The Blaze family had long been controversial. They supported the Shepherds, but continually frustrated the Orthodox elements of their faction. Joseph Blaze was especially known for his tolerance of the weakling families that used genetic engineering to alleviate the sicknesses that exposure to the Earth’s surface had inflicted on them.

Such tensions between orthodoxy and openness existed in every mothership society, but while most ship commanders sided with their orthodox elites, making concessions only when necessary, the Blaze’s did the opposite: pushing technological development and cultural toleration forward in every direction while making the barest, often merely symbolic gestures towards conformity with orthodox ideals. The result was a vibrant, if somewhat fractured society that was held at arm’s length by the Shepherd Coalition.

When it became public knowledge that Joseph’s son Daniel had been experimenting with Cyborg technology—and had done so with his father’s encouragement—the ship’s orthodox officers finally saw their opportunity to strike. They circulated rumors that Joseph Blaze planned to defect from the Shepherd Coalition and fabricated evidence to fuel the controversy. General Tacitus, commander of the Shepherd Coalition, needed little convincing as the loyalty of the Blaze family had long been in question.

When summoned to the Shepherd High Council to defend himself, Joseph Blaze went willingly, eager to clear his name. When he arrived, however, it quickly became clear the trial was merely an excuse to sieze control of the Leviathan and replace Joseph with a less controversial, more orthodox commander. Daniel Blaze took command of the Leviathan, but the Council believed the young man could be controlled. The Council had no shortage of leverage over Daniel: they held his father hostage and, just to be safe, they had disabled the ship’s engines, removed its weapon systems and shields, and surrounded the Leviathan with turrets. That last measure was ostensibly to protect the mothership from a Cyborg or Mutant attack, but this did not explain why the turrets’ missile launchers were facing inwards…

Joseph requested that the Council allow him to send his son a Dream (a VR-based form of correspondence) and they granted this request…after, of course, they thoroughly examined the Dream for any trace of subversive content. In the Dream, Joseph explained his circumstances to his son and encouraged him put aside any anger he might be feeling towards the Shepherd Coalition. Daniel’s closest friend, Jax Bakhtar, delivered the Dream and Daniel understood the hidden meaning behind this choice. Joseph, despite his captivity, had allies inside the coalition and they were willing to help.

Using his cybernetic implants—technology unknown to the Shepherd High Council—Daniel scanned the Dream for hidden content and soon discovered a Dream within the Dream. This Inner Dream uploaded into Daniel’s brain the codes necessary to unlock the Leviathan’s engines. It also included a second message from Joseph in which he explained that if Daniel were to fly the Leviathan beyond the ring of turrets, the Council would immediately know of Joseph’s subversion and sentence him to execution…but that Daniel should do it anyways. Safeguarding one’s people, Joseph explained, was a mothership commander’s highest responsibility—more important than one’s self, faction, or even family.

With the help of Jax and the officers most loyal to the Blaze family, Daniel killed the Shepherd “ambassadors” tasked with guarding him, activated the Leviathan’s engines, and set a course for escape. He activated his cybernetic tear and emotion suppressors so that his eyes and mind would stay clear for the trials before him. Daniel’s people needed him; his grief could wait.

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Author Marozzo
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War to the Core

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