The Burden of Faith

Brother Aiden sat at his terminal deep inside the Imperial palace.  He had been working to prepare himself and Jackal for the trial.  There were the usual law considerations but he needed to review the testimony and evidence that would be given.  He had tried to pry some defense from Jackal but the man was broken physically and mentally.  He couldn’t even get him to take his medication and the doctors had to sedate him for any medical treatment.  Sarah Jones had continued to visit, but only from the safety of the security center where she could look at Jackal for a bit without being seen. She always left looking as grim as when she had arrived.   He was exhausted and something about the whole ordeal had bothered him ever since he had watched the gun camera footage of the battle before the attack.  Aiden stretched, and rubbed his eyes, he needed to take a break.

Standing up from his workstation he turned to the monitor on the other wall and powered it up.  The news was playing and it showed a demonstration outside the Imperial palace.  Followers of the Church of Returning Light had gathered and were demanding justice for the prioress.  The demonstration was rowdy and the local constabulary had a riot detail in line between the demonstrators and the entrance to the Palace.  San Cristobal had not been a quiet place in the last few weeks.  The camera from the news VTOL swept the crowd and paused on man in familiar robes.  Brother Aiden drew nearer to the monitor.

The man in the robes was yelling fervently and several in the crowd near him were consumed with the same zeal.  Aiden squinted and realized the robes were those of his order.  The man had cleared a circle around himself in the crowd and begun disrobing.  The camera zoomed in and Aiden recognized Brother Jacob.  Brother Jacob had been the leader of a small cell dedicated to outreach and recruitment for their order in a city on the southern continent.  He had met the man only a few times, but had always been impressed with his calm and kind demeanor.  The crowd had parted away from the Brother Jacob and some had started running.  Aiden strained closer to the monitor.  Jacob was wearing a vest.  For a moment Aiden thought it might be a mechwarrior’s cooling vest, but the design was wrong; and then he couldn’t swallow or hardly breathe.  He touched the control to turn the volume up.

“..ey protect the Jackal that would consume the light!  They are the enemy, the harbingers of darkness; this is the Word of the Light!” The crowd chanted back.

“The Word of the Light, the Word of the Light!” Jacob turned and the crowd parted completely leaving him alone between them and the constabulary.  They had drawn weapons.

“The Word of the Light has seen the darkness and come back from the dead; Her will be done!”

Aiden watched as Brother Jacob charged the constabulary line screaming about the word of the light.  They opened fire and he staggered forward to within 5 meters before the suicide vest detonated.  Aiden felt the tremor in the palace and a muffled thud.  Alarms sounded in the halls.  The news camera shook and the feed blinked out briefly.  The palace entrance was a scene of carnage with limbs, gore and fire everywhere.

Stunned, Aiden reeled back and sat in the desk chair.  Somewhere a connection had been made in his mind.  He turned back to the computer terminal and called up the gun camera footage he had reviewed earlier.  He found what he was looking for, the breaching teams that had attacked various vehicles and mechs.  He had assumed that the casualties had been so high because they were untrained.  The back of his mouth burned bitter as his stomach leapt and turned queasy.  He instructed the terminal to zoom and track the team attacking a mech.  The breaching teams had used adhesive grapple rods but carried no satchels.  They wore vests with packs on the back.  When the pack detonated it had ripped through the man and breached the cockpit.  It was a shaped charge intended to kill the man making the delivery.  They weren’t brave defenders of the faith; they were suicide bombers who wanted to kill by giving up their own lives.  And worst of all, he was pretty sure the Prioress had made it all happen.  He checked the gun camera footage for audio.

“ will be done!”

Aiden sagged in his seat.  He had pledged loyalty to a monster.  Worse yet he had pledged his order’s loyalty to her.  Jackal had committed a crime by trying to kill the prioress, but he may have doomed them all by failing to complete the job.

Sitting in the office Aiden began to think and prepare.  The first step was to get Jackal free; somehow.  Next was to end the Prioress as a threat.  He needed help if he was going to make this happen.  He sat in the office, with the sound of disaster on the monitor behind him.  He had an idea; and it would require the Renegades and Sarah Jones.