The small, binary suns were high in the sky of the mostly desert planet. A pack of desert dwelling canines slept in the shade of a large rock while one of their pups chased an oversized hopping rodent, intent on both playing with it and eating it.
A nearby oasis formed around a spring of crystal clear water shined in the sunlight, a light breeze blowing on the leaves of the tall trees surrounding the spring. It was a serene vision of an undisturbed landscape, one quickly disturbed by the sound of a loud hover craft speeding by, followed quickly by three dune buggies.
"You are out of your mind!" Aya Me shouted over the sound of laser fire, shooting back herself. The violet haired Tamearin sat in the back of the hover craft, using a tied up man as a makeshift seat. "Four or five comrades! That's what you said! Four or five with maybe one or two bikes. I count a dozen with three ATVs, Jackie!"
"That's Jackie-Jackie! You have to say the whole thing or it loses it's meaning!" Jackie-Jackie Jetstorm, bounty hunter and captain of the Golden Wind spacecraft, laughed as the wind whipped against her face. "And I said there could be more!"
"At which point we'd retreat to get help! Remember?!" Aya lightly kicked her 'seat', eliciting a loud "oof" from him. "This moron is hardly worth the credits we'll get for him if we get out of this. He is definitely not worth dying over!"
"We're not going to die, drama queen!" JJ pushes the hover craft to go faster. She swerved left and right, making it harder for them to be hit, though this had the added effect of making it harder for Aya to aim. She lifted her wrist and spoke into her comunicator. "Baichi! Bring the ship down! We have the cargo and need a quick escape." There was only silence. "B... Baichi? Hmm..."
"Hmm? HMM?!" Aya glared back at her. "I told you we needed to replace the long range communication system to cut through this atmosphere. We... are going... to die!"
"Oh, hush. Big baby." JJ suddenly spun the craft, knocking Aya over, and switched on a high powered gattling rail gun. Hundreds of bullets flew from the front of her craft, and by the time she was done spinning and going the same direction as before, four of their pursers were down, and one of the buggies was disabled. "Woohoo! Suck that! What are you going to do..." And loud blast came at the back of the craft. "...n-now..."
Aya sighed. "We're hit..."
"No, really?" The craft's stabilizers failed, and they crashed into the ground. The remaining buggies drove up to either side of them, eight angry men and women getting out and surrounding them.
JJ and Aya stepped out, hands raised. "Anymore bright ideas?" The salty Tamearin asked.
"Only one." JJ dropped to her hands and knees and started sobbing loudly. "Please don't kill us! We're sorry! We were only following orders! Please spare us!"
One of the men walked over and pointed a gun at her head. "After you took da boss an killed our frinds, ya expect mercy?"
"No." JJ smirked. She jumped up, grabbing the gun and yanking it away. She pointed it at his face and said. "I was just seeing if you were dumb enough to get that close."
"Kil-!" He yelled before getting a laser shot through the chest. Aya lunged for the woman who had gotten too close to her, rolling with her on the ground as JJ practically danced around laser shots, gunning down another man. One of the outlaws shot at Aya, only to hit their own ally. Aya took their rifle and unloaded, killing three more in a flurry of magnetically accelerated shots.
JJ and Aya pointed their weapons forward, the remaining two outlaws pointing back. "Is this guy worth dying over?" JJ asked. "He's scum. Murdering, raping, thieving scum."
"I mean... you two probably are too," Aya commented. "But as I see it, either he lives and all of us die in this standoff, or he comes with us and the four of us live."
JJ grinned. "So... what's it gonna be?"
The two remaining men exchanged a look. "Fuck this," one muttered, the other nodding, and they both ran for the buggies, driving off into the distance.
Aya let out a sigh of relief and glanced at her partner. "You empty too?"
JJ chuckled nervously, ejecting the empty laser cartridge. "Good thing they weren't paying attention to that."
The pair frowned as the Golden Wind came into view, the large red and black ship arriving just after it would have made a difference. "We survived with dumb luck and a bluff," Aya muttered. "Again."
"But we survived." JJ grabbed their bounty from the back seat, her face turning sour when she noticed a stray laser had blasted a clean hole through his heart. "Damn..."
"Great." Aya placed a hand over her eyes. "Bringing him in dead, he'll barely be worth enough to fix the hover craft." She pointed angrily at JJ. "We can't do this anymore. I'm putting my foot down. We need a crew. Running the ship with just us and Baichi's small nest is too hard, and getting bounties to actually fix this hunk of junk ship is too dangerous with just us two."
JJ smirked. "As it so happens, I've been looking around, and I have a few candidates in mind."
"Yeah?" The Tamearin gave her Cartus captain a skeptical look. "You're not just saying that to keep me quiet?"
"Oh, yee of little faith. Come on." She hefted up their bounty. "Let's put him on ice, get the craft into the ship, and I will show you all the nice men and women that will help us chase our fortunes and be the best damn bounty hunters in the galaxy! Woo!"
Aya sighed, but gave her a wary smile as they boarded the ship, hopeful that her captain would come through and wasn't just pulling her leg.
Frostlich1228 & ZombieSplitter53
A Lady and her Yorin
Space Station Corin Velaria System 12:13 p.m. LST
The station was busy with the hustle and the bustle of business. Corin not only acted as an outpost for the Galactic Federation of Planets, it was a busy trading post on the borders of three sectors. It was a great place to get rare finds, get some rest, find some crew, and find a ship to be a crew member of. At least for most, that is.
A Talerian trader stared forward for a moment before scratching his purple cheek. "You wanna repeat that? The... part about your... friend?"
A Human girl with long white hair that took on a pink sheen when one looked at it at a certain angle. "Me and my Yorin Friend are looking for a ship captain to work under. I have a lot of skills with weapons and Yixx is really good at machines. We only really need one bunk too since we're together."
The man pointed to his head. "Is it... in your head right now? Am I speaking to the human or the Yorin?"
"Yeah. She is. You're speaking to the Human, my name's Lady." The Woman Shrugged. "It's just she's pretty shy."
The trader frowned deeply, the wrinkles between the small horns on his head pronounced. "I'm not interested." He turned to walk away.
"Oh! But she's really good at Tech stuff! I-" Her eyes glazed over a bit.
"Lady... Please stop... You're being really loud, people are staring..." Her whole body language changed, looking around nervously.
"Let him go. He doesn't understand the potential of one such as you." When she turned around, there was a very shady looking man in a business suit behind her. He smiled pleasantly, but there was something in his eyes that made them feel uneasy. "They're scared. They're afraid you'll wriggle into their brain and take them over in their sleep or something."
"I um... Thank you... But I wish more people would understand we're not like that... Well... Not all of us..." Yixx, in control of their body, looked back sheepishly.
"Of course. But... it doesn't mean that it is completely a bad thing." Nearly a foot taller, the man crouched down to be at eye level. "You could act as a spy. Capture a target, stick you in his ear, and you could get in anywhere. Why not... come work for me? You two could make the greatest infiltration pair ever."
A feeling of dread sank into her chest. "I... I don't really do that... Lady is better at... things like that... But Targets... Are you like a Bounty Hunter?"
His smile widened. "Bounty hunter, yes. But we do so much more. Granted, you two being a spy wouldn't exactly be legal, per se. But I could pay you handsomely."
"I... I umm... I..." She stammered, the light coming back into her eyes as she crossed her arms.
"Look Mister, I appreciate it, but Yixx really doesn't do that kind of stuff. And while I'm more used to... Less than legal things... She's not... And we're a team." Lady spoke with a firm tone.
The man looked disappointed, but kept smiling. Standing up, he handed her a card for Ravenwood Bounties. "Please... contact me if you change your mind. We could make quite the pair." With that, he walked away without another word.
"Uh..." She looked down at it. "I'll consider after me and Yixx have chance to discuss it..."
They went their seperate ways, continuing to look for someone who would take them, until a pair of Federation guards suddenly approached her. "Are you the woman with the Yorin?" One asked.
Lady took charge, but gulped herself. "Uh... Yes Officer... Is there a problem?"
"Not if you come with us," he said, the cold, indifferent tone of a Tamearin. "We need to take you in, make sure you aren't being forced against your will to be the Yorin's slave. After it is removed, we will have to question need to determine if you have been brainwashed, possibly detain you for several..."
"There you are." Another Tamearin, female with violet hair, walked over and put her hand on Lady's shoulder. "I've been looking everywhere for you. Is... there a problem?"
"Uh... Therese! These men were holding us up from boarding. We didn't do anything wrong." Lady looked towards the woman, acting like they were close friends.
"Is this about the Yorin thing again? Listen, I have known her for years. She isn't being controlled, they're partners. I-"
One of the guards flashed a device in her face. "She's clean. No Yorin."
The purple haired woman blinked several times. "Geez. Warn me next time. I vouche for her. So can we go? The captain is waiting. Besides, I'm Tamearin. You know we don't lie."
The guards exchanged a look and nodded. "She is your responsibility. We will be coming for you if she starts trouble."
They walked off, and the woman smirked. "Well... we usually don't lie. You okay, Ms...?"
"Lady. My friend in my head is Yixx." The Long Haired Human smiled. "Thank you for that. I wish I could say I wasn't used to profiling like that but that would be a lie too."
"I'm a Pon-Taer, so I know a little about what it is like to be profiled. You situation sure is unique, though." She offered a hand. "Aya. Still looking for a job? I wasn't lying about the captain wanting to meet you."
Lady gladly shook her hand. "Well. Yeah. What do you guys do?"
Aya motioned for her to follow. As they walked, she answered, "Not much yet. We only just got a good enough she to run a business. But the captain is planning on bounty hunting, with some treasure hunting and mercenary work on the side. Of course, if that doesn't interest you, we need a crew to keep the ship in one piece too."
"You're... Not going to ask Yixx to take control of anyone right? She doesn't do that." Lady prefaced quickly.
Aya shook her head. "Captain doesn't always follow the law to the letter, but we have better morals then to ask that. Someone asked you if you'd do that, didn't they?"
"Yeah... Yorin have so much more to them than body snatchers out of some old Earth Horror Movie. They're people." Lady replied, sighing.
The pair reached a bar where a Cartus, in grey and red short-shorts and a matching top that looked like it was barely staying on, suddenly spun around in her chair. Her face was flushed and she had a look of pure joy on her face. "This is so good!" She held up a cup with a plastic dome top and a straw. "It's a Ovaris fruit smoothy." She practically shoved it in Lady's face. "You have to try it!"
"Uh... Sure!" She gently took it out of her hands. "What's in it?"
"The Ovaris is..." Aya thought about a good way to describe it. "It's kinda like if you blended an Earth apple, grape, and kiwi together. But sweeter."
"I haven't had any of those in years..." Lady quickly took a long, happy slurp, there was definitely alcohol in it too. "Wow! Mmm! That's fantastic!"
"I know!" The cat woman turned to the bartender. "Another one for my new friend!" Turning back to Lady, she said, "My name is Jackie-Jackie Jetstorm. You can call me JJ if you want."
"I'm Lady... Lady Brochette. Is Jackie Jackie a nickname or...?" The Woman asked.
