Omicron 6537 (interlude)
Note: Due to scheduling conflicts, there was no gaming session on 15 APR 2018. We are expecting to get back at it next week.
136-1108, Golgotha Penal Colony
Rand Tyler – AKA Fabricator Omicron 6537 – adjusted the longitudinal control on the lathe, watching the tool precisely peel off a slender spiral of metal from the piece as it spun. The piece was nearly roughed out to specifications when he heard his workshop door burst open and a single pair of boots crossing the stone floor towards him.
“Thirty-Seven!” shouted a female voice over the noise of the lathe.
Rand calmly moved the tool post away from the piece and shut down the electric motor that was spinning it. Only then did he turn to face the source of the voice. He regarded the woman for a moment. She had the same dark hair and eyes, the same night-pale skin that he’d seen when they first met over a year ago – back when he was an Omega. She was lean and muscular, and wearing the same yellow and black jumpsuit she’d worn the day they’d met. However, Administrator Tau 4726 was definitely looking angry.
Rand knew why.
“Well, hey there, Twenty-Six,” he said as he removed and tossed his safety goggles on a nearby workbench. “What’s the problem?
She stepped forward balling her fists. “No games, you son of a bitch!” she snarled. “Where is he?”
“Who?” Rand asked.
“Omega One-Eight-Five-One!” she shouted, “Piss-boy from the pit!”
“Oh, him,” Rand replied as he subtly shifted his stance. “Fifty-One was overdue for some personal hygiene – a haircut and a bath. He should be done shortly.”
Rand watched shocked indignation play across Twenty-Six’s features. “How in the Nine Hells did you manage to get that approved by the Diadem?!” she exploded.
“I didn’t ask the exalted ruling circle of Alphas for permission,” he said as he slid his right hand into a pocket of the blue and white jumpsuit he wore. “That is why you found out about it this morning when you tried to give him his breakfast ration and he wasn’t there.”
She lunged at him, but a year of the rigors in the Golgotha Penal Colony had hardened him up, too. He easily evaded her telegraphed right hook, using the motion to hide the action of his right hand drawing a small metal object from the pocket. He pivoted as she took another swing at him, dropping to a crouch as he extended his right arm.
The sharp report of a firearm reverberated in the confines of the workshop. Twenty-Six cried out and collapsed on the unforgiving stone floor, grabbing at her right knee where a dark red stain was starting to spread on the yellow fabric of her jumpsuit.
Rand stood, pointing the tiny weapon at her head the whole time. “You’re pretty good with your fists,” he said, “but with a pistol in my hand, I’m better.”
“A derringer?” she asked. “You made that?”
Rand allowed himself to smile and nod but his aim never wavered. “Right here, in fact,” he said. “That was the primary reason I became a fabricator.”
She grimaced as she tested her knee, but her resolve eroded as she involuntarily grabbed at her thigh and smothered a cry of pain. She glared up at him. “For the past few weeks, I’d heard rumors that you were up to something,” she said through gritted teeth.
Rand nodded. “It’s hard to keep secrets around here,” he said. “So I made sure that what other people found out wasn’t important.”
“If you’re thinking of making a play on one of the Diadem –“ she started.
Rand laughed explosively, interrupting her as he returned the pistol to his pocket. “The Diadem!” he said at last, “What a joke! Sad little Alphas on this sad little rock on the trailing end of the Imperium. No, I have no desire to spend any more time in this hole than I have to.”
Twenty-Six almost laughed. “You’re crazy,” she said. “There’s no way off Golgotha until you’ve served twenty years!”
“And how do they do that – make you serve your time?” he asked. “How do they know you’ve done twenty years?”
“You know as well as I do,” she said through a grimace.
“Just humor me for a moment,” he said. ”How?”
“The marker tag in your neck,” she said. “The one they inject in everybody before they leave Navy custody and are forced off the boat here.”
“Right,” replied Rand. “But how close do they look at the person? After all, it’s been twenty years since anyone has seen someone who’s been sentenced here. Do they really care, or are they just scanning the tag?”
Twenty-Six had no answer. The warm blood around her knee was cooling, getting sticky. The pain from her savaged joint was still an electric ache that no amount of pressure from her hands could stem.
