Chapter 1: I'll Do It Myself
“I’ll do it myself!”
The white skinned alien swiped away a dossier window off their screen. Displayed was a bio of a wanted criminal on six accounts of organized crime and four of terroristic attempts in four different locations. Deceased flashed in red text. It was without a doubt the elusive Cygnet bounty-hunters who were the ones who despatched him.
“Even with a league of you put together you couldn't get the job done.”
They opened up their trash can to reveal deleted profiles: Austin, Gregoran Oswald, the Clown Mafia. All who survived Cygnet’s wrath banded together for vengeance. Outlaw or Imperials of the Empire were thwarted by these individuals.
They sat up from their large chair and pushed away all the monitors hanging in front of their face. “Corg.” They had a soft but commanding voice.
A wiry and barely functioning droid limped into the dimly lit room.
“Yes Master Ailbe? How may I be of service?”
They clutched their knuckles and leaned forward staring out the blast shield window into the starry abyss. “What do you know of the Ferric Order?”
Lights flickered in the droid’s eyes trying to upload information as quick as possible. “The Ferric Order is an ancient organization of monks that seek enlightenment through means of combat. Each monk has a signature blade bound to them that opens their body up to Aether energies and allowing them to manifest that power into their abilities. The higher monks-"
A devilish grin grew across their face. “I want you to plant a distress beacon there on our arrival?”
“But milord, that may call for unwanted attention from the Cygn-" The droid stopped as it saw Ailbe turn around to face it.
“Oh Corg...that is the plan. Now don’t make me ask twice.”
The droid nodded. “Yes, right away.” It turned around and left the bridge of the ship.
Ailbe stared back to the black mass. “We will see how long your undefeated streak will last, Cygnet.”
Chapter 2: Vacation's Over
The Cygnet crew haven't had any messages until recently.
Rosie gagged and coughed harshly. She pushed Cocheta’s bong away from her.
“How do you people enjoy this?”
Cocheta snorted. “You just gotta wait for it to hit you. Belt are you up?” She holds the bong over to the brawler. She didn't move much as Haven was passed out on her lap.
Belt without hesitation took the lighter and glass from Cocheta and lit up the grass. She took a big whiff and held her smoke for an impressive amount of time before coughing.
“You’re getting better at holding your breath, I’m impressed.” Her usual smile stretches on her face.
“I’ve learnt from the best.” She winked at Cocheta.
The stoners group in Pillowton chuckled together. There hasn't been a bounty mission in days, the blanket for got new shipments from Dank, and there was plenty of free time to relax. Life was like a vacation for the bounty hunters.
In the kitchen area Oz and Sally were playing chess on the mess hall table. The Junkyard prince moved his knight behind a wall of pawns.
“And what is your plan?” Sally didn’t take her gaze off the board.
“Never heard of the Man Meat Wall? It’s the formation where you have three trusted men forming a wall to be the bullet shield for higher up pieces.”
“Oz….what kind of game did you grow up on?” The most puzzling look in the galaxy appeared on her face. “There are no guns in chess…”
He looked at her down at the board. “I thought we were playing Battle Royale.”
“It’s the game where you have two sides both each with the same infantry and you have to capture the commander.”
“Yeah that’s chess.”
Oz shared the puzzled look. “Now I am confused.”
Sally moved the pieces back to starting position. “Okay, unlearn everything you learned from growing up in the Junkyard. This is how you actually play the game.”
Stomping echoed from down the corridor. Astre slid a few inches trying to stop herself from passing the mess hall entrance.
“D-Distress beacon…” She panted trying to catch her breath. “Distress beacon in Begas 6! Urgent assistance!”
Her eyes widened in surprise and panic. Sally pushed the chair to the ground as she got up. Oslo followed after her. The trio sprinted towards the bridge, a few others witnessing gave strange looks at this rush. Their boots made thunderous noise that filled the air. The urgency of the situation could be heard in their steps.
Sally hopped into seat of the cockpit and spun it to face the console. She hurriedly pressed the big, green, button to play the radio message that was picked up. It wasn't automated, a genuine voice emitted.
“Begas sizzzx…..” The connection grew weaker. “...guine attacking. Aether vam…vrywhere... Need immediate assistaa-!” Their death scream interrupted the message. Silence took over.
“That was Krad…” Sally mumbled. She spun the chair around and threw herself onto her feet with a force. Her fingers pressed against her temple as her armour unfolded and covered her. “Come on, we got vampires to slay.” The other two looked at each other and didn’t hesitate to follow her.
The three stopped by Pillowton. “Hey stoners! Begas 6 is under attack! Who’s with me in slaying vampires?”
There was a surprised gasp and loud “Whoa’s”.
“Haven watch where you're stepping.”
The feline mystic crawled out of the blanket fort.
“I’m ready and willing!”
Belt handed the bong back and stood up to her knees.
“Take this.” Cocheta handed her a pill. “It’ll instantly sober you up.”
“And how do I know I could trust this?” She looked at the pill then back at Cocheta.
“Zaff made it.”
“Was that supposed to convince me?”
“Just take it.”
Belt popped the pill and crept out of the fort. She stood and limbered up a bit before moving on. “Always at your back, sis.”
“What about you Cocheta?” Sally yelled.
“Sorry, I’ll have to duck out of this one. I gotta take care of her.” She looks over at Rosie who is staring off in disconnect.
“Suit yourself!” She turned and led the rescue party into the hangar where the shuttle was. Donovan and Ophelia looked up from their desks towards the door. There was a noise getting louder and louder. A nonstop train of people passed by the door. She looked over at Donovan and they shrugged back.
Sally grasped the door to the shuttle. She swung open and motioned her arm for everyone to get in. The bounty hunters hopped in swiftly in a line. She stepped in and slammed the door shut. The lights inside illuminated the room.
“Whoever’s flying, take us to Begas 6!”
A small digital face appeared on the monitor in the cockpit. “Plotting for Begas 6!”
Clouds jetted into the floor and then fire. The ship hummed to life and began to float. It gently rotated an one hundred degree angle and blasted off.
Chapter 3: The Siege of Begas 6
Begas 6 is under attack
The foliage in the jungle shook as vampires skulked through the green. Six of them banded together.
“Are we ready?” One of them whispered. “We all know our positions?”
Before anyone could answer a shuttle with heavy force dropped on them. Their bodies crushed to dust. The door flew open and Astre was the first to step out.
“Last time we let Oslo land.” She muttered in irritation.
“It was bumpy but it was quick! We can’t waste time on a proper docking!” He followed after.
Belt and Haven hopped off. “A little warning would have been nice. Especially since this one is carrying swords.” She pointed at the cat.
“You have a bomb for an arm! I’m safer than you.”
“Focus!” Sally was the last to step out. The situation was critical according to the rare mood the swordswoman was in. Everyone hushed down and scanned the surrounding area. Quiet wildlife murmured.
“Nothing now. Let’s move!” Sally marched forward first and the rest continued after her.
A sharp growl leapt towards Haven. One of the vampires from under the ship crawled out and tackled them. Oz collided with the undead creature and muscled him off with his shoulder. Belt hooked underneath the vampire’s arms and restrained him as Haven recovered. They drew their blades and impaled his heart. A massive cloud of ashe exploded as the body disintegrated.
“You okay kitty?” Belt laid a hand on their shoulder.
“I’m fine, it just caught me by surprise. Next time though.” They hopped into a stance with their blades. “I’ll be ready.”
Belt smiled. “I’m sure you will be.”
Haven turned around and gave a nudge on Oz’s arm. “Thanks for having my back.”
“It’s what I do, don’t mention it.”
“Let’s hurry to the temple. The sooner we clear these things out of the heart of the jungle the better.” Sally gave the signal to keep moving forward.
The crew returned to their quiet state and stealthily crept through the wild. The environment remained untouched by outside sounds. The rhythm of water and smaller lifeforms chirping remained ambient.
Sally’s mind was set on the temple. It is rare for the Sanguine maybe unheard of to launch a full scale siege, and to be succeeding? Something isn’t quite right. There was either the possibility of a traitor in the ranks or outside aid siding with the Sanguine. The question was who would help them and why? What was to gain?
She shook her head. She can't play detective and warrior at the same time. Her mind needed to be clear and set on the task at hand.
They neared the temple. Surrounding the massive building were numerous monks fighting off the hordes of vampires.
“Let’s go!” With a hop in her step Sally drew Oath and charged into the fray. She swung her steel in an arc and decapitated two of the vampires. She lowered her shoulder and barreled through another one, knocking them prone. Her blade was raised in the air and then slammed into the creature’s chest.
The others jumped into action. Oz suppressed the attacking forces with a pistol in each hand. Red lasers traveled across the battle. Astre and Belt stood back to back.
“Let’s make this interesting.” Belt smirked.
“What do you have in mind?” Astre looked over her shoulder.
“Who can drop more vampire asses? Me or you?” Belt looked all around at the circle closing in on the two.
“Obviously me.” Astre anticipated an attack so she could go in for a counter.
“Then prove it with your actions not your words.” Belt took a step forward. Her knuckles driven into the temple of the closest vampire. It spun around and crashed into the earth. The circle closed in tighter.
Astre grabbed the back of a vampire’s head who went for a bite and redirected it into another. It’s fangs sank into its ally’s neck. She drove her knee into its spine and dropped the two with a thud.
“Not bad…” Belt had a competitive expression on her face. She slammed the dirt with her gauntlet creating a screen of dust and earth. She blindly threw punches and elbows into the disoriented crowd. Vampires fell and stumbled over one another.
“That’s…” the cloud cleared. “Five for me!” her hands rested on her hips.
Oslo spun around on his heel. His arms were fanned out while he was spinning. Lasers lit the surrounding area as he moved himself in a continuous 360 arc. He lunged and dropped on one knee. Haven stepped on his back and leaped into the crowd in front of the two. They landed with their blades stabbing through one of the vampires and quickly swiped in every direction. Limbs and blood scattered amongst the shrinking numbers as Haven was cutting them down. Oz kept his guns aimed around the mystic. He continuously fired at those attempting to blindside them.
Sally held Oath outward and swung, gutting four of the vampires before her. One jumped on her and impacted the blade, cutting itself in half. Another charged and then stopped in its tracks at the sound of a booming horn. The horde began to disperse into the greens. The Cygnet crew stood their ground watching the forces disappear. The surviving Ferric monks stood up from the ground and brushed themselves off.
“Rhapsody? You okay?” Mercury nudged the lifeless body. She turned the body over to see the pink alien’s eyes were lightless.
Stepping out of the temple Ailbe’s gauntlet clutched the throat of Cobalt. Silver, gleaming armour covered the alien. They leaned back and tossed the head monk’s corpse at Rhapsody’s.
Mercury looked down at the slain leader in heartbreak and then back at the white alien in rage and fury. She felt insulted having her leader thrown at her like a stick. Every hand grabbed a blade from the snake creature’s scabbards. She sprinted forth towards Ailbe.
Haven held their blades up and took off to assist the Ferric assassin.
Ailbe pressed their palms together and pulled their hands apart. A purple, glowing, beam of energy stretched from between. They grabbed an end of the line and it flashed into the shape of a sword.
Mercury slashed with two of her swords, both blades blocked by Ailbe’s gauntlet as they held it up. They deflected the attacks of the other blades with their sword. Haven raised both swords in the air and struck at their back. The alien held their blade over their shoulder blocking the blow. Mercury’s additional attacks were parried with their elbow and countered with a kick to the lower stomach. Ailbe turned their attack on Haven. Their gauntlet grasped their shoulder and flung them to the side at the snake creature. Haven’s blades punctured Mercury on impact.
Astre and Sally flanked them. Astre desperately threw blows in anger. Ailbe leaned back and swayed left and right dodging her punches. Sally thrust her sword towards them. They stepped aside, their elbow collided with her helmet dazing her. The glowing blade swiped at Astre. Nanobots covered her body as quick as they could but could barely withstand the blow.
Ailbe slammed their gauntlet into Sally’s face and kicked Astre square in the chest. The two rolled back unconsciously down the stone steps.
Haven pounced Ailbe’s back with a hiss. They stumbled forward trying to balance the sudden force and shift in weight. Oslo open fired onto the now vulnerable alien. They raised their gauntlet. The gleaming, silver, armour blocked the blasts. They rotated their arm. Their palm opened wide as they absorbed the blasts. A tiny orb of energy grew in the socket on their forearm. Ailbe lunged forth and stood swiftly causing Haven to swing to their front. They lifted them up and utilized them as a shield from the fire. Lasers struck the mystic's shoulders and lower back. Ailbe hurled them into Oslo. The two collided and crashed into the dirt.
“Haven!” Belt pulsed with rage. Her fist struck the alien in the jaw and then the abdomen. The plates on their greaves unfolded and locked into ground, preventing them from stumbling backwards. Belt pulled back, her bomb gauntlet arming. She pushed all her might into the final blow with her armed fist. Ailbe’s gauntlet grabbed her hand and a small explosion flared then snuffed out. The energy orb in their socket grew exponentially.
“What the fu-” Belt stared at the gauntlet's function. She was interrupted by a massive blow to the side of the head. She struggled to keep standing and dropped to one knee.
“Pathetic…” Their breathy voice insulted with a smile.
“Susie...help…” Oslo drew his communicator from under his coat. He struggled to move with an unconscious Haven laying right on him.
Ailbe lifted their leg and prepared to kick Belt down the steps. They stopped and shifted at the sound of Sally running at them, Oath drawn. They stood in a stance anticipating the incoming attack. Sally swung with heavy strength. They held their blade up with both hands blocking the strike. Their combat style centered around defense. Strikes continued to be blocked and dodged until Sally was winded. She heavily painted, her glare locked onto her adversary. Ailbe waited for her to catch her breath. Their stance remained unchanged.
“The Ferric Order, monks who are renowned for achieving maximum potential through combat. This is them, I am disappointed.” They taunted her.
She grunted and raised her blade high. She growled rushing forward for a powerful strike. Ailbe smiled and slashed Sally's sword. Her eyes widened. A thunderous clash of steel echoed throughout the jungle. Oath felt lighter to wield. She turned around and saw pieces of her sword scattered around both of their feet.
Sally slowly turned around in horror. “N-no…..way…..” Her eyes looked at the fragments of Oath.
“Next time, bring a stronger weapon.” Ailbe swung in a wide arc, their blade gashing her thigh.
Sally dropped to her back. She crawled away woundedly. “Who are you?”
Ailbe chuckled triumphantly. “The one who’s going to bring an end to this chain of vigilantes.”
The whirring of a ship pierced the quiet aftermath of the battle. Both Sally and Ailbe looked up to see the shuttle hovering off the ground. The ramp opened up and Susie stood with a blaster rifle. She fired at the silver cladded alien. Sally pulled herself to the edge of the steps allowing herself to roll to the base.
Oslo weakly pulled Astre onto the ramp with Haven draped over his shoulders.
Belt hooked Sally’s arm and stood her up. “Come on, this is not a place to die.”
Ailbe stepped back to the entrance arch of the temple. Their gauntlet armed itself as they punched the infrastructure with heavy force. The glowing orb in the socket shrank to nothing. A bright light pierced the stone of the building and the structure exploded from the inside out. The temple shook as it began to crumble. Using the falling debris as cover from the blasts, Ailbe marched off into the wild.
The shuttle ramp closed as the ship gained altitude and blasted away.
“Who the fuck was that?” Belt held her hands to her head. The headache from the punch she took felt like her entire skull shattered.
Sally looked over at the temple building crumbling to dust. “Someone who made the worst mistake of their life.”
Oslo clutched Haven’s hand. “I’m sorry, stay with me, I’m sorry.”
“I can’t feel my tail…” Haven weakly moved their legs.
“Please don’t be paralyzed, I couldn’t live with myself if I paralyzed you.” He tightened his grasp.
Belt held Haven’s other hand. “You’ll be fine, we’re going to get you to Phee and Donovan and they’ll get you back together.”
“Wake Up Idiot!” Wr3n shouted within Astre’s head. “Come On! Don’t Be Dead! Please Don’t Be Dead!” The nanobots unarmoured her body. A large cut stretched from her shoulder to her hip.
Sally took off her helmet and held her head to Astre’s. “Don’t be gone, please don’t be gone.” She begged.
Chapter 4: Tension
Belt and Oslo sprinted down the corridor to medbay with unconscious bodies in their arms. Susie pushed Sally’s wheelchair after the other two.
“We got wounded!” Oz shouted as he opened the door. Zaffre, Donovan and Ophelia stood up from their desks in concerned confusion.
Ophelia’s eyes widened in horror as Astre and Haven were laid out on the tables. “What happened? Is everyone hurt? What the fuck happened?”
“I’m the only one not seriously injured! Haven and Astre are barely conscious!” Oslo laid Haven into a comfortable position.
“Take care of me last, Sal, Haven and Astre need the attention first!” Belt sat on the chair against the wall. Donovan began treatment on Haven’s blast marks. Ophelia wasted no time patching up Astre’s gash.
“Who the hell did this?” Donovan didn’t take their eye off Haven.
“Some…..someone….” Sally couldn’t even begin to discover who they were up against. “They had, glowing red eyes, and long hair, and gleaming armour.”
“What were they after?” Zaffre handed a few pills and a flask with colourful liquid to Belt and proceeded to treat Sally.
“I-I...don’t know. They were the reason for the distress beacon on Begas 6, but...they didn’t grab anything, they just attacked. They were allied with the Sanguine.”
“Were you successful?” He asked her.
“No…..they….destroyed the entire temple with a single punch.”
“H-how?” Ophelia stopped and turned to face Sally.
Belt looked at her hand. “I….punched them and they absorbed the explosion from my gauntlet…..and stored it?”
Oslo chimed in. “They also sucked up my blasters!”
“All that stored power between Belt’s gauntlet and Oslo’s guns, they were able to level the building.” Sally looked at the floor.
The doctors all looked at each other with grim expressions.
“We wouldn't be here right now if Susie hadn't flown in.” Sally looked up at the robot.
“Yeah, nice shooting. Really saved our butts.” Oslo stood up and patted her on the shoulder.
“I do my best to make sure you all remain alive.” Susie chirped.
“It was weird that all the Sanguine retreated in the middle of the battle.” Belt held a finger to her chin.
“Whoever they were, perhaps they had a grudge against the Ferric Order.” Oz suggested.
“No it can't be. They weren't a vampire.” Sally shook her head. “I don’t think the Ferric Order has...had any adversaries other than the Sanguine.”
“What happened exactly?” Ophelia didn’t like where the conversation was headed but morbid curiosity took over.
“It was an all out assault. We responded, it was going well. We tore through the horde. Their numbers were dwindling and then, they stopped. There was a loud boom and they all retreated into the trees. The next thing we knew they were standing their, holding Cobalt's body high in the air...like a trophy. That's when Mercury and Haven attacked.”
The doctor looked over at Donovan's patient. Scorch marks decorated their back.
“It was my fault. I shot them-”
“No it wasn't Ozzy.” Belt refused to let him take blame. “You shot at the enemy and they used Haven as a meat shield.”
“It was a trap….” Sally said bluntly. Everyone looked at her. “The vampires retreated when we got close. That alien came walking out, they must have known we were coming. They knew how Belt's gauntlet worked or they wouldn’t have caught the blast; and the last thing they said to me before Susie rescued us was, “They were the one who's going to put an end to this string of vigilantes.”
“So they were trying to rid the galaxy of Cygnet…” Belt stood up and headed for the exit.
“Where are you going?”
She cracked her knuckles. “I have to clear my head.” The door slid open and she stepped out of the room.
The sandbag took relentless beatings. Belt kept her stance locked as she delivered an onslaught of punches into the sand. The chain shook violently. With a kick as the final blow, the bag broke off and was launched into the wall. A large cloud of dust exploded.
