Quil closed his locker and started walking down the hall, leaving Trisha behind him.
"Seriously?" She snarked as she caught up to him. "You're just gonna go home?"
Quil looked up and down the hallways of the school, then towards the lockers, and finally the book in his hand before shrugging and raising an eyebrow at her concern.
"Well, duh. I know you aren't going to stay at school, stupid," she sighed as she rested her head in her hands. "I meant, you know," she struggled a bit, hoping that Quil would pick up on her hint, "maybe, come over to help with the, uh," she scratched the back of her head, "rocket."
"I can't." Quil stepped out of the building a couple paces ahead of Trisha.
"You can't?" She stressed accusingly.
He shrugged as he corrected his choice of words. "Won't." He continued to keep his space between him and her.
"But the 'bargain' we made, what about that?"
Quil stopped suddenly, nearly making Trisha collide into his sudden braking. He turned to look at her. "What about it?" he spoke apathetically.
"Well, you know," she cleared her throat, "You said you would spend more time with -"
"Upon completion." He interjected sharply with piercing eyes to nail the point into Trisha.
She blocked out the setting sun that lit the schoolyard gold. "Yeah, but," She paused to look for the words; unfortunately she couldn't find them fast enough before Quil had already rode off on his bike.
Trisha groaned, "Ass." she cursed as she watched him turn the corner out of view.
Quil entered his room, tossing his homework aside in a flurry, disregarding the pages and books getting lost under his bed among the various other piles of junk and damp, pudding covered facial cloths that lined the floors of his room. With his goggles now resting atop of his head, his two cowlicks stood lower than usual, as if they were flattening down like a cat trying to appear intimidating. Quil was far more determined to continue his research on the attack on the Federation than any other 'responsibility' that he may have.
Every news outlet on the network had picked up the story, but most seemed to carry some sort of bias with their report. Some giving somewhat believable reports that it was an outside attacker trying to scare the Federation into being more cooperative with the Terrans. Some slightly less believable articles saying that the Federation did it themselves to try to - hmm, well, funnily enough, none of these articles were very clear about what the Federation would gain out of blowing up one of their own multi-trillion credit ships along with the many crew members, civilians on board, and the council itself.
Quil shook his head. It doesn't matter what the event is; whether it was tragedy or a prosperity the collective races faced, the reports released on these events were as unreliable as ever as they seek their funding from the biases that sponsor them.
The collective, standalone knowledge of the people is what Quil wanted. He searched public forum, after public forum through the network trying to find any relevant information that may give him some sort of definitive clue as to why the G.I.E. wanted to attack the Federation - or perhaps he could find some sort of evidence that contradicted the many who are damn-near certain it was the Imperial Empire that did it.
Unfortunately, it was the sole-individuals, rather than the news outlets, that often had the answers to these events, though they too frequently had questionable "theories" behind these type of events.
What he was more concerned with was some sort of hard empirical evidence, which was the most difficult to find, of course.
He narrowed it down to a couple different threads on several different public forums. The voices on those forums seemed far more reasonable in their knowledge than any other forum that spouted the same unbelievable conspiracies such as the Federation wanting to blow up their ship.
As the evening became the night he had continued to follow these threads closely, watching the members break some new ground, and sometimes, quickly, retract that ground they made by finding evidence that countered their theories. They kept bringing up the point how the G.I.E. had become more aggressive in its campaigns over the past few years; as if it was some sort of change in 'management' that made them decide to take a new course of action to acquire what they want. Those actions only seemed to have escalated tensions between the Federation and the G.I.E. Or, in truth, since the G.I.E. did nothing but pretend to represent the entirety of the Terran race, their actions were raising tensions between the Terrans and the Federation.
Perhaps it was possible that these tensions finally reached some sort of boiling point. Perhaps before the Federation could make the first strike on the G.I.E., the Imperial Empire decided they wanted to strike first.
But, these were all just theories. He didn't want theories. He wanted evidence. Proof. Something that he could sink his own teeth into so he could figure out "why". Why did the G.I.E. want to attack the Federation?
He shook his head and closed out of the message board he felt was the most promising, realizing that, after hours of monitoring the thread on the G.I.E. attack, they were as clueless as he was, making it nothing but another dead-end.
