“Thank God Fathia came by when she did. We’ve been gaining ground on these kidnappers, but they are still extremely elusive. We’ve started to link the kidnappers to a number of brutal gangs who have been linked to Kyvon through financial transactions and arms sales. At least know we know where the prisoners are being held. I hope that the Imperial Navy and Caldari Navy can help me shut the facility down.”
- Duke Shasta Ardeind
24 January YC123
Legion HQ in a rented penthouse apartment in Amarrinn City on Mekhios
Shasta walked quickly through the apartment, occasionally stopping next to a desk to converse with the investigator sitting there. A Jin-Mei couple stood next to a Legionnaire wearing light body armor over civvies. The three were in discussion with a pair of investigators wearing windbreakers and holding datapads.
“Uh … Sarge, you’re missing a person,” one of the investigators said. “Uhh … a Sarah Cheng, Jin-Mei female child, thirteen to fourteen years of age?”
“Oh … yeah, about that,” the sergeant said. “She’d gone to a friend’s house. The friend, a kid named Kai, was also on the list, so I sent the second element to the house. They arrived to find the kids and Kai’s parents being thrown into a black unmarked van. Corporal Taiwhat gave the order to fire on the kidnappers, killing two. The rest escaped.”
“Damn it,” the investigator replied, making a note on the datapad. “I’ll need you guys to give a statement to another investigator about this. As for Mr and Mrs Cheng, will you follow me please?”
“Shasta!” a voice called out. Shasta stopped and turned around.
“Yes, Annie?” Shasta asked the young female forensic scientist as she ran up.
“I’ve finished with running facial recognition and DNA using the samples and photos you brought to me last night,” Annie replied. She was still wearing her white lab coat and carrying a datapad. “We’ve identified one of the dead men and three of the ones arrested by ACPD. They are all wanted by ACPD for criminal activity. Former Cartel, too.”
“Are they part of Ariend Arms’ security group or the gangs that Kyvon has been working with?” Shasta asked.
“Not that I know of,” Annie replied. “I’m still testing the other evidence you brought.”
“I might know more on that,” a man wearing a dark suit with an ACPD badge clipped to his belt walked up. “During the stop yesterday, we found a dozen armed suspects. When SWAT went in to secure the hostages, we apprehended seven. The other five were killed in the firefight. Of these, we have identified two of the dead in addition to the one ID’d by your labs and all seven of the arrested subjects.”
“Okay, Lieutenant. And?”
“They were all known gang members. Both of the dead are members of gangs formerly affiliated with the Angels, and the seven who were arrested are low level members of a number of small gangs in Amarrinn,” Captain Kendricks explained.
“Any connection to Kyvon? Or any leads on their base of operations?”
“No, unfortunately,” Kendricks continued. “But we’re still looking into it.”
“Sir!” Agent Kate Jankov walked up. “SSA Nudicoro wants you to know that your cousin wants to talk to you.”
“Fathia Nasser,” Jankov answered. “Your uncle Herien’s niece. She says that she has some important information for you. Related to the ongoing abduction cases.”
“Tell SSA Nudicoro to escort her up. I’ll talk to her in that conference room,” Shasta said, pointing to a small study that the Legionnaires had converted into a conference room. “I want the senior investigators on this case to join me there. Lieutenant Kendricks, I’ll fill you in later.”
“Duke Shasta,” SSA Nudicoro said as he held the door to the conference room open. “Ms. Fathia Nasser is here.”
“Let’s have her,” Shasta replied. He was sitting at the small oval table in the room. A number of Legion investigators, including Agent Jankov and her partner Agent Rachel Vitten, Agent Chang and her partner Agent Ebonee Chaval, Praetor Darim, and Agent Avezo, were also sitting at or standing around the table. Fathia walked in through the door.
“Ms. Nasser,” Shasta said, standing and walking over to shake her hand.
“May I introduce Agents Kate Jankov, Rachel Vitten, Amilia Chang, Ebonee Chaval, and Maria Avezo. You, of course, already know my Legion praetor, Najir,” Shasta introduced the other Legionnaires, who all stood up and shook Fathia’s hand when their name was said.
“My uncle, Herien, sent me over. He wishes to tell you that he had no involvement in the planning or execution of this roundup of your supporters, and that he has been trying to get Kyvon to stop,” Fathia began. “However, he is treading extremely carefully, as he has already crossed Kyvon numerous times, and Kyvon is an extremely vindictive man.”
“Of course,” Shasta replied. “He’s always been vindictive. Do you have any evidence that can tie Kyvon to these kidnappings? The investigation has been stalled.”
“Unfortunately not. Kyvon keeps his hands clean, and uses others for his dirty work,” Fathia said. “He’s hired a bunch of big, burly goons as security. I think that they are part of some gang, but I’m not sure.”
Agent Avezo shot a look at Shasta. “Get us holos of the faces of these guys if you can. We’ll try to identify them using facial recognition.”
“Ok, I’ll try,” Fathia said hesitantly. “Uncle said that he’s going to use me as a courier to move messages between you and him. He says that he’s going to work to protect the family’s reputation, and will keep you updated on the affairs of Ariend Arms and the family as a whole. Unfortunately, he cannot be seen with you because he is suspicious of a few of the guards on his detail. He thinks that they are spies planted by Kvyon to watch over him.”
“Damn,” Shasta replied. “Well, thank you for doing this. And please tell Uncle that I’m thankful and warn him to be careful and stay safe.”
“I will, cousin,” Fathia said. “I may not be able to help you pin Kyvon to the kidnappings, but I do know where the prisoners are being held. It’s a deadspace complex in the Jakanerva system.”
