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The Loot of a Thousand Nations

Chapter Text

The little girl opened the book, as she did every single night without fail and always as the sky and thus her room changed to a particular shade of darkness.

Always, on every single night, she brought out the same binding of pages with the holographic interface to allow the images to pop out of the parchment like a home movie before her child lime green eyes. It was always spectacular and always made her blissfully content enough to fall asleep within moments after the conclusion of the tale. She loved it, as of course a child at near enough the age of seven would. It was pretty much all she lived for; the rawness and unadulterated truth within the pages and the colorful pictures. It was real, to her at least.

Her tale always started, as many others usually did, on a starry night deep in the swirling abyss of the deep Celestial when the winds were calm and contrite with very little in the way of disturbance and nothing to ruin the blissfulness of the galaxy. It was beautiful, the lack of atmosphere and therefore the abundance of it that made Opal Beifong truly believe she was a disembodied consciousness in the middle of the heavens to observe the tale.

On the clearest of nights when the winds of the Etherium were calm and peaceful, the great merchant ships from the sprawling empire of the Fire Consulate with their cargoes of gold, silvers, and other such riches from the upper classes felt safe and secure. Little did they ever suspect that they would be preyed upon by hordes of vicious cutthroats and… Pirates.

And the most feared of all these pirates, was the notorious Captain Noatak, the infamous ‘Amon’.

“Fire!” The Captain ordered across his deck, signalling his crew of vagabonds, cutthroats and rogues to begin bombarding the large and illustrious freighter. The smaller and more agile attack ship moved alongside the large hulk in an attack pattern, blasting key locations along the starboard side with the largest plasma cannons and then crippling the main propulsion systems with the smaller machine guns to ensure the freighter was not going anywhere at all. The elite and prestigious guests in the ballrooms and fancy gathering halls were subdued into perpetual darkness and frenzies of panic while the pirate craft rose up up engage in a broadside with the main deck of the larger ship, the cutthroat bandits brandishing gleaming cutlasses and powered firearms fully loaded with plasma rounds, blasting the enemy sailors and crew with shots to the chest and head, cutting up the crew in minutes and easily overpowering the civilians crew, carving their way to the true goal; the loot.

Like a Candarian zap-wing overtaking its prey--

“Opal Toph Beifong!” Her mother yelled as she quickly opened the door to reveal herself in her nightgown and slippers with her short bob of trailing and slightly graying black hair flowing down her right cheekbone. She had a stern look on her face but she was hardly angry; Opal was her only daughter and her entire world. “I thought you were asleep an hour ago” she scolded, still obliged to be a mother to her daughter.

The little girl tossed and turned in the bed, putting the book to the side for a moment to pull one over on her dear mother. She was too adorable whenever she wanted something.

“But Mom, I was just getting to the best part” she moaned, rolling over onto her back. She was simply so small and her short bob of black hair kept on getting in her face and mouth, her eyes gleaming in the faint trail of dimmed light behind her mother in the nightgown. “Pleeeeaaase?” She asked with the biggest eyes and most adorable face that looked like it was made of dough or something equally as soft.

Of course, her mother could never deny her something when she pulled a face like that. “Oh, can those eyes get any bigger?” Suyin balled rhetorically before closing the door and moving to her daughter on the bed, grabbing the book and opening it to the right page with her Opal in her lap.

She opened the book and the little film resumed with the same dramatic vigor and tone at the voice of the narrator.

Like a Candarian zap-wing overtaking its prey, Amon, and his band of renegades swooped in out of nowhere. They decimated the civilians crew, seized the gleaming cargo or gold, silver and jewels. Then, gathering up their spoils vanished without a trace.

Amon’s trove was never found, but stories have persisted throughout the galaxy for years that it remains hidden somewhere in the farthest reaches of the Etherium, stowed with riches beyond imagination.

“The Loot, of a Thousand Nations” Opal joined with the narrator for the final words, she had memorized it so and head read and viewed the book so many times. It was, of course, her most favorite thing in the world. She enjoyed and lived for the tale more than anything, more than watching and obsessing over gliding or sailing or the vids of those solar sailors traversing the Spirit Winds or anything else that made her little seven-year-old life.

Suyin pulled her handkerchief from the pocket of her nightgown, doting upon her daughter who by now must have been as tired as possible with a hyperactive seven-year-old following the energy spike. “Okay sweetie, blow your nose” she checked, one of her usual things she would always check with all her children. Opal did as she was told and blew harshly in the cloth piece but then as her mother was folding it back into her gown the little rascal escaped into the folds of the bed sheets.

“How do you think he did it, mom?” She wriggled upwards and under the pillows to the headboard. “How he swooped in outta nowhere.” She leaped from the wooden board onto the bed, only just missing the wrapping of her mother’s arms as she tried to catch her in mid-air. “And vanished without a trace” she quoted from the book and hid under the layers of bedding from her matriarchal pursuer.

Her mother acted none the wiser, brushing her strand of blackened hair behind her ear and smiling at how proactive and full of life her baby girl was. It was such a lovely household to live in Suyin had to admit. She had a powerful and loving husband who was brilliant at his occupation and the perfect man to be married too, even if he was a little distant at times of intense stress which could happen for long periods of the year. She had a brilliant and full bundle of children, Opal being the youngest of five in total with two being more than her two handfuls and the other two boys being polar opposites. She of course loved all of her children but Opal Beifong was the biggest source of sunshine in her mother’s life and always would be.

“I have no idea sweetie” she popped out swiftly before reaching playfully to grab her little girl. “Come here. I’m gonna get you!” She called out as she wrestled for her child, grabbing her by her rather chubby ankle and dragging her over her knee. She whipped away Opal’ pyjama top to expose the chubby flesh of her stomach and, as a playful mother would, she blew grapes against the tender skin, tickling her daughter to no end and forcing her to laugh sweetly. “Okay. Now it’s time for this little spacer to go to sleep” Suyin told her with a loving touch of the nose before tucking the seven year old back into her bed peacefully.

“You think anyone will ever find The Loot of a Thousand Nations?” Opal asked while her mother reached behind the pillow to pull something that had been making her uncomfortable while reading the story. It was, of course, one of Opal’s many toy Bison that she loved to collect; she had a faint obsession with the culture and attire of the old Air Nation.

She placed the Bison back up with the rest on Opal’s shelf. “Sweetheart. I think it’s more like a legend,” she voiced in a very adult way, the way someone may tell their child that a holiday figure is real as they grow older. Like a father would tell their child of nine that Santa doesn’t really exist or that the Tooth Fairy is a device to reward infants for losing a tooth and growing up.