“There's only one other time I've seen you like this.” Cocheta perched on a stack of crates in the dark corner of the cargo bay. “and that wasn't as bad as you are now.”
“Leave…please!” Belt's clenched her fist and kept her eyes on the floor.
“Is our favourite kitty going to be okay?” She almost sounded like as if it were Belt's fault for Haven's condition.
“Cocheta…!” She grit her teeth.
The hacker took a step back. She faded into the shadows.
“If you want to know, go see them for yourself!” Belt kneeled down and picked up another sandbag.
Chapter 5: The Next Move
Robotic arms connected to multiple panels extended towards Ailbe. The thin needles heated up and began to unweld the shining steel from their skin. Small hooks connected and lifted the pieces off. They grimaced in pain as they were unarmored.
Corg stepped into the armory chamber. “Master Ailbe. Were you successful in your attack on Begas 6?”
They stepped forward weakly and gasped in relief of the painful process ending. Steam rose from their naked skin. Their jet black hair draped over their chest.
The droid scanned the burn scars and bolt piercings on Ailbe's thin body.
“I didn't put an end to Cygnet,” Their lips lifted into a smile. “But I did send them a wakeup call.”
“What's your next course of action?”
“We exploit the idiot.” They kept walking through the door and down the corridor to the bridge of the ship.
“Who is this idiot, and how?” It followed after them.
“The Junkyard Prince, it’s simple. We decimate the entire planet. Turn it into an asteroid belt.”
“How do you plan on doing that, Master? You will need a flotilla of cruisers with heavy artillery and-”
“Oh Corg, for an artificial intelligence with a library of knowledge you seem so ignorant.”
The droid tilted its head not knowing how to respond.
“There’s a volcano as you know...”
“The Great Burning Tire. Located in the northern reaches with the highest count of trash. It has an abnormally high altitude with the depths reaching as far down as twenty five meters away from the core.”
“You know of this and still haven’t figured out what my plan is?”
“Concocting hypothesis….” A low hum and whirr could be heard underneath its frame. “You plan on dropping an explosive capable of causing cataclysmic damage into the volcano.”
“Now you’re catching on dear. The next step is acquiring a weapon of that scale.”
“Your vampiric allies have a high morale level after your previous victory, with increasing numbers too. Perhaps they could be of assistance?”
“The Junkyard only sees the sun and it is too hot and barrened for the Sanguine to survive. The Junkers are also reckless and their weaponry are beyond hazardous with no calculated damages. They could damage the area than a target. I need something with armour and firepower.” The door to the bridge opened. They walked in a relaxed stride down the narrow path to the large chair at the end of the room.
“Perhaps the Caissa could provide some assistance, although their service is not cheap.”
“Cheap? Corg you’re disappointing me, currency is not something I consider when it comes to playing this game of chess. It’s all about making the right moves.” Ailbe sat in the red and chrome seat. The axel spun around to face the monitors. The screens lowered to surround the alien.
“How do you propose to acquire their service?”
“Find me the moon their base is built upon. I have a few Sanguine agents to call.” Their boney fingers pressed against the screen.
“It will be done.” The droid turned away and stepped with a limp out of the bridge.
Ailbe opened up a folder of collected information from throughout the years. There was a collection of files inside a subfolder labeled “projects”. They pulled up a stored news headline from half a year ago. Caissa planned on unveiling their new line of mech models in order to boost hiring rates.
“Top of the line weaponry. Now what would happen if the Junkyard were caught stealing them, and taking them apart for scrap?” Ailbe tapped their lips with the tip of their middle and index.
They swiped the headline to the side, the window crossed over to another screen. Another file opened centered around the Junkyard. The window broke into smaller windows. Maps and coordinates of locations and towns assorted themselves into a circle arrangement. They tapped one of the windows and it enlarged. The capital city loaded onto the page. A pin flickered on top of the hangar bay.
Ailbe tapped the buttons on the arm of the chair. The speakers mounted on the shoulders turned on.
“In need of us so soon?” A growly voice answered the call.
“Alckore, you should know by now when I make a plan I waste no time seeing it to the end.”
“That is true, how can we repay the favour you brought us on Begas 6?”
“I need your best, your strongest, most intelligent, agile, and skillful. Bring me your saboteurs, your infiltrators, your best operatives.”
“And might I ask what you plan on doing with them?”
“It's time for a good old fashioned heist. A big one. One with a reward that will devastate those who tried to protect the target.”
“You have my ear, tell me more…”
“The mercenary faction Caissa. I hear they have new kinds of highly powered mech units.”
“Caissa!? That's a highly risky target? Why do you plan on making a dangerous enemy?”
“I'm not, the Junkyard will be.”
“Ailbe, may I say your deviousness knows no bounds.” Alckore laughed evilly.
“Deviousness is the key to the game of war.”
“What is the first move?”
“First I'll need a ship from the Junkyard. No need to waste any valuable agents on that heat rock, I can do that myself. I will rendezvous with your agents in the asteroid belt of Fenris's Teeth. Once my droid discovers the whereabouts of their armoury, we will strike.”
“I look forward to working with you again.” Alckore chuckled.
“As do I.”
The call line ended. Ailbe swiveled and stepped off their chair. They walked with a stronger step than when they first unarmored. Their stride still had signs of weakness from their frail, light, body. Their kind strong in mind, weak in muscle. They had to dwell on technology and medicine to keep them standing.
Ailbe entered their quarters and stepped into an orange jumpsuit. They picked up a large syringe laying on the nightstand next to their resting pod. The needle poked through the patch with a tiny hole in the middle, sewn to their shoulder. Their fist tightened as they felt a surge of strength and energy flowing through their veins.
“Trash Prince, I hope you know how to play chess.”
Chapter 6: Welcome to the Junkyard
The sand was like burning coals. The sun hot, dry, and unforgiving. Ailbe covered their skin with a large hat and a long cloak. Despite the heat resistant coverage they were still sweating bullets.
Before them lied large heaps of waste that naturally formed a wall surrounded the city. The gate was a large rubber tire cut in half to form an archway.
“Getting rid of this place is a service to the galaxy.” Ailbe muttered as they marched on through into town.
A deep cockney voice spoke from behind the pale alien. “Hey, I don't think I've seen the likes of you before.”
They turned around. A large, rounded, man next to a tall, slim, one stood right by the gate.
“You must be new in town right?” The skinnier one spoke with a rubbery, higher pitched, voice.
“Yes, I'm a tourist. I'm exploring the wonderful sites the galaxy has to offer.” They forced a convincing smile.
“Well then you came to the right place,” The large man put a hand on his chest. “I'm Trashmouse.” He slapped the taller one's chest and he laughed on impact. “And that’s Streetpig.”
“If you wanted culture my friend you came to the place that has culture flowing out its rear waste pipe.” Streetpig cackled.
“Come on friend, we'll give you a warm welcome. We'll take you to see the sites.”
“Do you think they'll enjoy the Great Burning Tire? Or the Junk Henge? Or the Eastrash Island Heads? Or the…”
“Actually if you don't mind? I wanted to see the palace, do you mind taking me there?”
“The Palace? Oh that's where our good boy Oslo used to live. Come on, we'll show you!” Trashmouse took off leading the way.
“Come on friend, daylight's burning!” Streetpig patted their back.
Ailbe smiled, everything was falling into the right place.
“What exactly about the palace did you wanna see?” Trashmouse had enthusiasm in every step.
“I wanted to see the art and science that resides in those halls. I want to see what you create out of all...this…” Their hand waves around in a circle.
“You're in luck, were the most resourceful people in the stars! What not waste not we always say around these parts!” Streetpig stepped in unison with Trashmouse.
“I'm so glad I ran into you two to brighten my visit.” Their tone was almost genuine.
“Yeah good thing, besides I don't think anyone could get you into this place without royal permission other than us two, the Prince's best mates.” A large grin grew on Streetpig.
“Very first thing you want to see in the halls, what is it?” Trashmouse spoke with great determination to be an excellent tour guide.
“I want to see your space tech, if I may. I have so many curiosities about how you managed to scrap together ships capable of space travel.”
“Uhh…” The two looked at each other.
“We got one…” Streetpig brushed the back of his head.
“But it's experimental and were not supposed to go near it.” Trashmouse looked over at Ailbe and then back af Street.
“We do wanna be the best your guides ever though…” He shrugged and smiled at Trash. “So we will sneak you in!” He screeched and then covered his mouth quickly. “We'll sneak you in.” He whispered.
“You guys are the best.” Ailbe smiled touched.
Night had fallen and three silhouettes had ran alongside a chain link fence.
“Are you ready?” Streetpig roughly mumbled.
Ailbe gave a thumbs up. Their hand poking out of their cloak.
Trashmouse turned around and chomped on the rusted metal.
Ailbe looked in shock at this infiltration strategy. They watched as this man bit into the chain, breaking it off.
“A plasma cutter would've done better but...you two are true to your word resourceful.”
“The best tools are the ones were born with.” Streetpig eyed them as they pulled the fencing back.
“Go on!” Trashmouse motioned them to crawl in.
With careful grace and ease they stepped and ducked through the opening without getting caught onto any exposed metal.
The next to step through was an ungrateful Trashmouse who barreled through the hole and then Streetpig who tripped and landed on his jaw.
Ailbe shook their head. ‘They better not ruin this.’
The two rushed to their feet and patted the dirt off each other. “Phase one complete.” They both saluted.
Ailbe rolled their eyes. “Let's go!”
The three sprinted across the hangar field. The hangar door was open and four guards were seen in sight marching out to the front.
“Hold!” Trashmouse extended his arm to the side in front of Ailbe. “Stay here, we got this. Streetpig, initiate surprise party!”
“We will be right back!” Streetpig gave a thumbs up, big smile, and a wink.
The two ran off towards the guards screaming.
“Freeze! Oh it's you two…” One of the guards held up their rifles then lowered it. “What are you doing over here, this is off limits.”
“Oslo's coming for his birthday and we don't have time to finish the party if he arrives now!”
“Oslo's coming?” The guard looked at the other.
“It's his birthday?”
“I thought it was in two months?”
“That's Geff's you div.”
“Shit, we gotta stall them.” The four soldiers looked at each other in a panic and ran off inside the palace.
Ailbe stared wide eyed. They thought these two were simply morons but proved to be quite handy. Of course it's the Junkyard, this is the only spot where they would be useful. They dashed towards the two.
“You two have been excellent tour guides. I would love to come back again.”
“Yeah!” The two high fived.
The lights were on in the hangar and the only ship that sat inside was the Junkyard's newest spaceship.
“Huh I guess they're testing it tomorrow, that's why the other ships aren't there.” Streetpig places his hands on his hips.
Ailbe scanned it. Surprisingly this looked like this most promising piece of technology on this rock. It was large, bigger than a dropship. It looked more polished and durable than any other vehicle on the planet.
“Ain't it pretty!” Trashmouse fawned over the ship.
“Yeah it's so...wait what are you doing?” The two took their eyes off the ship and saw Ailbe boarding inside it. They sprinted after them realizing their mistake.
Ailbe pulled the door open. A tight grasp closed on their ankle. They looked down and saw Trashmouse prying them off the ship.
“We thought you were a tourist! We trusted you!”
“Yeah you bloody thief! Get off our ship!”
Ailbe struggled for moments before letting go. They landed on Trashmouse with their palm on his forehead. Their eyes flashed light blue and the large man fell on his back.
“Mouse? Buddy?” Streetpig distracted by his friend released Ailbe. Their body dropped lifelessly.
Trashmouse stood up and punched Streetpig in the side of his face. He picked up Ailbe's unconscious body and placed them on the edge of the ship's floor. He lifted their hand and pressed the palm on his forehead. He fell back unconscious and Ailbe jolted with a surge of life.
Ailbe pushed themself off the floor and onto their feet. Their body felt weaker after body swapping twice. All their strength was focused into getting into the cockpit. They fell with a limp into the seat and weakly leaned over to press buttons and flip switches.
“Let's see your potential you rust bucket of bolts.”
Streetpig got up and shook his friend awake.
“C'mon, Trashmouse wake up! They're stealing the royal ship.”
He shook him more violently and quickly.
“C’mon c’mon c’mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon!”
The engines flared and the blast pushed the two back, they rolled with force down the hangar. The ship levitated and then disappeared into the night.
Trashmouse sat up and shook his head.
“Streetpig, I think we may be dead…”
“Oh my head….”
He got up and pulled his rounded friend up to his feet. “Forget your head! We gotta get in touch with Oslo before the king gets to us!”
The two scrambled and sprinted off into the opening they made at the fencing.
Hours had passed. Numerous Sanguine vampire curiously inspected the ship they boarded. Alckore took a seat in the chair next to Ailbe. His hair shiny and black, was tied in a bun. A black cloak draped over his red, leather, attire.
“It's not the prettiest, but it will do.” He spoke to Ailbe, not taking his eyes off the ship.
“I just hope we don't take a hit. It can fly, I don't suspect it's much for damage.”
“They were never ones for trying to last, just to be impacting. You know their code, ‘Be safe and if you can't be safe…’”
“Be effective….I know. The primitive “You're coming with me’ outlook.” Ailbe scoffed.
“You find their belief primitive? It was one of the few things I commended.”
“If you’re good at what you do, you would not need a self destructive back up plan. Don't die attempting a dent when you can live another day causing a total annihilation.”
“War is a game, and I pride myself in being a champion.” They grinned vilely.
“And I pride myself in aligning with the winner's side.”
The two chuckled.
A moon with chrome coloured buildings neared in the distance.
Alckore stood up from his seat and stepped into the loading area. “We're approaching destination? Does everyone know what they're doing?”
The vampires turned to their leader and crossed their arms across their chests in an x. He nodded and crossed his arms back.
He stepped back into the cockpit. “My agents are ready.”
“Excellent.” Ailbe flew the ship lowly towards the side of the main tower.
The side doors began opening as the Sanguine activated their nanosuits. Small, metal, scarabs crawled all around their bodies and started to cloak themselves, turning the vampires invisible. They hopped off the ship as it circled around. Their talons pierced the infrastructure and they climbed up towards the top of the tower.
Ailbe flew off the Caissan radar. The ship spun around at the edge of their detection and deactivated it. It floated idly as a large metal asteroid.
The Sanguine infiltrators reached the head security control room. Their sharpened claws cut into the glass the windows. Cracks traced in circles. Their suits decloaked as they penetrated through. Vacuums opened up all around. Officers suffocated and were pulled into the leaks. The Sanguine clawed and scratched through their defense, dropping bodies.
One of them reached to the admin console and began deactivating defenses. She held her fingers to her temple.
“Automatic defenses are deactivated. You're clear chief.”
Two others struck and destroyed the machine after, preventing any reenabling.
Ailbe flew the ship into the opening hangar bay doors. Alckore stood up from his seat and positioned himself at the open sides of the ship. His suit faded into transparency. Ailbe threw off their cloak revealing their silver armour.
The ship gently landed in the middle of the hangar bay. A battalion of Caissa ran to surround the ship. Their guns locked on whoever to be the first to step out. They waited completely still and not moving a muscle.
One of the soldiers threw their weapon to the floor and fell back with a grunt. A few looked over and some broke their stance in confusion. Another screamed and three slashes opened across their helmet.
“What the fu--” Another soldier felt a kick to the back that crashed him into the ground.
The array of soldiers looked around as more and more dropped down to the ground. They began to fire into the air, some shots hitting the walls some being friendly fire.
Alckore reappeared and Ailbe leapt into the fray from the ship. The two dashed through the crowds of armed mercenaries and despatched them one by one. More infiltrators decloaked as they tackled the soldiers.
A platform rose from outside the hangar doors. Large mechs stood on the rising octagon. Their gatling guns rotated and roared to life. Bullets sprayed into the crowd taking out both Sanguine and Caissa infantry.
“Move!” Alckore screamed out.
The Sanguine took cover into the thick of the crowd as they scuttled out of the hangar room. The infiltrators dispersed into different rooms. Soldiers met them in the corridors but were made into quick work as Alckore and Ailbe ran through them.
“Rigger team, I need you to rewire those automatic guns!” He shouted into the team's radio.
“We're on it!”
The surviving panels were opened up at the security office. The hackers stationed went to work, hastily rewiring and fixing the guns to lock on the Caissan.
Alckore and Ailbe trailed off into the underground. They fled down flights of stairs until they reached the third bottom level. The blast doors opened. Two giant, heavily armed, mechs stood cold and inactive in the middle of the room.
“Two will never fit on the ship.” Alckore watched Ailbe climb into one of the mechs.
“Then one will have to be stay back to cover us.” They pried the cockpit window up and jumped into the seat.
Alckore climbed into the adjacent mech. As the two sat in their seats and fired up the machines countless security teams spilled in the room.
“Sarge, what do we do? We can’t destroy them!” One of the soldiers looked over at the commanding officer.
He sighed deeply, “Fuck it. Fire away.” He pulled the trigger and their guns lit up.
Ailbe and Alckore stood back to back. The arms of their mecs rose. The guns attached spun furiously as shells were ejected out and decorated the floor. Red, misty, clouds flared all around them as the security squads were made into gorey messes.
The ground underneath rose. The platform they stood on extended upward to the hangar level. Ailbe looked around at the bodies on the floor. They turned to face the opposing machines moving in. The stolen mech charged forward, its movement fluidlike.
The opposing mechs unloaded at the joints of Ailbe’s. Bullets sprayed the non lethal areas of the machine. The Chaiss had no interest in destroying their new technology even if in enemy hands. Ailbe maneuvered into a slide. The machine glided across the floor, its gun arm unloading into the mechs. Alckore’s mech sprinted in the opposite direction towards the Junkyard ship.
“Stop that one!” One of the pilots yelled. He aimed the arm of his weapon onto the vampire. Ailbe pounced the sniper. Their arm lifted and smashed the cockpit windshield. The pilot within grabbed his throat and struggled for breath.
The Sanguine retreated back to the ship. The surviving agents hooked latches onto the mech as they boarded.
“Ailbe, we are ready to leave, c’mon!” One of the vampires shouted.
They raised their gauntlet and smashed the controls and console inside the mech. Electricity sparked and flared from the imploding destruction of the mech. They punched the cockpit open and leapt onto the ship flying overhead. Their hands clutched the foot of the mech. Numerous Sanguine hands reached out to pull their ally into the ship.
“Get in! We can’t lose you yet, we’ve only finished the easy part!” Alckore shouted into the comm mic while piloting the ship.
Trailing behind the junkyard ship were Caissa gunships and carriers pursuing closely. Four sets of hands grabbed onto Ailbe and pulled them into the ship.
“Everyone brace yourselves…” They warned the squadron.
Actually hated writing this one
“Are you sure you’re not here cause of your birthday?” One of the palace guards asked with the utmost confusion.
“No! I think I’d remember my own birthday!” Oslo spoke in frustration. He mounted a uniquely designed machine gun onto a nest of sandbags.
“Then what are these decorations for?” He poked the gun with his rifle-halberd.
“Don’t stab it, and they’re not decorations, they’re defenses.” He nudged the weapon away from the gun. “We got a big fight on our hands coming up and we don’t have much time.”
“Who’s coming?” The guard looked off the balcony of the palace and down at Toby mounting guns on the battlements Rosie’s been making.
She drove whatever vehicles were parked together to form a barricade and Toby mounted weaponry onto the hoods.
“I don’t know, there’s not a lot I know of them but they’re a pain in the ass alright.” Oslo fed the bullet belt into the minigun. The bullets were not like any other ammunition. They were vials of glowing, orange material with transparent, metal shells surrounding.
“What is that?” The guard curiously scanned the bullets.
“This….is firepower. I don’t know how this will look but Toby built it, so I trust it’s going to sting.” He drew a walkie-talkie from his coat. “Trash, Street. You fellas there?”
