This place wasn't any stranger than the Three Galaxies. If anything there were a hell of a lot fewer races running around and causing hell and you could at least expect to recognize most of them once you figured out who was who. Sure there was the occasional newcomer who breezed through and shook the status quo a bit, but at least there were portals opening all the damn time leading to who knows where!
Sharra, in the few days she'd lurked within the corridors of Epsilon Station, had learned a great deal about the various people... and found the occasional sudden flurry of panic from one of the rabbitfolk to be vastly amusing. She couldn't blame them, not really, not when she was well over seven feet tall and bore a distinctive predatory mark. Wolfen were much as their name might suggest, but there was more there as well.
Quattoria was the other half of her designation, and she sometimes had a good chuckle at the stereotypical image they projected wherever they went. Comfortable leather clothing, a light ballistic armor vest as part of the uniform, and a trench coat that concealed her weapons as well as the bulk of her form. Not that it was anything to be ashamed of or hide, the fur covering was complete after all, but it was tradition.
That fur had long been fake, however, a cosmetic vanity to cover the complete bionic replacement of the body beneath except for minor parts. Came in damned handy with all the special modifications when the shit had really hit the fan in the past... Only the badge she had worn until recently was missing, tucked discreetly away as she had no authority, imagined or otherwise, outside of the Three Galaxies.
She walked with a light, confident stride, passing the docking bays and considering the ships within thoughtfully for a long moment before continuing onward. Soon enough she'd find out what else was out there, soon enough.
Coming out from one of the corridors in a rush down toward one of the docking bays nearby came a group of Cybions, easily identified by their unashamed and obvious modifications, carting various equipment.
"Come on, get moving, oh this won't do at all," said one of them at the end, bearing a datapad and peering about with his eye-implant.
Sharra's mouth twitched a faint grin, not having quite the hypocritical streak to denigrate the Cybions' fondness for mechanical amplification. She sure as hell wouldn't be what she was if she did! Golden eyes study them momentarily in a peace officer's instinctive assessing glance, and her ears flickered of their own accord at the seeming haste. Now why would that be? She moved aside politely, though.
She overheard one of them say to another, "Go get the girl. Bring her to the ship." The one addressed gave a nod and headed off down a side corridor as the Cybions continued on their way.
Curiosity had always been a curse, probably what put Sharra where she was in the first place, and the sharp and curt application as well as any lack of identifier for the target in question... curious indeed... Cybernetic claws snicked faintly from their sheathes and then back as she thought about it a moment, then fall silent as she shrugged and moved to follow the one sent off on the mysterious errand as discreetly as possible.
She'd learned to listen to her instincts, and something just smelled wrong here. Not sure what, or even if she had any business poking her muzzle into it, but... what the hell.
Down along the corridor, in a block of living quarters in the station, the Cybion stops at one of the doors and rings the buzzer. A girl came and answered the door. She had dark hair and gray eyes and was tall for a thirteen year old, having apparently hit a growth spurt in the last few months.
"Come on, girl, pack your things, we're heading out," he said to her.
Sharra parked herself against a wall down the corridor, folding her arms and yawning broadly to add to the image. Just passing through, taking a bit of a breather, nothing of interest here... golden eyes narrowed in semblance of drowsiness, and only someone familiar with the subtleties of canids would recognize it all as a lie by the alert tilt of her ears as she waited and listened with bionically-enhanced systems.
The girl replies, "My name is Zillah, not girl. And where are we going in such a hurry? Did another wave of insane mutants from outer space show up and start trying to sacrifice everyone?"
The man sighed and pushed past her into her room and proceeded to dig around through her things himself and pack away any equipment that was too conspicuous to leave behind.
Well now that was just plain odd, Sharra mused. Not only did they seem to be in a hurry to get the child away but she didn't seem all that inclined to be fully cooperative either. She pushed casually away from the wall -- now that the Cybion had gone inside and out of direct vision range the charade wasn't really important -- and stalked quietly nearer.