"No, believe it or not it is really what she calls herself." Aya chuckled. "Her real name is..."
"Hubbabubbaba!" JJ quickly quieted her down. "I will sew your mouth shut! Now... Lady... wait, is that a nickname? Isn't naming a human Lady like naming a Cartus Kitty?"
"Maybe more like Pussy." She winked slyly. "But no. My name is Ladie with an 'IE', but Lady with a 'Y' looks better on paper."
JJ nodded. "I like it. So when can you start?"
Aya cleared her throat. "Can you please ask a question or two before hiring this one. The last guy you hired tried to steal the ship because you didn't ask anything about him before hand."
"Alright, alright. Geez." The cat lady scratched her ear in annoyance. "So, Lady... what are your qualifications?"
"I'm super good at Guns. Rifles, shotguns, anything with a trigger I can pull it, not half bad in a fistfight either." She flexed in her slightly dirty short sleeve shirt, revealing a well toned bicep. "I also know my way around security systems both electronic and standard, can pick a lock or two, pretty good at making my way around unnoticed as well."
"Oh, goody. You'd make an excellent bounty hunter. I'm pretty good at that stuff too. Sounds like we can learn from each other." JJ grinned. "And your... Yorin friend? You really have a Yorin that you work with? Like a friend?"
"Yeah!" She tapped her head. "Wanna chat with her?"
"Yeah!" JJ clapped her hands together. "I've never met a Yorin, let alone one paired willingly with a human! This is so exciting."
Lady nodded, smiling before her expression dropped, her eyes once more losing color. "Oh... Uh... Hi."
She turned towards the Tamaerin. "Thank you for your help... I'm Yixx. It's... Good to meet you two."
Aya smiled. "Sure, any time. Like I said, I know what it is like for people to assume things about you."
"It is a pleasure to meet you." Jackie-Jackie handed her a fresh smoothy after shaking her hand. "This is exciting. So, um... do you have your own set of skills?"
"Yeah. My Father was a Starship Engineer and Captain himself, so I know a bit about that... Lady is telling me to not sell myself short..." She chuckled awkwardly. "I know my way around Robotics, Prosthetics, Cybernetics to some extent, but uhm... My main skills are in Weapon Design and repair, specifically in regards to Laser and Plasma based technology."
Aya rubbed her chin. "The ship's laser weapons aren't the best, and we have a number of weapons in the hold that could use repair."
JJ nodded. "So we have both a fighter and a weapon's expert, among other things." She bit her lip. "I, um... I don't think I could afford to pay you double, but I am sure I can pay you at least a little extra..."
She scratched her head. "If we uh... Call it one point five percent the normal pay, would you uh... Make some small accommodations? My species needs a few special things... You know... To get by..."
"Ah, yes. The nutrient pool." JJ eagerly nodded her head. "That can be easily arranged. Anything else? Don't be shy tp ask."
"Oh uh... I don't want to ask too much... But... Can you make sure everyone on board is at least... Not going to try to shoot us if they find out I'm in here?" The Yorin spoke through her partner. "Or at least if that's not possible, give us a warning so we can preferably avoid them... I don't want to cause any trouble for you."
JJ's smile dipped a bit, and she took Yixx's hands. "My ship is one of equality. Heck, I'd even hire a Shinso that was willing to work with me. I will make certain that no one causes you trouble simply for what you are."
"Thank you... That means so much to me..." Yixx smiled warmly. "Maybe my people wouldn't be such loners if there were more people like you in the universe..."
JJ chuckled and waved her hand dismissively. "Come on, you're going to make me blush." She turned. "Cashing out."
"Thirty." The bartender held out a credit machine.
"Thirty! For two drinks! Stiff..." She reluctanly paid, swiping away thirty galactic credits, and jumped off her stool. "Wanna see the ship, Yixx and Lady?"
"Uh... Yeah. I think we would." Yixx nodded. "Most of the ships I've seen are Yorin based design... They aren't exactly very stylish... Kind of blocky..."
"There is an efficiency to their design, though I can see how that can get... boring," Aya noted.
She and Jackie-Jackie led the paired being to the hanger. It was vast, filled with different kinds of ships from across the known galaxy. After a while, they stopped in front of a long, red one, golden slashes on its side, with a bridge shaped like a hawk's head. "Here it is!" JJ announced. "The Golden Wind! You like?"
She pressed her hands against the glass, "That's amazing! It's like one of those Earth Birds! An Eagle! Lady told me about them!"
JJ chuckled. "I'm glad you're excited. I can't wait to show you the inside."
"What is that hull made of? Depleted Uranium? Platinum Alloy?" Yixx looked back.
"I wish the hull was made of platinum," Aya commented. "It is a mixture of tritanium, titanium, and duranium alloys made to withstand weapons fire and the stress of warp travel. The windows are made of a transparent aluminum alloy since... you know, glass wouldn't be very safe."
"Right right. But room for upgrades! I like this..." Yixx tapped her chin, her shyness fading when she could focus on something she loved.
"Oh, there is always room for upgrades," JJ agreed. "Come on. I'll show you the armory."
She nodded, following behind the Woman at a brisk pace.
They entered through the side of the large ship into the lower deck. Walking down the hall, Jackie-Jackie pointed to a door and said, "75% of the ship's center is devoted to a holoroom. Haven't had a chance to use it myself but it is fully functional. The previous owner of this ship apparently worked on fixing it up before a anything else."
"A Holoroom!? Lady would love that!" She exclaimed before realized how loud she was a toning it down.
JJ laughed, enjoying her enthusiasm. The walked for a while before reaching the armory, a decently sized room with a series of laser rifles and pistols lining the wall. A quick look said they were all in bad shape. "Well... here we are. I've collected several weapons at discount prices hoping someone like you would come along and be able to fix them. Think you can do something with this junk?"
She picked a Laser rifle up off the wall, looking it over. "Yeah... This could use a bit of work. Stabilization is out of wack, Crystal is cracked, might overcharge too... But it's not too far gone."
"Excellent. I figure buying junking weapons and fixing them was the better way to go."
"And all you could afford," Aya added bluntly.
JJ chuckled nervously. "Would you like to see your room? Get settled in?"
"Yeah." Yixx nodded, honestly excited, which was super rare for her.
They made their way towards the rear of the ship once more, JJ briefly showing her the cargo hold before they headed to the quarters. "Would you prefer your quarters closer to the front, the middle, or the back of the ship?"
"I'd prefer to be as close to where I'll be working as possible.. but having a room far away from people would be nice too..." The Yorin tapped her fingers together. "If you think I'm shy in here..."
JJ nodded. "I'll put you in these quarters, closest to the front on the bottom deck, and try and keep the adjacent rooms free." She pressed a button to open the door. "After you. Tell me what you think?"
She happily stepped in, looking around at her new quarters.
She had her own queen sized bed, a couch, and a desk with a chair, as well as a large, round, glass table by the couch. She spotted a bathroom to one side, and on the opposite wall there was what looked to be a food replicator. "I know it isn't much," JJ said, stepping in behind her. "But it is yours."
"Isn't much?" She looked back, her eyes revealing it was Lady. "I was sleeping in gutters three years ago. This is amazing!"
Jackie-Jackie clapped her hands excitedly. "Well, like I said, it is all yours!" She cleared her throat. "Ash?"
A Human-looking teen appeared in the center of the room. "How may I help you?" he smiled at Lady. "Hello? Will you be joining Captain Jetstorm's crew?"
"Oh! An A.S.H. VI." Lady blinked. "I've seen one of these before. Hi."
"Hello." Ash bowed his head.
"Ash, Lady here has a Yorin partner named Yixx," Aya explained. "Yixx needs a Yorin nutrient pool. Is that something we can provide?"
Ash's eyes darted back and forth for a moment. "The substance isn't programmed into the main computer, but I know the composition. With your approval, I can help Lady and Yixx program it into the food synthesizer."
"Approved." JJ turned to Lady. "One problem down. Now all I have to do is make sure no one shoots you."
"I mean. She'd still need a basin to access it from her room. I don't think she'd like going to the cafeteria to order it you know." Lady tried to explain as politely as possible.
"No trouble, Ma'am." Ash walked to the machine on the wall. "You have your own replicator here. You can make both the basin and the bath for her right here in the comfort of your room."
"Thank you so much! This is going to be great!" Lady hopped a little bit.
JJ giggled. "We'll leave you to get settled in. Just ask Ash if you need anything."
"We'll set everything up. Feel free to come by and hang out with us when you're free." Lady bounced her foot up and down. "Maybe we can show you how the nutrient thing works. Learn a little more about Yorin, who knows?"
JJ nodded. "I would like that, thank you." She patted Lady on the shoulder, and she and Aya walked out, leaving her alone with Ash to set up the replicator.
"Sooo." Lady looked at Ash. "Hi."
Ash gave her a very uniform blink. "Hello. Shall we begin programming the replicator?"
"Uh. Yes. We shall. Yixx do you know what goes into it?" Lady chuckled nervously, then she began to tap her chin.
"Well... Yeah... More or Less." The pauses in between words signaling that Yixx had taken control. "I actually have some on me though, if that helps."
Ash smiled. "That will make things much faster. Thank you."
The Woman reached back into a pocket, "Wait... No... Not there. Lady which pocket is it in?"
"Oh. Okay." She checked her leg pocket on her cargo pants. "Not there either... Lady I don't know where you put your stuff, I'm not going through your memories or anything."
After another second of fumbling she finally pulled out a plastic pouch of a blue, almost sparkly liquid. "Here it is... Heh. Sorry."
Ash chuckled pleasantly. "That is okay." He took the liquid and pulled a small cup out of a drawer. He poured the liquid in and placed the cup on the replicator. Pressing a few buttons, the machine scanned the fluid. Ash continued to press buttons. "I'm now telling the computer what it is." He had one button to press but stopped a few centimeters from pressing it. He turned and asked, "Can you check to make sure I entered it in correctly and press that button for me. My programming seems to be limiting me from doing it myself."
Yixx nodded, stepping up to the computer to make sure all was well, nodding in confirmation, she hit the button on the front of the machine. "There we go."
"You can now synthesize as much as you need." Ash bowed his head. "May I help you with anything else, ladies?"
She touched the 'flesh' of his arm. It felt real, but somehow off in a very subtle way she wouldn't pick up if she wasn't thinking about it. "Force fields make me solid, as well as simulate the feel and warmth of a solid object. Though I can deactivate the forcefield if need be to avoid damage." He flickered, and her hand passed through his arm.
"Awesome... What else do you do around here?" The Woman asked.
"Hmm?" Ash took a moment, not used to someone being so interested in him. "Well, I cook, I clean, I do minor repair work when the Bazir are busy, I bartend and act as a waiter in the lounge, and I am programmed to do a number of tasks to make the crew happy, from talks to massages. The old captain of this ship liked to use me for target practice, even after the holoroom was complete. I am still unsure why..."
"I'm... Sorry. I don't know why they would shoot you..." Yixx looked away awkwardly before suddenly bouncing on her feet. The sudden body language change meaning Lady had hopped in.
"You give massages? Its so hard to find someone to do that now." Lady chuckled.
