Uber Setting: Sci-fi
Disclaimer: This belongs to Buffy God Mr. J. Whedon and any rights he assigned to any others, either in person or corporations, just borrowing them, still got no money, so please don't sue.
Distribution: The Mystic Muse http://mysticmuse.net
Author's Note: Some of the character's names have changed slightly (for example, Buffy/Anne (her middle name), Xander/Alex, Giles/Rupert, Angel/Liam) and on occasion completely (i.e. if the character has become an Alien (Gunn/Gorn) or if I didn't want to give anything away too early (sorry no clues)), but all are identifiably that character. This (and much more) is outlined in the Accompanying Notes section, which you may wish to read as it gives background to the world of 'Empire's Honor'. There are quite a few footnotes to this story, they are designed to help with pronunciation, explain terms or history, which didn't quite fit in the Notes section or with the main bulk of the story.
Special thanks goes to Chris Cook of Through the Looking Glass and Artemis for creating the title graphic at the top of the page. Thanks, Chris!
Summary: Investigator-Captain Willow Rosenberg takes on a murder case with far-reaching implications.
He let out a whimper of surprise as the tall women suddenly spin and lifted him effortlessly off of the ground and out of the shadows. The sharp burn of fear lodged in his throat as he felt her sharp claws dig in the tender skin of his neck and saw the bored amusement sparkle in her cat-like eyes, making him feel like a doomed mouse trapped in a corner.
He let out a small relief filled sigh as her claws retracted and recognition fill her cold hazel colored eyes. "What do you want?" She sneered in smooth but accented English, as she released him.
Backing away from her slightly, he whispered, "I bring a message." He felt an excited shudder run along his spin as surprise and shock filled the women's eyes as a small pistol appeared in his hands. The excitement grew into joyful warmth in the pit of his stomach as he fired twice into her heart, and her eyes clouded with fear and death.
The thin spears of light that sliced through the darkness and filled the corridor with twilight and shadow. Dark figures moved like hungry wraiths hunting their prey in the dusk, their bodies glistening in the hazy light, and their weapons forming twisted deadly shadows.
The lead figure raised their hand, and with military precision they moved around a shadow filled doorway, four along one side and four pressed against the other, the ninth balanced a long, thick tube on their shoulder directly in front of the door.
All waited patiently, their bodies tense with anticipation as their leader silently counted down on their fingers... 5... 4... 3... 2...
Wood sizzled and hard blue light burst from the darkness, catching the ninth man fully in the head and chest. The corridor filled with the acrid smell of burning flesh as he toppled forward.
"Oh fuck – get down!" A feminine voice cried in desperation as one of the thin lines of blue burned through the tube igniting its explosive charges.
Fire and smoke engulfed the corridor. "Get that bloody door down!" A voice shrieked in the chaos that swirled around them.
One of the dark figures stumbled forward, ramming their rifle against the lock and with a roar, oddly muted in their ringing ears, wood and metal splintered as the door rocked on its hinges.
Grenades angrily spitting and hissing smoke quickly followed as the bright light burst into the corridor. "Go! Go! Go!" A feminine voice screamed again, and two of the attackers began firing blindly into the now open door.
A series of dull whumps followed and a heavy but oddly pure white gas spewed out of the apartment.
And with that they charged.
Two fell immediately as the searing blue light tore through their bodies, but still they came their guns blazing as they moved. One of the room's occupants stumbled backwards, purple blood flowing freely as bullet after bullet riddled his body.
"Don't fucking move!" Someone screamed as another figure tried to flee the room, it turned toward the voice and the odd half disc in his hand that spat blue light wildly.
He crashed into the wall as they returned fire.
"Quickly, quickly I w... " A man's voice was cut off sharply as something heavy landed on his back, driving the air from his lungs. His cry of surprise turned to a wet gurgle of pain as a thin rapier like tail crushed his chest and sharp teeth ripped into his neck and shoulder.
He rolled on the floor in panic trying to dislodge the reptile-like thing that clawed at his body. A heavy boot dug into his stomach halting his terrified struggles, "let him go!" A voice snarled, a rifle hovering unmoving above the reptile's head.
At the room's other end another door collapsed under a heavy black boot. "Put it down... don't even thi... " The shrill voice became muffled as its owner disappeared from sight.
A thin figure bent over in the middle of the room, taking a deep breath through painful lungs and tucking a silver pistol between their legs they pulled off the heavy black helmet releasing her long thick red hair. "Fuck me," she groaned, feeling a warm trickle of blood and sweat flow down her pale skin.
She straightened up slowly, her soft attractive face twisted horribly as muscles and joints protested loudly. Her eyes widened as a sixth sense screamed danger in her mind, and she dove sideways.
A thick, spiked tailed sliced through the air where she'd been standing. And as she dove towards her attacked another lash of the wicked looking tail barely missed. Twisting as she moved she rammed one of her pistols into the monster's jaw the second into its soft underbelly.
The thing that loomed above her stilled abruptly, its scales rasped as it shuddered in fear. "Will someone collar and cuff this fucking thing." She shouted shrilly, her normally soft voice jumping with terror and adrenaline.
James Finnell absently snapped open the lid of his pocket watch, barely taking notice of the arguments raging around him. "... you've been saying that for the last six cycles." A heavily accented voice shouted as its owner slammed their fist onto the heavy stone table.
For the first time during the meeting Finnell took notice of those around him. Lord Wyndam-Pryce face was a deep embarrassed red, his mouth opening and closing as his mind tried to deal with anger that had been thrown at him. At the tables other end his tormentor was standing, his skin was flushed green in anger, his yellow eyes dark and blazing with emotion and his fangs bared.
"Jaron, please calm yourself." A cool voice interrupted, though Finnell's sensitive ears could hear the subtle menace leaking through the words.
