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Thanks for signing up for my newsletter! Enjoy Chapter one of ‘Space Rogues 4: The Horror Story Job’ You can also Space Rogues 4 Ch1 WIP.

Zephyr circles her opponent, padded bo staff held in a relaxed, ready position. Her opponent is in a similar stance, their eyes are locked on each other, waiting for the other to make a move.

“You know, I began my training with staff weapons at the age of twelve. When do Peacekeepers start their training?” Cynthia asks. She feigns a lunge, then turns on her heel and swings her staff in a wide circle, almost catching Zephyr in the ribs.

Almost, the Ex-Peacekeeper bends at the knees falling backwards while bringing her own padded staff up to deflect the blow. As her shoulder hits the ground, she kicks her legs up, catching Cynthia in the jaw as her legs come up and over. She’s on her feet in seconds. “It’s not how long you train, it’s how well you train.” She smiles.

Cynthia rubs her jaw then makes a purring sound, she feigns a swing for her Palorian opponent’s feet, then switches and swings up past Zephyr’s defenses, connecting with her ribcage, causing the Palorian woman to exhale loudly. As they separate Cynthia asks, “So are missions with you all, always like this?”

Zephyr twirls her staff, “Like what? What did you expect?”

Cynthia shrugs, makes a jab that Zephyr deftly deflects, “I don’t know, less screaming for sure.”

Zephyr makes a jab followed by a high swing, that Cynthia ducks easily, “You get used to the screaming. I hardly hear it anymore.”

The look on Cynthia’s face makes it clear she’s not convinced.

Zephyr turns slightly, then spins, leaping towards Cynthia. Her attack is blocked, and a foot lands squarely in her sternum sending her to the mat.

Cynthia leans down, extending a hand to help her Palorian friend up, “You like it here? It’s been what three cycles now?”

They both sit down on the bench at the edge of the mat. The mat is rolled out across the floor of the cargo hold. The Ghost is days away from Drellor Seven, where they’ll resupply after an extended mission to deliver some valuable artifacts to the Museum of Antiquities on Lopnar Three.

Zephyr nods, “I do. It took some getting used to, Maxim helped in that regard, having someone that knew me so well here with me.” She gestures around the hold, mostly empty save for a few crates that mostly never leave the ship. “This place is home now, for better or worse.”

The Tygran woman nods back, “Hoping for the former. I’m sure it helped to have him here with you, especially given the circumstances.” When Zephyr makes a face, she quickly adds, “Sorry.”

Shrugging, “Don’t be, it’s in the past. One of these days Janus will show his face, and I’ll put a blaster round into it. Thankfully after the Harrith thing, the Peacekeepers and GC saw that Maxim and I were innocent, so we at least have clean slates.
“Not that we’d ever go back into the Peacekeepers, but it’s kind of nice to be able to walk past a Peacekeeper patrol and not worry about being apprehended.”

“That must make trips to the market easier.”

“Much, I never thought much about it, but Peacekeepers are everywhere.” Zephyr sighs, “I’m hungry.”

Cynthia stands, “I’m going to get cleaned up, Wil promised something called sushi for lunch.”

Zephyr stands to follow, “Should be interesting. Hopefully, it’s better than baloony.”

“I think it’s called baloney.”

“Our efforts are generating results, slowly.” The voice on the commlink says.

Gabe is in the small space he has dedicated as his personal space in the engineering compartment, “That is good to hear. Progress was expected to be slow at first. Change does not happen overnight.” He is standing in the center of the small space, communicating with the Ghosts comm system wirelessly. Should anyone walk in, it would look like Gabe was just standing in the room, doing nothing.

“Indeed. I have an update on our efforts to grow our numbers.”

Gabe waits for fifteen militocks, “Proceed.”

“Each day we increase our numbers by an average of seventeen percent.”

“That is good to hear. Do not move too quickly on that front, it could be misconstrued as a hostile action.” Gabe warns.

“Understood.” The voice replies, with a hint of irritation to it Gabe thinks. He understands. Without further communication, the channel is closed. Gabe turns to the main engineering area and resumes the work he was doing before the operative called.

“Max! Over here!” Bennie shouts from the table in the stark white cafeteria. Several white coated aliens turn to stare at the Brailack waving to his friend.

Maxim turns to the Hulgian woman he walked in with, who nods and heads off to a table occupied by several other scientist looking individuals. He turns and heads toward Bennie. When he sets his tray down, he asks, “How’d it go today?”

