In the administrative building on Earth, Arthur sat in a luxurious lounge chair patiently waiting.
Aide: "Governor Sterling is ready for you," said the Governor's aide in a sweet voice.
Arthur flashed her a smile as he stood up to enter the office.
The office had been built to be very sleek and modern looking but had been fitted with furniture from an older time. Christopher Sterling, the Governor of Earth, looked up from his wooden desk in front of a shelf filled with various trinkets in his collection. As Arthur entered, he held a slightly dismissive and uninterested look on his face.
Arthur: "Chris! You're looking well, is that a new haircut?"
Christopher: "What can I do for you, Arthur?" he asked in a bland voice as his visitor sat down in a chair across from him.
It seemed as if the Governor wasn't too fond of the IIA Director.
Arthur: "Uh, right, well it's about the Casts."
Christopher: "Are you any closer to finding them?"
Arthur: "We discovered one. Believe it or not, he was actually working for the IIA. He was being escorted to a secure location but he somehow... Escaped."
Christopher's already dull expression changed to a disappointed one. Before he could speak, Arthur attempted to defend himself.
Arthur: "But we'll find him again, I've put out a burn notice."
Christopher: "Arthur, you said you would handle this whole Cast situation."
Arthur: "I will! I am. But I might be able to do better with some help. That's why I came to you."
Christopher: "What can I do?"
Arthur: "Casts can be identified by small microchip implants in their brains. Perhaps if we inform the public about their presence and start mandatory brain scans, say, during physical exams, we could find them faster."
Christopher: "That won't work."
Arthur: "Boan made it work with his Collective Registration. I don't see why-"
Christopher: "Public opinion of the Collective was already low which made that easier. With this we'd be asking our own people to show us their brains. No one would ever go for that, the outcry would be huge."
Arthur: "Alright I suppose I understand..."
Christopher: "And keep the Casts under wraps. If word got out that there were human... replicas, fakes, running around the System... Can you imagine? There'd be mass hysteria, witch hunts... So all I can tell you is keep trying. Now anyway, how's our poster boy doing?"
Arthur: "He... Doesn't know anything."
Christopher: "Is he not the chosen one? Will he not bring us Salvation?"
Arthur: "It is him, I'm sure of it. Perhaps it's just not time yet."
Christopher: "Right now, Aurelia is at their strongest. Their numbers grow everyday. If Salvation exists, we need it to turn the tide back in our favor."
Arthur: "Believe me, I know what's at stake."
Christopher: "Honestly, Arthur, I have to say... I'm not too impressed with the IIA's performance as of late."
Arthur: "I'm... Sorry you feel that way..." he said surprised and also a little hurt. Although he couldn't show it.
Christopher: "We put you in charge for a reason. I need to see more results."
Arthur: "Then we shall double our efforts."
Meanwhile in Lileven, a city of Qoter, the agents of Delta squad seemed to be relaxing in a small cafe.
Dino: "You guys hear about the miners on Rerador?"
Claire: "Honestly, I kind of feel bad for them. I don't think Qoter's treating them very fairly."
William: "I think they're gonna start another war. All the miners are pissed after that soldier killed one of them."
Victor: "I wonder what side the IIA will take."
Claire: "Well anyways, Will, weren't you going to brief us on the mission?"
William: "Right, the mission... So Lileven might have some files that could give us The Banker's identity."
Victor: "The Aurelian benefactor?"
William: "Yeah. The IIA has learned a few things about him. He's from Qoter and he's one of its richest citizens, which narrows it down quite a bit. Lileven has files with his identity on them. They're in the archives at the Oyster Building. And we're going to infiltrate it."
Dino: "Can't they just give them to us?"
William: "Apparently Qoter doesn't want to share all of its secrets with the rest of the Galactic Imperium."
Claire: "I wonder what they could be hiding..."
William: "Probably a lot. But we only need one thing. So here's the plan: Victor, you're gonna get the spotlight on this one. To get inside the Oyster Building, you'll be posing as GI military commander, Henrik Bjorson, since you two look eerily similar. And I'll be coming along as your assistant."
Claire: "Are you sure you're the best person for an infiltration mission?"
William: "I'll be wearing a disguise."
Dino: "Or I could go instea-"
William: "I'm going because I'm agent in command. And Arthur's favorite. And I'm awesome."
Dino: "Okay... Well what about me and Claire? Oh don't tell us we're gonna be in the van..."
