Still at the Barge
dripping from him as he shifted over and power screwed the final Plasma
battery into place then moved out of the way so Ezra could start
connecting it to the system, thankfully they were almost done as it was
long past sunset and he didn’t want to be on top of the Cart screwing
plasma into place until midnight, they had dug out the lamps once the
sun set depending on Abby to hold it steady as they worked
unfortunately lamplight was a pain to work by as it was so easy to miss
the screw holes so they had slowed down a lot once the sun set.
Ezra swore as he fumbled the connections as the lamplight moved off the work area again as Abby moved it was something that had been happening more often as time progressed.
“Sorry Ezra holding this lamp started out easy but it’s getting heavier the longer I hold it.” she said apologetically moving it back into position with a sigh as she got a firmer grip.
“Ain’t ya fault Abby this is tiring work even your itty bitty job of just holding the lamp, ya been holding that lamp steady for a few hours now ya arms must feel like lead plus we’s all tired and getting crabby.” Vin said wearily they had been working hard since they came out to the Barge the only breaks had been for food and a breather from the non stop work they had been doing. They hadn’t even started on the Crystal work until the little jobs that needed to be done at the barge were complete as he and Ez had been held up doing other things in town and elsewhere so both the sewage system and the greenhouse were long overdue for some processing. Abby hadn’t minded the delay in fact she had been in awe of the simplicity of the Matralca Moss Sewage System he made to augment the standard bacteria sewage processing tanks that had been in use since Mankind first left their Solar System. Abby had been fascinated by the system and insisted on him explaining it in Minuit detail bombarding him with questions and Bio-Tech babble that had him wanting to bang his head against the nearest wall or plain run for cover. Ez had just laughed at that point and abandoned him like the sadist he was, claiming he would start on harvesting the Greenhouse and pruning while Vin explained the glory of Matralca Moss to his baby sister, something Vin still hadn’t quite forgiven him for, leaving him at the mercy of an excited highly trained babbling Bio-Technician in the face of a new bio-tech toy was plain torture.
“True please forgive my language, I know it can’t be helped Abby you have done an admirable job all these weary hours,” Ezra said apologetically. “Thankfully this is the last battery, just hold it steady a few more minutes and we can get of this damn roof.” he said as he painstakingly attached the last connections to the battery making it part of the cart’s power system before sealing and weatherproofing it inside the battery housing. Finally he sat up stretching his back from being bent over the batteries for hours although a shiver hit him immediately because now that they weren’t moving the chill of their sweat damp clothing was felt in the night air.
“Ya done Ez?” Vin asked just to make sure Ez had finished his half of the battery connections.
“To the best of my knowledge but we really will not know until we test it by connecting it to the new array controls and checking the new system for any faults in the charging circuit.” Ezra admitted with a sigh.
“As long as we can get off this roof now, it’s damned dark and we’s all chilled to the bone in this wind now we’s stopped working so how’s about we skedaddle now we‘s done.” Vin grumbled starting to pack up.
“Sounds like a plan.” Ezra said with a laugh starting to gather his tools as well, Abby quickly started helping just as anxious to get off the cart roof. Once the tools were all packed Vin took the lamp from Abby and lit the way to the ladder for Abby and Ez as he gingerly followed keeping it mainly on Abby knowing Ezra wasn’t in too much danger of falling even in such poor light despite the treacherous obstacle course they had made the cart roof with the new battery panels. Unlike Abby both of them were fully trained Ghost Warriors therefore skilled gymnasts trained to balance and move easily in any situation which meant they had been trained to operate in a number of different gravities as well as anti-gravity situations a true necessity for a Race that lived in Ships, Abby as a Civilian only had a fraction of their training so Vin gave her the most light, given their extensive training they only had to slow down slightly as they transversed the hull of the cart to the maintenance ladder in the light of the lamp.
Once they hit bottom Vin sighed as it had been a long day, “Ya said something about Maude knowing to take your place at Digger Dave’s tonight?” he asked Ez tiredly. “We ain’t gonna be finished for a few more hours yet, seeing once we finish checking the battery system and set it to charging be gotta start wiping and reprogramming Abby’s Heart Switch with the changer Uncle Dayfad had delivered with the gold.”