"Of course Prime Minister." Jaron choked out, though the tiny rippling scales at the base of his neck showed the anger that still burned within him.
"Grand Admiral Finnell, do you have anything to add to our discussion?" He heard the amusement in the Prime Minister's voice as he called on him and immediately the air in the cabinet room darkened at the mention of his name. The delicate hairs at the base of his neck shuddered as his felt the hatred of the Cabinet's two other Si members burn into him, and even the cool exterior of the spider-like Zha broke as his eight golden eyes dimmed for a moment. The female Fowlitian's dark red-eyes sparkled with enjoyment and barely controlled laughter at their reaction, and he felt his own mischievous smile answer her as he leaned forward to shuffled papers the papers in front him.
"Of course Prime Minister," he began quietly in his soft, precise voice, "the Brilliant squadron will arrive tomorrow, the Catherine and the Elizabeth will be accompanying them bringing with them the first components of the shipyard – recruitment is... "
"You're damn lucky girl." The tall copper hair girl teased beside her.
"Yeah, yeah – just drive." The redhead snarled with bad humor, twisting in her seat trying to ease the sores and twitches that prickled along her body.
"Touchy, touchy." A wide grin spread across her companions face, it grew even wider at the stormy look the red head threw at her.
The redhead's bright green eyes darkened angrily at her partner's light- hearted tone, pain shattered her anger as the car turned sharply and her already sore muscles were jerked violently. "Oh shit." She gagged.
"Willow, are you okay?" The other women's bronze eyes filled with worry as Willow curled up in the passenger seat.
"Cordy I'm fine." Willow winced, "but I think I ache in all kinds of places."
"I'm not surprised, that thing was pretty bloody big." Cordelia shook her head in amazement, her mind still seeing the huge dragon-like Fowlucian towering over the thin frame of her redheaded friend.
"Nah – it wasn't big." Willow bit back absently. "It was fucking huge!" She laughed painfully. "Goddess, that hurts." She choked out.
"Wimp." Cordelia teased.
Willow's eyes narrowed playfully as she observed her partner, watching as the sun sparkled against her bronze colored hair and skin, announcing her Luna heritage. "Looney."
"Flep." The other snarled back.
"Dyke." Willow winced as she spat out the insult, instantly knowing she'd lost their sniping match as a wicked looking grin spread across the other women's face.
"And like you're not – little miss stalker girl." Cordelia teased evilly, enjoying the childish pout on her fried.
"I don't know what you mean." She grumbled.
"Oh really!" The other crowed. "And who spends every lunch watching a tall, curvy blond librarian."
"I don't – the food's excellent." The redhead protested weakly.
"You take sandwiches!" A blush as dark as her hair began to spread across Willow' face and neck.
"It's... it's... it's close to the Station House." She fumbled, struggling to find an excuse for her lunchtime habits. The amused, cocked eyebrow gave all the answer the copper-skinned women needed, as both knew that the Imperial Library and the Station House were at opposite ends of the city's center.
"You're just jealous." Willow gripped petulantly through her embarrassment.
"And why, pray tell, am I jealous?" Cordelia cried haughtily.
"'Cause you're not my type." Willow replied nastily.
"Yeah right – I'm tall, leggy and got great breasts – I 'm so your type." And a part of Willow couldn't even begin to argue; her eyes traveled the long lithe form of her partner and enjoying the way her expensively tailored body armor hugged and extenuated her generous curves. However, the redhead couldn't fight the small bite of jealousy that rose in her when she compared her small, thin almost boyish frame to her partner's fuller figure and the way her more standard cut armor hung awkwardly on her body.
"I miss the black." She grumbled quietly. "I looked good in the black."
"Hun, everyone looked good in the black." Cordelia agreed just as quietly, remembering the sleek, body hugging black armor and uniforms of the old Imperial Security Services, which had been replaced by the supposedly friendlier looking blue of the renamed Royal Security Services.
"Not everyone." The redhead muttered darkly, as her mind was filled with the rapid, blurred images of raids and interrogations, punctured only by the terrified screams and cries of their victims.
An ugly heavy silence fell over the two women.
"Switch to Captain Rosenberg... Switch to Captain Rosenberg... Swit..." The radio spat loudly, crashing into the pair's dark thoughts, echoing around the small confines of the car and deep into their ears.
"This is Captain Rosenberg... go ahead switch." Willow called into the small mouthpiece that snaked out from behind her ear.
"Patrol report a body found in the Plaza Construction site." The switch operator reported in smooth but cold feminine voice, almost robotic in nature.
"Any further details switch?" Willow could feel the dread and excitement bite in the pit of her stomach.
"Negative... please refer to Patrolman Holmes on site... North entrance... switch out." And with a buzz of static the voice disappeared and the mouthpiece automatically retreated into the flesh colored holder behind her ear.
Willow felt acceleration push her tightly into her seat, and the grinding wail of sirens begin to assault her senses.
"Patrolman Holmes reporting ma'am." The eager and obviously very green young man cried as he saw the two Investigators approach, his eyes widening slightly as he took in their glistening dark blue armor.
"At ease." Willow smirked, amused at his overenthusiastic greeting.
Blushing slightly at their expression he continued, "thank you ma'am, if you like to follow me." He turned back quickly towards the two women ducking under the garish police tape. "Oh please be careful, it's a little tricky."
The small alley was indeed filled with debris from the surrounding building sites; piles of sand and rubble were strewn haphazardly along path, mixing with bag of cement and loose tarpaulin and on top of all this, huge poles of scaffolding were precarious balanced. The treacherous pathway drew their eyes downwards, but all three wanted to look up and marvel and the elaborate buildings that loomed above them.
