds good to me."
Briat: "Of course it would, you pompous moron-"



Solomon waved the pair off as they marched toward the elevator, trading insults as they went. Marlock followed soon after, accepting a kiss on the hand before gracefully leaving the office, grabbing her cloak on the way out. Beldrake replaced the arm chair and was about to follow suit, but he paused and turned back to Cross. Solomon took in those eyes once more, eyes and a mind he now resented.

Drake: "Well Cross, looks like your little idea is taking off."
Solomon: "Of course. No thanks to you."
Drake: "On the contrary. It's vital you understand the risk you're taking, planning to overthrow Uek Ferris. Make sure you get it right..."



Drake: "...or he'll kill us all."

And then Drake walked out of the room, the faint scraping of his injured leg sticking in Solomon's mind. Yes, Uek was dangerous, but he know had one of the best Aurelian smugglers, a leader of two cities and one of the systems famous gangs on his side. Surely...surely that, combined with his wealth would be enough...surely.

Surely it would...



Outside, the morning breeze billowed and blew, sending cold chills through the air. However, the observer felt nothing as the ancient words warmed him from within. Despite the flapping of his clothes and the bustle in the street below, he'd heard every word, from beginning to end. His vantage point had been careful to chosen and maintained with that ancient power, helping him cling to the wall like some kind of four-legged spider.



Smote nodded quietly to himself, his enhanced senses picking up the sigh that escaped Solomon Cross' lips. Even after all these years, Agent Drake hadn't lost his touch. Or his skill with numbers it would seem. Still, Cross' overall idea was sound, though even if they succeeded, he'd be placed on the top of the power ladder. Smote had to admit that he wasn't overly fond of that thought, but still. Better a pompous businessman than the force of nature that was Uek Ferris.

What an interesting development, Smote thought to himself as he detached himself from the wall with a whisper and began to teeter toward the ground. The system was certainly in for another change. He just hoped it was for the better this time.



25 February 2097
New York
Earth
 
The door opened with a loud creak as the cheap wood scraped across the cracked tile that served as the floor. A man stepped through, a scowl glued to his face, his eyes obscured by heavy goggles. He switched on the light as the door swung closed, the bulb flickering twice before illuminating the room. It was sparse, cheap and messy. The man knew that of course, he simply didn’t care enough to waste time or money on a place where he barely spent time in anyway. Besides, his focus was elsewhere. On the two individuals that had evaded him over a month ago. Two wanted criminals that were mere faces in the crowd.

However, those faces were burned into his mind. They consumed him, filled him with persistent energy every waking moment of every day. All he longed for was a glimpse of those faces again, somewhere, anywhere. He’d lost them that day, and they were nowhere to be found. Nowhere, nowhere, no…where.



With a shout of frustration, he removed his helmet and hurled it at the wall. It landed with a bang, the old drywall cracking before the helmet did. His hands went to his face, his eyes closing in anger as a loud sigh escaped through his lips. He could almost see the look in his brother’s eyes, eyes that that damned woman had closed forever. Hard eyes, eyes that held a lifetime of tactical experience. Eyes that would be ashamed of his efforts, ashamed of his failure at obtaining vengeance.



The man hung his head low as the memories of his brother slowly left him. He’d been several years his senior, but still. They’d loved each other, a connection made even stronger after their dad died. They were all each other had…until that damn woman. Why hadn’t he seen it coming? The man honestly didn’t know, nor did it matter. She’d killed him, and that was that. Nothing more, nothing less.



After several moments, he slumped onto the couch and turned on the old TV, trying to distract his angry thoughts. Images of Commander Ferris filled the station, news readers chatting about how quickly his response to the attack of One was. Already the clean-up process was in full swing, both in Rosili and in the Ruins of Knightborn. People were heralding him as a great leader. The man honestly didn’t care enough about politics to have an opinion.

He flicked through the stations, pausing briefly on a re-run of some old movie of some armoured guy slamming a green guy into a building. He yawned and switched the machine off, the thoughts of his failed attempts and tracking the criminals he sought after so dearly still present in the back of his mind.

Perhaps some sleep would help…perhaps.



