Colonel Heart’s trial is in full motion with you as a spectator. By 56-1119, the trial is over with Colonel Heart’s acquittal. You observe that this trial is amazingly swift, but then again, attention is now much more focused on the devastation occurring in the Dagudashaag and Zarushagar Sectors as the forces of Lucan and Dulinor clash in earnest. Melvin is reassigned to the Massilla Army Command as it reorganizes to both protect the high population worlds along the trade routes to Core Sector and establish offensive forces to take control of similar systems in Zarushagar Sector. Soon after arriving at your new duty station, you read about the annihilation of the Apollo along with about 60% of the old Diaspora Fleet in the first wave of attacks within the Zarushagar sector. Melvin is assigned to Uson planetary Defense Forces of Subsector E, Massila Sector, a main logistical thoroughfare supporting Naval and Army Forces heading Spinward into Zarushagar Sector. Melvin continues his assignment frustrated that the action seems so far away. He keeps abreast of politics in the Core sector. Much of the nobility have quietly abandoned Lucan moving into the realm of Margaret. Margaret has remained largely quiet and avoided a direct confrontation with Lucan as she fends off Solomani attacks on her rimward borders. Those few skirmishes that have occurred between Core and Delphi have been quick and insignificant. By 1121, The Imperium Fleet has been reduced to fewer than 95 numbered fleets and 130 reserve fleets from her original 320 of each. Most of these remaining fleets are at 60% strength or less. Melvin continues to watch the war from the relative safety of Uson. Late in the year, the Imperial Regency of Intelligence and Security (IRIS) declares Margaret the highest ranking legitimate noble in the Imperium and brands Lucan the Usurper, disallowing his claim to the throne. Though it is never spelled out in the decree what evidence brought IRIS to this conclusion, you are fairly certain Windhook had some play. The prevalent media speculation is that the MegaCorporation Hortalez et Cie is manipulating IRIS for its own gains. Though IRIS does not have the ability to enforce this decree, it does cause several significant actions to precipitate. The Vilani empire and her wealthy Megacorporations stop dividend payments to the royal family causing a significant dent in Lucan’s pocket book. Lucan who has focused his wrath first on Dulinor, then Strephon now begins to amass what power he has left against the Vilani Empire. In early 1122, what is left of Lucan’s fleets launch yet again into attacks focused on Zarushagar and Dagudashaag sectors, leaving Massila defenseless. Dulinor’s forces enter the sector unopposed and begin massive devastation in a scorched earth strategy against any high population world that contributes to the support of Lucan’s forces. Early in their invasion, the Depot at Kaggushus is destroyed and Melvin can’t help but wonder about Manny. There is not enough time to mourn, however, as Uson is directly in the path of the lumbering fleet and massive evacuations are ordered. When the fleets finally do arrive, starships are still streaming out of system with their civilian passengers. Melvin stands with the ground forces ready to repel any attacks. When the attacks do finally come, it is not in the form of a ground assault but rather nuclear weapons raining down from the heavens. The hell unleashed destroys all population and industrial centers and wreaks havoc on the atmosphere. Small bands of soldiers and Marines take to the skies in slower than light vessels in attempts to strike at the foe that will not face them directly, Melvin is among them. Heavily outgunned, the attempt is futile and Melvin’s ship is quickly disabled floating dead in space among the other wreaked remnants of graveyard ships. Melvin is captured in orbit for several days with a handful of his fellow soldiers, helplessly watching the dying world below as the atmosphere turns putrid brown and green from poisonous dust. Scavengers capitalizing on the wealth of wrecked technology left behind find you floating in space and take you on board as they rip apart your ship. You and your fellow survivors are beginning to become ill from the radioactive poisoning. The scavengers but will not evacuate until they have filled their cargo holds with as much loot as they can carry and thus you become weaker and weaker as the scavengers loot. Eventually you lose consciousness.
