A man named Isaiah Barnes found a superhero base and took an armored suit from the base. The suit was designed to facilitate trans-dimensional travel – heavily armored, teleportation matrix, nano-healing kit and a gate generator. This particular suit was keyed to the pocket universe of Sanctuary and was used by superheroes to store the wreck of a massive alien capital ship, too dangerous to leave on Earth, after it crashed there years ago. The human learned how to use the suit, injected himself with the AR nano package and opened a gate to Sanctuary. He found himself in the wreckage of the the ship. Shortly after exploring it, he encountered Mechanic, an alien salvager. Mechanic made a deal with the human (now calling himself Wayfarer), alien tech for certain goods on Earth – machine tools, medical supplies and laptop batteries.
The gate suit made theft simple. Wayfarer simply found warehouses that contained what he wanted, teleported in, opened a gate to sanctuary, teleported the supplies in, closed the gate and then teleported home. Wayfarer thought this was an equal and mutually beneficial relationship. Mechanic never told him otherwise. As an alien, Mechanic regarded humans rather poorly. The alien felt that if he told Wayfarer the truth, Wayfarer would exploit the situation, perhaps even bring in other humans to steal from Sanctuary. Mechanic even implied that he was part of the alien ‘mafia’ and this was a big criminal enterprise, lying about how it was extremely profitable to sell tech from the ship. Thus, Wayfarer had no idea of the gravity of the situation.
The capital ship was infested with spores that caused Luyten’s disease. The reactor had been damaged in the fight on Earth so the heroes had it sent to Sanctuary. Unfortunately, the move further damaged the ship and now it was too delicate to move again and its technology was too important to destroy. Thus, the spores festered in the wreckage. Measures had been taken to seal them in but after the heroes disappeared, the Sanctuary council ran out of supplies to keep the ship sealed and a leak infected several thousand citizens – half of which were human and thus highly vulnerable. Fortunately the doctors of Sanctuary knew how to cure the disease but it required months of treatment with a cure made from fresh spores. A clinic was established near the wreckage. The strain on the resources of Sanctuary meant that everyone on the planet had to sacrifice something to help the infected. But it still wasn’t enough. Salvaging the ship became necessary. Mechanic was one of the few to volunteer. He was immune to the disease since he had already been infected by it and his species were vastly more resistant to it than humans. Mechanic wanted to redeem himself for the atrocities he had committed as a soldier – to save innocent lives – even the barbaric humans.
The sensors set up to monitor the capital ship’s reactor had to be replaced often. Spores clogged them. Only a few people on the Ideal and on Sanctuary knew about this but it had been forgotten. So much was going on. Everyone was overworked. That could be forgiven. User error.
The reactor had never stopped since the fight. It started to heat up.
Wayfarer and Mechanic began to argue. Wayfarer was taking more and more risks to get the goods – he had even been shot (his armor protected him but it was a shock to him to say the least) yet Mechanic could not pay him more. As a proud soldier not wanting to show weakness, Mechanic would not beg or cajole Wayfarer. He just yelled. Wayfarer finally canceled the deal, telling the alien to fuck off. Wayfarer had only made a few thousand bucks from selling the tech but he figured he could just loot the ship on his own without the alien. Mechanic lost his temper and attacked. The two wrestled for a while, tumbling through the wreck. Wayfarer lacked the skills to even connect a blow on Mechanic and Mechanic could not get past the armor of the suit. Mechanic threatened Wayfarer, claiming that his criminal associates with armor piercing energy weapons were just below the ship and would be up shortly to kill him. Wayfarer was too panicked to think straight and was operating on instinct at that point.
They finally hit the reactor room. Mechanic realized how dangerous the reactor was at this point. He called for the fight to stop and tried to stabilize the reactor. In order to do so, Mechanic had to crawl into an unshielded section to access a certain control panel. The alien received a lethal radiation dose but managed to temporarily stabilize the reactor. Unfortunately, Mechanic passed out right after he crawled back out.
Wayfarer calmed down a bit and using the AR interface learned how the reactor worked. The reactor just needed to vent off the waste heat. Remembering what Mechanic had told him, Wayfarer vented the heat right under the ship, where the alien had told him that armed killers were waiting to assassinate him and steal his gate suit.
He vented the reactor.
Realizing their energy weapons would be worth a fortune, Wayfarer used the AR interface to navigate the ship and found an exit near the belly of the ship. He opened it, expecting to see a few dead aliens. He heard the screaming. Part of the clinic tent city had set up under the ship. The damage was indescribable. It was not hot enough to kill instantly. But it was hot enough to set fires and melt the skin. Not powerful enough to create a crater but just enough to cause a shockwave to scatter the flimsy structures of the tent city. Hundreds were already dead and fires burned through their tents and huts. Aliens of a dozen different species and humans burned around Wayfarer, a hell of his own making.
