2948-12-01 – Tales from the Service: Horus in Durance
Some time ago, we featured a pair of accounts sent in by one Duncan Vieth, which related to his work along with Yejide Blum to take down a known Incarnation agent known as Horus. This agent of a hostile foreign power exploited Ladeonist ideology prevalent in the youths of Maribel’s upper class to commit sabotage and cause significant loss of life earlier this year, and then he vanished.
The local Ladeonist youths have engaged in copycat attacks of various kinds since, but the lack of Horus’s expertise generally limited the effects of these to a manageable level. What happened to Horus was initially not known – after the events detailed in Tales from the Service: On Horus’s Heels the agent vanished for months, evidently going to ground despite multiple roundups of known Ladeonist-sympathizers and a general crackdown on such illicit activity on Maribel.
In the last month (and the account in front of me does not say more precisely when), Horus reappeared. Vieth and Blum, since reassigned to dealing with the planet’s extensive black market in Navy-issue materiel, led an operation to capture a starship smuggling stolen government goods off-planet. Nothing suggested then or now that this smuggling outfit had Ladeonist or Incarnation ties, and yet a person claiming to be Horus and loaded with the Incarnation implant tech to match the claim was captured aboard.
Naval Intelligence believes that Horus, who hired onto this vessel as a lay spacer technician, was trying to move his operations to another world. Though the smuggler vessel’s itinerary claims it was going to Håkøya, his intended destination remains unclear.
Yejide Blum, Vieth’s partner who narrowly escaped death in the pair’s last encounter with Horus, describes the eerie (and to those in this audience who remember other Ladeonist agents such as the one in Tales from the Service: A Stowaway Saboteur, familiar) experience of interrogating this true believer in the Incarnation’s paradoxical cause.
The man in the cell grinned. “Horus.” For a deadly enemy agent, he wasn’t much to look at – short and stocky, bald, with dark eyes and a bulbous nose, he looked more like a shopkeeper than a saboteur. Though he had the temple implant common to many Incarnation personnel Yejide had seen pictures of, his was almost flush with his skin, easily concealable with a little bit of polymer skin.
His grin widened. “Adris Ladeon.”
Yejide Blum glowered through the thick gravitic shear isolating the implanted Incarnation agent. “Horus” had picked up this petulant game from the dilletante revolutionaries of the city, among whom giving the name of their loathsome ideological father instead of their own when arrested had become annoyingly vogue years before.
In the cases of the maladjusted children of the city’s wealthy, a fingerprint or retinal scan usually revealed their proper identities, assuming they were smart enough not to engage in criminal “revolutionary” behavior with their ident cards in their pockets. Most of them weren’t, naturally, smart enough to take this basic precaution, so they added lying to the authorities to the list of crimes their parents’ expensive lawyers needed to fight for no purpose except to feel smug.
In Horus’s case, however, there was no way of knowing his real name unless he gave it. His records would be in the Incarnation’s data-systems, if any existed at all. “We’ll stick with Horus, then.” Yejide tapped her data-slate to type that name into the form. It gave a warning, but she didn’t care about the niceties of the precinct software. “Date of birth?”
“Thirty-three ninety-nine, twelve, thirty-one.” Horus adopted an almost comically innocent expression. “Standard calendar.”
Yejide didn’t even bother entering a date hundreds of years in the future into the system. “Home habitat?”
“Sabileen Station, Gunderson system.”
Yejide almost dropped her slate. “Say again?”
“Sabileen Station, Gunderson system. It’s in Galactic West, just a few ly from-”
“Yes, yes, I know where it is.”
Horus grinned demoniacally. “I know you do.”
Yejide did her best to keep composure. The man had probably picked out her home habitat, the place her parents and siblings still lived, to get under her skin, and she refused to let it work. How he’d learned that from inside his cell was a mystery for later. She reminded herself that as long as Horus sat in the cell in front of her, her family was in no danger. “Preferred funerary arrangements?”
“Whatever costs the most.”
Yejide tapped in “no preference” and closed the basic form, despite warnings about its incompleteness. “You’re going to get the atomizer, Horus. You know that, don’t you?”
“Probably.” He shrugged. “Doesn’t seem fair, does it? If I’d done what I did for your corrupt admirals, they would be pinning medals to my chest.”
“Never.” Yejide shook her head. “You blew up civilian infrastructure. Killed nonmilitary-”
“Everything is a military target, my soft captor. Every credit in damage and every drop of blood spilled brings the victory of the Incarnate closer. Every picture of carnage pushes you and yours closer to giving in and letting us save you from yourselves.”
Yejide had, like most Maribelan security officers, taken multiple courses of Ladeonist counter-ideology training, but the rote answers didn’t seem likely to bother him very much, and she very much wanted to bother him. “You think anyone wants help from a half-human chiphead?”
“Temper, temper, Agent Blum.” The stout man held up his hands, certainly knowing that this would rile her even further. “Perhaps you’d like to say unkind things about my parentage as well?”
Yejide took three, calming breaths. “No need. The Navy bailiffs coming by day after tomorrow to collect you are better at that sort of thing than I am.”
“Oh, good, new jailors. I hope they’re interesting.” Horus shrugged. “I’ll have plenty of time to get to know them while my case works its way through.”
Yejide smiled for the first time. Perhaps Horus was smarter than most of the wannabe revolutionaries he had taken refuge with on Maribel, but he lacked one thing they didn’t - an appreciation for how much cognitive dissonance went into drafting the Ladeonist propaganda intended to remove dissidents’ fear of the law. “This is the Frontier, not the damned Core Worlds. In our courtrooms, with the best lawyer your rich fans could buy, you’d be in the atomizer in ninety days.”
Horus’s smile didn’t falter, but neither did he have a witty response. Being unfamiliar with the realities of Confederated Worlds justice, especially as it played out on the frontier, he probably didn’t know much beyond the propaganda.
“Too bad for you, Navy courts work fast. No civilian lawyers, no appeals. You’ll be dead in two weeks.” Yejide shrugged. “No media, either, so no chance to make a splash or rally your idiot followers on the datasphere.”
“Oh.” For a moment, Horus’s confidence almost faltered, and Yejide thought he might be about to give her something useful to save his hide. It wouldn’t take much – a few names, a few safehouses, identifying information on other agents, whatever he knew – and the Navy would put off his execution to the end of the war, when it would almost certainly be commuted anyway.
This hesitation lasted only a moment, however, and the smoothly confident mask returned. “Two weeks is a lot of time. The Incarnate would have one of yours dead or broken to its will in an hour and a half.”
Yejide, having heard plenty of stories about just this, shuddered. There were probably those within Naval Intelligence quietly wishing they could apply Incarnation torture techniques to their prisoners, and she hoped they would never be allowed to give it a try. “That's exactly why we don’t want your so-called help, you idiot.”
“That lack of will,” Horus shook his head sadly. “Is exactly why you need it.”