You awake in a clean modern medical facility being doted over by a young nurse. When you ask where you are, you are told you are on Alla’mar, a system on the fringe of Margaret’s domain. When you ask the date, you learn that four months has passed since you last remember being conscious. Eventually a team of Doctors comes to brief you. You are told you are in a medical facility privately owned by the Hortalez et Cie Megacorporation and that you nearly died from radioactive exposure. The doctors kept you in an induced coma and used slow drugs among other procedures to combat the cancerous cells forming throughout your body. You are told that your left arm had to be amputated as well as your left eye removed, certain organs had to be replaced and a portion of your brain reconstituted. The doctors apologize for taking liberties but you were in no condition to be asked permission so they replaced your appendages with advanced cybernetics. They explain to you that the procedures they conducted are not exactly legal in Margaret’s domain but they had little choice if you were to survive. Duchess Margaret is what is called a human purist. Although she understands the utility of artificial intelligence as a servant to man, she does not believe it has a place of equality with humans nor does it have unalienable rights. Cybernetics also have no place in the human body and are thus outlawed. You are told that your new organs and appendages are highly advanced and will not show up in a routine security scan, though they will show up as anomalies in a more sophisticated medical strength scan. The doctors strongly recommend that you do not reveal your artificial enhancements to anyone except a doctor you trust. With several weeks of therapy, you learn the power of your new appendages. Your organs make you feel healthier and hardier (1 to contested agility rolls). You find it quite ironic that this soldier boy from humble origins that can barely read or write let alone use a computer is, himself, now part computer and a high tech one.
As you recover, you become more a more fixated on the Blackened Water Mercenaries. You research their status and start a list of all the personnel that were involved in the Windhook campaign in the Likitornot System. It appears the Blackened Waters were bought outright by the emperor himself and most of its members absorbed into military service to fight the rebellion. The former CEO, Victor Renault, replaced the Grand Admiral as Lucan’s senior military advisor though he himself has no former military training. The Grand Admiral was executed for treason. Other senior level executives from the company now enjoy high level posts in Lucan’s governing circle. Of the other two hundred or so names you put on your list, most you find listed as dead or lost in various campaigns. It seems that twenty two have public addresses that you can pursue fairly easily and so you do.
You spend most of 1124 pursuing the names on your list. You find your first target on a lawless planet in a scumbag saloon in the Massila sector. It appears that this man has degenerated into a local thug and taken a liking to stimulants and exotic drink. When you introduce yourself to him as the only soldier he unfortunately left alive on that desert planet, he only laughs and continues his drink. You stick your blade in the side of his neck, let his head rest peacefully on the bar and walk out of the salon full of stunned patrons. Your next thirteen kills go down in a similar fashion though it seems word is getting to some of the targets as they appear to be watching for you and often make it slightly more challenging to hunt and kill. The thirteenth kill takes you back to Margaret’s domain, a pleasant little star system named Zukhimi. This man was the surface team leader and had a direct hand in the destruction of your base camp. You walk directly up to the man’s front door and knock. By the appearance of the house, he has obviously done very well for himself. He opens the door and asks if he can help you. Once you confirm who he is, you introduce yourself as the soldier he unfortunately left alive on that desert planet so long ago. A small boy comes to the door and asks his daddy who is there and if everything is ok. He hustles the boy back inside and tells him everything will be ok. A few years ago, the appearance of the boy would have given you pause, but not today. Now there is only ice in your veins. When the man turns from shutting the door, your pistol is already to his head and the bullet is already entering his brain. You walk away as he falls to the ground thinking to yourself that he did not consider the children of your soldiers when he annihilated them on the planet. You wonder how you will feel when you finally complete your list …. Probably nothing you imagine. There are only 8 more names to go and one of them is the CEO Charles Reanault.
When you get back to the hotel where you were staying . There is a message waiting. The message is from the CEO of The Heart Corporation asking to meet with you regarding some future employment.
It is currently day 005 of the year 1125.