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The Insurgency: S3 #18 Rags to Riches (FB)
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Part 18 in Season 3 of my Insurgency series! A freebuild for the Marauders! Please comment, rate and enjoy!
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2nd June 2094


My wrists ached.


That was the first thought that came to me as I regained consciousness. I couldn’t open my eyes yet; I was still too drowsy. I tried remembering what had happened but everything was just a blur. Instead, I concentrated on the present – what I could hear, smell, feel.



I became aware that I was standing upright and that my back was pressed against something flat. My wrists were aching because my arms were raised above my head and were strapped down at the wrist – I realised that my ankles were also strapped down.


I wasn’t aware of much else. There were no particular smells and there were no sounds. Finally, I managed to open my eyes and I found myself in a small, gloomy room. Looking around, I noticed that the walls had been hewn from the rocks and there were also various pieces of laboratory equipment dotted around. My hat and Jarred’s helmet sat atop a cabinet nearby. As I looked about, the memories of how I got here began to return. Jarred and I finding the door in the snow. Of finding the laboratory inside and then being gassed by the mysterious voice.


Jarred.


Looking to my sides I found him tied up to my right. Strapped to a gurney, exactly the same as I was. He seemed to still be unconscious. Nobody else was around and so I tried to wake him.


Tank: “Jarred!” I hissed, but got no response. “Jarred!” I tried again, slightly louder this time. His eyelids fluttered but remained closed. I glanced nervously around, just in case anybody had appeared since I last checked.
Tank: “Ja…”
Jarred: “What?” he grunted.
Tank: “What’s going on?” I asked, worried, but thankful that he was no conscious.
Jarred: “How the fuck would I know? You’ve only just woke me up.” He growled, his eyes finally fluttering open.



I didn’t have a response to that, so shut up. There were a few seconds of silence before Jarred spoke.
Jarred: “How long d’you think we’ve been out?”
Tank: “I don’t know.” I replied honestly, before adding with a smirk, “I only just woke up.” Jarred’s lip curled up in a small smile.


Another few seconds passed. Somewhere nearby there was a cold sounding ‘plip’ as a drop of icy water dripped into a growing puddle.
Jarred: “Of all the ways I thought I’d go out, this is not one of them.” He muttered.
Tank: “Hey, who said we’re going out?!” I exclaimed, trying to reassure both Jarred and myself.
Jarred: “Who knows why the hell we’re tied up here.” He said, turning to look at me. “We could be here for months, years! That’s if we don’t die first. Or get straight up killed.”


I didn’t know how to respond and so looked away, concentrating absent-mindedly on a piece of equipment nearby.


I knew he was telling the truth. We had no way of telling how long we’d be left like this, why we were here or what was going to happen. We knew for sure that nobody was coming to rescue us though. Two escaped convicts hidden in an icy bunker in the middle of nowhere. Yeah, no-one was coming for us.



My heart sank as the truth settled in. I may never see the light of day again. I’d never be able to complete my mission – finding out the truth about my parent’s deaths.


I’d never know who killed my parents or why.


My lip began to tremble and I had to take a deep breath to settle myself.


But it was true and I knew it. I may never be able to prove my innocence and I’d never find out why my parent’s had been killed. My miserable life would be over.


‘I’ve hardly lived.’ I reflected, thinking back on my short life. A happy childhood cut short. Years in prison and then a few months on the run in a dusty cave. It was nothing. Jarred was my only adult friend and he was soon going to be dead too. My life had come to absolutely zero.


I sighed heavily.
Jarred: “You know, I really thought I’d get justice for her.” He muttered and I turned back to face him. When he didn’t elaborate any further, frowning, I asked,
Tank: “What? Who?”


There were a few seconds before Jarred replied.
Jarred: “My daughter.”



It took a second or so for that to settle in. Jarred had a daughter?! But, now I thought about it, I came to realise that I didn’t actually know very much about him at all. I had no idea how old he was, where he’d come from, anything about his life or why he was in prison in the first place. He was a complete mystery. I’d know that he was a bit older than me simply because of his looks, but I’d not taken him to be that much older! And revenge for what?


Tank: “I didn’t know.” I replied meekly.
Jarred: “Kristy.” He whispered and I knew from his tone that that was the name of his daughter. “The most beautiful thing on this planet.” he said but then caught himself and changed that to, “on Earth.”


I nodded acceptingly, but he wasn’t looking at me. His head was lolling against his chest and his eyes, although staring at the ground in front of him, were blank and focussed on something only he could see.


Jarred: “I really thought that I would get justice for her.” He repeated.
Tank: “What happened?” I asked quietly.


Jarred took a long time to reply and when he did, I got the impression that he didn’t tell this story very often. Maybe he never had done before. I could also tell that it didn’t come easy.



Jarred: “My life was very different once.” He began. “When I was 17, I got my girlfriend pregnant and we had a daughter – Kristy. It wasn’t planned but we were happy. I had a job and so I could afford to look after us. Kristy was so beautiful. She was an angel. The next year I married Rosie, my girlfriend and it was the happiest time of my life. I had a family – an amazing family and things could not have been better.” As he paused, his lip twitched, the ghost of a smile playing across them, remembering memories of better times.


