Dionysus Megaship, HIP 17044 System
"What have you got for me today?" Stannis Jellicoe asked the hologram as he finished his breakfast, the food out here, way out on the edge of the bubble was not the best but as always with enough credits anything was possible, the danger of course was drawing attention to yourself, and attention was something he badly needed to avoid.
Humberto Guthrie smiled, he had a long face beneath slightly odd, centre parted hair that always looked as though it needed cutting.
"Enthusiasm, that's what I like to see," he joked, "got a couple of jobs that are right up your street, we need a major player for the Black Flag taking out, and we could do with their numbers thinning out a bit in 42 N Persei."
"What are you paying?"
"Two and a half mil for the face, five for twenty six of their ships."
"I don't really need the credits right now, have you got any focus crystals?" Jellicoe asked.
"Humberto looked briefly aside checking a display. "I can give you five, but the pay for the massacre job drops to two mil."
"Agreed." Jellicoe answered keying in his acceptance of the jobs. "When do you need them done?"
"Our intel on the senior man is good for twenty four hours, for the massacre you've got forty eight."
"I'll leave within the hour, consider them both done." Jellicoe cut the link then opened another, "Is the Valiant ready for launch?"
"Just needs fuelling up, can be on the pad in twenty." Claude replied.
Jellicoe reached his hangar and keyed in the access code, the doors slid open and he strode toward the waiting Fer de Lance, when a familiar yet completely unexpected voice from the shadows brought him up short.
Jellicoe turned to see three figures, two men instantly recognisable to him and a woman, dark, intense and a total stranger. He was surprised to see the two men, but it was as nothing to his shocked amazement at the uniforms both wore. Imperial officers uniforms
"You're a hard man to find." Isaiah Evanson said moving out of the shadows with this companions.
"I find it keeps me alive longer," Jellicoe answered drily.
"Nice ship," Phisto Sobanii, the second man said approvingly, his eyes moving over the sweeping lines of the Fer de lance, "What happened to the Resolution?
"She's being looked after by some friends of mine, Corvette's attract attention and with the price Aegis have put on my head I needed something a little more... inconspicuous. Now what the hell do those uniforms mean? a disguise or have you sold out?"
"Neither, and you should know me better than that." Isaiah replied, a hint of anger flashing across his face.
"You're right I should, hasty words." Jellicoe said, his face softening in an unspoken apology, "so just what is going on?"
"Best said in private, can we go aboard?"
"I've been given command of the Legion." Isaiah said as the four sat in the ships relaxation area, the Fer de Lance was a ship noted for its comfort, and Jellicoe, never a man to stint on his own luxury had upgraded even the plush Saud Kruger fittings. Isaiah seemed tense and thoughtful while Phisto made himself at home, relaxing in the company of a man both had fought and and suffered with many times before but the woman was different, not relaxed, not nervous, but alert, watchful, taking in every detail even as she lit a cigarette.
"Feel free to smoke." Jellicoe said pointedly.
"I will." She replied with astonishing self assuredness, but there was something about her that went beyond mere self confidence, he couldn't put his finger on it but it both appealed and repelled in equal measure.
"The Legion?" Jellicoe looked back to Isaiah, "Last I heard Prism was crawling with IISS and not even Cuthrick could wipe his arse without one one of them with him to pass the paper."
"Things change," Isaiah said with the merest hint of a smile of self satisfaction, "Prism has a new senator now, he's a good man and he sees things our way. He's given me a very wide latitude in terms of operational freedom."
"But ultimately still under Imperial jurisdiction. How are you going to be anything other than their poacher turned gamekeeper?"
"At least some honour remains in the Empire - her words Stannis."
"But it was still the Empire that stripped her titles" Jellicoe replied, his face twisting in anger and contempt, "the Empire that put her in front of a kangaroo court on trumped up charges, the Empire that sent her to die in some godforsaken hellhole and the Empire that put a bounty on her so big that even some of her followers were tempted, is that the honour of the Empire?"
"What else did she say?" Isaiah snapped back, his anger beginning to rise. "Her last speech, 'if was Imperial forces that saved me' think about that Stannis, think about what it means. Who would have that power? Who could order Imperial forces to attack one of their own prisoner convoys, destroy it so completely even the black boxes were never recovered and make sure they were never found out? Whoever was responsible was never caught, hell as far as I can tell nobody ever even investigated."
Jellicoe stopped, dumbfounded, any reply dying in his throat, who could have carried that off? How had he never even considered those words before? How could he have listened to that speech a thousand times yet heard nothing? How had he, a man who prided himself on his ability to make connections have missed one so vital? His mind raced, exploding at the importance of what he had just been forced to hear.
"Someone at the very, very top, someone with enough power to make them all but untouchable, Torval? maybe but unlikely to have the clout with the military, Aisling? possibly if she chose but it seems unlikely nothing would leak," his voice dropped as his mind led him to the logical conclusion, "
more likely it would have to be either Patreus of even Arissa herself."
"Exactly," Isaiah said smiling as realisation finally broke on his friend, "But whoever it is we have an ally at the very top, we may not know who it is but the Legion lets us get close to them, watch, learn, help them, hell maybe they'll help us once we get their trust, it's a lot easier to help a proper Imperial unit than a gang of brigands, and we need that ally, we can't do this on our own Stannis, Coma showed that, all of us, every resource we had, every favour we could call in and every ally we could muster to free just one system. We tried showing the truth and it failed, we need someone with a very big stick, and I need people I can trust, are you in?"
"I'd love to Isaiah I really would, but I'm not sure I can put on that uniform even for you, I've killed to many good men just for wearing it, I'd feel like I was mocking them."
"Thought you might say that," Phisto said grinning, "This is Commander Kerenski," he continued gesturing to the woman, "I think the two of you should have a talk."