Count Your Blessings, Part II
-- From the personal journal of Count Lars Wyndham
My wife Annabelle and I have been the prisoner of a madman for five days. He locked us both in a high-risk isolation ward in the Helix BioTech facility on Yandra when we discovered what he and his seditious friends were really up to, and how they intended to siphon away my family funds to pay for their twisted dreams of genocide. Great Maker help us all if that weaponized virus is set loose upon any world of the Imperium!
Baron Francois Verne seemed the perfect model of an Imperial noble with a thriving fief and over five million subjects who paid him their heart-felt respects each and every day. He had a loving wife who was adored by the populace, and a son who was rapidly maturing into finely groomed manhood. He had it all, and yet, it wasn’t enough. He wanted to rid the universe of all sentient races that lacked a “pure” Solomani heritage and restore the “glory” that was the Second Imperium – when the Solomani wrested control of the Ziru Sirka away from the Vilani.
It was a heritage that he and no one else alive today could claim to know. But madmen don’t think about those things. They only focus on their desires and make their own realities to justify the atrocities they do.
And now the end for all of us is coming.
I admire Marquis Toyama Weston’s ability to figure things out, and pick people to aid him that perfectly complement his own abilities. I knew if I could get him to come here, the threat of the Omega Strain virus would be ended. He’s an accomplished doctor and my friend. As soon as he had all the pieces of this puzzle together, he acted. I can only hope that he isn’t leading the assault on this facility’s defenses, for it will doom him to the same fate that awaits everyone trapped inside this place…
-- From the personal journal of Marquis Toyama Weston
It’s the only way to be sure. I’ll have to risk it. This madness has to end here. I hope that Lars and Annabelle will understand if we fail. I hope their daughter can forgive my ghost if that happens or worse yet, accept my apology should I survive…
-- From the personal journal of Viscount Trager Duvalier
They have departed after three hours of frenzied preparations. Marquis Weston will lead the rescue team along with Sir Yael Smethwyck, Paul Fletcher and Leif Grenfell, plus ten of my personal guardsmen. While the guardsmen are leading a diversionary action, the Marquis’ team will install a temporary airlock, cut their way through the pressure dome from the surface and infiltrate the facility. If the Great Maker is merciful, they will find Count Lars and his wife and escape before the facility’s fail-safe protocols cut in and kill them all in an automated attempt to prevent an outbreak.
Ten kilotons is a small atomic weapon these days, but it will sterilize everything under the dome that the fireball doesn’t immediately vaporize…
-- From the personal journal of Baron Francois Verne
My operatives say he’s taken the bait. Good. I will finally be rid of him and the plan will go forward to the next stage. As soon the perimeter sensors start going out, I’ll set off the bomb that will violate the integrity of the bio-barriers and the Marquis and the Count will be vaporized. Not only will the Imperium lose a brilliant mind, one that is nearly the match of my own, but one of its most generous sophontarian. In a few years, the misery will fuel rebellions on dozens of worlds he once supported.
There! That’s one. And there! Another sensor feed drops out. “Time to die, Marquis Weston,” I say as I trigger the remote detonator. My small craft dodges to the left to avoid a low range of mountains as it rides the nape of the world and heads over the horizon, away from the sensors of the orbital pickets. Ahead lies the Wynds of Change and escape from this system. I would have preferred to have taken the Marquis’ ship, but that would have drawn too much attention…
-- From the personal journal of Ophelia Wyndham
It is so strange, watching what is happening now. The Viscount’s guard brought Gerard, the Baron’s son, and I to his estate and told us what was happening. I feel so very sad for Gerard. He had nothing to do with this treachery and yet his family name will be forever tarnished with the sedition against the Imperium. If my father lives through this…
Oh Great Maker! There’s been an explosion! Wait, it’s a small one. So why are all the alarms going off? The warning screens keep flashing “Fail-Safe Protocol.” What does that mean?
-- Excerpt from Case #2874-71649C Investigation Progress Report – Supplemental
Filed by Field Operative Leif Grenfell, IISS Counter-Intelligence
Filed by Field Operative Leif Grenfell, IISS Counter-Intelligence
…While the rescue plan conceived and executed by Marquis Weston went off without a hitch, it is not fairly obvious that Baron Francois was at least two steps ahead of us, having departed the Helix BioTech R&D facility before the rescue team had even started to cut its way into the place. The biological safeguards of the facility had been deliberately compromised as the rescue team arrived. The obvious intent was the assassination of both the Count and Marquis, with the possibility of spinning the incident into looking like they were the perpetrators of the act.