The two were miles away at a camp of bunkers. Streetpig unclipped the talkie from his belt and held it to his mouth. “Streetpig here!”
“Are all the civilians underground?”
“We’re finishing up then we’ll meet up with Astre and Belt at the Palace.”
“Solid, thanks guys.” They could hear the smile in his voice.
“And Oz, once again, we’re both terribly sorry about letting the ship get stolen.”
“Don’t sweat it guys, you two were just trying to be good ambassadors. Prince, out.”
Streetpig faced Trashmouse. “Phew, so glad we’re still on his good side after that one.”
Belt, Ophelia, and Astre stood with many other royal guards outside Geff Joldblum’s private chambers. Belt looked over at the layers of nanobots covering the gash on Astre’s torso.
“Are you sure you’re up to this?” She spoke softly and comforting.
“If I wasn’t I wouldn’t be here right now.” Astre’s tone was angry, not directed at Belt. Her voice vengeful.
“And if I was sure you’d be capable of being here I wouldn’t be here.” Ophelia’s brows furrowed.
She decided to work the field this time to watch over the patients who insisted on fighting.
Tension rose amongst the shipmates as many wanted to keep fighting this new adversary while others insisted that they rest.
“Don’t worry Phee, I’ll look after her.” Belt tried to reassure the doctor.
“What about you? You could still have a concussion and major fractures in your skull!” Ophelia’s fist clenched. The fear of not being able to reverse the oncoming damage of this fight flooded her veins.
“This time I know what we’re up against, I’ll be careful. I only took that blow last time because I was reckless.”
Ophelia bit her lip, nothing she could say was going to help her case. “Just don’t die on me, both of you!”
“We’ll be safe…” Belt muttered.”
“And if you can’t be safe--” The guards added.
“DON’T FINISH THAT!” Ophelia quickly spun on her heel and yelled at the surrounding guards.
They all looked at each other startled by the eruption from her. “R-right, sorry ma'am.”
She sighed deeply and rubbed her temples.
Two of the other defenders stood by Birdie, who was parked in the middle of town. Rosie sat on the ramp of her ship with a bandolier of flasks across her chest. Zaffre gave her a list of every effect every concoction had with a number etched on the top of each flask.
“Number 23, makes you faster. Number 24 does…..I think it helps you focus and increase your reaction time. Number 25 widens your range of sight.” Zaffre rolled up the paper and pushed it into an empty pocket on her sash.
“Good luck to me trying to remember all of them I guess.” Rosie looked at all the colourful liquids strapped to her.
“That’s why I gave you the list!” He said optimistically.
“Yeah, I hope I have time to read and I don’t lose it.” She replied sarcastically with a smile. She stood up and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Sorry I didn’t mean to sound ungrateful. Thank you Zaffre. Where are you going to be in the fight?”
He pointed over in the direction of the palace. “Oz wants me on the mounted guns surrounding the palace. I guess you, Toby, Ever, and Cocheta are out on the field with the militia.”
“Best of luck on your job. I’m sure you’ll do fine.”
“Same to you, I doubt they know what they’re up against.”
“We’ll give them hell!” She reached out her arm and Zaffre grabbed her hand and embraced her. “Say do you need to be dropped off, don’t waste your energy walking through the heat.”
“That’d be much appreciated!”
“Bongo! You’re up!” Rosie looked back at the ship and shouted.
The metallic pup’s limbs extended and bent. Blue lights flickered from their paws and their ears shifted to that of handlebars. The robot’s form shifted from the shape of a dog into a hoverbike.
“I got a few upgrades last time I saw my mechanic, you like it?”
Zaffre stared off in amazement at what he just saw.
“I forget I haven’t shown everyone that.” She mounted onto the seat and grasped the handlebars. “C’mon, hop on! I’ll drive you back!”
He nodded and climbed onto the seat behind her, clutching the handlebars on the sides of the seat.
Bongo whirred and sped off in the direction of the royal palace.
Cocheta flexed her fingers while analyzing the new piece added to her hand. Toby made her a glove with circuit patterns traced down the skeletal structure of the hand. The thin needles on the bottom of the glove penetrated her wrist. She looked at the nails hanging off her fingertips.
“Now you don’t need a remote or need wiring to hack. You just need the nails to touch to get a connection. It’s going to be a lot different from what you’re used to. It’s going to be more like……..those ancient Simon Says toys but you gotta feel around for the sweet spot.’’ Toby gave her the run down on the new gadget.
“I can even hack augmentations with these?” She fanned her fingers out.
“You just gotta touch all the right spots without getting hit and you have control!”
“This is pretty fucking neat, thanks Toby!” She reached out her fist.
Toby hopped up and returned the bump.
Cocheta smiled down at her but then reacted in surprise when she saw Ever in the distance running towards the two.
“They’re coming!” She shouted while sprinting faster than her lungs would let her.
“Oh shit!” Cocheta pulled up her mic mounted on the collar of her jacket. “They’re coming! They’re here!”
“Roger!” Oslo pocketed the walkie talkie and stepped up to the gunner’s nest. He pointed the barrel upwards towards the sky waiting for the dots on the horizon to get closer.
Rosie braked hard and jerked her bike to the side. Bongo barked from the speakers in a questioning manner. She turned on the radio.
“I see dark grey and white ships, following the junker ship. Who….who are they?” Rosie croaked in worry.
“You mean there’s no Sanguine ships or vampires following after them?” Oz’s voice spoke through the speaker.
“That’s the fucking Caissa!” Cocheta yelled through.
Belt, Astre, and Ophelia looked at each other with heavier hearts. The battle suddenly turned for the worse before it had started.
“Wr3n….” Astre whispered so the others couldn’t hear.
“What Is It?”
“How Do You Know She’ll Pick Up?”
“Just do it!”
“Setting Up The Beacon!”
“Now!” Ailbe shouted. The Sanguine unlocked the latches on the mech, dropping it from the ship. A cloud of dust kicked up as it crashed into the ground. Ailbe sat inside the cockpit waiting for the right time to activate the mech. The Junkyard soldiers surrounded the mech and opened fire. The pursuing Caissa ships unloaded their guns onto the crowd surrounding the stolen mech. Ailbe stood the machine up and fanned the arms. One gun aimed onto the ships overhead and the other sprayed into the crowd of soldiers.
“Prince! They’re tearing us apart!” A gravely wounded soldier panicked into the radio while leaning behind a flipped car. Large bullets pierced the vehicle and through the soldier.
“Open fire onto those ships!” Oz cocked the machine gun and blasted at the flotilla in the sky. The bullets exploded on impact, gel stuck to the haul and burned away. The ships were losing integrity as the metal was being eaten away by the chemical rounds.
Cocheta held onto Rosie’s shoulders as they rode through the town evading the thick of the fight. Lasers from both the Junkers and the Caissa flew across different directions. Crossing through would be suicide.
Rosie held her wristwatch to her lips. “Birdie! Help Oz clear the skies!”
“Roger, Fahrenheit!” The ship flew close behind the Caissa. The small blaster underneath swiveled in an arc while it blasted at their thrusters. Fire exploded from the engines and their air support diminished as they crashed one by one. The doors slid open, soldiers leaping out and parachuting to the ground.
“Get ready!” Rosie shouted.
Cocheta perched on the back seat clutching onto Rosie for support while she tried to keep her balance through all this. The duo rolled through the crowds of mercenaries and junkers trying to get close to the mech Ailbe stole.
Ailbe raised their arm and attempted to slap the two off the bike.
“Rosie look out!” Cocheta grasped her tighter in fear.
Rosie leaned forward and revved the bike, speeding up. She rode between the mech’s legs. Cocheta leapt up and grasped onto the the mech. She grunted as she climbed up to its back.
Ailbe swung around trying to find the two. Cocheta almost lost her balance and hung on with one hand. They aimed down the iron sight and blasted around Rosie.
“Okay Toby, don’t fail me now.” Cocheta spoke to herself. The tips of the nails pressed against the metal. The circuits on the glove lit up. She tapped her fingers in a rhythmic pattern.
“C’mon, I thought you were new technology!” Ailbe smacked the barrel of their gun arm. “Shoot, god dammit!”
The lights and screens inside the cockpit went offline briefly then reactivated. An icon of a person holding a finger to their lips and winking appeared on every screen.
“For fuck’s sake!” They shouted in irritation.
Caissa soldiers shot at the hacker hanging on the back of the mech.
“Shit!” She let go and let herself hit the ground. She rolled over taking cover behind the leg. A stray laser brushed over her head, burning her mohawk. “I’m pinned by the mech! I need help!”
Ever and Toby stood up on the roofs of the surrounding buildings both with a grenade launcher in their hands.
“Let’s create a lightshow!” Toby smiled enthusiastically. Grenades were lobbed into the sky then down on the crowds of soldiers.
Debris and bodies were uplifted by the explosions. Toby cackled madly at the dispersing crowds and her contagious laugh couldn’t help but infect Ever too. The earth shook too frequently and particles clouded their vision, no soldier could get a clear shot at the two.
“Isn’t this fun?” Toby asked excitement filled her.
“I can’t say it’s a bore!” Ever smiled in agreement. She aimed at a lamppost and watched it fall back. The top of it crashed down on the head of a soldier kneeling crouched behind a flipped car.
“Ha ha ha, clonk!” Toby chuckled.
Cocheta stood quickly and dashed through the screen of dust.
Ailbe pressed a small button on their gauntlet and micro sized needles full of drugs injected into their skin. They grit their teeth as they grasped the seat bolted to the mech and with all their strength uprooted it. The windshield shattered as Ailbe threw the seat through the glass. They reached down from the hole underneath and grasped the reactor of the mech.
“I will destroy this heap of trash, mech or no mech.” They tucked the large, glowing canister under their arm as they climbed out.
Sanguine soldiers decloaked all around the royal guards. Their talons retracted from their gloves.
“Look out!” Belt reacted quickly, knocking one dead with a quick blow to the temple.
Ophelia jumped and fumbled as she drew out a blaster. A sharp pain and a lasting sting burned on her shoulder. She grunted as one of the vampires swung at her. Astre drove her elbow into its back and twisted its head. She picked up their lifeless body and slammed them to the ground. Halberds pierced their heart. Royal guards surrounded Astre and assisted in the vampire’s execution. Another vampire swiped desperately at Belt. Every slash and strike dodged. Their attack was interrupted by a flurry of blows to the chest. Their body pulverized to dust.
A large red line tore open in a guard’s chest. Alckore revealing himself and tossed him aside. His talons slashed at Belt. She raised her bomb gauntlet, blocking the brunt of the damage. Her unarmed hand punched below the belt. He grunted in pain as he stumbled back.
“F-fucking...coward’s move.” He barely got the words out. He bared his fangs and lunge forward at her.
“Protect her!” Two guardsmen threw themselves in between attempting to intercept the bite.
The mess of four bodies colliding with each other toppled to the ground. Alckore clawed through the bodies on top of him. Belt muscled her way back to her feet as well.
“This ends now!” Belt shouted. She took a step forward and clenched the fist of her explosive gauntlet.
Ophelia raised her blaster and aimed for Alckore’s neck. She squeezed the trigger and a quick laser blasted out of the barrel. He leaned back swiftly and watched the blast impact Belt’s shoulder.
“F-fuck!” Her eyes widened in horror as she just shot her teammate.
Belt grunted in agonizing pain and struggled to lift her arm. She made a tight fist with her other arm and swung in desperation. Alckore grabbed her wrist with a malicious grin. He tightened his grasp crushing her bone and forcibly repositioned her into the adjacent guards. Ophelia shot again once Belt was tossed aside and he sidestepped the blast. He grabbed the barrel of the blaster and disarmed.
“I think that’s enough of you, my dear.” He held her close. “Beautiful, it’s a shame you’re fighting for the wrong side.” He bared his fangs again and pierced the skin of Ophelia’s neck.
She screamed in suffering pain. She dropped to the ground and laid back against the wall clutching her wound. Alckore looked down at her with a satisfied smile. A long blade penetrated his chest. He gasped in shock. Astre twisted the halberd draining more strength from the vampire. He dropped to his knees and fell over, joining the pile of guard bodies laying all over the floor.
Astre knelt down. “Ophelia! I’m so sorry! You’re going to be okay!”
Ophelia couldn’t speak she kept breathing heavily and held onto her wound tightly.
“Wr3n! Call for Rosie!”
“Rosie! We Need You!” Wr3n’s voice emitted through her radio.
“What is it?” She crouched behind the wreckage of a levelled building alongside Cocheta, exchanging shots at the advancing mercenaries.
“We Got Wounded! Severely Wounded! We Need You And Birdie To Pick Us Up!”
“Sorry love, we are suppressed. Birdie’s grounded right now and the path to her is blocked.”
Cocheta shook her pistol. “Fuck, I’m out of shots. Do you have another thermal clip?”
“Last one’s in my gun!” Rosie held up her weapon.
“Shit! Toby! Ever! What About You Guys?” Wr3n was cycling team channels trying to find a solution.
“More dropships are coming in but Toby and I are almost out of grenades!” She kept her iron sights on the forces surrounding the two behind the car.
Astre interrupted Wr3n. “Did you call for our Plan B? Where is she?”
“I Called, But I Never Got A Response!”
“Who’s plan--whoa SHIT!” Ever’s mic was drowned out by the sound of an explosion hitting the corner of the building her and Toby stood on.
A mech resembling a bipedal gunner nest walked through the streets. A soldier with a rocket launcher aimed at the building the two were stationed upon.
“We have to regroup! Field team is going to die out here!” Toby shouted. “Oz! We’re coming back to the palace! Oz? Oz!?”
Oslo’s walkie talkie laid on its side by the minigun. The Prince leapt off the balcony and sprinted after the alien holding a glowing bomb in their arms he saw walking out of the outskirts of the city.
Another missile struck the side of the building. Toby lost her balance and tripped. She stumbled backwards over the edge. Ever dropped her weapon and leapt onto her stomach. She reached out grabbing her friend’s hand.
“Got you!” She grabbed her with her other hand. “You’re not falling! Not on my watch!”
Toby smiled thankfully at her saviour then shifted to an expression of panic as the building began to crumble. More of the rooftop weakened and broke a part. Trashmouse quickly grabbed Toby by the wrist and Ever by the shoulder. He shuffled back hastily falling onto the stable side of the building.
“You...have impeccable timing!” Ever breathed in relief.
He handed them two rifles that were holstered on his back. “You two aren’t done yet, we got plenty more shooting to do!”
“Aye, Aye.” Toby saluted.
Cocheta peaked from her cover and a laser pierced her elbow. “God fucking dammit!” She cursed with her teeth shut. Her hand quickly covering the burn mark.
Rosie looked over at her. “Shit, honey are you okay!?”
“I’m fine! I made a dumb mistake!” She bit her lip.
A grenade bounced in front of them. Their eyes widened. Cocheta dove onto Rosie in an attempt to shield her from the blast. A large, grey-blue, feral being darted forward and scooped the grenade into its claws. He hurled it back to the squad of soldiers and watched them blast apart.
Cocheta still laying on Rosie looked up at their saviour. “W-wh-who... who the fuck are you?”
“I am Balor, I am a friend of a friend of yours.” He reached out his hand and a toothy grin stretched on his face.
“A friend?” Rosie tilted her head.
From above numerous pods with mounted guns underneath came crashing from the sky. Lasers rained onto the soldiers and vehicles running amuck in the town. One pod crashed into the walker the rocketeer rode on. Dust and scrap metal scattered across the earth.
“Who is that?” The girls asked simultaneously.
“I believe you know very well who that is.” Balor smiled hopefully.
The door of the pod exploded. Stepping out was a tall woman in a metallic dress and a helmet with a glowing visor in front of her face.
“A-ar….Aranea?” Hope reignited in Cocheta’s heart.
Red energy glowed from the blade in her hand. An angry emoticon emitted on her helmet. She lifted her hand and a blue tinted arc of energy surrounded the front of her. Soldiers repositioned their aim towards the charging woman. Their lasers absorbed by the shield. Behind them, a woman wielding a sword larger than her cut through their armour with relative ease.
“That’s my cue to join in, cheers!” Balor saluted before leaping onto their cover and then into the crowd.
Rosie reactivated her wristwatch. “We’re...good now….we have friends?”
“Ha Ha! I Knew Aranea Would Show Up!” Wr3n laughed triumphantly.
“Aranea’s back?” Belt held Ophelia’s arm over her shoulders and acted as her crutch.
“I had Wr3n call for her, we’ve been keeping in touch since she left. Her dog tags doubled as a holo link.”
“And you didn’t tell us till now.” Belt’s face dropped.
“I thought the timing would be better if no one expected it.”
Rosie grabbed a vial from her chest. “Take this, this is….” she unrolled the paper she was given. “A temporary pain eraser. It will feel like you’ve never been shot.”
“Don’t fall me now Zaff.” Cocheta chugged the vial.
Rosie grabbed her hand. “C’mon, we gotta make it to Birdie. Quickly, while the soldiers are being dealt with.”
The two ran as Hummingbird neared in sight. They stopped in their tracks when they saw a man in a long trench coat dual wielding blasters firing away at the Caissa soldiers surrounding the ship. He saw the hacker and pilot and quickly locked his guns on them.
“Wait! You’re Aranea’s friends aren't you?” He lowered his weapons. “Sorry, I’m Hemingway. A part of her squad.”
“Pleasure meeting you, any friend of the commander is a friend of mine.” He looked over at Hummingbird. “I take it this is your ship?”
“Yes, she is my mine.” Rosie step forward towards her lover.
“Nice ship, anyways I’d love to chit chat but I got a run!” With a pop in his step he took off to where the fight was thickest.
“He’s a little strange, at least he took out the soldiers.” Cocheta raised an eyebrow at him.
“Help comes in many forms, even social butterflies.” Rosie boarded the ship in a hurry. “Come on now, we got wounded to pick up!”
Ailbe walked up the steps to the Great Burning Tire. The glowing reactor dragged against the dirt. A sudden heavy weight dropped on them. Oslo tackled them, knocking them prone. He balled his hand and punched the side of their skull.
“I won’t let you destroy my home!” He punched them again with his other fist.
Ailbe grunted. Their gauntlet collided with his jaw sending him off them. They recovered to their feet and reached down, grabbing the prince’s throat.
“You are a fool, an idiot, an imbecile. You have no idea what kind of power you are dealing with!”
He latched onto the fingers of the gauntlet, failing miserably at trying to pry them off him. He struggled for breath, the sound of him choking was music to their ears. They smiled in satisfaction of the sight before them. The Prince of the Junkyard who lead a fruitless last stand against the Mighty Ailbe, losing breath within their grasp. They lifted him in the air.
“Before I snap your neck, do you have any last words?” They said tauntingly knowing he couldn’t speak.
Tears trailed down Oslo’s cheek. He weakly held up his hand and extended his middle finger.
“Pathetic.” They scoffed
A high pitched scream grew louder as it got closer. Ailbe looked over and saw Streetpig charging right at them. They dropped the prince on the ground and stood in a stance ready for Streetpig’s first strike. He ran forward with a halberd in hand. He pointed it forward and pressed the button on the hilt. A laser blasted from the gun behind the blade. The shot faded quickly into Ailbe’s palm.
“I thought you were a friend!” He swung his halberd clumsily.
They ducked quickly and drove their fist into his knee. Streetpig dropped down. He grabbed a tuft of their hair and yanked them back, throwing them off their balance.
“St-reeeeet…..” Oslo weakly reached out for his friend who knew he was no match for the person the both of them were facing.
“Don’t worry Oz my boy, I caused this…” He launched his body at them causing the two to roll down the sand. “I will fix this!”