The skyline of Fowllinn City was dominated by a series of huge building sites, intricate patterns scaffolding, cranes and lifts reached up into the sky all over the city. But of all the great works none were as vast or as impressive as the Imperial Plaza, the series of huge buildings and gardens that would eventually form the center of the Empire's government throughout the Province. Even in its half finished state it was an awe-inspiring sight, a series of white towers with gold and turquoise domes that twinkled in the bright sunshine peaked out from shadow filled scaffold frame, huge slabs of local marble and precious metal disappeared into the site's secretive folds. And like a giant anthill life swarmed around it, human and alien alike bustling around it tiny against the vast background.
"Why the second lot of tape?" Cordelia whispered into Willow's ear as she caught the falling women, pointing out the ripped bright yellow tape as they passed.
"Thanks – I don't know, not a good sign." Willow shivered quietly, louder she called, "how much further patrolman?"
"Just round this corner ma'am." Patrolman Holmes called back suddenly indicated that they should go on without him.
Willow took as sharp breath as they turned the corner; the crime scene in front of them was teeming with officers. "Sergeant," she called loudly, her eyes quickly finding the solid looking red and green-scaled Kessali sergeant. She could see his head tails twitch and his black forked tongue taste the air rapidly, a sign of his nervousness. "What we got?"
"Murdered. Female. Unpleassant." He hissed out, in his race's typical deep lisping voice and hesitant English.
"Bad?" Willow asked cautiously.
"No Head. No hands. No feet. Musssh. Blood. " It hissed out again.
"Then why the second cordon?" Willow asked as she stepped around the alien's bulky body and towards the white body tent.
"Sssee. For yourssself." The alien waved his clawed hand dismissively.
With a growing sense of dread lifted the light cloth tent that she knew contained the body, bile burned in her stomach as she took in the pale heavily mutilated body. The body was headless and handless resting in a pool of black blood, despite that it wasn't that horror that made Willow's stomach boil, rather the purple spider web like blemish that covered the pale torso.
"Oh shit!" She gagged trying to fight done the dread and the nausea that threatened to overwhelm her.
"Willow what's wrong?" Cordelia called her voice filled with worry.
"It's a cat. It's a fucking cat." Willow cried, collapsing to her knees.
The warm, relaxed air of the old fashioned office seemed to banish the aching cold from her body as effectively as the spicy, soothing tea that settled her troubled stomach. Somehow in this office her troubles seemed so far away, from the supple leather chairs that embraced her as gently as any lover to the soft orange sunlight that sparkled against the rich varnish of the heavy furnishing.
"Are you sure it was a cat?" The Commandant's rich English accent broke through Willow's calm state of mind.
"Yes – she had a big, dark kalika burn all over her back." She shuddered again, remembering the purple stain across the victim's pale skin. The kalika burn a side effect of a chemical that scrambled the DNA markers and genetic id tags that could be used to identify a Si.
Opposite her, the Commandant cleaned his glasses nervously before continuing. "No identification at all?"
"Nope, she was naked, headless, handless and footless – those thick central registry files are completely and utterly useless." Willow growled ruefully.
"An Isab killing?"
"Could be." Willow shrugged, "it had all the hallmarks – the kalika burn, a Fallsome tube used to destroy the head, hands and feet and the post-mortem bruising, all points to the Fowlician Resistance."
"This is not what we needed." The Commandant sighed fatalistically.
"Tell me about it." Willow barked angrily, "we break one cell and another rears it ugly fucking head."
"Indeed." The Commandant's eyebrow twitched slightly at her colorful expression, though he could not help but agree. The activities of the Fowlician Resistance had not ceased with the expulsion of the Sizastian Empire and with some the smaller and more extreme groups forming into criminal organizations or taking part in brutal attacks against the small Siza community they had become a deadly foe to the RSS, with the deaths during Willow's raid earlier that day proving a sad, costly reminder.
"How... " The commandant's words did not have time to form as the intercom on his desk beeped quietly. "Yes Patricia." He answered, his voice filled with a quiet annoyance.
"Sir Rupert," the shrill voice of his PA answered loudly, "Investigator- Sergeant Chase and Dr Burkle are..."
"Send them in." He snapped, cutting her off abruptly. "Bloody woman." He muttered quietly, ignoring Willow's surprise he greeted the two women who entered warmly. "Cordelia, Fred – please come in, sit down, sit down." He waved them towards the rooms large leather bound chairs.
Willow nodded to her partner and the unfamiliar woman who accompanied her. The small, thin woman clutched tightly at a portable computer, her fingers drumming nervously against its hard skin.
"Fred I don't think you've met Willow Rosenberg?" he smile kindly.
"I don't think so... have I... no, definitely not... I'd remember wouldn't I?" She babbled in her thick Texan drawl.
"Anyway," Rupert frowned kindly before continuing. "Have you anything to report on our victim?"
The brown haired scientist giggled slightly, bouncing in excitement. "Have I."
"And?" Rupert pressed used to Fred's eccentric behavior.
"Well... you know at first... with the kalika chemical, the no head and everything – I thought I wouldn't find anything." She waved her hands in agitation. "But then, I thought, well the central records keeps everything, every operation, doctor's and hospital appointment, everything... So I did an autopsy, and found nothing." She sighed with frustration.
"She's almost as bad as you." Cordelia whispered teasingly in Willow's ear, throwing the bronzed skin women an evil look at her partner before turning back to the scientist.
No way, she thought, I babble occasionally – she babbles incessantly.
"Nothing unusual at all, but...but then we found this!" She pulled a small white lump in a plastic bag from her pockets.
"What is it?" Willow asked with a frown.
"It's a tooth... the site team found it amongst the ash." Fred shrugged happily.
"Are you sure its from the body, Fallsome tubes get real hot." Willow pressed, easily sliding into the role of an interrogator.
"Oh yeah they get real, real hot... about two thousand degrees in 2.6 seconds, that's why... poof no head... but that's why this survived... It's a calcium graft." Fred giggled absently at her revelation, giving an apologetic shrug before continuing. "The graft relies on heat to work, so the tube's heat made it grow quicker... that's why it's all lumpy."