Zillah stood in the doorway peering in indignantly at him. "What are you doing? This is my room... what do you want with those data pads?"
The Cybion, having collected data pads and other assorted small equipment, came back to the door and grabbed her by the arm. "Come on, girl, we've gotta go." She wrenched away from him.
That little display was good enough, the hackles rising at Sharra's ruff in response to the covering's detection of a surge of anger. "I don't think you want to do that," she said casually, stepping into the center of the corridor and clearly into the Cybion's path. "Kidnapping's illegal pretty damn near anywhere I've ever been, and you might want to rethink the idea."
The Cybion glared at her with a bit of a snarl and said, "Stay out of this. This is not your business." He turned to Zillah again and said firmly, "Experiment 12-Z, you will come with me." Zillah took a step back, staring wide-eyed at him.
Sharra's eyes narrowed, studying the smaller man on a variety of levels with internal sensors... Definitely modified, but she didn't think it was going to make nearly the difference that arrogant dismissal assumed. She didn't move, other than to turn that gaze to the girl.
"Your call, Zillah," she said softly, "Are you an experiment or your own person?"
Zillah said to the Cybion, "You might have been able to boss me around when I was younger, but I'm not a toddler anymore to listen to you without an explanation. If you're so keen on dragging me off, Dick, you'd better come up with a damned good reason for it, and fast."
It might sound like she'd turned vulgar all of a sudden, but as it turned out, the guy's name was Richard. She knew him, that much was clear, but what did that mean? Family? Something else? Sharra remained firmly in place and waited for his answer, quirking a brow ridge in question, and ready to move at a moment's notice.
Dick said impatiently, "Zillah, we don't have time for this. We need to be gone from here and on a transport heading out within the hour. The Empire's moving in to bring Epsilon Station under its jurisdiction within the next day. New leadership or no, they won't like some of our projects and will shut them down if they can."
Now wasn't that little tidbit interesting? Sharra wondered just what the Cybions might be up to that would be so repugnant to the Empire... word on the docks was that people were either ambivalent or glad about it. Apparently this regime change was a lot more welcome than the one that had come before it. So just what... hmm. Something to look into sometime, but she merely listened for now before making the decision to intervene.
Zillah said, "Well I'll have no more part in your experiments on humans and treating people like property. I am a person, not an experiment." She grabbed the bag with her stuff from his hand and stormed back into her room.
That was certainly more than enough, Sharra decided firmly, a low growl emerging as she stalked toward the man, "I think it's time for you to go. Now."
She didn't escalate the situation by drawing or displaying any of the multitude of weapons she carried or had installed, relying on good old-fashioned height and presence for intimidation.
Richard, quite irritated, glared at Zillah, and at Sharra, then turned on his heel and headed back down the corridor toward the docking bay to report to his superior. Zillah sighed and looked at the things he had grabbed, putting them back where they were supposed to be. Sharra watched the Cybion depart through narrowed eyes, remaining watchful until he rounded a corner and vanished from sight.
"Hmm," she murmured, ears flickering for a moment, and then turned back and walked to the open doorway. She didn't enter, not without permission, instead propping herself against the frame with a gentler expression. "You okay?" she asked softly.
Zillah sighed. "Yeah, I'm fine. At least he didn't break anything." She finished putting the items away and tossed the bag into a corner. "Thanks for standing up for me. Few enough people have around here..."
Sharra chuckled lightly. "Hey, that's what I do, part of the job. I have to wonder what was going on, though, and where your parents are. Can't imagine anyone leaving a little girl to fend for herself..."
Any galaxy was a dangerous place, damn if she didn't know that, and the thought of it was enough to bring an instinctive rise of her hackles again which she deliberately smoothed.
"Oh, my mother died hundreds of years ago. And my father got sacrificed to the dark gods, came back to life, traveled through time with my sister, changed the past, and is now off somewhere in the fringe worlds doing something or other." She said it so casually that one would expect these were everyday occurrences.