“Knee wounds are nasty,” Rand said as he regarded her. “Not the nastiest I’ve seen recently, mind you, but still bloody awful, all the same.”
“Recently?” she asked. “What does that mean – ‘recently’?”
“How many people have disappeared over the last few weeks?” he asked. “Have you been keeping count?” She shook her head. “Twelve,” he continued, “most of them due – overdue in two cases – to depart this rock and the Imperium after successfully completing their sentences. The first person I met when I got here clued me into my first victim – the life partner of Caretaker Alpha Three-Oh-Seven-Four.”
Rand pulled the collar of the jumpsuit away from his neck, revealing a nearly healed scar there. “Getting my original tag out was painful, but relatively easy. Inserting the new one was the same story in reverse. Seventy-Four’s main man was pretty easy to take out, once I had orchestrated the situation to get him separated from his bodyguards, of course. After I dug the tag from his neck, the rest of him went into the composter.”
“But how?” asked Two-Six, “How could you know who was due to be released?”
“You should know the answer to that,” he said. “You have a filing cabinet full of forms with personal information about each and every person here. All I needed was time to go through them all. And with you just eighteen days from finishing your sentence, you had your mind on other things, didn’t you, Rosanna?”
The woman’s eyes widened in recognition as Rand smiled. “Raiding your files gave me unprecedented leverage here. Seems there were several other people who’d come here to exact the revenge that only nobles are allowed to claim, including a certain marquis on Narmada. Lucky for me, I found his excellency's agent first and dealt with him – permanently.”
He tapped his right temple. “I put together a list and keep it right here,” he said, “One tag – one victim – for each of the seven people working with me. Each of those people is highly motivated and uniquely skilled. I know this because assessing a person’s talents was my job before I was shot, apprehended, tried and convicted.”
Rosanna’s mind was racing. Somebody had to have heard that shot. I’ve got to keep him talking long enough for somebody to come investigate.
“The derringer,” she said aloud. “How did you make that?”
Rand smiled broadly. “At the start of my career, I was a data courier, so I’ve got a wetware computer installed in the back of my skull – hidden by some serious stealth technology so it won’t show up on a security or medical scan – which is why I still have it after being in custody.
“In the old days, its memory held government secrets. Nowadays, the computer’s memory is filled with library data and technical specifications, with enough room left over to take a few hundred images off my optic nerve. Lucky for me, the technical specs for this little pistol were there, along with the recipe for homemade gun powder and primer compound.”
“But… but you couldn’t do it all here,” she said, feeling her body’s endorphins starting to take the edge off the pain. “Who else is helping you?
Rand carefully drew the pistol from his pocket again, regarding it as he spoke. “I had to work with a couple of the people on the farm to get what I needed to make gun powder and dispose of the bodies we’d killed. And while this crude double-barrel percussion cap derringer isn’t very powerful,” he said as he thumbed one of the tiny hammers back, “well, you already know what it can do.”
He pointed the weapon at her, lining up her head in its crude sights. “And I know that you’re trying to stall for time,” he continued. “Unfortunately for you, I had this area cleared out before you got here. It’ll be that way for a while yet. So, right now, it’s just you and me.”
She fought down her panic as he continued to point the weapon at her. “You shot them – the victims?” she asked.
“Of course not,” Rand replied. “Our mutual ‘friend’ Fifty-One is really good at killing people with his bare hands. He’s been essential to the plan. So, that’s why you’ve been busier than usual with the Omegas in the enclave. I needed distractions so I could borrow him for a while and return him to the pit without you noticing.”
“You cannot trust that animal!” she shouted. “He’ll turn on you the first chance he gets!”
“There is certainly that risk,” Rand said as he eased the hammer on the derringer back in place and dropped it back into its pocket. “But he was so very easy to work with. In fact, I only had to promise him one thing to get him to do my bidding.”
Rand stepped over to the lathe, his finger poised on the switch that would start it up again. Somewhere behind him, a door opened and closed. Rosanna heard slow, heavy footsteps crossing the workshop, growing closer. Rand’s grin turned feral as Fifty-One moved close enough for her to see him.
Much of the prisoner’s hair had been cut away revealing features that bore numerous scars and lines of pain from years of torment. The twisted wreck of the man’s nose and the uneven line of his prominent jaw spoke of a truly epic beating that he’d somehow survived. The man’s knuckles popped as he balled his fists; his crooked yellow teeth bared in a twisted sadistic grin of malice so pure it gave him an inhuman aspect – the animal inside him plain for his victim to see.