BEEP BEEP BEEP
His pocket vibrated loudly as his commlink received a call. He reached in and answered the call, his thoughts clearing slightly as he recognised the number. Taze always seemed to have that effect on him.
Man: “Evening Taze.”
Taze: “Well, I guess it is over there. How ya doing?”
Man: “Do I really have to say?”
Taze: “Nah, not if you don’t want to. I’m just calling in regards to Donovan and Michaels, I’ve-“



The man sat bolt upright as she said the names, his eyes intensifying with rage. He cut her off immediately, those faces consuming him again.
Man: “Have you found them? Where? Global? I can leave right now if I have to!”
Taze: “Hey, calm down. It’s not-“
Man: “Come on, please! You must have something! ANYTHING!”
Taze: “Well…I-“
Man “So you’ve got nothing? Why even bother calling then?! You realise that I’ve been tracking them for over a month, now right?!”
Taze: “Of course-“
Man: “I tried everything! Bank statements, shipping lists, shuttle routes, intergalactic terminals, heck even restaurant orders and grocery receipts! And nothing! Scrim, I don’t even know what planet they’re on, let alone what city! And you call me with more nothing?! Please Taze, please!”



The room went silent, the only sounds the heavy breathing of the man. He felt justified though. He had tried everything, but he had no idea where they were, or what names they were going by to cover up! Perhaps it had been the wrong move to shout at his employer like that, but he had his own motives as well! Couldn’t she see that? Why did she have to call him with no more than what he already knew? Why?!

Finally, after a solid minute of hearing his own lungs, Taze spoke, her voice calm and measured.
Taze: “Look, I know how you must feel-“
Man: “No! You’ve got no idea! It’s all about the money with you isn’t it?”

Taze: “Well, I’m not going to lie, the bounty was the main interest at first. But then you came along and, honestly, I feel your pain. I know what it’s like to lose someone. And you’re efforts weren’t in vain, I can tell you that.”
Man: “But I’ve got nothing!”

Taze: “Well yeah, but you certainly gave it all you had. I like that, so here’s what I’m going to do. I have a certain…favour I can call in. I’ve got a few friends, one of which owes me. He’s going to help you track down Donovan. And Michaels, I suppose.”
Man: “Donovan is my focus. Michaels is just a bonus.”
Taze: “Excellent. I’ve already briefed him and he’s on his way-“



A sharp knock rang out, the old door shaking at the impact. The man’s head whipped around in surprise, both at the sound and at how perfectly it had lined up with what Taze had been saying. She must have agreed with him as her face lit up in delighted surprise.

Taze: “Hey, that’d be him now! Damn, timed that nearly perfectly I did. Well go ahead, open the door. He’s not going to hurt you, trust me.”
The man gulped and spoke, his voice wavering. Why was it wavering? It wasn’t like it was a monster behind the door? It was a man, plain and simple. Still, there was a chill in the air, as if the room was slowly freezing over.
Man: “C-Come in! It’s unlocked.”

The handle jiggled for a moment before sliding open…



…and death itself walked in.

The man jumped in terror and went stark white as the figure filled the doorframe. He was tall and muscular, though his clothes seemed to hide his frame somewhat. He wore a finely tailored suit and gloves, and a tattered cloak hung from his shoulders, it’s tassels gently swaying as he moved. However, two things stood out which made the man on the couch go white as a sheet. One was the mask that completely obscured his features, made from what seemed to be a hard plastic.

The other was the weapon strapped to his back. A scythe. An actual damn scythe.

The figure strode forward in a walk that echoed a dead-man’s shamble. He stood upright, but he leaned to the side slightly with each long step. The scythe on his back gleamed hungrily, as if it craved blood. It…he…was pure terror in the flesh.

Taze didn’t seem to think so. She nodded once at the figure and turned to address the man who had frozen in shock. When she spoke, her voice was surprisingly civil and calm. She had been waiting for this moment.
Taze: “Well then, I suppose introductions are in order. Tomas Brock, allow me to introduce you-



"...to Grim."