"And with the graft you can identify the victim?" The redhead squeaked, her excitement rising slightly.
"Oh yeah... that's easy. It's of human make and from Si fourth and fifth molar... "
"How can you tell that?" Cordelia interrupted, earning a confused and questioning look from the young scientist as if the answer to the statement was obvious.
"Well, it grew real quick in the heat – 'bout three millimeters a second – which means its was real new, less than two weeks old... it had traces of Baroninthia in its make up, which is a human antibiotic, which is mainly used in dentistry... and is the main form of treatment for Kisaola disease, we the remains of the parasite in tooth, if you're interested, we also found them if you're not." She grinned at her small joke, the first real break in her monologue. "Which as you know main effects molar areas of the mouth."
"And the central records, did they give any likely candidates for our body?" The excitement in Willow's stomach was suddenly very real.
"Oh yes! Three males and one female." Fred grinned happily flipping open her computer and after a few moments a face filled the screen. The thin face with its hazel eyes and tawny colored her was instantly familiar.
Suddenly the shadows of the city's huge buildings sites loomed large and heavy upon their shoulders. "Bloody hell." Three voices whispered as the face Treylinn Gathar, the Si in charge of those vast projects, stared out at them.
"Hello can I he... " The PA's efficient tone died as he took into the two shadows that had suddenly loomed over her desk. His mouth worked silently as he stared fearfully at the two women in front of him, his eyes however were drawn to the large pistols that rested at their sides. "C-can I help y-you?" he squeaked again.
Willow smiled kindly at the young man, understanding that while the soft uniform of the RSS was not their full body armor, it was still very intimidating. It was almost a suit, a single piece blazer, held together by a series of hidden buttons on the shoulder and chest with a thick over the waist belt, and a pair of matching trousers. However no suit came accompanied by hard black leather calf high boots or a belt holding a wicked looking pistol on one side and the thin nightstick on the other. And despite the lightening of its color, the new uniform like the old seemed to absorb the light around it, casting a deep dark shadow around them.
"Of course, I'm Investigator-Captain Rosenberg and this is my partner Investigator-Sergeant Chase." The bronze-skinned women also smiled warmly at the young man as both showed their id wallets. "We have a few questions."
"Certainly." The young man smiled weakly.
"I'm very sorry – but your name is?" She smiled apologetically as she slide into the chair opposite him.
"Tom. Tom MacKay."
"Thank you Tom, now don't worry you're not in any trouble just a few simple questions, that's all." Willow grinned disarmingly.
He nodded, returning the women's smile with a weak one of his own. "Now when did you last see Lady Gathar?"
His eyes widened in surprise, "t-this morning why?"
"Did she have many appointments?" Willow responded quickly without answering his question.
"Yes, a breakfast meeting with our suppliers, a board sub-committee meeting, as well as a meeting with our head architect before a lunch. Why?" Again he pressed.
"Do you have their names?"
"Yes, J... "
"You can give them to Sergeant Chase later – now how had she been recently?" She continued smoothly, as if barely acknowledging his answer.
"Umm... tired I guess – yeah tired."
"Nothing else?" She pressed firmly.
"No, not really, we'd been having a few difficulties they were" He paled, noticing his unconscious slip into the past tense when talking about his employer. "... They are taking up most of her time... Is Treylinn okay?"
"What kind of difficulties?" She asked firmly but kindly.
"Contractors, suppliers, bankers, workers, unions, press... "
"So just your usual big project problems – I bet her being a Si didn't help?"
"Everyone's enemy, no-one's friend?" Cordelia sighed her only contribution to the interview so far.
"I wouldn't say that, Treylinn is very well liked and respected." He answered quickly, firmly and color touched his cheeks again.
"Okay, okay." Willow placated gently, hoping to keep him co-operative rather than belligerent.
However he continued as if she had not even tried. "If anything, Captain, perhaps she was too well liked especially by her employees, especially the Fowlician workforce – why in the last 4 months we've had no Resistance or Industrial Action. I don't think either the ICS or the RSS can claim that record." A small smile touched his face as the two policewomen shifted uncomfortably his unsubtle barb.
"That as maybe – so she was a good employer, how so?" Hoping to get the PA back onto more friendly ground.
"No, I think she was an excellent employer, Captain. She trusted the people under her, treating them with respect whatever their position. She was also unafraid to get her hands dirty, why she would spend at least half the day on site..."
"Did she go there this morning?" Willow interrupted.
"Of course – only the breakfast meeting was here, the rest were all where at the Plaza construction site."
"Do you have an address for the site offices?" Willow pressed calmly.
"Of course – what is this all about?" He asked once again as handed over a small ivory colored business card.
"Thank you – we'll also need access to her diary, contacts as well as her personal and professional files." Willow told him evasively, suddenly unable to meet his eyes as the moment of truth loomed on the horizon.
"I'm afraid that will require permission from Lady Gathar or a court order – now what is this all about?" He growled harshly.
Willow's shoulders slumped in defeat. "Mr MacKay I'm afraid I have some bad news... "
"By the Gods – I hate doing that." Willow sighed between mouthfuls.
"Yeah tell me about it." Cordelia agreed sadly, remembering the PA crumbling into tears and anger as the news of his employer's death had sunk in. "Do you think he'll be okay?"
"Hope so. I had a couple of Patrolman take him home, a support officer will visit him tomorrow." Willow shrugged, recognizing the limits of her actions.
"You know the food's not bad here." Cordelia said with a small teasing smile, hoping to break the dark silence that had fallen over them.
"It's not bad." The redhead shrugged, not noticing the grin touching the corner of her partner's mouth.
"Though it does have something missing." The grin grew just a touch, as Willow looked up at her and narrowed her eyes.
And with a growing feeling of dread Willow asked the next question. "What?"
