Chapter 04: Echo Team

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Briefing One again.

Allan felt good to be settling down into the seat next to Callie. After they'd made it back to the speedship, they'd risen into the air and he'd had Weller do a sweep of the area. They found only a handful of stragglers and put them down, Porter leaning out of an airlock while Weller kept it steady. She'd used her sniper rifle, not missing once.

Weller had confirmed, to the best of her ability, that no distress call had been sent, no communications of any kind. But that didn't mean that whoever was in charge didn't know that someone was on their trail.

Once they'd gotten back, Allan and Callie had done their usual thing: training, sex in the shower, a big meal.

The meal always had to come after any activities, business or personal, because neither of them performed at all well on a full stomach.

Finally, the call had come, and the two of them were in a dim, cool room, sitting around the table with only Hawkins.

"All right, time's shorter than ever, so let's cut to the chase," Hawkins said. "The data you recovered from the outpost revealed quite a lot. A motherlode of information, compared to the scraps we've been getting so far. First of all..."

Hawkins typed something into his laptop and a human figure appeared over the table. A man, an old man, by the looks of him. He was tall, whipcord lean, gray hair pulled into a tight, businesslike ponytail. He had what some people might call aristocratic features, the kind of features you'd see on paper or metal money, back when that was a thing. He stood ramrod straight, his arms clasped behind his back, wearing an old school military uniform and high, black combat boots. One eye glowered an angry neon green.

"This is Werner ReSequez Esquire the Third," Hawkins said.

"That's a hell of a name," Callie murmured.

"Indeed. The name seems to fit the man. Now, the information we have about him is sketchy at best, but based on the intel we've pulled from that data and cross-references with Galactic Alliance archival databases, this man is the one in charge of this...cult, for lack of a better word. They believe him to be some kind of living god...inasmuch as dead men and women driven by technology can believe anything."

"So who is he?" Allan asked. "Where the hell did he come from?"

"Okay, this is where it gets weird. ReSequez was born in 2152."

Callie frowned deeply. "That would make him..."

"Yes, nearly two hundred years old. One hundred and ninety six to be precise. In the early twenty two hundreds, he rose to power as a military figurehead, a four star General. He was supposed to be enigmatic and persuasive and charismatic. The more time went on, the more disenchanted he became with the Galactic Alliance and the direction he thought they were going in. And he wasn't alone. For a few years, there was talk of civil war, but ReSequez became...unstable. Several reports at the time suggest he was suffering from some kind of mental illness. Eventually, he and about a thousand loyal followers headed out into space, declaring that they were going to build their own empire, somewhere out there, in the darkness."

"So what happened?" Callie asked.

"No one knows. Officially, he's been labeled as MIA, but common belief is that he died somewhere far out there. He owned a castle, a genuine castle made of black rock that they broke down entirely, packed up into a ship and carted off with them. Apparently, according to this intel, he's still alive."

"Is that possible?" Allan asked.

"Technically, yes. There are ways of extending lives, and cryogenic technology had already been perfected about ten years previous to his disappearance, so it's more than possible that he put himself on ice. As to why this is happening, why they are doing this...it's not there. We have no idea. But we do know that they need to be stopped. So, the mission, officially, is to head to their headquarters and assassinate their leader, and use any other methods possible to put an end to this situation, before it gets out of hand.

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