Ash nodded eagerly. "Would you like one now? I can give anything from a simple back rub or foot rub, up to a full body massage."
"Uh... Yes... Oh. Yixx says we should probably start with the back." Lady shrugged. "Thank you for this."
"Of course." Ash had her lay on her stomach on the bed. He started with slow rubs, which felt good on their own. His hands seemed to be moving about, searching. "Your spine is out of alignment. And you have so many knots. Have you ever had a massage before?"
"Uhhhh... No. Never. I spent most of my life sleeping on broken mattresses and in cargo holds and alleys..." Lady admitted.
"I see. I am afraid it shows." Ash smiled. "I can fix it though. Do you mind removing your shirt? It will be easier that way."
"Oh. Okay." Lady happily pulled her shirt off, unhooking her bra for good measure. It was a Robot after all, why would she be embarrassed? "That better?"
Ash nodded, laying her back down. He did something did something to her back that caused a large crunching pop. There was a brief moment of discomfort, then pure bliss. He did it again, and again, and each time she felt so good.
"Oh... Oh wow... Yeah... Mmmn!" Lady smiled, almost drooling. "You're awesome..."
"Thank you." Ash continued for twenty minutes more, until he had gotten all the knots out. "How do you feel?" he finally asked, stepping back.
"Awesome... Wow..." Lady sat up, feeling more limber than she had in years. "You're really good at that."
"Thank you." Ash bowed his head. "I would like to massage you regularly until I am sure your back is properly healed. If that is okay with you, of course."
"Of course!" Her eyes drifted south. "Um... Is there anything else you do?"
He tilted his head. "Are you referring to sexual gratification? Because I am programmed with a number of techniques to bring pleasure to any partner."
She blushed bright red, holding her hands up. "Uh. Hehe. Nevermind! Forget I said anything!"
Ash looked confused, but nodded. "Very well. Is there anything else I can help you with at the moment?"
"Is there any other Yorin within the crew right now?" Lady asked curiously, shaking the embarrassment away.
Ash shook his head. "I am afraid not. But the captain is always looking to expand the crew. We might get another."
"That would be nice. I think I'm going to like it here. Thank you Mr. Ash." Yixx switched in, smiling softly at him.
Ash seemed to pick up on the switch, and smiled back. "I will do all I can to make sure you do," he responded, before disappearing to let the pair settle in.
After a minute, the door slid open, a Baʒir just under four feet tall stepping in. "Why was this lock-" He jumped at the sight of the topless woman sitting on the bed. "Oh! I-I apologize! I th-thought th-this room was e-empty..."
Yixx jumped, covering herself up with a nearby pillow before peeking an eye open at the tiny insect. "O-Oh... A Bazir... Hello..."
"H-hello..." He pointed towards the washroom. "The, uh... th-the shower was having problems before. I-I was just checking to make sure... make sure it was fixed. I-I can... come back though..."
"I uh... I won't bother you... I'm uh... New here." She bit her bottom lip slightly.
The insect man nodded. "I am called Báichī. As long as you do not find my appearance displeasing, I will not bother you either."
"I wouldn't do that. It would be pretty hypocritical of me..." Yixx rubbed her head.
"In what way?" Báichī asked, walking towards the bathroom. "I have been told humans are quite an attractive race to most humanoids."
"Not Humans... I mean... Yorin..." She squeaked out.
"Yorin?" Báichī slowed to a stop. He slowly turned back. "Does... Captain Jetstorm know?"
"Yeah..." She shrunk. "That's why she let us on board... You don't... Hate us do you?"
Báichī shook his head. "No. I do not hate you. And if the Captain trusts you, so do I." He bowed his head. "I am sorry if I implied anything different. We are simply taught to be... cautious around Yorin. But I would never want to profile you."
"Thank you. I'm... Honestly not even sure I could bond with you even If I wanted to..." The Yorin girl told him.
"Hmm... I don't know..." Báichī did the closest he could do to a shrug and walked into the washroom. "So is your human a partner? Or is she... brain dead?"
"Oh! Oh no! She's my partner! We work together." Yixx held up her hands defensively.
"I see. That is quite rare." The insect man stuck his head out of the washroom. "Not that I'm judging or anything. You... work together. As a small group making a whole. It is much like me and my family."
"I guess I can see that... We make each other whole." Yixx smiled softly.
Báichī nodded, then walked back into the washroom. She briefly heard the water running, then the sound of the sonic shower, before he stepped back out. "Looks like everything is running as it should be. Again, s-sorry for the intrusion."
"It's okay! It was... Uh... Good to meet you. Bazir are usually too scared of us to you know... Work on our ships..." The Yorin sighed.
"Well, then they're being foolish. I... I would love to work on a Yorin ship and learn all about it. Maybe... maybe one day you can show me one."
"I... Look forward to becoming good friends..." She looked over at the Replicator. "Now to get my basin set up..."
Báichī smiled as best he could, and left her to her business.
"Do you have high hopes for this place like I do Lady?" Yixx asked.
"Yeah. I do." Lady replied comfortingly, Yixx letting out a breath that she didn't know she had been holding.
Dahlexpert & ZombieSplitter53
More Machine then Man
Blisk was dragging what looked to be a human over his shoulder, the human was tied up in what looked too be coil wires.
“Jax I’m back.”
The officer had a annoyed look on his face knowing it was Blisk. “Hello Blisk how badly did you hurt him this time? What am I saying I know what to expect at this point.” The officer went to the computer and transferred the credits to Blisk account.” There you go Blisk ten thousand for the capture wellhelm.”
“Always nice doing business with you Jax, anything else one the bord today?”
“Not in particular, but it’s always being updated so stay in touch.”
Blisk left the the police station and went to the station bar, to enjoy a drink or four.
Blisk was on his second drink of Shin ale when he turned to observe the crowd in the bar. He couldn't help but notice the young Cartus, scantily clad with her tail swinging to and fro, moving from table to table, talking to practically everyone there.
The bartender grumbled. "She's been at it for over an hour, bothering my customers. Hey, Blisk, I'll give you a drink on the house if you get rid of her."
"You want me to get rid of the slutty kitty, I think your customers are enjoying the eye candy. But if i'm getting a drink on the house, i'm gonna make it a good one so let me go get this job done." Blisk stood up and walked to the Cartus.
"Yo lady I hate to say this to you but your gonna have to leave, your annoying the owners customers."
"What are you, the fun police?" The woman turned and frowned. "Don't be a stick in the mud. I'm just trying to recruit..." She placed a hand on his arm and paused, squeezing lightly. "Oh... reinforced, huh?" She looked him up and down. "You're one of those... what do you call it...?"
"Kotavorg, i'm a Kotavorg and your a cartus. Now miss i'm being nice to you, your annoying the customers and the owner wants me to escort you out and i'm getting payed in liquor so can you pleas leave." Blisk giving a stern look to the Cartus.
Her ears drooped a bit. "Alright, alright. I'll go. But before I do... you a merc? A bounty hunter? Interested in working for an entire group? If you're not already in one, you'll get far more work then working alone..."
"What you don't know Blisk lady?" One of the customers." Lady this guy is kinda known around these parts, he's mostly known for capturing his bounties."
"Hay don't be telling my record to the person i'm escorting out!"
"So you are a bounty hunter." The woman gleaned. "I'm Jackie-Jackie Jetstorm. I want to run a clean business and someone able to regularly capture their bounties alive would be perfect for us. I... I could pay you well for your services. Provide you with plenty of bounties. And... and I have a pretty kickass ship to boot."
"Your trying to hire me?" Blisk rubbed his head and told Jacki to wait for a minute, Blisk went back to the bar and ordered the second most expensive drink on the shelf sense it was for free. "Alright let's get out of here, let me hear what your trying to offer me."
The pair exited the bar and started towards the shuttle bay. As they went along, JJ explained the amenities of the ship. The weapons, the holoroom, the lounge. She was sure to mention he would have his own room.
"I don't... have many other hires right now?" she admitted. "You'd be the... fourth? Including myself, my friend, and a Human I picked up recently. But I am eager to hire more, as you saw, and I have my ears to the ground. I have my connections and know where to find bounties."
"Lady your assuming you hired me, so let me get this straight you have currently three people on your staff not including me you some how have a ship. But you said you could find bounties, but who would I be working with assuming I join you?"
"Well... I do have a Bazir crewman and his family. There is a human, me, a Cartus, and a, um... ahem...a Tamearin..."
"No, good luck with recruiting other people lady I wish you well on your hiring." Blisk turned around and started to walk away.
"Now, come on!" JJ grabbed his arm, futilely trying to pull on him. "I am probably going to hire other cyborgs anyway. So she'll have to deal with it. You..." Her eyes darted about, and she smiled. "You're not afraid of a little confrontation, are you? A big, strong man like you?"
"Lady i'm about ninety nine point nine percent augmented, the only parts of me that aren't augmented are my ears nose and my junk. It gets really annoying being lectured by a Tamearin it usually goes nowhere and security has to break us up." Blisk said noticing hes practically dragging the woman.
"She... won't fight you... I swear!" JJ continued to pull at him to no avail. "You could... use this chance to convince a Tamearing that you're right by working closely with her. Are you really going to pass up this opportunity for such a silly reason?! What do I have to do to get you on board?!"
Blisk finally stooped and looked at JJ. "Alright you wanna hire me so badly, tell me if I join you what will we be hunting? You said you have a ship right will we be hunting pirates?"
JJ nodded. "Pirates. Thugs. Assassins. Individuals and whole groups. You name them, we'll hunt them. We'll also do treasure hunting on the side to make extra money between bounties."
"Hum, Fine I will work with you for only a short while until I decide fully if I wanna stay or not. Besides me working with you means I can get more bounties and not wait as long for a new one."
"Yes! Exactly! You... you wanna see the ship? We are almost to the docks. You'll love it!" JJ let him go, panting lightly from the strain of pulling on him.
"Sure, why not? By the way, I should also mention I did work with pirate hunters before, so if we are hunting pirates, we could bring my old friends in as well if we're desperate."
"Great! Excellent. See? We are already getting on wonderfully." After another couple of minutes, she waved her hands toward the bright red, black, and golden ship. "Ta da! What do you think?"
Blisk looked at ship. "It looks like a piece of crap that you scrapped together from other ships to make this one," Blisk said honestly.
JJ's ears drooped sadly. "Well, I... admit it needs a little work. I won it in a game of chance. But that's why you're here. To help me bring in bounties so I can afford to fix it up."
"You've been gone for over an hour and you only bring back one guy?" A violet haired Tamearin stepped off the ship and walked over. She looked Blisk over, focusing on his skin tone and eyes, and the hairs on her tail stood on end. "Jackie..."
"Now... hold on, Aya..."
"You promised no Kotavorgs!"
"No I didn't. At least, I don't remember that. Mr. Blisk, this... this is Aya Me. It is her pleasure to meet you."
Aya only narrowed her eyes and folded her arms.
Blisk also narrowed his eyes. "Ah, the Tamearin that's so far up her own ass when it comes to her body, she judges some one that decides to improve upon it."
"You mean corrupt it." Aya shook her head. "A body is a sacred, special thing, and your entire species has no respect for it! A whole race who turns themselves into cybernetic freaks!"