Ailbe pulled their arm back and knocked a few of Streetpig’s teeth out. “You were useful for the time being,” His nose crushed under the weight of their gauntlet.. “But I’m afraid your use has come to an end.”
Streetpig coughed and choked on his blood. He spat out onto Ailbe’s face. “I still have one use left.”
Ailbe slammed their fist into him once more. “And what is that?”
“Can’t be safe….be efficient…” He smiled widely. Red lights flickered from inside the pockets of his shorts.
Ailbe pushed themself back and scrambled away from his exploding body. They reached out in attempt to absorb the blast but was too late as the explosion tore through their gauntlet. They dropped to the ground, their gauntlet fried and cracked. They pressed the button on the forearm for another round of injections. The gauntlet malfunctioned. Only a fraction of the needles in the suit injected into them, giving them partial strength. They crawled towards the reactor.
“Sanguine, are you there?” They spoke breathily and weakly into their earpiece.
“Commander, we have to retreat Alckore is down, repeat Alckore is down.” A terrified voice answered.
“What?” They shouted in gruff voice. They grasped the handle of the reactor and pushed forward up the volcano.
“He was impaled during our ambush on the palace. We lost too many agents trying to recover his body, we have to pull back.”
“I’m at the target, I need your ship to pick me up at the site so I don’t go with the trash.”
“Roger! We’re on our way!”
Rosie strapped Ophelia into the copilot seat. She grabbed a flask and the list from her bandolier and drank the mixture that widened her range of vision.
“I’m keeping my eye on you, for the rest of this mission. You’re not allowed to die.”
Ophelia’s lips parted as she was about to thank her.
“No no, don’t speak. Save your breath.” She held her finger to her lips.
Cocheta and Astre stood on either side of Belt helping her into the ship. Zaffre stepped forward ready to patch her together.
“Take this, it’ll numb the pain.” He handed her a vial of glowing blue liquid.
She drank the chemical quickly and gasped. Her shoulder could move again without the feeling of bones gnawing on one another.
“Has anyone seen Oz?” Toby’s voice emitted through the ship’s radio. “He hasn’t said anything in a while nor has he responded when we called to him.”
Rosie flicked on numerous switches. “C’mon Birdie, we gotta find our boy.”
The ship hummed and lifted off the courtyard grounds. It slowly turned facing north.
“Trails of footprints detected in the sand. More than one unit moving.”
“Let’s follow that trail!” Rosie pushed the ship forward following the prints left behind by Oslo and Ailbe.
Toby sat on Balor’s back, legs hugging his shoulders. She blasted at the Caissa behind heavy cover while he dealt with the ones up close with batons and blades. He grabbed her and lifted her from his back.
“Get ready, little one!” He twirled around fast and threw her sky high.
Toby blasted at the flyers passing through and the snipers who climbed up to the roofs. Balor leapt up onto an adjacent building and then pushed himself off the walls towards the descending gunner.
“Got you!” He caught her while landing two other Caissa soldiers.
“You’re fun! You ever thought about becoming a bounty hunter?” Toby tilted her head.
“As much as I love throwing you around I have work to do with Aranea.” He patted her head.
Aranea and slashed through a soldier, tearing his weapon in half. She ducked allowing Ever behind to shoot him point blank. She turned around. A bright, red, “N!CE” projected in front of her face.
“You’re Aranea, their friend before you left, correct?” Ever popped the thermal clip out of her gun and inserted another.
Aranea lifted her hands creating a blue force field behind Ever to block the incoming shots. She nodded as her helmet’s projection transformed into an exclamation point.
“Do you talk or just not with the helmet on?” Ever aimed at the soldier and fired once Aranea released the barrier.
A “B” glowed.
“I’m guessing that means the latter?”
“After the battle can we formally meet, without deciphering your projected expressions and phrases?”
The lights on her helmet went out momentarily. :D flickered on her face.
Hummingbird slowly landed onto the ground beside Oslo who was lying face down slipped out of consciousness. Rose and Zaffre sprinted off the ramp towards the wounded prince.
“C’mon, we don’t have much time!” Rosie slung an arm over her shoulder.
Zaffre looked up at one of the Junker ships flying over head. “Who is that they’re picking up?”
Ailbe was seen in the far distance climbing aboard the stolen Junkyard ship at the top of the volcano.
“It doesn’t matter! We got to do a quick drop off and then come back for the rest!” Rosie hoisted up the boy.
Zaffre grabbed his other arm and together the two carried him onto the ship. Astre helped them sit him into a passenger seat and strapped him in tightly.
“Is he okay?” Astre scanned him.
“He’s breathing, he will be okay!” Zaffre checked for a pulse.
Rosie sat in the pilot seat. “Let’s make this quick, I don’t want to keep the others stranded for long. Birdie! Punch it!”
The ship whirred and chirped as it levitated into the sky and then vanished with incredible acceleration.
“I’m dropping off the wounded, they cannot stay in the fight! Don’t worry loves I’ll be coming back for you!”
“We’ll be sitting tight, I think we can hold out for a while.” Toby sounded confident.
Balor looked off into the distance. A large explosion boomed and a blinding light followed. He shielded his eyes and looked back at Aranea.
“Commander! We have an issue!”
Aranea ran in front of her squad and held her arms out. Her legs shifted to a stance and a large, thickened, force field stretched wide enough to cover everyone behind her.
“Don’t worry comrades! The commander’s got this!” He looked at Toby and Ever with a reassuring grin.
Trashmouse blasted apart three soldiers surrounding him with his shotgun. A junker stepped up behind him.
“Nice one chief!” He held his hand up for a high five.
He hit the militiaman back. “Score another one for the boys back home.”
Both of them jumped in startlement as the ground shook violently.
“Uh oh boss, we got a big mech coming it sounds like.”
“We can take him!”
“Where’s Streetpig at? He’s missing all the fun!”
“I lost him when we were pinned at the Applebee’s, I’m sure he will come around.”
“Warning incoming projectiles from behind.” Birdie’s warning sirens flashed.
“From what?” Rosie’s grip on the controls tightened. “Everyone hang on!”
The ship swerved and maneuvered wildly as large asteroids flew past it. The ship ducked down then pulled up and spun to the side. Large rocks scraped against the metal. The crew jolted in their seats some struggling to keep calm. Ophelia bit her tongue trying not to get sick from all the sudden movements.
“Sorry Phee, I promise you’ll get back safe soon!”
A bright light flashed blinding Rosie’s peripheral. “What was that!” She screamed out.
“Lost connection with Toby and Ever.” Birdie said.
“W-what! How? Birdie turn this ship around!”
Hummingbird swiveled and faced the Junkyard.
Rosie’s eyes widened, her jaw dropped.
“What was all…..?” Cocheta stepped to the cockpit. Her face matched Rosie’s.
“What? What’s happening over there?” Astre yelled.
“Signal to the Junkyard lost.” Birdie said through all ship speakers.
“What do you mean the signal’s lost?” She ran over to where the three were.
“She means...the Junkyard…..doesn’t exist…” Ophelia’s voice cracked.
“Toby…..Ever….” A tear rolled down Rosie’s cheek.
“No! No! Aranea Can’t Be Dead!” Wr3n panicked.
“What do we tell Oz?” Cocheta muttered.
With that question in the air, the crew stared at the newly made asteroid belt in silence.
Chapter 9: Retribution
A froglike creature sat cross legged on top of a boulder in the middle of the white lake. Above him the moon shined brightly, illuminating the dark blue and grey jungle. Lush and vibrant plantations of a wide variety of colour surrounded the lake.
“Vengeance or Justice?” He spoke with a booming, deep voice.
“I told you, I seek justice!” Sally gritted her teeth in frustration. She’s been asked the same question three times over and over again.
“What is it you seek? Vengeance or Justice?” He croaked again.
“What is the difference, because apparently we don’t have the same understanding of these concepts.”
“Both are retaliation but for different beliefs. Vengeance is for personal satisfaction, an eye for an eye. Justice is to punish the villain and prevent more innocent blood being spilled from vile hands. You speak of justice, but you are only standing up for yourself. You are seeking a blade for vengeance. Once you learn that you are seeking a weapon to stand for others, will you understand.” He levitated off the boulder and slowly descended onto the surface of the lake. He walked softly towards Sally who was sitting on the teal grass surrounding the water.
“I am standing up for others, I am standing up for my friends! Preventing their lives from being lost!”
“You may be a group of individuals, but you are one. You are a force, a power. Your power invites conflict from those who seek to challenge the limits of their own. To stand up for your friends is the same as using your shield arm to protect your sword arm.”
Sally was speechless for many moments.
“Think about the targets chosen to draw you out, who was used as bait?” He kneeled down and picked up his gnarled staff laying next to her. Glowing, blue fruit grew off the curves of the stick.
“Begas 6…” She faced the grass as she contemplated the first battle this adversary arrived on.
“And the Junkyard.” He plucked a fruit off his staff and tossed it into his mouth.
“The Junkyard?” Sally lifted her head.
“I can feel the universe. The Aether connects me with the system of planets, and I can feel a strife in the Junkyard.”
“I should be there then!” She lifted a leg ready to stand.
“With what weapon?” He smiled jesterly.
“Give me one and I’ll be on my way!”
“I cannot do that, this is not a forge. We don’t distribute weapons, we help travellers find an extension of themselves.”
“You never viewed Oath as a tool did you?”
“It was my blade, the only weapon I needed.”
“Your sword was more than just a signature tool. It was a part of you, an extension of you. You weren’t fighting with steel, you were fighting with your heart and your mind. Your attunement to Oath was those two concepts weaponized.”
“So what you’re saying is, my blade was never the source of my strength. It was a tool that helped me utilize it.”
The frog smiled warmly and gently grasped Sally’s hand. He leaned back and pulled her to her feet. She stood towering over him. “Come, you have much to learn.”
She followed after the amphibious sage into the thick of the jungle. He lifted his staff and pushed the foliage out of the way.
“Where are we going?” Sally pushed a large purple and green leaf out of her face.
“On a journey to self discovery.”
Cicadas chirped in a beautiful melody. The rushing waters from the rivers in the distance harmonized with the wildlife. The jungle moon was like a living orchestra.
“Tell me, how did you find this moon?” The frog plucked another fruit from his staff. His tongue reached out and entangled it.
“I was looking for the source of the metal that Oath was made from. I was lead here.”
“I’m not surprised your blade shattered from your last duel. It is stronger than common metals, but as far as minerals from this moon it was one of the weakest.”
“You have stronger material here?” Sally’s brow raised at his comment.
“The gifts of the moon aren’t like minerals on any other planet. Their strength is determined by attunement and bond, not by scientific factors.”
“Your metal here is alive?”
“They’re a part of us, only when we full connect with our extensions do they strengthen.”
“This is a bizarre world you live on.”
“Maybe, I could say the same about the planets you’ve been to.”
“That’s a fair point.”
The Frog chuckled playfully. “You may be one of my favourite pupils.”
“Pupil? I’m just here for a sword.” Sally was taken back a little about being called a student.
“Is a sword all you came here for, or power? Isn’t knowledge power?” He smiled widely.
“I-uh, but….” She bit her lip not knowing what to say.
“By the end of this lesson you will become a greater force than when you arrived. That is only if you remember to keep an open mind.” He turned around and softly tapped her forehead with his staff. He lowered it and plucked another piece of fruit off his staff. “Berry?” He held it up to Sally.
“This isn’t going to give me a weird trip or vision or anything?”
The frog laughed heartily. “Not everything here is a ritual, I just enjoy the sweet, wet, flavour of the berries that grow around the lake.”
“Sure why not?” She took the gift from him. “Wow….” Her eyes opened wider. “This is, pretty delicious!”
“I cannot stop myself whenever they grow, and they grow excessively around this season.”
An hour of travelling has passed. The teacher looked as fresh as he did when he hopped off the boulder in the lake. Sally had a limp in her step. She was staring to feel fatigued from the constant walking. Her feet ached with every additional step.
“We. Are here!” He fanned out his arms in excitement.
Before him lied a colossal size cavern covered in reflective, multi-coloured, crystals and other minerals. Each crystal illuminated brightly. A serpent uncoiled from one of the lighted stalagmites and slithered towards the travellers.
“It’s okay my friend,” the frog reached out his hand and gently patted the snout of the serpent. “It is only me and my newest pupil.”
“Jenasus.” The serpent drly hissed. They brushed their head against his palm playfully.
“My name is Sally, just so you don’t have to call me Jenasus’s pupil.” She approached the guardian.
“Let them play into your hand, they’ll trust you more that way.” He gently grabbed Sally’s hand and opened up her palm.
The serpent lifted their head from Jenasus’s hand and laid onto Sally’s. “Power, determination, heroism.” They hissed to themself.
“There’s also a slight chance they might read off your heart’s desire to you.” Jenasus rested his hands on the top of his staff.
Sally patted the reptilian guardian and then watched them slither away.
“You may pass.” They hissed softly before coiling back onto the stalagmite.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Jenasus looked up at Sally. “Tally ho!” He reached his staff out like a walking stick and began marching into the cavern.
Sally followed after him. The inside of the cavern was filled with different coloured, glowing, crystals all strobing at different speeds. Darkness masked the cavern for a brief moment before bright, vibrant, light shined it away then faded back.
“Welcome to the Cavern of Dying Suns. What you see here aren’t crystals or simple minerals.” He walked up to one of the lights. He pressed Sally’s hand against it. An almost unbearable heat burned against her palm.
“Ow! Fuck!” Sally yanked her arm back. “Why did you do that?”
“If you seek a weapon you must get comfortable wielding it. As you can tell, these aren’t flickering rocks you see. There is an oracle that resides on this moon. She seeks out dying stars and saves them before they commence supernova. All the crystals you see surrounding you,” He pointed his staff all around. “Are stars, some were saved suns.”
“These crystals...are all….stars?” Sally’s mouth opened. It seemed to unreal to capture one let alone many stars and store them into a cave.
“That is what I said, isn’t it? That is why Tekarthus guards the cavern, we have limitless power stored in these vaults. We cannot allow anyone to wield this power”
“By passing the guardian am I trusted with a weapon made of this resource?”
“To call these a resource already tells me you’re not ready. To pass the guardian is to start the test. First you must understand, what the universe gives you isn’t a commodity it is a gift. These stars you see aren’t a resource that’s sole purpose is for crafting or fuel. These are elder souls of a higher power. If you seek a weapon made of what you see you must ask them to lend you their soul.”
“How do I ask?” Sally looked at the crystal then back at Jenasus.
“You don’t ask anyone you see, you find the one you resonate with. As I stated previously, your weapon is an extension. This extension must live on the same soul frequency as you do.”
Sally was at a loss for words.
Jenasus smiled and reached out his hand. “I know this is very confusing, let’s find somewhere to sit.”
Sally held his hand and walked with him down the cavern to the end.
A round area ended the cavern. In the middle lied an elevated slate surrounded by three crystals, one blue, one red, and one yellow.
“Sit.” His staff pointed at the platform.
Sally stepped onto the rock and sat down with her hands resting on her lap.
“Close your eyes, now remember the face that sparked this journey. Remember every detail, remember the damage they caused, the passion you felt.”
Her brows furrowed and her hands tightened into fists. The red gem behind her started to jolt. Her heart rate rose as she thought hard about the anguish she felt. The humiliation of defeat. The crystal shook volatilely. The image of her friends falling before her looped into her mind. The crystal lifted into the air.
“Good. Now remember why you came here specifically.” Jenasus grinned at the sight he was seeing, she was succeeding.
Sally remembered the moment of Oath shattering. The fragments littering the ground. Her mind wandered to the next few days of her using new blades in the shooting range. None of them felt comfortable. She felt out of form and clumsy using any other weapon. The blue gem levitated.
“Now envision what you seek when the day is done.”
Sally imagined herself in the jungle of Begas 6. The temple under construction. Light shined over the horizon, her crewmates surrounding her. All of them healthy and helping in the reconstruction. The Ferric Order’s temple was the only casualty of Ailbe. She stood tall over the slain adversary before her. The universe was safe from a cataclysmic threat before it could deal any serious damage. The yellow gem rose to join the others.
“Good! You’re nearly there. Focus on those three drives.”
The three gems spun around the sitting woman. Their speed increasing with every lap. A blurred trail of red, yellow, and blue wheeled around her, slowly closing in together above her head. Sally broke into sweat. Her trying to focus was exhausting. The concentration exerting her physical and mental strength. The gems pressed against each other. Cracks rippled into their form as they pushed closer. A great flash of white bursted and lit up the entire room. Jenasus blinded fell onto his back.
“Jenasus!” Sally lunged forward quickly at the fallen frog.
He rubbed his eyes with his palm and chuckled before grabbing his staff and pushing himself to his feet. “Don’t worry about me, I was simply caught off guard.” He pointed at the slate Sally sat upon. “Look what you’ve done.”
Sally looked over her shoulder and saw a white gem lying on its side. She walked over and picked it up. A faint light flickered inside and it felt cold to the touch.
“What is it?” She held it up to the air.
“It will help you find your weapon. The gem knows what you seek and will lead you to your destiny.”
“How will I know where it is? Or how to use this?” She shook it lightly hoping for a signal to appear.
“Step through the path from which we came.” Jenasus pointed.
Sally did as she was instructed and the light inside the gem grew brighter, and warmer.
“It will lead you, you just need to keep walking. I will come with you though so you don’t get lost in these caves.” He followed after her. “You may find your weapon but that doesn’t mean you’ll find your way out.” He giggled to himself.
Sally trailed up and down pathways until she came across an iridescent crystal. The white gem in her hand almost burned in her hand and strobed furiously when near the crystal.
“I believe you finally found what you seek.” Jenasus grinned satisfied at his student’s progress.
“What do I do now?” Sally looked down at the gem in hand then up at the crystal.
“I think you know what to do.”
Sally nodded at her teacher and then pressed the gem into the crystal. The small rock was absorbed and disappeared from her grasp. Seconds later the crystal cracked and shattered into pieces. A sword resting inside fell to the ground. The hilt was pure white with a globe in the middle of the crossguard harboring a flickering star. The blade shined purple with golden lightning arcing off the tip and connecting the crossguard. Sally kneeled down and drew her new weapon. An intense surge of power shocked her and travelled through her veins. She grunted in pain. Gold light flashed in her eyes.
“Congratulations my pupil, you have been chosen by the fallen star, Retribution.”
Sally held out her weapon, gazing at every detail and sight this sword bared. “Retribution…”
“The star recognized your strong desire to right wrongs and bring evil to justice and for that, it has given up its soul to you.”
“Wicked.” She swings her sword once.
“You have the power of the star in your hand, remember as long as you stay true to who you are your weapon will cooperate with you. If your character changes, your proficiency with the weapon will too.”
“So you’re saying remain a justicar or the weapon will refuse to let me wield it.”
“Remain hopeful, valiant, and strong. That is what the star asks of you.”
“Will do, Jenasus. Will do.” Sally couldn’t take her eyes off the star in her hand.
The frog smiled with pride at her. “It is time we part ways, I will escort you back to the ship you arrived on now.”
“It’s been a great honour meeting you, Jenasus.” Sally reached out her hand.
“Please, no formalities. Come here.” He reached out his arms towards her. Sally knelt down and hugged him. She suddenly felt him feel heavier to hold. Jenasus dropped down to his knees.
“Master! Are you alright?” She held onto him to support. Her eyes widened.
He placed a hand on his stomach. “I….I felt a piece of the universe break. As if one of the planets in the system suddenly ceased to exist.” He looked up at her. “Do not wait for me, I will only slow you down! Go forth, return to your ship and finish your destiny!”
Sally let go of Jenasus. She picked up her blade and sprinted out of the caverns. Her heart raced with fear. An epiphany popped in her mind and she stopped dead in her tracks.