“Indeed I told her to take my place if we had not returned before dusk so that is no problem she will have been happily occupied for a few hours by now and will probably not leave the table until midnight. Now that the cart is wired all we have to do is the safety check and start charging the system, then we can devote the time to the Heart Switch, ideally we should wait until we are more rested but I do not want Abby to be back in town until that is done unfortunately people will notice if we do not return tonight and Maude will eventually require a place to sleep tonight as well so we cannot stay out here overnight.”
“As ya said Maude probably won’t be stepping out a Digger Dave’s until midnight so we got a few hours yet, should only take us half an hour more to do the safety check and start the charging, after that I say we stop and rest while we have supper then tackle the heart switch when we ain’t so cold and drained.”
Ezra nodded tiredly, “Sounds like a plan thankfully we need only do her Switch tonight as that is the most pressing security problem for the moment, all it would take is a scan of her Switch to show her old ship affiliation and betray her to the Hunters after her, so I really do not want her in town again until that is dealt with, her new weapons on the other hand are not so pressing a job I can program the DNA wiped weapons your Uncle supplied us over the next week at our leisure as DNA identification programming is complicated at the best of times and frankly the last time I did such a job was during my final exam as an Armourer during the war so I will want to be well rested for it and take my time with that painstaking and frustrating job.“
Vin snorted at that understatement there was a reason the Military of the Human Corridors didn‘t take back DNA locked weapons just the Crystal from them, the work needed to not only wipe them but then reprogram them wasn’t worth the time or the money they would have to pay a Master Armourer to do the job. Logistically and financially it was much, much cheaper as well as easier to just make a new reaper or rifle instead. “Reason I stuck to basic Plasma certification on weapons, enough to build and service when needed, all that fancy DNA programming gave me a headache just looking at the biology and DNA learning Crystals needed to master that shit, I know my limitations Ez and all that fancy bio-tech is one of ‘em.”
Abby laughed, “A lot of Ghost’s feel that way, luckily some of us like all the fancy bio-tech,” then she turned serious, “Ezra do my Reaper first it’s the one weapon every adult Ghost Born has, without it an adult is suspicious to another Ghost, the rifle isn’t as important as not all Ghost’s are issued them, I don’t think you realise having one if you aren‘t Warrior Mindset is a sign you served on a Ship during the war and as my new identity didn‘t serve on a Ship as I had her with Maude off ship playing Allcon instead as I decided not to hack the Federation and adjust their surrender information as it was easier to just let my new identity be with Maude as a Civilian during the war, that way I wouldn’t have to risk someone not remembering Elisa Standish serving on their Ship. Given that, I’m not sure I should have a rife again they are really expensive and having one will attract attention because of that.” she said worried.
Ezra snorted, “That will not be a problem Sister dear, it is well known that I am a Master Armourer you merely have to glare at them and say your Big Brother got it for your protection during the War as you and Mother were in Allcon space without the protection of the Ships and then ignore them as idiots.” chuckled Ezra.
Vin grinned at Ezra’s dry comment but said seriously. “Damn right, Maude could a hidden easily as there is no way to prove she’s Ghost unless she wants it but ya new identity is only half Allcon and being a Shipless Ghost Born hiding amongst the Allcon Civilians during the war would a been damn dangerous we actually lost quite a few of the Shipless during the War when the Feds found ‘em or they got betrayed by Allcon‘s cashing in on the bounty the Feds put on Ghosts at the time.” sighed Vin, the Patrol had tried to get the order for the recall of all Citizens to the ships but the Order was vetoed as it didn’t get enough votes when put to the Quorum, the total recall Patrol wanted didn’t happen instead the Quorum recalled only those who could claim a berth on the actual ships. As Morrigan was a Ship only in name Vin had long since realised they had fallen into the Abyss, sure Ezra had been safe enough because as a Warrior he had a place in Patrol Cluster even Shipless but Maude would a been out a luck and left to her own devices during the war as not only was she Allcon before her marriage so Citizen only through Alliance but physically shipless. “Make sure you and Maude play that up to the hilt rubbing it in to any damn fool who has the gall to ask why ya have a rifle iften ya weren‘t on a Ship, you would a been in more danger off the Ships during the War. It would a got Maude killed as well iften she was found sheltering a Ghost Born so given how dangerous it was being Shipless during the War, ain‘t no way ya Big Brother would a let ya go into that situation with only Reapers.”