"N-now now, those are strong words." JJ held up her hands. "Maybe we should take a moment to relax..."
"You call us freaks, yet your whole race are so full of themselves, they won't even allow make-up. Oh wait, you just got that right... recently. Besides, they body wants to be improved. Why stick with the default body when you can be better." Blisk said while rubbing his cybernetic fist.
"You looking to fight?" Aya's eyes glowed, and she rose an inch off the ground. "Because I'll show you exactly what a natural bod-"
"No! No, no, no! None of that!" JJ pushed Aya back a few feet. "You promised you wouldn't do this with cyborgs."
"But a Kotavorg?" Aya glared at him past JJ's shoulder.
Blisk sighed."See this is why I didn't want to join you, me and Tamearin don't get along it's why I avoid them so I don't end up killing one."
"Look, what we have is a rare opportunity here." JJ stepped between them. "Instead of fighting each other, you two, a Kotavorg and a Tamearin, will get to work together, and between jobs, get to talk in a respectful manner about your individual opinions. Maybe Mr. Blisk will even get you to consider an augmentation..."
"Not likely," Aya muttered.
"...and maybe Aya will convince you to lessen your augmentations..."
"Not a chance in hell, there's a better chance of hell freezing over then me ever getting rid of my augmentations. In fact I might add more just to anger her."
Aya snarled, and JJ sighed. "Either way, this is a rare chance to show each other's side respectfully. We are all adults here. Adults who don't baselessly judge others without getting to know them first, right?" She gave Aya a knowing look.
"Damn it... always using that against me..." The Tamearin relaxed ever so much. "F... f-fine. As long as he stays out of my way..."
"Great!" JJ turned to Blisk. "And you?"
Blisk stayed quiet, but rolled his eyes." Fine I will tolerate her for now, but don't blame me if you see a hole in the ship because we had a disagreement."
"Wouldn't be the first hole in the ship," JJ half joked. "Would you like to see your quarters? They are very nice..."
"Fine it should be interesting if anything else." Blisk fallowed JJ but kept an Eye on Aya.
Aya glared back before walking in the opposite direction.
When they reached the crew quarters, JJ said, "Since Aya is in the front of the upper deck, is it safe to assume you'd prefer something in the back of the lower deck?"
"Naturally, it's best that we do stay away from each other. Seriously are you sure you want me on this ship? After all me and your friend might end up fighting each other, and possibly put a hole in this ship."
"Absolutely. I love you to death, but she needs to get over this prejudice, especially since I'm sure you're not the only cyborg I'll hire." She opened a dorr at the end of the hall. Within were the standard items of a typical hotel, including a shower and a bed. "What do you think?"
"Not the worst place I've been in, it's a good start."Blisk layed on the bed, and started to look over his arm." Damn out of ammo for my Tesla coil."
"Tesla coil, huh? We can pick you up more before we leave, my treat. Um..." Jackie-Jackie sat on the couch. "Tell me what other little gizmos you have on you. You said most of you was augmented, right?"
"Yea, I replaced the things that you can see. My eyes arms and legs are augmented, the things you can't see are my heart lungs my skin and spine. I replace all of these with augmentations to make me a more effective bounty hunter, I also used to have a mini gun aug on my right arm but it was to heavy so I got rid of it. I'm guessing you wanna her what kind of augmentations I have?"
JJ nodded eagerly. "Tell me all the cool things you can do."
My eyes have thermal vision as well as flash dampeners so flash bangs don't work on me, as for my arms. I have recoil dampeners so I don't get the kick back of any weapon I'm carrying, I also have Porsthesis which allows me to lift up to five times my weight. My legs have Klipspringer which let's me jump fifty feet. Are you keeping up so far?"
"Uh huh," JJ said excitedly.
"Okay now as for the things you can't see. My heart has a Rx health system which basically slows my heart so I don't bleed to death, my lungs have Implanted re breather which meas that toxic gas I can breath it in and not die. my spine is reinforced so I can lift heavy object and jump higher and not break my back, my skin has Dermal armor. It temporary makes me weapon prof for a short time, and I already mentioned the Tesla coil that's in my hand and writes. That's every augmentation that I have."
"Wow..." JJ looked impressed. "So you're like this... ultimate bounty hunting machine, huh? I'm glad I got to you before anyone else did. Though I'm surprised you're not already taken. Not interested in a group before now?"
"Not really it's easier for me to make money on my own then to share it with others, besides I worked with a group of pirate hunters for years and decided to go out on my own for a while see what I can do."
"Well, I'm happy we got you to come aboard." JJ hopped up, swishing her tail happily. "I have one more thing to show you before I let you get settled in. You seem like a man who likes a good drink. Wanna see our full, open bar?"
"Now that I would love to see, it's more then likely were i'm gonna spend most of my time anyway. I should also tell you that I do have my own contacts with some smugglers if we want some cargo on the go."
"Well, you just keep getting better and better." JJ winked at him, and led him down the hall and to the upper deck.
The lounge was reasonably sized, big enough to fit quite a number of people. It was filled with tables and chairs, as well as a couple couches, all of which looked well taken care of. It seemed to be one of the cleanest places on the ship.
As JJ had promised, there was a bar and kitchen, the former stocked with alcoholic drinks from across the milky way. Obviously, the previous owner had fine tastes and deep pockets.
On the wall opposite where they entered, what looked like a human teen was fiddling with a food replicator, the front panel off and several wires exposed. "Hello, Ms. Jetstorm. Apologies, but I have yet to get this food synthesizer working. The other one is in perfect order, though."
"Well this place is really a fixer upper isn't it?"
JJ quickly bowed her head shamefully. "I'm sorry. Trust me, the one in your room works. Ash, this is our newest crew member, so please follow his instructions. His name is... um... I never got your full name, Mr. Blisk. How embarrassing..."
“My name is Oliver Blisk though I typically go by last name, since my first name is so human.”
"Understood, Mr. Blisk." Ash vanished from sight, then reappeared behind the desk. "Would you like a drink? I know how to mix over 1500 beverages with the choices we have here, including many Kotavorg drinks."
Blisk looked confused.” You have a V.I on board this ship?”
"Mhmm." JJ smiled proudly. "This is our own Autonomous Service Hologram. Comes quite in handy for both the little things and big. It'll serve you a drink, clean up after you, give you a massage. Anything you ask within its programming. Pretty impressive, huh?"
“Yeah it is but ugh wouldn’t you know, most star systems governments not like that?”
"Don't worry, sir." Ash gave him a friendly smile. "I'm advanced, but still only a simple V.I., not an A.I. The only difference between myself and the holoroom holograms is I am aware of what I am. You have my word I pose no danger to you personally, nor the ship generally."
“Ou well in that case.” Blisk started to talk to the V.i in his language, when ash returned he came back with a green drink.
JJ smiled at the pair, and nodded, patting Blisk on the back. "Gonna go check on a few things. Please, enjoy yourself. Just don't get too drunk. We have some really strong stuff here."
“Well to late for that, this is kraxzune. One of the strongest drinks on my planet and deadly to some races.”
JJ giggled, and winked at Ash. "Keep an eye on him."
"Yes, Captain," Ash said with a nod as JJ left the two alone.
Blisk downed his drink, he then thought to himself “ Maybe this outfit won’t be so bad.”
JJ let out a grunt of effort as she hefted up a huge bag of rice and placed it on a flat cart. "Are you... sure we... need all this? It is starting to get pricey."
Aya put a check on a list. "If you wanna keep bringing people on board, yes. Replicators cost energy. We need some physical food too." She looked up after a moment of silence. "You listening?"
JJ was staring some distance away. "That's something you don't see everyday. Is that a... collection of worms carrying a giant lizard... or a small dinosaur?"
And lo and behold, it was as the Cartus Captain described. Towering over most if not all other individuals in the supply depot walked an Azisin, drawing curious stares and a wide berth from most folk not just for the rarity of such a creature's presence, but also their cargo - a small carnosaur was slung over the worm colony's shoulder, the lesser beast clearly dead from how limply it hung yet barely showing a scratch on its hide. On the other shoulder of the Azisin hung a case of luggage, comparable in size to a large suitcase yet carried with the ease of a handbag. The Azisin's coloration was also of note - one portion of their body was the mottled brown of dead leaves, while the rest were a much more vibrant rust color. Pausing for a moment in their walk, the Azisin slowly shuffled and rotated in place, giving the sense that they were looking for something.
Jackie-Jackie got a familiar smile on her face. "JJ," Aya said cautiously. "No."
"I want him."
"I'm going to have him."
"This is Lady and Yixx all over again. You just want him because he is different and rare."
JJ scoffed. "Give me some credit. He's a living bulldozer. Super tough, super strong. Bet he can take a beating and not care. Plus I heard once they learn something, they're, like, specialists."
Aya sighed. "I guess, but... do you have any idea how much they eat?"
JJ turned back and placed her hands on Aya's shoulders. "Then you better get extra food. I'm going to go get me a slug man."
She ran off, and Aya shouted, "Seriously! They eat a lot!" But it was too late. Once her captain had her mind set, nothing could stop her. And so JJ approached the being everyone else was avoiding.
Sensing a encroaching presence, the Azisin slowly rotates in place to face the direction JJ approached from. While their lack of expression made them inscrutable, the way they shifted in place gave the impression the giant was analyzing the captain. After a moment, they spoke.
"Cartus," the Azisin said, their voice monotone and dry, yet deep and rumbling, more felt than heard. "Require something," they added, a very small upward inflection at the end giving the sense this was a question being asked.
"Yes, actually. Um... heheh..." JJ scratched her chin. She wasn't sure exactly what to say. "Well... you see... um, what are you doing with that big creature? Trying to sell it?"
"Yes," the giant answers simply. "Do not know of location to, however. Interested in trade," they 'ask', seeming to size up JJ once again, their secondary arms folding over their chest.
"Well... it would supply our ship with meat for a while. But I am more interested in you." JJ placed her hands on her hips. "Tell me... do you work for anyone?"
"No. Assume next will be an offer of mutual cooperation, to which we would reply with an inquiry into nature of work performed," the Azisin answers.
"Um... yes? You're a lot more, what's the word... articulate?... then I thought you might be. No offense." JJ took a deep breath. "Well, I run a group of bounty hunters. A small group right now, but it is growing. And you could earn more pay by working around the ship. Do you have any special talents?"
"Can cook. Can fight," they begin. "Know some things of starship maintenance, however first ship exploded. Less relevant skills - survivalism, operation of mining equipment, reading, speaking, and hunting," they continue, emphasizing the last one with a shrug of the shoulder that causes the carnosaur to buck wildly. "Require sustenance and storage in return." The Azisin pauses, as if waiting for a counteroffer.
"Hunting could come in handy if we are in a bind. Ship maintenance is good. And I have to try Azisin cooking. Sounds... interesting." JJ nodded. "Alright. I can offer you the sustenance you need and storage needs of course. And you'll get your own room. It is styled for smaller humanoids, but we can make adjustments as needed. Now you'll probably want extra pay for your extra work..."
"Offering more than that?" the giant asks, almost confused that the initial offer was accepted. "What is there to offer beyond our initial?"