Opal, however, was adamant that her fairy tale was nothing but the unfiltered truth. “I know it’s real Mom.”

“You win. It’s real” Suyin presented as a mother would. She planted a soft kiss on Opal’s forehead, brushing away the black bangs from her face and moving to the door in order to let her girl sleep at last. “Night sweetie” she voiced, blowing a second kiss.

“Night night Mom” Opal breathed while her mother closed the door slowly and returned to her own room. It took a whole ten seconds of hearing her mother’s footsteps followed by a light switch turning off and then a door opening and closing before she could make her own move; she certainly knew her mother’s routine while moving to the bed. She grabbed her book and moved under the sheets to read the rest of the story, there was not much left.

There are nights when the solar winds of the Etherium, so inviting in their promise of flight and freedom, made one’s spirit soar!

Years Later…

It was the late afternoon, the wind was on her side and the wasteland of the Industrial District of the Planet Zaofu was void of all life and machinery, all buildings and transport, all industry and refinery and therefore she was completely in her element. Opal Beifong, her bangs still in the way of her face threatening to enter her mouth, grew the most exhilarated and defiant grin in her life; her fingers gripping tightly on the wooden handles of her self-made glider, allowing the wind to pass through its sails and herself to be the leaf just as her friends taught her before eventually leaving the planet themselves. She was alive, alive and high in the sky like a bird or a an actual leaf caught in the wind. She was nineteen, strong and a determined woman to do whatever she wanted to, to keep her personal freedom at every cost.

Opal always loved gliding in the late midday, just as the sun was beginning to retreat beyond the horizon she always sought to race it, to catch the orb of light burning across the sky. It was how her life found excitement, to escape from being the daughter of a single mother whose children had all left planet in search of better surroundings that weren’t the same four walls of a simple port tavern. Opal had to stay behind but not by choice, she was too broke and had no opportunity to leave the atmosphere for another with more action and freedom. She wanted to desperately to leave, to see the stars and stand on the deck of a vessel traversing the heavens and see all that the galaxy had to offer to her. She wanted to see the distant worlds that made up the Earth Government; the sandstone ruins of modern day Omashu, the grand capital of Ba Sing Se, the scattered islands and sea creatures famous to Kyoshi Prime, all the wonder of the galaxy that was so far away to the metal industrial world of Zaofu. But for now she was stuck planetside, with her glider keeping her in the air and above the rocky surface of her home, of her mother’s home.

She looked down at the terrain and spotted an area for traversing, where could test her flying skills; it was a canyon, vast and varied. She had an idea, crazy and purely insane, one that could just kill her if she didn’t execute it correctly and with the right precision. This was what she lived for, the death-defying stunts that could end either way and she would be happy with performing the feat. She was a certain daredevil.

Okay, Opal girl, time to show what you’re made of. She steered and jerked her body to the side and upward, catching the wave of the wind that would take her entire body upward and into the cloud layer. Just like a leaf as she wanted so much to be she rose higher and higher, flowing with the wind until she knew she was high enough. Then, in her usual daredevil way she closed her lime green eyes and closed the sails of her glider, turning it back into a staff and ceasing all motion of her fluid and seemingly weightless body and all once she began to fall, hugging her wooden glider closely to her chest while her bangs flowed back to cover her face.

It was electrifying, light riding the lightning of a storm the way she fell so absolute and final as if she were a meteor during a star fall. You can’t kill me. I’ll never die here. It was something she always said to herself in the solitary moments she had before she would have to deploy her glider again. She was falling head first and when she opened her eyes again to see the ground rapidly approaching her her heart skipped a beat and she maneuvered in the air, flicking out the sails of her glider again and catching the current of air to allow her sail in a curve along the ground, close enough to run her fingers along it if she wished; she didn’t.

With a large yell from her mighty lungs and a jerk of her whole body she gained some height, spotting a split in the canyon; to the left the path jerked and led to some salt flats and the settlements that would lead home and to the right there was the refinery and foundry complex, a place of work and a restricted area of the law but to Opal Beifong it was another challenge and an obstacle.

She licked her lips determinedly and jerked her body right, heading right to the foundry. If she was caught inside another restricted area then the cops would be on her faster than she could escape them, it may even mean a final trip to detention that her mother had threatened her with a few ties when her liberal personality clashed with the matriarch’s lifestyle of capitalism, or rather attempted capitalism, for Suyin life wasn’t easy. Opal pushed all thoughts of home from her mind and snapped back to reality as she trailblazed through the main gate, catching her foot on a wooden plank and smashing it to splinters; still, the alarm sounded and she was compromised. Now she had to pick up the pace and escape before security could find their intruder.

There was a large disk grinding drill carving its way into the cliff ahead of her, two disk with vents keeping the staggered saw blade in the center. She could see that there was an interval of when the jaws of the blade crashed into the cliff where the vents were completely clear, allowing a small projectile to pass through if it was fast enough. I’m definitely fast enough.

She got really close, so close she could almost feel the waves of air come off the grinder and with another roar from her lungs she closed her sails and turned to hug the staff again. Like a bullet she passed through the vent laughing at how talented and smooth she was. Quickly so she didn’t fall right to her death she flicked open the sails a least time and began to climb up the air currents again like a bird, cheering and whooping herself as she felt so great to be alive again. She loved it plain and simple, she loved gliding and she loved the open sky as much as she loved the stories of the Etherium up above with so much life. If only she could just push herself far enough, if only it was possible for the wooden glider to simply push itself past the atmosphere and into those solar winds, for her escape.

There was a faint ringing in her ears, the ringing of doom she was already accustomed to; the ringing low and high tones of a damned police siren.

Opal looked quickly behind her to see them, two mechanic goons with buckets for heads on hovercraft with beeping blue and red lights to match their siren pitches; one was gesturing with its gloved finger downward, they wanted her to land so they could at least detain her and take her home safely.

“Oh, great. Mom’s going to love this one” she said aloud almost biting her tongue. If only she weren’t a slave to thrill chasing and defying death on a weekly basis.

Chapter Text

The Old Ba Sing Inn was busy as usual, all the locals in for the lunchtime rush and Suyin was being swept off her feet, no one else to help her save the chef in the back as she, the waitress, made her way around all the tables with several plates of exotic and local cuisine and drinks.

“Ms. Beifong!” One woman shouted across the room, resembling mostly an octopus with one massive eye in her skull instead of two. She was the raving sort, waving her empty glass as Suyin rushed around the room, setting down plate after plate and replacing more and more glasses.

