Dark Angel Chapter 36

The Chaos Syndicate

by Nightsong

Roade Labs, Newpark City, Torlose.

“Why, my dear Teryl, it’s like Christmas come early!” William exclaimed, beaming at the old senator as he leaned over the front of his desk.

Vanhele just blinked, looking up from the morning paper and staring at the man without  recognition for a moment.  That’s right, he thought, it’s William Shard, my trusted advisor.  Something didn’t feel quite right about that, but he chose to ignore it in light of logic.

 “What are you on about, William?” he asked, only to have a small stack of papers thrust in his face by the man, who seemed oddly even more cheerful than usual.  “…And is that a new suit?”

 He tugged at the sleeves briefly, and grinned.  “You noticed, eh?  Picked it up at this nice shop downtown, I’ll have to show you it sometime… but anyway, as I was saying, give those a look-over.” He practically pushed them into the man’s hands, then made them unnecessary as he excitedly told him what they had to say.  “Not only have our men just returned with the supercomputer, but Grey Terin has landed with all his instructed cargo, and wants to meet with you.”

 Vanhele sighed at that last bit of news, adjusting his spectacles as he read the report over.  “I suppose that is good news, then.”

 “Why, Senator Vanhele, it’s wonderful news.  Our plans can be set into motion now; I’ve made all the necessary arrangements.  All you have on your schedule today is to meet with the Wanderer.”  He cocked an eyebrow and leaned further down over the desk, until his face was at a level with the senator’s.  “Is there something you’re not telling me, Teryl?”

 “Well, that is… you see,” the senator shook his head.  “It’s nothing.  You’re right, it is wonderful news.”

 William’s eyes glittered strangely for a moment as he looked hard at the man.  “You can tell me, Teryl.  It’s William.  We go way, way back, you trust me.”

 Vanhele looked for a moment like he might balk, but he shut his eyes instead, pulling off his glasses for a moment as he rubbed his forehead.  “The man’s been after me to give him back his planeshifter for years, William, and I’m afraid he’s going to kill me when he finds out I destroyed it.”

 William nodded for a moment, as if digesting all of this, then shrugged.  “Is that all, chum?” he chuckled as he reverted back to a fully upright position at Vanhele’s desk.  “Hell, have your mind at ease.  I’ve arranged for the two of you to meet in this nice little bar a few miles away.  Now, you don’t have to worry about anything being seen there, because the people are all in my pocket.  And I’ve set up a nice little ambush for your friend – figured he was outliving his usefulness even before you let me in on this, you know?  All you have to do is show up.”

 Something in the senator’s mind protested at this, but overall his relief was too palpable to care.  He stood up and put a hand on William’s shoulder.  “You are a true friend, sir.” He said, smiling.

 The goateed man grinned back.


 The Nightwind, Torlose.

 “If you don’t have any idea of how to open it, then how were you expecting to get back out after you gave us our food?”

 Mox Garel was growing to dislike Darrell Shanning, he’d decided.  The group had been worrying with the door to their cell for nearly an hour now, and, seeing all their best efforts to open it failed, had decided to harass Mox again.

 “I don’t know!  I mean, um, it’s just a door, you know?  I figured it would open the same way on both sides.”

 Zohar shook his head and turned away from the young man, and looked at the door as if contemplating banging his head on it a few times. 

 “Maybe you’ve noticed, Garel,” Kayla put in quietly, “but most prisons don’t work that way.”

 “It’s not my fault!” he protested, backing himself as far away from the crazy people as possible.  “I wasn’t given all the facts before I opened the door!  Blame Grey, if you’re going to blame anyone, he’s the one who locked you in here.”

 Darrell looked for a moment like he might launch into another vicious attack on Mox’s character, but the woman named Terra put a hand on his shoulder.  “This isn’t helping us, Darrell.  Look at him, he honestly doesn’t know.”

 The grey-haired man looked for a moment like he might protest, but he decided to just sigh instead.  “You’re right.  Sorry, Garel.  This is just a bit… taxing on the nerves.”

 Mox nodded several times, and took a few steps to Darrell.  “Hey, no hard feelings, man.  I think we got off on the wrong foot, earlier.” He stuck out his hand.  “Put ‘er there.”

 Darrell looked down at the man’s proffered hand for several moments, as though it were a snake of some sort, and made no move to shake it. 

 “Er… yeah.” Mox said, pulling his hand back and stepping back again.  “Anyway, um… anyone have any plans on getting out of here before Grey comes back?  I’m beginning to think he’s never going to let me go, when it comes right down to it.”

 Again the stares.  It was almost too much for him to bear.  “God, who raised you people?” he said, finally.  “All the staring, and the silent treatment on top of that.  It’s just rude, honestly.”