Fortunately, there was just enough time left to vacate the dome and escape before the atomic safeguard inside the facility detonated. This was aided by the fact that all of the Baron’s traitorous associates had already vacated the dome, leaving no opposition. It was also aided by the Marquis’ associates’ unique skill sets that allowed for a quick and efficient infiltration of the facility, especially Sir Yael’s computer hacking skills to defeat localized security mechanisms during the egress phase of the operation.
The “assassination attempt” against the Marquis and his associates at the Viscount’s estate the night before was obviously designed to fail; a trail of breadcrumbs for the group to follow and motivate them to willingly enter the Baron’s trap at the facility. The facility, by that point, had become nothing more than additional evidence and possibly a means to engineer the Omega Strain’s downfall. As it is, it will still take many cycles, if not years, to find both a cure and a vaccine for the all the potential non-pure-blooded Solomani it targets. The artificial outbreak of the non-lethal test virus in Ville du Verne last year confirms that Omega is designed to kill off non-Solomani.
I’ve taken the liberty of sharing this report with our associates in Imperial Naval Intelligence. This particular incarnation of Ine Givar appears to have been a front for the Baron’s activities. Obviously, Imperial units in the Sol Sector will have to be on their guard against this new threat from our old adversaries in the Solomani Confederation, as several shipments of the virus and/or the equipment needed to synthesize and incubate the weaponized cultures left Yantra in the past two weeks. I have coordinated with Yantra’s Starport Authority to determine the ships and their intended destinations…
-- Official Decree from His Grace Duke Darius Ingersoll, Protector of the Narmada Subsector of Wayhaven Sector, Domain of Sol of the Third Imperium; Ruler of the Imperial Autonomy District of the world of Narmada; and Defender of Imperial Citizenry throughout Known Space and Beyond.
082 – 1105
LET IT BE KNOWN: Effective this date, Francois Ypres Verne, formerly holding the rank of Imperial Baron of the world Yantra, Narmada Subsector, Wayhaven Sector, Domain of Sol; is hereby stripped of his rank, holdings and funds for acts of sedition against the Imperium. His Grace decrees that any Imperial citizen who assists and/or comforts this person is giving aid to an Enemy of the Empire and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of Imperial law.
LET IT BE KNOWN: Effective this date, a reward of fifty million credits is offered by His Grace for the capture of the aforementioned personage for the crimes of Treason, Conspiracy to Commit Genocide, multiple acts of Terrorism, Synthesis and Deployment of Biological Agents of Mass Destruction, Kidnapping of Members of the Peerage, Attempted Murder of Members of the Peerage and Interstellar Piracy. Additional rewards are offered for information leading to the apprehension and prosecution of the fugitive and/or his associates.
LET IT BE KNOWN: The star yacht Wynds of Change is stolen property of a member of the Peerage. All starport authorities are ordered to capture this vessel if possible, or disable her if necessary, as well as to arrest all persons found aboard her under suspicion of Interstellar Piracy.
LET IT BE KNOWN: Marquis Toyama Weston, M.D.; Ruler of the Whiskey Amber Oh Seven arcology, Imperial Autonomy District of Narmada is hereby acclaimed by His Grace for his actions to protect Imperial citizenry of this subsector from the actions of the aforementioned fugitive. Also, His Grace commends the bravery and skill of the Marquis’ associates in their rescue of Count Lars Wyndham and his wife from the aforementioned fugitive’s associates on the world of Yantra in this subsector.
-- From the Personal Journal of Gerard Verne
I love her. I know that I cannot hope to see Lady Ophelia again after all that has passed. Count Lars and Lady Annabelle could never forgive me after what my father put them through. They will never trust me to be in the presence of their daughter ever again.
I will don the black band of shame and see that it is placed across each crest of my family’s standard. I will atone for my father’s disgrace. I will suffer the scrutiny that follows this, the suspicion, the shame. I will beg the Viscount to forgive those who had no knowledge of what was transpiring. Absolved, perhaps they can find employment in a nobler house than mine. Even in shame, I must protect and provide for them. The fault is not theirs.
I should have known. I should have acted. I will do what I must. This is my duty.