Suyin sighed as she saw the fish lady. “Yes, I know, refill on the purp juice, coming right up to Mrs. Ding, ticking” she ticking woman calmly, trying not run away with the lunch time wave. It seemed to have settled for the moment.

There was a family of frog looking aliens sat in the middle, eagerly awaiting their food that was spread on plates around Suyin’s arms. She quickly reached them and began sliding the trays of food around the table.

“Okay, there we go. That’s four powdered spheroids,” Suyin called out, placing a plate of four differently colored donuts with powder lightly coated over them by the father. “Two lunar eclipses,” a plated of two egg looking things passed to the mother. “And a big plate of Foggy Swamp jelly worms,” Suyin chuckled, placing a massive bowl of scrambling live worms in front of the little son, looking more than enthusiastic to devour his boatload of prey. He licked his lips at the moving meal. “For the big boy.”

The little frog boy sunk his chubby fingers into the bowl and mashed handfuls of worms into his mouth, chomping down hard on the insects. “Fmawemthome!” The little boy forced out through the mouthful of worms, making Suyin smile.

It had been so long since she had had her children at that size. She missed her sons.

Next, Suyin made her way to the table at the back of the Inn, near the stain glassed windows she’s splashed out on when venturing into the business with her ex-husband all those years ago.

Sat at the table intended for four, alone and stacked with a pile of books and papers, in a smart suit and pencil skirt was Doctor Asami Sato of Astrophysics of the University of Zaofu, engrossed in one of her books for which she was referencing in another of her theses on the possibility of ‘faster than light’ travel. It was poised to revolutionize star travel and how man and alien alike traversed the ‘verse. But Asami Sato had hit a snag once again.

The aged hands of the waitress placed two plates of food in front of Asami with a glass of sparkling water beside them.

“Sorry Asami, it’s been a madhouse here all afternoon,” Suyin excused the large wait on Asami’s food.

The book in her young hands closed and was placed atop the stack of six or seven before the beautiful and extremely young Doctor brought her napkin around her neck and into her collar. Her emerald eyes were warm and understanding and her prominent red lips sparkled when she smiled, showing her fluorescent white teeth. Asami removed her glasses.

“No problem Su, all part of the usual service,” Asami retorted with a brilliantly smart smile. “How’s darling Opal doing?” She asked.

Opal and Asami were firm friends, which was surprising given how stuck to books and academics Asami was and how rogue Opal had become upon hitting her teens, and even as she neared their end. Meanwhile, Asami had become the youngest human on Zaofu to attain her doctorate and break the mold for women. She was a living legend to some.

Suyin almost bit her tongue before speaking; Opal was hardly a healthy topic most days. “Much better thank you ‘Sami,” she called, sitting down opposite the Doctor instead of leaving for the fish lady’s juice.

“I know she had some rough patches earlier this year, but I really think she’s starting to turn things around.”

On that note, as if by fate, the wooden front door of the Inn swung open to reveal two tall and heavily built machine police officers with Opal in between them, their hard metal hands on her shoulders.

“Ms. Beifong” one called out in metallic monotone.

Suyin completely dropped the plate of dishes she was carrying from the rest of the tables before she could make for the kitchen again. They hit the ground and smashed with a spectacular crash as her face dropped as well as her jaw. “Opal!” She cried out, mortified at her daughter turning up in the hands of the law, again and before the patrons of her legitimate establishment, again.

Asami veered her head away from looking at her friend. “Wrong turn” she sighed in a hushed breath.

The accused Opal cooly tried to escape her captors grasp, sliding from their hands and moving towards the kitchen to escape everything. She couldn’t possibly be quick enough, however, and soon found herself being pulled back by the automatons again.

The left automaton wheeled in slightly ahead of his partner to address the mother. “We apprehended your daughter operating an illegal gliding vehicle in a restricted area Ms. Beifong,” he started, again in the same robotic monotone that made the voice put people to sleep almost with his tedious detail of events. “Moving violation nine zero four, section fifteen, paragraph…”

He stopped, somehow forgetting which paragraph Opal had violated, which made completely no sense being a robot but yet forget it he had.

Opal was rubbing the back of her neck in embarrassment, even more so because she actually remembered exactly which paragraph had been abused.

“Six” Opal edged out.

“Thank you,” the robot scolded, obeying his etiquette protocols. Opal welcomed the droid in retort and he looked back to Suyin who was still horrified at what was transpiring. “As you aware madam, this constitutes a violation of the girl’s probation,” he continued to explain.

“No, yes, I understand,” Suyin answered flatly and defeatedly in an automated response. She was all so sick of this, of Opal acting out and being escorted home with two police droids and having to force her to answer for it, either by being humiliated in front of a house full of customers or by even paying bail or for any damages, and they were poor enough as it was. “But, could we just--”

“U, excuse me, gentlemen,” Asami sounded off from behind Suyin, getting embroiled in the mess as well, even though she didn't need to. There was absolutely nothing she could do, but she thought right to help her friend and Suyin. “I’m the noted astrophysicist, Doctor Asami Sato, perhaps you’ve heard of me?” Her glasses were on the edge of her nose, making her look smarter and unsurprisingly less intimidating.

The right automation pointed towards Suyin. “Are you the mother’s or the child’s partner?” He asked in the exact same monotone as his partner.

Suyin nearly gagged, as did Opal. While Asami was a good friend to both of them, she was far too young for the mother and far too smart for Opal to court.

“Oh gosh no, she’s just a good friend of the family.” Was Suyin’s blatant response.

The automatons took a lean back, before advancing right into Asami’s face with their black eyes and large glowing mouths, very much intimidating. “Back off, miss!” They yelled with more pitch than before.

Asami leaped from her skin and nodded, almost terrified that the robots would melt her skin should she say another word to them. “Su, don’t ever let me do that again” she whispered on her way back to the table at the very back of the Inn.

“Due to repeated violations of statute one, five, C, we have been forced to incinerate her glider.”

That stung Opal right at her heart. Her glider was near enough the only thing she really had to call her own. It was her best friend and the only thing she really owned to herself. She had made it when she was a budding teen, flunking out of school and working nights with her mother to keep her happy. And now it was destroyed. Opal wouldn’t build a new one for a while.

“Any more slip ups will result in another one-way ticket to Juvenile Hall.”

“Kiddie hoosegow.”

“The slammo,” the two dabbled between them, a little personality in their cybernetic voices and brains.

