The commandeered Dreadzone escape shuttle touched down in the hanger bay of the Galactic Starship Phoenix’s, the engines gently whirring and dying.
The crafts rear hatch slid silently open on hydraulic pistons, the ramp hitting the deck with a metallic clunk. The passengers began to step out of the craft. Phoenix Captain Sasha Phyronix stood in the hanger, scanning through the tide of strange aliens for any sign of her companion. The flow of passengers disembarking from the shuttle slowly began too thin, Sasha began to lose hope that her muscled fuzzball would clamber out of the craft, bloodied and beaten, fall into her arms and say ‘I thought I could take on one more bad guy, I guess not’.
Sasha noticed a sudden flash of golden fur, and then she saw him. Ratchet stepped down the landing ramp onto the deck of the Hanger bay dressed in a strange new style of armour Sasha did not recognize as originating from the Galactic Federation; she assumed he had acquired the strange armour during his time in the Shadow Sector. Ratchets little robot companion Clank stood beside him. Sasha pressed her way through the crowd, flinging her arms around the shoulders of her golden furred Lombax. “Ratchet” But just as she made contact she recoiled sharply as a stab of pain ran through her chest. She leapt back, yelping an ‘eep’ of surprise.
She glanced down at Ratchet’s shoulder armour, finally noticing the sharp spikes that had stabbed into her chest that she wished she had seen moments ago. Ratchet grinned. “Shoulder spikes. Look great for the cameras, but they don’t do much for your social life”.
Sasha smiled “I am sure” She clutched onto Ratchet, this time carefully ensuring that she remained clear of the painful decoration. “I’m just glad you are ok”
Ratchet hugged her back. “Me too”
The two lovers held the embrace for what seemed like eternity, only ending it when the call of the Galactic Rangers requesting their Captain finally became overwhelming to ignore. “I guess you will want to rest up. I’ll come and see you later then”.
But just as Sasha was about to break their embrace and return to her duties Ratchet reached out and cupped her hand in his. “That reminds me” He reached into a pouch on the belt at the back of his, placing something into the palm of her open hand. “I brought you a present from the Shadow Sector”
Sasha’s ears perked up. Ratchet knew her well; she was not a girl to be swayed by roses and jewellery. To her a new Qwark Vidcomic and an XV-28 Blaster Upgrade were the best gifts she could receive, besides her cute furry Lombax. Sasha opened her palm to discover, of all things, some kind of dull metal grey bracelet or necklace.
“Here” utilising his free hand he brushed Sasha’s long purple hair behind her neck, reaching up to click the necklace into place snugly around her neck. Ratchet clasped his arms behind his back. “Do you like it?”
Sasha looked at the necklace, running her finger tips along the length of the necklace, perplexed by its strange design. “Well what is it?” Sasha began to ask. “Is it just for show or does it ac-” a sharp shock of electricity surged through Sasha’s body, overriding her central nervous system and stealing control of her muscles from her. “Aggh” She screeched, her fingers tearing at the metal in a vain attempt to remove the necklace. The pain suddenly ceased as quickly as it had come. “What was that?!”
Ratchet revealed a transmission switch from his armour pouch at his belt. A smirk ran across Ratchet’s face at Sasha’s stunned expression. “That is a standard issue Dreadzone Deadlocked Collar”
“A dead, what?” Sasha screeched.
“A Deadlocked Collar, standard issue device given to all contestants on the Shadow Sectors most popular death sport show, to ensure they remain docile and co-operational” Ratchet fell into a dull tone of voice as if he had read the description straight out of the manual.
“So why did you put it on me?” Sasha asked.
He continued oblivious of her. “The collar has three special features. One, it cannot be broken or removed by the wearer. Two, the operator can deliver a static charge through the wearers body anytime they choose”
“And do I dare as what three is?” Sasha asked with genuine perplexed fear.
“Special feature three is that when I push this button...” He brandished the remote in his hand, his finger precariously close to the exposed switch. “The collar explodes” He said bluntly.