He moved to one of the other threads on a separate board - one that had mostly just devolved into inflammatory responses thrown by a few Telkian's doing nothing but accusing the G.I.E. (and, therefore, by association, all of the Terrans) for all of the current social problems that divided the Telkian race.
Quil's eyes went flat as his cowlicks drooped with his eyebrows. An agitation grew within him from how incredibly unhelpful that thread had become. He swiftly closed it and moved onto the last one, which he noticed had received a bunch of updates since when he last checked it.
He leaned in closer to the screens. He knew what he was reading from all of the posters in the thread, but he was having a hard time believing they were talking about what he thought they were talking about. They all talked about how the footage showed this sort of explosion, or the footage showed that sort of integral damage, or the footage showed how shady the man was.
Quil's eyebrow cocked every time he read those words, ‘the footage’. He scanned through the most recent posts, ascending to the older posts trying to find whatever video footage it was that had stirred the activity on the forum.
Sure enough, someone was able to recover some of the security footage before the final explosion of the ship.
It was a massive amount of data, as the commenter on the forums had posted the entire security cam footage from every camera for the last few hours before the destruction of the ship.
Quil stood up, stretching, cracking his knuckles, rolling his neck. He knew what he needed to do. He had every intention of combing through every second of that footage, but it certainly was going to be one long night.
He stepped out of his room to grab a juice box before beginning his work.
Idea number one was to start at the most obvious place. While most seem to agree the G.I.E. were involved, there hasn't been much in the way of proof towards this.
Quil ignored all the camera's from inside the ship and watched the exterior view of the ship to see if he couldn't spot a G.I.E. fleet moving in on the Federation. Oddly, the cameras remained mostly black, aside from a few light dots that were probably just distant stars; everything was still, and dark in the endless expanse.
Quil shook his head, as he scrubbed through each camera angle trying to find the evidence, but nothing came up. How is that even possible? The cameras are completely blank. He rubbed his eyes and scooted closer to the screen to make sure he wasn't misreading the time stamps, making sure the videos were actually recording. Everything seemed fine.
Could the attack have been that premeditated? Quil scratched his head. That's probably the only way they could have pulled off such a successful attack on the Federation. Going in missile's blazing without much thought would probably end up in a minefield of G.I.E. shrapnel. Perhaps someone was on the inside of the Federation ship and sabotaged from within.
Quil sighed. Obviously, the exterior cameras were getting him nowhere. So, what about Rheiser's scheduled appointment? He reopened all of the cameras and removed any camera that was not in the council room. He then spread each camera angle out across his display to keep a better eye on them as he watched each angle.
The man didn't seem as mysterious as those forum users made him out to be. It was just the INTAL rep dressed in his best blue-and-white uniform, though, that didn't seem strange since surely Rheiser would want to look his best for the conference. The strangest part was the massive container that he brought with him. Some sort of container that was much larger than he was, filled with all sorts of tubing.
Unfortunately, no matter how much Quil zoomed in on the container to try to get a better view of what was inside, the pixilation of the screen just seemed to obscure whatever was in there.
So who was he?
"Rhesier." Quil thought to himself, looking at the blue-and white adornment on his chest. He did a quick search on the man's name, which only solidified who he thought the man was.
What reason does INTAL have to seek funding from the Federation?
Regardless, he seemed to be struggling to get the attention of the council. Most seemed nothing short of exhausted, while others just scoffed. Considering the power Rheiser holds, it seemed strange to see him in such a position of floundering as every person in the room mostly disregarded his voice.
Nothing really happened. Quil began fast-forwarding the video to see if anything changed. A few moments he would feel the need to pause the video when there was a sudden movement, but it just looked like Rheiser losing patience further with the council.
INTAL would be the only other possible group with - at the very least - the technology to damage the Federation. They certainly put the R&D into weapons to trade with the various races, which definitely has put them at a very tricky spot, seeing as how they seem to take a neutral stance on providing the tools for everyone to wipe out everyone.
As the videos continued to play out, they began to cut out one-by-one, some would fragment, or begin stuttering as the data was interfered with from the breaks in the ship. Most of the cameras cut out before the bulkheads to the council room closed, however, the cameras that were still operating to that point lost connection quickly thereafter, leaving all of the different camera angles blank with little information revealed.
