2948-03-23 – Tales from the Service: The Defection of Source Yianna
The F.D.A. garrison at Hamlinson Bay on Håkøya has had its share of interesting incidents since it was established (most notably to this audience, the incident involving Amber Holiday: Tales from the Service: The Gossamer Patron), but most of those incidents were easily tied to existing settler legends such as the Gossamers. For the most part, Hamlinson Bay seemed to be a backwater posting, with most of its issued easily explainable in terms of restless soldiers posted far from the critical battlefields of Margaux with little to do.
Unfortunately, it seems that this status is likely to be at an end. Naval Intelligence has revealed that in this apparent backwater, an Incarnation agent was captured only two weeks ago. This agent, who Naval Intelligence is calling Source Yianna (and no, this code-name does not come from the agent’s real name), has apparently been convinced to be quite helpful; several other agents disguised as civilians were captured in the Hamlinson Bay area shortly afterward.
While the nature of this agent is still not clear, it is possible that Source Yianna is of the same general brief and capabilities as the late agent Horus and other Incarnation Immortals dispatched on behind-the-lines espionage duties in the Coreward Frontier. An extensive espionage ring on the world suggests the Incarnation wants to do more there than keep an eye on the cruiser squadrons stationed in-system, and though the Incarnation’s main fleet seems still tied up at Margaux, a heightened state of alert has been issued in Håkøya and nearby systems as a precaution.
Yianna waited until the normally blue-white stellar primary had dipped low enough toward the horizon that its harsh rays, diffused by Håkøya’s thick atmosphere, slanted low across the hills in a warm yellow-orange. Sunsets at Hamlinson Bay were always a beautiful affair, even more so than those of bucolic Prospero where she had grown up. In another life, she might have yearned to do as many over-pampered Confederated spacers had already done – stake a claim for a stretch of the brilliant white-sand beach far below, build a bungalow, and live out the rest of her days, with her only company being the hiss of the eternally gentle surf and the four-winged Hamlinson Terns wheeling overhead.
Unfortunately, for all the beauty of the landscape, Yianna had not come to settle down on the land, and could not do so by choice. As the evening shadows lengthened, she got up from her hiding-place and held her hand up in front of her face, concentrating on the control interface for the nanomachinery teeming in her blood. She grimaced through the agony of the machines’ ministrations as they altered her appearance, her posture, even the texture of her skin.
Yianna hated the doddering old woman disguise, but she had to admit, as the nanomachines twisted her technologically-reinforced spine into a noticeable hump, that it made her a sympathetic and all-but-invisible figure in the little town of Hamlinson Point. The town, one of the earliest settlements on the planet, had prospered from the appearance of nearly ten thousand Frontier Defense Army soldiers on its doorstep a year previously – the Lookout, a tiny watering-hole perched at the cliff’s very edge, seemed always packed with off-duty F.D.A. men, and every spare room in the town’s cluster of weathered-wood domiciles had been rented by one of the many civilian contractors who were still expanding the garrison’s fortress, and a number of newer buildings now stood on the lee side of the ridge, downhill from the town proper.
Other, less official personages had also followed the military presence – those selling luxuries most desirable to bored military personnel. Yianna had been advised by her masters to insinuate herself in one of the three burgeoning brothels in the new part of the town, but she had ignored this insulting suggestion. In fact, this first bruise to her high-flying pride as a newly-minted Immortal had started her down a trail whose terminus she now swiftly approached.
As Yianna’s transformation completed, she scanned the ether for a few moments before shutting down all radio traffic generated by her implants. The firmament still muttered and bickered with the usual digital traffic of a Confederated world, but she was confident that, at least as far as Hamlinson Point was concerned, she was alone inside her own head, and could do what she intended without fear of immediate reprisal, or of her actions being carried up the long and terrible chain to the Incarnation Himself, who would surely mete out dire punishment on her family on Prospero.
Taking up the tall walking-stick she used in her guise as an old woman – she had carved it herself with a knife when first concocting the disguise, since her nanomachines, though capable of rendering her will in metal, could do nothing with the local wood-analogues – Yianna emerged from the bushes and headed up the winding path to the Lookout, the tiny bar packed with Confederated volunteer soldiers enjoying an evening off-duty. She had watched Colonel Bennington, the local garrison’s commander, walk up that path from his base’s perimeter an hour before, and knew it was time to do what she had been contemplating for many weeks.