Suyin took a second to breathe and collect her thoughts. Maybe it was what Opal needed. Su had tried everything to get through to her, to stop her dear daughter from throwing her life away and ending up in some unknown region of the ‘verse with the worst in their region of space. If only she could be more like her brothers who had left home.

But then again, to Opal, what life could she have? It all seemed so pointless to her, to be stuck at home with her mother growing old and serving the weary that showed up for a plate of hot food or a pint of beer to wash their sorrows or bad fortune away. Zaofu was such a backwater planet to Opal.

“Thank you, officers,” Suyin addressed the robots, looking then directly at her daughter with scolding, yet silently defeated eyes. She’d had beyond enough. “It won’t happen again.”

There was a clank, analogous to maybe a sneeze or a cough from one of the automatons. He was mocking Opal to every degree despite being made of metal. “We see her type all the time Ms. Beifong,”

“Wrong choices.”

“Dead-enders.”

“Losers,” they both dabbled again, before making another clanking noise and saluting the room, their metal hats rising from their heads. “Take care now,” the left one said politely before looking at his partner. Together they left on their caterpillar tracks, closing the door behind them.

As Suyin waited to talk to her daughter, she realized the Inn was suspended in perpetual silence, and thusly looked back at the room. All the patrons began or resumed their conversations or meals, however with less vigor and enthusiasm, their real appetite in the scene created by mother and daughter.

The other let out a huff, looking to Opal to see if she had anything to say. Opal did not.

“Opal,” Su began, already wanting to stop speaking for one day and see through the lunch time customers and take a break from everything, mostly likely with a stiff drink. “I have had it. Do you want to go back to Juvie Hall is that it?”

Opal wasn’t looking at her mother, but she was definitely paying attention. She was just too ashamed to respond.

“Opal? Opal, look at me dammit” Suyin commanded and her daughter obliged, with a frown big enough to split a table. Su let out yet another huff of air, just not knowing what the hell to do. There was nothing she could say that she hadn’t already said a dozen times. There was just nothing left, no one to call on for aid. No brothers to help guide her. No father to take a different approach.

No father. Not anymore.

That was why Opal was the way she was, acting out, begging for something more, attention, thrills, life, something beyond just spending day after day rolling around on some fringe system with nothing to excite her. It was all because she’d been abandoned. A child no older than ten or eleven and her father simply left without so much as a word or an excuse. It drove both Opal and Su insane, and each had dealt with it in completely polar ways.

Suyin had stuck up her chin and puffed out her breast while Opal decided to crash and burn, taking her life with her in the sorrow and rage that had festered into what was her addiction to thrill and death-defying behavior that always resulted in run-ins with the law.

“It’s been hard enough holding this place afloat alone--”

“Mom, it’s no big deal okay?!” Opal detonated, exploding with such emotion. It was because Suyin was about to bring up them being alone, Opal hated it. “There was no one around, those clankers just won’t get off my--” She stopped herself, tousling her hair and ruining the lining of her flight suit wings. “Forget it.”

The next voice was one that Suyin probably should have seen coming, but Opal and the police had made her forget.

“Ms. Beifong? My juice!” Mrs. Ding bellowed from the back corner.

“Yes I’ll be right there Mrs. Ding” Suyin called back, slightly despising the fish woman for choosing now to remind her, seeing how much she was already dealing with. Only a special kind of scumbag would throw her job in her face when she was already dealing with her daughter.

“Opal, I just don’t want to see you throw away your entire future.”

The daughter rolled her eyes and trudged towards her room on the upper floor without another word until she reached the stairs. “What future mom?”

Suyin couldn’t answer anymore.

When the sun fell behind the horizon and the moon began to flourish, with a dreary overcast and pathetic drizzle of rain long into the night Opal had fully retreated to the roof, a handful of stones in her hands and throwing them far off into the canyon. It had been the worst day for a while, so full of life at the start and then so deflated of everything going forward. So much so that she even contemplated just packing a duffle and leaving, never to return. She was even thinking it would be better on her mother.

Just enough credits to her name would buy her a ticket to the Spaceport and there she could completely disappear, maybe coming back in a few years with her riches that would make her mother proud at last.

But Suyin would never forgive her. Not for leaving without a word. It was Opal’s only anchor.

Opal Beifong looked up and to the stars, thinking of how many had names. How many had planets and how many of those planets had a life. How many of those lives were better than hers and how many were worse. And then she had a thought.

How many of those lives were exactly the same as hers?

Surely at least one life in the entire ‘verse had to be somewhere near hers. How would that one person, with the same life escape? How would they claw out from their backwater planet and into the washing waves of the Etherium?

As she sat on the roof of the Inn looking to the solar seas her answer came crashing down to her, in the form of a crude and unmarked solar sailor, with a pod to house the one shipmate and the engines on fire with smoke pluming out from the back, with tattered sails.

Little did Opal know, what the ship contained.

Or what was vastly behind it.

Chapter Text

The single manned solar sailor crashed rather faintly onto one of the docks overlooking the canyon to the west of the Inn, with flame spewing from the engines and the sails completely shredded, most likely from gun and canon fire.

Opal raced from the roof to aid he who may and most likely was inside the pod that was rapidly filling up with smoke. She practically leapt from the roof, expecting her mother of Asami to race to the door of Inn. Perhaps they didn’t see the pod crash at all they were so engaged in conversation.

“Hey, Mister!” Opal shouted, deciding that it was most probably a man inside the pod as she sprinted for dear life down to his rescue. “Mister are you alright?” Opal yelled as she reached the pod window.

The teen quickly slammed her fist against the glass. “Hey Mister, are you okay in there?”

Her response was a large, clawed paw come up against the glass with and airy gasp, startling her and forcing her back as the glass porthole lifted. There was smoke, flooding the little cockpit of the flying orb with multiple solar sails attached, smoke filling up from the melting reactor no doubt, slowly killing the poor man inside. And there was thunder too, quickly on the horizon coming like the blazing broadsides of a colossal galleon ready to mount a full offensive for what sweet and precious cargo the poisoned man inside the crashed pod was carrying in the clutch of his hands.

Eventually, the small glass porthole was blasted open with the thud of a fist and the small, hunched and slimy looking alien man tossed out his chest. It was a rather bulky looking box too, something that could carry a tonne of gold, or a shotgun capable of taking one’s chest apart. It looked almost surgical, and angular, like the brim of his Captain’s Hat that was wobbling on the top of his slug-like head, with his eyes bulging out as he exited the ship. His cloak covered almost all of his body, which Opal thanked the Gods for, she could seldom handle his chest if it looked anything like his face.