And the eyes – those pale green eyes that she’d seen through the matted hair that had hidden his face from her for four years – burned with a mixture of hatred and animal lust as he advanced upon her prostrate form. She scrabbled backwards, oblivious to the pain in her knee, to the trail of blood it was leaving on the floor.
Rand flipped the switch on the lathe, placing the tool head against the spinning piece he’d been working on, the rumble of the motor and the screech of metal on metal perfectly drowning out the screams of fear and agony from Rosanna as Fifty-One claimed in full what Rand had promised him.
And once Rosanna lay lifeless and Fifty-One was fully distracted by the hideously perverted necromantic lust that had ultimately sentenced him to Golgotha, Rand quietly stole up behind him, cocked the hammer of the remaining barrel of the derringer, carefully aimed at the back of the man’s head and pulled its trigger.
Fifty-One shuddered as the pistol’s report faded away. He slumped across the body of his victim, quivering as his final death throes played out.
Rand waited until Fifty-One was still; only then did he slowly lower his arm. He pocketed the weapon as he stepped back over to the lathe and switched its motor off again. He walked to the back door of the workshop and opened it. A man and woman were waiting in the room beyond. The man wore a blue and white jumpsuit similar to Rand’s; the woman’s was gray with white stripes on the sleeves.
“Sorry for the mess,” said Rand to them both, “but betrayal and murder is an ugly business.”
Rand turned to the man. “Make sure you club Fifty-One in the back of the head hard enough to fracture his skull.”
Turning to the woman, “And you’ll have to dig the bullet out of Twenty-Six’s knee and then savage it with something. If any of the other caretakers recognize those bullet wounds, the whole plan falls apart.”
The man nodded, revealing the fresh scar on his neck from where his tag had been replaced. “I’m on it,” he said.
The woman sighed. “How much longer before you have my tag?” she asked.
“As long as it takes for you to dig it out of Twenty-Six’s neck,” replied Rand. “She was just eighteen days shy of twenty years, after all.”
“This is going to get noticed, you know,” said the woman as she stepped past him. “Everybody knows both of them.”
“True,” Rand conceded, “but people will just figure that he managed to get out the pit and took his revenge.”
“You’re sure?” she asked, cocking an eyebrow.
“Yeah,” Rand replied. “I’ve been applying small amounts of acid to the cell’s bars for weeks. He worked a couple of them loose this morning before I got there. Now hurry up and get your tag. I'll help you implant it tonight.”
After she left, Rand touched the scar on his own neck. “Of course,” he said to himself, “my tag is already good to go tomorrow – when the next transport arrives.” His features darkened. “And then I’m going to settle some things with a few select members of the Peerage – permanently.”
Behind him, the man in the blue jumpsuit was yelling for help – just like he was supposed to do. Rand closed the door to the workshop and started walking away, his mind turning over everything he still had to do before tomorrow's departure…
* * *
Rand Tyler; 6869BA; Ex-Diplomat Minister; 5 Terms; Rank 5; Age 41
Body Pistol-2, Carousing-1, Computer-1 Admin-1, Forgery-1, Grav Vehicle-1, Interrogation-1, Liaison-1, Recruiting-1, Shotgun-1, Streetwise-1, Brawling-0, Computer-0, Mechanical-0, (Jack of All Trades-3*)
Cr0; Body Pistol (Percussion Cap Derringer [TL 3, Cr60, 2D]), Wetware Computer Implant (see below)
Wetware Computer Implant (TL 13), Cr50,000 (including surgery and stealth tech)
A wetware computer is essentially a miniaturized pocket computer implanted in the base of the skull that can be operated via a neurological interface. Rand’s is interfaced to his optic nerve, meaning he can “see” its output and take up to 400 two-dimensional images of things he sees. He used this computer initially to smuggle data, but now has an extensive library file of practical information. This is the equivalent of having Jack of All Trades-3 skill. However, he only has this skill when the computer is on – he shuts it off most of the time to prevent its inadvertent detection. It can download its information and upload software and data via a microchip scanner (TL 8, Cr500).