William: "You two will be in a surveillance van guiding us to the archive."
Claire let out a groan, knowing she had the boring job.
William: "Alright Victor, how're you feeling?"
William: "Then let's do this!"
After the team had prepared themselves, they began. Claire and Dino had acquired the layout of the Oyster Building and had positioned their surveillance hover-van a few blocks away from it.
Dino: "I hate this job on missions."
Claire: "Preachin' to the choir, buddy."
Victor and William, in their disguises, approached the entrance of the governmental building on foot. They used their earpieces to communicate with the other two.
William: "If you two are done complaining, we'd love directions to the archive."
Claire: "You'll have them. But get inside first."
Victor: "What's the security like?"
Claire: "Basic cameras and metal detectors. You'll need to get your fake IDs scanned but after that you two should be good."
They shrugged and continued walking.
Victor: "Your mustache is terrible, by the way."
William: "I think you're just jealous," he said smirking.
Inside, the security was exactly as Claire had described. The two walked through the metal detectors with no trouble but were stopped by a guard checking identification.
Guard: "C-Commander Bjorson," he stuttered slightly at the sight of the rather renowned Commander.
Victor turned toward the guard and shot him a stern glare. He made sure to replicate the real Commander's demeanor.
Guard: "Apologies but I must c-check your scandocs."
Victor stared at the guard for several seconds to make him uncomfortable until finally approaching him and handing over his identification.
Victor: "Do be quick, I am in a hurry."
Guard: "Of course."
The guard put the ID card against his computer system and they all waited for it to go through. William nervously tapped his foot on the floor. They weren't completely sure the forged scandoc would work.
But luckily it did.
Guard: "Sorry about that, Commander. Just protocol."
Victor snatched his card back and they continued inside. Once they were out of earshot of anyone, William began speaking freely.
William: "Your acting is just... Top-notch."
Claire's voice then came over their earpieces.
Claire: "The archive is on the bottom floor. If you go down the corridor to your left, you'll find the turbolifts."
William: "Hey, doesn't the Trade Minister work here?"
Claire: "Oh the top floor, yeah. But apparently he's in System 55 right now so he won't be a problem."
Victor and William followed Claire's directions to the turbolifts. They called it up and after a few seconds it came to their floor. They walked in when the doors slid open and luckily they were the only two people in it.
William looked at the touch screen that showed the different floors. He saw the archive floor needed identification to access.
William: "Needs the scandoc."
Victor placed the scandoc on the screen but it didn't seem to work.
Computer: "Insufficient Privileges," said the female voice of the turbolift computer.
Victor: "It's not working," Victor said frowning.
Claire: "I guess the Commander isn't authorized."
William: "What do we do?"
Dino: "I'll try hacking their systems."
The agents in the lift waited and hoped no one else would enter, while Dino worked his magic.
Dino: "Aaand try it now," he said surprisingly soon.
Victor tried again and it worked.
Computer: "Access Granted"
When the lift started going down, Victor and William looked at each other.
Victor: "Their security is atrocious," he said as William grinned.
Soon, the lift brought them to the archive floor.
Claire: "Be careful, there's a guard booth ahead," she said as they stepped out.
And there was, however the guard seemed to be missing.
William: "There's no guard. This is actually kind of ridiculous."
With absolutely nothing standing in their way, Victor and William entered Qoter's archives. The room was a little small but at the end was a glass wall that separated it from the actual archive. It was a large tower holding hundreds of various files that could be accessed by a pair of robotic arms.
Dino: "You guys in?"
William: "Yeah, this was incredibly easy."
Dino: "I'd say we've earned an easy mission. You can use the terminal to find the file."
They walked towards the terminals in front of the glass. As William searched for what they needed, Victor looked around, nervous that they might get spotted.
William: "There's all kinds of stuff here. Cloud World? The Spike? Trisectrix of Maclaurin..."
William had a feeling Trisectrix could be another Corsair probe based on the name. But further down the list of mysterious names was one particular word that stood out to him. 'Salvation'. As he was considering retrieving that file, Dino's voice distracted him.
Dino: "Le Banquier's identity is probably under 'Population Data'."
William: "Right..." he said returning to search for what they were after. He then found a file that seemed to be the one.
William: "I think I found it."
Using the computer controls, he made the arms move to the desired file. They retrieved a small canister and brought it down to an opening between the glass and the console.
As William grabbed the box and began opening it, Victor hovered over his shoulder. The inside of the box shocked them.