"A certain blond librarian."
"I don't know what you mean." Willow huffed.
"Can we go to the library, please can we go to the library... " Cordelia's childish imitation ended as the redhead kicked her sharply under the table.
Grinning happily, as a lighter silence descended, she went back to studying the diary in front of her.
"Willow." She gulped, her fingers beginning to shake as she stared at the day's entries.
"What?" The redhead huffed, not willing to be drawn into her partner's teasing again.
"W-Willow, y-you really need to look at this." Cordelia stuttered, causing her to look up in surprise.
"What is it?" Willow asked in a much softer tone.
"You remember the PA saying she was having a lunch today?"
"Yeah – I think so, why?" She answered with a confused frown.
"And you cut him off before he told us who?"
"Yeah so." The frown deepened she wasn't used to having her questioning style questioned.
"Well you wanna know who she was having lunch with?" Cordelia pressed evasively.
"You gonna tell me or am I gonna have to guess?" She snapped impatiently.
"It was with James Finnell."
"As in Grand Admiral James Finnell, Grand Duke of Richmond, Commander of the Imperial Navy James Finnell?" She squeaked.
"Oh shit." Willow stammered in a stunned whisper.
"We are so not doing Finnell yet." Willow decided firmly.
"We got to talk him at some point, and anyway James isn't that bad." Cordelia responded cheerfully as she eased their patrol car into the parking bay.
"Not that bad! She says, not that bad! We are talking about the same Grand Admiral here, commander of the Black Star, he who defeated van Kupp, he who has never ... what do you mean James?" The redhead asked suddenly, her mind catching up with her partner's previous statement.
"Daddy was his Fleet Exec during the Third Feiyn War, he's my godfather – I haven't seen him in a couple of years. Are you sure we can't see him?" Cordelia grinned happily.
"Is there anyone you don't know?" The redhead huffed in annoyance, suddenly reminded of the other woman's upper class upbringing.
"I don't think so." She replied cheekily. "Who's this again?"
"Elizabeth Summers-Maclay, the Head Architect and Gathar's 12:00am appointment." Willow checked off the list.
"What we got on her?"
"At last someone you don't know." Willow grumbled, then continued with a frustrated sigh. "Not much really – Elizabeth Summers-Maclay, age 28 born in Savannah. After an apprenticeship with the Jupiter Consortium formed her own Design and Construction Company. She worked on a number of small and medium sized throughout the Empire, the border territories and Pimrv, before winning the tender for the Fowlicia Prime projects."
"Is that all? A career bio!" Cordelia asked with surprise. "What about personal details, hell even a full CV, or security vetting?"
"Nothing she's a blank. Hell, I even had to get this from the web." The redhead's voice sighed with resignation. "The only other piece of information I could get was an address and that she's a Permares not a Postie."
"Don't think so, she's not part of the local section and the company checks out. She's just a complete blank, not clean." Willow frowned as she spoke, not understanding the contradiction.
"Well I don't like it." Cordy said firmly, but with her eyes on the road she didn't notice her partner's small nod of agreement.
"Well I tell you what – Architecture sure pays well." Willow whistled as they approached the large bungalow. The home despite its harsh, functional lines held an alien elegance lacking from the small box-like apartment of Willow's official residence.
"Actually, their not that expensive." Cordelia responded absently. "The Fowlicians won't touch them, the Si aren't there to live in them and we don't like 'em – so they're real cheap. I've bought one by the south river." She paused as she rang the very human sounding bell.
"Now making them liveable, that's bloody expensive." She complained. "The contractors have only just finished gu... "
"Can I... " The cheerful, if slightly annoyed voice that interrupted Cordelia died abruptly. "Can I help you?" The voice began again, this time it was filled with a cold anger.
Both Willow and Cordelia felt a need to take a step back from the petite, robed clad blonde with the raging hazel eyes in front of them. "M-M-Ms Summers-Maclay?"
"Yes – and you are?" The women all but snapped.
"I'm Invest... "
"I can see what you are." She interrupted harshly, and Willow could here the insults in her words: Murderer, Stormtrooper, ISS Scum. "But that does not tell me who you are?"
"Cordelia Chase." Automatically, they flashed their id badges as they answered.
"Thank-you," The blonde smiled with fake sweetness. "Now what do you want?"
"It's quite sensitive may we come in?" Cordelia asked gently.
"Of course." She agreed with reluctant politeness.
It seemed as if every trace of the harsh functionality of Si design had been ripped from the house, earthy or bright colors had replaced neutral, light and shadow danced together where a hard brightness has once dominated, and the harsh minimalism of Si decoration had been swapped for the clutter of humanity.
It seems architecture does pay VERY well. W. Flashed up on Cordelia's notepad, and she couldn't help but agree, delicate Meteshi water silks sparkled against the walls, carefully bringing a persons eyes towards the Kessali Scale Murals and Human Oil works that lined the wall. And covering the living room's far wall was a huge piece of Aleanos Wood Furniture, its branches and leaves forming the room's shelves and cupboards, and from the rich, relaxing smell the large sofa suite was made from real leather, and Cordelia doubted the bright Fowlisician Fireweave blankets were any less genuine.
This was a home of extreme wealth and taste. "Do you live here by yourself Ms Summers-Maclay?" Cordy asked absently as she studied one of the intricately woven silks on the wall, marveling at the tiny silver flecks that glistened like scales.
"I don't think that's any of your concern, do you?" The cold voice answered again.
"Maybe – maybe not, I think that's our decision." Willow answered just as coldly, growing tired of the small women's attitude. And anyway with the suitcases in the hall and the gentle noise of a shower they already had their answer.
"Maybe – maybe not." The blonde parroted back. "Now what do you want?"
"You had a 12:00am appointment with Lady Gathar, correct?"
"That's right." The blonde answered with a frown.