Jarred: “But it didn’t last. The following year, Rosie left me. She was a druggy and couldn’t handle raising Kristy. She’d always had fun but her addictions got worse and she couldn’t take it. One day she just upped and left. But at least I still had Kristy. I still had my baby angel. For the next year I had to juggle work and taking care of her, but I managed, and to be honest, I didn’t mind.”


Jarred: “But then one day at work, I got a phone call from Kristy’s nursery saying that she’d been taken.” He continued and his voice deepened to a growl. “Some armed men had burst in smashed up the place until they handed Kirsty over. The men were after her specifically.”


Tank: “You can’t know that.” I interjected, attempting to reassure him. “They could have taken any one of the kids there…”
Jarred: “No. They were after her.” He snarled and I got slightly scared. “They gave the teacher a note to pass on to me.”



Jarred: “They were drug pushers. Rosie owed them money, a lot of money and so they kidnapped our daughter, my Kristy. My ANGEL!” he bellowed suddenly, making me jump. His shout echoed off of the rough rock walls and bounced away up the corridor.


There was another pause in which I wondered whether Jarred was going to continue or not. I also feared that his shout would have alerted somebody to the fact that we were awake. Eventually, he did continue.


Jarred: “I tracked down Rosie. Found her slumped in a drug den caked in her own vomit. She was a mess. I demanded that she hand over the money that she owed, so that I could go and get Kristy back. But she didn’t have it. She was penny-less. So I killed her.”


My stomach lurched at how casually he said that. He’d killed his ex-wife?


Jarred: “I hadn’t gone there planning to do it. I just snapped – I was so angry, and so I killed her.” He admitted. “I didn’t know what to do. So the next day I went to the address that the drug pushers had left on their note and I told them what I’d done. I told them Rosie was dead and I begged them for my daughter back. She was only 2 years old. She was innocent. A child!” he took a ragged breath, full of emotion and I found tears in my own eyes just listening to his story.


Jarred: “But they had already killed her. They told me so matter-of-factly. I didn’t even get to see her body. She was gone… my baby… my beautiful angel was dead… and I could do nothing about it. I was so full of rage, so angry and upset, but I was unarmed and I was in a building full of men with guns. They laughed.” He continued, now openly crying. “They laughed as I walked away. I couldn’t do a single, damned thing.”



Jarred: “I had nothing. Nothing at all. I was a wreck. I didn’t leave my house for a month. I lost my job, but no longer cared. When I finally left the house, I never went back. I swore that I would never be that helpless again. Never again would I let anybody push me around.”


He sighed and took a few deep breaths to stop his tears before carrying on.
Jarred: “So I got some training. I did some jobs and then used my new skills to hunt down the bastards that had murdered Kristy... But they’d vanished.” His anger faded and was replaced by a more subdued tone; one of regret.


Jarred: “I hunted high and low but they’d gone in the wind. The closest I came was when I found an associate of the gang’s. I tortured him, trying to get information out of him. Trying to find out anything, ANYTHING at all that would help me find them. But he was useless. He didn’t know a single thing. He was clean. And so I let him go… that was my biggest mistake.”


I frowned, not understanding, but Jarred continued.
Jarred: “He went to the authorities and they tracked me down. I was arrested and charged for both the torture of that man and also Rosie’s murder.”


I nodded, finally understanding.
Tank: “That’s why you were in the prison.” I concluded and he nodded in confirmation.
Jarred: “Yeah, and… well, you know the rest.”



Tank: “Yeah.” I nodded. Jarred had been so open, so honest, I was a bit taken aback. But I suppose, under the circumstances….


Sighing, I supposed I ought to clear my own conscience.


Tank: “You know, I was only 11 when I was sent to that prison. I was just a kid.” I paused. “And innocent.”
Even though I was looking at the floor, in the corner of my eye I saw Jarred turn to look at me.
Jarred: “Innocent?”
Tank: “Yeah. What I was sent down for… I didn’t do it.”
Jarred: “What were you accused of? Why’d they lock you up?”


It took me a while to summon the courage to respond.
Tank: “They said I murdered my parents. But I didn’t. I loved them and I was only 11! Why the hell would I kill them!” I babbled, getting angry and upset. “I loved them… but somebody killed them. We came home one night, I went to get ready for bed and when I came back they were both dead on the floor. Stabbed in the back.” I explained, the memory of that night vivid in my mind.



Tank: “The great Lana and Jeremy Foster, dead and their son was to blame.” I whispered, tears rolling down my cheeks. “My real name is Frank. Frank Foster.” I admitted openly to Jarred and as I turned to face him, I saw that his face was one of shock.


Tank: “I didn’t do it, Jarred, I swear I didn’t.” I urged, hoping he would believe me. I couldn’t lose him as a friend, not now. He was the only person I had left.
Jarred: “Don’t worry, pal. I believe you.” He said, swallowing and forcing a smile. “I believe you.” He repeated, more quietly this time.
Tank: “When I got out of prison, I swore that I would out the truth. I would find out who killed my parents and why. But… now… it doesn’t seem like I’m going to be able to…”I muttered downheartedly.


Jarred: “Hey. Hey. We’ll get out of here. Just you wait and see.” He predicted before falling silent and staring at the floor.


Tank: “But you said it yourself… we have no idea if we’re ever going to get out of here…”


Voice: “Oh, you will!” a new voice suddenly interjected, accompanied by the sound of footsteps, as they entered the room.



