As always, it seemed downtime was a luxury only civilians got to enjoy. We had barely started our RNR on Hek VII TLF Logicistic Support when Arsten commed me.
I hadn’t even had the time to enjoy a decent meal, and protein paste just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
My disgruntled crew quickly and professionally re-assembled, ready for their next mission. I couldn’t begrudge them their dissatisfaction; we were all in a position of subjugation. It was part and parcel of serving the Republic.
Heroes aren’t made 9 – 5. Sounded like a good rule.
We made haste back to Frarn, rendezvousing with Arsten Takalo’s Republic Fleet Tempest once more.
Excellent, you’re back. Firstly, I have an update on the documents you recovered. The Thukker and Krusual have flown in analysts to go over the copies. It may take some time to sift through the data and find the fresh leads, but I’m confident they’ll find something useful in there.
In the meantime I have something else for you to do. I’ve made a few arrangements with the RSS and convinced them to let you continue to work on this Wildfire Khumaak business. Officially you will be acting as the RSS liason for the Brutor tribe, but in reality you’ll be on the front line working for the both of us to figure out what’s going on. You’re our go-to guy for this one and you got that job based on my recommendation. Don’t make me look bad, alright?
I didn’t respond, having gotten to know Arsten well enough by this point to understand that most of his questions were rhetorical. He simply enjoyed the sound of his voice, and of making you feel like you had a choice.
I’ve been asked to point you towards Corporal Nif Abruskur, who you can find in the system of Aldrat, Metropolis. I don’t know the guy, but I do know the RSS, and my advice is not to trust them. In fact, part of the reason I recommended you for this job was because I know I can rely on your judgement. That, and you how to deliver results.
I want you to keep an eye on this RSS operation. My gut still tells me that they’re keeping something from us. I suppose we’ll see, right?
Again with the royal “we”. I would find out. My crew would find out, and hopefully we’d find out with enough time to react; otherwise there would be a time of reckoning for those whom didn’t equip me with all the necessary intel to succeed at my task.
“Understood, Arsten. We’ll meet again soon, I’m sure. Fly safe.” I said, already laying in the course for Aldrat.
The fifteen jump journey was uneventful, which was a welcome rarity. My crew was on standby, but not full combat ready alertness.
As I warped the Onslaught towards the RSS Liason Headquarters, I had time to reflect on what Aura’s records revealed about them.
For the most part, the Republic Security Services Corporation has not made a habit of hiring outsiders, preferring instead to stick to known, trustworthy people who have long proven their loyalty to the Minmatar cause. The one notable exception to this isolationist tendency has been the capsuleers, who are afforded much higher levels of access due to their unique capabilities. Unwilling to let such powerful individuals serve other agendas, the RSS long ago made sure that the proper in-space and in-station infrastructure would be there to act as a bridge, a connection between their own shadowy world and that of the powerful capsuleer class.
Good news for me, I guessed.
A Rapier class covert ops vessel decloaked off my starboard bow, and I was hailed by our RSS representative, Nilf Abruskur:
Greetings Colonel. I’m Corporal Nilf Abruskur. I’m glad to have you working with us. Now, we have much to discuss and little time in which to discuss it, so if you don’t mind, I’ll get straight to the point.
I broke my salute, allowing the Corporal to continue.
You conducted yourself with skill and cunning for Agent Takalo. Due to this, and due to the fact that you’re already involved in this delicate matter we have decided to enlist your services, if you will provide them.
As you’ve no doubt learned by now, it appears we have an intelligence asset in the Ammatar Consulate, and their handler – our agent – had disappeared under mysterious circumstances as well. It is a messy situation at the moment, but I have little doubt that we’ll clean it up one way or the other.
Our Ammatar asset is the priority for now; if we can find her, we will be able to make sense of the Wildfire Khumaak you have discovered. The tribes have their best people working on those documents you recovered as well, trying to glean her identity from something in there, but even though we don’t know her identity, they have shown us who one of her enemies is.
The data you have recovered has strongly supported existing evidence that we have an Ammatar counteragent in our midst, and now we have their name. We believe this person has gathered information that may compromise our own source in the Ammatar government. This traitor is currently residing at one of our residential quarters with his family, completely unaware that the world is about to come crashing down on him.
We’ve dissolved his ship’s FTL link without his knowledge, and for the past twelve hours we’ve run a dead-end intercept on every transmission he’s tried to make out of the area. We know he’s about to make an escape with his family sometime soon.
Your task is to ensure that ship does not escape the area intact. Local agents will stand down, they know the score.
I felt sick to my stomach.
I had seen war. I knew the consequences every kill brought. I’m not talking theologically here; eternal damnation, reaping what I sow, blah, blah. I’m talking straight out facts: I kill a pilot; their family suffers the loss.
You de-sensitized yourself to it; you had to or you would drive yourself insane with the guilt of it all. You accepted that you were choosing the lesser of two evils, and shouldered the burden; that was your job.
But this man, traitor or not, would have his family on board his vessel. There was no way I would open fire on innocents. It simply would never, EVER, happen.
But if I said no, they would simply find someone else who would comply. If I said no, I would be potentially removing the Brutor tribe from even having a part in this discovery.
I accepted the mission.
I would find a way to accomplish my objective and spare the family.