The two prisoners, surrounded by almost a dozen partherians walk down the corridor of the battleship. There’s no mistaking its design as Partherian, octagonal halls with harsh white lighting and bare metal grates for the floor, the faint odor of moss. The entire entourage is stomping down the corridor for the prisoner’s afternoon meal.
“Excuse me.” A voice says from behind the group.
As the group turns prisoners and jailers alike, they come face to face with a single biped standing in the corridor. It’s wearing a long brown coat over some type space suit, body armor set up. The strangers head is entirely covered by some kind of form-fitting helmet and face mask. The entire faceplate is mirrored and outlined in a blue glow.
The intruder raises two pulse pistols into the air, blasts ringing out, dropping six of the Partherians guards. As the rest scatter, the two prisoners fall to the floor, the metal grating pressing against them. The stranger is still standing in the center of the corridor, the faint sparkle of a personal energy shield visible. Blaster bolts are striking the shield causing it to ripple and spark. The personal shield is absorbing more hits than most off the shelf models are capable of, clearly a modified version meant to handle more abuse.
The mystery figure leaps from one side of the corridor to the other then runs straight at the remaining guards, leaping up and over them, firing as it flies over, guards dropping left and right.
Ten seconds or so later the remaining Partherians are unconscious, “You know you could have helped.” The stranger says, moving to stand over the two prisoners, still lying prone and partially hidden by an unconscious Partherian.
The prisoners crawl out from under their previously conscious captor, “With what? Our shackled hands? A harsh rebuke maybe?“ The female prisoner asks frowning as she helps her companion up. “Who are you? What are you? What do you want?”
Both prisoners are in standard Partherian prisoner coveralls. A single jumpsuit with pockets, a zipper up the center, numbers printed on the back and the right breast. Prison jumpsuit designs are apparently universal.
The masked figure looks up and down the corridor holding up one finger, “We better go, I didn’t go to the trouble of busting you two out, just to get zapped by Partherians, more are coming, and they’ll be more prepared than these goobers.” The stranger turns and walks down the corridor.
“Hey wait! Where are you going?” The female prisoner shouts as she and her fellow prisoner run after the stranger. They follow the stranger around a corner to a side corridor where the deck plating has been lifted up and away revealing a distinctly fresh burn hole in the Hull. The edges are still faintly red.
The stranger turns to the prisoners, “Lucky the Partherians keep their brig on the lowest decks. Watch the edges, still hot.” The intruder jumps down the hole. Hearing shouts from down the corridor the two prisoners exchange a glance and follow the stranger down the hole one after the other.
Partherians aren’t known for their intellect, but what they lack in the brains department they make up with size, two meters tall and at least a meter wide, their corridors are wide because they are. Partherian warships are to most other races, ugly. Apparently made with function over form in mind, they’re angular and blocky, with thickly armored hulls, and weapons everywhere. Resembling a child’s toy block, with engines on one face, weapons mounts on all the rest. This particular battleship is in deep space, transiting between a Partherian outpost world, and the home system. Typically a battleship wouldn’t be transporting prisoners, but this one was already en route, so it was easier than sending a courier ship.
Landing with a soft thud, thanks to the gravity field around the boarding tube the intruder steps to the side, “Ghost, get ready to go” the stranger says as it deactivates the personal shield and retracts the face shield on its head gear. He’s human, somewhere in his thirties, about six feet tall.
“Working” a sterile male voice replies.
The prisoners land softly next to him. The woman looks at him, “Human?” sounding as shocked as if their savior was a goldfish if she knew what a goldfish was. While she does know what a human is, they’re not exactly commonplace in this sector. Her tall companion looks just as confused.
“Do you want explanations, or do you want to be as far from that Partherian ship as possible?” the human calls over his shoulder, as he heads off, the prisoners hot on his heals. “Our stealth systems will keep them confused for a bit, but the hole in the floor will be a dead give away, more so if we’re still on the other end of the hole.”