“Oz!” She screamed.
Chapter 10: The Dark Ritual
The Junkyard ship landed in the thick of the black forest. The Sanguine retreated back to the blood moon Hemorra, the nest of the vampires. Ailbe laid on the bier unconscious with their arms folded across their chest. Their armour and skin burned away, the gauntlet fried and malfunctioning. Scars stretched across their face.
Several vampire surrounded them. One pushing the platform from behind down the cobblestone path. Three on each side carrying large torches escorted them towards a large altar at the end of the path. A tall being with a shiny and black, metallic mask stood at the top of the steps towards the altar. Large braziers burned on either side of the sacrificial table. A mass audience of Sanguine surrounded the path, watching the ritual happening before them.
“Brothers and Sisters of the Sanguine, Children of the Blood Moon.” A feminine voice spoke from beyond the mask. “Today we’ve been delivered a great blow, but in exchange a great ally.”
The bier stopped as it reached the first step. The Sanguine pushing released the platform and picked Ailbe up. They softly and slowly stepped up to the altar as the woman spoke.
“We’ve lost our great military leader, Alckore and in his place we’ve been given a unique tactician. One who was able to rid of us of our long time enemy, the Ferric Order and annihilated the Junkyard and the Caissa to extinction. It is time we embrace them.”
The vampire laid Ailbe’s body on the table behind the speaking woman. They turned to her with their head face towards the floor. Their arms crossed their chest as they nodded.
“Thank you! Now take this.” She drew a dagger from her hip. “Pry their shell off them.”
They grasped the blade and drove it into Ailbe’s armour. Blood dropped from underneath as the metal forcefully ripped from their skin. They pierced the gauntlet and pushed it off their arm.
The vampiress plucked a vial of blood hanging from her neck. She pushed her mask over her head. Dark circles surrounded her eyes, her lips were vibrant and scarlet. She unscrewed the top of the vial and drank the blood, holding the liquid in her mouth. She leaned over Ailbe. Her hand clutched their shoulder. Her nails were long, pointed, and sharped. Her thumb stabbed into the skin of Ailbe’s neck. She lowered herself and spat the blood in her mouth into their wound.
Ailbe’s body began to shake. They rolled back and forth. The vampiress stood up with a grim smile on her face. Their veins became more predominant. Teeth sharpened and reshaped. Nails grew in length. They woke up shaking through this dark transformation.
“Dark Lady…?” The muttered. They looked around at the surrounding environment. “Where am I?”
The Dark Lady waved her hand towards the surrounding crowd. “My dear, you are now home.”
“Home?” They sat up with a strange feeling of strength. “What happened? I remember crawling towards the volcano and then…”
“You passed out, your wounds were too great for you to carry on. Alckore’s agents carried your mission for you, and then you back onto the primitive ship you arrived on. As for your transformation, your armour served you well but repairs would be useless compared to giving you the gift of the moon.”
Ailbe scanned their nails. Their fingers traced along the fangs that brushed against their lips. They moved off the table and stood up feeling powerful. They didn’t have to push themself just to move a step.
“Your admirers await you, Ailbe.” The Dark Lady stepped to the edge of the steps.
They followed her and looked down at the base of the altar’s steps. Numerous Sanguine saluted then cheered.
“We’ve been at with the Ferric Order for a great deal of time. You came to us and helped us rid our age old enemy. Together, we decimated an entire planet. You’ve sparked the hearts of the Sanguine. You’ve given our people back the power they had formerly lost.”
“Our people?” Ailbe faced her.
“You’re one of us now. You carry the scarlet gift in your veins as do the rest of us. Tell me, what is it you seek?”
They made a closed fist. “Vengeance.”
“And you shall have it, with your new found power, and allies. As long as you help us claim our legacy of being the highest power in the galaxy, we will assist you in your goals.” The two walked down the steps. “Who is it you seek revenge on?”
“A man who should’ve made sure I was dead, instead of leaving me for death.” They spoke angrily.
The Dark Lady smiled at them then back at the continuing cheering audience.
Chapter 11: The Service
Everyone gathered around the recreation room of the ship. Cassio filled everyone’s glass with a bronze liquid. The crew of the Cygnet all stood around him. Behind him was a wall with three name plates bolted to the wall, Toby, Aranea Starblade, and Ever Mercy.
“For now, we remember the lives we lost trying to defend the innocent from being destroyed. Tomorrow, we slay the asshole that did this.” He raised his glass into the air. “Cheers.”
“Cheers.” Everyone somberly mumbled.
Haven put down their glass, not wanting the drink. They sat down on the couch adjacent to them. The metallic implants on their hips and spine made walking and standing awkward and uncomfortable. They were not used to moving in them yet. They looked around at their surrounding crewmates. All their defeated faces made their heart feel heavy. Their eyes locked on Cocheta who they saw leave the room. They sprung to their feet and awkwardly shuffled after her.
Ophelia sat at the bar, she refilled her glass again and emptied it quickly. Donovan took a seat on the barstool next to her.
“No shit.” She didn’t bother looking at them while refilling her glass once more.
“You’re not going to turn into a vampire on us are you?”
She glared at them deadpan.
“If you do start to feel funny, I’d see Zaffre. He can probably help you.”
“I appreciate the consideration.” Her tone was sarcastic.
“I’m a doctor, I have to care.” They took a sip out of their glass.
She shook her head trying to ignore them.
Oslo sat on a different couch, his eyes sunken and expressionless. He held his glass in his hands, not bother drinking it. He leaned on Belt who was sitting next to him with an arm over his shoulders. Dank took the shape of a cat, lying on his lap. Bog and Suede sat on the spot to the left of him. Silence filled the air. No one spoke for a long while. Everyone stared at the prince who stared into his drink.
“Do you think my dad got off in time?” He finally broke the silence. His words spoke without emotion.
“He’s somewhere, he’s probably at a vacation resort living it up as we speak!” Suede smiled comfortingly.
“He probably left before the battle even happened!” Bog tried to help.
“What did we do?”
“What do you mean?” Belt looked down at him.
“Who did we piss off to have this happen to us?” His eyes didn’t move from his drink.
Cassio sat on a short stool across from the couch. “Did you see who did this?”
“They had white skin, long black hair, glowing red eyes….silver gleaming armour.”
He sipped his drink not taking his eyes off Oslo.
Everyone looked up at the captain.
“Ailbe?” Bog said.
“Yes. A former…..friend, I knew a long time ago.”
“Strange friend you got there.” Suede commented.
“We were friends, we we’re partners. A part of the former Cygnet crew. They were the reason why I left the ship for so long.”
“What happened exactly?” Oslo looked up at him.
“We had different ways of how we solved bounties. I wanted to see the mission accomplished but only the bounty being taken dead or alive, no one else. Ailbe had a different method, finish the mission no matter the cost. They were chaotic, reckless, unpredictable. I would take a longer but safer approach to despatching a target they would level entire cities just to make sure the target was dead.”
“That really is some friend you got there.” Suede repeated themself.
“We stopped being friends and became enemies when they decided that an entire colony of peace loving settlers was too suspicious and they were hiding something. There was a terrorist hiding amongst them and they had no idea because they accept everyone with love and care no matter how much of a stranger you are. Ailbe accused them all of having a warm welcoming host facade and left the colony in a devastating blaze of fire.”
“Shit….” The words escaped Bog’s lips.
“I knew I couldn’t keep them with me, they were too dangerous. I couldn’t let them work solo either, they needed to die and I thought I was doing right by getting rid of them. There was an old prison station inside the asteroid belt Fenris’s Teeth. I planted a fake bounty there and led them inside. I thought my ambush got rid of them when I gravely wounded them until they couldn’t walk, and left them to bleed to death. It took a lot to hurt my close friend, I couldn’t bear delivering the killing blow so I let time do it for me. Clearly I failed.”
“If they’re so dangerous, how did you two become close friends?” Their friendship confused Suede.
“I didn’t think of them as pure evil until the colony happened. When it didn’t come to the mission, they were charismatic, caring, nurturing. I thought of them as misguided and tried to change their mindset. They were set in their ways. They came from a hyper-violent society, too many of that planet’s principles were screwed into their head. I couldn’t undo it.”
“You beat them once, you can beat them again. You have us to help you as well! We can stop this now!” Belt spoke hopefully.
“Their kind may be physically weak, but they’re too powerful with all their augmentations to take on a direct fight. They’re also psionic, it was hard but I only defeated them once because they trusted me. I lured them into a trap by keeping my mind blank of the trap itself and trained myself to genuinely believe we were on a real mission.”
“So how do we defeat them?”
“That, I cannot tell you if I wanted to.” He took another sip from his drink.
“Didn’t Sally leave to go find a weapon capable of doing damage?” Bog turned to Suede.
Cassio stood up and placed his drink on the coffee table. “If she does find a weapon capable of overpowering them, then we may have a shot.” He turned his body towards the corridor. “If you would excuse me I got letters to families to write.”
Everyone watched the captain head out of the recreation room and towards his private chambers.
Haven entered Cocheta’s quarters. Blankets and pillows were piled up to the side of the room. A duffle bag laid on her bed with Rocky on top of it.
“Cocheta?” Haven leaned on the doorframe.
Cocheta pulled the drawer out of the nightstand and emptied it of its contents. She looked over her shoulder. “Oh shit….” She shut her eyes.
“Are you….leaving?” Haven’s voice low and soft.
“Listen,” Cocheta approached them slowly her hands planted on their shoulders. “Shit’s getting scary, and it’s obvious fighting this thing is not going to work out for us. We’re getting our asses kicked and targeted and hunted to extinction…”
Haven looked at her with sad eyes. Cocheta bit her lip and looked away.
“Fuck...you’re not making this easy. I gotta look after Red Rock. I can’t do that if I’m dead.”
“What about Rocky? What does he have to say about this?”
She dragged her hand across her face. “Low blow dude.”
They tilted their head waiting for an answer.
“Fine, let’s talk to him.” Cocheta rolled her eyes and headed for her bed. Haven excitedly hopped onto the mattress.
She picked up Rocky from the duffle bag and looked him in his button eye. “Rocky, should I stay here and continue trying to fight Ailbe even tho they’ve levelled an entire planet? OR! Should I go home!”
“Cocheta!” Haven looked at her a little mad at the question.
“Do you want to ask him instead?” She held the teddy at them.
“Yes!” They snatched the bear from her hands. “Please, please, please, tell me you don’t wanna follow Cocheta’s plan of abandoning her friends.”
A deep voice echoed in Haven’s head. “She is misguided, you know very well Sally will return with a weapon to tip the scales…”
“Rocky…?” She thought.
“Yes...the Aether allows us to communicate. Unlike Cocheta who assumes she can think what I’m saying, she’s right most of the time however.”
“So she thinks that there’s no hope?”
“Precisely, you need to reignite the light in her heart.”
Cocheta squinted and turned her head witnessing the face journey Haven was going on. “You alright there?”
“Rocky! He can talk!” They held the bear towards her.
“Of course he can talk, he’s my brother.” She still didn’t understand what was going on.
“No like, I can talk to him! The Aether! He has a voice!” She was excited about this discovery.
“What?” She grabbed Rocky and looked down on him. “Is this an Aether trick?”
Haven grabbed her hands as she held the teddy bear.
Rocky smiled at Cocheta. “At last, I could always hear your voice but you could never hear mine.”
She stared back wide-eyed and speechless.
“For once you don’t say anything?” Cocheta heard a chuckle in her head. She looked up at Haven who had just smiled at them.
“How long were you able to talk?”
“I was always able to talk! The Aether brings life to everything, no one had the idea of trying to communicate with me before. Except for Sally who asked me how I feel about you taking up ghost powder after that Junkyard mission, which by the way I ask please keep your drugs out of my body.”
“Now back to the main topic, Celeste I think it’s a horrible idea to pack up and leave.”
“What? Rocky, but-”
“You’ve been living your entire life in detachment. Rolling with groups and crews for hire, cutting strings when it gets too hairy, depriving yourself of love, friendship, and family. Having me as your only attachment is going to be your downfall.”
Cocheta bit her tongue.
“I know you, you like these people way more than anyone else you’ve ever met. You care for the spy network on Red Rock but you’re much closer to the Cygnet. They look after you, you’ve opened up to them more than you have with anyone else.”
“But Rocky….we’re going, to, die!” Her grip on the teddy bear tightened.
“Would you rather live indulging back into old habits of temporary lovers and drugs in an attempt to fill the void in your heart if you leave? You finally have a spot in the galaxy where you don’t have to cover yourself, where you can breathe and have fun. Don’t run away from it, stand for it.”
“You’re right.” Cocheta said aloud. “I won’t be able to hear you, I’m going to put you down now.”
“I look forward to talking with you again, sister.” Even though the face couldn’t move, she heard the smile in his voice.
“I’m sorry Haven.” She put down Rocky and pulled Haven in for a hug. She kissed their forehead.
They smiled widely, their eyes shut. “I’m glad you’re not leaving us.”
“I love you too much to abandon you.”
They opened their eyes and saw the blankets and pillows piled to the side of her room. “We have work to do when this is over.”
“Yeah, we have a chance to remodel and improve Pillowton.” She smiled not taking her eyes off them.
The heartwarming moment was interrupted by sounds of walking up and down the corridor and shouting for Rosie. Cocheta released Haven and stepped outside to see Dank slithering in the vents.
“What’s going on?”
Astre popped from around the corner. “Hey have you seen Rosie?”
“No? Why is something the matter?” An expression of intense concern washed on her face.
“She wasn’t at the service and Birdie can’t track her, her watch was lying on her bed in her room.”
“Is she okay?”
“Birdie thought it was her going off to grieve by herself but noticed that she hasn’t moved in hours and Bog found her watch lying there.”
“Oh no…” She broke into a sprint towards the security room, next to the hall towards the cockpit.
Bog and Oslo searched the lower sector of the ship. On his wrist was the watch Rosie always worn.
“Did she do anything suspicious when we arrived back?” He held the mic to his mouth as he sat on the table of the shooting range and hopped off to cross through.
“Rosie had been using cigars she had stored on the ship. She normally used those for post victories at raceways earlier in her career. She stopped when she started picking up a smoker’s cough then resumed when she was on a losing streak with old nemesis. It’s how she deals with mentally and physically taxing stress.”
“So this is a sign that she’s really breaking.”
“Correct, she’s always been strong willed. If anything got to her she would find an empty spot and drive or fly real fast until the adrenaline rush washed away whatever was on her mind.”
“Man….I wish I brought her with me to hang out with Streetpig and Trashmouse.” He muttered somberly to himself.
“Any luck finding her?” Bog shouted from down the corridor.
“No not yet.” He looked where the voice came from then back at the range he was travelling down.
The range had recently been transformed from Toby and Susie’s effort. What started as a simple range with moving targets turned into an extensive obstacle course. Oslo followed through looking for any sudden movements or trails.
“Has she….ever had to cope with death before?” Oslo asked bluntly.
“As far as she told me, she never encountered death until she joined the Cygnet. There were a few riders and icons from promotions that passed away but never close friends. Nor were they murdered or intentionally put in harm’s way.”
“I wish I had known she was this bad, I would’ve said something.” He sounded as if this was his fault.
“Don’t blame yourself Oslo, you lost your home, you’ve suffered as heavy if not worse than the rest of us.”
“I should’ve saved the grieving for once Ailbe’s done and I don’t have to focus.”
“Rosie and I’ve seen that behaviour before, it is the wrong way to look at this.”
“Well--wait hang on a second…” He gazed at a grate unbolted and leaning against the ventilation tunnel.
“I’m pretty sure I did.” He laid the grate down and climbed through the tunnel.
“It’s not like her to run off like this, she usually keeps me around at all times. “
“The past few days fucked us all up, some worse than others.”
A ladder neared at the end of the tunnel. Oz grabbed the top rung and crawled forward. He swung his body to the side dropping out of the vent and onto the ladder. Red lights shined throughout the tunnels as he climbed down the ladder.
“Rosie where is your head at, girl?” He whispered.
“How does she know this part of the ship? I’ve never been here before.”
“I don’t know, she probably found it spur of the moment and decided it was a good spot to hide from the world.”
“The bolts were loose those, this feels planned, as if she had this designated spot for something.”
“I hope that’s not the case.”
At the base of the ladder was a door next to it with a wheel in the center.
“The old power room, huh?” He grasped the wheel and began to turn it.
The door creaked open. The room was small and square, power boxes scattered across the walls, wires hanging overhead, grated floors underneath. Rosie sat knees to her chest, back pressed against the wall.
“Rosie?” Oz’s voice softened. He took a slow step forward waiting for a response.
“No man gets left behind….that’s always been my attitude, why did I break that now?” Her lifeless eyes didn’t move from the wall across the room.
“You didn’t leave anyone behind.” He inched closer to her.
“I left those two behind rather than picking up the entire squad...you did it Rosie, you left your team to die.”
“Rose….” He stopped for a moment.
“They were right there, Zaffre told me. I could’ve prevented this whole thing. The Junkyard, Toby, Ever, Balor…..Aranea….they could all be here still.” Her voice was quiet and void of emotion.
“They were too strong, Rosie. They almost killed me and would’ve done the same to you and Zaffre.”
Her hand lifted, a blaster within. The barrel rested on her head.
“Rosie! No no no no, you don’t wanna do that.” Oz exclaimed gently trying to keep his voice down and not to startle her.
“I’m just an adrenaline junkie, a race driver. I’m in over my head, I wanted excitement but also I wanted to help people. I thought being a vigilante would work and then…” She looked down at her knees.
“Hey now, you have helped people. Remember when you got Ophelia away from that disastrous date? Remember when we turned that guy in and disassembled his mob? Or what about--?” He got closer to her.
Rosie held the blaster at Oz, her fingers off the trigger and onto the handle.
“We’re friends Rosie, we’re not enemies.” He held his hands up.
“Friends don’t let other friends die, and that’s exactly what I did.” Tears began to form around her eyes, her voice croaked.
He grabbed the barrel as Rosie pulled the gun back to her head. He struggled to point the gun away from her and up to the air. She grabbed the top of the gun with her other hand and tugged it back towards her.
“No-Rosie!” He grunted trying to pry the weapon from her hands. “Think about Birdie!”
“She’ll die stay flying with me. I’ll doom this entire ship.” She dropped to her back.
Oz dropped to one knee pushing his body forward forcing the gun to the floor. “You’re not going anywhere! We need you and we won’t let you leave us like this.” He balled up his fist.
“I’m sorry, Rose.” He shut his eyes and punched her in the side of her skull. Her body fell limp and unconscious. He sat down next to her and took a deep breath before holding up the watch again.
“Guys, I found Rosie….she’ll be fine.” Sighs of relief emitted from the watch.
Donovan sat on a stool next to the bed Rosie laid in. They looked over at Oz and Ophelia who’s been staring at her with worried expressions.
“She’ll be fine, with a gun not in hand and close friends she’ll be good.” They tried to lift a hopeful smile for the sake of those two but instead carried a sarcastic smirk.
Oz walked over to the other side and attached the wristwatch Birdie was talking through onto her wrist. He kissed the tips of his fingertips and patted Rosie on the forehead.
“Come on Oz, let’s go eat.” Ophelia escorted Oslo towards the mess hall.
He nodded and followed after her.
“I’m sorry, about the past two days.” He hand draped over his shoulders.
“I’ll be fine once Ailbe’s dead.” He said grimly.
“You’ll be better at that with a full course meal. It’ll make you feel better.”
Alarms went off all around the ship. Susie’s voice emitted through the speakers. “Red alert, red alert, unidentified ship flying towards the Cygnet. I repeat unidentified ship flying towards the Cygnet. Everyone get ready.”
“For fucks sake!” Ophelia shouted.
