Solider, renegade...and lost soul...


Tarsh, Lieutenant; Covert Operations Section, MOS: CSC. That’s it. That is the sum of the knowledge this man knows of himself or of his past. The product of one of the Alliance’s early attempts at “ability enhancement” through direct mental manipulation, he has been left with no memory whatsoever of his past or how he came to be one of the Alliance military’s elite soldiers. Whether the loss of his memory occurred as an unintentional by-product of the process or was planned all along he cannot say, but his earliest memories are no longer of a mother’s loving smile or a father’s stern admonishment; not of nervousness on the first day of school or the exhilaration of playing some prank with his friends; nor of a lover’s first kiss or of seeing a newborn son or daughter for the first time. For him, first memories are a blur of Alliance scientists drawing blood samples and doing brain scans, of ability tests and performance analyses, of him telling those scientists and his superiors with a growing sense of horror that he couldn’t remember anything — not even his own name — and watching them respond with something like curiosity or, perhaps, a mild surprise — but never with concern. He remembers being told not to worry, the effect was (most likely) only temporary and even once being told it was not important, that he had other things to worry about instead, (a comment which earned the speaker a broken nose and Tarsh a week in the brig). There were others like him, of course; with him in secret facilities and remote training grounds, he seemed to do better than most though, but in this good fortune he was forced to watch more than one companion succumb to madness and, often, a grisly suicide.

With a bitter laugh he will tell any who ask that “MOS: CSC” stands for “Military Operations Specialty: Cortex Systems Control”, a rather cumbersome and inelegant way of saying “hacker” in military parlance, though a skill that now, at least, he is very good at. He tried for a time — a considerable amount of time, in fact — to discover some evidence of his past life on the galactic web, but to no avail. Even when he was able to learn the identities of comrades in some detail his own history remained conspicuously dark. Perhaps, he reasons, his keepers knew he would try to find out at some point and took extra precautions in this regard.

He isn’t sure at what point he decided to make his escape from the Alliance’s control. He is sure they would never have let him leave had he given them the chance but, as has been said before, hacking the cortex is a skill he has been made very good at and he used that skill to it’s fullest potential on the Alliance’s computer system the night he fled. It was quite a while before his superiors even knew he was gone and it will be even longer before they find a lead to where he might be.

Now, he seeks to discover his lost past or, failing that, to build a life anew, as a man rather than just a solider trained to infiltrate and kill. To those around him he presents the face of a highly disciplined (if weary) warrior, a professional in every sense of the word; it is, after all, the only life he knows. Inside, he feels too acutely the absence of any thing…human…in the only existence he has ever known. In joining the transfer crew of a civilian freighter, he hoped to begin a more peaceful existence, little did he know at the time he signed on how difficult that would be…

He is a moral man (a fact he considers ironic but hopeful, given that he has no idea from where he learned any moral compass), he desperately wants to be on the right side of any fight between good and evil. However, so far his career has been highlighted by his being hired legitimately by a company that was, in fact, a front for who knows what illegal purpose then being blackmailed by an Alliance captain who was in secret a rebel spy; then meeting a band of helpless girls who were in truth prostitutes and pirates that would rob but not kill and this followed by an encounter with “decent folk” in a community all too willing to do murder in the name of a corrupted religious doctrine. He knows now, in stark certainty, that the universe has become a far too complicated place for simple ideals of “right” and “wrong”. So now he travels with a crew that includes a pair of hired assassins seeking a killer even more nefarious than themselves, the lover (?) of a mass murderer who is riddled with guilt even though it is not clear at all that her lover was truly to blame for the death of thousands in a vicious civil war; a capable merchant who remains in desperate straits regardless of how hard she tries to ply an honest trade, a drug-addicted scholar trying to stay sober (sort of) while seeking a lost sister in the noblest of quests…and with Oliver.

Oliver, the ship’s engineer, is a clearly insane young man, capable both of keeping their ship — The Blackbird — flying with admirable skill while engaging in the most outlandish (and often dangerous) of antics with no warning whatsoever as to the changes between. A strange sort of friendship has developed between the two, Oliver clearly needs the guidance of the older man who, (with his years of military honor, discipline and tradition to draw upon), has the unique patience to deal with him without drawing his sidearm in frustration (a trait that has already been demonstrated to be beyond some of the other crew members) while Oliver gives Tarsh a touchstone to humanity, faults and all, and an opportunity to be something more than the “perfect soldier” whose talents are only meant for killing. Together, the pair and their erstwhile, mismatched companions, are struggling to survive another day as they continue their journey into the black…


Unification Terry