Part I – Lost in the dark

Lorville – Hurston – Stanton system – UEE Space

Stanton I and it’s satellites were sold to Hurston Dynamics in 2904. Soon after it was renamed to Hurston and it’s moons took names of important members of the Hurston family.

While UEE retains the rights to the system itself and maintains security in it’s space, Hurston Dynamic has it’s own security force maintaining order. However they do hire contractors for the occasional help.

The city of Lorville is the hub of Hurston Dynamics operations in the sector. Housing their manufacturing plants, Teasa spaceport and the massive 4km tall Hurston Dynamics HQ. However a city of this size doesn’t go without problems.

Hurston Dynamics prides itself on it’s work-life doctrine. Workers live in habs right next to their places of work. Contrary to how it sounds, it actually increases worker happiness and productivity. This of course doesn’t come without trouble.

The Hurston security force has encountered increasing crime. Their forceful presence and what you might call abuse of citizens of Lorville has recently come to the light of media and human rights activists.

Hurston was one of my first assignments after joining the private sector. We were hired to help improve the HD surveillance system and to look into some cases that could be connected off world. Normally the latter would be handled by the Advocacy, but we all know that corporations don’t get along with Advocacy.

My first sight of Lorville was through the canopy of a Cutlass I was flying there. It was loaded with our gear. We had a fairly large team flying in. My Cutlass, one Valkyrie loaded with two Cyclone rovers and two Avengers. In total, ten operators and a lot of gear.

Hurston Dynamics assigned two hangars for us to use. It was generous, but then again, they needed out help.

When the ramp went down I was immediately greeted by the intruding presence of the security forces. We were there to help and yet they were waiting for us in force and they were watching our every step as we unloaded our gear.

One thing I have to respect about Lorville is the transit system. Fast, reliable, effective. Takes you straight from Teasa Spaceport to Worker’s district. Which is where we were staying and where our “office” was.

When you visit the Worker’s District you notice the smell. The smell and the terrible air quality due to it’s proximity to the factories. Another thing you will notice is the dirt and trash. It’s all over the place, broken equipment, discarded parts or clothes or food and all covered in dust blown here by the wind. There are workers and guards everywhere. Due to the shift based schedule you will have a lot of people moving around, trying to complete their tasks but also a fair number just hanging around between work. The guards generally patrol key areas and rush everyone along or disperse gatherings. To an untrained observer it might seem that they have everything under control. Another thing that hit me almost immediately were cameras, they were everywhere, watching every spot. I suppose that was the system we were supposed to work on, along with our other tasks.

That evening I looked over the crime reports and statistics provided to us along with some relevant case files. Lorville seemed to have a bit of a drug problem and a illegal gambling problem and a prostitution problem. It’s not the crimes themselves that cause trouble, but the health and inherently performance impact on HD’s workers and you bet the corporate doesn’t like that. Well, that and all of the mentioned crimes are illegal in the UEE. You can’t really blame people for turning to these vices, I suppose life here is pretty stressful. What came as a surprise to me was that violent crime is very rare in Lorville. Yes, you will have the occasional bar fight but almost no murders. Well, with the number of missing persons reports there definitely are bodies in the city, but no one is really looking for them.

The nightlife of Lorville is vibrant and dynamic, I thought it would be a good place to start looking into the drug trafficking and now also missing persons cases. Judging by the infraction records I had a feeling these two were somehow connected.

The citizens of Lorville are not allowed to carry firearms so I made a great deal of effort to conceal my pistol while I was out, despite as a contractor being allowed to carry it.

At night one more thing becomes apparent about the ambience of Lorville, there are HD advertisement billboards everywhere.

“Stop. Think.”

“You are being watched.”

“Silence is compliance.”

Feels a little bit like propaganda, doesn’t it?

Lorville is riddled with maintenance tunnels and floors. These places rarely have security cameras which makes them a perfect place to hide your illegal business. I ventured into these areas more than once during my stay. At first I would stay out of trouble and not mostly observe, but once I felt I had the general idea of what the society down there is like I went deeper in and started asking questions, carefully of course. Whenever I wasn’t asleep or my technical skills weren’t needed I would be down there. I wouldn’t be the only one, our team would have someone down there almost constantly.

As with most underground societies and gangs you find that the one group that controls the drugs and weapons is the one controlling the entire scene. You would have smaller gangs too, but they would usually hold small territory and would lack ambition. Lorville is no exception to this rule.

Drugs and prostitution are the driving force of Lorville’s underground economy. Drugs mostly come from off world, smuggled in cargo containers. There was a small portion of low grade drugs made in the city, but local security would swiftly shut down any labs they could find and the punishments are severe. The reason for drug use in Lorville is simple, life here is difficult. Long working hours, relatively small wages, no privacy and the constant watchful eye of the corporation.

Prostitution was a little harder for me to grasp. But I realized that much like everywhere else there is a market for the pleasures of the flesh. The women in the industry just want to earn a little extra money. Unfortunately for them, they often get caught up in the black market schemes and drug addictions.

I noticed a lot of my missing persons reports are young women who had trouble with security or low credit balance before disappearing. I didn’t want to just go into the tunnels with pictures and ask questions, that would be too dangerous. I picked one picture, went down into one of the illegal bars.

I had a few drinks with people I knew to be regulars before showing them the picture telling them I’m looking for my friend. I heard a lot of stories about what happens to young women down there that night. But there was one thing in common. At some point the patrons get bored of them and the gangs can’t risk them to alert the security so they have to go. Supposedly they drive the women out of one of the auxiliary gates to a storage facility away from the city. I should have been more suspicious of the man who told me this.

We believed this lead so much we looked over the camera footage from the gate. We even found a suspicious convoy going out.

The same night we found the footage we made a combat landing at the only abandoned facility in the direction which the vehicles took. We advanced under the watch of the dropship’s gunners. The night was still and silent. The door to the bunker lit up by the Valkyrie’s floodlights.

We descended into the ground anticipating resistance…or even a presence. We found nothing, not even the slightest trace of anyone being here before us. We searched the inside until dawn and with the first light we searched close proximity of the bunker. Again, finding nothing.

As we flew back to the city, I couldn’t resist the feeling that the man in the bar looked familiar. I opened my mobiGlass and scrolled through the list of wanted criminals last spotted in the system. Jonas Simmons, wanted for human trafficking and slave trade, last spotted at a jump point to Stanton. The face matched and so did the tattoo of alien letters. We realized it was too late to get him, as he was probably gone with his next shipment.

One of my first large assignments, ultimately a failure of my own making. I tried to find answers and I let that pursuit get the better of me. Now I know, looking for answers often blinds you to the truth.

CONTINUE READING…

C

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *