Three of the five individuals responsible for the recent theft of meta-alloys from Darnielle's Progress have been positively identified, following analysis of starport security footage. Remarkably, one of the perpetrators has been acknowledged as Commander Salomé, also known as Kahina Tijani Loren.
Loren was sentenced to life imprisonment last year for the attempted murder of Admiral Denton Patreus, but when her convoy was destroyed en route to Koontz Asylum it was assumed she had been killed.
Responding to the news, Imperial authorities promptly placed a galaxy-wide bounty on Salomé to the tune of 500,000 credits.
Meanwhile, Princess Aisling Duval released a brief statement:
"Commander Salomé is a disgraced senator and a convicted murderer. She incites violence wherever she goes, and in the interest of public safety she must be stopped. I urge all those loyal to the Empire to deliver justice to this criminal."
Salomé's accomplices have been identified as former MetaDrive employee Raan Corsen – previously believed deceased – and former Junior Alliance operative Tsu Annabelle Singh. The Empire has placed sizable bounties on both individuals.
Imperial military sources issued the following advice to those interested in pursuing these bounties:
"These individuals should be considered armed and dangerous. Make no attempt to communicate with them. Shoot on sight. Visual evidence of a target's death will guarantee the relevant bounty."
Salomé's current location is unknown, but she is believed to have fled the core systems.
The Children of Raxxla, based in the HR 6421 system, have released an analysis of the exploration data recovered by the galactic community in November last year.
A spokesperson for the organisation said:
"There was a vast amount of data to sift through, but our analysis led to some notable discoveries in the Formidine Rift, the Conflux and Hawkin's Gap. There are indications that some kind of covert mission took place in these regions back in the 3270s. So far we have found shipwrecks, beacons and abandoned settlements dating from that time, and logs and records relating to this strange mission."
"It appears that a fleet was despatched, over 30 years ago, to install a series of beacons in the region. None of the ships returned to their point of origin. It seems that this mission was called 'the Dynasty Project'. The purpose of the mission isn't yet clear, but it was evidently a massive undertaking, particular given the technological limitations of the time – it would have taken a year to complete that journey 30 years ago."
The spokesperson was asked if the data supported the organisation's belief that Kahina Loren was innocent of the attempted assassination of Admiral Denton Patreus.
"Unfortunately there is nothing in the data that throws new light on Salomé's demise. But before she was arrested, she indicated that these three sectors were significant. We now believe that that is why she was killed."
Last month, the Federation launched an appeal for exploration data from a number of remote locations. A competitive appeal was simultaneously launched by a mysterious group known as the Children of Raxxla, which succeeded in completely derailing the Federal initiative. Karl Devene, head of Astrocartography at Mars High, was forced to resign as a result.
Federal exploration projects are currently on hold as a result of the failed initiative, and Devene's successor has not been announced. Meanwhile, the Children of Raxxla has yet to reveal any findings from the data it received, leading some to speculate that the organisation never intended to.
"I believe it was a cynical attempt to sabotage Federal research," said a spokesperson for Mars High Astrocartography. "It was never about exonerating Salomé – they just used her plight to gain the data at the expense of the Federation. Unfortunately, the galactic community proved itself easily manipulated."
Other commentators have concurred with the analysis. Jackson Trent, associate editor of The Imperial Citizen, said:
"I don't understand the allure of Raxxla. They attacked Patreus's flagship and have proved themselves to be criminals of the worst kind. Patreus dealt with Emperor's Dawn – perhaps it's time for him to deal with the Children of Raxxla."
Salomé, known in Imperial circles as Kahina Loren, was killed when the convoy transporting her to Koontz Asylum was interdicted and destroyed. She had been convicted of the attempted assassination of Denton Patreus.
Meanwhile, independent pilots returning from the expedition have reported a series of curious beacons in deep space, but few details have surfaced.
A prisoner convoy has been interdicted and destroyed in the Daibo system while en route to Koontz Asylum. Wreckage found in Daibo has been positively identified as belonging to the Imperial Cutter 'Diadem' and the Imperial Clippers 'Cypripedium', 'Velum', 'Monile' and 'Vestimenta'.
"Completely wiped out," said one pilot, who was one of the first to respond to the distress call. "By the time I arrived there was nothing but floating debris. We even found wreckage from escape pods. Someone wanted to make sure there were absolutely no survivors. Even the black boxes were blasted."
It has been confirmed that the convoy was carrying various political dissidents, convicted murderers and terrorists. Among them was the infamous Kahina Loren, recently found guilty of the attempted assassination of Admiral Denton Patreus.
"Maybe someone wanted to give her a merciful death," said the chief editor of The Imperial Citizen. "Better that than what awaited her at Koontz Asylum, for sure."
Plans to hold a memorial service for Loren in the Prism system have already generated angry responses. Princess Aisling Duval was quoted as saying, "A service for her? She was a murderer and a convicted felon! Her name should be struck from the record and never spoken again."
A large convoy of heavy construction ships and associated support vessels has been assembled by Wreaken Construction in the Zearla system.
Wreaken does not have an exclusive contract with any of the galaxy's superpowers, and there has therefore been significant speculation over the purpose of the convoy.
Requests for information have been met with blank rebuttals, and recent press statements from Wreaken make no mention of the convoy. Long-range reconnaissance has revealed a well-defended operation, and approaches are greeted with patrol ships and warning shots.