To his credit, Wayfarer stopped thinking and started acting. His mind had snapped and what was left was instinct. He had always thought of himself as a good person, not perfect, but the kind that would at least help the needy if saw them. That was all that was left that day. His desire to be good, to help the needy right in front of him. He saw a child and teleported her to safety. Then a woman surrounded by flame. A man crying out through the smoke. Wayfarer felt nothing as he saved as many as he could. He felt nothing when the air supply in his suit ran out and he had to breathe the air of Sanctuary, despite the warning about Luyten’s disease. He pushed himself until finally he teleported the last living victim he could find. He passed out at the feet of a Sanctuary doctor.
When he awoke, he was in a Sanctuary hospital, far from the capital ship. He was not restrained, nor was he in prison. But he was not alone. He was in a ward with other survivors from the disaster. Some were burned. Others had broken limbs. All had Luyten’s disease. A kindly old man noticed that Wayfarer was awake and asked him to come with him. Wayfarer was still too numb to ask questions or disobey.
The man took him to a conference room. Several councilors were there. A monitor showed footage from the AR interface of Mechanic talking to Wayfarer. They explained that they knew everything. The AR recorded all of his movements and actions. It had taken them a while to process what had happened but they had finally come to a decision. Wayfarer was free to go. His suit would be returned to him, although the gate device would be modified so that it would only open a gate to a secure building on Sanctuary. The government would always know when he would arrive and leave but he was free to come and go as he pleased.
“I vented the heat. I killed them all. I did it. Oh god, I killed them. How can you let me go?”
The lead councilor, a grey, replied calmly. “Because you were misled. It wasn’t your fault. Mechanic lied to you.”
Wayfarer broke down in tears.
Another councilor, an alien, spoke after a minute. “You did commit a crime by our laws but the venting wasn’t it.”
“What was it?”
“You knew that we were isolated. Alone. That the heroes couldn’t resupply us. Yet you tried to take advantage of the situation. Profiteering is a crime.”
Wayfarer’s stomach sank. He had always rationalized that part to himself. Mechanic had hinted several times that things were getting tougher but somehow Wayfarer still tried to get a better take for himself.
“So why aren’t I being punished for that?”
“Partially because Mechanic encouraged your perceptions but mainly because you helped.”
The screen cut to the first moments of the disaster. A moment of stillness then action.
“Most would have been overwhelmed with the realization of their action. Yet you acted. You saved many that would have otherwise died.” The old man spoke, the leader of the councilors.
“That can’t make up for what I did do.”
The old man sighed.
“No, but if the reactor had blown, who knows how many would have died. In the end, you made up for your actions. We can’t hold a misinformed person accountable for what is ultimately an accident. A terrible, tragic accident, but one none the less. Besides, I think you’ve been punished enough.”
Wayfarer then realized the old man was referring to the disease. Wayfarer had been infected.
“So what happens now?”
The old man shifted back in his seat, exhausted.
“You are free to go, of course.”
Wayfarer sat, numb.
“What do you want to happen?” the councilor asked.
“I…I want to help.”
“We offer nothing. No threats, no rewards. We have not damned you, nor can we promise anything to you. We can’t treat you. We don’t even have enough to treat all of our own citizens.”
“I understand that. I still want to help.”
“This will most likely not ease your guilt. It will probably make it worse. It will not bring you riches. It will bring you pain and fear.”
“I don’t care. I want to help.”
“We do not want your help, unless you give it freely and knowingly. Do not do this unless you think this is the right thing for you to do on its own merits.”
“It’s the only thing that makes sense to me. “
The old man sat up.
“Very well. Take this list. Go home. Bring what you can.”
And so it began. Wayfarer has spent several months now, stealing for Sanctuary. He has even come out of his shell, as the residents of Sanctuary have treated him quite well. He has even formed a few tentative friendships. Only the leadership knows of his involvement with the disaster. It is known he can gate out, as that has provided a slight morale boost but given that Earth is viewed as a violent unstable world, it is not viewed as an escape. Wayfarer is even seeing a therapist on Sanctuary to deal with the PTSD he suffers from as a result of the disaster. He knows that there is a cure for the disease on Earth at the Center for Disease Control but taking it will alert the US government. He is already wanted by Interpol for his theft and surely some genius can build a tracking device to trace his teleports Wayfarer is paranoid about placing Sanctuary in further danger and he feels that the US military will hunt him down so they can invade Sanctuary and loot the alien technology used there. Thus, he keeps delaying curing himself.