Patrician Vayda Macias, Mission controller for the 8th Dragon Squadron, stormed into the noisy Star & Garter on Coney Gateway as if she were on a mission herself. Her point of focus was a male pilot propping up the bar, laughing as he reached towards a row of small shot glasses and readying himself to play a favourite drinking game with a fellow barfly. Typical, she thought, but I’ll soon knock that smug grin off his intoxicated face.
She made a beeline for for him, roughly bumping shoulders with off duty miners, drunken traders and suited SysAuths and punched her target hard in the arm as he was downing a shot. He spluttered and choked on the drink.
“Just what the hell do you think you’re playing at, Furieux?” she spat angrily over the noise.
The tall commander winced and took a moment to rub away the pain before fixing her with a cheeky smirk which only enraged her more.
“Dainty little flower, aren’t you, Miss Macias?” he said dryly. “Look, if you wanted to join me for a drink, you only had to ask. There was no need to-”
Vayda didn’t give him the chance to continue his usual bullshit.
“Mind telling me why we have records of a surface recon vehicle registered to you, found entering restricted zones at several 8th Dragon surface installations and stealing highly classified data?”
Furieux stroked his chin and made a poor attempt at innocence. “Maybe the vehicle was stolen-”
“Not only that, the self same SRV decided to open fire on numerous expensive and difficult to replace sentry skimmers, destroying them beyond all repair.”
“Well, you see-”
“And to top it all off, the registered owner,” she said sarcastically, “of said SRV also claimed expenses to the value of seven thousand credits in order to pay for damages done to a vending machine on Tavarez Enterprise. Tell me, Furieux, have you gone utterly insane?”
The commander snickered. He was really beginning to wind her up.
“Vayda darling, how long have you known me?” he asked sweetly, “two years, three? In that time, have I ever been anything but a perfect role model for the 8th Dragon Squadron?”
“A role model? Are you serious? You’re unreliable, you’re drunk most of the time, you fly like a maniac in speed restricted zones and you flirt with anything that moves!”
“Quite,” he grinned, “but have I ever given you reason to question my loyalty?”
“Aside from disappearing for over a year without so much as a goodbye, you mean?”
Furieux had the decency to look sheepish at Vayda’s last remark, but despite her anger, she felt a little guilty about bringing it up again. The commander recovered from the jab quickly though and motioned her to a quiet corner table.
“The point I’m making, Miss Macias,” he continued as they both sat down, Furieux making sure his back was facing the wall, “is that I’ve always been true to the Dragon Squadron. There is absolutely no reason to worry about any actions attributed to me or any other 8th commander on our moons. You need to trust me. You need to trust us. Everything is under control.”
Vayda sat back and gaped at him. “Are you saying we should expect similar reports concerning the rest of you?”
Furieux nodded slowly and the usual light hearted tone she was used to hearing from him disappeared. He leaned in and spoke quietly. “I assume you’ve heard the Patocuda League’s latest pitch? Riordan’s on a witch hunt. The League know about our recent love-in with Delaine’s little band of muppets and are using it to their advantage.”
What Furieux said was true. Vayda had watched the broadcast herself. One of the Patocuda League’s prime speakers, Dia Riordan, had claimed, almost correctly, that the 8th Dragon Squadron were linked with the infamous pirate group, Kumo Crew. More worrying was that Riordan’s damning agenda seemed to be working. Public confidence in the 8th was dwindling in favour of the upstart League, yet none of the founding members of the Dragon Squadron appeared to have even acknowledged it. Vayda found it mildly comforting that Furieux had now confirmed something was being done, even if she had no idea what that something was.
“How did she find out about it?” she asked.
“We told her,” Furieux replied, proudly.
Vayda stared at him then buried her face in her hands. She was right. They had all gone crazy. How was she expected to make sense of this? How was she going to explain it to her superiors? She needed answers.
“Okay,” she said, shaking her head, “tell me exactly what it is you hope to achieve. My ass is on the line here and I’m not going to let you idiots ruin my career.”
Furieux cleared his throat and began to talk. “After the League won the war against the Sadhen Holdings, we docked at Fernao and had a few words with one of their Generals. Kent Blackburn, I believe his name was.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I didn’t tell him anything. They wouldn’t let me anywhere near the guy. Dragged me off and dumped me in the departure lounge. But that’s another story for another day. Anyway, Mohizz, Adamantium and Fangz were permitted an audience and managed to convince Blackburn, falsely, of Riordan’s ambition to take control of League as its true leader and that her plans to topple the 8th Dragon Squadron government were only the first stage in her attempt to prove she was the right person to lead. We knew that Blackburn, a man obsessed with power, would not stand for this and we agreed to support him.”
“Support the League? But why?” Vayda asked, her curiosity piqued. “What is it we want from them?”
Furieux uncorked a hip flask and took a gulp from its contents. “Control of their stations, of course,” he said. “The Patocuda League have long been our most dangerous opponents in the system, controlling almost forty percent of the orbital stations and surface ports. We want them. By pitting Blackburn and Riordan against each other with their own separate agendas for absolute power, neither of whom want the other to win, we weaken the Patocuda League. Blackburn has agreed to ensure that Riordan’s upcoming election fails as long as we help him to retain his position.”
Furieux flashed Macias a wide grin, “of course, we won’t be, but he doesn’t know that yet.”
Vayda understood. Riordan would use the 8th Dragon’s fabricated but damning reports to win support from Patocuda citizens, giving her the moral high ground to initiate a move against the 8th Dragon government. By spreading rumours and placing the founding members in a bad light, the League would have enough ammunition to start proceedings. With Blackburn’s help, Riordan would lose. It was a complex idea, but it could work.
“But Blackburn will almost certainly make moves against us afterwards, won’t he?” Vayda said.
Furieux nodded. “We are counting on it.”
“This is risky, Furieux. I hope you know what you’re doing. We have a lot more to lose than the League. If the mercs fail, we are finished in Patocuda.”
Furieux took another swig from the flask and popped it back inside his jacket. “There’s risk in everything, Miss Macias, but I’ve discovered there is little to be gained by avoiding it. Speaking of which, care to take a little risk yourself and have a drink with me?”
Vayda smiled despite herself. “It goes against my better judgement, but okay. One drink only. Make it a brandy.”
Furieux stood up and patted himself down, as if looking for something. “Well, hell,” he said finally. “I appear to be a bit short. You wouldn’t mind getting this one, would you, flower?”
Macias rolled her eyes. Typical.
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