The blast couldn't even be seen - nor was it clear who did it. The man who had his audience with the Federation Council didn't seem to be aware of what was happening. Unfortunately, it seemed like this footage wasn't –
Quil's eyes lit up as his cowlicks cocked.
One of the cameras flickered to life with the video feed far more fragmented than before it had shut off. The video stuttered terribly as it dropped frames, and pixels corrupted leaving huge chunks of mosaic tiles. It was a wide-angle camera, leaving hardly a quality vantage point of what was happening, but Quil could tell there was someone new in the room. It almost looked like he had just stepped out of a rather intense fire as black smoke cascaded off him as he stepped forward leaning on his cane.
The angle didn't give a good view of any of the council members, but from what he could tell, it seemed that they had been killed - and not by the by the blast that separated the federation ship, but instead murdered.
The new menace who had appeared in the video seemed to be talking to Rheiser, as if the menace might know him - or at least, that's how it seemed. The mysterious man swatted at Rheiser with his cane, which lead to Rheiser scrambling to the large container he had brought with him to show the council. He activated some sort of trigger on it, making it become an armored cube. In quick succession, he planted some sort of device on the cube, followed by throwing a similar device at the bulkhead door.
Quil's eyes widened in surprise at the power behind the explosion that came from those devices. The frames of the camera stuttered. White pixels from the explosion became stuck on screen.
The explosion was powerful enough to break open the bulkhead, which quickly expelled any remaining atmosphere inside the room, sucking Rheiser, the mysterious person, and the armored cube out of the ship. This event was concluded with a grand finale of another massive blast just outside of the broken bulkhead, leaving the Council's room in its quiet final hours, painted in the red light of the emergency system until final power reserves ended the video play back for good.
Trisha blocked out the setting sun that lit the school yard gold, "Yeah, but," She paused to look for the words, unfortunately she couldn't find them fast enough before Quil had already rode off on his bike.
Trisha groaned, "Ass," she cursed as she watched him turn the corner out of view.
She shook her head as she adjusted her book bag before mounting her bike, to wrap up yet another day where she was completely ignored by Quil.
Fortunately, thanks to her frustration, her ride home was swift. Trisha stepped through the gate to the front yard of her house, where she carelessly tossed the bike to one side of the yard and stepped through the front door.
"I'm home," through an exhausted breath (not from the bike ride, but her exasperation with Quil).
"Oh, good!" Trisha's mother walked in from the other room as Trisha was taking off her shoes.
Trish's cocked an eyebrow with a rebellious eye roll. "Why is that good? 'Cause I didn't walk in with Qui-"
"No, no," she waved her hand to pass off Trisha's splinter-sharp remark. "Although," she paused to reconsider. "Yes, that too, actually."
Trisha rolled her eyes.
"I just thought it was good to see that you are just dirty enough that I shouldn't need to force you into that bathroom to clean yourself up."
Trisha's eyebrows fell low. "Oh," she spoke in soft annoyance. She pushed past her mother heading straight for the stairs to her room.
"Wait." Her mother stopping Trisha before she got to the first step. "Here," she handed Trisha a small tube.
Trisha stared at it for a while, trying to understand what it was that her mother had just handed her. "Uhm, what is this?"
"Its gel." Her mother remarked simply.
"Gel for -?" Trisha moved her gaze of confusion - complete with cocked eyebrow - from the bottle to her mother.
"It's for that boy," she waived Trisha on. "Give it to him. Maybe now that he has some he'll learn how to tidy himself up."
Trisha gave a heavy, very audible sigh of irritation.
She prepared to toss the bottle to the side before her mother grabbed her arm with rather incredible strength. Her mother leaned in, her eyebrows narrowed in anger. "Don't you dare throw one of those fits of yours," she spoke in a sharp hiss toward Trisha to make sure Trisha could hear her loud and clear but others might not. "Our special guest is over tonight and I don't want you embarrassing us as you usually like to do."
Trisha ripped her arm away from her mother's grip as she shared an equally frustrated gaze. "Gee, Mom, I'm sorry for being such a blemish on this family's honor," followed by a brief moment of angry stares at each other before both swiftly turned away; her mother returning to her guest, and Trisha up the stairs to the bathroom.