Passing locals and uniformed F.D.A. personnel on the path, Yianna smiled at everyone, and most of them smiled back. She had been in the area for months, and many had seen her around many times before. So few of the local Håkøyan settlers, many of them retired spacers, carried personal digital devices that her lack of wrist computer or other technological accessories raised no eyebrows.
Long before she approached the Lookout’s heavy double doors, Yianna could hear singing and laughter from within. The babble of such human activity had confused and overwhelmed her for several days when she’d first arrived on Håkøya - the sound seemed vastly chaotic and primeval, compared to the orderly, austere atmosphere of a dispensary in Incarnation territory. The implants that almost everyone carried allowed most communication to be carried on silently and invisibly, and automatically counteracted the volume-raising effects of alcohol and other intoxicants. The Confederated humans lacked this technological improvement, and so had to shout over each other in crowded spaces.
A pair of soldiers, already quite drunk despite the early hour, burst out of the Lookout, leaning on each other and laughing about some nonsense. One of them waved at Yianna as they staggered by, and she waved one artificially-gnarled hand in return. She’d come to the Lookout in this guise every few nights for several months, and most of the regulars no longer questioned her presence. The soldiers had not hidden anything from her, and what they knew of the Hamlinson Bay fortress, she had picked up by overhearing and by asking a few questions, carefully phrased to be consistent with her role as a curious old woman.
Tonight, though, Yianna would not be playing her usual part. The Incarnation had inculcated her well with its doctrine, but in her mission to Hamlinson Bay, she had spent too much time alone inside her head, far from any other Incarnation person whose implants might spy her heretical thoughts. When her fellows were near, she acted and even thought like a perfect true believer, but with such a small team spread out across hundreds of square kilometers of terrain, Yianna encountered the other Immortals sent to Håkøya only rarely. In the solitude, that initial bruised ego had festered and grown into a seeping psychic wound – the increasingly dread certainty that the infallible Incarnation had erred in the ancient quest to stave off extinction.
That alone might have earned her death on an Inquisitor’s blade back on Prospero, even if Yianna was happy to follow a flawed but still virtuous leader of a pure mission. The festering wound might have made her bitter, but not a traitor. Treason – against her fellows and, as the Incarnation declared, against the fate of humanity itself – had an altogether different origin, one born in a long, pleasant conversation with the F.D.A. colonel dispatched to the thankless Hamlinson Bay outpost. What they had talked about, she dared not think about when she believed herself alone in her own head. Her reasons for betraying the cause she had been born to defend were the only thing about her that she could be sure was hers and hers alone; not even the man who’d sown the seeds could know what had sprouted there.
Yianna paused at the double doors, taking a deep breath and glancing behind her to verify that the two inebriated men were not doubling back. This was the last chance to turn away from her chosen course of action and continue to do her duty to the Incarnation on Håkøya. Grimacing once more in anticipation, she set her nanomachines to begin reversed the disguise which had allowed her to approach this far unmolested, and similarly ordered her smart-fabric clothing to revert to its true form.
Before the pain had begun in earnest, Yianna pushed open the doors of the Lookout and staggered inside. A few heads turned at first, seeing only a familiar crone, but soon the agony of the nanomachines chewing on her flesh rose, and those cursory glances became wide-eyed stares, and hands darted for the side-arms many of the F.D.A. soldiers wore. Colonel Bennington, in his usual seat at the leftmost end of the bar, was one of the last to take interest, and then only when the female lieutenant he’d been chatting with noticed first and drew his eye.
Straightening her newly-restored back and rolling her shoulders, Yianna tapped the cane on the wood-plank floor to get the attention of those few who’d not yet noticed her. They saw her now as she truly was, as true as any appearance could be for one such as her. Tall and long-limbed, dressed in form-hugging Incarnation combat fatigues that put every slight curve and angle of her body on display for all to see, she raised her eyes to the uncertain crowd, all of whom certainly knew what they were looking at, and that if she desired, she could kill them all before a single gun left its holster.
Yianna locked eyes with the garrison commander across the small space. “Colonel Rhys Bennington?”
The man stood, jaw clenched, as if expecting that answering would mean death. In other circumstances, Yianna knew, it might have done just that. “That’s me.”
“I request asylum and the protective custody of your brig, Colonel.” Yianna saluted smartly in the incarnation fashion. “I think there is much we have to discuss.”