Missing The Daylight
Death in Paradise
Location: Paradise Outpost
Nyx didn't like feeling helpless. His career, his missions, his life, was built around knowing what to do and when. He planned, considered the variables, predicted outcomes, and became known as a strategic agent. Now he was facing a murdered member of the crew, a traitor in their midsts, the safety of the station at risk, and the Breen lying in wait. Trapped on all sides, the Captain was tired of feeling helpless, so he decided to try doing something unexpected instead. After all, a strategic agent was always adaptable.
Arriving on Paradise in disguise, the Captain knew he couldn't risk the Guards finding out he was onboard. They didn't know that Nyx was now aware that the Breen were hiding behind those silver helmets. That knowledge gave him an advantage at least, if he could figure out how to use it. For this mission, he had a different goal; to give the Pandora some breathing space and find some answers to their predicament. He hadn't told Nash or Griffin where he was going, because he knew he needed to approach this one alone.
It wasn't long before he made contact with Del’al, the alien Lieutenant Kaleri had interacted with and helpfully revealed the truth about the Breen's interference on Paradise. The two met in a back alley behind Rolaskatox, Nyx only just ducking out of sight of a Guard's patrol.
"Thank you for doing this." Nyx said to his orange-skinned liaison.
"Anything to help liberate the Outpost." Del'al replied with a strong tone - his voice rising with the possibility of rebellion.
Nyx tried to hide his frown, aware he may have inadvertently raised Del’al's hopes of the Pandora intervening with the Breen occupation, but it was a necessary omission. He only gave a slight nod in reply. "How do we do this?"
Del’al smiled, "Follow me."
The two made their way further down the alley before suddenly turning into a maintenance tunnel, one of the many that ran around the station to serve their near-constant operations. Del’al lit a small torch as they descended into darkness, Nyx aware of a powerfully uncomfortable smell - indicating they were perhaps walking through refuse tunnels. He tried to remind himself that he used to crawl through all kinds of muck to reach a target while working for SI, and that too much time in a comfy office was making him soft. There was a little bit of himself that was enjoying being back in action rather than sitting behind a desk.
Finally they reached a terminal in the middle of the tunnel and Del’al looked around before activating it. "It's a Maintenance station, no one ever comes here unless there's a problem. Not even the Guards. They wouldn't get their boots dirty."
Nyx remained quiet while the alien got to work, tapping away quickly on the screen before finally an image appeared. It was of a darkened, small room, only lightened by the screen's illumination. He could just make out a stack of shelves in the background. After a while, a figure appeared in front of the camera, the view showing their midsection but Nyx recognised the attire. Leaning down, the unmistakeable face of Katya appeared - her neon tattoos just as bright as usual.
"Captain." Katya began, her voice a low whisper.
"Thank you for seeing me. I understand the risk." Nyx replied, matching her tone.
The station chief nodded, "This is my food storage room, I don't think they can hear me here. Del’al, thank you for arranging this."
"My pleasure," He replied, giving a courteous bow in response. "I'll keep watch, you two talk."
"So you know about the Breen?" Katya said immediately as Del’al disappeared into the darkness of the tunnel.
"We do. How are you, have they hurt you?" Nyx asked with concern.
"No. They need me as their... figurehead." Katya scoffed. "And I still control the Outpost's Defence Codes. And the self-destruct command. They know I can blow them out of the galaxy." She gave a deep sigh. "I only wish I had done that the first time they arrived. I should have turned the torpedoes onto them and blasted them to pieces. Instead, I let them in and now here we are."
"You didn't know." Nyx replied with a firm gaze, understanding the feeling of helplessness that Katya must have been experiencing. This was also his only chance to win over her support. "The Breen can be formidable warriors, but they're also calculating and deceptive."
There came a heavy sigh from the Anh'Iran, as she nodded sadly, "Before I knew it, they had infiltrated my security teams and threatened to slaughter everyone on board unless I complied. I would make it appear that all was well; that Paradise was open and business as usual, meanwhile they would control all incoming traffic, trade, and use it as a platform for their Pact."
"The Alrakis Pact?" Nyx enquired, his eyebrows twitching.
"The abomination." Katya spat, her face filling with rage at the mention of that name. "They wrap their hands around the Expanse and choke us to death. The Pact will not bring order to the region, it will suffocate us."
"Can you give us anything on their meetings? Data logs, recordings?" Nyx asked, trying to capitalise on her resentment.
"I don't have access." Katya replied with a shake of her head, "Not currently. Not while they control Security. But I know they use this station as an example to others. 'Paradise is a success, Paradise is still operating as normal. You don't need to fear us.' If only people knew the truth."
"Paradise still stands, that is something to hold on to." Nyx said with a slight smile.
"Such an interesting word, Paradise." Katya shrugged. "I chose it because most of the species in this region associate it with something ethereal. To you humans, it means a perfect world, the afterlife for the pure and the good. Do you know what it means in Anh'Iran?"
"No." Nyx replied gently.