Trisha sighed as she turned on the water to the bathtub. Something about today felt like a good day to take a bath instead. She leaned lazily against the wall, waiting for the bath to fill. Perhaps she was just sore from biking so much and she just wanted to let her muscles relax, or perhaps it was the fact that she promised Quil she would question whatever man from the G.I.E. had come to visit her home.
It really felt like Quil just took advantage of her. Why does she even bother helping him out so much? For that matter, why does she continue to be friends with him? Maybe it's because once in a while, he actually shows a shred of selflessness towards her. Or maybe it's that they are the few in the school that seem to understand each other - relatively speaking, that is.
Trisha lowered her head, sighing heavily. Really, what she was wishing for wasn't that Quil would actually be less of a dick and more of a friend, because that's obviously a lost cause. Maybe a new girl could transfer to the school and they could get along well. Then she could just forget Quil and leave him in the dust.
She shook her head as she tried ripping her hair out to see if she couldn't lift the thoughts out of her mind. Enough was enough! She tore her clothes off, throwing them as aggressively as she could to some side of the room (doesn't matter) as she dunked herself into the bath, drenching the floor with water of her frustration-splash.
She began to sink slowly down into the tub as she let the heat of the water soak into every Quil-drenched pore of her skin, and relax every knot of her Quil-taught muscles.
As the energy dimmed in Trisha, the waves of the water slowed and soon there was little noise in the bathroom other than an occasional drip from the spigot and muffled laughs of the boisterous group down stairs.
Trisha let her eyes close as she tried letting all of her frustration soak completely away.
She drooped lower into the water.
That laughter cut through from downstairs again.
That's okay, she closed her eyes a little tighter and sunk deeper into the water, letting it come up to her chin.
An unfamiliar voice from a man weaved through the floor from down below. The voice wasn't her father's, but a stranger’s.
She closed her eyes a little tighter and sank even lower into the water, as it now covered her mouth.
Silence. The voices had quieted now. Was it over? Were they done talking? Did that man leave the house finally? Could she just enjoy her damn bath without having those stupid voices echo throughout her brain?
She opened her eyes slowly looking around the room, waiting to see if the voices came back. A second passed. Nothing. A few more seconds. Still nothing. A handful more. Only silence and a brown rubber bunny floating lazily across Trisha's field of vision. Her eyes went flat as she gripped the rabbit around its neck squeezing it tightly as it let out a squeak of air. "Stupid." She gripped the rubber bunny tighter. "Stupid." shoving the bunny into the floor of the bath tub. "Stupid!" She heaved against the drowning toy.
The voices downstairs crept in around the silent bathroom, like a needle ramming its thread through the cloth of Trisha's brain. She dunked the choked rabbit into the tub again with a violent splash. "Fine!" Jumping out of the water, making yet a bigger mess across the floor of the bathroom.
She didn't bother to dry her hair; she didn't even bother to tie it up. She threw her clothes on which quickly became soaked from her dripping hair.
She ripped open the door to the bathroom and marched downstairs as she left a trail of drips behind her warpath towards the guest in her home.
Trisha ripped a chair from the table, making sure she made as much noise as she could to let her family and the stranger know she had arrived (still drenched).
Her mother's face cracked for a second from her fake smile into a look of anger before she quickly recovered back to her facade. She gripped Trisha's leg between her fingers, pinching as tight as she could as she continued to hide her anger behind her unconvincing smile. "Oh dear," she spoke through bared teeth. "You took so long in the bath I already put dinner up, maybe you should go reheat some for yourself, hmm?" she pinched harder.
"I'll be fine, Mom," she jabbed. "Maybe you should treat our guest to some dessert, like a good host should."
Her mother laughed. "Oh but honey, you can't lose weight when you are eating sweets all the time. Maybe that boy wouldn't be the only kid to like you if you weren't so fat," she smiled, pinching down even harder.
Trisha swatted her mother's hand off her leg in a very short tussle. Both the guest and Trisha's father stared awkwardly at each other, waiting for a hailed victor from the aggressive arm wrestle happening underneath the table. Both could sense the hostility, but neither wanted to make a single noise out of fear they might get pulled into the fray - a place quite obviously too deadly for any man.
