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Serene Harbour is an abandoned settlement located on planet 3 b in the R CrA Sector AF-A d42 system. Based on logs recovered from the site, it was a secret prison and interrogation facility operated by the Imperial Intelligence Service. Almost all of the prisoners and staff were reportedly killed on January 26, 3307, after a team of soldiers in Imperial uniforms sparked a riot to provide cover for the rescue of a group of prisoners designated "Theta Group", who were members of the Neo-Marlinist Liberation Army. A distress signal activated by Serene Harbour's commandant, Captain Gabriel De Luca, was picked up on January 28, and independent pilots subsequently discovered the facility and its apparent fate. The Empire officially denied any knowledge of Serene Harbour and alleged the facility and the logs were fabrications created by the Federation to damage the Empire's reputation.

History

Since the start of the Neo-Marlinist Liberation Army's attacks in September 3306, a number of Marlinists arrested by the Imperial Internal Security Service were turned over to the secretive Imperial Intelligence Service for interrogation at the covert prison Serene Harbour. On January 20, 3307, Serene Harbour received a group of NMLA members captured in LTT 1935 who were designated "Theta Group". Commandant Gabriel De Luca personally oversaw their interrogation, but the prisoners proved unusually resilient. On January 26, a supply shuttle that was intended to delivered a new piece of interrogation equipment arrived, and is believed to have used Imperial Intelligence protocols to disable Serene Harbour's security systems, allowing all of the facility's prisoners to riot. The shuttle deployed a unit of soldiers in Imperial uniform who eradicated the prison's staff and all prisoners except Theta Group. The assumed ringleader of Theta Group, Theta Seven, apparently used the interrogation equipment transported by the shuttle to torture Commandant De Luca to death before he, his cohorts, and the soldiers departed aboard the shuttle.[1]

A public distress signal activated by De Luca was picked up by Commander Elsa Solomon on January 28 as she passed through the Swoilz XX-D c1-30 system. She reported the signal to the Pilots Federation, who issued a general request to scour systems within an 80 light-year radius of Swoilz XX-D c1-30 for the signal's source.[2] Later that day, Theta Seven himself sent an encrypted tranmission to the Pilots Federation containing the surface coordinates for Serene Harbour.[3] Independent pilots discovered the Serene Harbour settlement soon after and recovered the commandant's personal logs. Based on what De Luca witnessed, it appeared that the NMLA had infiltrated the Imperial Intelligence Service or had NMLA sympathizers within its ranks.[1]

Imperial senator Karl Nerva spoke to the media on February 3 about Serene Harbour, denying that the site had any association whatsoever with Imperial Intelligence or the Empire. He claimed that Serene Harbour and Commandant De Luca's logs were a disinformation scheme staged by the Federation to undermine the Empire, and offered assurances to the public that Imperial Intelligence acted within the law at all times and was prepared for all possible threats. He did, however, confirm that Gabriel De Luca was a member of Imperial Intelligence, but explained that the commandant had died years earlier and his identity had presumably been stolen.[4]

Logs

Log No. Log Text
1/4 COMMANDANT’S LOG SH-343 20/01/3307 18:30

A new group of inmates were delivered today — Theta Group. My guards gave them the usual welcome that all our guests have to go through. Afterwards they were assigned their designated numbers. Nobody gets to use their name here, myself included. Even these voice logs are automatically processed to remove all identifying markers. It makes our job much easier, knowing there were never any real people at Serene Harbour.

Everyone In Theta Group is a confirmed member of the NMLA. We’ve had Marlinists here before, but they didn’t last long before telling us what we wanted to know. The IISS were grateful for the information, and their raids on terrorist cells were very successful. As always, we’re happy to let them take the credit. As long as it keeps the spotlight away from Imperial Intelligence.

What’s slightly unusual about these Marlinists is where they were captured. Prisoner files say they had an advanced workshop hidden in LTT 1935, a Federal system. It’s thought that these were the people who built the enzyme bombs that were used in the starport attacks last year. So we have some real celebrities in our cells.

