HEARTH

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After a six month voyage from the feral frontiers of the galaxy, the BV Azariah touched down in TORCH‘s capital city of Chantico. All to deliver Colonel Tomasa Fairfax to her new assignment.

It was a boring hour through customs as the ship was searched and the paperwork squared away. The only sticking point was Tomasa’s Mark XIV Armored Exoskeleton Guided & Integrated Systems (AEGIS) armor in the hull.

“Fuck off,” Tomasa told the customs official pleasantly. “This AEGIS is mine. I earned it, I need it, and nobody has the right to take it from me.”

The woman behind the desk was an angular, bony HEARTH customs agent with a completely shaved head that she admittedly rocked. She was tall, a full head taller than Tomasa. “I have no doubt that it’s worth a lot to you,” she said as though she was explaining something to a child. “But civilian possession of weaponry is highly restricted.”

“Civilian?!” Tomasa jutted out her chest proudly, showing off the sparkling medals hanging over her left breast. “You see all these? You follow the news at all? I spent the last few years on a little planet called Paran-7, maybe you’ve heard of it?”

“I don’t think I’m familiar with that one, actually.” The HEARTH officer blinked at her insipidly. “According to your paperwork, you aren’t here to serve with the security forces. You’ve been elected to the Sorority- which makes you, by definition, a HEARTH agent without the clearance to own military-grade weaponry.”

Tomasa ground her teeth. “You’re telling me a Sorority sister can’t defend herself?”

“Not with military-grade hardware she can’t.”

“I can’t even store my AEGIS in my lodgings?” Tomasa’s temper began to mount. “I was explicitly told I could keep it.”

“New security regulations, miss.” Her purposeful omission of Tomasa’s rank had to be a passive-aggressive insult. “They came into effect during your voyage.”

Tomasa groaned. “Well, what do you recommend I do?” she demanded. “There’s nowhere I can store it, and the Azariah isn’t staying.”

The customs officer looked at her with mincing false sympathy. “So sorry about this.”

Tomasa clenched her fists. How she would love to knock a few of this mealy-mouthed bureaucrat’s teeth down her throat, that’s what they’d do on Paran-7.

But she was as far removed from the front lines as possible. Tomasa was political now,  she had to solve this diplomatically. “If I could speak to Grace-”

That got the customs official to laugh. “You? What business do you have with the Mater Protectoris? And show respect when you speak of her.”

“Bitch, she and I are personal friends.” Tomasa held up her watch and skimmed down her list of contacts. Between “Golgotha” and “Gray Hair, Great Kisser” (she should probably delete that one) was “Grace Diakon”.

The customs officer peered at the contacts list and glanced up skeptically. “Uh-huh. You know the Mater.”

With a snarl, Tomasa hit call, but it wasn’t Grace who answered. It was another woman, one with a soft and slightly tinny voice. “…Tomasa? Where are you?”

“Who’s this?” Tomasa asked.

“Oh, we haven’t met, have we? I work for the Mater Protectoris. My name is Manna, it’s a pleasure. I was to meet you here in the spaceport, but I don’t see you.”

“That’s because I’m hung up in customs. HEARTH won’t let me take my AEGIS into the city.”

“Ah, yes… the new regulation. May I speak with the official on video?”

Tomasa held the watch away from herself and pressed the video chat button. The back of a woman’s head appeared in hologram. She was mousy and petite, with silky brown hair. “Hello officer,” Manna told the bald bitch. “I speak on behalf of Grace Diakon, the Mater Protectoris. She will take possession and responsibility for Colonel Fairfax’s armament.”

To Tomasa’s satisfaction, all the color drained from the official’s face. “O-of course. If I had known she was with the Mater… by all means. And, uh, could you tell the Mater what a fan I am?”

“Of course. The Mater appreciates your assistance.” Manna was perfectly, blandly pleasant like an air freshener.

Tomasa stuck her tongue out at the customs official as she walked past, AEGIS in hand. She made her way through the gate and into Diakon Spaceport proper.

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