"The daylight." She smiled. "That's it. So simple, so everyday to you. But my planet exists in a period of almost total darkness, lit only by the magma cores of our volcanos or the inventions of our elders. But there is a time, once in every six cycles, where we are bathed in the light of a distance star. We call this the Daylight Time. There are no lessons, no work programs. Families come together, children play. We shut the rest of the universe out and just... soak in the warmth. In my language, that is our closest thing to paradise and for a while, this station felt like that to me."
After a long pause, where Katya closed her eyes and thought of that time for her planet, a peaceful time from a world she had long left behind, she looked back to Nyx and her smile faded. "Now there is only darkness. There is no daylight, no paradise."
"It will come again." The Captain assured her with a strong urging.
"Will you help us find it?" Katya asked bluntly.
Nyx paused, before answering slowly, "I'm not sure if you're aware, but the Federation and the Alrakis Pact have recently signed a peace agreement. I have no authority to help you overthrow the Breen occupation on Paradise. It could cause an intergalactic war."
Katya stared, blinking for a moment. "You Federation and your diplomacy. Blindly ambivalent to the realities of the Inconnu Expanse." She wasn't angry, but there was clear disappointment in her tone.
"We will find a way to help you." Nyx said firmly, leaning in closer to the screen. "In a way that won't end up in bloodshed on your station, or across the region. It will mean playing the compliant Chief for a while longer."
"It makes me sick, but I will swallow it." Katya answered, curling up her yellow lips in disdain. "If it means this station is free one day."
"Let us see if we can help each other." Nyx continued, "We are close to finding the murderer. We've narrowed it down to a small list of suspects, but the discovery that one of our own has also been killed has come at quite a shock. Is there anything you can give us that will help find out what happened to him?"
"The Guards hold onto all of that." She said, "But I will try to reach out to the business owners, they may have seen something. I'm sorry your crew member has died. It's just awful."
"Us too." Nyx sighed, "He was a member of our family, a partner. We will do everything we can to find who is responsible. But I'm also struck with the unwavering feeling that all of this is related." The Captain paused, then continued, "There is one more thing, and it's not good. We've recently received evidence that suggests a potential bomb threat to Paradise. It is possible someone is going to try to set one off on your station."
"Not possible." Katya said firmly. "I have sophisticated bomb-detection sensors here. And there aren't any materials allowed that someone would be able to construct one with. Not even the arrogant Breen would be foolish enough to allow that to happen."
"What if it came from the Pandora?" Nyx asked the question.
"It would be picked up by the Transport Cube sensors and expelled into space." Katya shook her head. "Along with anyone else inside."
Nyx couldn't help but think of Lieutenant Vicuno - his distraught face, the contusions on his body indicating exposure. 'Is that how he died?' Nyx wondered. Did he try to smuggle the parts to make a bomb onboard Paradise, only to be detected and voided out from the station? If so, he must have known that was a possibility, hence why he was wearing the EVA suit. That didn't explain how he ended up back in the station, though, or why we would attempt it to begin with.
"Any such incidents of that happening in the past day?" Nyx inquired to Katya, not sure how he would react to the answer.
"No." She replied simply. "It would have alerted the rest of the station, including the Guards."
"That's reassuring, but the message we translated seemed to quite specifically mention a bomb being placed." Nyx explained. "Though it's possible that we've made a mistake."
"I will heighten our sensor sweeps just in case." Katya replied seriously. She paused suddenly, as if aware of someone nearby. The Chief began looking off-screen, before also sighing and turning back to the monitor. "False alarm. I feel responsible for this, too, Captain. If I hadn't messaged you, perhaps this wouldn't have happened."
Nyx started nodding but then stopped, his eyebrow raising. "I'm sorry? Messaged me?"
Katya cocked her head to the side, "When the Pandora first arrived in orbit of the station. I sent an encrypted message directly to you."
A cold chill came over the Captain as he took in the news. "We've been having a hard time decrypting messages and finding the right ones. What did the message say again?"
"'The Federation cannot be here: They must leave.'" Katya said, her face contorting into confusion as Nyx didn't appear to recall this message. "You received it, correct?"
"Someone did." Nyx whispered to himself. He shook his head and looked back to Katya. "Was that the only one you sent?"
"Yes." Katya nodded, clearly concerned. "When you didn't respond, I assumed you had realised the importance of discretion."
"Of course." Nyx lied. "Anyway, I should be returning to my ship. Thank you, Katya. We will try to find a way to create an easier way of communicating in future. I'll get my people on it. For now, stay safe. The Breen don't know we're in contact, we at least have that going for us."
Katya gave a reluctant nod, "We'll... pull the rugs from under them. Is that the right saying?"
Nyx smiled, "Indeed. Till next time, Chief."
While making is way back through the tunnels and station, Nyx couldn't hide the deep frown on his face. Someone on the ship had received Katya's message and not passed it on; which means it likely fell right into the hands of their traitor. Did this mean Katya could not be trusted, or did this shed light on the actions of the culprit? He wasn't sure, but as standard the closer they came to solving this mystery, the darker it became.