I recognised the voice as being the same one that had spoken to us through the speakers before we were gassed, but I wasn’t prepared for the man whom the voice belonged to.


His skin was so pale and sallow that it had a yellow tint to it and one of his eyes appeared to be glowing red. He had a thick, slicked-down mop of black hair on his head and was dressed in a white lab coat.
Jarred: “Who are you?” he demanded.
Dr. Lobotomy: “I am Doctor Lorrio Botticelli. I am the administrator of this facility.” He introduced himself with a grin that make him look decidedly maniacal.


Tank: “What do you want with us?”
Dr. Lobotomy: “Oh that is simple! You are to be test subjects! I haven’t had any fresh meat in here for a very long time! My current subjects have gotten a little… unruly.”
Jarred: “Tests for what?”



Dr. Lobotomy: “Why, my experiments of course!”


I didn’t like this guy. Not one bit. He was like some mad scientist! What the hell did he think he was playing at?!


Jarred: “What fracking experiments?” He growled and yanked on his bonds, trying to break loose.


Dr. Lobotomy: “Oh I have allsorts going on!” he explained almost gleefully and wandered away towards a nearby metal cabinet. “My main fields are cross-species genetics and human enhancement!”


Jarred: “You better let us go…” he warned threateningly.
Dr. Lobotomy: “Or what?” he asked, amused by Jarred’s threat. “No, no, no. You will be remaining here, with me. So that I can monitor your progress! If you are a success, THEN I may grant you your freedom, but… that is a big if. My experiments don’t usually have a very good success rate, unfortunately.” He continued, as he withdrew a tray from within the cabinet and placed on the counter top. The tray was covered in syringes, all with enormous needles attached to them and just seeing them made me shudder.



Tank: “You’re crazy.” I muttered, unsure if I actually wanted him to hear me.
Dr. Lobotomy: “So they tell me.” He replied, brushing the insult aside as he raised one of the syringes, peering at it and tapped the needle.


He turned and walked back toward us, syringe in hand.
Dr. Lobotomy: “So, who’s first?” he grinned.
Jarred: “Keep that thing away from us.” He growled and yanked on his bonds again, shaking them, trying desperately to break free, but to no avail.
Dr. Lobotomy: “We have a winner!” he announced and stepped towards Jarred.
Tank: “Hey!” I shouted. “Leave him alone!” The two of us frantically struggled against our bonds but no matter how hard we tried, neither one of us could break free.


The mad scientist got close to Jarred and shoved up his sleeve. Jarred tried to lash out at him, but failed.
Dr. Lobotomy: “You will only make this more painful for yourself.” He warned, but sounded like he couldn’t care less about how much pain Jarred was in. Jarred roared and spat in the doctor’s mechanical, red eye, but the abuse was ignored and slowly the needle was slid into a vein in Jarred’s arm.


His roar of anger turned into one of pain as slowly the liquid held inside the syringe was injected into his blood stream. I hurled insult after insult at the madman, but he remained silent and continued his work with a smile on his sunken face.



Jarred was thrashing about in pain and rage and I was still tugging against my restraints with all my strength, but nothing gave. Dr. Botti… whatever the heck he’d said his name was, walked away, back over to the cabinet. He very carefully placed the used syringe down on the tray and then selected another.


Tank: “Back off!” I screamed, my heart racing in terror, as he moved towards me.
Dr. Lobotomy: “And now for number two!” he smirked, waggling the syringe in front of my face. “Hold still now!” he warned as, beside me, Jarred went limp.


Tank: “NOO!” I screamed and looked away as he raised the needle.
Voice: “Sir.” A new, robotic voice interrupted and I gasped.
Dr. Lobotomy: “What is it?” he demanded, facing the droid standing in the doorway.
Droid: “General Tulivar requests an update on Project S.”
Dr. Lobotomy: “What? NOW?!”
Droid: “Yes, sir.”


The madman sighed heavily and tapped my forehead with the needle, making me flinch.
Dr. Lobotomy: “Raincheck!” he chuckled and walked away. “While you’re waiting, you can keep an eye on your friend there for me!”


He casually tossed the syringe aside onto the tray and with that, left along with the droid, leaving me alone, panting in fear, with Jarred unconscious and limp beside me…





2nd October 2096: Present Day



It had been almost a month since the debacle in Old Qoter and the collapse of both a large section of the planet and also the truce between Pax Aurelia and the Galactic Imperium. I’d had a pretty quiet month, but I’d kept up with the going’s on of the galaxy on the news. There had been almost constant attacks by Collective drones all over the system and Qoter was still plagued by junk robot attacks. The more worrying news was that nobody knew where One, the ancient drone, had gone. Judas had sent a huge force down there to deal with him, but when they arrived, he’d vanished. Jay had been in touch to let me know they still couldn’t regain control of their drones and so now it was a matter of finding One and defeating him.


I’d also been contacted by Dustin a couple of weeks ago. After everything that he’d told me about Zeth Stripe and his history with him in the Core, he’d promised that he’d ask one of his old friends if he knew Zeth’s location or anything at all that might help me track down my parent’s murderer. But, frustratingly, he’d informed me that his friend knew nothing at all. Apparently he hadn’t spoken to Zeth for years and had no idea where to find him or even where to begin looking.



It was so annoying! I’d come so close, found out so much, but was still so far away! Even though I knew so much more than I did before, I was still no closer to finding him!