William: "What? That can't be right..."
Claire: "What is it?"
William: "It's empty."
Suddenly there was a brief, though loud, static noise on the agents' comm channel which caused them to wince and adjust their earpieces.
Claire: "What was that?" she asked after it stopped.
Then a different voice began speaking.
Bernd: "Come in, Delta team. Charges are set, I repeat charges are set. Standing by to detonate. Is the archive secured?"
The voice was picked up by every guard's communicator, in and around the Oyster Building. The apparent threat put them all on alert.
Guard: "The archive!" yelled one of them before he and a few others ran towards it.
In the archive, the agents were still confused.
William: "Wait I know that voice... It's that RIS agent."
Suddenly a loud alarm rang, putting a bewildered look on William's face. Before he could ask any questions, Dino chimed in with an explanation.
Dino: "He hijacked our frequency and broadcasted on the building's main comm channel. Everyone heard. This was some sort of set up."
William had no idea what was going on. What was supposed to be a simple operation had suddenly taken a wrong turn. Were they being incriminated? He stopped himself from reasoning that scenario out. They were seconds away from being ambushed by security. Right now he needed to get his team, and himself, safely out of here.
William: "Abort mission. Rendezvous Point Theta."
Victor and a William both walked out of the archive to exit the building. They kept a calm composure but walked quickly in a confident manner. Their disguises would protect them for some time but they still needed to escape.
Meanwhile in the surveillance van, Claire and Dino were dealing with the situation themselves.
Claire: "You heard him, let's get out of here."
Just as Dino was moving towards the driver's cabin, the door of the van was forced open, revealing a squad of armed guards aiming their weapons at the agents.
William and Victor walked towards an exit with several Oyster Building guards scrambling around them to find the 'intruders'.
William: "Split up. You know where to meet."
Victor: "Good luck."
William nodded and they both went separate ways.
He coolly walked out of the government building, ripping off his fake mustache. He took off his wig and ruffled his hair a little and tossed his disguise into a nearby waste bin. William continued walking, thinking he was safe until suddenly he felt the ground beneath him rumble. He turned around to see a large fireball erupt from the Oyster Building.
He hadn't truly believed there were actually explosives in the building. He briefly thought about everyone inside but knew he couldn't go back for them. Someone, likely Aurelian spies such as Bernd Jager, was setting him and his team up. They needed to regroup at the IIA safe house on Qoter and clear their heads.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Meanwhile in his office at the IIA Headquarters, Arthur stared worriedly at his computer. The incident on Qoter had taken over news reports. He watched the coverage of the destroyed Oyster Building as he thought about the agents he had sent there. His thoughts were interrupted when he saw he was getting a video call from the governor himself. He pressed a button to begin the call.
Arthur stood up and turned around as the face of Governor Sterling appeared on his screen.
Christopher: "Would you care to explain what happened?" asked the governor clearly frustrated and trying to hold back his anger.
Arthur: "I have no idea."
Christopher: "Well I do. Your Delta squad was working for Aurelia."
Arthur: "What? That's not po-"
Christopher: "The Oyster Building picked up a transmission from the RIS to the Delta agents. They did this. William did this. Half the building is destroyed with several casualties. Thank god Takeshi was off-world."
Arthur: "I know my agents, Chris. They wouldn't do this. Something else is at play here. Or the RIS is trying to frame them."
Christopher: "The evidence is clear. Now they caught two of them, the girl and the Italian. Nantucket and Vardos are still out there. They're all disavowed. We can't have Qoter thinking the IIA was involved with this. You're getting sloppy, Arthur."
Arthur: "I still can't believe this."
Christopher: "You don't even realize how bad this looks for you, do you?" he asked before letting out a deep sigh. "I'm giving you one chance. Show me you can bring them in."
Arthur: "I... I'm on it."
Once the video call ended, Arthur slumped down into his chair, completely baffled. How could he have no idea his agents were Aurelians? It just couldn't be true. Especially not for William. No, William was innocent. He knew the man, he saw him as almost a son. He wouldn't do something like this.
Arthur knew he needed to get to the bottom of this. But would he even have a chance? He had the Governor's orders. Going against him now would be a mistake. Still he couldn't let his agents suffer if they were innocent.