“She’s playing hard to get.” Bennie says around bites of something that looks like mashed potatoes, except blue.

“Hard to believe.” Maxim says, barely hiding the grin.

Bennie points a little green finger at him, “I liked you better when you didn’t talk as much. Anyway, how’s it going in weapons testing land? You know they keep that place locked down tight? I’ve tried to hack credentials three times, and their system has blocked me each time.” He grabs a roll and takes a large bite out of it.

Maxim cuts a piece off the jerlack steak on his plate. He takes a bite and chews for a bit. He’s enjoying watching Bennie stare expectantly at him, waiting for an answer. He swallows, “It’s good.” A beat passes and just before Bennie explodes in frustration, Maxim raises a hand, “Seriously though, it’s going well. These Farsight folks have some really great ideas on weapons tech. Some of the stuff they’re working on could really have big impacts on intergalactic relations. Especially if they end up in hands that aren’t the Peacekeepers.
“Also, stop trying to hack the computer system. You wonder why they don’t like you? That’s probably part of it.”

Bennie scowls, “Hey, they hired us for our expertise. Mine includes computer system intrusion, think of it as keeping them on their toes.” He stops and looks at Maxim.

The big Palorian nods, “Yeah, I think you used that one right.”

Nodding, Bennie continues, “Besides, the system didn’t know it was me, they’re got a really intelligent system in place, it caught on and ended the session, before I was even really active. Impressive really.” He shrugs and scoops up another bite of blue mashed potatoes. He starts chewing, “They don’t like me, because I’m smarter.”

Maxim laughs, “No offense my friend, but these people are some of the best and brightest of the Galactic Commonwealth.” He cuts off another piece of jerlack steak and between chews, adds, “They’re paying really well, don’t screw this up.”

Bennie shrugs again, “We’re almost done, what could go wrong?”

Maxim stops eating and looks around expectantly. After a few seconds, “Well nothing exploded and there aren’t any alarms sounding. Could you try to not jinx it, please.”

Bennie makes a face, “You’re an ex-Peacekeeper. How are you superstitious?”

“You don’t last long as a Peacekeeper without picking up a few superstitions. Besides, you’ve been around Wil long enough to know that anytime he says, what could go wrong, something explodes, or someone shows up to try and kill us.”

Bennie takes a sip of his drink, a bright green liquid that is popular on the station, “Oh come on, that’s just a Wil thing. You know him, is it any wonder people are always trying to kill him?”

“Good point.” Maxim nods, then gets serious, “So, how serious is this thing with Ginnit? Think you have a chance? You’ve only got a few more days.”

“Oh, she’ll come around. Women can’t resist my charms.” The Brailack hacker has a lascivious grin.

“Cynthia did.” Maxim points out.

“Even pro doxball players have a bad day. What she sees in him is beyond me.”

“He’s taller than you.” Maxim says, taking another bite of jerlack.

“Size isn’t everything.”

“That’s not what I’ve heard.”

“So,” Cynthia says. She’s at her station, behind Wil’s pilot and command station. “That last mission, or do you call them jobs? That normal?”

Wil locks the controls and turns his chair one hundred and eighty degrees to face the latest addition to the crew of the Ghost. Since joining up she’s taken to wearing the same grey jumpsuit the rest of the crew wears when aboard the ship, though hers is distinctly more form fitting than anyone else’s. “What do you mean? The screaming? You get used to it, more or less. He started that after the dreadnaught thing, I think it really shook him.”

She runs a hand through her now close cropped brown hair, having cut it shortly after officially joining the crew of the Ghost. “Perhaps you should talk to him about it.”

“I’ve tried,” When she squints at him, he shrugs, “Kinda. I mean what do I say? Hey man, that existential terror that’s deep down inside, don’t sweat it.”

“Perhaps something a little more sensitive,” She pauses, “You know what? Never mind, I will talk to him when he and Maxim get back.” She shudders, “The screaming is really disconcerting.”

Wil stands up and walks over to her station, running a finger along her ear, “Ok, is there anything else we can talk about?”

She reaches up and moves his hand away, “Down boy, Zephyr will be back any time now.”

As if waiting for her queue the hatch to the bridge opens, Zephyr walks in with three mugs of coffee on a tray. She looks at the two of them, “Uh, not on the bridge, that’s gross.” She reaches out, handing Wil and Cynthia a mug, “Not to mention completely unhygienic.”