Sasha’s eyes shot open in pure animal fear. She quickly began to desperately claw at the necklace in an attempt to pull it free in fear that any minor flinch would send her blazing across the galaxy. Ratchet fought back a laugh at the display. “Hey calm down Sasha. I was only joking” Ratchet reached around the back of Sashas neck, one sharp click later and the collar snapped open. Sasha leapt free of its grasp, rubbing her neck as much to sooth the chafe as to ensure that her neck remained intact.
“So why did you put it on me?” She asked again.
Ratchet shrugged. “A little demonstration of the devices potential, and perhaps a little fun as well” Ratchet held the device up. “As a representative of the Federation military, and the President’s daughter no less, I’m sure you’re capable of getting it to the right people who might find some uses for it. Humane animal control for example, you’ve always had a thing for ‘Dumb animals’”
“Ratchet, Clank!” Qwark’s booming voice rang out through the now empty hanger bay, interrupting the moment between the two felines. “It’s great to see you two again”
Clank stepped down the landing ramp of the Dreadzone shuttle. “But then it doesn’t have to be just dumb ‘animals’”
“I knew you guys could bust your way out” Qwark struck a dramatic pose. “But if you hadn’t you would be sure to see me, Captain Qwark, storming through the enemy defences in no time to heroically rescue you!”
“I am sure your assistance would have been a valuable asset in our escape, Captain Qwark” Clanks robotic voice remaining stable.
Desperate to escape Qwark’s rant, Ratchet finally interrupted. “Clank, why don’t you take this down to Al in the Science Lab” He handed the deadlocked collar too Clank. “I am sure he will want to analyse it. I am going to change out of this armour” Ratchet trotted off to his quarters.
Sasha silently watched as the device exchanged hands. A devious thought crept into her mind.
Sasha strode through the intricate network of corridors which honeycombed the interior of the Starship Phoenix. Sasha stepped into the Laboratory deep within the bowels of the Phoenix, the walls of the brightly lit, sterile laboratory were lined with computer equipment and vials of chemicals and samples that Sasha could not even begin to recognize let alone comprehend their individual uses.
Sasha noticed Clank hung over a microscope on the far side of the laboratory, his small green robotic eyes analysing every intricate detail of the sample, recording, processing and then storing his findings into the Phoenix’s database.
“Clank” Sasha asked, shattering the serene silence.
Clank looked up from his work, turning to greet his visitor. “Ah, Captain Sasha” the small robot stepped down from his stand. “May I ask what brings you down here?” he asked courteously.
“Well, I wanted to see how you were doing with that electric collar Ratchet brought back from Dreadzone” Sasha’s eyes passed over the device lying on the workbench on the other side of the Laboratory.
Clank was certainly bemused by the odd request. “Of course” Clank plucked the dull grey collar off the workbench. “So far I have succeeded in disabling the collars self-destruct capability, as well as decreasing the current to a less dangerous level. Once I have run some tests I am sure the Galactic Federation could find use for such a device in agriculture, prisons or Law Enforcement” a smile grew on Clanks robotic lips. “I believe you experienced its effects first hand”
Sasha bit back a response “Something like that. When do you think it will be ready for use?”
“A few more tweaks and we will have it ready. But for now I am going to keep it here in the lab till we can be sure it will be safe”
“Very good, see you later Clank” With that find goodbye Sasha strode out of the lab, he had given her all the information she needed.
Night came quickly as the corridors of the Phoenix were draped in perpetual twilight. Sasha strode silently through the dark corridors as though it were the natural state for her. Sasha reached her destination, silently slipping inside of the Phoenix’s laboratory. Her position as the ship’s Captain allowing her uninterrupted access to the secure facility. Sasha's eyes passed across the empty science lab, stepping over to the workbench and scooping the experimental device in her hand. She left as quietly as she arrived like a phantom in the shadows.
Sasha silently stepped passed the doors, the two slabs of metal hissing silently together behind her sealing her into the room.
The far wall in front of her was dominated by an enormous flat screen TV, encircled by comfortable grass green sofas. Sasha walked towards the beds hidden off to the side, only one of them was occupied. Sasha silently walked towards the beds, her dark shadow looming over the sleeping Lombax. His puppy dog eyes slowly parted. “Sasha?”