The talons at the end of Ailbe’s beetle-shaped ship clasped onto the Cygnet. Defense turrets locked onto the hull and fired away.
“Alert,” Susie’s voice shouted over the intercom. “Sanguine infiltrators within the ship.”
Donovan sighed deeply and drew the blaster confiscated from Rosie that was lying on his desk. “I’m a doctor god dammit, not a bodyguard.”
Sanguine began to approach from different directions. Donovan held the blaster up looking down the iron sight and shot the incoming vampire between the eyes and then once again square in the chest. Another vampire dropped out of the vent above Ophelia’s desk. With a flick of their wrist, Donovan shot down the other infiltrator. They looked over at Rosie’s unconscious body.
“We can’t stay here.” They rushed over to move her onto the gurney that was folded up. She moved her legs first off the bed then her body.
“Movement detected.” Rosie’s wristwatch spoke.
“Yeah yeah, we’re moving. I’m putting her inside you.” They looked away for a moment. “God that sounded fucking wrong. Anyways, you gotta look after her, you’re better equipped.”
“I will clear the hangar bay for your arrival.”
“Thanks…” They pushed the gurney forward out of the medbay down the corridor.
Susie sat behind the flipped over table in the mess hall. She saw the gurney approaching close from the corridors end. “Enemies spotted, be advised!”
Donovan darted towards the cover shooting to suppress the advancing Sanguine. They dropped gurney and themself behind the table. “Hey, how’s life?”
“We are under attack!” Susie exclaimed.
“Yeah I can see that, is there a plan?” They loaded a new battery pack into the blaster.
Purple goop dripped from the vents above the Sanguine. They looked at each other with great confusion then up at the vents where the goo was coming from.
“What the fuck?” One of them said.
The dripping ooze connected together and lunged at the vampire’s head suffocating him. The other began to tear through with his talons in an attempt to save his friend. The ooze connected to the engulfed the other’s head, the two dropped to the ground losing breath.
“It would appear, Dank is the plan!” The two stood up from their cover to witness Dank forming back together into a humanoid shape.
“Hey, did you know we got vampires on board?” Dank spoke while still reforming.
“Didn’t notice.” Donovan holstered their weapon and lifted the gurney again.
“What’s your plan?” Susie scanned the unconscious Rose on the table.
“I can’t hold out and defend her in the medbay while we’re under attack, we gotta get her to Hummingbird.”
Dank crawled over her splaying themself from corner to corner of the gurney.
“What are you--?” Before Donovan could finish Dank’s form changed to that of a dome over her.
“This is gonna hurt, but if I could be a shield for her then it’ll all be worth it.”
Susie loaded her blaster rifle into her hands. “And I will help escort you to the said ship!”
“Thanks Suze.” They nodded and pushed onward. “Have you heard from anyone else?”
“Cocheta barricaded herself into the security room last I checked. She’s messing with lights and airlocks and playing mousetrap with the Sanguine. Oslo and Ophelia were approaching the mess hall but redirected themselves to the armoury. The rest, I have not seen.”
“That’s better than nothing.”
They drew their blaster as they pushed around the corner. The door to the next sector of the ship exploded, sparks, fire, wiring and wreckage rained down over the entrance.
“Guess we’re going down the other side of the corridor, come on!” They walked around to the other side of the gurney and pushed from that end. “You’re hooked up to the ship, can you do a map scan of what’s damaged and where can we go?”
Lights flickered in Susie’s eyes. “We should be able to pass through here, the dormitory section and then make a right through the recreational room and down the east corridor to the docking bay.
“Sounds like a plan. Let’s go!” The the two rushed forward down the other end of the corridor into the next section of the ship.
Lights flickered and then went out, complete darkness enveloped the atmosphere. Light shined out from Susie’s eyes, her gaze illuminating whatever it pointed at.
“God dammit, Cocheta.” They said gruffly.
“It’s not her, system’s power is draining. The power room and engine room are severely damaged from the ship’s clasp.”
Danks voice echoed from underneath the bubble. “Are we flying blind?”
“Not with Susie with us we’re not.” Metal cracking sounded in the distance.
“What was that?” Susie looked all around.
“Sh sh sh sh.” Donovan held their blaster up. They closed their eye and waited for the sound to get closer.
The sound of something dropping impacted the grates.
“Fire!” Susie shouted. The two of them pointed in the direction of the sound and blasted away.
“Wait wait WAIT!” Shouted from the source.
The two ceased firing and held their guns up. A scorched and marked up vampire body was held in Haven’s hands who was using them as a shield from the blaster marks.
“Oh...for fuck’s sakes! Haven don’t scare us like that!” Donovan pointed their blaster down.
They tossed the body aside and stood up brushing themself off. “Holy shit you almost got me.”
“Yeah, a warning would’ve been nice.” Donovan spat back.
“I had a body and a sword, you guys had guns. I was the one with the disadvantage!”
“I’m detecting more movement in the vicinity.” Susie scoped the surrounding area.
“Is there anyone else with you?” The doctor pointed their gun behind them waiting for movement.
“It was just me.” They drew the blade sheathed on their back.
A sharp hiss broke the silence and a shadow lunged for Donovan. They opened fire on the leaping vampire as it collided into them. Susie pointed her rifle down and sprayed its back until it ceased all motion. They shoved the body forcefully off their person.
“Are you alright Doctor O’Connelly? Were you bitten?” Susie reached down a hand to help them up.
“Yeah I’m fine, the fangs just grazed my neck,” They grunted in pain. Their hand touched the side of their stomach where they felt blood dripping. “Ah fuck, got me good. Right in the side, probably from the talons. Give me a moment.” A strip of cloth torn from their lab coat was fashioned into a bandage.
Haven hopped to their side, sword ready to block off anyone else daring to attack. Susie covered their left and the gurney’s end.
“It’s not serious is it?” Haven stared off into the darkness anticipating another ambush.
“We will see once we reach Birdie. For now, I won’t bleed to death, but I might have a limp. My hip accuracy won’t be as precise either.” They had a sarcastic smile on their face.
The body laying adjacently began to pulse back to life.
“Watch out!” Haven stabbed their blade through the back of the vampire. “Note to self, we really got to start stabbing hearts. Shooting them dead won’t guarantee the kill.”
“We’ll shoot them helpless, and you can execute them? Deal?” They finished their quick patch.
“Deal!” They took a few steps backwards while facing the corridor behind as Donovan began to push the gurney again.
Susie’s stare lighted the way out of the dark dormitories into the recreation room. The door slid open and once again the crew found themselves in a lighted room. Furniture flipped over. Screens smashed. Tables broken. Belt vaulted over the tipped over couch punching a vampire in the face as she leapt. She still had difficulty moving her shoulder but grunted through it as she lifted her arm to deliver an uppercut.
Susie and Donovan locked guns onto the Sanguine surrounding the brawler.
“Wait!” Haven jumped over them landing awkwardly. “It’s too risky for guns.”
Belt leaned forward. Haven lunged forth and rolled over her back, plunging into one of the vampires.
The doctor and droid kept their guns pointed at the brawl in front of them. They let the two melee fighters handle the Sanguine but were ready incase the scales tipped.
Haven and Belt stood panting. Sanguine bodies scattered all over the floor.
“Hey..huff..nice seeing y’all.” Belt stood up akimbo.
“I see they haven't gotten you yet.” Donovan lowered their blaster.
Belt looked down and nodded at the gurney. “What's with the Dank covered gurney?”
Their voice echoed from under the slime dome. “I'm shielding Rosie until we get back to Birdie.”
“Good plan, I take it the medway wasn't safe-” An explosion from the north side door cut Belt off.
From the cloud emerged Ailbe looking much more vampiric than the Cygnet's last encounter.
“Sh-shit….” Haven stuttered.
“Go! I’ll settle this.” Belt shifted into a stance awaiting Ailbe's attack.
“I’m sticking with.” Haven held their blade high waiting with Belt.
“As am I!” Susie pointed her rifle at Ailbe.
“We gotta go doc!” Dank yelled.
“You don't have to tell me twice.” They bit their lip rushing through the south end door, biting through the pain.
The door shut behind the three.
Ailbe chuckled. “A pathetic last stand, it’s time to end the Cygnet's game once and for all.” The length of their talons grew.
“Don’t worry team, we're kicking their ass this time.” Belt clenched her fists.
Donovan groaned. The wound was stable but movement was still a bitch. Painful enough to slow them down. There was still the worry of rushing to Birdie would undo the stitch from all the sudden movement and jerking around. They just had to keep pushing forward. It was near certain Rosie would have a first aid kit on the ship somewhere. Once she's there they could properly patch themself back up. After that, find Ophelia and the others scattered on the ship and hope they were still alive.
“Hey doc?” Dank broke Donovan's train of thought.
The doctor shook their head and saw the large hall before them leading to the hangar bay were numerous Sanguine infiltrators declaring.
“What do we do?” Dank panicked.
“Can you turn into a plow or something?” Donovan gripped the gurney tighter.
“I have an idea.” They shifted to the foot of the bed and clung to the corners forming a wall with spikes standing defiant.
Donovan reached down to their pocket and drew a small vial with colorful and sandy material inside. They twisted the cap off and inhaled deeply. Their eyes widened and electricity arched in their blood.
The vial dropped to the floor shattering. Donovan grabbed the handle. I got one shot at this, I can't fuck it up now. They pushed hard along briskly the first few steps before picking up speed. The wheels squeaked and spun rapidly against the metal floor.
“Oh shit! Oh fuck!” Dank repeated as Donovan pushed them at a charging speed down the hall.
Sanguine hissed and charged at the speeding battering ram. Spikes impaled and ran through the advancing enemies. Bodies and dust were launched into the air as Donovan and Dank barreled through.
Dank laughed in relief as they witnessed their plan working. The door opened swiftly as they neared.
The front wheels rolled over a body sending the three off balance.
“Oh shit here we go!” Dank enveloped Rosie in the air. Her impact was cushioned while they were thrown through the door.
Donovan fumbled over the gurney and rolled with it across the hangar bay floor. The door closed behind them instantly and locked.
Birdie chirped at the sight of the three and opened up the ramp. Dank formed a new gurney and carried Rosie into the ship.
“She's safe and sound!” They say her down onto one of the passenger seats and strapped her in
“I thank you greatly, I don't know what I would've done had she perished with the ship.” Birdie’s voice echoed.
“With the ship? We're not losing Cygnet. We just needed to get her to you where she'd be safer.”
“The hull is severely damaged and numerous systems are going offline. Chance of recovery, very low.”
“What do we do then if we're losing the ship?”
“Deploying distress beacon, hopefully the others will take the signal to join up here and we can escape in one piece. We'll have to hold out. The Sanguine will also pick up on our location.”
“For how long?”
“Until everyone or most of Cygnet arrives.”
“That doesn't sound comforting.”
“My gunnery pod may be better suited for you, why don't you hop in?”
Donovan leaned onto one foot and attempted to step up but dropped quickly to the floor. They clutched their stomach tightly in agonizing pain.
“Come on Donnie don’t give up now.” Cocheta laid them against her and assisted them onto Birdie. For once Donovan was going go let “Donnie”slide.
“How did you find us?” They breathed heavily between their words
“Who do you think opened and locked those doors for you?” She smirked. “I think this pays you back for the time you bandaged me up when I was scuttling around wounded and a stranger.”
Loud banging echoed from behind the locked door. Dank rotated the ship's guns to face the door anticipating incoming Sanguine.
“Gah! FUCK!” Belt screeched.
Ailbe's nails clawed against the side of her skull. She swung her leg to deliver a kick. They caught the blow with one arm lifting their other to counter. Blaster fire sprayed their arm, causing them to drop it. Haven glided behind slashing their calf. Ailbe growled lowly. They shoved Belt into Susie and spun around quickly attempting to catch Haven by the throat.
“Let go of them!” Belt rushed Ailbe.
Upon tackle, Haven scurried to lift Suzie off the floor. Belt delivered a series of blows onto Ailbe as she straddled them. She grabbed their hair and lifted her fist ready for the execution. A palm reached out and pressed against her forehead. Belt blacked out and released the vampire hybrid.
“Belt?” Haven lowered her sword not sure what was happening.
Belt twirled around and delivered an elbow into Haven's jaw. They crashed to the ground dropping their blade.
Susie tossed her weapon to the floor and held her fists high. She wasn't much for a brawler but she did have a few tricks up her sleeve. Belt stepped forward swinging to the left. Susie ducked and then stepped to the left evading an elbow strike.
“Clear!” She stood up quickly her hands clasped the side of Belt's head. Small shockwaves rumbled through her body from the robot's hands. Her eyes opened widely.
“Huh what?” Belt shook her head.
The light in Ailbe's relighted. They jumped to their feet. “I've had enough of you.”
Haven recovered from the dazing blow and grabbed their blade.
“Haven, Susie. The captain's right. They're too strong.” Belt weakly tightened her fists trying to get back into her stance.
“If I'm going down, I’m going down with my friends.” Haven held their sword up.
“I was afraid you'd say that.” Belt turned to Haven quickly kicking them in the chest. “Sorry kitty…”
Haven fumbled through the door onto their back. “Belt no!” They tried to crawl quickly back into the room.
“Susie lock the door now!”
“Locking!” Her eyes flickered.
“Foolish Heroism. You can't outrun for your fate forever.” Ailbe lunged at Belt.
“It was never their fate to die!” She maneuvered out of the way. Her fist smashed into their shoulder.
Susie's palms arced electricity once again as she reached out for Ailbe. They grabbed her hand and crushed it in their grasp. The droid clutched their destroyed part. Belt delivered another blow into their side. Ailbe angled over slightly in pain.
“Enough!” They stood up quickly.
A sharp pain pierced Belt's stomach and chest. She looked down and saw Ailbe's talons stabbed through her body. Blood filled her mouth and dripped down her jaw.
“Any last words?” They smiled at her.
Belt weakly lifted her arms in a last attempt to strangle Ailbe. They chuckled as they dismounted her from their talons and dropped her to the ground. Susie lifted her blaster rifle and pointed at Ailbe.
“Such a fine model, Korg could use an upgrade.” They smiled deviously.
“I will never serve you, I live for the Cygnet I die for the Cygnet.” She held the barrel underneath her chin and shot a laser through head. It penetrated through and scorched the ceiling.
“Waste of a good droid.”
Ophelia sat on an ammo crate looking much paler than before. Oslo rolled a bandolier across his chest and tossed the strap attached to the heavy blaster rifle over his head. He turned his head over his shoulder.
“You doing alright Phee?” He looked concerningly at her change in colour.
“I’ll be okay.” Her veins felt poisoned she felt energetic but sickly weak at the same time.
“We should fine Zaffre to sort you out.”
“I’m fine.” She leaned over and picked the blaster pistol off the floor. “You’re all set and to go, commando?” She stood up.
“Stay behind me, I’ll mow them down.” The rifle revved to life and lights flickered.
“I’m not a damsel in distress. I’ll be fine, I can hold my own.” She looked at him annoyed.
“I’m sorry Phee,” He lowered his weapon and turned around. “I didn’t mean it like that. I’m just trying not to lose anymore friends.”
Her frustration faded immediately. “No, I’m sorry. Tension’s getting to me, I didn’t mean to snap like that.”
The door opened up suddenly cutting off their conversation. Sanguine dropped from the ceiling and crawled inside.
“Look out!” Ophelia locked her gun onto the nearest vampire leaping at Oslo. She fired a burst taking them out quickly.
Oz spun on his heel and fired down the corridor hitting everything in sight. A Sanguine infiltrator decloaked behind Ophelia. Their arms wrapped around her pulled back. Their mouth hovered over her ear.
“You’re the one that killed Alckore aren’t you? Why not just embrace his departing gift.” They sneered.
She bit down onto their wrist and stomped on their foot. They released in her pain. Ophelia pointed her pistol and blasted away at the vampire. They dropped lifelessly on their back.
“Whoa, you okay?” Oz stopped firing for a second and looked over behind him
“Yeah, I’m fine.” A metallic taste stuck to her tongue. She licked her lips and felt pointed edges on two of her teeth. Her eyes widened.
Oz continued out of the armoury not seeing Ophelia’s expression. “Come on, we got to find the others, and the captain.”
Astre watched the door while Cassio sat in the chair of the bridge. His fingers tapped against the touch screen frantically.
“Dammit, the engines are too badly damage. We won’t be able to make it into hyperspeed.” His fist slammed onto the console. He stood up from his chair and faced Astre. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to abandon ship.
“We can’t fight them off?” She was caught off guard by the captain’s orders.
“We won’t stand a chance. We’re scattered and Ailbe’s on the ship. They’re able to pick us off one by one.”
She sighed defeatedly.
“Rosie’s ship has a distress beacon coming from her, we can go there and hope everyone else finds their way. It’s only shot at making it out of here alive.”
“Sounds like a plan, I’m with you to the end captain.”
“There won’t be an end, we’ll make it through this.” He drew his weapon from his hip holster. “Let’s go.”
The door cracked open and the two broke into a running start down the halls. Lights sparked and wires waved all around them as they continued through. Incoming Sanguine were quickly disposed of by Cassio or Astre who didn’t stop to fight.
“How many vampires did they bring?” Astre lifted her knee as she sprinted. The vampire’s jaw she ran into shattered.
“Ailbe really, really, doesn’t like me. I’m guessing the entire army.” Cassio cycled through targets quickly. Lasers blasted in precision at the weak points of the incoming attackers.
Smoke rose from the scorch marks on their armour as they collapsed.
They crossed through down the stair-ramp descending a level of the ship. The ship shook violently again as another round of blasts from Ailbe’s ship struck the hull. Astre stumbled and tripped. Cassio threw himself into the closest wall for support. Wreckage from the ceiling broke apart and rained onto the floor.
“Dammit!” Cassio slammed the blockade with the bottom of his pistol.
Astre scrambled to her feet. “You okay cap?” She shouted through from the other side.
“I’m fine, just keep going ahead towards the beacon. I’ll find another way.”
“I’ll see you on the ship!” Cassio could hear the smile in her voice.
“I’ll see you there too, kid!” He ran up the ramp and backtracked through a different hallway than he previously ran through.
More Sanguine chased after him. The captain continued to sprint. His boots slammed against the grates as he rushed down the halls.
“Sorry girl.” He said to the ship as he dropped a couple of grenades off his belt.
They landed and rolled around the floor. The red light on the flickered slowly, picking up speed each light. Explosions flared and pieces of the ship were launched in different directions. Rubble littered the corridor blocking off all traffic towards Cassio.
He hopped down an emergency exit spotted down the next corridor. He held onto the sides of the ladder as he glided down. Darkness engulfed him. The room underneath was dark and the sound of electrical power was nonexistent.
“Aw shit.” He muttered.
He flicked the flashlight underneath the barrel of his pistol. The lighted shined ahead Ailbe standing before him.
“Jesus fuck!” Cassio jumped in startlement.
Ailbe grasped the barrel of the blaster and pointed it upward. Their right hand grappled Cassio leaving him immobile.
“Cassio, good to see you. The years have been kind.” Ailbe smiled at him.
“I wish I could say the same.” He gasped out.
“I missed your sarcastic tongue. You’re coming with me, the ship is not where you will die.” They squeezed the life out of him until Cassio lost consciousness.
“I have what I need. Fry the Cygnet.” Ailbe spoke into their comms. Cassio was slung over their shoulder as they made their way off the ship.
Dank fired continuously on the corridor door leading to the recreation room. A massive hole blasted open from the ceaseless fire. Oz, with his rifle laying on two crates, shot every round into the west wing door. Haven stood with their blade drawn by Rosie, ready for any stealth attacks from the Sanguine. Donovan laid on the gurney as Ophelia stitched them back together.
“Out of everyone to get seriously injured it had to be the doctors.” They stared at the ceiling.