The news was currently reporting that the newly re-united Aurelian forces had been spotted scouting Imperial bases on Toliv. Imperium forces were being redirected to the planet in order to defend it if it came to an assault.


The report ended and the screen returned to displaying the news studio.
Female Reporter: “Now, it has been over ten years since their deaths, but the plans for Lana and Jeremy Foster’s memorial statue have finally been unveiled.”


My mouth actually dropped open and I suddenly began paying attention. What did she say?!



Female Reporter: “The plans for the statue memorialising the much-loved philanthropists were unveiled yesterday evening at an exclusive event in New York city, on Earth. The statue was meant to be put on display on the tenth anniversary of their murders, back in May of this year, however, numerous setbacks resulted in the unveiling being postponed by a year.”


I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! There was going to be a statue memorialising my parents! I really couldn’t believe it! A huge smile spread across my face as I continued watching the report.


Male Reporter: “But now, the plans are finally going ahead and the final design has been revealed.”


As they spoke, the screen cut to footage taken at yesterday’s event and showed an artist’s impression of what the statue would look like when completed. It was beautiful. Carved from a light-coloured stone, it depicted both of my parents standing side by side, walking casually. And they were happy. They both had smiles on their faces and appeared as if life couldn’t be any better.


They looked exactly as I remembered them. It was so nice to see them like that again. Watching the report, I realised that recently I’d been so focussed on their deaths, that all I was remembering was the image of them lying face down in the carpet, soaked in blood. I’d forgotten to remember them as they were in life.


The report continued to say that the statue is now on track to be revealed next year, on the 11th anniversary of their deaths.



It carried on to remind the viewers of what happened on that fateful night. At least, what everybody believed happened. About how I had killed them and was then sentenced to life imprisonment. I’d heard this part too many times before though and so I turned the TV off. It was a shame. I really wished that I could have been a part of that statue. A statue of the three of us, as we were back then – a happy family. But I knew that would never happen. Even if… no, when I manage to clear my name, it would be too late for me to be a part of that statue. Maybe I could get my own one?


That thought amused me for several minutes. A statue dedicated to me! That would be cool!


Over on the table, my comlink started beeping so I got up, walked over and flicked it on.
Judas: “Hey, Tank.”
Tank: “Hey! How’s things?”
Judas: “Oh, as busy as always. But good overall, thanks. How’s things there?”
Tank: “Unusually quiet!” I joked.
Judas: “Lucky for some!” he replied with a smile. “Do you think you could pop in later? I’ve found something that I think you may be interested in.”
Tank: “Oh, really? What?”
Judas: “Well, now that I know your real identity, I did a bit of digging and… well, you’ll see when you get here.” He smiled.


Elsewhere on Qoter…



Hammerstrike: “No, it’s your fault!” the green-skinned alien shouted angrily.
Ranger: “How is it?!” he asked defensively. “If you’d been watching him like you were supposed to, this wouldn’t have happened!”
Hammerstrike: “You should have kept better look out!”
Ranger: “I shouldn’t have needed to!”


Wolfhide: “QUIET! BOTH OF YOU!” he bellowed, storming past the squabbling pair. An escaped prisoner, one on the list of felons that they were rounding up, had just slipped through their fingers. They’d managed to catch him, but somehow he’d escaped again and was no nowhere to be found. Everybody was blaming each other and the group had descended into a bickering mess.


Wolfhide: “So, what do we do?” he asked Colonel Ramson, their leader. Ramson was hunched over a portable holoprojector with one side of a pair of headphones pressed against an ear. Two fuzzy blue figures were being displayed on the projector – clearly an intercepted call between the pair.



The Colonel held up a finger, silently telling the bounty hunter to wait while he listened in.


Arguing broke out again among the other members of the squad and Wolfhide shot a glare at them. It achieved nothing and so rolling his singular eye, he turned back to the Colonel, who was still listening. Wolfhide frowned and leaned in to get a better look at the figures.
Wolfhide: “Wait….” He muttered, realising that both of the figures looked familiar. “That’s the Governor…”


Ramson nodded, a grin on his face.
Wolfhide’s singular eye went wide as he recognised the second figure.
Wolfhide: “Rockwell…” he growled as the images vanished and Ramson stood up, lowering his headphones.
Ranger: “Wait, what?” he asked, overhearing and coming to join them.
Col. Ramson: “We’ve got him!”
Wolfhide: “Who’s channel was that?”
Col. Ramson: “The Governor’s.”
Ranger: “Wait, so you just hacked the com channel for the Governor of Qoter?”



Col. Ramson: “I don’t care.” He replied coldly.
Ranger: “Didn’t the Governor tell you to leave Rockwell alone, anyway?”
Col. Ramson: “This is personal now. He’s been a pain for far too long.”


Ranger raised his eyebrows but kept his mouth shut.
Wolfhide: “For once, I agree with you.” He announced, a smirk playing across his lips as he looked to their leader.
Ranger: “Wow… first time for everything…” he muttered as he turned and walked away.
Col. Ramson: “We’ve got him…”


The Governor’s Office…


Riley: “Hey! What are you doing here?” she greeted as I arrived at the Governor’s office a few hours later.
Tank: “Hey.” I replied with a grin and we exchanged a quick kiss, keeping it brief in case anybody saw. “Judas wants me for something, but I’m not sure what.” I replied and suddenly panic filled my chest as I hoped and prayed the Judas hadn’t told Riley my real identity.
Riley: “Oh okay! He didn’t tell me you were coming!” she smiled.