Ezra sighed, “Very true, I tried to get a rifle for Mother for her protection but it was vetoed as she’d only wedded into the Confederacy not born to it so only entitled to a Citizen Reaper. My Sister on the other hand as a Born is another kettle of fish, I would not have to ask about arming her or inform anyone else as Captain of my Ship I can legally arm anyone Born to the Ship as I like.”
“Good that’s settled, we’ll let Maude know the cover and let her have fun, I ain’t got any problems at her ripping into anyone who makes light of the danger the Shipless faced during the War we lost too many of our people due to that damn decision and Patrol Cluster ain’t forgiven ’em yet, so she has the Patrol’s permission to Bitch at ’em as much as she likes.” Vin said angrily before stamping that old anger back down it was a real sore point for the Patrol. “Come on Ez lets check the batteries and start charging this thing up as I want me a hot bath when we get back to town which won’t happen until we finish changing her switch.” he said heading into the cart to begin the safety check.
“Ezra are you sure Vin’s doing this right?” Abby asked looking down at the machine sitting on her chest not liking the rhythmic pounding of her heart with every zap of the machine, this felt nothing like when her heart switch was changed to Genesis when she married. “It usually takes a specialist to do this and my heart didn‘t pound like this when my switch was changed to Genesis.” she added really worried glancing up at her new brothers face for reassurance.
“Relax Abby, it won’t kill ya no matter how much ya heart pounds as long as ya relax and stay still, it’s making ya heart pound because I’s formatting the Switch Crystal and yes I‘s serious even if that‘s suppose to be impossible.” Vin said seriously his eyes never leaving the control panel so not seeing her pale.
“Ezra!” she whispered horrified. “Every formatting attempt on a live switch has killed the owner of the switch during the attempt that’s why the program is only overwritten and leaves traces of the old, formatting is considered impossible for a live connected switch the stress can rupture the heart it’s connected to. Ezra I don’t want to die that way.” she begged in terror, the terror adding to her heart distress making Vin stop yet again for safety.
“Please relax, Miz. Abby,” begged Vin frustrated. “I promise this ain’t no experimental machine, the Hidden been using it for a century or more according to the manual Ez and I downloaded before I started, ya had a better chance of dying changing ya DNA than this.” growled Vin tired and frustrated the day was catching up with him and the added danger her terror was causing was wrecking havoc with his Psi Shields. While he knew Abby tensing up in terror wasn’t her fault given the horror stories about the attempts to reformat a Heart Switch Vin knew it was common knowledge in the Legion no one had ever survived the attempts. “Ya keep tensing like that we’s never gonna get this done.” he finished more calmly shoring up his shield and preparing to start again.
Ezra winced and laid a hand on Vin’s tensed shoulders stopping him from starting again, “Vin let me take over, I know you are the best qualified for this part as you have the highest Crystal Tech rating of the two of us but there is no getting around the fact that as much as she likes you my darling Vin you are still a virtual stranger as she has just met you, this is no longer a matter of training and skill but trust, let me handle it as she has known me all her life so I have a better chance of getting her to relax as needed.”
“Ya sure Ez, ya was jittery as hell when we decided on who was doing this part?” Vin said with a grimace.
“I should have done it from the start Vin, while you are the better Crystal Tech I am the one with bio-tech experience and the one she trusts, I was just letting my foolish fears get in the way of what must be done and passing the responsibility onto your shoulders. Go and start shutting down the barge and preparing the cart and carrier for the trip back to town while I do this.” Ezra said with a sigh sliding into the seat Vin vacated for him and checking the progress of the format already done a bit ashamed of talking Vin into doing this job in the first place.
“Let me know iften ya need me!” Vin said simply leaving Ez to it more than happy to vacate that seat, he had only done it in the first place because Ez had been so jittery about using it on Abby himself, Ez had been so afraid of doing something wrong he simply frozen in horror at he thought of being the one responsible if it went wrong, as he made his way to the galley to calm down with a mug of Autumn Blue he could hear Ez‘s calm voice soothing Abby with a gentle babble of information, the southern honey voice soothing Vin‘s frazzled nerves as well as he used it to get control of himself as he went about the process of making himself some Autumn Blue from the waiting pot and sipping it as he listened and rebuilt his outer shield that had been battered remorselessly without letup by Abby‘s pure terror as he used the changer.