Meanwhile, shares in Wreaken have gone up by five per cent as speculation grips the financial markets. Some commentators believe this is directly linked to Admiral Denton Patreus's recent comments concerning the London Treaty.
Eyewitness reports from the Eotienses system indicate that an attack has taken place on Admiral Denton Patreus' flagship, the INV Imperial Freedom. The Majestic-class Interdictor was heavily damaged in the altercation and was ignominiously forced to withdraw from the field of combat.
An organisation known as the Children of Raxxla has claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement, the organisation said it had been '"backed into a corner" after diplomatic entreaties regarding Kahina Loren – whom it referred to as Salomé – had gone unanswered.
The attack appears to have been a response to the 'guilty' verdict passed on Loren last week, and based on the assumption that she was aboard the INV Imperial Freedom. Vessels bearing Children of Raxxla markings were witnessed intercepting escape pods ejected from the beleaguered Interdictor.
The Children of Raxxla spokesperson said the group "harboured no ill will towards Patreus", and that "the guilty parties continue to lurk in the shadows".
Imperial security forces have condemned the attack, saying:
"This group has shown its true colours. Kahina Loren was known for inciting violence, and these terrorists are clearly intent on continuing her legacy."
The damage to the INV Imperial Freedom represents a blow to Admiral Patreus' ambitions to strengthen the Imperial fleet, exposing these battleships' vulnerability to attacks from well-organised independent forces.
Today, an announcement was made outside the Prism Hall of Justice confirming that Kahina Tijani Loren had been found guilty of the attempted assassination of Admiral Denton Patreus. The announcement was met with cries of dismay from a crowd of Loren's supporters, who had turned out to hear the verdict.
"Ms Loren has been sentenced to life imprisonment at Koontz Asylum in the Daibo system," said a court clerk.
A leaked recording from the press room showed Loren talking with two unidentified men. Their conversation ran as follows:
"And what do you want in return for your...favour?" one man asked.
"Patreus's head on a platter," responded Loren.
Having already been stripped of the title of 'senator', Loren's status as a Lady of the Empire was similarly revoked. She was taken to a secure holding facility after the verdict was announced.
Princess Aisling Duval spoke to The Imperial Citizen about the trial:
"The woman is clearly deranged. She tried to kill Patreus, but justice has been served. The galaxy is now a safer place."
Admiral Denton Patreus, emerging from the courtroom, smiled and said: "They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind."
Ambassador Cuthrick Delaney, administrator of the Prism system, spoke briefly to The Imperial Herald.
"We cannot deny the verdict, but we are dismayed by the outcome. We remain convinced that Kahina Loren is innocent. We will leave no stone unturned in our search for the truth."
Meanwhile, an anonymous source affiliated with the Imperial justice system said: "It's a de facto death sentence. No one returns from Koontz Asylum."
The trial of Lady Kahina Tijani Loren has begun at the Prism Hall of Justice.
Earlier this week, several flotillas of heavily armed ships arrived in the Prism system. The vessels docked at the Leeson City starport amid tight security enforced by Imperial forces and local organisation Loren's Legion, which controls the Prism system.
Much of Lesson City has been off limits to civilians during the week because of fears that Loren's presence, and that of Admiral Denton Patreus, would lead to renewed instability. Loren's return to her home system is controversial in itself, as she has not been there since she ceded executive power to Ambassador Cuthrick Delaney.
Loren was briefly seen in conversation with Ambassador Delaney, who embraced Loren before she was moved to a secure holding area. Admiral Patreus arrived a few hours later and took up residence in the Imperial Palace not far from the city. Media representatives have not been allowed to speak to either Loren or Patreus, and it is understood that the trial will be conducted behind closed doors.
The mood in Prism is sombre. Support for Loren is muted, with few willing to publically support her ahead of the trial. But it is clear there is little enthusiasm for Admiral Patreus, either.
Commentators have reacted with surprise and dismay to a speech from Admiral Denton Patreus at a military tattoo on Achenar, in which he spoke in strident tones about the London Treaty. The treaty, established in 3278, imposes limits on capital-ship construction in order to prevent possible arms races.
"This treaty was foisted on us by overzealous Federal lawyers," said Patreus. "Now it is used to limit our ability to defend ourselves. This I cannot accept."
"I am proud to announce that henceforth the Empire will build as many ships as it needs, treaty restrictions be damned!"
Federal representatives were quick to denounce Patreus's proposal, saying it would have severe repercussions. But stock markets in the core systems reacted favourably to the news, with reports indicating that the Empire had already secured several construction contracts.
Admiral Patreus will soon depart for the Prism system to oversee the trial of Kahina Loren.
Kahina Tijani Loren has been stripped of the rank of senator for delegating her responsibilities in respect of the Prism system to Ambassador Cuthrick Delaney in 3301.
An aide for Admiral Denton Patreus said: "Loren gave up her senatorial responsibilities, so it's unreasonable that she continue to be protected by the title. Frankly, she shouldn't be described as a 'lady', either, but we will let the courts make that determination."
This means Loren will now be tried based on the laws of her nominated home system, which is of course the Prism system. Loren has been moved from Achenar and is presumed to be en route to Prism, under guard.
While Prism remains under the supervision of Ambassador Cuthrick Delaney, it is heavily exploited by Admiral Patreus. Patreus's aide said: "Those without a proper appreciation of due process might believe there is a conflict of interest, given Admiral Patreus's influence in Prism, but we can ensure the galactic community that Imperial law will be followed to the letter."