It’s a mystery to me Why everyone is so scared ofthe NMLA. I’ve handled radicals like them before. Emperor’s Dawn, Silver Oracle, League of Reparation… they all broke eventually. These will break too.

2/4 COMMANDANT’S LOG SH-343 24/01/3307 19:12

Theta Group are proving to be harder to crack than I expected. Most of them haven’t said a word so far. Screams don’t count as words, obviously.

The man we think is their leader, Theta Seven, is supposedly something of an engineering genius, despite being covered in corrosive scars. During questioning, he just closes his eyes and lets it happen. Something tells me he might have gone through this before.

A few of the others are more vocal, but not with anything useful. Theta Twelve just spits abuse, whereas Theta Two is always shouting some nonsense about ‘remembering the nine martyrs’. She’s using a technique I’ve seen from other extremists, where they self-reinforce by reminding themselves of their cause. But they don’t usually hold out for this long.

We’ve been told that these terrorists need to look healthy and intact for a public execution, which limits our usual methods. Therefore, I’m taking an alternative approach. I’ve requested a neurosensory amplifier to be loaded onto the next supply shuttle. It’s a delicate piece of medical equipment, so I told them to mark it as fragile.

3/4 COMMANDANT’S LOG SH-343 25/01/3307 00:22

Situation report. We have a major incident. A large-scale security breach is in progress. I cannot explain how this has happened, but… the prisoners are no longer in captivity. They got free. All of them!

Just as the supply ship was coming in to land, most of our automated systems shut down simultaneously. Cell doors unlocked, electric barriers were disabled, even the sentry Skimmers outside just dropped to the ground. And the inmates came surging out – too many to stop.

I managed to reach my office, but I’m watching what’s going on via the monitors. It’s brutal. Several of my men have been killed already. There are prisoners running riot everywhere, smashing whatever they can find, although… Theta Seven hasn’t joined them. He’s still sitting in his cell, even though the door’s open. It looks like he’s waiting.

Could he have done this? Top-rank Imperial Intelligence officers have override codes giving them remote control of assets, which would explain this security shutdown. But Theta Seven can’t know those codes, unless he’s stolen them somehow?

All of Theta Group look calm, like they knew this was going to happen. Maybe that’s how they resisted our questioning for so long... they had hope. They probably timed this so they could hijack the supply ship and escape.

But it’s not going to work. I’ve ordered my remaining guards to retreat to the control room and await reinforcements. We anticipated breakout attempts like this, which is why all our shuttles carry a full squad of combat troops. I can see them on the external cameras now, leaving the ship and heading inside. They look heavily armed. Good. I think we’ll have everything locked down again soon.

4/4 COMMANDANT’S LOG SH-343 25/01/3307 00:58

This is an emergency broadcast on all frequencies from Serene Harbour. We are an Imperial Intelligence detention facility, and I’m the... my name is Commandant Gabriel De Luca, ID code XTU67065. I might… might be the only survivor. There’s been a breakout. A massacre!

The soldiers from the ship killed them all. They just stormed in and started shooting, gunning down prisoners and guards alike. I watched it happen, all the corridors filled with laser fire, the bodies piling up. My men didn’t stand a chance.

They wiped out every single person... except Theta Group. The troops let them live. More than that, they escorted them back to the ship like they were senators!

Why are our own soldiers doing this? Are they… has the NMLA infiltrated Imperial Intelligence? Used our override codes against us? It sounds impossible. It must be impossible!

I’m not sure if this transmission is getting through. They might be jamming our comms. I’ll try again once the ship’s taken off. I don’t know why it’s still Sitting there, or what the hell is happening -

Wait. I can see on the monitors, two people have come back in through the airlock. They’re still suited, I can barely see their faces through the helmets, but one looks badly scarred… Theta Seven! It’s got to be. Why has he come back?

They’re heading inwards, past all the corpses. I think they’re… I think they’re heading for my office. And they’re carrying something between them. A large steel box with writing stamped on it, that says... it says...

Fragile.