His mouth resembled that of a sand snake, with pathetic fangs and a slithering tongue, again with eyes that moved more than the rest of him, as if they had bodies of their own inside the sockets. And he was coughing up a storm, not just from the smoke of his cabin, but from what sounded like lung cancer, or cystic fibrosis or even some other disease picked up on a backwater planet like Zaofu would yield. He would simply not stop as he shuffled out of the compartment to clutch at his chest again.

“They's a-coming, can ya ‘ere ‘em?” The alien man coughed and spluttered all over the mess that was Opal’s shirt and jacket. She was more than a little confused, as to who was coming, and as to how in the stars that the man was not hurting more than he was. What had the hell happened to him? “Those gears and gyros, clickin’ and whirlin’ like the devil himself?!” He bellowed, his chest huffing and puffing like a rapidly inflating and deflating the balloon, all the while his salamander face getting closer and closer to Opal as if he were about to kiss her with those snake teeth. She retreated a little down the landing platform.

She rubbed that back of her neck and rationalised his erratic behaviour down to a fairly excessive concussion. It was standard operating procedure with a crash landing, and with the one like his, whiplash would certainly be a factor too.

“Um, you must have hit your head there pretty hard mister eh?” She called back, wondering if she should make a run for the Inn now and leave him.

The man held steadfast to his chest, slowly walking what little ways he could away from his burning pile of wreckage that would have once been called a ship. Another crackle of thunder sounded overhead and suddenly Opal could feel the slight droplets of rain fall onto her body, on her small bob of black hair.

“He’s after me chest las,” the salamander coughed again, almost dragging the metal box across the hard metal of the landing platform. He did not have the strength to carry it or even pick the damn thing up, and he was coughing more and more, a heavy wheeze and a violent throb in his mouth and his throat. He must have been in a special kind of pain and it was there that Opal knew she couldn’t leave him.

Another bout of coughing and the man looked up into the raining sky as it darkened a little more, night encroaching as it always did. Although so far this night was certainly one of the more interesting ones that made Opal Beifong think of Zaofu a little more fondly.

“That fiendish cyborg and his band of cutthroats,” he continued, his voice straining as he struggled to make his way to Opal. Cutthroats - Pirates. He was running from Pirates, and that meant a certain kind of trouble that she had not yet run into or was prepared for, nor was Suyin, and certainly not Professor Sato. Pirates meant blasters and blunderbusses and there was no way Opal’s mother or her friend from a University of all places had even the smallest of Deringer’s stashed away up their skirts. “But they’ll have to pry it from old Billy Bones cold, dead, fingers afore I--”

His words were cut short of falling on her ears by his chest just about giving way to the mass of pressure. Old Billy Bones erupted into a flourish of wheezing and necrotic-like coughing as if his lungs were being pressed through an industrial gravel crusher.

He was dying, that much was obvious, but Opal had never seen death, not a pet, not a family member. She’d never seen anyone in the Verse die before. She was not prepared.

Another crash of thunder rippled through the sky, crackling and echoing back over the full canyon area of Zaofu. It was angry, furious, a monstrous clash of nature throughout the air as if two deities were battling and going at it in the sky. If the adrenaline to help the hunched over Alien that was Old Billy Bones hadn’t completely taken over the desperate looking Opal, she would be afraid of such lightning. But she couldn’t worry about the rain coming down upon them, nor the crash after crash of intense thunder above them, she had to help Bones. That meant getting him to her mother, to Suyin, and that in turn meant helping him up the hill to the Inn, to mother.

“Come on man,” Opal grunted a little as she hoisted the hunched and still slightly living and breathing carcas of Billy Bones over her shoulder. “Give me your arm.” It was hard, he was heavy too and she struggled almost as much as he did to breathe to drag his body up the hill.

It would have been a lot easier if he was still not clutching at the chest of golden yellow in his hands. That was the source of almost half the weight. “Mom’s gonna love this,” again she grunted, drudging him up foot by foot, inch by inch.

Suyin flipped the false background on the window lights, flicking between starry skies to a lush meadow and then to the warm sunlit room of some other Inn that looked marvellous compared to hers. The whole setting, of the tavern, still alight by candles and by the small, humble chandelier in the ceiling. It was a nice mood and atmosphere to the room, as Suyin and Asami both downed the last of some blue milk, to end the nightcap. Dr Sato was just about getting ready to complete her rounds and get ready for home, her halls in the university, and Su was sitting at the main table where Sato had all day. She had her pendant in her hand, the holographic projection of Opal as a small child, playing as a toddler, then an infant. The sequence continued until it froze at a frame of Opal holding up some form of Octopus creature, an expression that told Suyin she wanted to keep the thing.

“Thanks for listening Asami,” Suyin sighed, picking up a conversation that had lasted for the best part of the evening with Opal on the roof looking up.

Asami went for her jacket, a long and red robe with a flaring collar and a velvet pocket. It was rather against her, the jacket, looking like it belonged to someone else and not a woman that young or ambitious. It looked almost antiquated and therefore not belonging to her esteemed and also beautiful person. Whereas she was fair and young and intelligent, the coat was from another era. “It’s going to be okay Suyin, you’ll see.”

The mother sighed, looping the play of Opal with the pet again and again. It was apparent by the look on her face and the welling tears in her eyes about how pained she was about the day's events. All she wanted was for Opal to be normal, or as normal as she could be considering she had no father to speak of. She just needed Opal to not be arrested, carted off to some rehabilitation establishment.

“I keep dreaming,” she began, sighing once again and sipping at the blue milk. “That one day, I’ll open that door,” she looked to the front door of the Inn, still shut closed. She wondered for a while about if Opal would come through, or if she would instead run away, or just come in via a roof entrance and avoid her mother altogether. “And there she’ll be, just the way she was. A smiling, happy little girl, holding up a new pet, and then begging me to let her keep it,” Suyin completed, smiling suddenly at the hologram of her little girl, a thousand years it seemed and a thousand light years away from now.

And then there was another crash of thunder, and when Suyin set her pendant down, the door was open and Opal stood inside the frame with the husk that was Old Billy Bones in her arms, the rain soaking through her clothes.

“Opal Toph Beifong!” Su shouted, practically flipping the table away from her as she rushed to Opal.

“Mom he’s hurt, and bad!” Opal shrieked as Billy Bones collapsed to the floor, his chest heaving and his other chest spilling out onto the floor with his hat. Suyin and Sato rushed to help them both as Opal breathed slowly, regaining her composure and breath. Bones was done, finished, he was dying rapidly and did not have any more time left. The crash in his mobile solar sailing pod must have crashed with a much harder force than it looked like from Opal’s perch on the roof. Now were his final moments.