Comments

 I made it 
  April 26, 2017
Quoting Clayton Marchetti Fantastic episode!
Thanks mate!
 I made it 
  April 26, 2017
Quoting Marley Mac Yet another amazing episode! A lot of really nice character and plot development, I especially liked seeing Drake. That Grim character also seems very interesting, if a bit over the top. :D Looking forward to reading the next chapter of this awesome story!
Thanks mate :D Glad you like it, and glad you liked seeing Drake again. And as for Grim...well, let's just say's there's a reason for his appearance ;)
 I made it 
  April 26, 2017
Quoting Nick Barrett There's a lot going on behind him, but Uek won't be standing still... I'm loving this.
Cheers Nick! And no, Uek won't be standing still. That I can assure you.
 I like it 
  April 26, 2017
Fantastic episode!
 I like it 
  April 24, 2017
Yet another amazing episode! A lot of really nice character and plot development, I especially liked seeing Drake. That Grim character also seems very interesting, if a bit over the top. :D Looking forward to reading the next chapter of this awesome story!
 I like it 
  April 22, 2017
There's a lot going on behind him, but Uek won't be standing still... I'm loving this.
 I made it 
  April 21, 2017
Quoting --R.K. Blast-- Well! This certainly provided me with some entertainment at work! Haha! Good stuff, as always! Lots of nice new threads and Grim is an interesting looking fellow! (Slight point - the first time Briat is mentioned, he's called Brian! Auto-correct. haha!) 6 points! --Blast--
Ach! Stupid autocorrect! :) Thanks for the heads up, and I'm glad you enjoyed it!
 I like it 
  April 21, 2017
Well! This certainly provided me with some entertainment at work! Haha! Good stuff, as always! Lots of nice new threads and Grim is an interesting looking fellow! (Slight point - the first time Briat is mentioned, he's called Brian! Auto-correct. haha!) 6 points! --Blast--
 I made it 
  April 20, 2017
Quoting Stuart Lucas Super episode from start to finish, I like the new plot threads you're developing. And the conclusion of the airport arrival scene certainly raised a chuckle!
Thanks Stuart! Glad you enjoyed it and found it chuckle-worthy :)
 I like it 
  April 20, 2017
Super episode from start to finish, I like the new plot threads you're developing. And the conclusion of the airport arrival scene certainly raised a chuckle!
 I made it 
  April 19, 2017
Quoting Traykar the swift Meh gersh. Is everyone a core agent these days? Also, yay inflation. Fantastic episode!
Ha ha, it would seem that way. However, I did reveal Drake to be an agent in episode 1 of this season, so hopefully it wasn't a huge shock. Also, yes inflation is the best...
 I made it 
  April 19, 2017
Quoting Garrett W. Interesting! I'll be interested to see how this affects Skelton and the Red hands... I may throw in a reference or two soon. Great episode!
Thanks Garrett, and thanks for a (potential) reference!
 I made it 
  April 19, 2017
Quoting Jack Brickton An excellent part as usual! I love the team up of the other characters to take down Uek. (It seems everybody wants a piece of him lately.) And Smote is slowly becoming more and more of a favorite for me. Also this new "Grim" Character is a nice looking fig I can't wait to see what role he'll play.(I'm glad he isn't part of our crossover because Jack would probably have a heart attack just from looking at him!) I can't wait to see what happens next!
Thanks Jack! Yes, he'll have quite an interesting role to play in the future, as will Taze and a host of other characters. And I'm glad you're taking a liking to Smote as well!
 I like it 
  April 19, 2017
Meh gersh. Is everyone a core agent these days? Also, yay inflation. Fantastic episode!
 I like it 
  April 19, 2017
Interesting! I'll be interested to see how this affects Skelton and the Red hands... I may throw in a reference or two soon. Great episode!
 I like it 
  April 19, 2017
An excellent part as usual! I love the team up of the other characters to take down Uek. (It seems everybody wants a piece of him lately.) And Smote is slowly becoming more and more of a favorite for me. Also this new "Grim" Character is a nice looking fig I can't wait to see what role he'll play.(I'm glad he isn't part of our crossover because Jack would probably have a heart attack just from looking at him!) I can't wait to see what happens next!
 
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