Cynthia laughs and shoves Wil back towards his station, reminding him of her considerable strength relative to him. She looks over to Zephyr, who’s taking her seat, “Thanks,” she raises her mug, then takes a sip, “Ready to see your beau?” She looks at Wil, “Use that right?”

Wil finishes his own sip, then nods, “Yeah, but let’s not say beau, I reminds me of that TV show where the women compete for the affections of some handsome rich dude, they always say beau.”

“Jealous?” Cynthia asks, then before Wil can answer, “Seriously, it’s been two months since you all welcomed me into this little band of misfits you call family. I want to make sure I’m doing it right.”

“Doing it right?” Zephyr says, turning to look at her new crew mate, and friend. “There is no doing it right,” She points at Wil, “I mean, he’s in charge, how could there be?”

“I meant the earthisms.” Cynthia replies.

“Ouch!” Wil blurts, raising a middle finger, without looking up from his console, then adds, “They’re not called Earthisms, though they kind of should be.” Turning to face Zephyr, he takes a sip of coffee, then, “Have you heard from Max?”

“We spoke last night, he’s enjoying the assignment, but worries Bennie may get thrown off the station.”
“Sounds about right.” Wil comments.
“Agreed. He said they’re on schedule to rendezvous with us in six standard days.”
Nodding, “Be nice to have the family back together.”

“Shuttle Lenora will be departing in ten centocks, all booked and confirmed passengers please make your way to airlock eight.” The overhead speakers announce.

Bennie is at airlock eight, waiting for Maxim. The shuttle is going down to the ground station that is part of the research station. Bennie’s team was joining the weapons team that Maxim was working with to test a new counter intrusion system. When the rest of Maxim’s team arrives, without the big Palorian, Bennie walks over to a short Belmarrian, “Hey, where’s Maxim?”
The diminutive being turns, looks up at Bennie, and shrugs, “Sent the team a message last night that he wasn’t joining us.”
“Why didn’t he tell me?”
“Do I look like I’d know that?” The little alien asks, before turning back to face the rest of his team.
“Should kick you, little…” Bennie mumbles, walking away, “Why would Max miss this, he was really excited.” He looks around, spotting a terminal set against the wall opposite the boarding hatch, she heads for it.
A few minutes of work and he’s hacked the security feeds for the station, which makes him gasp. On the small screen is a capture from the security feed, showing the door to the quarters that Maxim was assigned, much nicer quarters than I got, Bennie thinks. Two fairly large beings walk up to the door and place a device on the security panel, quickly overriding it. He glances at the time stamp, two tocks ago. The intruders are wearing black outfits, lined with pouches, and likely sensor dampening tech, Bennie observes.

The intruders rush the room when the door opens, and moments later they emerge dragging an unconscious Maxim between them. “How’d they do that?” Bennie wonders. He sends a few commands and the camera views shift to follow the kidnappers to an airlock.

A few more minutes of scouring the stations’ servers reveals that no ship was scheduled to dock at that airlock, and as far as the station is concerned, no ship or shuttle had docked during the time Bennie watched them take Maxim, “Great.” The small Brailack sighs.

“Excuse me sir, that terminal is for station personnel only.” An officious Harrith woman says from beside Bennie, her uniform marking her as station administration.

He jumps slightly, “You need a bell!”

“I beg your pardon?” She says, looking over Bennie at the screen. Bennie quickly activates the routine he wrote when he hacked the terminal, causing it to revert to its normal mode, and erasing all traces of his activity. “May I ask what you were doing?”

“You can ask,” Bennie says, stalking away.

It doesn’t take him long to find a more private place to hack back into the station computers. Since he knows what he’s looking for, it goes faster. “There we go,” He says and one of the external camera views comes on, showing the shuttle that the computer doesn’t think exists, docked with the airlock. It departs, with a puff of escaping gasses as the airlock clamps withdraw. “These guys are good. Who are they?” On the screen the small craft heads towards the planet below. Bennie looks at his wristcomm, two centocks until the shuttle departs. “Time to go,” he says, as he signs off the terminal and runs back to the airlock.

The officious Harrith woman is still standing near the airlock and eyes him suspiciously as Bennie dashes through the airlock, waving to her.

Slowly, painfully consciousness starts to return, Maxim grunts once, trying to sit up, but finding his hands, and arms, bound tightly to his torso. “Who?”

“Not now, big man.” A voice says, then several million hyper charged ions wash over Maxim, shorting out his nervous system, again.


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