He swatted the air for his box, trying to crawl to it with absolutely no luck. Instead after a second, he looked to Opal, to his saviour, the woman who had at least bought him a few more moments of life. Now he would repay her, he would not allow his bounty to fall into the metallic hands of the pirates on his tail. Inside the box, lay the map, and key to the great boon only millions of spacefarers over the years had died or gone insane chasing. How he had come across it there was no time to tell, albeit was a very interesting tale in itself, but there were not enough seconds in his life, or on their time at the Inn. He would die, and the pirates were hot on his heels, now theirs.

No, he would pass on the map to Opal, that was what her mother had called her. Bones thought it a good name to suit the girl’s beautiful face and lime green eyes.

“Me chest lass, me chest,” he begged, swatting for it a few inches away from his clawed hands, his scaly paws trembling as the breathing became such a challenge. Suyin and Sato were silent. Bones’s breath was a wheeze, tightly constricted by the blood pooling inside his lungs, a swell of internal bleeding from when he had been slammed in his seat with a sharp stab from the crash. He could barely speak anymore, but by the bane of his trembling bones, he would force the warning out to Opal. If she were to take up the quest and chase the fool’s endeavour towards the ends of the galaxy after a boon no one could possibly imagine, she would need to beware of… Her.

Quickly did Bones tap in the sequence of flicks on the lock and open the chest, prying out the covered orb from the contents. “She’ll be a-coming soon. Can’t let 'em find this lass,” he wheezed to Opal, forcing the small orb into her palms. Then it was done, and he slowly let go, slowly began to relax, the orb was with her, out of his hands.

“Who’s coming?” Opal asked in a rushed voice, not even responding to the orb he had thrust into her grasp. If someone was coming for it, all he’d done was paint a target on her and her mother’s back. She felt sick.

Then Bones reached, grabbed her neck, forcing wretched gasp and a lurch from Suyin, who reached to pull the dying alien off of her daughter. But Bones was not trying to choke Opal, he merely could not grab anything else without pulling her down with him. He was so desperate and dying so fast and she had asked the one question he doubted he had the breath to answer but he had to. She had to know about the cursed woman with the implants, the metal arm, the everything. The woman who had chased Billy Bones halfway across the sector in search of the map. He sprang upward with the last of his life and whispered to her his answer.

“The cyborg… Beware the cyborg…”

Billy Bones let go, and fell back to the floor, dead, completely dead, before the lights went down and outside the bulwark of a galleon lowered on repulsorlifts to bay. Suyin let out a low moan of surprise as the lights of the craft outside lowered on the exterior of her pub. Opal shuffled along the room to the front window, grabbing the lever and opening a small slit at eye level for her to peer through. What she saw was a hulking mess of brigands and vagabonds, hoisting laser muskets and plasma flintlocks, even a portable cannon at what appeared to be a woman’s arm in the centre.

Opal gasped. “Pirates!” She cursed under her breath, then, leaning in forward she grabbed her mother’s hand with a sharp yank, eyes widening and popping as she knew they had to run. “We gotta go! Now!” She yelled this time, dragging her mother up the stairs to the first floor. Suyin let out something closer to a vomiting sound as she rushed around and up the stairs with Opal.

After locking the door with the twisting latch, Asami Sato quickly grabbed her coat aloof, then running to the flight of stairs too. Just in time as well, for shots of superheated plasma came ricocheting through the wood of the pathetic door, nearly ripping it apart in a single blast.

“I’m with Opal on this one Su!” Asami shouted, taking the stairs three at a time as more shots of plasma came through the door and the windows now. The Pirates were turning the eating floor of the tavern into a shooting gallery more commonly seen on more populous worlds in the Earth Sector.

Most all tunnelled through the main room and out the window on the other side, right through the width of the pub. Only one was shot upwards, from someone of below average height and through the hoists of the main heat warmer, which fell in a crash, spewing flames out onto the wooden floor. It hardly took several seconds for the tables and chairs to catch the flame, until more gradually most of the main room was ablaze, the flame wanting to climb the foundations of the house.

The door was blasted open with a small explosion and the Pirates all tumbled in one by one, most different species except for two or maybe three humans. All carried muskets and flintlocks, and all looked instantly to the dead body of Billy Bones, the chest lying open beside his carcas. “Where is it?!” One of the females yelled into the air, spotting the stairs as the mostly likely source of escape. “Up there! Find it!” The same female, the leader most probably, yelled to the rest, pointing a stern finger up the stairs.

Asami pushed open the door of Opal’s room, looking down to her chariot with the Ostrich Eagle pulling it. “Delilah! Yes! Delilah!” Asami cheered upon seeing the bird’s face. It was cackling up a storm about to get the Pirates’ attention no matter how loud the roar of the flames quickly consuming the interior of the Inn were. “No no! Stay there!” Sato called back to the bird, getting Suyin ready to jump down into the carriage as Opal pulled small Derringer styled pistol from underneath her pillow. Suyin was about to ask why and how she had it, then Sato pulled her to the window. The Pirates were coming up the stairs too quickly with flintlocks and muskets ready with laser for the door.

“Don’t worry Suyin, I’m an expert in the laws of physical science, now on the count of three,” Asami lulled to Suyin to get her to leap from the window ledge. But the woman could not, she was too scared of the height of a single story. She could not at all do it, but she had to, and thus Asami continued, she would push Suyin out of the window and tumbling down if she had to. None of them was dying in a fire or to filthy, rotten pirates.

“One, two…”

“Three!” Opal screamed as she pushed both her mother and Professor Sato out of the window and down the drop and into the carriage, herself falling after from the push. Sato then quickly grabbed the reigns of her Ostrich Eagle and gave them a quick whip to sprout the bird into action. And she sprouted, running fourth with a spur in her step and carting the three away from the towering inferno that was spewing smoke now high in the air.

They were away, only by the skin of their teeth, with Suyin looking back with warm tears in her eyes as she saw her Inn burning. It was a horrid sight, to see her life burn and turn to ash within mere moments. It was all gone, so many years, and she was without nothing. No home, no income, no nothing. She and Opal were homeless.

But they were not hopeless. As Opal tore the rags off of the orb that Billy Bones had left her, to reveal a golden orb of shiny metal, not gold itself, but some other element. It was strange, with markings all over it, and no way to decipher even what it was. But she would, and somewhere at the back of her mind, Opal had a single hope of what it could be…

To Be Continued...