From hidden speakers, “Boarding tube retracting, airlock sealed. We are ready to depart.”
“Great, thanks Ghost.” the stranger says as the trio arrives at the bridge of the ship. The stranger plops down into the pilot/command station, and begins working the console, “and away we go!” The ship lurches and tilts to one side as it increases the distance between the now fully alert battleship and them. The stranger flips a few switches, just before the ship rattles and shakes, “That’s weird, they must have gotten some upgraded sensors from someone. Partherian sensors shouldn’t be able to lock on to us that well. Ghost, deploy weapons and fire aft guns, keep them busy.” The ship lurches as the human pilot twists the ship this way and that, avoiding directed plasma blasts from the Battleship.
“Acknowledged.” The sound of hull plating moving and mechanical parts adjusting and shifting can be heard throughout the ship, followed by the telltale whine of energy weapons firing and recharging. The ship lurches again.
The prisoners are holding on to railings, “What’s going on? What can we do?” The woman asks. Sparks erupt from a nearby station, and she rushes over, her training taking over, to check the position and extinguish any fires.
The stranger is whipping the ship all over the place, evading the more powerful weapons fire, “Damn it! Hold on to something!” He shouts, before grabbing a slide lever and pushing it forward to the stops.
On the main display the stars that were careening around the screen steady, then stretch out into a flash of light. Their rescuer lets out a whoop and leans back in his chair, “That was exciting!”
The stranger/pilot turns to his guests, “Ok, now we can chat. Those big dummies won’t be able to track us at FTL, even if they’ve got better sensors than I expected, we’re clear.” He stands up and offers his hand, “I’m Wil, Wil Calder. You’re on my ship, the Ghost.” When neither reach for his hand, he holds his arms out expansively, spinning in a slow circle.
The female prisoner who’s been walking from console to console in the crowded space turns, “This is an Ankarran ship.” Less question, more statement, she nods appreciatively.
“You’re good, I’d be surprised if you didn’t identify it, but yeah, the Ghost is an Ankarran raptor, modified a bit over the years.” Wil is smiling broadly, clearly impressed with this fact.
Ankarran Raptors are essentially pocket warships, small, fast, and agile and with enough firepower to take on ships many times their size. The Ankarran are master ship builders, supplying many different races with warships, science vessels, and even commercial ships. Ships of all classes and sizes are made in the Ankarran shipyards. They’re expensive, so they’re rare outside of militaries corporate or government, and well-funded research outposts. The Raptor space frame was popular for a time, since it required a small crew to operate, but could travel for extended periods of time, and cover vast distances between supply stops. For years the Ankarrans sold to anyone with the credits to pay their fees until the GC and the Peacekeepers insisted on a more exclusive agreement.
“And you’re Zephyr, no last name because that’s what you peacekeepers do, and your big friend is Maxim, also no last name. You’re both, Peacekeepers, rather were, until recently. Now you’re fugitives of the Partherian Hegemony.“
Maxim finally speaks up, “We were set up. We’re innocent.“
“Maxim is right, we’re innocent. We were framed.” She looks Wil up and down, “Are you human?”
Shrugging Wil glances at the console behind him, “Honestly, don’t care, and yes, I am.”
“Typical bounty hunter scum.” Maxim takes a step toward Wil.
“I wouldn’t.” Wil says, “One word and Ghost will send a few thousand volts through you. Won’t kill ya, but you’ll wake up with a killer headache.”