"Um... Galactic credits to... buy stuff." JJ scratched her ear. "Do you... want to work for just room and board?"
"Cre... dits..." the Azisin slowly pronounces, as if trying out a new word. "Before question is answered, wish to know why debt would be used to trade," they ask, citing the older definition of 'credit'.
"Well, they... no, credits are a form of currency... I guess a middle ground for trade..." The Cartus captain scrunched her nose in thought. "Tell you what... we'll provide you with what you need for trade, or you can get it yourself, along with a room, storage, and food... and you provide us with muscle in a tough fight, cooking, and the other stuff you said you were good at. Deal?" She looked up. "Oh... and maybe through in the lizard? Looks like it could feed us for quite a bit."
The Azisin is silent for a moment, rumbling slightly as their component Azis 'debate' the matter. After a flurry of chemical conversation, the colony answers. "Where is the location of your vessel?" they say, 'gazing' around.
JJ smiled. "Southern docks. It should be done decontaminating. You'll love it! Come on, I'll show it to you!"
Silently, the Azisin begins to plod off in the indicated direction, the crowds of the supply depot parting like the ocean before them.
It was easy to spot the captain's ship, the large red and black machine having a baryon sweep that was just finishing at the nose. "It's pretty big inside," JJ noted. "Ceilings high enough to accomidate a Quin, so you should be okay... I think."
"We can... accommodate," the Azisin answers, analyzing the ship keenly. "Seen vessels before. Few like this. Interesting," they add. "Information to be shared before boarding?"
"Hmm... well, I've picked up a few others before you, but most of them are out getting supplies. Aya should be here, loading up the kitchen. She is a little uptight at times but I'm sure you'll get along. We have a holographic servant and four Bazir aboard. Oh, there is a state of the art holoroom for you to train in if you want. Or relax. What do you do to relax?"
The Azisin is silent for a long moment, almost giving the impression that they are ignoring the question, but they eventually, finally, speak up. "Relieving tension is not a concern we have," they say. "Fulfillment of needs is primary priority... you have given name of another, yours?" they ask, trailing off from one line of conversation into a completely different train of thought.
"Are you referring to Aya?" The Cartus captain asked, scratching her head.
"Yes. Gave her name," the Azisin replies. "But did not give own. Notice many one-minded species place importance on providing their name before name of others. Is Cartus way to do opposite?" they ask, turning slightly to 'face' JJ more head-on, the head of the carnosaur flopping limply in response.
JJ looked at it briefy before smiling. "Kinda, yeah. It is a weird custom that comes from... ahem... slave culture..." She shook her head. "I'm Jackie-Jackie Jetstorm! I have a name so nice, I took it twice. You can call me JJ for short. And what about you? What's your name?"
"We have been referred to as 'Chuck'. We shall encourage this," Chuck answers. "We believe the correct thing to say is 'nice to meet you, JJ'," they say, uncertainly. Not awaiting an answer, the Azisin turns to the airlock, and begins walking. "Meat in need of preparation and preservation. Guide to kitchen, if you would."
"Uh, sure thing, Chuck." She guided the large being into the ship and to the upper deck, straight to the lounge. There was a fairly large kitchen behind the counter with an excessively large refrigerator and ice box. "Should have everything you need. Freezer... knives... um, seasoning. Sorry, not much of a cook myself."
Chuck's reply is to set down their suitcase and open one of the compartments, pulling out a second, transparent, bag - filled to the brim with all the supplies one would need to prepare nearly any sort of meal. Setting it on the counter, they reach in and pull out a plastic tarp, laying it on the counter, followed shortly by the carnosaur, who is large enough that its tail droops off the side of the counter. Reaching into the main bag once more, Chuck retrieves a large bucket followed shortly by a machete, before analyzing the lizard, secondary hands adjusting the tarp so that it forms a funnel into the bucket.
"Alright. So I... take it you've taken the job?" JJ smiled brightly. "Maybe you can... prepare something for me to test your cooking?"
"We have and we shall," Chuck says, before transferring the machete to one of their dominant arms, the tree trunk sized-limb raising up, aimed at the carnosaur's neck. And then, without warning, in one singular motion, they bring it down, severing the head of the reptile with a single blow and a small splatter of blood.
JJ saw it coming and still she jumped. "You're... really strong! Oh, this is going to be great!"
"Common sentiment among one-minds, it seems," the Azisin muses aloud as it repeats the single stroke on the end of the tail, afterwards adjusting the carnosaur so that they can get easier access to its talons for removal and also to begin the process of draining the blood into the bucket. "One of many things among one-minds that eludes our understanding," Chuck continues, grabbing a smaller knife and using it to cut deep along the carnosaur's lower body, to separate the skin for removal, accelerate the blood draining, and get access to the organs.
JJ's ears drooped a bit. "Um... maybe I'll go grab Aya so she can try too. I'm... not so into the... 'watching the guts spill from my food' part... might make me lose my appetite..."
"Very well. Return in two-thirds of an hour, meal will be complete and station clear," Chuck answers, jerking the knife through a particularly tough knot of flesh and painting themselves in another light layer of blood. "Should make fine chitatap," they note.
JJ turned a shade of green and nodded. "Um... enjoy yourself. I-I'll be back when it looks more like food and less like... a corpse." She quickly took her leave, heading towards the front of the ship.
Chuck hardly acknowledges JJ's departure, focusing wholly on their work. The beast's organs would go bad the fastest, so they would form the core of today's meal. The gall bladder was discarded, however, it was far too bitter. Joining the brain, heart, lungs, and a properly drained digestive track on the cutting board were chunks of marrow from the arm bones, as well as the arm meat. However, before the Azisin began dicing the meat, they got a stockpot of water boiling, dumping the carnosaur's broken bones to let their flavor infuse the water.
As Chuck ground up the meat, machete and butcher knife dancing up and down on the board, they murmured to themselves, "Chitatap" over and over again, as tradition dictated. Simultaneously, one of their primary arms chunked some vegetables they retrieved from the pantry, thick and meaty slices appropriate for soup. Once those were done, they joined the bones in the stockpot.
The meat however, once ground into a homogeneous red mass and thoroughly salted and peppered, was taken and rolled into tiny balls, before being dunked into the soup stock. While that cooked, Chuck took to finishing the butcher job, vacuum sealing the prime cuts, covering and marking the date on the blood bucket, lightly snacking on the remains of the beast's head, and cleaning and disinfecting the tools the giant used in preparation, as well as washing themselves. The food went into the freezer to be preserved, and the timer dinged - the soup was done, right on time. Chuck turned the fire down, and began locating where the bowls and utensils were in this kitchen.
As he was doing so, JJ was pulling Aya into the lounge. "Are you sure about this?" The latter question nervously. "I've never heard of a Azisin cook..."
"It'll be fine. Oh, maybe we have the only one in the galaxy! How exciting!" JJ sat down at the counter. "How's it coming along, Chuck?"
Chuck's response was simple - holding the two bowls in their primary arms, and two ladles in their secondary arms, they deftly scooped the soup out of the stockpot, carefully balancing the floating meatballs, seaweed, green onions, and broth so that neither was overstocked yet not a drop was spilled. Silently, they slid the bowls in front of the two women, laying out two spoons beside the bowls. The bowls steamed heartily, a clear sign that the food would need a moment to cool. However, it looked delicious - the white meat of the carnosaur providing a contrast to the thick brown broth intermixed with the greenery floating among it.
"Um..." Aya shrugged. "It looks good." She lightly blew on it and asked, "Where did you learn to cook?'
"Owed debt to human," Chuck answered, fishing out the bones at the bottom of the pot and placing them on a plate. "She was oft busy, and one-minds require frequent rest. We do not. One-minds also require prepared meals. With time, only appropriate we learned," they finish, holding up the plate to the two, offering them pick of the bones.
JJ shrugged and took a large one, Aya taking a smaller one. After a minute longer of waiting for it to cool, they both picked up their utensils and took a bite of the meat, testing his cooking.
The meat of the carnosaur produces a pungent, gamey taste, greasy and fatty despite soaking in the soup. It's surprisingly sour, accentuated by the savoriness of the broth and the saltiness of the seaweed. It's not an entirely unpleasant flavor combination, just one that most wouldn't expect to see together. The dish is technically skilled in production and mixes flavors in a way no replicator could, but that is both to the meal's benefit and detriment, as the flavor of the meat hangs around well after it has stayed its welcome. Chuck, meanwhile, looms overhead like the hand of God, awaiting the two women's judgement.
Aya coughed and chuckled. "It, uh... it's, um... i-interesting. I, uh... it's good... very, um... very good..."
She looked to her side and was surprised to see JJ taking another eager bite, then another, all the while a big smile was on her face. It reminded her of watching a cat go to town on a bowl of cat food, something it found wonderful but no sentient life form would desire.
"Good," the Azisin replies, downing the rest of the plate of bones into their lower mouth. "Normally chitatap is eaten raw, however, have noticed that this causes malady for others," they continue, bringing over the stockpot to ladle out more of the soup to both of the women. "As such, prepared it in this method. Adaptation in face of new circumstances is key to survival, as is proper management of resources," Chuck concludes. "That is the essence of our dish."
"So I take it... you use everything when making your dishes," JJ asked, sucking on the marrow of the bone. Aya took another bite to make sure she wasn't missing something about it that JJ found. Nope, tasted the same. Not bad, per se. Just... off. Her captain was obviously enjoying the hell out of it though.
"To do otherwise would be a waste of resources, and a waste of life," Chuck answers, putting a lid on the stockpot and placing it in the refrigerator. "That beast shall know no more things. However, the memory of the meal it gave us shall last forever, long after its sustenance has been broken down and become part of us. To hold onto that memory is to repay the debt one creates by taking life," they continue, almost sounding somber.
Aya smiled. "That's very logical. And... sweet." She took another bite, now afraid to insult Chuck by not finishing it.
JJ resisted the urge to lick the bowl clean. "Thank you for the fine meal," she said. "If you would like, I can show you to you room so you can settle in."
Chuck rumbled in agreement, returning their tools to the suitcase and hefting it in one of their primary arms with definite ease. Stepping out of the kitchen, the giant motions for JJ to lead the way. As they depart the lounge, Chuck speaks up of their own volition, saying, "Your human compatriot called us 'sweet'. We are unfamiliar with the tradition of referring to individuals with flavors."
The Cartus took a moment to think of a response. "Sweet... sweet can also mean... pleasing in a general sense. A sweet idea or person is... kind, or delightful. She was basically saying you thoughts of honoring the animals we eat was very pleasant."
"We comprehend," Chuck answers, plodding along behind the captain. "Because sweet things taste good, it is associated with good things. Simple, once thought of like that. Assume then, that saying one is bitter or sour is unpleasant, but savory is also a compliment."
"Pretty much, though I'm not sure I've ever heard someone called savory. Might use that next time I have someone in my bed, though..." She stopped by a door halfway between the front and back of the crew quarters, on the upper deck with the lounge. She opened it to reveal all the comforts for a standard humanoid. Bed, couch, desk, shower. She scratched between her ears. "Not really made for your kind I suppose. Was there anything I can add or take out to make it more comfortable?"