Phew! It didn’t sound like he had done.
Tank: “Nice surprise then.” I smirked and she winked back as I headed on in and round the corner to Judas’s office.
Judas: “Hey! Come on in!” he greeted.


Tank: “Hey! What’s all this about then? I’m curious now.” I asked as I plonked myself down on one of the chairs.


Judas: “Well, like I said earlier, now that I know your real identity, I’ve been doing a little digging and I think… well, no, I have found something.” He replied with a smile.
Tank: “Okay… what is it?”


Judas: “Well, first of all, we can’t continue without somebody else.” I frowned, now really confused. “You can come in now.” He called, looking past me to the door and as I looked over my shoulder, I got the surprise of my life.



Uncle Barnaby walked through the door, a big smile spreading across his face. Overcome by emotion, I leapt up and gave him a hug. I didn’t care that I wasn’t ten any more.
Tank: “What are you doing here?” I asked, letting him go.
Barnaby: “The Governor here invited me. You’ll see why in a moment.” He replied with a smile and took a seat in the chair next to mine. I sat back down, now really confused.
Tank: “Okay, what’s going on?”
Judas reached into a desk drawer and pulled out an envelope. He reached forwards and handed it to Barnaby without a word. From inside, Barnaby withdrew a formal-looking sheet of paper and began to read.
Barnaby: “Herein lies the joint last will and testament of Jeremy and Lana Foster.”


My eyes widened in shock as I realised what I was hearing. Barnaby continued.
Barnaby: “This last will expresses our wishes without undue influence or duress and we declare that we are both of legal age and sound mind. We hereby nominate, constitute and appoint Barnaby Walsh as Executor.” I glanced at Judas, who was simply sitting there smiling, enjoying my surprise.


Barnaby continued reading my parent’s will out loud, but most of it was simple official information that had to be there.



Barnaby: “We hereby appoint Barnaby Walsh as guardian to Frank Foster until such a time as he comes of age…” Barnaby paused and looked up at me. “That bit was nullified when you were sent to prison.” He explained and suddenly my mind was full of thoughts of what could have been. If my parent’s real killer had been caught, of a life growing up with Uncle Barnaby. I knew he wasn’t my real uncle but still… I loved him as one. He was the closest thing I had to real family.


Barnaby: “To our son, Frank Foster, we leave the entirety of our financial wealth.” He continued and my heart nearly jumped from my chest. He took out a second sheet of paper, one covered in numbers and calculations. “Uh, so at the time of their deaths your parents had a total net worth of $430 million dollars. Minus the legal fees, boring bits and other mundane costs, that leaves you with just over $400 million dollars.”


I was shivering. I had no idea why. I think I was in shock.
Judas: “You’re rich, Tank.” He stated, just in case it hadn’t struck me yet. “You can pay me back for your apartment and your warp drive now!” he laughed, clearly joking, but I was too shocked to reply at all.



But that wasn’t all, Barnaby hadn’t finished yet.
Barnaby: “To our son, Frank Foster, we leave our penthouse apartment. We also leave to him all our physical assets, the key selection of which are to be presented to him in the attached box.” Judas leant over behind his desk and when he sat up, he held out a box to me. Still shivering, I took it from him and placed it in my lap. Barnaby had paused and I knew that both of them were waiting for me to open it, but I couldn’t. I took a shaky breath, full of emotion. The box wasn’t big, maybe slightly larger than a shoe box, and nor was it heavy. Not physically anyway.


Barnaby: “Go on Frank. Open it.” He encouraged quietly. “That’s all the stuff relevant to you anyway.” He explained and tucked the will sheet back into its envelope. “The rest was dealt with at the time, but it’s safe to say that… they left it all to you. Everything they had, everything they were worth. It’s all yours now. You should have gotten this at the time and the money was placed in a safe bank account which you would have gained access to when you turned 18, but… well, you were in prison and then went on the run, so…” he explained and I nodded slowly in understanding. I couldn’t take my eyes off the box in my lap though.


Judas: “Go on! I want to know what’s inside!” he pressured, jokingly.



I took a deep breath and then carefully opened the lid. Inside was a selection of items and I carefully made my way through them one by one. There was a smaller box, which when I opened it, revealed a shining gold watch.


Barnaby: “That was your father’s.” he explained and I slid it onto my wrist. A perfect fit.


Also in the box was my father’s wallet, a framed photograph of the three of us, a slightly worn copy of the bible, which had apparently belonged to my mother and a holo chip. I frowned at the holo chip, wondering what it could be, but I couldn’t bring myself to insert it into my datapad. Instead, I just held it in my hand in silence.
Barnaby: “Wait till you get home.” He suggested kindly, obviously seeing my inner turmoil. I smiled gratefully and placed the chip back in the box. Taking another deep, shaky breath, I said,
Tank: “Thank you. Both of you.” I nodded my appreciation to them both and they simply smiled in reply. “I…. I honestly don’t know what to say.”
Barnaby: “You don’t need to say anything, Frank. I know it must be a lot to take in.” He responded, understandingly.