Timeline

07 JAN 3308

  • Senators have refuted ACT's claim that the NMLA made use of official but highly secret Imperial communications devices. Captain Saskia Landau maintains that the terrorist group's dark-comms network was very similar to the Omega Grid, an undetectable messaging system used exclusively by Imperial Intelligence. Senator Karl Nerva told the media: "In her desperation to seek out the NMLA, Captain Landau is chasing shadows. Imperial Intelligence must operate under total secrecy, but I assure you that this 'Omega Grid' is just as much of an invention to discredit the Empire as Serene Harbour was. Landau has overstepped her authority with these outlandish accusations. I once again propose that ACT be disbanded and its operatives returned to normal duties." The Imperial Herald reported that other senators are calling for Emperor Arissa Lavigny-Duval to overrule those who are blocking ACT's investigation. The newsfeed highlighted that she did not attend any functions in person during the past year, and has not broadcast any public messages. In response, Chancellor Anders Blaine gave this statement: "Her Majesty was placed under secure protection in early 3307 after several failed assassination attempts by the NMLA. She has been communicating remotely with the Senate on all official business, but does plan to return to Capitol very soon."[5]

08 NOV 3307

  • The creators of the NMLA's caustic enzyme bombs have been arrested, although the terrorist figurehead Theta Seven remains at large. Theta Group is directly responsible for 17 starport bombings conducted by the NMLA across the core systems. These attacks resulted in a combined death toll of almost 800,000 people, with twice as many suffering serious injury. Senior Agent Tanya Ramirez, one of the Affiliated Counter-Terrorism unit's co-leaders, told the media: "We have finally tracked down the NMLA's bomb-making engineers, and a joint task force made the arrest with minimal casualties. Large quantities of Thargoid corrosives and explosive components were also seized. This achievement was only possible due to intercepting Theta Group's communications with Neo-Marlinist sympathisers. We are unsure why the NMLA's dark-comms network was not used in that instance. As our intel predicted, the group's leader Theta Seven was not among those we captured. We have confirmed that he and a handful of followers disappeared after the bombings in July, anticipating their imminent capture. ACT will not rest until the galaxy's most wanted terrorist has been brought to justice." The name 'Theta Group' was assigned to the bomb-makers during their incarceration at Serene Harbour, an Imperial Intelligence penal facility in the R CrA Sector AF-A d42 system. After escaping, their leader adopted his prisoner designation – Theta Seven – as a reaction to what he viewed as dehumanising treatment of Neo-Marlinists by the Empire.[6]

19 MAR 3307

  • Private investigators Erik Gunnarson and Francesca Wolfe review the Neo-Marlinist Liberation Army.
    Gunnarson: "We don't usually get involved with political cases, but it's hard to ignore the largest terrorist attack in history. The NMLA is a radical offshoot of Marlinism, a democratic movement named after the Republic of Achenar's original ruler, Marlin Duval. Most are peaceful protester types, but Neo-Marlinists want to overthrow the government by permanently removing the Imperial Family. What nobody knows is how the NMLA went from minor troublemakers to interstellar terrorists. The starport bombings last September came from nowhere, and their assassins have killed many Imperial bigwigs including Prince Harold Duval. Smart money was on them being funded by Empire's enemies, but now the NMLA treat the Alliance and Federation as equal targets. Hitting all three superpower capitals was a hugely symbolic gesture, and should have been impossible. How did they bypass security and plant explosives without detection? Who the hell are these people? Even Wallglass doesn't have a clue. But we won't stop searching."
    Wolfe: "Despite my enquiries – and some unauthorised snooping – there's no trace of the rumoured NMLA bomb factory in LTT 1935. But it did once exist, because the Empire captured its occupants. Not that they'll admit it. 'There is no such place as Serene Harbour', right? Well, I've been to R CrA Sector AF-A d42 3b and seen it myself. It's bleak. Hope-crushing. And yet the NMLA prisoners listed as Theta Group escaped, broken out by what seems like Imperial Intelligence double-agents. That genuinely scares me. If the NMLA can worm inside the most shadowy security organisation in known space, they could be anywhere. And none of us are safe."[7]