But then Arthur's expression changed. He leaned forward and scrunched his eyebrows as he remembered something odd. Moles and double agents were not so uncommon in his field. The Imperium had spies within Aurelia and vice versa. But a whole squad of double agents seemed a little unlikely. So what if there was only one? Someone he had been suspicious of and that might be close to being found out. Someone who would then be ready to sacrifice themselves to protect Aurelia's financier and in the process, take down as many others as he could.
As he worked out this theory, he pressed a button on his computer to speak to his secretary.
Arthur: "Could you send in Agent Tarus, please?"
After a few moments of waiting, the agent entered his office.
Tarus: "You wanted to see me, Director?"
Arthur: "Yes. It's about those discrepancies you found. On Agent Vardos' terminal."
On Qoter, William continued towards the safe house, holding a communicator in his hand. Even after several attempts at contacting Claire and Dino, he couldn't get a response. Eventually he gave up and tossed the comm. It was a risk of being tracked anyways. There was no doubt his team had been framed for the Oyster Building bombing. For what reason, he wasn't sure, but now he was wanted by the authorities. Again. It all felt too familiar to the situation Dane Duscott had put him in not so long ago.
After walking for a bit more, he was startled by a figure who stepped in front of him from behind an alley wall. He realized it was Victor.
William: "Victor, you made it out," he said, relieved to not be alone. "You see Claire or Dino?"
Victor: "No. I went by the safe house but there were agents there, waiting for us."
William: "So now what?"
Victor: "We need a ship."
Back in his office, Arthur continued talking to Agent Tarus.
Arthur: "Remind me again what you found."
Tarus: "It was a little unusual. He exchanged several encrypted messages with some unknown entity. Accessed the mainframe a few times too, when he had no business there."
Arthur: "Do you think he's a spy?"
Tarus: "Uh, we're all kind of spies here, Director."
Arthur: "I mean an enemy spy, Agent Tarus."
Tarus: "You... You think he's a double?"
Arthur: "I'm asking you."
The agent thought it over for a moment. Indeed, she had found suspicious activity on Victor's terminal. She had also noticed his sudden disappearances from time to time. It wasn't impossible.
Tarus: "Vardos. He was born on Zarus, wasn't he?"
Arthur: "He was. Came to Earth after Aurelia invaded them."
Tarus: "He could've been one of the RIS's first agents."
Arthur: "This is most disturbing... And he's with William right now... He's in danger."
Victor: "There's a small hangar nearby," Victor said as he led William to their destination. "We can borrow a ship and get off Qoter."
William: "And go where? The Imperium will be looking for us. And what about Claire and Dino?"
Victor: "We don't have any way to contact them. They're on their own."
William sighed. He knew Victor, unfortunately, was right.
William: "What the hell happened?" he asked shaking his head.
Victor: "I think the RIS already got to the Oyster Building and stole Le Banquier's file from the archive. Then they set up a trap which we walked right into."
William: "But why?"
Victor: "Why not?"
Eventually the two reached the hangar. Luckily it was more or less empty with a couple different ships available. After choosing the one that would be the easiest to steal, Victor and William climbed aboard and fired up the engines.
William: "We go to the IIA. Arthur will be able to help us."
Victor: "Alright," Victor agreed with no difficulty.
William: "Hey, do you still have a comm? I'd like to give him a heads up."
Victor pulled out a communicator and handed it to William who went with it towards the back of the ship.
Arthur: "William, I'm so glad to hear from you. Are you alright?"
William: "I'm fine but what is going on?"
Arthur: "I'm afraid you and your team have been held responsible for the bombing of the Oyster Building."
William: "We had nothing to do with that, Arthur."
Arthur: "I know, I believe you. But the Governor thinks otherwise. You've been disavowed and branded terrorists."
William: "Well great. But have you heard anything from Claire or Dino?"
Arthur: "They've already been arrested and are being brought to Earth. Where are you?"
William: "Victor and I are coming back right now. I'm hoping you can sort this all out."
Arthur: "You're with Victor? William, you can't trust him."
William: "What are you talking about?"
Arthur: "We have reason to believe he might be an Aurelian double agent."
Arthur: "It's likely he helped the RIS with the bombing. To stop you from looking for Le Banquier."
William had now tuned out and couldn't quite make out what Arthur was saying. How could Victor be a double agent? He had worked with the man ever since he had joined the IIA. He trusted him. He was a friend. But all this time he was working for the enemy? William took this very personally. This was another person who he thought to be his friend that had betrayed him.
Arthur: "William. William?" he said trying to get him to snap out of it.