Sharra blinked once at that, her own experience not requiring the verification from sensor mods that the girl was telling the truth, then flicked a glance in the direction the Cybion had vanished.
"Why are they so keen on getting you to go with them, then?" Sharra asked, indicating the direction with a jerk of her muzzle and then turning her full attention back to Zillah.
Zillah moved over back toward her, glancing nervously out into the corridor, and said, "Do come in. At least I can seal the door if he tries to come back with backup."
Sharra nodded, offering a reassuring smile as she moved silently within. "I didn't think that would be the last of them, but I could hope."
She took a moment to run internal diagnostics and check the more conventional weaponry she carried with her. Hmm, wouldn't do to put any holes in the station, that'd be bad for the girl's health and probably spark a bit of anger from authorities. Up close and personal it would be, then.
"What do they want from you?" Sharra prodded gently, settling into a comfortable crouch facing the door and well within leaping distance.
Zillah made sure the door was locked from the inside and took a seat. "I am, apparently, the twenty-sixth creation of this particular line of genetics. They think I'm their 'perfect being' they've been trying to create for centuries or some such." She snorted softly. "And most of my sisters are dead now because of their cruelty and heartlessness, many of them insane or deformed because of it."
Sharra's lip curled in a faint snarl, slavery being one of the biggest and most hated things on her list and this sounded like it was in the same ballpark... with a few sadistic twists added to it. She deliberately eased the momentary tension, focusing back on the girl.
"Who's looking out for you, child?" Sharra asked. "Is there anywhere that you can go?"
Zillah snorted softly and said, "The Cybions, technically. And no, not really."
Sharra turned a sharp glance in the direction of the door, the approach these Cybions had taken as well as their clear disregard for life they'd already displayed stirring anger. She thought about it, turning to look back at Zillah for a long moment and weighing logic versus the instinctive decision she wanted to make.
"How long would it take you to pack?" she asked softly, not really having to think that hard about it.
"Not too long I guess," Zillah replied uncertainly, sighing and glancing back at the bag she'd tossed in the corner.
"Well," Sharra remarked, examining her own reasoning carefully, "The way I see it, you can either stay here and wait for them to come back, and I can pretty well guarantee that scum like that will be back, or..." Her ears tilted forward, her gaze intent on Zillah as she continued, "You can come with me and I can keep an eye out on you for a bit." She knew some of that was instinctive, but damnit the logic was there too!
Zillah sighed again. "I don't think they'll try to force their way in -- the station overseers wouldn't stand for it -- but I doubt they'll be dissuaded that easily." She stood up and proceeded to grab the bag she'd dropped again.
Sharra chuckled softly. "Don't you worry about that, child, I can help dissuade them a bit along the way. Trust me."
She didn't know what Zillah had already seen and experienced, the matter-of-fact response of earlier suggesting more than was right for a young girl... but she could at least get her out of harm's way when the blood and hydraulic fluid began to flow.
"Alright," Zillah said, going to fill up her bag with much of the stuff that had been taken out of it minutes before.
Sharra had taken a visitor's quarters on the other side of the station when she'd arrived. It wasn't that she needed to sleep or even had much that she carried with her, but it was old habit to have a place to retire to at the end of the 'day', regardless of how long that day was. It would serve for now, at least until she figured out what to do next, which would largely depend on the Cybion response.
Zillah took the items because the Cybions clearly wanted them and she wasn't going to let them have their way if she could help it. But she also, unlike that fool man, did not forget about such things as underwear. Practical girl, Sharra mused approvingly, watching as Zillah gathered and packed the things she wanted to bring along.
"Things may get a bit scary along the way," she said quietly, "But don't worry about it, they won't be taking you anywhere you don't want to go."
"I'm not worried," Zillah said, slinging the pack over her back. "I've been trained in combat and psionics."