"We shall handle it," Chuck rumbles, scrunching their way through the doorway. Setting down their luggage on the desk, they grab the bed by the frame, heft it up off the ground, rotate it so that it would fit through the doorway, and then they slide the entire thing out in the hallway. Turning to the cough, the giant analyzes it, rumbling as the Azis debate over whether to keep it or send it out as well. Deciding in favor of it staying, Chuck instead turns to their suitcase, beginning the process of unpacking it. "Nothing more is needed," they say, after a moment and realizing JJ was still there. "Unless there is still things needed of us," they add, pulling out a box of genuine paper books, placing them in one of the desk's drawers.
JJ chuckled and shook her head. "Nope. I'll let you get settled in and move the bed to storage." She smiled up at him. "It is really great to have you on the team. We are going to get along well."
Chuck "nods", or at least does an approximation thereof by doing a short, fast bow of the upper torso. "We are in agreement, JJ," the giant answers, grabbing an electronic photo frame and setting it up on the desk so that it faces away from the door, before flicking it on. "We shall see you again soon," they add, continuing the slow process of unpacking, turning away from the doorway in the process.
“Deliveries, Criminals, and the Strongest Shinso (Part 1)”
Somewhere in the Known Galaxy
Some Two Weeks Ago
On An Unassuming Street
“Hey! Get back here you bastard!” Gabriel Foulke shouted, chasing after the thief who had stolen his wallet, pursuing him down an empty pedestrian street.
“Stay back!” the thief said, turning to face the human, brandishing his knife. “I’ll kill you! I really will!” To emphasize his point, he swung the short blade at Gabriel, prompting the victim to slow down and hold position close to the thief, just outside of knife range. The thief, sensing Gabriel’s resolve and wanting a distraction to escape, then flung the wallet at him, turning and running the other direction. Gabriel dodged his wallet and pursued, both of them running down the street, and straight towards -
“Hey - watch out!” Gabriel yelled, spotting a Shinso casually strolling on a collision course with the panicked criminal. The Shinso was dressed in traditional grab, flowing robes and all, and carried a pizza box in one hand over his shoulder. The thief, seeing that the Shinso was not going to get out of the way, slowed and swung his knife at the lion’s neck - missing by mere millimeters, before skidding to the side and nearly tripping. This clumsy move was enough for Gabriel to tackle the thief, bowling him over on the ground, the would-be victim kicking the knife away and moving to pin the thief.
“That was close!” Gabriel yelled at the Shinso, who continued on his course as if nothing had happened. “Why didn’t you run?! Hey!” he added.
“No one can stab me,” the Shinso replied, his fiery red mane catching in the slight breeze.
“Huh?” Gabriel grunted, utterly confused, before having to wrestle the criminal into compliance, the thief making one further attempt to break free.
“I will decide the path I walk,” the beastman continued. “And furthermore… If I clumsily dodged, my precious pizza would have been destroyed.”
“Luck saved you, but it won’t always!” Gabriel shouted back, feeling annoyed by this Shinso’s high and mighty attitude. “If things went wrong, you would have been stabb-!” Gabriel added, before the thief found a sudden burst of strength, breaking free of the other human’s grip and making a break for it the way he came, running past the Shinso. “Oi-!”
“Do not mention such things as ‘good luck’ around me!” the Shinso began, almost seeming to ignore the thief. “First off, such a knife can not kill me. Second,” he trailed off, his foot finding a place next to Gabriel’s discarded wallet, kicking it up and delivering a solid roundhouse to it, sending it flying down the street -
“Hey, my wallet!”
- and impacting harshly with the back to the thief’s skull, sending him sprawling over the pavement. The wallet ricocheted such that all the Shinso had to do was reach out and pluck it from the air as it fell. With a casual flick, the lion tossed it back to Gabriel, who caught it, shocked by the events that had just occurred.
“You dropped this,” the Shinso finished.
“Who the… hell are you?” Gabriel muttered in disbelief, as the thief reeled on the concrete, too focused on his bloodied and broken nose to attempt further escape.
This statement, for the first time, caused the Shinso to pause in his tracks. “Grandmother said this,” he began, raising a single finger towards the heavens. “Slashing his sword, one who will replace the gods.” He then turned and leveled that same finger at the setting sun. “My name is…”
* * *
“Really, Chief?” Pine asked, his phaser rifle slung low, looking everywhere in the warehouse except for the man he was speaking to, the Cartus in utter disbelief at the plan presented to the bandit crew. The black-haired catman shook his head, looking at the other dozen members of the bandit crew. “I know we’re desperate to get off-world, but-”
“But nuthin’,” the Dondondari cyborg known as ‘Chief’ replied. “You’re just jealous you didn’t think of it first.” The burly dogman polished his gatling phaser, idly resting on a crate.
“If I thought of a plan as dumb as ‘let’s murder a pizza guy, steal his car, and use that to escape’, I’d have shot myself first,” Pine replied, prompting chuckles from some of the other mooks in the crew.
“Nah, it’s genius. We need new wheels - feds know the make of our old one. They pro’lly have a good guess as to where we are, so we can’t have a vehicle that didn’t enter the district recently leave it,” Chief explained, taking a moment to light a cigar and puff on it, before continuing. “And to top it off, I’m starving and haven’t had a good slice of pie in fuckin’ months.”
“And what about the fact that there’s over a dozen of us, and cars tend to only seat six or seven?” Pine added, poking more holes in this plan so he could propose his much saner and superior plan.
“You think I’m an idiot, Pine? I scoped out the joint first, just in case shit went sour like it did here! Shinobi Pizza uses a van for deliveries!” Chief exclaimed. “We’ll all be more than able to fit in there. Now shut up,” he interjected, raising a hand, his ears twitching as if listening for something. “They’re coming. Get ready to move out once I ice the guy.”
Sighing, Pine readied his rifle, taking cover behind a large crate, signalling for the rest of the crew to also find solid positions. A tense moment passed, followed by another, and another, heavy footfalls approaching the warehouse, before pausing. The gang’s fingers hovered over their triggers - what if this was a trap? And then, just as the tension became thick enough to cut with a knife, a window shattered, a large, flat object spinning into the warehouse, before skidding to a stop amidst the criminals, giving them just enough time to recognize what it was.
“A pizza bo-?” a human asked in confusion before the pizza box exploded, spraying foul burgundy smoke throughout the warehouse.
“Smoke!” a Quin shouted. “They’re raiding u-!” he added, before a phaser bolt knocked the elephant man off of his feet, smashing him through a crate - the bolt strong enough to render him unconscious.
“Shit, I knew we shouldn’t have come back here, Chief!” Pine said, his rifle darting around, trying to spot their unseen assailants through the thick fog, grateful for his ocular IFF implant to make sure he didn’t mistakenly shoot an ally. “You’ve really fucked us now!”
“This place is a killzone, a little smoke won’t change that!” Chief replied, spotting something move out of the corner of his eye, seeing that it wasn’t marked as friendly, and opening up with the gatling phaser. “Desin the bastards!” Panicked, the other bandits followed suit, spraying down the location with all sorts of small arms fire. After a long moment of frantic shooting, they ceased fire, trying to restore order among themselves as the smoke hung thick in the air.
“Deliveries, Criminals, and the Strongest Shinso (Part 2)”
“Grandmother said this,” a mysterious and masculine voice echoed through the warehouse, as if to answer. “Victory is not a thing delivered to you. You must seize it on your own,” the voice intoned, before two beam pulses struck and stunned two of the criminals in rapid succession, the unlucky individuals hitting the floor like sacks of potatoes.
“Fuck him up!” Chief yelled, firing his gatling in the direction the shots came from, but still the voice spoke, despite the hail of phaser fire.
“Rejoice, criminal scum!” the voice continued, stunning a fourth bandit, prompting another barrage of ineffective return fire. “Your defeat here will be of some good to society. The legend of the one who stands atop all bounty hunters will grow, and the reward on your heads shall do nicely to compliment the renown,” the voice continued, a fourth shot meeting a fourth target.
“A bounty hunter?” Pine asked mostly to himself, trying to spot the next angle of attack. “Fuck, of all our luck, it has to be some glory-hounding reta-” he said, spotting the target, raising his rifle, and then collapsing in a heap as a stun bolt laid the Cartus out.
Gazan artfully lept and dodged through the warehouse the bandits kept as a base. Cover that once would have provided them protection from police raids instead hindered their lines of sight, allowing him to duck and weave and hit them from unexpected angles. If they had had shields and weren’t blinded by the heavy red smoke, this might have been difficult, but as it stood it was like shooting fish in a barrel - an apt metaphor, as he gunned down three more gangers in rapid succession. As their volume of fire lessened, he could afford to stay in their line of sight just a moment longer each time, which meant he could down ever so slightly more of them. The Armor Knight somersaulted over a stack of pallets, vaulted over a tall crate, and swung off of the bottom of a catwalk, finding a new position, and carefully lining up a few more shots. Four phaser bolts lanced out, and four targets dropped, leaving only the final boss - just perfect for Gazan, as the smoke was starting to fade.
“Who the fuckin… hell are you…?” Chief cursed as a gold and black armored figure strolled out of the fog. As much as he wanted to gun the guy who took out his men down, the Dondondari’s gatling had long since run dry, and his spare power packs were on the other side of the warehouse.
Gazan smirked beneath his helmet, dispersing his pistol in a flash of light. Raising a single finger to the heavens, the Shinso said, “Grandmother once said this. Slashing his sword, one who replace the gods.” Lowering his finger at the crime lord, Gazan concluded. “I am… Armor Knight OverLion.”
“You bastard…!” Chief roared, tossing aside his gatling and rushing the armored Shinso before him, throwing himself into a full body tackle. With his illegal cyborg enhancements, his speed and power were unmatched! This bastard wouldn’t even have the chance to - where did he go? Chief thought to himself, before feeling a pair of arms wrap around his stomach, before the world went upside down and his skull impacted concrete.
Flexing his powerful abdominals, Gazan threw himself to his feet, looking back to examine the results perfect belly-to-back suplex he had executed on the Dondondari cyborg. “Is that truly all you have?” the bounty hunter asked, casually strolling over to the stunned criminal, shaking his head in disappointment.
“Don’t fuck with me!” his enemy cursed, slowly pulling himself to his feet with the time OverLion was giving him. Swinging wildly, he threw a powerful right hook, his dominant cybernetic arm splitting through the air with unparalleled speed. Gazan’s response was simple and brutally effective - he raised his hands, catching his opponent’s wrist in them, and then moved with the direction of motion, spinning and ducking, enhancing the Dondondari’s speed and using the sudden shifting of momentum to bodily hurl the cyborg over his shoulder, sending Chief spiraling through the air and crashing into a mass of crates, the wooden boxes shattering under his weight.
“You really are just two-bit trash, aren’t you?” Gazan sighed, before perking up and dancing on his feet for a moment. He doubted his opponent was even aware of his words, the criminal was struggling to even stand. From the way he landed and his sluggish movements, the Shinso surmised that the crime lord was beginning to suffer a concussion. “Ah well,” he shrugged, steadying himself and falling back into his stance once more, “I’ll give you a few more chances to prove yourself.”