 Still silence. 

 “Oh, fine, be that way.  I can be the picture of angst too, watch me.” He slunk off across the room and sat down in a corner, keeping his gaze on the floor.  This lasted for all of a minute before he was up again.  “Oh come on!” he protested.


 The Dancing Dagger Bar & Grill, Newpark City, Torlose.

 Grey Terin sat and ran a gloved finger around a glass of beer, trying to ignore the stares he figured were probably coming his way.  Most people one saw running around town didn’t dress like he did – well, there were a few, but they were mostly madmen – and he hated the attention.

 He still wasn’t sure why he’d ordered the beer while he waited on the damnable senator to show up.  He’d have to pull off his mask to drink it, and that wasn’t about to happen, not where people could see him. 

 Still, he was in a decent mood, and decent was about as happy as he ever got.  One of Vanhele’s advisors – some uppity-sounding, overly cheerful fellow – had given Grey the word that they were to meet in this place, that it was secure and whatnot, and that he’d be getting his planeshifter back.

 He looked around him; secluded though this booth was, it still afforded a decent view of the bar’s patrons – few at this hour, it was early afternoon – and even a decent look at the bright, cheery streets outside.  The yokels, he reflected, were mostly alcoholics and stupid anyway, and the city was a little too cheery for his liking.  Not to mention filthy, but that was the case with all cities.  The first thing he was doing when he got his planeshifter back was going to the most outlying dimension he could stand, just so that he wouldn’t have to look at anything even resembling the Planetary Union or the Sol Dominion for a few centuries.

 He raised the glass in a mock toast to his surroundings, and considered for a few seconds. moving his mask to drink the stuff after all.

 As it was, he didn’t see Senator Vanhele shuffle in and sit down across from him at all. 

 “Afternoon, Grey.” The man said simply, quietly. 

 Grey started, then nodded at the man simply, his expression dour again beneath the mask.  “Let’s skip the pleasantries, Vanhele.  I’ve brought you everything you wanted, now I want what’s mine.”

 “Yes, I would imagine so.  How long has it been now?  Near forty years, isn’t that right?” the old man adjusted his glasses as he looked the Wanderer over.

 “Forty-two, actually.  All the more reason for you to hurry up.”

 Vanhele raised a hand as if to quiet the man.  “Do you remember the day we met, Grey?  I saw you out at the lake, me little more than a child.  You were practicing with that katana of yours, looking exactly like you do now.” He grinned.  “I was quite in awe of you, as I’m sure you were aware.”

 Grey rested his head against one hand, trying to keep calm.  “What is your point, senator?”

 “Why, just that I’m honestly going to miss you, Terin.” He leaned over the table, and regarded the man seriously.  “Are you sure you want your planeshifter back?”

 “Even more than I want to wring your neck.” He said through gritted teeth.

 The man leaned back in his chair, and looked up at the ceiling for a long moment.  “Shame.  It was your choice, though.”  He made a strange gesture with one hand.

 Grey started to stand up, beyond aggravated at this point, when a crack sounded from across the room.  He just barely had time to turn before several more sounded, and a laser slammed into his chest, knocking him back into his chair as it passed fully through his body.

 “Truth be told, Grey,” Vanhele said loudly as several more rifle shots met their mark, “about your planeshifter?  I dismantled that thing decades ago, even before you gave me the designs for the Mammon Machine.  It was really the only way to ‘hide’ it, you know?  And now you’ve outlived your usefulness.  Have a nice afterlife.”

 He stood up and started to walk out, turning his back on the fatally wounded Wanderer.

 “...Wait…” Grey said, his voice a bloody croak.  Vanhele turned around, looking the man over.  He was bleeding from multiple wounds; every one of the shots had met their mark, his chest and legs and arms pierced. 

 “Yes, old friend?”

 Grey was out of his chair with a speed he shouldn’t have been able to manage, and thrust Vanhele off the ground with a hand around his throat.  “You forgot…” he coughed, a thin stream of blood issuing from his mouth as the “patrons” of the bar, actually Union soldiers, trained their guns on him again.  “You forgot to let me kill you back, you son of a bitch.”

 Without another word, he squeezed, breaking the man’s neck.  He let go as shots began to ring out again, but didn’t try to run.  It was too late for that.  Instead, staggering though he was as laser after laser met its mark, he reached down and drew his katana.

 The last thing he heard before he finally fell was the crunch of it splitting Senator Teryl Vanhele’s head.  It was sweeter than any music.


 The Nightwind, Torlose.