Chapter Text

“I’m so so sorry Su,” Asami Sato consoled the still trembling single mother and now the previous business owner. “But I’m afraid the old Inn has burned to the ground,” she finished.

Suyin burst into tears, taking the tea from Doctor Sato and setting it aside before falling, practically crumbling into the young woman’s arms. It was as if someone had been killed by the very brigands who assaulted the building, well, someone who meant more to Suyin than the man who was Billy Bones. And looking at Opal, with her back to a stack, monumental stack of books, Asami was really indulging herself into thinking how the youngest girl was dealing with the death. She had saved him brought him to the Inn, and he had died in her arms, pushing the curiosity into her paws.

And then Asami’s attention drifted to it, as Opal tossed it around in her hands to try and make sense of what function it served or how to activate it, or even if it could be so. It was fascinating, the patterns enthralling in design, and even a little familiar. Opal suddenly felt, as she looked into the circles and the lines and the intersecting fractals, she felt as if she had seen the patterns before. Elsewhere, in another area of the galaxy and in some story. She could not put her finger on the location.

Asami let out a short and polite cough, as a dual means to get Suyin off of her and then to also grab Opal’s attention so they could talk about the orb from the dead Billy Bones. “Well, certainly a lot of trouble, over that odd little sphere,” she began, starting to pace and run away with her fluid and walking thoughts.

The whole while, Opal began to look at her small treasure again and fiddle with it, pressing and shaking and spinning what she could of it. After a small time, the thing actually began to feel like it could and had budge.

“Those markings baffle me really,” Asami rang off, noting the strange etchings in the metal she had examined on the long journey from the Inn to here; the University, where Asami lived as a Professor, Lecturer and Theorist. It was not an extravagant apartment, and Sato did nothing to keep the place clean. There were about four spare pairs of black and pink underwear she had had to clear from the furniture as soon as they walked in. Not to mention the books, stacking high and high nearly to the ceiling with how many were stacked together. There were even empty glasses atop the stacks of books with toothbrushes and washcloths all over the messy room. If Suyin and Opal were staying here, at least there wouldn’t a shortage of housework to keep them busy in between looking for a normal job.

“They’re unlike anything I have ever encountered,” Sato kept talking, just as Opal had made a breakthrough with the small and enigmatic device.

She twisted it and it had shunted in her hand, cracking and then the sides spinning and the whole orb twisting like a children’s toy. Within seconds she was spinning another side and then shunting it some more. As she did, the orb began to glow.

“Even with my vast experience and superior intellect, it would take me years-” With that, Sato was drawn to the green glow around the orb, until Opal gave it one last twist, and then a huge hologram was thrust from the orb itself. A massive projection from deep within the core of the orb spanning the entire room and enshrouding it in a veil of artificial darkness as the ball conveyed the message it was designed to, and that was a map.

It was a Galaxy Map.

“Why, it’s a map!” Sato burst out as the entire room became the table for the galaxy map to be set upon, with constellations all over the play, and system, planetary system, nebulae and the rest of it, space stations and ports and gas giants. They were everywhere like someone had taken the entire galaxy and tossed it all over the room, and it was arranged in the perfect system it was in reality. All the heavenly bodies were laid out exactly how they actually were. “Wait wait wait wait,” Asami droned on as she blundered all around the room, ducking under suns and stars and then weaving between nebulae. All until she found a familiar heavenly body mixed in with all the rest. “This is us, the planet Zaofu, in the middle of the Earth Systems,” she called out, looking around the planetary body that they were currently standing on.

As Opal and Suyin got a little closer, the astute and studious Asami touched the hologram of the planet and then the entire diorama was thrust into motion. Suddenly the stars and constellations began to shift and move, all in one direction away from Zaofu and across space itself.

“That’s the Magnetic Cloud!” Asami called out again, as Opal was slack-jawed in wonder at the size and scope of it and while Suyin was a little underwhelmed by the Etherium itself. Then another array of mist warped past the professor faster than it did before, as the rotary images of space began to pick up speed across the lightyears. “The Coral Nebula!” Sato shouted, and before Opal could turn around it slammed into her and manipulated itself back into shape slowly like blood in the water. “That’s the Cygnus Cross! And the Kerrigan Abyss. And, wait,” Asami Sato asked as the speed slowed and the middle of the room became this convergence on one certain system and planet so unlike all the others, so much so it looked artificial.

“What’s this? What’s this? Why it’s--”

“Treasure Planet!” Opal called out from behind her, feasting her now wide-eyed and dreaming eyes on the planet she had seen as a child in the annals of a famed book her mother watched with her. She was looking at it, a hologram sure but it was Treasure Planet itself, the very legend of Amon himself suspended in space enticing and enthralling many and many a traveller to venture there and claim the mythic riches.

And now it was offering itself up to her, Opal Beifong, from the hands of the dead Billy Bones into hers. All she had to do was reach out…

“No way!” Asami countered her younger friend in disbelief.

“Yes! That’s Treasure Planet!” Opal cried out again, giddy as she was as a child, and her eyes swelling with excitement and adventure. It was real! Treasure Planet was real and she was looking at where it was in the galaxy, it was unbelievable and amazing! Finally, adventure had found her or rather had fallen into her lap and now all she had to do was grab the means to go after it and have the adventure of a lifetime. She had to go, go now and seek out her calling. Treasure Planet.

Asami had to rub her emerald eyes and clean her circular spectacles with her waistcoat. It was too good to be true. Treasure Planet had been a legend of as long as she could remember and no one had ever found any record of Captain Amon ever existing outside of fiction and adaptations all over history. And yet there was an image of the location where the daring ruffian had supposedly buried and safeguarded his entire life’s plunder and bounty. “Amon’s Trove?” Asami asked, looking at the world above her head and Opal’s wondrous face. “The Loot of a Thousand Nations? Do you know that this means Opal?!” Asami shouted, barely able to contained her own excitement.

Opal smiled, looking down to the glowing and still projecting orb. “It means, that all that treasure is only a boat ride away,” she smirked at the orb and her own plan. She was very soon going to be extremely rich, as well as her mother. They all were, this was the chance she needed to turn her life around, a complete one-eighty and it was going to be the greatest adventure of her life getting there.

“Whoever brings that back,” Asami began again, getting really excitable as she suddenly undertook a very deep and dramatic voice with a champion stance under the planet with the two crossed rings, one made of debris and natural dust and rocks, with the other made of pure ionian plasma from the near nebula cloud. It was beautiful on its own, a rare occurrence of nature, even without the treasure. “Would hold an eternal place… Atop the pantheon of explorers! They’d be able to experience--”

Before she could finish her charade of explorative glory and bravado, Opal closed the orb and the entire galaxy map projection was sucked back in and the lights came on again.