Raising her hands, Zephyr turns from Maxim to Wil, “What can we tell you to make you believe us? Handing us over to Peacekeeper command is a death sentence for us both, and I assume you’re not going to hand us back to the Partherians. Is there a bounty? How much is it? Maybe we can pay more? Work off the debt or something?” She pauses, looks at Wil again, “And really? Human? Since when are humans out here? I didn’t even know you had space flight. Really? The GC has lifted the ban?“
Wil stands and walks over to another station, “Bounty? There’s no bounty on you, in fact, there’s no record of you, other than a news blurb buried in the feeds about two rogue Peacekeepers captured by the Partherians for trafficking in contraband, the Peacekeepers didn’t even try to negotiate getting you back. Hate to break it to you, but you’ve been disavowed. As for your other question, yes, I really am a human, flesh and blood, red blood in case you were gonna ask. As to how I got out here, it’s a long story, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one, which suits me just fine. No, the GC hasn’t lifted the ban.” He starts flipping switches and adjusting settings. Zephyr assumes getting ready to make a call to Peacekeeper command.
“Look, whether you believe us or not, or even care, it doesn’t matter. We’re trying to stop a war. The Peacekeepers are planning to stir up a few regional brush fires to force unaffiliated systems to joint GC. We found out and got set up. I’m guessing the Partherians got an anonymous tip that a Peacekeeper shuttle was carrying contraband through their territory and what do you know, found us. Our superiors hid something, we were never told what it was we were accused of carrying.“
Will looks up from what he’s doing, “Go figure right? Group calls themselves Peacekeepers, works for the hugest galactic government, you’d think would consider it a job well done, peace and all, but nope, always looking for more reasons to exist, and expand your power base. Y’all are a lot like humans, know that? Remind me to tell you about my bank.”
“There’s no need to insult us,” Maxim says with a sour look on his face. So far he hasn’t moved from where he stopped a minute ago, arms crossed, eyes scanning the small space. He’s a big one, Wil thinks.
“What he means is greed is universal.” Zephyr says, staring at Wil, “If there’s no bounty, why did you rescue us from the Partherians?”
Turning from the station, Wil gestures to the nearest seats and walks back to his pilot station. “Tell me a tale, we’ve got a while before we get there.”
“Where?” Maxim asks, taking a seat.
Zephyr sits and turns to Wil, “It’s not that long a story, but here goes. Maxim and I are… were part of a special operations detail. Our commander was a Centurion named Janus.” At this Wil makes a face, but Zephyr presses on, “I was working on some signal intercepts from… from non-Peacekeeper sources, when I stumbled across a feed that was Peacekeeper in origin, from the command complex I was in. Somehow it had been collected and bundled in with the intercepts, likely due to its destination. When I opened it I saw that Janus and several other high ranking officers in Peacekeeper command were planning several attacks throughout the frontier, but not attacks by Peacekeepers. They were funding rebel groups, to destabilize independent systems, attacks with the goal of creating panic to increase the need for Peacekeeper services, and more importantly to them, Peacekeeper ships in these systems. Nearly ten in all, systems that is. Ten new systems joining the GC would be huge, obviously.”
“The data files must have had meta data tracking on them, no sooner had I read the transcripts than I was summoned to Janus’ office.” The look on her face is pained.
“I take it you didn’t go to his office” Wil interjects, “How’s the big guy here fit in?”
Zephyr looks at Maxim and continues, “No I didn’t. I called Maxim, he’s my partner.”
“Wait like work partner or you two are bumping uglies?” Wil says, looking more interested than he has the whole conversation, leaning forward, “This is getting interesting.”
“Bumping what?! How dare you!“ Maxim leaps out of his seat, and before he can remember Wil’s earlier warning or take the five steps needed to cross the distance between them, Wil utters a word he doesn’t recognize and a bolt of blue current arcs from the ceiling through him to the deck plates. Dropping him to the ground.
“Maxim!” Zephyr is out of her seat and at his side in the blink of an eye. Wil barely even reacts. “Ok then, that answers that. Oh, and he’ll be fine, it’s a very mild shock, especially for a Peacekeeper. I did warn him, you were there, you heard me warn him. This isn’t my fault.
About that time Maxim starts to stir, and Zephyr helps him back to his seat, after a few muttered words, something, something human, she turns to Wil, “So, yes, he’s my lover. I told him what we’d found, and we agreed to flee, to take what we’d found to Tarsis. We were en route when the Partherians attacked us.”