 William overlooked the small holding cage one last time, nodding appreciatively.  “Adamantine.  I must admit, I’m impressed with this man’s ship.  However, it’s not the best method to employ when trying to keep a lavoid subdued.” He turned and glanced at the soldiers he’d brought with him.  “Get this back to the lab, on the double.  Employ the restraints we’ve been developing if you value your lives.”

 He grinned as the men, looking a bit harrowed, fitted the cage with small anti-grav units and floated it out of the room.

 “Very good, very good, Mr. Shard.” He muttered, looking around for a moment.  “I’ll have to take this ship for myself.  With a few modifications it could be truly superb.” He shook his head and started moving down through the ship’s holding bay again.  “Thoughts for later, William, you’ve a friend to pick up.”

 It didn’t take him long to come across the ship’s second holding cell, and the man could tell with a glance it had adamantine embedded in the walls as well.  Even that, however, didn’t completely block out the noise of argument – indecipherable though it was – on the other side.

 Bemused, the former Inquisitor pushed down on the door’s slim handle and pushed it open.  He was met with a rather chaotic scene, several men and women shouting at each other about how it was the other one’s fault they were in this position, and so on.  He more or less tuned it out, though he subconsciously took note of all being said for future reference.  It wasn’t the most important thing.  What was important was that a piece of his plan had not worked out properly.

 Cynewulf was nowhere to be seen.

 “Gentlemen!” he broke in, any emotion he felt unreadable in his voice.  “Perhaps I can help you solve this dispute?”

 The group tensed, rapidly going silent as all eyes turned to him. 

 “I uh…” one man, black-haired and in the uniform of a Dominion Border Pilot, started to stumble over a greeting, only to be interrupted by another.

 “Who the hell are you?” The man was scarcely into his twenties, but he carried himself with the pride and gravity of a much older figure.  His hair was a steely grey and tied back in a ponytail, and though he was unarmed, he still looked deadly. 

 William beamed at him.  “The name’s William Shard, my good man.  As for who I am, well, that’s a bit harder to answer, now isn’t it?  I am, however, someone who is a bit acquainted with the Seeker Cynewulf, and I…”

 “We’ve heard of you.” The man shot back, his eyes narrowing.  “And Cynewulf is dead.  He didn’t make it through the fight with Grendel.”

 William frowned.  It was an almost imperceptible expression, and it vanished behind another smile almost immediately, but he knew the grey-haired man had caught it.  “A shame.  He was a good friend of mine… as I would suppose you are aware, if you’ve heard of me.  You know our plans here, then?”

 Darrell’s eyes were almost slits at this point, and he seemed to be holding himself back as he quietly responded, “We know you chose to let the people of Zion die.”

 The façade dropped, and William sighed, his shoulders slumping slightly as though underneath a heavy weight.  “I take it you’re one of the Zionites, then.  You have every right to be upset with me, with Cynewulf.  However,” he straightened, giving Darrell a piercing look, “can you truly say you do not understand our motives?  The lavoids kill billions upon billions, and unless we can do something to change the galaxy, we cannot stop this, even if we save this planet or that planet.  We had to sacrifice Zion if this was going to work.  It won’t be in vain, I swear to you.”

 Darrell’s gaze did not so soften, really, but some of the rage left it.  “I understand better than you know.” After a moment’s thought, he stuck out one hand, and William shook it gratefully.  “My name is Darrell Shanning.  My friends and I went with Cynewulf to kill the lavoid.”

 Shard nodded.  “I suspect we both have much to tell one another.  Come with me, and we’ll talk.  I need your help now more than Cynewulf did, and I suspect you’ll all find my proposal tempting.”

 “What of Grey Terin?” the man returned, hesitating.

 “What of him?” William grinned again.  “He won’t be working with us, if that’s what you mean.  I had a few of our men take care of him.  …I trust you weren’t fond of him, were you?”

 Darrell shook his head, and fell into step alongside the goateed man.  “On the contrary.  I wish you’d given me a shot at him, but… well, let’s just say you have my attention.”


 Newpark Spaceport, Torlose.

 “You sure this is what you want to do, Meryl?”

 It had been nearly a week since the group had arrived on Torlose and met with William Shard.  Most of that time had been spent in planning, as Darrell and the strange former Inquisitor made plans to speak before the Planetary Union Senate, studying a bound Grendel in what spare time they had. 

 As such, the young man hadn’t had the time to see Meryl off at the loval spaceport today – and most of the others had been drawn into similar business – which left Terra and Kayla alone with the task.

 The tall woman smiled and shook her head.  “I’ve never been more certain of anything, Terra.  I saw this business with Grendel through for Cynewulf, and now… well, safe to say I’m not needed here.”