Sharra just looked at Zillah at that, her ears tilting back at the though of what that casual revelation meant. Oh yes, she was going to look forward to making sure the Cybions didn't get their hands on this little girl again... She snorted quietly, then tilted her head in question, "Ready to go?"
Zillah gave a nod, glancing briefly at the room for a moment and not thinking of anything else she might need. "Let's go, then, before they come back."
Sharra merely nodded in reply, strangling the urge to reach out and tousle the girl's hair and grinning faintly at the thought. "Let's go then," she said, opening the door and taking a careful look out, prepared to take the lead on the journey and a flickering nimbus of light which emerged around her giving evidence that she wasn't betting on it being peaceful.
Down the hall, from the direction of the docking bay, several Cybions were seen approaching. "Hey! Where are you going!" called one of them. They drew weapons.
"Stay back," Sharra said in a quiet aside to Zillah, then stepped out into the hall to walk toward the Cybions with narrowed eyes. "You don't want to do this," she warned them, though she drew no weapons of her own. "If you've got sensors anywhere near as good as my own, you can tell what I am and what a piss-poor decision that would be." Might as well try it easy, if they decided to play hardball then it was on their own heads.
"You stay out of this," barked one of the Cybions, not Dick this time. "We are only here to reclaim our property."
"Property?" Sharra snarled as she continued to stalk toward them. "You're talking a little girl, not some piece of meat you scumbag, you'd do well to remember that."
A twist of her wrists snapped a tri-point of eighteen-inch blades from between the knuckles of her fists, shredding the syntheskin, and a low hum could be heard as power flowed through them. If they wanted to play hard, they'd just cleared her conscience about taking prisoners.
They raised their weapons and opened fire, intent on removing this interference from their attempt to regain control of the girl. However, they were all suffering from storm trooper syndrome and primarily hit the walls, floor, and ceiling.
"Bad call," Sharra snarled, leaping at them to bring the vibro-claws into play with the speed and reflexes born of the full cyborg.
These stubborn Cybions were quite willing to risk their lives for their precious creation, but their combat ability didn't really match up to her. Death Dancers they were not.
Sharra was in no mood for prisoners, and she asked nor gave quarter in the battle... and unlike the Cybions, she was quite skilled in the weapons she used. A bitter legacy which the Three Galaxies had given her, but one that she was fully willing to accept and use when it was needed.
The Cybions refused to flee or back down, but they didn't even manage to hurt her before being cut down. Behind her, Zillah was standing in the doorway, looking out wide-eyed around the door frame at the ensuing confrontation.
Sharra flicks her wrist, retracting the blades which were already gore-free due to their nature, and looked around for a moment. She winced, seeing Zillah standing there, not having wanted her to see this... she shook her head.
"Go back inside a moment, child, please."
The bodies would have to be dumped in the nearest recycler. The few minutes it would take were well worth the problems it would minimize later.
"I'm not a child," Zillah murmured. "I'm thirteen." She made no move to budge from where she was standing.
Sharra's ears flattened at that, a pained expression emerging... thirteen years, by the gods... "Stay there, then. I have to take care of this," she said, and turned to the task at hand, grabbing each corpse by the neck in one hand and lifting them free of the ground before stalking in the direction of the nearest likely place to hide, or destroy, the bodies.
The station had ample openings for chutes to garbage incinerators. Having been built and inhabited by rogues, rebels, and pirates for centuries, convenience of disposing of bodies was a high consideration.
Sharra chuckles to herself, making note of the design philosophy and comparing it to any number of other roguish dens she'd visited along the way. It was all to their benefit now, and she dumped the bodies in a chute before heading back.
"Come on, Zillah," she said gently, putting herself between the girl and the worst view of the blood splattered as she can, "Let's get out of here."
Zillah nodded, and headed along quietly after her down the hallway, not even bothering to look back at the scene or her quarters.