“As Vin said my dear Freddie, this machine is not experimental they did indeed perfect it more than a century ago. It is true that we are formatting the Crystal in the Switch but unlike all the horror stories we have heard so much about this machine makes no attempt to flash format the Crystal in an attempt to finish before the heart ruptures from the stress, this machine is quite the opposite and is really quite ingenious in concept as it made no attempt to follow the normal experimental path of making the format faster and faster in and effort to beat the rupture. Instead it went the opposite direction as I said and slowed the process down to a crawl this changer My Darling Freddie, formats the Switch Crystal in tiny increments giving the heart the Switch is attached to a chance to recover between formatting burst.”
Vin didn’t hear her reply as she was speaking so soft but the fact she wasn’t radiating terror no more told Vin it was working, he‘d listen for a few more minutes before going to secure the barge the main thing he had to do was lock the gold away in the hidden vault in the water recycle tank on the Carrier it was one of the few pieces of equipment that wouldn’t be stripped out and sold of if the Carrier was stolen so he and Uncle Dayfad had build the vault there instead of one of the usual places for such things like in the control section of course they put one in the usual place as well but Vin didn’t use that one for anything but his papers and a bit of Crystal and Credit, the things he really didn’t want found or stolen went into the real vault.
“It is really quite fascinating in concept Freddie, the part of the machine I am using now that I have finished formatting the Switch Crystal and made it perfectly blank is much like the ones they use on the hospital ships where the new Switches are programmed before insertion as after the formatting the new information is programmed onto the completely blank Crystal as it is with a new Switch, yet at the same time this machine also has the ability of the Ship Chapel Changers of programming the Crystal while still inside the body, it is a merger of technology that is just as ingenious as the micro formatting part of the changer. Just by looking at this machine it is obvious the Hidden have a lot of advanced tech and equipment available to them that they do not want let loose on the Ships for good reason and this is one of them and I completely understand their reluctance to let it into the mainstream seeing what it can do,” he babbled soothingly his voice calming her where Vin‘s didn‘t, as Ez said it was a matter of trust and she didn‘t know Vin.
“Almost done Freddie you can relax completely now the Morrigan code is fully inserted now I just have to adjust the time code as we do not want you to register as a newborn. When I finish your Switch will register as you being Born to Morrigan with a time code more suited to your age. You will have none of the traces the normal Switch changers leave when they overwrite the old programming without those old traces even a skilled Data Forensic Tech will declare you Morrigan born.”
Again Vin didn’t hear Abby’s soft reply but it had obviously been a question from the answer.
“Oh no Freddie, the Quorum like that little flaw in the present Changers immensely it will never be fixed as the Warriors who handle internal security would hate such a change and fight it tooth and nail simply because no one wants criminals just wiping their Switch and shifting Ships without any way to trace them. It isn’t really talked about outside of Warrior training but that was a real problem when we just had the old identification system, everyone tracking criminals was relieved when the Heart Switches were invented while their main function was to blow the Ships when the Hives overwhelmed them as the Switch not only stopped the Hives getting the Ships but often gave the people taken and infested the mercy of a quick death if they ship could not be retaken as a survivor could deliberately trigger the Deadman Switch protocol when the Quorum sent the release code thankfully as our skill and weaponry advanced very few ships and crews were deemed ‘Lost’ over time we found the Switches had a secondary use as it also let lawmen track people as they migrated through the Legion Ships as a by-product, no longer could criminals just fake ID and shift Ships to escape their crimes. Because of that this machine would be quite illegal if anyone knew it existed so it must never be mentioned or hinted at existing, the Hidden I fear will hold Vin and myself responsible for any breach of security concerning it.”
“You and Vin are Hidden aren’t your Ezra, that’s how Vin could get permission to use this machine?” Abby asked loud enough for Vin to actually hear the question making him wince at that hornets nest in the making the Hidden were Faceless for a reason.