“What do you mean doctorsss? I’m fine.” Ophelia kept her focus on the wound.
“Those fangs aren’t impressing me.” They looked over at her.
“We just need to wait for Zaffre and we’ll be fine. I’m pretty sure he carries something on him.”
“You better hope he does, I can’t be the only doctor on this ship.”
“Nice to know that’s the only reason why I should still be around.” She intentionally yanked hard on the thread.
Donovan grunted lowly. “Having two doctors isn’t the only reason why I’d still want you around.”
She stopped and looked over at them. “Yeah we’re crewmates, we gotta look after each other.”
“It’s not that,” Donovan sighed.
“Warning, survival chance dropping, immediate evacuation will commence in sixty seconds.” Birdie spoke over the speakers.
“Fuck, this will just have to continue later when were not in the thick of fighting.” He squinted to see who was boarding.
Astre hopped out of the ventilation tunnel on the ceiling of the hangar and landed on the roof of Birdie. Oz lifted his gun and pointed upward upon hearing.
“Don’t shoot! It’s just me Astre.” She held up her hands seeing the long cannon aimed at her.
“Shit, get inside Astre!” He lowered his gun and back to the west door. He started to step backwards while returning fire.
She hopped down onto the ramp and rolled into the ship. She tumbled into a standing position with a hopeful smile on her face. “Is everyone here?” She looked around.
“We’re still missing a few, but Birdie says we got to go.” Cocheta responded.
“What? We can’t leave, what about the captain?”
“Warning: survival chance low, immediate evacuation will start in ten seconds.”
“Wait what about Belt and Susie?” Haven looked up at the speakers.
“No living life forms or ID signals matching Belt and Susie detected.”
“Wait, what!?” Haven dropped their stance.
The ramp folded up closing off everyone else from entering the ship. Her engines hummed to life and air brushed heavily in all different directions as the ship lifted into the air.
“We have to wait for the rest!” Haven ran over to the cockpit.
“Initiating hyperspeed.” The ship’s engine roared louder and everyone felt a strong pulled towards the back wall of the ship.
The large beetle unclasped from the Cygnet. It drifted away creating some space before a cannon in between its talons lighted with a golden flash. A colossal sized beam of bright and golden energy penetrated through the ship, snapping it in half.
“Holy shit!” Cocheta stared out the back window seeing everyone’s home burn to pieces.
“Belt….!” Haven yelled.
“Suede...Bog…” Oz dropped his weapon to the ground.
“Cassio….” Astre muttered to herself not staring with the rest at the destruction of their ship.
The bridge opened up and Ailbe entered, returning back to their ship. Their bridge once only occupied by them now by numerous Sanguine pilots and engineers.
“Get rid of the escape ship. We don’t need to toy with them anymore.” They walked in stride towards the end of the room seeing Hummingbird a distance away from them. Cannons redirected at the small ship and fired repeatedly.
A small, single unit, ship pulled out of warp speed. Sally slowed down seeing clouds of explosions bursting out of the Cygnet. She turned her gaze at the beetle shaped ship chasing after a smaller one and initiated the pursuit on them.
We're nearing the end fellas
Rosie walked around the halls of the Cygnet. The ship was in one piece. No damage shown, and operating efficiently. She stepped into the kitchen area and made herself tea. Her hands trembled and shook as she dropped the tea bag into the mug. She sat alone at the round table outside the room of counters and equipment. Her reflection in her drink stared back at her. Somber eyes locked onto one another.
“Hey Rosie, whatsapp?” Ever yawned as she entered the kitchen. She made her way to the kitchen and fixed herself up a mug of coffee.
Rosie leaned back speechless. She didn’t know how to respond to her dead friend greeting her in the kitchen.
“What’s wrong? Too tired to talk?” She took a seat across from her. She took a big sip with a bigger smile on her face.
“Ever?” Rosie softly spoke in disbelief.
“Yeah? That is my name.” She gulped her coffee again.
“I watched you die on the Junkyard…”
Ever looked down at her drink. “That’s right you did,” She looked up at Rosie. “You left us to die. Or did you genuinely think we would survive an explosion from underneath the core?”
“Ever, I had no idea what the Caiss were planning. I didn’t know they were trying to erase the Junkyard.” Her fingers tightened their grasp on the handle of her cup.
“Who’s next to die on your watch? Oslo, you seem to like him why not leave him to die? Donovan? Ophelia? Your friend Zaffre? You were close to him but not close enough that you would come back for him.” Ever’s devilish smile turned into an angry frown.
“I, I didn’t leave them….” Rosie looked back down at her drink.
“You were sure ready to before Oz had to knock some sense into you.” Ever took another sip.
“I think you’d even leave your own lover to die.” Toby’s voice appeared out of nowhere. She sat on the kitchen counter behind Rosie.
She snapped back to the sudden appearance. “Wh-where did you?”
“How much do you really love Hummingbird?” She leaned forward while asking.
“Leave her out of this!” She stood up from her seat, fists tightened.
“You can get mad at us all you want but you know it’s true, you can’t save anyone.” Ever said behind her back.
“You don’t even know what’s going on, do you?” Toby added on.
“What’s going on?” Rosie looked back at her then back to Ever.
An explosion flared and the ship transformed. A massive hole ripped open on the ceiling, lights shut off. Toby and Ever remained in their same spots.
“Oblivious to the fact that you’re not even on the ship anymore it seems.” Another Rosie walked into the kitchen from a dark, lightless, hall.
“Me?” Rosie felt herself to make sure she was really existing in this situation.
“Why would I want to be you? You like to throw yourself in situations and set yourself up for disappointment. The high risk no reward situations. You decided to become a bounty hunter and look where it got you, your home is gone, your friends are dead or will be soon. You are pathetic.”
Rosie decked her clone across the cheek. “No! You are wrong!” She screamed at Toby. “This isn’t my fault!” She turned to Ever. “And we are NOT going to die out! We are dealing with a strong enemy, but I refuse to let our story end in tragedy!”
Fire engulfed the surrounding atmosphere. The angrier Rosie got the brighter the fires burned. Flames ate away at the entire ship.
“I may not be able to see my beloved friends at the finish line but god fucking dammit! I will carry them there if I have to! Dead OR alive!” Her teeth grit in rage.
The fire devoured Ever and Toby, the heat closing in on Rosie and her clone.
“You have one final shot, Flores. Don’t screw this up.” The clone burned away to ash.
Rosie jolted awake with a gasp. Haven looked over at her startled by the sudden awakening. She unbuckled herself and hopped to her feet.
“Birdie turn off autopilot, I’m taking over.” She yelled sprinting to the bridge.
“Autopilot, disengaged. Good luck Rosie.”
“It’s not luck that’s going to get us out of here. Everyone hang onto something!” She yelled calibrating all the speed presets.
Everyone on board grabbed onto anything bolted to a surface. Some holding onto others as well to support them too.
“I have a favour I’m sorry to be asking you Birdie.” Rosie set every power management option to low except for the the thrusters.
“How can I help?”
“I need you to overclock your engine.” Rosie bit her lip as she asked.
“That could lead to an unstable core and cause many malfunctions and--”
“Just do it Birde, please.”
“As you wish, overclocking main engine.”
The ship roared louder than it ever had before. Heavy vibrations shook the floor. The feeling of thick buzzing travelled up and down everyone’s legs.
“Core overclocked, you are ready for warp speed.”
“Thanks love, everyone hang on!” Rosie shouted. She slammed the Punch-It button with all her might.
The thrusters of the ship ignited brightly then sparked as lasers from Ailbe’s ship hit the sides. Hummingbird kicked off with an explosion flaring from behind as it blasted off.
“Commander, the surviving Cygnet crew are getting away!” One of the pilots yelled out towards Ailbe.
“No they’re not, we led them exactly where we wanted them.” They watched the ship take off towards the direction of Hemorra. “They won’t be able to go anywhere, and this time they’ll be forced to come to us.”
Fire trailed behind the ship as Birdie descended at rapid speed into the black-leaved forest. The ship speared the ebony surface and pushed through the thick of wood and dirt. Earth piled up into mountains all around as the ship continued to drag across the dirt. Rosie sat in the pilot’s chair smashed against the console in front of her.
“Is everyone alright?” Oz yelled as everyone recovered to their feet.
“Could’ve used a smoother landing.” Cocheta shook her head, feeling a little dazed.
“Warning, power failing. Initiating shutdown soon.” Birdie spoke over the speakers. Her voice wavered throughout her sentence.
“She’s going to be okay right? You’re going to be okay, yeah?” Astre looked up at the speakers.
“Hey guys…” A loud cough echoed from the bridge.
“Rosie!” Astre and Haven yelled. They both ran towards the bridge to check on her.
“Oh my god!” Haven covered their mouth seeing their pilot pressed into the console by her chair.
“Guys…I can’t feel my legs.” Blood dripped down her mouth.
“It’s okay, we can get you out of here!” Astre grabbed the back of the seat and pulled back with full strength.
Rosie screamed in agonizing pain. “No! No! Leave me! I’m just going to be dead weight to you!”
“Not a chance!” Haven hopped behind her to help Astre.
“You don’t understand, they will be here to surround the ship any moment. You guys have to get out of here before that happens. There’s a hatch at the base of the bridge ramp. Crawl out there.”
“We’re not going to leave you to die, Rosie!” Astre grunted. She continued pulling the seat back to no avail.
Another set of hands grabbed the seat and Oz helped the other two in an attempt to pull the seat back.
“Stop! Stop! You’re making this feel worse!” She gasped and breathed heavily. She looked over at the three walking towards the arm of the seat. “I will be fine. Please take the exit and go! Trust me!”
“You better be okay!” Astre pointed at her while shuffling to the hatch.
“Yeah! We’re expecting you back once we deal with this shit!” Haven followed after her.
Sanguine vampires surrounded the ramp of the ship. A mining laser was deployed and mounted. The bright red laser burned into the hull of the ramp.
“Warning: Intruders attempting to breach the ship.”
One by one the surviving Cygnet crew jumped down the hatch and crawled underneath the space between the dirt and the ship out to the side. They scuttled away into the dark out of enemy sight.
“Bongo!” Rosie hoarsely screeched.
The robotic puppy hopped up onto the copilot seat, staring at his owner.
“Remember those secret satchels I had stowed in the ship.”
Bongo barked excitedly.
“I need you to plant those everywhere.” She smiled at him.
The canine whimpered sorrowfully.
“Hey, it’s going to be okay boy. Once the light clears we’ll wake up not on this rock.” She reached out attempting to pet her companion.
Bongo barked enthusiastically once more before hopping off towards the secret inventory chamber stowed away on the ship.
“Birdie, what’s your current status?”
“Power failing, deactivation any second now.”
“Before you deactivate, I just wanna say how much of an honour it was...to race with you….to go on missions with you…...to be experience it all with you. I couldn’t have asked for a better ship, no...I didn’t love you just as a ship, you were my other half.”
“Rosie, you’ve treated me more human than any other previous pilot I served. I learned more than statistics and maneuvering out of tight situations from travelling with you. I’m no longer a mere ship, you gave this engine a soul.”
Rosie smiled widely as she broke into tears. “You were never just an engine to me. You were always someone.”
Bongo returned with his back open. The trigger to the explosives ejected out of the opening.
“Thanks buddy, I cherish all the memories we’ve shared together.”
He barked excitedly staring up at Rosie.
“We’ll all see each other again. Don’t worry. Love, what’s the status on the breach?”
The lights abruptly deactivated and complete darkness took over.
Rosie breathed heavily. “I guess it’s just us now boy.”
Bongo whined sadly at the ship’s deactivation.
“We’ll be okay, you ready?”
Bongo barked loudly. Light poured in from the south. The ramp cracked open and Sanguine came spilling in.
“Crash Queens never die!” Rosie shouted holding the trigger up in the air. She pressed down on the button. Hummingbird beeped and the entire ship bursted into a massive fiery cloud. The crew stopped in their tracks at the change in lighting and the loud sound behind them. They turned around and saw what had become of the ship.
“Rosie….” Oz breathed.
“Come on we got to keep moving!” Cocheta grabbed his shoulder and lightly pulled him in the direction everyone was running.
What was left of the Cygnet sprinted aimlessly through the forest. They were on unknown territory. They didn’t know what lied ahead or where to run but it was safer than stopping. Donovan tripped over a large root, they toppled over and crashed to the ground in blinding pain. Everyone halted and looked back.
“Come on, now! Get up!” Ophelia grabbed their arm and attempted to lift them.
They groaned pulling onto her for support. “I don’t know how many more times I’ll be able to get back up.”
“Infinite more times, no one else is allowed to die.” Haven held up their other arm trying to help them up.
Leaves and bushes rustled all around them. Everyone jumped and stood backs facing one another in a circle formation.
Cocheta drew her pistol at the source of the sound. “We can make it everyone, this isn’t over yet.”
Vampires leaped out from everywhere. Their numbers couldn’t be seen from the cloak of nightfall covering them.
“This is where we flop, huh?” Dank formed into a warhammer for Astre’s use.
“No, it is not!” Astre’s grip on them was unbreakable.
“Guys look up!” Oz saw a light shining over.
The Sanguine paused, distracted by the overhead ship landing near. Everyone on both sides stopped and stared intensely waiting to see who was going to emerge from the ship. The cockpit windshield opened up and a golden glow burned the surrounding darkness away.
“What the fuck is that?” Ophelia yelled.
The light hopped from the ship to the ground. Lightning arced off and into the ground. Sanguine charged after it with hisses echoing throughout the forest. Sally slashed the glowing blade into the first vampire to lunge at her and then the one behind. Golden light glowed around the edge of their slash wound. Dust blew out of the hole and the Sanguine disintegrated. She slashed through another vampire and lightning bounced off him and penetrated through an adjacent one. The numerous advancing Sanguine all scuttled back into the foliage. Sally approached the crew. The blade’s presence gave a sickly feeling in Ophelia’s blood. She stepped back cautiously.
“Sally?” Oz squinted in disbelief. “Holy shit!”
“Please tell me, you guys aren’t what’s left. Everyone got on Birdie right? The ship is the only casualty?” Sally asked frantically.
Everyone looked at each other dishearteningly and then back at her.
“We’re dying out Sally. We lost a lot on the ship. They took Cassio too.” Cocheta explained apologetically.
“Cassio! We got to get him back!” Sally clutched her sword tighter.
“We don’t know where they took him.” Haven squeaked panickedly.
“I have an idea, I saw a point of interesting as I was flying in.”
“And what is our plan? We don’t know how many Sanguine will be there nor do we know how we’re getting off here.” Ophelia kept her gaze on the blade.
“I’ll tell you along the way, but this sword is our ticket out of here.” Sally raised it to the sky. “Come on, we don’t have time to waste.” She motioned everyone to follow as she sprinted in the direction of the altar she had seen.
Cassio laid splayed on the sacrificial table. His limbs were bound to the corner. The table was set over the edge of the platform. Underneath lied a massive, metal, pot with blood, steamy and boiling inside.
“The sacrifice is ready to be made. You may have the honours.” The Dark Lady smiled devilishly at Ailbe.
“It’s not time yet.” They looked over in the distance. They stared at the path leading away from the platform.
“What do you mean? The sacrifice is here and the means to do it are ready.” She looked confused.
“I want him to see his legacy shatter before him.”
A glow appeared in the distance. Ailbe smiled as it grew closer and closer. Sanguine surrounding the altar turned around facing the sounds of boots on concrete. Sally charged after the altar. She slashed through the crowd, blade and lightning burning the vampiric crowd. The psionic’s smile faded seeing Sally tear through the Sanguine without struggle.
“Cygnet, attack!” Sally pointed her sword upwards and lightning arced off the tip. Four golden bolts blasted from the blade onto the vampire circle surrounding.
Oz and erupted from a silvery bush. Donovan holding onto a crutch shaped Dank, drew their pistol. Lasers blasted out from the heavy rifle quickly, spraying onto the crowd. Astre and Haven jumped into the fray with Sally. The radius of the blade’s light gave them shelter from being overwhelmed.
“What is this?” The Dark Lady spoke in disapproval. “Ailbe, what have you brought to our doorstep?”
“Nothing I can’t deal with.” They looked over at her then down the steps of the altar. Their hands pressed together and the same beam of energy from Begas 6 reappeared between their palms. “I’ll see to their executions personally.” They grasped their sword and marched down the steps to meet the attackers.
Scaling the back of the altar, Ophelia and Cocheta hoisted themselves over the edge. The hacker crouching over to the table to free Cassio. The doctor looking more vampiric than before glared at the Dark Lady with her completely blackened eyes. Her nails grow long and strong. The Dark Lady turned around and playfully chuckled at the quiet and angry Ophelia.
“It seems you’ve finally embraced what Alckore has given you.”
“A curse? A disease?” She bared her fangs getting ready to attack with what she was given.
“Come now dear, you’ve seen our display of strength. We rule the galaxy now, it’s the perfect time to forget your former allegiances and join with true power.” She reached her hand out, palm open.
Ophelia swiped at her hand, the tips of her talons grazing the back of her hand. “I’ll never join you bastards!” She growled.
The Dark Lady grimaced. “Suit yourself,” A shiny, black dagger unsheathed from under her robes. “Then die with the pigs!”
Cocheta unbound the captain from the table. “Come on, old man! We gotta go!” She roughly whispered into his ear.
Cassio barely conscious moved all his weight onto Cocheta. “Huh...Cocheta?”
“Who else?” She tossed his arm over her shoulders. “We weren’t planning on leaving you behind.”
“Where are the others?” His eyes were closed from fatigue, his words were breathy.
“They’re covering our escape. Hang on tight, we’re sliding down.” She hugged him tighter as she crawled into position to slide down the wall of the altar.
Ophelia screamed as she dashed forward to strike. She parried the Dark Lady’s initial attack and slashed at her stomach. The Dark Lady bent back in a inhuman form. Ophelia stepped back caught off guard by the unnatural anatomy of the vampiress. She stepped to the side and then dropped to one knee, dodging all of her dagger strikes.
“You see the power, you are given!” The Dark Lady thrusted at her. The blow missed narrowly. “Had it been any other mere mortal I would’ve cut them down already.”
Ophelia swiped vertically, the Dark Lady leaned back and then delivered a counterstrike. Her dagger ripping across her chest. She clutched her wound tightly facing the vampire queen.
“Final warning, you see you can’t win. Surrender now.” The dagger pointed between Ophelia’s eyes.
“Never!” She rushed the Dark Lady tackling them both to the floor.
The Dark Lady’s face transformed resembling a banshee. She hissed loudly at Ophelia. Her unholy strength overpowering her. She forced the doctor off her and rose from the floor.
“I’m through with games.” Her voice had a distorted echo. She glided fastly, dagger out.
Ophelia rolled and pushed herself off the ground. She looked up and felt an impacting stab into her stomach. Her mouth dropped and her eyes widened. All breath escaped from her lungs.
“Annoying pest!” The Dark Lady twisted the blade.
Bubbling sounds filled Ophelia’s ears. She heard the pot behind her boil.
“You could’ve had a seat on the throne of the universe, but you chose to throw it away.” The Dark Lady spoke into her ear.
Ophelia with what little strength remained drove her talons into the vampiress’s chest. The Dark Lady’s monologue was cut short from the sudden wound.
“You won’t live….to sit upon your throne….” Ophelia struggled to talk.
Her body fell limp. The two tipped over the edge into the boiling blood below. A large splash stained the walls surrounding. The pot shook violently. Spirits emerged from the liquid surface spiraling upwards into the sky and then a flash of white made them all disappear.
The Sanguine and Cygnet ceased their fight. everyone staring at what just happened before their eyes.
“Fall back!” Sally notioned Haven and Astre. The two ran back towards Donovan and Oz. Sally lagged behind covering their retreat. Ailbe looked at the retreating then back at the altar.
