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The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye (Cover Art)

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Chapter 148 - The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye[]

"What do you know, Liz??"


Arthur demanded. "Who killed my wife?"

"Well, Kommandant Ries found the guys who gave her the shot. Unfortunately, not in a condition to testify...." she counted off, "The paper trail Grolsch found led to another body-this one no-longer-fit-to-testify due to drowning in six centimeters of bathwater in Officer's quarters on-base...so we started tearing the late Kommandant's financials apart and it led to a trading and salvage operator whose cargo-lifter decided to lift his head off before we got there. A check of the family home and it was on fire...so that was fun, Structure fires are the worst, but we managed to match a few remnant records to another angle in the investigation. Which led right back to the fox team that were playing security for your wife while you were on deployment...which ends up disappearing under a door marked 'secret' on New Avalon..."

"But?" he prodded, fury building on his face.

"But, using secure Naval Comm to Tharkad, I got permission to open said door." she said, "As well as permission to obtain a second-opinion review of the team in question. The Corpsman is currently conducting narco-interrogation, and I've gotten into some of the black funds to see where they originate and lead...did you know that MIIO has been running their own foreign policy out here?"

"Hold up...what??"

"MIIO-or at least, compartmentalized parts of the agency. Which has been self-funding out here and it's not unusual." she said, "SO they've been conducting their own foreign and domestic policy-like a second government, they're arsehole deep in secessionists over it...and it ties to Penny's death."

"How??"

"You." she said. "Nearest I can piece together, it was supposed to be a kidnap op, but they used cutouts and contractors......it went wrong."

"Christ, why??"

"To embarrass and distract YOU from your mission to the Taurians." she stated, "There are a raft of careers out here that hinge on 'controlling' foreign aggression and piracy. It's why when AFFS and AFFC units moved on Anti-Piracy Ops, the bandits always lost a cosmetic engagement and things went back to where they were before the sortie was sent. It's contrary to orders from New Avalon, but the intent, near as Ries. I pieced together, is that some professional civil servants want to keep their pensions intact and have a legacy to give their kids-so they have to keep 'trying' to solve the problem, while not solving the problem...and it's generational."

His fist clenched. "For a pension??"

"All politics is local, Arthur-something I learned from the Old Man." she commented, "The mess extends into the local nobility, militia, and long-term deployment units out here. It's just being run from MIIO...or at least, a cadre of senior agents with histories of sterling service."

"What would you do, Liz?" he asked, "In my position. what would you do??"

She fingered her cane. "I'm not you, Arthur." she said.

"What would you do?" He demanded.

"I would start at the top." she said, "The top agency personnel we KNOW were involved. You should ask Peter or Victor to send replacements. Begin a series of reliefs-for-cause, followed by imprisonment and trial...for treason. After you convict them, firing squads." her eyes burned, "In the public square, lay out their crimes for all to see no matter how 'classified'...because that lets you stay you, Arthur. Process, Procedure, every I dotted and Tee Crossed, everything exposed, good and bad, so it can be understood that this is not tolerated."

"and then?", he asks

"And then, it won't ever be enough, Arthur." she said, "but maybe preventing it from happening again is all we can truly hope to accomplish. Nobody should be feeling what You're feeling."

"And what of you?"

"I learned to pack my feelings into a box when I was seven." she told him. "I will grieve when the work is done, when I have time to let my self feel the loss. She was my friend before she was your girlfriend. If I let myself feel. I don't know what I would do, but I know it would be bad."


Not everyone went quietly...

From 3061 to 3067, the Federated Commonwealth entered into what historians later would term "The Reformation Wars". This was a conflict without front lines or without rear areas. A conflict without the usual defining traits of most common civil wars, never mind foreign conflicts, and it was every inch the brother-versus-brother-versus-cousin-versus-relative-versus-colleague of any similar conflict.

What it also lacked, was the wholesale mass battlefields of traditional wars. There WERE battles...but they were contained, limited, often more policing actions than actual warfare. Secrets were thrown out into the eyes and ears of the public, whole, unredacted documents were published, accusations and indictments written and filed, and firings...so many firings, as the dirty secrets and blackmail of generations were thrown open and revealed to the light of day.

At first, the rivals and enemies of the Steiner-Davion family were pleased, even eager, to see this...but then, they weren't, because the pleasure became caution. It's rare to see a real, functioning reform in progress, rarer still, when that reform is backed by a fleet that is still growing, and largely free of the political operators, sycophants, and above all, those guilty of the crimes being brought out to the light of day...and quite willing to react to incursions on Federated Commonwealth soil with extreme prejudice.


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