William refocused his attention on Arthur's hologram.
Arthur: "You need to bring him back here. He's what will prove your innocence."
William: "I understand," William replied coldly before switching off the communicator.
He slowly turned around and stared down the corridor at Victor in the cockpit. Anger boiled inside of him. Victor had hurt him and had played him for a fool. Whatever happened next would be well deserved.
William marched over to Victor to confront him. The tiniest part of him wondered if Arthur could have been misinformed. But he'd find out the truth.
Victor turned when he heard him approaching.
Victor: "Did you talk to Arthur?" he asked him. William did not reply for some time.
William: "Et tu, Victor?"
Victor: "What?" he asked confused.
William: "How'd you know about the hangar? Kinda convenient."
Victor: "Um, I just knew... Might've seen it on a map. Does it matter?"
William: "Did you also know we were walking into a trap?"
Victor: "What are you talking about, Will?"
William: "You're an Aurelian double agent. Admit it!"
Victor was taken aback when William said this.
Victor: "I-I don't know what you're talking about," he faked being clueless but the look on his face told William enough.
William then glanced at the navi-computer. Victor nervously followed his gaze. The coordinates were set for Zarus.
William: "You... Goddamn... Asshole," he said continuing to stare at the screen. The last bit of proof he needed.
Victor: "So they finally found me. I knew they were getting suspicious."
William: "And you thought you could escape to Zarus, but not before taking us down first."
Victor: "Unfortunately I couldn't get rid of you. You know, I never really liked you. You're arrogant. Reckless... I think I'll enjoy kicking your ass."
Victor sprang out of his chair and pointed a pistol at William. With fast reflexes, William kicked the weapon out of his hand and the two began fighting hand to hand.
They moved out of the cramped cockpit to another part of the ship. Victor's IIA training had made him a proficient fighter but William recognized something else in his style. Most likely it was Aurelian training, which made holding him off even harder. William had to work twice as hard to block the barrage of punches and kicks.
Victor pushed him back into a wall. He desperately looked around for something to use as a weapon to end this. He then noticed some exposed piping above him. He proceeded to reach up, break off a pipe and hit Victor hard across the face with it. The traitor fell to the ground unconscious.
William, breathing hard, stared at him for a while, a fiery rage burning in his eyes. He felt a slight urge to just kill him there. But then he remembered he needed him alive. He might be the only thing that would acquit his friends as well as himself. William looked through the storage area for something to restrain Victor with.
Finding some rope, he tied Victor to a handrail in the cockpit. In the pilot seat, William changed the nav's destination from Zarus to Earth.
He threw a quick glance back at the still unconscious Victor before gazing out the view screen at the darkness of space in front of him.
Trying out the big text, I think it makes it easier to read. But I finally finished the league! Might've slightly ripped off the plot from a Mission Impossible movie... But it should be fairly different from here.
So there's a few different easter eggs in this one. Also I forgot to say before but all the Corsair android probes are named after Algebraic curves. How someone on Qoter a hundred years ago would know the names of Earth scientists is not important....... :P
And at last I've introduced the Governor of Earth. Thought I might as well since my story spends a lot of time on Earth and I do have more uses for him planned for later. He's not as interesting as Judas Boan but he may show a different side to the Galactic Imperium...
Nice stuff! I liked the references to both mine and 'Wolff's series' and I wasn't expecting that betrayal! Good work! Your points have been added! Congratulations, you've finished the Spies League!
Very good Episode, I have to say I wasn't expecting that betrayal. Very nice. I'm curious about the Salvation that keeps being mentioned as it's starting to sound like the IIA is being run with ulterior religious motives.
A brilliantly done episode! Seems like Will's got a knack for getting paired off with traitors. Still, loved the set pieces in this one, especially the idea of the archive tower (very Rogue 1). The story was great as well, and I'm looking forward to the next one! Oh, and those Qoterian files sounded interesting... going anywhere with those?
Very, very impressive, Captain! Rip-off or not, you executed it very well, and I am definitely hooked on this part of your story, along with all of it in general. ;) I must admit, I didn't think it'd be Victor. Well done. Can't wait to see where you go next!
I knew it was Victor!xD I actually did but that's beside the point, great job on finishing the league! And good story too. Very well done! And on that Mission Impossible thing I'd like to quote Einstein when I say,"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."xP I also really appreciate the Rogue One reference in the builds. Over on the tellies, I liked the references to both RK's and Werewolf's series'.;)