"Did she make it?" Willow asked, her voice still as cool as the blonde's.
"No she didn't – I waited for almost half an hour." She answered with a annoyed shrug, though for the first time it was not aimed at the two policewomen.
Cordelia's eyebrows rose slightly as she communicated with her partner, with Gathar finishing her previous meeting at 11:15 and not making her next, they had the window when the crime took place. "Was she late regularly?"
The blonde smirked, "she was a Si – what do you think?" And both police officers nodded in understanding, as a race the Si adhered absolutely to the rules of protocol and punctuality; being late was almost a cultural sin.
"What was the meeting about?"
"A disagreement over design." The blonde's eyes rolled as she growled at her answer; once again her antagonism was aimed elsewhere.
"What do you mean?" Cordelia asked with a confused frown.
Again the blonde rolled her eyes before answering. "She was a Si – she didn't get Anglo-Metesh design. She wanted form, function and big bright lights." She gave a disgusted shudder as if she could see the design.
"So I take it you fought about it a lot huh?" Cordelia asked, sharing a sympathetic shudder.
"A lot doesn't even begin to cover it."
"Bad?" Cordelia winced in understanding.
"Very – I usually won, but it was never pleasant." The blonde sighed. "I had my remit, she didn't like nor understand it, but with London on my side she had to live with it."
"So I take it you didn't get on?" Willow asked gently, but as soon as the words left her lips she saw the cold mask slip fall back onto the blonde's face.
"No, strangely out of work we got on great. And despite our differences she was always gave her absolute support. It just wasn't easy."
Willow turned as a door opened behind them, and all three women rose automatically there feet. She had to grasp the sofa tightly to maintain her balance as she recognized the women; the blonde librarian. Almost without thought her eyes traced the soft curves barely hidden by her robe, slowly rising to the delicate hands that were tying a bright silk scarf around her neck.
And then as her eyes met, Willow felt fear and queasiness grasp her stomach, as the women's soft blue eyes were filled with absolute terror.
"A-a-nne?" Her voice was strangely husky.
"It's okay hun – they're... " Anne's arms were outstretched reassuringly as reached for the other women.
The Librarian was shuffling backwards, her eyes filled with panic as if she were trying to run.
Her back foot collided with one of the suitcases.
Willow moved forward, seeing the danger before everyone else.
The other blonde all but leaped away from the policewoman, and for Willow time seemed suddenly to slow as the blonde began to fall.
"A..a... are y... " Willow's voice faltered as she looked at the crumpled blonde, the poorly tied scarf had fallen away revealing an ugly spiderweb like scar across her neck and upper chest.
The blonde scrabbled desperately away, and Willow barely saw Anne barge pass and gather the other blonde protectively up in her arms. The reason behind the fear and anger hit her with absolute clarity, and she could barely stand: the ISS had done that, and the blackcoats had come again.
"I-I-I'mmmm s-s-s-sorry." She stammered.
"Just get out... just get the fuck out!" The blonde snarled as the struggled to retie the scarf.
"... naked, a thief in one hand and what I thought was a nightstick in the other, surrounded by cops. Only it wasn't a nightstick it was my bodyguard's nine inch dildo." The Boston accented voice finished with a flourish, and Finnell felt his sides begin to split, as he could no longer holder his laughter in. "I swear they didn't know what to do."
The dark haired Fowlitian grinned wickedly as the Grand Admiral collapsed into hysterics, the scales along her neck rippled happily as she began to fell the disapproving looks of the restaurant's Si clientele.
"So w-what hap-hap-happened?" James hiccupped violently as he tried to control himself.
"Well my 'guard pulls up, all in control and bossy, until... until she saw what I was holding." She slapped the table as she began to dissolve into laughter, remembering the look of sheer embarrassed terror that had engulfed her stocky, confidant bodyguard. "And I t-thought only we could go that shade of red."
The hysterics continued for a few more minutes before the two diners regained enough control to continue with their lunch.
"So I how come you all by your lonesome?" Siran Pllar, Finnell's cabinet colleague asked with a snort.
"Well I was meant to be meeting Treylinn, but she didn't turn up." Finnell answered with a frown. "Perhaps she is just running... very late."
"Standards are slipping." Siran teased.
"Loosening maybe, but never slipping." Finnell grinned back.
"Gods forbid." They both chuckled.
A polite cough interrupted. "Good afternoon, Grand Admiral – Lady Pllar." Rupert Giles nodded politely.
"Rupert, how are you?" Finnell beamed happily up at the RSS Commandant.
"I'm fine thank-you Grand Admiral." The Englishman shuffled nervously, reaching for his glasses before he caught himself. "If I could have a word please."
"Of course – Sit down, sit down." James waved happily, ignoring Rupert's nervousness as the Englishman's almost Si sense of propriety.
"In private please."
"Certainly, Siran would you mind?" The Fowlitian nodded and began to move from the table. "Thank you, we'll catch up properly later."
"Now Rupert, what can I do for you – your not going to tell me a Irajni Horde has invaded are you?" He teased lightly.
"No Grand Admiral, I'm afraid I have some bad news." This time Rupert did clean his glasses nervously.
"What is it?"
"It's about Lady Gathar."
"Treylinn?" James ran his fingers through his short white hair, not liking the tone of the conversation.
"Yes... we found a body this morning."
"A body – w-w-w-what does this have to do with Treylinn?" Finnell stammered, his senses suddenly deserting him.
"The body... the body was Lady Gathar."
"I do... don't... bel... " He stammered, but couldn't deny the truth that radiated in the policeman's eyes. "H... how?"
"It looks like an Isab killing."
"The resistance?" Finnell closed his eyes with a whimper, he knew all to well what the Resistance did to its victims. "How c-could y-you identify... "
"She's recently been treated for Kisaola disease." Finnell nodded, remembering the pain the other Si had been in. "We identified her through the calcium graft."
