Chapter Thirteen: Who Will Serve and Who Will Eat   Leave a comment

As the pilgrims approached the unknown planet, a series of unknown vessels appeared, bombarding the Straylight with unidentified energy. Quick diagnosis on Engineer Fannagus’s part revealed that it was radio waves—too analog for the Second Republic vessel to recognize as communication. Fannagus jury-rigged a radio transceiver and Manx replied to their hails. They identified themselves as Charioteers and escorted the starliner to Leagueheim.

leagueheim

Leagueheim (c/o deviantart)

Manx and Swindon dressed up Brother Sand’s corpse in a steward’s uniform and passed him off as their dead Charioteer pilot. However, their itinerary still had enough gaps in it—there is no known jumproute between Nowhere and Leagueheim—that the Straylight was remanded to a council of Guild functionaries for potential salvage. Manx and Fannagus talked down the Scraver and Muster representatives with little difficulty. The Engineers proved amenable to sharing the credit for any findings aboard the Second Republic vessel; the Charioteers ceded their claim once Manx convinced them the Straylight wasn’t a threat to their monopoly; and the Reeves settled for a bribe – thirty “contracts” for skilled ship’s stewards (the Symbiotes in stasis in the pool).

In the course of their negotiations, the pilgrims learned that they had been “out” for thirteen months.

Fannagus went to the Engineers’ library to begin work on the new AI logic that would stop Criticorum from being culled. When Ferizio nearly spilled the details on what Fannagus was working on to other engineers, Fannagus blew up at his young friend. The two went their separate ways in anger.

While tracking down a bent Charioteer to “pilot” the Straylight, Manx was found by some Scraver flunkies. They escorted him to Dean Toth, who furiously demanded where Manx’s son was. Manx insisted he didn’t know—that he’d been hoping to get that tidbit from the Scravers, in fact—and a few hours of heavy interrogation by some Scraver heavies convinced Toth that Manx was telling the truth.

Fannagus passed Sir Swindon while returning to the Straylight. Swindon bid his good-byes, insisting that he had to get to Ravenna to save Lady Maryam from the mental alterations that Countess Adorna had put on her. Fannagus saw him off, then powered up the bridge to continue researching the AI he carried with him. However, when he drew the familiar transparent cube from his robes, it was already glowing brilliant white. The Second Republic quantum core was communicating aerially with the Second Republic starliner and had already begun taking over its systems.

Toth brought Manx up to speed on the last year: a person or persons known as “the Iconoclast” had been striking at Guild centers throughout the Known Worlds. He believed that the Iconoclast was Manx’s son, and that Manx’s son knew the whereabouts of Caspar Chauki. That knowledge gave the Iconoclast leverage which hindered Toth’s efforts to move against him, and so he asked Manx to bring his son in. Toth was just about to offer some aid when the sound of blaster fire interrupted them.

Fannagus partitioned the database that “Arcos” was studying, trapping it. Arcos retaliated by shutting off the oxygen scrubbers. In exploring the database, Arcos had found a whole new list of worlds in need of the same “optimization” that it had started on Criticorum. Fannagus convinced the AI that it would have better luck with his help than without it, and Arcos eventually turned the air back on.

Manx recognized the commandos attacking the Scraver headquarters as the Black Service, the Muster’s off-books elite unit. He fled out the side of the building and hijacked a magnetic maintenance lifter, riding it down the outside of the two-mile skyscraper like a sled. Re-entering the building a hundred stories later, he fled through a security office, blending with the crowd until guards could engage one of the pursuing soldiers. The last soldier, Manx overpowered and drowned in an office fountain, though not before suffering a severe blaster burn.

black-service

The Black Service (c/o deviantart)

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Posted February 27, 2015 by John Perich in Uncategorized

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