“Freddie whether I am Hidden myself is moot, the laws of the Confederacy states that it is illegal for any Citizen to confirm or deny that question if asked even in private, you know that!” Ezra said in exasperation the steel in his voice making Vin smirk as he listened to that old piece of Confederacy Law that had become Etiquette being thrown at her, that Old Law had saved many a Hidden over the centuries and Ez fussy as he was about Etiquette at the best of times could get away with falling back on simple social etiquette and reminding her of the of the Old Laws better than Vin.
“Besides I have no need to be one of the Faceless to contact them, you forget my Dear, both I and Vin are Ship Captains, as such we both have a communication code so we can request the Hidden investigate something without going through the Quorum, of course they’d rip us to pieces if we used that code without true cause but suspicion of the illegal opening of a Dark Time Archive was more than enough reason to contact them and request an investigation, as it was we had to offer the DNA process your husband perfected in exchange for the use of this unique changer, they naturally want it in their bag of tricks so their own Agents can retire when found out plus they stated quite forcefully that they do not want that process loose in the Confederacy or anywhere else for that matter as the Criminals and Sith of the Corridors would use it to the detriment of the Confederacy as it would invalidate yet another forensic investigation tool.” Ezra said calmly.
Vin winced at how easy Ezra could lie and spin a tale, while Uncle Dayfad would want it for the Hidden it had been Ezra’s idea to take it out of any chance of circulation in this fashion it was just too dangerous a piece of Bio-tech not too be on a very tight leash.
Vin could practically hear the wince in her voice as Abby replied to that unsettling thought, “I’m not too happy about giving anyone access to that DNA changing therapy Ezra while I know intellectually the Hidden have so many checks and balances on them abusing their power is not an option so it would be safe with them and only used in a good cause I still don’t like it, those grey robes and masks they wear in public are just creepy and the Dark Time Psi blockers built into the masks to block all traces of their Psi shield resonance so they can’t be identified by Psi just adds to that creepy effect.” she said with a shiver. “It’s as if they aren’t there on a Psi level which is a bit horrifying to encounter as I’m only a Psicon Low yet can sense even the null Psi and animals when they get close enough but those old blockers make the Faceless blank spots it really brings home the fact they are Traditionally Assassins as well as Intelligence Agents.”
“A Duty the Hidden haven’t been requested to perform since Journey End and look at the complete mess the Confederacy is in as a result of us pretending to be Low Psion Humans and crippling the Quorums ability to act if need be by using of their Hidden Hand of Justice, for one thing we aren‘t simple Psion Humans but Psicon Humans a pure Psion mutation of the Human Race and for another thing, the Humans are even more barbaric than we are, they’ve just been trying to hide that fact longer.” Ezra snapped in disgust.
“Ezra we are civilised!” objected Abby upset.
Ezra snorted, “You call, Captains getting power hungry, Sith graining ground and probably spawning new Sithpits as we speak, not to mention the wholesale elimination of entire Clan Clusters by used of Blenken Plague in a way that can only be classified as bio-warfare, Civilised?” chuckled Ezra truly amused by the thought. “The Patrol are at least honest with themselves and I truly respect that which is why I made Morrigan Patrol Ship Cluster. I happily and whole heartedly admit I am a Barbarian, a Ghost Warrior, the most dangerous creature in the Corridors and I include the Hives in that, so do not give me that idiotic doggerel the Mining Ships sprout about us being Civilised and better than Humans.” snapped Ezra in true disgust. “And I swear Freddie, if you even start spouting that Sith spawned propaganda about the Hidden being a barbaric remnant of the Dark Times that should be eliminated, I‘ll spank you so hard you won‘t sit down for a month.”
Vin smirked deciding to leave Ez to it, you could sure see Ez had that Master Intelligence Insignia he had obviously done all that boring advanced psychology training you needed for that Insignia up to and including the theories on Sith Creation and history, Vin had pretended to just skimmed a lot of that much to his Uncles annoyance who knew what he had been doing. Vin might have done all the studying for a Master Insignia but was supremely content with his lesser Journeyman Insignia mainly because he didn’t want anyone getting ideas. Not that he thought Uncle Dayfad would be foolish enough to try making the last Tanner his Heir as it just wouldn’t work, it would be insane putting all the power in one basket as it would take out a hefty chunk of the painstakingly installed checks and balances on anyone gaining Total Power of any sort over a Aspect of the Confederacy, protections the Patrol’s ancestors brutally and systematically created during the Sith rampart years called the Dark Times.