"C-can I s-s-see her." Finnell mumbled.
"I'm afr... "
"You're an idiot!" A voice hissed angrily in the darkness, and he could feel the dank breath against his face.
"I d-did exactly what I was told to do." He whined.
"They've already identified the body, you fool." The slap echoed in the small dark room, and he could feel his own blood trickle down his cheek from clawed fingers.
"Enough!" A voice snapped. "This was to be expected, the RSS are not fools."
"But ... "
"But nothing... they believe the resistance killed her, that is very useful... very useful indeed." The commanding voice chuckled lightly.
"How?" The voice whined and the assassin relaxed slightly.
"I think the resistance will prove a useful distraction – so let's turn those frown's upside down." The voice chuckled happily.
"Will, it'll be okay." Cordy gently said as she squeezed her partner's arm in support.
"Yeah, and how could it possibly be okay?" Willow snapped, she could still see the huddled form of the librarian, the fear in her eyes and the scars on her body.
"I don't know." Cordy sighed apologetically, "I don't know."
"Did you ever take part in the purges?" Willow asked suddenly, surprising her partner it was a subject they'd never raised.
"No I was posted on Georgestown for most of the Republic." She whispered in response. The Colony had been the main base for Queen-Empress' counter- coup, and had therefore been spared the Republican purges.
"I was based in the Investigators Unit in New Scotland Yard." She heard her partner gasp in surprise. "I lead raids..."
"Captain... Sergeant, the Grand Admiral will see you know." A blue uniformed officer interrupted.
"Thank you." Willow responded, her professional mask slipping into place.
James rose from his desk as the two women entered, absently smoothing the cut of his white uniform. "Captain... Cordelia!" A broad smile broke as he recognized his tall, bronzed skinned goddaughter.
"I'm fine James... how are?" She laughed happily as she enveloped him in a warm hug.
"I've been better." He winced. "But that's for later, how are you? How's the Admiral?"
"Still keeping us on our toes, I'm sure you remember?" She chuckled.
"Of course, how could I forget his legendary taste for practical jokes? It's been far too long, I'm must try and see him the next time on Lunapolis." Finnell sighed, he had only been in the home system briefly in the last seven years, and after the fall of van Kupp he had been quickly posted far from Earth.
"Definitely, I know he and Elaine would love to see you, if not just to give him a new target." She teased lightly.
"Well then I shall have to be very careful then." The smile suddenly died on his lips. "You're here about Treylinn aren't you?"
"How d... " Willow asked in surprise, the news had yet to be released.
"Rupert... Sorry Commandant-General Giles told me earlier." He answered quickly, noting how well the two covered their surprise. "You will want to know about my relationship with Treylinn, what I knew about her life and why I was seeing her for lunch. Correct?"
Willow nodded dumbly; the whole interview had been completely removed from her control.
"Treylinn was, before my exile, my wife." He stated simply, his fists clenching. "As was normal all my business and personal relationships were annulled and records destroyed. My birth, my marriage even that I was a father were removed from history, and simply never happened."
"James, I'm so... " He cut her off with a wave of his hand.
"It's okay, it was almost 360 years ago – I've accepted what happened and what I did." He brightened suddenly. "However, Treylinn and I were hoping to reconcile, at least enough so I could see my three sons and daughter again."
"Did you see her often?" Willow asked gently.
"At least twice a week for lunch or dinner, occasionally through work. Not as often as I would have liked." Finnell answered with a sad sigh.
"Did you talk much?"
"We did actually, but I'm afraid not about what would be helpful to you."
"You never know – anything may help." Willow smiled encouragingly.
"I think she was far too complacent about the Resistance, she often said she had nothing to fear from them." James growled with a surprising bitterness. "She was too high profile to think like that. As you know there have been a number of attempts on my life." The small cold smile sent a shiver along Willow's spine.
"Did she ever say why?" Cordelia pressed, as far as she was aware all of the Siza community feared the increasingly brutal resistance attacks.
"No – just that she didn't have to worry." Finnell shrugged. "Is there anything else?"
"Not at the moment, but... "
The redhead's words died as Cordelia darted past to embrace the white- haired alien. "We'll tell you I promise." She whispered, the embrace lasted until she felt him nod.
"Are you coming to the Brilliant Reception tomorrow – I can arrange tickets if you wish." Finnell pressed suddenly wanting to see his goddaughter again.
"No need, Willow's taking me." She said with a grin.
Finnell settled himself back at his desk. "So what did you think?" He called softly.
A piece of the wall flickered and collapsed into darkness. "I don't know." A soft Irish accented answered; a faint shadow moved across the room, dissolving into a tall, pale dark haired man. "Rupert thinks highly of them – but... "
"But what Liam?" Finnell's voice was suddenly cold and filled with the authority of command.
"They're RSS." He answered back arrogantly, as if that was all the answer that was needed.
"And you are the RIS?" Finnell growled sarcastically.
A confident smirk replied as Liam shifted to a more comfortable position in his seat.
"Well I trust your confidence is well placed Liam. I want the cell found, understand?"
"And then?" Liam gulped nervously as Finnell's bright green cat-like eyes bored into him.
"That is my business, you have yours." The Admiral dismissed him coldly.
The Library's desk clerk smiled kindly at the nervous looking redhead, which hovered in the main entrance trying to strangle a bouquet of flowers. "Can I help you miss?" He asked gently.
"Um... yeah... er... maybe." The young women stammered weakly, trying not to meet the older man's kindly eyes.
He waited patiently, knowing that she would either answer or run.
"Is Ms Summers-Maclay in t-t-today?" She spat out timidly.
"Oh you mean Tara – yes she's in her office, would you like me to get her?" He pressed kindly.
"No... I don't wan... could you really?" She pleaded through terrified eyes.
"Of course – can I tell her your name?"
"W-W-Willow R-R-R-R-Rosenb-berg." She stuttered.