Wil looks Zephyr in the eyes, “Cool. I actually don’t care, but it’s good to know as much about your crew as possible.” To say his smile is broad, would be an understatement. “Ghost, please show our new crew to the crew quarters, one of the larger births.”
“Acknowledged” The male voice of the ship replied. The door to the bridge opens, and a wall panel lights up, “Please follow the illuminated wall panel.” The ship’s voice says.
Helping Maxim out the door, Zephyr turns back to face Wil, “Thank you, and are all humans as, well, weird, as you?”
“You’ve no idea,” He says turning back to the pilot console, the door to the bridge closing.
Wil walks out of his quarters into the central crew space, made up of a lounge area, a kitchenette space with table, built into the side of the room, and a few other bits and pieces to make the space ‘homey.’
“So… Where are we going?” Zephyr asks from across the table. Her and Maxim had been holed up in their quarters, since the previous night, when Wil met them. The quarters aboard the ship weren’t half bad considering the type of ship it is. He had the computer keep an eye on them when he finally went to bed, and when he woke up, they were both in the galley. Cooking.
“Good morning to you too,” Wil said punching buttons on a machine. “We’re going to Fury…” He held up his hand as both of their heads snapped around to face him, mouths making what would be in other circumstances a comical ‘o’ shape. “Hey, don’t burn that bacon, it’s the last until I get more.”
“What’s bacon?” Maxim asks, before Zephyr cuts him off, “Fury is a hell hole, even the Peacekeepers don’t like to go there.” Maxim says, going back to shoving the bacon around in the pan.
“He’s not wrong,” Zephyr says, not taking her eyes off Wil. She, as well as Maxim, are still in their prisoner jumpsuits, but at least it looks and smells like they showered.
“No he’s not, and I agree completely. Unfortunately, that doesn’t actually change anything. We’re going to Fury. We’re going because you two need new identities and there aren’t many better places to do that. You two also need gear. I’ve got some spare this ‘n’ that, but you need your own stuff too. Especially things that need to fit right, and weapons you like to use.” The machine he’s harassing finally makes some grumpy sounding beeps and a few thunks, then begins dispensing coffee. “Now we’re talking.” He sighs.
Sliding bacon onto a plate in the center of the table, Maxim turns to Will, “We have no money.” Zephyr, who’s gotten up now sits down next to him with a bowl of, something Wil can’t recognize and starts scooping steaming piles onto her and Maxim’s plates. Where’d that come from? She looks over to Wil, eyebrow raised. He nods. Why not? She drops a pile of steaming something on a third plate.
Maxim grabs some bacon, putting it on his plate, “We have no money.” He takes a bite, “This is delicious!”
Wil smiles, “I know, right? On behalf of all humanity, you’re welcome. We don’t have much to offer the galactic community, but we do have bacon. As for money, consider it a loan against future payment, future cuts, whatever. I can’t use you if you’re easily tracked, and running around in Partherian prisoner jumpsuits.” He sniffs the pile of something on his plate and digs in, shoving a piece of bacon into his mouth with it. “I don’t know what this is, or where you found it in my galley, but it’s not bad!” Taking time to chew his food, then, “There’s a few shops I trust down there, and a hacker I know who can get you new wrist comms and idents.” He shovels a few more bites of mystery stuff and bacon into his mouth.
He takes a sip of his coffee and continues, “There’s also someone I need to see, we’re gonna need some money, it wasn’t cheap figuring out where you’d be, plus now outfitting you as well. It’s not my first choice for work, but it’ll pay well, whatever it is, and as far as things go, I trust the source.”
Trust might be a strong word, but Wil doesn’t have many friends in the sector.
Zephyr grabs another strip of bacon, “This really is quite good, what is it? Bacon, you said? What’s it made of?”
Wil grins and stifles a laugh. “Ask me another time.”
“Humans…” Maxim says watching the display, before turning to his own food.
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