Broken glass and an allergic reaction is as much proof of murder as a scream in the dark. It’s pure speculation. Go ahead, report me — tell them a spiteful hag engineered a bee with a taste for men named Erickson. See how far that gets you. Maybe it’ll kick-start a new career for you in comedy.
I’ll tell you this though: I’m not sad he’s dead. He would have destroyed Warp Squad if he’d truly had evidence. Fool. His mind had become so one-track that he’d failed to consider the consequences of his actions.
If someone murdered him, perhaps they were justified.
We live within an alliance as fragile as a fallen leaf. To so much as touch it would turn it to dust, its remains to be stolen by the wind. Later, but not all that much later, that dust would settle as dirt upon our graves.
What I mean to say is: not everyone likes us. They hear of what we did to our first planet and their hearts freeze. They’d turn on us, if we didn’t have a gun in our hand. If we didn’t have Warp Squad.
And even if they didn’t betray us, races outside of the Alliance — who even now only bide their time — would look upon us, mouths salivating, teeth sharpened for war.
Don’t you see? Warp Squad is everything. We must all do our part to ensure its continued existence.
Yes, the Reformatory could be difficult — crushing, even. But that was the point! They tore the flowers from the ground and those left standing were as resilient as weeds.
This… doesn’t prove anything, except that I ran into Caliope that day. Which… I must have forgotten to tell you about. I suppose that I forgot myself.
Wait! Please. Just keep him out of this.
It… it wasn’t his idea.
I needed someone to help me. To lift Erickson into the noose.
And you… You were meant to find those within the Council trying to close Warp Squad down. Not to investigate me.
We did it for Warp Squad. Or I did, at least. Caliope did it for me.
What is it you want? To arrest me? Have me sent to obliteration?
Oh, the photos? [laugh] Very well, I’ll erase them before you go. You can watch me login and do so.
Ah, and Warp Squad, of course.
Look, I honestly don’t know what’s going on. But the stars are dying and Warp Squad are missing, and everything I’ve lived for, worked for… it’s all starting to seem like a waste, right now.
I don’t know what’s happening.
But… there was something, back when I was part of Warp Squad… Something I can’t help believing is related. We told the Council about it, of course, but they suppressed all news of the event. Which always makes you wonder.
Have you ever heard of a jackal?
It was an animal, back on the old planet. I hadn’t heard of them either, not until the discovery.
The jackal’s digestive system was unique. It preferred to eat other animals, when possible. But it couldn’t eat them until their bodies had rotted. Wasn’t able to digest them until a certain level of decomposition had set in and softened them.
In ancient times, people would visit the graves of their recently buried relatives, flowers in hand, only to find the body of their parent or child had been dug up by a jackal, their remains devoured.
Thirteen — that is, she was Pilot Thirteen at the time — discovered the dwarf planet. It was as far out as any of us had ever been. Nothing habitable near to it. No star, no system. Just, this dwarf planet, spinning lonely through the darkness of space.
She landed on the planet’s surface near a raised anomaly she’d detected. Curiosity and all that, I suppose.
The surface was covered in a light dust or a fine sand. Beneath it, the ground was hard as rock. Harder, even. The beams of her ship’s lights cut through the darkness in front of her, spreading like fire over this anomaly.
She walked towards it and saw that it was a great statue, crafted from an unknown black material.
She didn’t know it, but the animal statue looming above her was a jackal
At the statue’s base was a plinth with a half-covered inscription carved into it. She ran her hand over it, clearing away the dirt, revealing a language we still don’t understand.
We all saw this much later, you understand. When these final transmissions reached our ships. There was no chance to tell her to run.
We saw it through her helmet’s camera. Watched as she gazed up at the head of the jackal, where the ship’s light fell dim.
The jackal’s eyes reddened, gleamed like burning rubies in the darkness.
Thirteen fell back in the dust, gloves and boots scrabbling for purchase.
She kicked up enough dust for us to glimpse the bone-white metal beneath the ground that made up the planet’s surface.
Not that it was truly a planet.
Then a scream as the transmission cut out, as our connection to her ship was severed.
The nearest member of Warp Squad made his way to Thirteen’s last known coordinates. By the time he reached them, this fake planet had moved itself into the long shadow of space.
Whatever that planet was, I believe it had been sleeping, waiting for us.
And Thirteen awoke it.