It had felt like someone quickly pulling a cloth from over Asami and suddenly she felt a little naked in the middle of the room on her own, and even a little skittish. “Oh! What just happened?” She asked Opal or rather the whole room, filled with her thousands of books.

“Mom! This is it! This is the answer to all our problems!” Opal cried and looked at her mother with pleading, even childlike eyes. This was her childhood, the whole of it almost in and out of the abandonment by her father and family. This was the only sense of a normal childhood she ever had and to see it again, to see it real, it stirred something so wild and needing in Opal that Suyin very much did not see as a healthy or smart thing. She was scared for Opal before the young woman had even asked to leave for it.

Su sighed, standing frail and still shaken from the burning of her home, with her fingers rubbing both temples as she prepared for arguments with Opal and possibly even Asami at this rate. “Opal, there is absolutely no way--”

“Don’t you remember all those stories, Mom?” The lime green eyed teen interjected, shaking the map around.

“That’s all they were honey! Stories!”

“With all that treasure Mom, we could rebuild the Inn a thousand times over! We’d never be homeless or even scrounging for money ever again! We’d live comfortable! We’d be happy!” Opal shouted, progressively getting more and more annoyed and even angered that Suyin could not see the sense in their position and the cleverness in going after the treasure with what little they had left in their coffers. It was all they could do aside from stay as Asami’s maids or something worse.

Suyin was lost for words, almost realising the only argument she had was wasted on Opal, who from just the hologram had absolute proof that the treasure existed. And in her own defence, the evidence was all pointing to that. Suyin was simply in shocked denial. “Well, this is just. Oh, my. Asami a little help here please dear?” Suyin asked pleadingly with the professor as the middle-aged woman of science looked around the room for something.

Asami eventually saw Suyin’s glances as a sign of help, but she could not in good conscience go against Opal this time. Not after seeing the map herself. “Oh, it’s totally preposterous, galavanting across the whole Galaxy alone to reach a treasure we still do not yet know for sure exists.”

“Thank you, Asami.”

“Which is exactly why I’m going with you Opal,” Asami smiled, running off suddenly to begin packing in a frenzy, grabbing for her suitcase first. “I’ll use my savings and the university owes me expedition money, which I’ll use to fund the whole operation. I’ll commission a ship right away, hire the best damn captain in the sector and a crew better than that onboard The Pabu. I’ve been waiting for my entire career for an opportunity like this one and here it is screaming at me!” Asami cried as she zipped all over the room and then landed back at the mother and daughter with a bag filled, or nearly filled with dirty laundry and odd hygienic items. “Go, Sato! Go, Sato!”

Suyin was completely lost for words now. “Okay! Okay! You’re both grounded!” Suyin shouted at the pair of them before running her hands over her brow and huffing from the stress of both of them wanting to sign their lives away to the dangers of space-travel.

Now it was time to get serious and say something from her heart, Opal could tell. It was time to truly apologise for throwing back in her face all that Suyin had given just to raise the poor girl and ensure she had something, anything after her father abandoned them both. She bridged the gap between her and her mother and took the elder girl in an embrace, nuzzling her head into the crook of Su’s neck.

“Mom, I know that I keep messing everything up… And I know that I let you down. But this is my chance to really make it up to you, and I’m really gonna set things, right Mom. I promise,” Opal told her mother, really meaning every syllable and word of it, conveying it through her eyes and to her mother’s. And it even brought poor Suyin to tears to hear Opal say it all, especially about letting her down. She loved her daughter more than anything, and to hear it all, it really showed just how much Opal wanted to try by doing this.

Then Asami called her over to her for a few private words of least minutes encouragement. “Suyin, You’ve said yourself, you’ve tried everything. There are much worse remedies to fix this whole mess than a few character-building months in outer space,” Sato told her, glancing a little off to Opal the whole time.

“Are you saying this, because it’s the right thing? Or because you want to go with her, ‘Sami?”

“I really really really really really want to go Suyin, and it’s the right thing to do, trust me,” Asami pleaded with the elderly woman, who turned back to see Opal before the end.

Her face was throbbed, blotchy from crying already and her eyes were streaking as she knew she had to let her daughter go and enjoy the adventure and even build herself better than Suyin could do herself. She knew that Opal had to do this, had to travel the Etherium and across the stars, to a planet, they only vaguely knew where it was and then seize or attempt to seize the treasure for their own and make a new life. It was the only way, for Opal herself and their own wellbeing. And Suyin knew, looking at Opal, that she would do a good job, of course, she was. Opal was a Beifong, it was in the blood. If only she had known who her grandmother was, then she would have more pride in her family name.

“Opal, I…” Suyin began to say, fiddling her thumb and her forefingers in her hands as she walked slowly back to her daughter. Opal was a little restless, wondering why her mother was so apprehensive when they had no other financial option other than this. “I don’t want to lose you, honey.”

There it was. Fear. Suyin’s fear that if she let her daughter traverse the infinities of space it would claim her in some way and Opal would never come back at all. But Opal had been wanting this for her entire life, and she knew she would tame the Etherium and make space tremble at her presence. She would go to Treasure Planet, claim the infinite riches and bring them back for her mother.

“Mom,” Opal said a little meeker, holding her mother’s hands and looking at her in her aged lime green eyes. “You’re not gonna lose me at all,” she told her, bringing her mother in for a warm and loving embrace after, kissing the top of her head. “I’ll make you proud Mom, I promise this time.”

Asami cut it, a little awkwardly from the stacks of books to intrude on the mother and daughter sharing their intimate and loving moment. I looked as awkward as it felt, which was about the most embarrassing thing Opal had certainly seen. She coughed her arrival and the need for Opal’s attention for just a moment, they were going to leave as soon as they possibly could, which at the best rates, would be in about three days. Sato would secure the funds in the morning, however, she would tap a captain and crew and ship as soon as she could, then secure transport to the spaceport quickly. The equipment would be the last on the list.

“Ah. Well. Um, Opal, we should begin preparations as soon as we can, there’ll be a lot to organise and with those brigands out there I would not want to sit on that map forever my dear,” Asami told and reminded the younger girl. They would indeed have to move a little quickly to avoid running into the pirates once again.

And then Asami held Opal close and drew her attention to the sky, darkened by the night and to the thin and crescent shaped moon. Only it was never a moon.

“Soon my dear girl! We’ll be off to the spaceport!...”