Chief finally dragged himself from the floor, shaking his head to try and clear his swimming vision. Hastily, he looked around to spot where his opponent had gone, spotting the blurred gold-and-black mass he figured was OverLion. Even with his thoughts slowing to a crawl, the Dondondari figured that maybe rushing in recklessly once more was a bad idea. Rather, he went for a measured, steady approach, slowly walking towards his Shinso foe (or Shin-foe), who was more than content to let Chief approach.
“Underestimatin’ me’s gon be your las’ mistake,” Chief growled, spitting out a tooth that had come loose. With a mental command, a wicked sharp vibro-blade shot forth from the top of his cybernetic wrist, and the Dondondari couldn’t help but brandish it. “I’ll cut ya up real good for messin’ with my boys.”
“Go ahead and give it a shot,” Gazan replied lazily. “But overestimating yourself is going to be your last mistake,” he finished, adding a cocky up-tilt to his taunt whilst beckoning the ganger closer with his outstretched right hand.
“Why you-!” Chief spat, and lunged forward, blade stabbing forth at where he best guessed the Armor Knight was. Through his blurred vision, he saw the tip of his blade pass through the Shinso, and felt himself slam into the body before him, coming to a sharp halt.
“You…” Gazan said slowly.
“Ha-ha, how’d ya like that?!” Chief retorted, giving the blade a twist. “Not so tough now, are… you…?” Slowly, realization dawned on him as his vision cleared that no, he had not, in fact stabbed the bounty hunter. Rather, his dominant cybernetic arm was caught between Gazan’s arm and body, lodged firmly in the armpit.
“I didn’t even try to dodge that one,” Gazan muttered, disappointed. Chief, realizing the situation at hand, threw a hasty punch with his left arm of flesh-and-bone, but the lack of leverage in his position plus the desperation made it easy to counter for the Shinso. Gazan casually deflected the fist at the wrist with his right hand, and used that opening to slip his own right arm around Chief’s body in a half-hug, pinning the Dondondari to him. “Now then, let’s dance,” Gazan added, lowering his legs and leveraging both his powerful Shinso muscles and powered leg servos to bodily lift Chief, twisting and manipulating his grip such that the criminal was completely vertical and upside down, the right shoulder of the villain resting on the left shoulder of the bounty hunter.
“Heyheyheyheywhat’reyou-!” Chief blurted, realizing what was about to happen, but too late to stop the Shinso from drawing a card with his free right hand and inserting it into his belt buckle.
“Jump Vent,” the belt buckle intoned robotically, redirecting suit power to the leg servos, boosting their output to maximum levels as Gazan crouched down. And then, in one fluid motion, he leapt. Gazan briefly let go of the Dondondari to let Chief slip down so that Gazan could instead pin the criminal’s head in position between his legs, holding him by the waist instead as they reached the crescendo of their jump. A moment later, the two began to descend, Chief screaming in horror at what was about to be done to him. And then - impact, concrete shattering, reinforced bones cracking, and Chief’s cry halting short. Gazan untangled himself from the crime lord, and slowly stood, taking a few steps back and turning away from the criminal.
“Is that really it?” the Shinso noble murmured to himself, before his ears caught the sound of movement from the impact crater, and he had to give a small smile under his mask. It seemed some just didn’t know how to stay down - something Gazan was more than grateful for as he quietly withdraw one final card from his belt pouch.
Chief, dazed, reeling, didn’t hear the belt say, “Final Vent”, nor did he notice the sparking electricity growing around Gazan’s right foot. Driven purely by auto-injected pain-killers, adrenaline, and the will to survive, he pulled himself to his feet, seeing only that his assailant had turned his back to a conscious opponent, and wanting to seize that moment of hubris. The world was swimming, his hearing was completely shot, but the crime lord had to put his all into one final charge -
“Knight… Kick,” Gazan said, spinning on his left heel to deliver a devastating right roundhouse kick, directly striking Chief in the jaw. Thousands of volts of electricity drove straight through the Dondondari, augmenting the force of the kick with power of a directed arc flash, blasting the unfortunate crime lord away and through several crates, before finally skidding to a stop - very much unconscious, but alive. Gazan, finished with the kick, slowly raised a single finger towards the heavens, before lowering it after a moment with a sigh.
“It would have been so much better if he exploded,” he murmured to himself.
Zombiesplitter53 & Black0ut present: In Space, No One Can Hear You Get A Job.
The cold blackness of space surrounded the Golden Wind, with very few ships around, the majority being traders, and the rest were civilian transports. However, this illusion of peace was disrupted when a small, sleek, black craft began approaching the Golden Wind, obviously armed. Their comms were opened and their weapons powered off.
JJ was working the controls herself, a proper pilot yet to be found and most of the others asleep. "We have company" she said needlessly, as the presence of the ship was already on Aya's tactical station.
"Looks like they want to talk," Aya noted, moving over to comms. "Should I open a channel?"
"Yeah... but be ready. This part of space isn't the safest." Aya opened up communications, and JJ said, "This is Captain Jetstorm of the Golden Wind. How can I help you, stranger?"
A half-human with obvious Dondonari features popped onto the screen. "Heya! Was just stopping by a station when they pointed me to a potential job offer: you. Soooo... Any roles still open...?" The fighter craft lazily drifted alongside their side, weapons pointing away from the Golden Wind.
JJ smiled widely. "Absolutely! Would you like to come on board to discuss it?"
"Sure, just need a place to dock with ya. Name's Titania, by the way." The Fighter pilot replied, offering a smile as her engines flicked on.
"Jackie-Jackie Jetstorm, at your service. Move to the rare of the ship and match our speed. I'll open the docks and tractor you in."
"You got it." Titania's craft flew around the ship fast, before the intrepid pilot made it to the back of the ship. She eased up on the throttle to match the other ship, so she could be brought in. "In position, Jackie-Jackie."
A bright beam shot out of the top of the ship, and guided it though a large opening, through a thin atmospheric force field, and down to dock. A Baʒir worked the controls, giving her a thumbs up when it was safe for her to disembark. "W-welcome to the G-Golden Wind," he said. At least she thought it was a he.
Titania popped off her helmet to reveal red hair and pointy canine ears. If one were to examine them closely, they would think them fox ears. With a hiss, the top of the cockpit opened as the pilot hopped out landing on the floor as gracefully as a twenty-foot drop would allow.
Walking up to the arthropod, Titania smiled. "Pleasure to meet you, Mr...?"
"Me? Oh, um... Báichī." The Baʒir bowed his head. "The pleasure is mine."
"Báichī, huh? Cute name..." Titania winked flirtatiously, offering a seductive look towards the Baʒir. She winked before the look faded away as fast as it came. "Mind pointing me in the direction of the Captain?"
"Captain Jetstorm has instructed me to take you to the lounge." He stepped away from the computer. "We will have to pass through engineering, so please refrain from touching anything. If you'll follow me..."
"You got it, Báichī. You the only engineer?" She asked, this time taking a look at just how big the room she was in really was.
The dock itself was fairly large. There were to shuttles in it in addition to her craft, and there was room for at least one more ship, two with careful grouping. Engineering was nearly as big, though the warp core looked like it could be bigger given the size of the ship.
"There are three other Baʒir on board," the insect man stated as they walked. "Some of the others know a little about engineering though. Do you?"
"I do, but not professionally." Titania murmured as she looked around, her keen eyes noting every part of the ship. "When you have a fighter, you have to know basic maintenance or if something happens, you're scr... In trouble. So I could keep something from exploding but if it requires someone with more experience, I'm not the one to do it."
Báichī nodded in understanding. "Do not worry. My family and I are very capable." They stepped out of engineering and around a corner. Before they could enter the door to the lounge, it opened to reveal JJ standing there waiting.
"Such a pleasure to meet you," she said, her tone dripping with excitement as she extended her hand.
Titania's fox ears twitched as she shook the Cartus' hand. "The same to you, Jackie-Jackie." The fox girl replied, a warm smile on her face.
"Come in... Titania, right?" JJ guided her to the lounge's bar. "Want something to drink? We have quite the selection, assuming Mr. Blisk didn't drink most of it already."
"Any wine available?" Titania asked, as she started unzipping her flight suit.
"We have a selection of wine from fourteen different planets," said a teen behind the bar, one she was sure wasn't there before. "Might I recommend a red wine from your home planet? A... taste of home?" He looked her up and down. "Oh, you seem to be of two races. Well, I have wine from both Earth and Daria."
"I'll go for... a Sidhe cabaret, if you have any of that type."
He nodded, and check through the selection. As he found it and poured her drink, JJ said, "Give me an Shin ale. Titania, this is our service hologram. He's an A.S.H. We call him... um, Ash. Guess we weren't very creative with that."
"Was wondering why he suddenly appeared..." Titania murmured under her breath before resuming in her normal pitch. "Nice. Must've been expensive to acquire him. Ones with a clear image and lifelike appearance tend to be expensive after all."
"Probably. Came with the ship. The previous owner was pretty rich. Must've been to afford to bet a ship because he was a slow loser at poker." JJ lowered her voice for dramatic purposes and said, "The trick is to bat a cute pair of eyes and pretend you barely know how to play."
"Oh, I know." Titania said in a more seductive voice, offering a very flirtatious smile as well as unzipping her flight suit a little more. "I've had plenty of times to use it." She finished unzipping showing off a rather modest t-shirt. She shrugged and dropped her seductive tone. "And it gets a bit easier each time."
"A literal ace up your sleeve helps to, doesn't it?" Aya accused, walking into the lounge.
"I keep telling you, I didn't cheat." JJ waved a hand. "Titania, this is Aya Me. She is here to pretend to say hi while either scoping you out as some kind of possible spy or to get mad if you have cybernetics."
Aya folded her arms. "Can't I do all three?"
Titania held out three fingers. "First, hello! Nice to meet you! Second, if I was a spy, getting behind your ship would let me target your engines to disable them, that is if my craft could take a ship this size. Three, no cybernetics. Don't want them in my body unless absolutely necessary." With each of the three questions answered, all of Titania's fingers were down.
The foxgirl casually lifted up her glass to smell the aroma before taking a sip. "But yeah, you can do all three, though I prefer the first."
Aya chuckled, and sat down, asking for some water. "No offense intended of course. It is just we aren't used to others seeking out us. We usually have to do the begging."
"Recruiting," JJ corrected. "So, Titania, please... tell me what special talents you bring. Have you ever worked as a Bounty Hunter before?"
"I have, but not for very long. Three years as one. Six of piloting. Two of a crash course of maintenance on spacecraft. As for skills, I'm much tougher, stronger and a bit faster than I look. I can take down anyone in a melee, given I have my energy sword and shield. I can also shoot pretty well with a rifle." Titania listed off, taking a sip every now and then. "Oh, and I have heightened hand-eye coordination as well as impressive hearing."
"With those lovely looking ears, I bet." JJ said with a giggle.
Aya raised an eyebrow. Tougher, stronger, and faster, huh? Would that happen to be do to genetic manipulation?"