Tara's hands gently caressed the soft silk around her neck, and in her mind's eye she was surrounded by billowing clouds of choking smoke filled with dark violent ghosts and not the peaceful surroundings of her small office.
"Tara?" The quiet voice and soft touch sliced through her thoughts, and she let out an almost silent of fear, her voice no longer capable of making the necessary sounds.
"A-A-Andrew." She let out a long calming breath as she recognized the crinkled face and scruffy gray hair of the elder librarian. "Is e-everything okay?" Her husky voice asked through deep breaths.
"It's fine love, but you have a visitor."
"Is it Anne?" She grinned happily, after yesterday her sister had promised to spend the afternoon with her.
"No, it's a pretty nervous looking redhead, cute though... " He grinned mischievously as he gently took the young Head Librarian's arm, not seeing the confused frown spread across her features.
Willow felt her nerves suddenly desert her and a small smile touch the corner of her mouth as the blonde librarian stepped into view. She stepped forward slightly, holding the bouquet in front as if it was a shield.
The redhead's calm facade shattered as she watched terror grip the other women again. "Look wait!" Willow cried desperately, as she watched the other women stepped fearfully behind the older man. "Please."
"I think you should." Andrew whispered back to Tara, and then with a surprising dexterity for his age he moved behind the blonde, though still standing close to help his timid boss if needed.
"I w-wanted to say sorry... er... yes, sorry for yesterday." Willow stuttered. "I didn't mean to scare you, not ever, okay... I just wanted to say that, that I'm sorry. I know its not enough." Willow winced inside, this was not the smooth and coherent speech she'd rehearsed, and she could feel her cheeks begin to burn. "But you had to know that... and I b-bought you these... okay bye."
She thrust the flowers at the blonde, only waiting long enough for the blonde grasp them before fleeing out of the door.
1: Fowllinn – Fal-lynne
2: Finnell> – Fin-el (similar to Final) 3: A Fowlician (Fal-lee-shun) Cycle – a Fowlician month, which is roughly equivalent to 5 Earth weeks and 4 days in length.
4: Jaron – Yaron
5: Si – C
6: Zha – tsar
7: Fowlitian – Fal-litian
8: Fowlucian – Fal-Lucien
9: The water supplies of the original Luna Colonies were contaminated by heavy metals, causing second and third generations colonists to be highly susceptible to virulent cancers, however the next generations their bodies adapted to the poisons, the side effect of this was that their skins became metallic in color, the process has continued despite the metals being removed from the Colonies water supplies.
10: Looney – a mildly derogative term for someone from the Luna Colonies.
11: Flep – Flep. A Metesh word meaning commoner.
12: Kessali – pronounced Kes-cell-ee
13: Kalika – Cal-ee-car
14: An Isab killing – the most common reference to someone killed in a terrorist or resistance attack, or in a military response to such an attack. Isab is a particular reference is to the Israeli – Arab wars throughout the mid 20th up to the early 22nd Centuries, which only ended with Mohammed Jackhail's conquest of the Middle East and the creation of the United Nations of Arabia during the Third World War (2009 – 2026), the subsequent post war mandates (2026 – 2143) and only finally ending with the area's integration into the Indian Federation (2145). These types of killings are also referred to as Carlos Killings in the CSAP (after General Carlos Vedierre (2199 – 2238) the anti-CSA resistance leader in Latin America) and Revie Killings in the UK (after Reverend Malcolm MacCormick's (2036 – 2086) rebellion against the British in Ireland (2074 – 2086)).
15: A Fallsome tube – the English name for a Si laser cannon, which at point blank range and a consistent beam can disintegrate flesh and bone.
16: Fowlician – Fal-lee-shun
17: Sizastian – C-z-arse-tian
18: Siza – Caesar
19: Kisaola – Kiv-ola
20: Treylinn Gathar – Tray-lynne Ga-far
21: ICS – the Imperial Civil Service
22: Feiyn – Phean. The Feiyn, an insect-like race that controls a large area of space near along the upper borders of the Empire, after one major conflict and a series of three border wars during the late 23rd and early 24th Centuries an informal border was stabilized between the two Empires. Five of the eleven worlds on the Empire's side formed the New Terran Colonies, the remaining six forming the Rochelle Protectorate. All of the 11 planets are currently the control of the largest rebellious Meteshi (Me-tesh- ee) State (the Meteshi Republic).
23: Fowlicia Prime has a 28-hour day.
24: Pimrv – Pimm-v. A small aggressive Empire located between the Empire and Dreyain (Dee-vee-an) Empire (Dreyain Empire – a vast Empire located along lower borders of both the Empire and Sizastian Empire that with the conquest of Metesh and the decline of the Sizastian Empire is the superpower of this part of the Galaxy).
25: Permares/Postie – refers to someone status within the Ex Pat Community. A Permares – Permanent Resident, someone who has made the permanent move to a settled Province (not a Colony world), as opposed to a Postie, who is on a temporary posting (normally 2, 3, 4 or 6 years in length) to a Province or Colony before returning home or continuing to another post.
26: RIS – Royal Intelligence Services
27: Section – the RIS contingent of the ICS Mission or Delegation.
28: Aleanos – Alli-a-nos. Aleanos Wood Furniture is a Pimrv art work, where the fast growing Aleanos Tree is grown to form a piece of furniture (it can be beds, cabinets, chairs even full suites), the customer specifies what they require and a master grows it within the house directing and manipulating the trunk, branches, and leaves to form a piece of unique living furniture.
29: Fowliscians – Fal-lis-cian
30: Siran Pllar – Ci-ran Pol-lar.
31: Irajni – Ira-j-knee. Irajni horde, the foot soldiers of the Sizastian Empire.
32: Lunapolis – Lu-nap-olis, Capitol City of the Luna Colonies and the Sol Empire.
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