Official Lore Office post from Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

Lose Your Chains

Governor's Mansion, Psi Velorum III
May 2400
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After long years in the mines of Velorum Prime, the governor’s mansion on Psi Velorum III was blinding.

It was not just the light, though Resak’s eyes strained against the brightness gleaming from every chandelier, beaming from every strip along the ceiling, streaming from every wall-height window. The rulers of the Velorum Sector had eschewed all shadows in their halls of power, and Resak didn’t know if they feared finding the monsters they had banished, or their own darkness staring back at them.

He did not want to be here in the governor’s office, with tall windows before the desk showing him the expansive grounds. Once a garden, now his workers – his army – stomped across the fine lawns and through the cultivated hedgerows, jubilant in victory, grief-stricken in loss, slack-jawed at the sheer space and luxury that had been above their heads while they laboured in chains. He would have rather been among them, or in the hearts of the cities where the work was being done, but ideology needed symbolism, and he was a symbol. Whether he liked it or not.

So he leaned over the monitor scrolling through incoming communications, and scowled at the burden of good news.

He did not know how long he had been there when the door-chime sounded, breaking him from his focus, but the sun was lower and dimmer on the horizon, and he felt his shoulders ease at the oncoming gloom. But the chime was a request, an act of deference, and Resak was relieved when the doors slid open a moment later for the two he had come to rely on most – his left hand and his right – stepped in.

It was Jilok who had tapped the door-chime, Resak knew at once. The former naval commander looked ill at-ease out of uniform, and had pulled on one of the supervisors’ jumpsuits from the refinery, stripped of insignias but still of a sufficiently severe cut to make it feel like a uniting regalia. But Dorman had simply walked in, the stone-faced Reman worker loyal to Resak unto death and yet not about to show him the deference their former overseers had expected.

‘Food supplies are being circulated,’ Dorman rumbled as he stomped towards the desk. ‘You were right; the households and stores on the upper levels had ample.’

Resak’s throat tightened. ‘I hope nobody had to be hurt.’

Dorman rolled a boulder of a shoulder. ‘Some guards thought they’d rather shoot a Reman than let us into a grain silo.’

‘They were given,’ Jilok assured quickly, ‘every chance to surrender. Then they were given a chance to surrender at gunpoint.’

‘And then?’

Jilok shrugged. ‘I’m not sending our people against their disruptors with only stun batons. We shot the ones who fought. Hungry people are being fed.’

Our people. Resak believed Jilok’s sincerity. The commander had had everything to lose and nothing to gain when his task group turned on the local garrison, threw their lot in with the workers’ uprising that swelled and stormed across Psi Velorum. When asked, Jilok had shaken his head and said, ‘I serve the people. You’re the people, last time I checked.’ Large portions of the Reman and Romulan workers had been distrusting, even though they could not have overthrown the governor, seized power on Psi Velorum, without a portion of the military’s backing.

Now Resak was starting to fear Jilok not for his commitment to the cause, but for his soldier’s mentality: he was trained to see anyone who was not on his side as an enemy to be eliminated. But rebellions were rarely so tidy.

‘We did as you said,’ Dorman pressed on. ‘Only took what we need. The rich palaces still have bread and water.’

‘And fancy wine,’ Jilok pointed out. ‘We took staples, they keep luxuries. Honestly, I don’t know what they’re complaining about. We’re not seizing their houses, their assets. Though it might come to that.’

‘One step at a time. They should have the choice,’ Resak said sharply. ‘They’re not the ones responsible for our oppression.’

‘Their husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers were,’ said Dorman.

‘And how long was your father a pit boss, Dorman?’ Resak challenged. ‘How long was I?’

Dorman hesitated. ‘That’s different.’

‘Is it? I had power over you, power given by the overseers, by the governor – by the Senate. We were part of the hierarchy that kept us down.’

‘You – both of you – made sure things weren’t worse for us.’

‘I was still complicit.’ Resak shook his head. ‘My point is that almost nobody had a choice, a real choice. That can change everything – Jilok here is proof.’

Jilok winced. ‘I know what my choice was: help you, or turn Psi Velorum to slag.’

‘That’s not true. You could have taken your forces and left.’

He frowned at that. ‘No. No, I don’t think I could.’

Dorman gave an impatient harrumph. ‘Fact remains, we’re distributing food across the planet. Our forces are dealing with any of the last pockets of resistance – I know, I know, key locations only, otherwise we contain them. Psi Velorum is ours.’

Jilok looked at the computer terminal. ‘What’s the news?’

Resak sighed at the damning prospect of hope. ‘Twelve systems have already aligned themselves with us. Several are deliberating. Others are still engaged in the struggle. I want to make sure we maintain a communications network across the sector – soon enough, I will speak to representatives of all of these worlds and systems, and we will share these burdens.’

Dorman chewed on words for a moment. Then he said, ‘That’s a lot of burdens. Do we have Ortansa?’ The agri-world was one of Velorum’s breadbaskets.

‘We do. Everyone will want from them, though, won’t they.’ Resak ran a hand over his head and tapped his fingers on the back of his neck. ‘Productivity on Ortansa will be down. Shipping what stores they have across the sector will be difficult.’

‘We’ll manage,’ Dorman said bullishly.

‘I’ll commandeer as many of the ships with decent cargo space as I can,’ Jilok added more thoughtfully. ‘We shared enough with Yuran, we can share more.’

Resak hesitated. ‘The shipment never reached Yuran.’

Jilok swore. ‘The Star Navy?’

‘Maybe. Maybe one of the newly-acclaimed warlords among our neighbours. Maybe pirates. I don’t know.’ Resak sighed. ‘I don’t think we can do this on our own.’

Dorman took a sharp step forward. ‘We are not,’ he growled, ‘turning to the Free State. The Republic doesn’t have the resources or reach to help us -’

‘I’m not talking about the Free State, or the Republic, or anyone like that.’ Resak straightened. He had been thinking about this for some time, feeling the truth weigh down on him. All he had wanted, he thought, was to secure a small pocket of Psi Velorum for his siblings in the mines. Seize control of the resources they mined, work on their own terms and trade their labour and wares for a fair price – and for freedom. But so many had shared that vision that fighting for a mine had become fighting for a world – a system – a sector.

Success was its own responsibility, and if there was one thing Resak had learnt in the past weeks, it was that shouldering a burden alone was not duty. It was vanity.

He looked at his two unlikely allies, a Reman who had once been the simplest of labourers and a Romulan who had once been loyal to their oppressors. If anything was going to unite them again, it was disapproval of what he was about to say. But if he had one responsibility he could not share, it was facing the unwelcome truth.

Jilok folded his arms across his chest. ‘Who are we going to for help, then?’

‘We’re not going to anyone for help.’ Resak drew a deep breath. ‘Because I’ve already asked.’