Cocheta stopped and looked over behind them. “I hope that’s a good sign!” She resumed running forward towards Sally’s ship.
“You should have left me.” Cassio said gruffly.
“Not a chance, old man.” She carried a hopeful smile on her face.
“You’ve only doomed yourself.”
“We didn’t have a lot of options as to where to go and getting you back seemed like a good one.”
“My time’s been passed. My story ended a long time ago, you’re only delaying the inevitable.”
“I really can’t stand when you talk like that.” Her smiled began to fade.
“Allowing you a new home, a new job, a new life was me passing the torch off to you. Trying to keep me is going to get you all killed.”
“And that’s a risk we’re willing to take.” Cocheta’s eyes turned to anger. Her blood felt warm from hearing Cassio’s plea to abandon him.
“Why are you so determined to die for me?”
“Because!” Cocheta felt a burning sensation in her eyes. “I had a father that I had to watch hopelessly die from a force I couldn’t control. I am not about to let that happen again. Even if we don’t make it, I’d rather die standing with family than trying to save my own ass.”
Her response lead Cassio to a loss of words.
She looked up at him while keeping movement. “You’re the closest I’ve ever been to seeing my father again, I’m not going to run from that.”
“Touching…” Ailbe’s breathy voice echoed from behind.
The two turned around and saw the hybrid alien-vampire behind them. Cocheta’s hand lowered and clasped Cassio’s. Her other hand reached for her weapon resting on her hip.
“Hey remember that mission at the Junkyard you went on, you came back badly damaged but with drugs?” Cassio looked over at Cocheta.
“Yeah? That went horribly for me.” Her eyebrows raised not knowing where he was going with this.
“The mission probably didn’t go smoothly for you but I remember you got something out of it. No it wasn’t just ghost powder.”
“What are you on about?” Cocheta drew her gun pointing at Ailbe.
“Remember what you kept saying was your favourite thing you learned about the Junkyard?” He smiled warmly.
“Oh yeah, that I thought their proverb was the baddest shit ever?” She smiled reminiscing the mission.
“How did it go again?”
“If you can’t be safe, be efficient.”
The distance between Ailbe and the duo began to close.
“We’re not winning this one, Coco, but we can try and do some damage.” Cassio unhooked his arm from his unofficial daughter. His hand travelled inside his jacket and pulled out a sharp knife.
“Let’s fuck them up!” Cocheta fired at Ailbe.
Haven, Astre, Oslo, Sally and Dank all ran to the location of Ailbe’s ship. A part of the black forest had been cleared out and a series of docking platforms were built upon. Everyone ducked behind stacks of crates to the west of the platform the beetle-shaped ship landed upon.
“Is everyone here and accounted for?” Sally looked around.
“We’re missing Cassio, Cocheta, and Ophelia!” Oz noticed the group’s numbers were smaller.
“Do you think they’re-?” Astre grimly asked before being interrupted by Donovan.
“No! They’re not dead, we should give them some time.”
Haven made a face that caught everyone’s attention. A sick feeling of death and hopelessness washed over them.
“You okay Haven?” Oz was the first to ask.
“Weird Aether shit…” They sighed.
“What, what’s happening?” Sally looked over at them.
“I, I don’t think everyone made it…”
“How can you tell?” Donovan spoke in disbelief.
“I feel, a strong disconnection,” The panned around at everyone. “We have to keep moving, we’re all that’s left of Cygnet.”
“What’s our plan?” Astre looked at Sally.
“We hop onto the ship and we keep flying until we are out of here! That’s it!” Sally rose clutching Retribution. She looked over and saw the ramp to the ship closed.
“It’s out in the open, and the doors closed, and the ship’s anchored. There’s no stealthily way to do this.” Oz looked all around.
“Astre. Dank, Donovan. Come with me. We’ll hold out at the ramp. You and Haven make your way to the tower to the east. Release that Anchor. Anyone got any questions?” Sally looked at how clear the platforms were despite a few Sanguine guards patrolling around.
“Let’s do this.” Oz held up his heavy rifle.
Astre shook her head in answer to Sally’s question.
The two groups divided into separate paths. Astre, Dank, Sally and Donovan stood with their backs against the ramp. Sanguine guards looked over at the intruders and charged for them.
“Astre, throw Dank into the vent. Dank I need you to crawl into the ship and release the ramp from the inside.”
“That’s something I can do!” They balled themself up into Astre’s hands.
Astre pulled back and with all her might launched Dank into the vent next to the back thruster.
The purple goop splatted inside and then reformed. “Okay, ramp switch, ramp switch.” They chanted to themself. They oozed through a grate at the ceiling and dripped onto the floor. As they refromed they saw a damaged, robotic, figure standing before them.
“Oh, hello there….” They said surprised.
“Greetings, I am Corg. Are you an infiltrator on the master’s ship?” The droid tilted its head.
“Uhh, yeah?” They didn’t know how to respond to that type of question.
“Oh, well I do believe I’ll have to report you to them.”
“That won’t be necessary.” They jumped onto Cor.
The door to the stairwell kicked open. Oz stepped inside and then turned his rifle towards the door the two had just entered.
“Go on up, I’ll cover the base.” He stood in a solid, immovable stance.
“Roger that.” They bolted up the stairs, blade drawn.
The sound of his rifle echoed from below. Sanguine were approaching from all sides of the docking bay. Haven ran up the endless spiral. Their energy limitless the first few floors but wore after constant stepping.
“Come on, don’t slow down Haven. They need you to get them out of there.” They huffed themself.
It didn’t help that Haven was still not used to their leg and hip implants. They were uncomfortable to move in but necessary to run at all. They couldn’t move with finesse and ease as they used to. Little stumblings and fumbles happened more consistently here and there. It was hindering their ability.
The top floor neared and Haven sighed in relief. They pulled themself up the next flight of stairs. They grasped the handle and leaned on in taking a few moments to breathe.
They raised their sword and swung the door open. Sanguine filled the room.
“Oh shit!” Haven said lowly.
Sally cut through the mass of vampires surrounding the ship. Donovan fired off into the crowd. The barrel of their blast lit up and then the light faded quickly.
“Shit! I’m out!” They kept pulling the trigger. The pistol clicked but no lasers blasted.
Astre shifted backwards closer to protect the doctor. “Dank, what’s going on with that ramp?” She shouted through the hull hoping for a response. Nothing.
The vampires closed in on the three. Some of them brave enough to get closer to Sally despite her weapon being certain doom to them.
Talons swiped at Donovan’s thigh. They gasped and cursed dropping to one knee. Astre vaulted over the doctor and palmed the vampire in the chest.
“Donovan you’re doing alright?” Astre kicked the Sanguine back into the crowd.
“Yeah I’m fine I just gotta,” They grunted attempting to get back up but fell down again. “Fuck, I can’t get back up!”
“Sally! Get close to Donovan!”
Sally spun her blade in a 360 arc and then fell back to the wounded doctor.
“I got your back, you’re not dying on my watch.”
Haven panted out of breath. The vampire before them hissed loudly as he charged after them. His hand raised in the air preparing to strike. Haven took a deep breath as they raised their blade. The tip piercing the chest of the vampire. They fell over the vampire’s body attempting to catch their breath. Bodies littered the floor. Gashes and cuts decorated Haven’s body. Their grasp on their sword released. They crawled towards the console at the end of the room. Burning pain spiked all throughout their muscles with every inch of movement.
Their hands held onto the metal stand of the console panel and used it as support to hoist themself up.
“There it is!” They wheezed upon seeing the release hatch. The grasped the control and pulled it down. Cables on the ship detached and dropped to the pavement.
“Finally…” They smiled at the ship. “We can get the fuck out of here.” They turned around and froze immediately. Their smile dropped into a look of horror.
Ailbe stood high and mighty at the door. The neck of Oz’s coat in their tight hold. Haven’s eyes moved off Ailbe’s grim and serious expression and down to the coat in their hand.
“Os-o-Oslo?” They trembled.
Steam blasted out of the corners of the ramp. The entrance ramp descended slowly onto the ground. Dank stood with a mangled pile of parts scattered around them.
“Get on everyone! Time’s a wastin!” Dank with a blaster in each hand fired off into the vampiric crowd.
Astre grabbed Donovan by the neck of their lab coat and proceeded to drag them onto the ship.
“Wait, where are you going?” Donovan witness Sally running off into the crowd.
“Close the ramp, if I’m not back in two minutes leave without me!” She yelled while cutting through the masses.
“Trust her, she knows what she’s doing.” Astre looked over at Dank.
“Aye aye.” They flipped the switch on the panel wall. The ramp ascended. Dank blasted at any remaining Sanguine hopping on board.
Sally grunted and screamed as her sword slashed and tore through bodies. Lightning covering her backside from attackers. She rushed rushed through their numbers headed towards the control tower.
The gun’s on Ailbe’s ships rotated and spun around. The cannons directed onto the Sanguine. The vampire numbers were diminished as lasers blasted them away in groups.
Sally stopped in her tracks as she crossed the doorframe to the stairwell.
“Holy ShiiIT!” She screamed. She dropped her sword and swiftly knelt by Oslo who was sitting against the wall with a large slash across his chest and stomach.
Oslo looked up at Sally. “I don’t know if you heard it,” He smiled weakly. “But Haven got the locks off. You’re free to go.”
“I’m free to go? No no, we’re free to go. You’re coming with us!” She grabbed his arm and side and prepared to pull him over her shoulders.
“It’s over for me. I did my best, I did what I had to. I covered Haven, so they could get you guys free. And now, you all can get out of here.” His hand caressed her helmet.
“Oz!” Sally bursted into tears.
“It’s okay, I’m just going to drift off to sleep now and when I wake up...I’ll be playing with Trashmouse and Streetpig again. We’ll be back home safe and sound.” He leaned his head back against the wall, exhaling deeply.
“Oz? Oz!” Sally shook him but there was no response. She ducked her head and stood up. She picked Retribution off the floor and looked up to the top floor. “Ailbe, by the end of today, I will have your surrender, at the end of my blade.”
Fire burned in her heart, her blood rushed with more adrenaline than she ever felt in her life. Sally charged up the stairs with fierce determination. Ailbe was going to die tonight, nothing will change that. The light in her blade shined brighter. Lightning bouncing off all adjacent surfaces.
“Ailbe!” Sally screamed stomping into the top control room.
Ailbe pulled their blade out of Haven’s chest. They looked over their shoulder and saw Sally before them.
“And here we are, at the end of the war, and the final steps to my victory.” Ailbe’s hands clasped their blade.
“No talking, only killing!” Sally sprinted forward, blade overhead.
Ailbe stood with their sword angled ready to parry. Sally yelled out as the two blades made contact. Their eyes widened as the sound of shattering echoed. This time, their blade felt lighter.
“What?” Ailbe twisted back facing Sally as she drove Retribution into their stomach.
They groaned in pain and dropped to their knees. Sally twisted the sword and pushed it into them deeper. Theirs released the hilt and decked left and right across Ailbe’s face.
“That first one was for Oath. This next one was for my friends!” She drew her sword out of them.
“And this next one, is for Cassio!” Her blade cut with ease through Ailbe’s skin and bone. Their head rolled off their body and across the floor. She kicked the headless corpse in the chest and watched it fell back. She panted and looked out the window to see their ship floating away.
“Goodbye guys.” She smiled at the ship. She looked over at the door to the stairwell where the sounds of a horde of footsteps and hissing echoed. She lifted her sword from the ground. “Come on, I can do this all day.”
Donovan laid lifeless. They had felt gravely weak from the loss of blood from the previous battles they faced. Astre stood by their side.
“Come on, we just made it out! You can’t die now!” She grabbed onto their hand. No response.
Dank entered the room. “How are they looking?”
“They’re not waking up!!” Astre shook them. She held a finger to his throat. No pulse.
“Donovan! Donovan!” She clutched their hand tighter.
Dank grabbed onto the both of their hands. “It’s just us now.”
Her head faced them but her eyes were glued to Donovan. “Where do we go now?”
There will be an epilogue
Chapter 14: Grave News
Heat brushed against the skin of her arms. Astre stepped down the ramp of Ailbe's ship. Surrounding the ramp waiting were Akecheta, Fala, and Flo, Cocheta's spy ring. Heavy cloaks draped over them, shielding them from the heat.
“Weren't you here months ago when we had that mob problem?” Fala asked.
Astre nodded. She stopped at the end of the ramp and looked at her greeters.
“Where's Big Boss?” Flo asked.
“She’s….” Astre looked away. “She's not with us anymore.”
The three looked down placing their hands over their hearts.
“Do you know what happened?” Fala’s voice somber and quiet.
“She died standing for her family.” She bit her lip as she gave out the grim news.
“We have to tell Maska.” Akecheta looked up at them.
“Come with us, tell them what happened.” Flo gently grabbed Astre's hand.
“Oh Cocheta…” Maska covered their eyes. “I thank you for the news of her. I am also truly sorry since she was a close friend to you too and also about your ship and friends.”
Astre nervously folded her arms and looked at the ground.
“May I ask? What will you do now? Where will you go?”
“I'll cross that bridge later. I got bad news to families I have to deliver.”
They extended their hand. “When your mission is complete. We invite you to join us in running the strings of Red Rock. It’s the most we can offer and,” they looked at the surrounding spies. “I think we can all agree if anything ever happened to your ship, Cocheta would more than likely house you. She was fond of you, a lot of you. She talked about the Cygnet a lot.”
A tear streamed down her cheek. “Thank you. I would like that.”
The movie theater was packed. Eyes all glued to the screen wide and surprised as Ailbe cut down Haven. Gasps filled the air.
A woman with green and pink hair slicked backed looked over at the person next to her with long, black, hair and a face resembling Cygnet's nemesis. “Hah, your career is over!” She snorted.
Haven who was sitting behind the two shook their head while munching on popcorn. “I can't believe that's how I get killed off, after all these years.”
Rosie, Ophelia, Donovan, Sally, and Oslo sat together at the booth of the bar down the street from the movie theater.
“So when the prop master wasn’t watching I hurried off set with Retribution and tossed it in my car.” Sally took a sip from her glass. “Now I just have that magnificent sword mounted on my wall.”
“They didn't sue you for it?” Rosie asked amused by the story.
“Pfft, no. The show's over. They don’t need it anymore.”
“I'm gonna miss this.” Donovan said bittersweetly. “The past few years have been great.”
“Hey, the show's over but that doesn't mean we can’t still get together.” Oslo nudged their shoulder.
“Besides you know with popular shows, people get crazy over reunions. We'll work together someday.” Ophelia said right after taking a swig from her glass.
“We all died though…” Sally looked at her deadpan .
“Writers always find away to retcon.” She giggled playfully.
Cassio sat in a tightly packed limo surrounded by Aranea, Balor, Wilmette, Hemmingway, Streetpig, Trashmouse, Bog, Dank, Toby, Belt, and Suede.
“Shhh shhh… “ He shushed everyone while holding his phone out on speaker.
“Hello?” Astre answered.
“Hey Ast!” Everyone shouted.
Cassio laughed and tried to contain himself so he could speak. “Hey Astre, it's Cass. You ready to go? We're running a little behind and some of them are already at the bar.”
“Oh shit, I'm sorry. Gimme a few minutes.”
“Not a problem, we can wait.”
Hours passed and night had fallen. Rosie tipsily looked over at Ophelia.
“I still can't believe you got to kill Cate Blanchett.”
Sally slammed her glass onto the table. “Me! Fucking! To!” She looked over at Rosie then Ophelia.
“It caught me off guard. I read the script and it read Ophelia stabs The Dark Lady and I thought, this was a mistake. I've been getting my ass kicked all movie and now I do damage to the biggest bad?” Ophelia's expressions exaggerated as the alcohol phased her.
“Hey guys, sorry I'm late I was just rounding up the crew.” Cassio spoke loudly from the entrance. A seemingly endless train of people entered in the bar behind him.
“Dad!” Everyone at the booth gasped and shouted.
Cassio smiled warmly as he embraced Ophelia who was running with her arms open.
“Hey sweetheart how are you?”
“Very well and you?”
“Sober compared to you guys. I needa few drinks in me.” He laughed.
“Yes..you do!” Ophelia headed over to the bar to get the man a drink.
“Hold up now, before I get sloshed,” Cassio stepped onto the barstool. He held his phone high. “Everyone get in here.”
Every character from the show huddled behind the captain with big smiles on their faces.
“Everyone say Cygnet.”
Cassio took the picture and hopped off the stool. “That's going on lockscreen for a while. Now,” he pocketed his phone. “Let's party.”
Everyone screamed. “Party!”
Belt sat at a both surrounded by muscular women and men typing what she was saying into their phones.
“Double up the protein shakes after you visit the gym for the third time. If you're into doing stuff and not just looking badass, two and a half hours of cardio every two days.” She stopped to drink from her tall glass.
“What about your diet plan?” One of the gym rats asked.
“I'll post a screenshot of my chart on my twitter later on.”
Suede and Wr3n's voice actor sat at the bar accompanied by a few fans.
“So like, what are you two gonna do now?” One of them asked.
Suede sipped. “My character being a fashionista got me a few modeling opportunities. I might roll with that just to blow off steam before I take on any other roles. I dont know about them.” They pointed at Wr3n.
“Cocheta and I are taking a break from acting to form a band.”
“Oh shit really?” The fans leaned forward in excitement.
“Remember that episode where the ending credit scene had Cocheta rapping to me beatboxing in Pillowton? After that whole sequence we met up afterwards and thought about actually making music. Just not with me beatboxing with a filter over my voice.”
“That's sick dude, what kind of music?”
“Something synthwave or techno pop like that.”
“What's your first ep called? Pillowtown Jams.”
Wr3n and Suede chuckled. “God no, they wouldn't like that. Don't ask Cocheta about Pillowton, she hated that.”
“What!” Their eyes widened. “How could you hate Pillowton.”
“We had to do reshoots cause it's a small space and there's always a mass in there and Cocheta, well hates tight spaces. I know I know that's weird for her character since she's like a vent crawler.”
“It’s gonna feel so fucking weird not having to go on set tomorrow.” Donovan drank from his glass.
“Hey at least Cocheta will be saving money.” Cassio joked.
“Morning coffee was just to keep the morale up. I didn’t mind it in the slightest.” She shrugged.
“Oh my god,” Ophelia pointed at Cocheta. “You and Bog were my fucking heroes. I don't think I ever mentioned it but I was so grateful that you two would bring in coffee and bagel for everyone every morning shoot. You two saved my goddamn life.”
“Well we won’t need to deal with that for a while.” Donovan giggled bubbly.
“Yeah, I’m glad.” Ophelia suddenly drowned. “I'm going to miss you guys though.”
“It doesn't have to be the end,” Cocheta looked over at Cassio. “You want to tell them?”
“Might as well,” He gasped as he pulled his drink away from himself. “So I'm retiring as an actor…”
“What? Oh no!” The people around him looked with sadness.
“Don't worry, I'll still be around. I'm going to be on a different medium. I'm building up with my internet fanbase.”
“Huh?” Ophelia titled her head.
“Yeah I'm staring various streams on twitch. Like cosplay making, maybe gaming..”
“Oh nice! How nerdy!”
“You’ll love this then...so I spoke with Cocheta before and I'm officially starting a Dungeons and Dragons podcast.”
The few surrounding had their eyes widened and jaws dropped.
“If you want you guys can be my players-”
“I accept!” Ophelia spoke abruptly.
“Perfect!” He grinned.
Last call came hours later. The cast drank and laughed and spread cheer all throughout the night before having to pack inside Cassio's limo.
“Here’s a 450 dollar tip.” He handed the driver. “Please make sure my friends get home safe.”
Needed something to dry the tears with