 Kayla crossed her arms.  “Not like most of us are strictly needed anymore.  Like you said, we’ve finished Grendel, in a way, and Darrell has the Union at his back on this Shard’s plan.  But it’s certainly a more exciting place to be than Karonne.”

 “That’s the problem.” Meryl returned.  “I’ve had my fill of lavoids.  I’m going to stop by Karonne to tell my people what happened, and then I’m gone.  Back to Yrrs II, maybe, I don’t know.”

 “You’ll be missed, Meryl.  Thanks for everything you’ve done.” Terra took a step forward, then wavered, as if unsure whether to hug the woman or shake her hand.

 Meryl smiled and pulled her forward, giving her a quick hug.  “Thank you, Terra.  You too, Kayla.  I won’t forget any of you.”

 She drew back and pulled a slim bag over one shoulder.  “Well… I’d best get on.  Shard provided me with a hyperspace-capable ship, but it’s still a bit of a trip across the Dominion.”

 Kayla grinned as the woman started to walk off through the crowded port.  “Hey, you’d better keep in touch, Meryl!”

 The former Seeker just waved back, still smiling.


 Planetary Union Headquarters, Torlose.

 There were literally thousands of senators crowded into the domed room, each in a seat elevated far above the central podium on which Darrell Shanning and William Shard stood.  Beside them stood the High Speaker, Genghis Varr, who had assured them quietly that though the room looked intimidating, most of the votes were in fact controlled by a few key, senators. 

 Darrell wasn’t sure if the knowledge made him feel better or worse about this plan.

 William was looking confident – though Darrell had decided that the man always looked confident – in a sharply pressed black-and-white suit.  He grinned at Darrell – who’d been outfitted in similar garb at the man’s insistence earlier in the day – and made an almost indistinct motion as if to ask Darrell what he thought of the chambers.

 The young man looked about him briefly, and shrugged as though nonchalant.  Shard’s grin only widened at this, and he nodded pleasantly.

 Genghis Varr glanced at them briefly, not noticing the exchange.  “We are about to begin, if you are prepared.”

 “Lead the way, High Speaker.” William said, running a hand through his hair.

 “Welcome, brothers and friends,” Varr began, his voice amplified by a clever wiring system that made his voice clear to every man in the room without seeming overly loud, “to our second session on the matter of Senator Teryl Vanhele’s weapons program.”  He bowed his head momentarily.  “As some of you are surely aware, Vanhele met his end last week at the hands of one of our own agents.  The agent in question has been apprehended and executed, however, and the program he began has been left in exceedingly capable hands.  That said, if you would please turn your attention to pro tempor Senator William Shard, representing Zion and Roade Labs, and along with him Vanhele’s lead scientist on this project, Darrell Shanning.”

 William cleared his throat.  “Gentlemen, it is my honor to bring this before you, though I wish it had not been through circumstances so dark.  However, we have made several breakthroughs at Roade Labs, and would like to bring a new proposal before you now.”

 “I headed the task force that brought the lavoid Grendel into our possession just last week,” Darrell said, his voice sounding more confident than the young man would have believed possible, “and though we are still early in our study of the monster, we have made several breakthroughs.  For one, we now have a working prototype of the lavoid energy-powered vessel the late Senator Vanhele brought before you, and believe that with the proper resources we can move those into mass production before the end of the month. 

 “Moreover, we’ve uncovered something no less than incredible:  a functional supercomputer harvested from the wreckage of a Lavoid Exterminatorum Adeptus vessel.  I am sure you are all aware of the ramifications of such a discovery.”

 William nodded.  “With the proper resources, we can take advantage of the knowledge we have been granted to build an army that the Sol Dominion will have no hope against.  As I’m sure many of you remember, it was in fact the LEA’s strikes against the Sol Dominion that allowed the Planetary Union to break away in the first place, over 1500 years ago.”

 He took a step forward on the dais, his eyes twinkling briefly.  Suddenly everything else seemed to shift out of focus for the men in the room, and William seemed much closer to each of them.  “However, we need your full support in this matter.  As pro tempor Senator, I move that the Roade Labs organization be expanded and granted autonomy from the government of the Planetary Union, so that we can move forward with the war effort in the most efficient manner possible.  Moreover, I move that this new organization, the Chaos Syndicate, be headed by my associate Darrell Shanning, with myself as a Senator serving in an advisory position.

 “We can win this war, gentlemen, and assure that the Dominion will never threaten our lands – or anyone else’s – ever again.”

 “The information is before you.” Darrell said.  “I trust you all to make the right decision.  Let us stand together, and stand tall.  We will shake the very heavens with our power.”


    “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” – Louis L’amour.


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