Judas: “You could always take us out to dinner. There’s no cheaping out, now that we know you’re loaded.” He grinned and I couldn’t help but smirk.


Tank: “Thank you.” I repeated, unsure of what to say.
Judas: “It’s our pleasure.” He smiled.


Nearby…



The doors ‘swosshed’ open and Tank exited the senate building. With a box tucked under his arm, he glanced both ways along the sidewalk, watching the innumerable passers-by, and then headed into the crowd. The amplified view through the macronoculars followed his progress for several seconds, before he disappeared from sight behind a building.


The figure lowered their macrobinoculars and stared on for a few seconds more, just gazing out over the bustling cityscape spread out before them.



Then Darkblade clipped the macrobinoculars to his belt, stood, turned and walked away across the rooftop, vanishing into the night.


Elsewhere…


With my head full of questions and thoughts and my chest full of emotions, I walked along the sidewalk. It was a bit of a trek from the senate building back to my apartment, but I needed the air and I also felt like calling into the coffee shop on the way. Give myself a distraction from everything that had just happened, or at least, give myself some time to think it all through.


Yeah, that sounded like a good idea, I thought to myself as I walked, ignoring the thousands of people around me, going about their own business. The box of my parent’s possessions that I’d been given was tucked securely in my satchel, bouncing against my hip with every step, forbidding me to forget everything I’d just learnt.



I was about midway between the senate and the coffee shop when I was startled out of my thoughts by a cry.


I paused and glanced down a dark alleyway to my right. I couldn’t see much, the only illumination came from a couple of neon lights advertising a couple of shady establishments. I was about to move on, assuming I’d imagined the cry, but then it came again, more urgent this time and I saw a dark shadow moving violently about halfway up the alley. – Somebody being attacked.


I drew one of my pistols and started down the alley.
Tank: “Hey!” I shouted, trying my best to sound intimidating and hoping to scare the attacker away. As I grew closer I could see one figure stood over another, laying on the ground. I shouted again and this time the attacker turned towards me. I still couldn’t make out any features but I did notice the second figure, the one who’d been on the floor, scrabbling backwards and then running for cover behind a dumpster.


Tank: “What’s going on?” I demanded, still trying to sound butch as I advanced. But then I froze in place as the figure took a single step forwards into the illumination of one of the lights…



Tank: “Wolfhide!” I half gasped, half snarled. “Got out of jail then? Gone back to mugging passers-by, have you?”


Wolfhide chuckled, a smirk on his face.
Wolfhide: “Boys.” He called and my stomach tightened as a group of people emerged from behind the same dumpster as I’d seen the other person flee to. A human in a red leather jacket, a green-skinned being wielding the biggest double-sided hammer I’d ever seen and a human-shark hybrid with gleaming teeth.


Tank: “So you’ve brought back up this time.” I quipped. “Couldn’t stand facing me alone and losing again? It’s funny how we keep running into each other.” I continued, stalling, trying to think of any way out of this situation.
Voice: “Oh, this is no coincidence.” A voice I recognised announced from behind me.



I spun around and found myself face to face with Xavier Ramson, Colonel of the Galactic Imperium and thorough pain in my side.


Tank: “Of course…” I muttered with a sneer.
Col. Ramson: “You’ve evaded me for far too long, Foster and now I’m taking you down.” He announced. “Frank Foster, alias Chain Rockwell, alias Tank, you are hereby placed under arrest for the crime of prison break.”


Tank: “So these are your guys?” I asked, still frantically trying to think of a way out of this situation. “Wolfhide, I thought you had standards.” I joked without a smile, turning back to face the random collection of beings behind me.
Wolfhide: “Funny. But I’ve told you before. I adapt. I’m a survivor.”
Tank: “Yeah, yeah… I remember.” I muttered, glancing between the group and the Colonel.
Col. Ramson: “This, is Beta Squad.” He introduced, nodding in the direction of the other men.
Tank: “They’re a squad?” I muttered, surprised, still glancing all over, trying to spot anything that may be of use in helping me stay alive. Finally, I spotted a ladder dangling down from a fire escape stairwell not too far away.



Tank: “They don’t look Imperial.” I continued, now trying to think of a way of getting over to the ladder without being shot. The one thing that I did have on my side was that I think they wanted me alive, so hopefully, if they did start shooting, it wouldn’t be to kill.


Col. Ramson: “Well let’s just say they’re a little ‘off the books’. A test trial if you will, and so far they’ve proven very effective. Scouring the system for everybody who escaped prison during the Shift and recapturing them.”
Tank: “Oh great…” I muttered.
Col. Ramson: “But enough talk. There’ll be plenty of time for that when you’re back in a cell. Now, put the gun on the floor nice and slow.” He threatened and ‘Beta Squad’ all moved in closer to me.


This was it. It had to be now.


I slowly began to bend over and reached down as if to place my pistol on the floor...



And then blue lasers flew everywhere, striking the ground and walls all around us. Everybody cried out in surprise as a dozen or so Collective drones appeared out of nowhere, guns blazing.


Colonel Ramson spun around and instantly began shooting back. Wolfhide’s backpack opened up into his wings and he took off into the air. The human member of Beta Squad began shooting at random and the other two looked around, bewildered as they came under attack.