The stranger scooted his chair back a little to help him ease out of the scuffled between the two, which made just enough noise for Trisha to turn sharply to him. "Hi," she leaned over the table, extending a hand and a drizzle of drips from her hair to the stranger. "I'm Trisha - the bastard child of these tw-"
She was cut off by a swift hand to the back of her head from her mother.
The stranger paused for a minute. While certainly he was afraid of the display, his face kept a very calm look on it. "Call me Rommel," his silken voice wrapped through Trisha's ear as he took her hand in a shake, "Captain of Fleet Core-One of the G.I.E."
Trisha fell back in her chair. "Great, fantastic, wonderful." she spoke bemused.
A brief awkward moment crossed between Trisha and her interrogation target, Rommel, before he cleared his throat and continued, "I was just telling your parents about how great the food is on -"
"Yeah, yeah," Trisha cut through. "That's great. So why is the G.I.E. here?" Her eyes narrowed intently on Rommel.
"Trisha!" her mother snapped in a hiss as she leaned forward and gripped Trisha's arm.
"It's okay." Rommel spoke smoothly as he motioned towards Trisha's mother to lean back in her chair. "A curious mind is a healthy mind."
Trisha's father laughed. "He's a brilliant man."
Trisha rolled her eyes. "Suck-up."
Rommel cleared his throat. "We came here after tracing a stray anomaly from the destruction site of S.C. Unity assuming it may be affiliated with the atta-"
"Wonderful." Trisha snapped, cutting him off. "So, you are saying you were within scanner range of S.C. Unity to not only see the anomaly, but figure it's trajectory as well?"
Rommel kept a calm collected attitude as he shifted back, in a more relaxed position in his chair. "Of course, but that's because Fleet Core-One has been outfitted with some of the best sensor arrays that money can buy - they are the most up-to-date -"
"Great." Again, her impatience cut through. "So you are telling me the G.I.E. has nothing," emphasis on 'nothing', "to do with the destruction of S.C. Uni-"
Trisha's eyes began to water as her mother's foot jabbed into Trisha's, but before she could lash out; her mother gave Trisha a huge embrace that – to those not keen on the feud between the two – would have thought it was a very loving hug, rather than an attempt to smother Trisha.
"No, no," Rommel continued his collected attitude. "I assure you, the G.I.E. has always sought diplomatic solutions over aggressive means."
"Except for the damn Lopps that undercut you." Trisha's dad filled in for the silenced Trisha, still wrapped in a mother's very loving embrace.
"Well, actually," Rommel reasoned with Trisha's father, "we had decided to forego the contract with INTAL when the Telkian Union had outbid us. We realized that, for the price of the contract with INTAL, the terms were not favorable.
"It didn't grant exclusive rights to INTAL. The contract stated that INTAL would continue to prioritize independent research and development even during active terms with the contract. Frankly, the terminology of the contract was a little too vague for us to feel comfortable devoting a large portion of our budget to the contract, so we backed out of the bid and let the Telkian Union take it."
"Hmmm." Trisha's father leaned forward, his interest piqued. "So if they still plan on doing independent 'research and development' and they have this contract with the Lopps, do you think they might be open to sharing some of the 'development' they do with the Lopps?"
Rommel cleared his throat and mirrored Trisha's father as he leaned forward as well, "It was exactly that fear that INTAL may potentially share the research done under the contract which made us back out of the bid."
"So what now?" Trisha's father scratched the back of his head as he sank back into his chair. "Are you just going to further the G.I.E.'s own R-and-D budget?"
Rommel shook his head. "No. We explored other smaller companies in a similar field to support our research needs. Thanks to AiMiDi Corporation's shrinking foothold in the market, they had a similar contract for a fraction of the price. Their terms were similar to INTAL's contract, but at the price we were able to get the contract for, letting them continue their own independent research and development is hardly a problem for us."
Trisha's father laughed. "I never imagined the G.I.E. would go Red. I always assumed they were for team Blue."
They both laughed together and harmoniously spoke in merriment. "It's the damn Lopps."
