[[Hiatus Over! Leon's Back!]]
The Python zapped back into space, soundless but with a gamma ray burst that no one could mistake. The failed star, technically a brown dwarf churned lifeless and foreboding beneath the vessel.
Leon seethed. He was done running. He was done hiding. He couldn't go back. He could never go back now.
But moving forward? He would call the shots. He would do something unthinkable.
The comm buoy out here in the system was not frequently used. It only took a few moments to secure a line. It rang twice.
"Fondest greetings to you," said a lilting voice "this is Silvia, you have reached the office of the Imperial Governor Milo Peck. How may we be of service to you?"
Leon hesitated. Was he going to do this? A darkened corridor. Red lasers, the smell of burnt cloth, a body hitting the metal floor. There was no decision to be made.
"I have information on Federal Agent activity."
"One moment please." There was a click and a whir as the line transferred.
"Internal Affairs. Identify yourself." The new voice was clipped and precise. Straight to business.
"Commander Leon Falkner." Leon identified himself with his Pilot's Federation credentials. "Ho Hsien, Dutton Station. There is an installation of Federal Agents investigating Outer Colony pirate activity with an objective of pushing Federal influence core-ward."
"Interesting theory, Commander. What would you like to be done about this information?"
Leon felt something burning in his stomach. A hot plasma scorching his ribs. "I need a false IFF transponder, someone with fake ID credentials and a cargo scanner and I can delete that installation from your radar."
"Oh?" The voice betrayed a mild shock, which for an Imperial must have been the most emotion he was allowed to display this week. "And why would you be better equipped than an Imperial team, Mr. Falkner?"
Leon twitched. He did not like being called "Mister Falkner". Not by the agents, not by anyone. "I know the layout. I know the agents. You want this operation neutralized? I'll do it."
"And what, pray tell, would you be asking in return Commander?"
Leon gripped the throttle with white knuckles. "You let me pull the trigger myself. After that, I'll need somewhere to park my ships. I hear Imperial stations are quite accommodating in this regard?"
The smile was apparent in the officer's answer. "They are indeed, Commander. Coordinates to your drop are being forward via secure packet. The Empire thanks you for your service."
The line disconnected with a beep. A chime of a received secure mail followed after. Leon was already banking away from the dwarf star.
He had just betrayed the Federation. 'No,' Leon thought. 'The Federation betrayed me. This?'
'This is payback.'
The Python disappeared with another tell-tale burst of gamma radiation and a scattering of exotic particles indicative of a hyperspace vector. The failed star churned silently on.