Taking advantage of the confusion, I fired a burst from my pistol at Ramson and made a dash for the hanging ladder. I heard the Colonel cry out and as I leapt up and grabbed onto the bottom rung of the ladder, I noticed the him sprawled on the ground clutching the small of his back as blood poured out onto the ground.


I heaved myself up the ladder and onto the metal stairwell and then sprinted as fast as I could up the stairs towards the roof.


As I reached the top, I grabbed my comlink and dialled for Tracks.
Tank: “Come on!” I urged as I waited for him to answer. After what felt like forever but was probably only a handful of seconds, he appeared. “Bring the Viper! NOW!” I begged. “Track my com location!” I told him and with a simple nod he ended the link. I silently prayed that he would be quick.


But in the meantime, I wasn’t out of danger yet.



I stood by the roof’s edge, looking down over the alleyway where the fight was still taking place. I fired a couple of shots down into the attacking Collective drones and as I did so, wondered whether they were here to kill me, or one of Beta Squad or whether it was just a coincidence. I couldn’t see One, the ancient drone, anywhere, so I assumed that it was just coincidence.


I shot down another drone, but as I did so, more turned up! The members of the Colonel’s squad were doing well defending themselves. I lined up the human with the red jacket in my sights, but paused.


I wasn’t a murderer. They might have been about to arrest me, but at least they were living beings. Unlike the drones currently attacking them. I shifted my aim and dispatched another drone.


Then I heard the sound of clanking metal and noticed the human-shark hybrid charging up the fire escape, pursued by several drones. I couldn’t let him get to me, so I fired repeatedly into the metal framework of the stairs and slowly, with a squeal of twisting metal, it peeled away from the wall.



I thought the monster would go down with them, but at the last moment he took a flying leap and dug claws into the wall. He looked up at me and barred his enormous teeth in a terrifying snarl. I backed away as quickly as I could, frightened, as he clambered up onto the rooftop.


But that’s when I heard a thud of metal and glanced behind me to see an access hatch now open in the middle of the roof. More Collective drones began climbing out and pouring onto the roof.


I was surrounded. Drones on one side and a shark man on the other.


God, I wished Tracks would hurry up…





Elsewhere…



Galactic Imperial Lieutenant Lya Drayson walked briskly along the corridor leading to the command deck of the GI ship, theINV Anvil. Her navy and grey uniform was crisp and ironed to perfection. Her black boots were polished spotless, the rank insignia pinned to her left breast was aligned perfectly and her long, dark hair was tied back in a tight ponytail.


Lieutenant Drayson was a staunch supporter of the Galactic Imperium and everything it stood for. Law and order. Control. Peace. She had believed firmly in all of those principals even before she had signed up and joined the military academy on her home world of Soateria. As a young girl she had wanted to become a politician, in order to bring about the change that Soateria so desperately needed. However, after witnessing the turmoil both in her galaxy and closer to home in Soateria‘s government, which was fraught with in-fighting causing them to get nowhere, Lya decided to instead join the military.


There, she thrived. Coming top of her class in every assessment and examination, she excelled in tactics and planning, but was also very handy in the field. She soon rose through the ranks to the position of Lieutenant and quickly gained the interest of her superiors.


When the Shift occurred and the Galactic Imperium took control of most of the planets in the system, Lya had initially been nervous about their intentions, however, after watching their progress for a short time, she came to the conclusion that the Imperium was a force for good and that it’s absorption of all other military units in the system was a change for the better. Lieutenant Drayson loved the Galactic Imperium and nothing would ever change that.



The command deck doors ‘swoosh’ed smoothly open as the Lieutenant strode in. The deck was a hive of activity, as it always was. Workers, technicians, navigators, a whole host of positions, all working away at their posts. All an essential part of keeping the INV Anvil in working order.


The man Lya had come to see was stood at the very point of the bow of the ship. Staring out into the inky darkness of space, Admiral Truss C’paya stood with his hands clasped behind his back, his uniform and presentation just as precise as Lieutenant Drayson’s.


Lieutenant Drayson approached and came to a formal halt with a salute behind her superior, announcing herself as she did so.
Lt. Drayson: “Sir.”


Admiral C’paya turned to face her.
Ad. C’paya: “Lieutenant.” He nodded and Lya lowered her salute, clasping both hands behind her back, just like her superior. “Is there something you require?”


Lt. Drayson: “Sir, as you are aware, my strong suit is as a tactician and strategist.” She began.
Ad. C’paya: “Yes, go on?”
Lt. Drayson: “I have been analysing the data and sighting graphs for the Aurellian scout ships that have been spotted over Toliv.”
Ad. C’paya: “And?”
Lt. Drayson: “And I believe it to be a trap, sir.” She concluded.