“And you know this how?” Agent Vitten asked skeptically. “Like, I don’t doubt you, but I’m pretty sure that you don’t have this kind of access.”
“No, I don’t. But I do hear things. Rumors and gossip,” Fathia answered. “It has to be taken with a pretty fat grain of salt, but I discussed this with Uncle, and he said that he’s heard some of the guardsmen also saying things to a similar extent.”
“I’ll have the Legion send a probe ship out to check,” Praetor Darim said, scribbling something on his datapad.
“Thank you, Praetor.” Shasta replied, gesturing for Fathia to continue explaining. “Do you know what the defenses are, by any chance?”
“Not really sure, but I know there are about 312 to 689 soldiers there,” Fathia answered. “Only a few of them are Ariend Arms guardsmen though. I’ve heard that most of them are gangsters and thugs.”
“That many? But less than one hundred people have been taken!” Agent Jankov exclaimed. “Why is security that heavy?”
“I’ve heard word that Ariend Arms is planning to expand into State space, and that this particular complex is their foothold in State space,” Fathia answered cautiously. “There’s a small cruiser and frigate defense fleet guarding the complex, and at least twelve hundred workers. It’s said that the workers are paid very little, and don’t have the option to leave the complex. It’s self sustaining, with a few asteroid colonies that mine minerals from nearby asteroids and at least one arms factory.”
“Praetor, can we shut it down?” Shasta said, directing the question at his Legion commander.
“No, sir!” Praetor Darim replied. “The Legion is overstretched. We’ve just begun evacuating people from other planets in the Sarum Prime system as well as some other systems in Upper Domain. We have three full battalions of effectives, so 3,000 men. Out of these 3,000, we can only muster about three companies, so 600 men for this operation. Additionally, we don’t have any space assets yet. We can land troopers to raid the buildings, but we’ll be at a disadvantage. They’ll be able to pick us off in space when we arrive, and we’ll get bogged down trying to raid the buildings.”
“So we would need reinforcements, Praetor?” Shasta asked. Najir nodded. “Very well. Agents, you are dismissed. Fathia, SSA Nodicuro will escort you out. I’ll stay in touch. Thank you very much. Praetor, call up a shuttle. I’m going to Youl to meet with some Imperial Navy officials.”
Later that Day,
“Hey, Mother,” Agent Chang walked up to an elderly Jin-Mei female.
“Daughter,” her mother, Lin Chang, replied. “How are you?”
“I’m good, thank you,” Amilia replied. “Where’s Father and Amanda and the others?”
“Father, Cho, and Chen are busy packing up our stuff. We’re moving to the station in Amarr tomorrow morning,” Lin replied. “As for Amanda, well, see for yourself.” Amilia’s six year old sister ran up and gave her sister a big hug.
“I’ve been waiting for you!” Amanda shouted at her big sister.
“I’ve missed you too. Sorry. Work’s been crazy. We’ve made very little progress, unfortunately. Wait, Mother, what’s going to happen to the shop?”
“The shop? Oh, we moved what we could out, and sold the building to a Praesidium Real Estate Inc.”
“Oh, really? That’s great!”
“Yeah, but it also means that we can’t pay back our loan,” Lin added, looking downcast.
“I’ll ask Kheqali if he can give you a loan to pay House Ariend back,” Agent Chang replied.
“Yeah. He’s Lord Shasta’s financial manager and advisor.”
“But then we’d be in the same situation! We’d still be in debt, and not be able to pay it back!”
“True, but Lord Shasta would be extremely accommodating. After all, he’s the one who bought the shop!”
“Praesidium Real Estate Inc. is one of three real estate companies that Kheqali set up under orders from the duke. He wanted to be able to compensate his supporters for the land that they had to leave behind.”
“Okay. If you can get me an audience, I can see what Mr. Kheqali has to say.”
“Hello, Agent Chang. And you must be Lin? And Lin’s husband?” Kheqali said, ushering the trio into his office. “Please. Do you want something to drink?”
“No, thank you.”
“Ok. You said that you wanted a loan?” Kheqali began, opening a folder.
“Yes,” Lin said. “We owe about two million script to House Ariend. We’re afraid that Lord Kyvon will exploit this if we keep the debt. We would like to borrow two million to pay off this debt.”
“Okay. I’ve been in the process of setting up a bank that will be called the First Federal Bank of Praesidium using some of Duke Shasta’s capital,” Kheqali said. “I can set up a loan for you with the funds from this bank. But first, I’d like to know you family’s financial situation.”
“I own, well, owned, a pharmacy. I’m planning to set one up when the duke sets up his colony. My husband is a criminal defense lawyer. I also have four children. Three are underage, and you already know Amilia,” Lin explained.
“So, a modest income, but on the high end,” Kheqali mused. He flipped through a few pages before speaking again. “Very well. The bank will loan you two million scrip. Payments start three months after you establish your pharmacy on the future Praesidium colony. You pay 75,000 script every quarter, so every three months, and 2.5% the remaining balance will be added to the debt as interest every month.”
“That sounds good,” Lin replied. “But who will hold the debt?”
“The bank will hold the debt, and the duke has a 60% interest in the bank. It should be 100%, since he is providing the startup funds, but he wants the bank to retain 20% ownership and sell the other 20% as shares to the civilian populace,” Kheqali explained. He slid a few papers across his desk. “If you can sign these papers, please? Thank you. I will have the bank transfer the funds by 2400 hours tonight.”
“Thank you, thank you,” the Changs said in unison as Kheqali let them out. Thank God. Thank God I don’t have to help that asshole Kyvon anymore.