12 MAR 3307

  • Vice President Brad Mitchell and a number of Federal Cabinet members have been killed in the recent terrorist attack on a starport orbiting Earth. The NMLA planted caustic enzyme explosives at Li Qing Jao station, where a government meeting was taking place. The VP and Cabinet members were confirmed to be among tens of thousands of casualties. Eight other starports across all three superpowers were simultaneously bombed. President Zachary Hudson, who was attending the Galactic Summit during the attack, made this statement: "This atrocity is nothing less than a declaration of war, and we will respond accordingly. For now, we mourn the loss of my close friend Brad Mitchell and other heroes of the Federation. I will personally appoint replacements to their positions soon." The Federation has directly accused the Empire of being responsible, by allowing Neo-Marlinist bomb-makers to escape from a secret prison facility. The Imperial Senate reiterated that 'Serene Harbour' does not exist and is part of a Federal disinformation campaign. Followers of Marlinism have also received much public criticism. The Marlinist Colonies have repeatedly stressed that they do not support the NMLA and are unconnected to the attacks. Independent pilots have been asked to assist rescue and repair operations in the Achenar, Alioth, Eotienses, Gateway, Kamadhenu, Lave, Nanomam, Rhea and Sol systems.[8]

03 FEB 3307

  • *Pilots Federation ALERT*
    An Imperial Intelligence detention facility discovered in the R CRA Sector AF-A d42 system has been repudiated by the Empire. The outpost, named Serene Harbour, was located after its distress call was shared publicly by the Pilots Federation. According to the Commander Andee-X- who first investigated the site, all its occupants were dead as the result of what appeared to be a prisoner breakout. Unlike the Imperial Internal Security Service, the Imperial Intelligence organisation has no spokespeople or public channels. However, Senator Karl Nerva told the media: "The claim that high-security prisoners and terrorists are being tortured for information in an unregistered outpost is categorically false. There is no such place as 'Serene Harbour'. We believe that independent pilots have been duped by a Federal ploy to undermine the Empire, using fake locations and logs for theatrical effect. I assure all citizens that Imperial Intelligence operates fully within the law and remains vigilant against all threats." When asked about Commandant Gabriel De Luca, who was identified by surviving logs at the outpost, Senator Nerva replied: "Captain De Luca was indeed an agent of Imperial Intelligence, but died on active duty several years ago. It's obvious that this respected hero's identity has been stolen to add credibility to anti-Imperial disinformation."[4]

28 JAN 3307

  • *Pilots Federation ALERT*
    An encrypted message seems to provide planetary coordinates related to the mysterious signal from 'Serene Harbour'. The message received by the Pilots Federation was as follows:
    Welcome to Serene Harbour. 56.4 latitude -8.3 longitude. Theta Seven.
    Although this pinpoints a geographical area on a planetary surface, the astronomical location of this body remains a mystery. It is unclear whether 'Theta Seven' refers to additional map coordinates of some kind, or is a code-phrase intended for unknown recipients. Little is known about the original distress call, other than its brief content:
    This is an emergency broadcast on all frequencies from Serene Harbour. We are –[3]

28 JAN 3307

  • *Pilots Federation ALERT*
    An independent vessel has detected a fragment of a mysterious message coming from an unexplored region of space. Commander Elsa Solomon was travelling through the Swoilz XX-D c1-30 system when her ship's communications array picked up a faint transmission. The message was as follows:
    This is an emergency broadcast on all frequencies from Serene Harbour. We are –
    The transmission ended abruptly and did not resume. The signal did not contain any identification data or indications as to its origin. Commander Solomon gave more details to Vox Galactica: "The message appeared in my comms panels as text and an electronically generated voice. I wasn't able to determine a source, only that it was broadcast within 80 light years of that system. My schedule was tight so I couldn’t spend long tracking it. I have no idea if Serene Harbour is a starport, a settlement or even a megaship, but this is obviously a mayday signal. Someone somewhere is in serious trouble. I've asked the Pilots Federation to share the information in case any of my fellow Commanders can help." To help triangulate the source, there is a callout to any other ships that were in the area at the time, which may have received a similar broadcast. However, no responses have been received as yet.[2]

References

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