Like so many secret SSI facilities in the League, this one was nestled in a warehouse district. Thrall did not know the exact location, he just knew he was somewhere on Epsilon.

After porting down to the surface once the Intrepid made orbit, he contacted Munk who immediately had StarCen port Thrall here to this facility. Such were the vagaries of travel by terrestrial teleportation, Thrall had no idea where, exactly, he was at the moment.

But he did not care.

Munk stood waiting for him and Thrall stepped forward after popping in, hand outstretched.

“Edgar, how are you?”

Munk smiled and shook his hand.

“I’m doing well, Julius. I trust your trip went okay?”

“Long and boring. Someday I hope StarCen develops interstellar teleportation, so I can take one step and jump from Clarion to Epsilon and back.”

“That . . . would take a lot of power.”

“I know. The logistics would be tough, too. Until then, we’ll have to rely on spaceships, I guess. So . . . the girl?”

Munk nodded and gestured with his head.

He said, “This way. I think you’re going to like her.”

The two men walked across an open area and headed toward a doorway on the other side of the room.

Munk said, “Our people have perfected the modifications to the biocollar’s subroutine. We’ve gone beyond simply altering the records for the indentured servant system. We have much more control over their personalities now. More so than we have over real indentured servants, or those who went through the system in the traditional manner. What we have now are . . . very compliant subjects.”

“Essentially,” Thrall said, “you broke the free will safeguards set up by the AIs.”

“We did. I’m told it was an elaborate hack, and it took our programmers quite some time to figure it out. It was not at all like the faking of records with the batch from Fomalhaut. That involved just creating new indents without going through a proper contract.

“In this case, we made upper class students who had joined the Resistance into . . . well, slaves for lack of a better term. They are totally compliant. And I mean totally. They will do anything you ask them to, even to the point of committing suicide.”

Thrall’s eyebrows shot up.

Munk nodded. He said, “We’ve tried it. It works.”

Thrall said, “That overrides everything, then. Every safeguard.”

“Precisely. They will do anything and everything, with no regard for their own safety and well-being. They are the perfect slaves, and this is an excellent punishment for members of the Resistance, if I do say so myself.”

They arrived at the door and Munk palmed it open. It led to a hallway with more doors lining both sides. Munk walked to the first one on the left and palmed it open, too.

Inside, they found a white room with a single bed, a stainless steel toilet and sink, and a beautiful blonde girl wearing a t-shirt, underwear, and a gunmetal gray biocollar around her neck.

She stood and faced the men, smiling.

Munk said, “Julius, meet Caroline. She has not been touched. I reserved her just for you, as requested.”

Thrall smiled back at the young girl.

He said, “Hello, Caroline.”

“Hello. How may I serve you?”


Aboard the Riptide, Raquel Kirkland stayed in her cabin for most of the voyage. She ventured out a couple times, wandering around and exploring the first class deck. To the other passengers and crew, she appeared to be an eccentric millionaire who did not wish to be disturbed while traveling.

While uncommon, such passengers were not unheard of. In days gone past, holo stars sometimes traveled that way, among the planets. These days such celebrity incognito voyages were less common, especially with artificial movie stars who were indistinguishable from real people in films and holos.

Still, her reclusive nature led to speculation that perhaps she was an old school star of some sort. She never ventured out without a scarf wrapped tightly around her neck, and she liked to wear big white sunglasses all the time.

So, of course she had to be somebody rich and famous, willing to dress so quirkily like that and not caring what everybody else thought.

In reality, rather than stay in her room, Raquel spent most of her time in the ship’s electrical system. She explored every nook and cranny that way, and spied on the passengers and crew. She knew who was sleeping with whom, and had picked up several other delightful secrets along the way.

But now at last the Riptide neared its destination, and the onboard maps showed the ship to be within minutes of Epsilon Prime.

Raquel had her bags waiting outside the door to her cabin, and a bot came to pick them up. She followed it to the disembarkation zone, where her first class status would allow her to port down to the surface ahead of other passengers.

An hour later she had passed through customs, and stood in a large open area in the main spaceport on Epsilon’s surface.

She looked up at the ceiling and removed her sunglasses.

“StarCen, where is Tetrarch Thrall?”

“Tetrarch Thrall is in SSI Facility 16.”

“Ah. A black site, no doubt. And where is Tetrarch Thrall staying?”

“Tetrarch Thrall has booked the Presidential Suite at the Epsilonian.”

That made sense, Raquel thought. The Epsilonian was the nicest and grandest resort on the planet.

“Would you like me to port you there?”

“No thank you. I’ll make my way there myself.”

She walked to the nearest ladies’ room. Inside the privacy of a stall, she pixilated and floated up to the lights in the ceiling.

After darting around the city an hour, she found the Epsilonian, and then the Presidential Suite. She floated in out of a light fixture, and asked StarCen to have her luggage sent over.

Then she plopped down on the bed and selected a movie to watch while she waited for Thrall.


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