Trisha finally broke free of her mother's embrace, taking in a huge breath of fresh air before beginning her final assault. "What exactly does the G.I.E. need 'researched and developed' if you want to settle everything 'diplomatically'? You don't need high power ballistics to use diplomac-"
Trisha's mom stood up, wrapping an arm around Trisha's throat, dragging Trisha out of the room, but not before Trisha gave her final forte. "Why are you so determined to get a contract with a technology division? Why would you need weapons developed? Who are you going to shoot-" Her questions continued rapid fire until she was far from the dining room where she could no longer be heard. After the silence settled in there was a brief loud 'thump' followed shortly after by a door slamming.
"Did you listen to it?" Trisha asked anxiously as her watch's screen illuminated her face in the dark room.
Quil grimaced with a nod.
"Never mind the ‘Parental House Arrest’, did I get you what you wanted, your majesty?"
Quil's eyes went flat. "Yes. It was," he paused, "acceptable."
"O' how humble ye are," Trisha mocked.
"It was only three questions that got answered, and all were vague. It didn't really confir-"
"But didn't you feel it!?!" Trisha burst out with anxious excitement, "there is something off about him," her eyes narrowed. "He's lying." she jabbed.
"You sound more excited than me." Quil stated flatly.
Trisha's became flustered. "Hrm, erm," she sputtered. "Well, yeah, are you not? That man is a lying shill."
"Do you even know what that word means?" Quil raised an eyebrow.
"I know that he's sucking someone off - even if that someone is himself." Trisha frantically composed herself, trying to shake off the tangent she was being lead down. "Look, never mind that," she held up her goggles. One of the lenses were cracked while the other lens missing entirely. "Lives were lost in the battle for this information."
"Should I give you a moment of silence?" Quil remarked sarcastically.
"Yes." She sniped back.
An awkward moment passed between them.
"This is stupid." Quil broke the brief moment of silence.
Trisha rolled her eyes. "Well, I got you the info you needed. What exactly do you plan on doing now? Who is going to believe a kid if you are going to point fingers at the culprit."
"What?" Trisha cocked an eyebrow.
"It's knowing I can find the answer that is important to me. This," Quil grimaced, "however, is not enough to call it case-closed."
Trisha groaned loudly, "Uuuuughffff," turning the watch away from her face for a moment so that she could lower her head into her hands, giving a rather grand and exaggerated sigh of exasperation.
"Seriously?" Quil retorted flatly from the other end. "How did you think knowing what kind of sensors they have or knowing how they 'resolve issues' is going to help me? He deflected the questions very well. The only info that is useful is knowing they are seeking an anomaly."
A brief moment of silence filled the air (a moment longer than the one given for the downed goggles). Trisha sighed as she lifted her head back up to look at the watch screen where the boring, dull, log of a friend stared into space.
She shook her head before taking a deep breath. "Any idea what that anomaly might be?" She decided to muse his curiosity. 'Why do I do this?' was the only thought running through Trisha's head as she knew she was just going to let her friend take advantage of her further.
"The way he talked about it." Quil shuffled in place for a minute, maybe to help loosen some thoughts lingering around his mind. "The way he talked about it. He speaks like he knows it's not the culprit."
"Maybe valuable cargo Unity was transporting?" She continued to muse.
Quil shook his head. "Unity isn't a cargo vessel." His eyes narrowed as he looked away from the screen to clear his thoughts. "They traced it's trajectory to here. The best way to find out is to -"
"No, Quil!" Trisha interrupted, "Whatever the 'anomaly' is, the G.I.E. is very serious about it. If you follow them to wherever they expect it to crash, you're going to get yourself killed. You need to accept that this is out of your hands."
Quil remained silent for a minute as he continued to be lost in his thought about the anomaly and the 'planned trajectory' of it. He gave a very quiet and unconvincing "yeah," before letting the silence fill in again.
Trisha sighed. "Look, tomorrow night - you are going to be there, right? So long as you are finished with the stuff on your end, the only thing left is that thermal plate and we should be set."
Quil slowly moved his gaze back from his deep thought to his watch so he could see Trisha, giving her an affirmative nod.
"Good. Be there at nineteen hundred hours - sharp. Got it?"
Another affirmative nod from Quil.
Trisha shook her head. "Good night," she smiled, "Quil."