The Admiral frowned.
Ad. C’paya: “Explain.”
Lt. Drayson: “Each Aurellian scout ship has only appeared for a long enough period of time for it to be spotted, before it jumps again. Every ship has appeared directly over a key Imperial target on the planet below, where they were in plain sight of our scanners and satellites. It’s too obvious, sir. They’re luring us in. They want us to divert forces to Toliv in preparation for their attack.”
Ad. C’paya: “Nonsense.” He interjected with a disappointed look.
Lt. Drayson: “Sir, it’s true. I know it. The Imperial Council are sending more and more ships to defend Toliv against an attack that’s never going to come.” She continued urgently, but keeping her voice level and un-raised. “It’s a trap. An obvious trap, at that. While we divert the bulk of our forces to Toliv, the Aurellians are going to strike elsewhere. After looking at the statistics, I’ve concluded that it will likely be in the Qoter sector of space, however, an attack on the planet, especially at the moment, given everything that has happened recently, would be foolhardy. As such, the only other Imperial target of any value in the area are the ROBKAT Engineering shipyards…”
Ad. C’paya: “Lieutenant, you forget your place!” he snapped firmly. “You will remember to address me correctly at all times and as for your theory about the Aurellians, I think it’s cockamamie. The Aurellians have been scouting out Toliv in preparation for an attack and the Council is sending ships, ourselves included, to the planet in order to defend it against said attack. It is no trap and that’s the end of it.” He told her sternly.
Lt. Drayson: “But Sir…” she tried one more time, however, her superior was having none of it.
Ad. C’paya: “No. I’ll hear no more about it. Understood?”
Lieutenant Drayson held her tongue for a moment.
Lt. Drayson: “Yes, sir.”



Ad. C’paya: “Good. Dismissed.” And with that, he turned his back on her and resumed his watchful gaze over the darkness outside.


Lieutenant Drayson remained for a second longer, before she saluted professionally then turned and stalked back across the bridge. Admiral C’paya was a good man and the two got on well, however, often as not he was blinded by stubbornness. Once he had a course of action planned, it could not change. He was far too rigid for Lya’s liking and she had a feeling that it would be his downfall.


As she reached the door, she turned to a com officer.
Lt. Drayson: “Contact Cadet Odanna and tell her to meet me in my quarters ASAP.”
Officer: “Yes Lieutenant.” He acknowledged and set about the task.


Less than ten minutes later and there came a sharp rap on the Lieutenant’s quarters door.
Lya stood from her firm chair and opened the release.
Lt. Drayson: “Ari’, come in.” she greeted and allowed the cadet inside before closing the door again.
Ari’: “You wanted to see me, Lieutenant?”



Arianne Odanna was just one of the hundreds of cadets stationed aboard the INV Anvil, however, what made her different was that she was Lieutenant Drayson’s mentee. On board the Anvil, the Galactic Imperium were trialling a mentoring scheme, in which certain cadets were assigned to a superior officer. The chosen cadets had all shown promise in a specific or multiple fields and had been assigned to an officer whom closely matched their specific areas. Arianne Odanna had been assigned to Lya Drayson and the pair had bonded immediately. Even though Ari’ was not that much younger than the Lieutenant, Lya being in her early thirties and Arianne being in her mid-twenties, the lack of an age gap between mentor and mentee had proved not to be an issue. In fact, it had only served to bring the two closer together.


The scheme had only been running since the beginning of the year, however, the two had already formed a close relationship. Ari’, as she preferred to be called, enjoyed her extra sessions with the Lieutenant and had already learnt more than she could ever have imagined and Lya enjoyed passing on her knowledge to somebody else and helping them to further their own career. Specifically a female.


In a galaxy dominated by men and more precisely human men, Lya Drayson was incredibly proud to be a female, alien, ranking officer in the Galactic Imperium and she wished to help other women progress in the same way she had. As Ari’ was similarly an alien woman, Lieutenant Drayson was determined that she would get far.


She certainly had the potential too.



Lt. Drayson: “I have a task for you.”
Ari: “Training?”
Lt. Drayson: “No, no this…. This isn’t official. This… in fact, I am not authorised to be giving you this task at all, however, I know in my gut for it to be right.”
Ari: “Okay…” she sounded uncertain.
Lt. Drayson: “Ari, do you trust me?” she asked, placing her hands on Cadet Odanna’s arms. Arianne nodded instantly.
Ari: “Of course!”
Lt. Drayson: “Then you must do this for me. I need you to go to the ROBKAT shipyards, in orbit over Qoter. I need you to stay there and I need you to feed me information. I need to know if anything seems odd or suspicious or if you see anything at all that you think isn’t right. Can you do that for me?”
Ari’ nodded.
Lt. Drayson: “Thank you.” She smiled and embraced the other woman.





BONUS PICTURES



The set for the corridor onboard the Anvil.



Lt. Drayson's room.



The alley set.



Another picture of the alley.



And finally, an unused picture of Tank with Ramson.


N.B. Thanks to Isaac AD for being my lighting assistant for the alley scene!



As my series is going to be jumping around though time, I will include a date on each episode and add it to the timeline at the end of each episode so that you can follow it.



TIMELINE




Comments

 I like it 
  December 13, 2016
Great work! I LOVE that main image!
 I made it 
  November 28, 2016
Thanks everybody! Glad you enjoyed it! --Blast--
 I like it 
  November 22, 2016
Nice work! I like the the anvil interior set!
 I like it 
  November 21, 2016
Mate...another awesome episode! It's good to finally have some backstory on Jarred, and to see how Tank's coping with the whole 'One' incident. The introduction of the new characters at the end was an interesting change in pace as well, I look forward to reading more about them! Just an all round good episode, and it's nice to know that Tank has his own storage box with a bible from his mother inside ;D
 I like it 
  November 21, 2016
Well done!
 I like it 
  November 21, 2016
Ayyy! Great one! And the lighting worked really well! [IAD]
 I like it 
  November 21, 2016
I was not expecting Dr. Lobotomy to show up! Epic episode!
 
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