"It would. Nothing beyond what is needed, I assure you. I have no want to make myself entirely different to what I was." Titania affirmed. "The only modifications are to piloting and to ground combat. Whereas I'm sure you have nearly fully augmented people aboard, I'm not even close."
Aya grumbled, but seemed at least partially satisfied. JJ snickered lightly. "Don't mind her. Tamearins and their hatred of any body modifications. So tell me a little about yourself, and why you want to work with me."
"Sure, Ms. Kitty Cat. I'm originally from a Dondondarian trading vessel. It's really more a giant caravan vessel that houses merchants and their families. Before I even modified myself I was piloting de-armed fighter craft and got a knack for it. Oh, and I'm the oldest triplet." Titania tried to take another drink and noticed she already had drank it all. Setting the glass down, she continued. "Why do I want to work with you? Well, for starters, your ship, as well as her captain, is incredibly beautiful. The curves, angles and just general shape is appealing." Titania started, pausing to watch JJ's face with an innocent smile.
JJ's eyes lit up, whether from the compliments to herself, her ship, or both. Aya shook her head, knowing her captain was a sucker for flattery. "You're such a nice... oh, I could just hug you!" JJ suddenly did so, squeezing Titania tightly and whispering, "When can you start?"
What have I done... Titania chuckled nervously, "Well, I'm not bonded by any contract right now, s-so I guess I could start now?" She whispered back, more than just slightly confused.
JJ leaned back and let out a small cheer. "Alright! What should I show you first...? Oh! I haven't shown off the holoroom to anyone!"
Titania's eyes flicked over to Aya for a moment before going back to JJ. "Sure. Wouldn't mind seeing your holoroom."
JJ quickly sprang up, enthusiastically leading Titania out of the lounge and down the lift to the lower deck, Aya following. It was a short walk to the room that took up much of this lower deck, a large, empty looking white room filled with hundreds of holoemitters. JJ typed on a computer screen for a moment before saying, "There you go. Go ahead and ask for something."
"Trading craft Krieg, Seer section." Titania said hesitantly, wondering if the holoroom could project the living quarters of her homeship, where old friends, and her family, resided.
It took a moment for the computer to work, but the room did shift to show the part of the ship requested. "Nice place," JJ commented. "Must be a well known ship to be in the computer system."
"It's home. My home." Titania softly replied, looking around happily. "And it would be fairly well-known. Dondondari trader ships tend to have a lot of great things to buy."
JJ explored a bit, admiring the layout. "You know a bit about haggling being from a merchant ship? That's a skill we could use."
"I do, and not from being from a merchant ship. I'm one of the head merchant's daughters." Titania answered, some pride in her eyes.
"Really?" Aya gave her a curious look. "Then why become a bounty hunter? Why not follow in his footsteps? I mean, seems like quite the legacy to trade in for a much more dangerous line of work."
Titania smiled, with no warmth behind it. "That's something you'll have to earn if you want to know, Ms. Aya." She said politely, her tone becoming far more formal.
Aya raised an eyebrow, but nodded. Everyone had their secrets. JJ placed a hand on Titania's shoulder and said, "You are welcome to visit a slice of your home any time. For now, though, how about we check out the bridge?"
Titania nodded. "Best to have an idea of where I'm piloting, right?"
"Right." The ended the program and stepped outside and into a turbo lift to the front of the ship. "I'm a decent pilot myself, but I'd like to get at least two more in addition to myself to cover all hours. With you, I only need one more." JJ smiled as cheerfully as a child on her birthday.
"What hours do you want me to cover?" Titania asked, tilting her head.
"We'll work that out when I find another pilot or two. For now... morning?" It was posed as a question, not an order. JJ was already proving to be a lax, cooperative boss.
"You sure? I could manage the evenings so you can rest when I pilot." Titania offered, giving a more informal smile.
"If that works for you, that works for me." The Cartus stretched. "Need me my beauty sleep."
They stepped out of the lift and through another door onto the bridge. It was impressively large, plenty of room to move about. Pointing in turn, she said, "This is communications. Here were have the tactical station if we need to fight. Obviously, down in front is where you'll be sitting." She sat in a large chair in the center of the room, fidgeting quite a bit. "And this uncomfortable thing is my chair. The door there on our left is my ready room, and the room to our right is an emergency engineering station in case something goes wrong with main engineering."
"Ah... well, if everything went to hell with engineering, I could keep the ship from going down. I do have some engineering experience..." Titania frowned at the chair. "I could get you a better chair if you wanted..."
"That... would be nice, but..." JJ sighed and stood up. "I wouldn't want to impose on the new recruit right away."
"Nope, I'm going to buy you a new chair. You get to choose whether you get one you like or not." Titania stubbornly refused, offering a cocky grin. "I'm being nice so be greedy and just accept it."
Aya laughed. She had to admit, Titania's enthusiasm was warming up to her. JJ nodded and said, "Alright, I accept. Thank you." She waved. "Come on, I'll show you the best part; you own, private room."
"Is there a bathroom module equipped to said room or is it just a shared one for every four or five people?" Titania asked, her gaze switching between the two women.
"You have your own bathroom," Aya answered.
"With your own shower too." JJ grinned. "No worry about anyone peeping on you." She giggled. "Unless you call the Ash at the wrong time."
"Is that a warning from experience?" Titania lightly teased, as she tried - and failed - to hide her smile.
JJ laughed. "Yes, actually. I asked him a question, and he appeared right in the shower with me! Told him not to do that again. I know it is only a computer program, but it was real enough to make me blush."
Aya smiled. "And so little actually does make her blush. Take that how you will."
"Wouldn't have guessed that. You look like the type to be unfazed by those kind of comments." Titania started with a sweet tone, before her smile grew mischievous as she winked. "I'll try not to make you blush in front of others. No guarantees if I catch you alone or with Aya."
That caused Aya to blush. "W-what... I would... never..."
JJ laughed loudly. "Oh, it is going to be fun having you on board, keeping Aya on her toes."
"Yeah," Aya muttered sarcastically. "Thrilling..."
They made their way to the crew quarters, JJ opening the door to one of the vacant ones. Like she said, there was a washroom to the side with a shower. There was a bed, a dresser, a table with a couple chairs, and a couch. "You get a food replicator too," the captain noted. "I think the one in this room works. Computer, give me a glass of lemon water. 5° Celcius" The replicator produced what she asked for in a glass. She took a cautious drink, and sighed in cool relief. "Yup. It works."
"Still better than my last gig. Two bathrooms for ten people and no replicators... Or couches." Titania's ears twitched at the memory. "Anyways, last question: What's your rules for being on the ship, so I don't make you want to space me later?"
"Rules?" JJ pondered it, like it was the first time she had really thought about it. "Well... don't try to exclude anyone based on race. Don't mess with the controls of someone else's station, I guess. Try to keep the fighting to a minimum. Don't mess with Ash's programming without permission. Um... don't fire a weapon around the warp core? If I think of anything else, I'll tell you I guess." She smiled sheepishly.
Titania blinked, clearly surprised by how lenient her new captain was. "Okay... Don't act like an asshole. Duly noted, Kitty Cat." Her eyes flicked over to Aya for anything else the good captain missed.
Aya placed a hand on her hips. “We also ask that you refrain from getting too drunk, especially before a possible mission. Respect the privacy of the others. And don't send secret transmissions. We're not a military craft, but we do have our secrets, especially when it comes to jobs. Also... there might be times when we have to... bend the rules, so to speak. Not follow a law to the letter, if you know what I mean. Are you okay with that?"
"If it wasn't, I probably wouldn't be here for you to place your hands on your hips and look all dour, would I?" Titania raised an eyebrow, her seriousness fading as her mischievous smile reappeared. "Besides, teasing the first mate is a gray area itself. It's almost criminally fun."
Aya dropped her arm, but smiled. "I'll keep that in mind. I'll have to work on my ability to tease back."
"Oh, that sounds like fun." JJ clapped her hands together. "Anything else you would like to know before we let you get settled in?"
"An embarrassing story about Aya?" Titania asked, her mischievous smile growing a little wider.
JJ opened her mouth, and Aya quickly grabbed her by the ear and pulled her towards the door. Before they exited, JJ quickly mouthed "Later" before they exited and left her alone.
Blackout, DarkGemini24601, and ZombieSplitter53: “Sleek Style, Part 1”
GFP Space, Beta Quadrant
Space Station Ferem, Hanger 4
12:49 p.m., LST
Just past noon on Ferem Station, orbiting the third planet of the Toronti System, and it showed with the hustle and the bustle of commuters coming and going. The station was usually busy anyway, but now seemed more frantic then usual as ships came and went with little signs of stopping. It was only natural, as the station was a hub in this sector for trade and repair work, and alien races from across the four Quadrants came and went.
Sticking out among the dull greys and browns, Dondondari trade vehicles, GFP transports, and Grendelback supply ships, the Golden Wind sat proudly among the other larger ships. Sure, it had its blemishes. Scratches, scrapes, and dents were obvious. It needed a new coat of paint. One of the Mag-rail guns on the lower side was broken in half. But its owner would insist this was personality, all while she worked to get the funds to get rid of said ‘personality’.
Overhead lights made the red of its long body shimmer and the black wings in the back seem even darker. The design was sleek and smooth, like a bird of prey swooping through the air. It was little wonder why its original owner decided to make the front of the ship resemble an Earth hawk or eagle, the gold on its ‘face’ the newest paint, along with the golden ‘wind’ streaks along the sides. It seemed a mess of different ideas thrown into one, yet it came together well. The worse one could really say is it was a little too obvious to blend in with any other ship, but that defined both it and its captain well; stand out individuals who made their presence known when they showed up.
Said captain was busy at the moment. Most of her new crew members were either out and about on the station or elsewhere, whether that be in another system or Quadrant preparing for their new careers. Jackie-Jackie Jetstorm had the sleek, slender body of one who never had to work from a distance, but up close, one could see her roots from a hard working farmer family. That being said, she was not afraid to get a bit dirty. She was currently under one of the shuttles, grease, oil, and other such fluids on her here and there, installing a new motor for the side entrance.
“We have people to do that for us now,” Aya shouted from several feet below. The violet-haired Tamearin swung her tail back and forth in amusement. “And Baichi would do it too. You don’t have to do that, is what I’m saying.”
“Nah.” The Cartus waved her hand dismissively. After tightening a few more parts, she closed the compartment and climbed down, grinning at her first mate. “A good captain should know her own ship inside and out, and never ask someone to do something she wouldn’t be willing to do herself. And since I am willing, able, and currently not doing anything, why not do it myself?”
Aya shrugged. “Just remember that you’ll want to set an example of leadership. Else you might seem weak, and have a mutiny at any time.”
JJ leaned forward, the jiggling of her loosely held breasts making Aya blush. “Not if I create an environment of trust and fun. And so far, I haven’t recruited anyone I don’t trust.” She poked Aya’s nose.
The Tamearin rubbed away the small bit of grease left behind. “You’re a weird captain.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” JJ responded with a giggle, putting her tools away.
A console to the far wall blinked, registering an access code from an authorized bounty hunter. The hangar doors rolled back in response, spreading a selectively permeable forcefield as they went and unveiling the incoming ship.
In contrast to the battered appearance of the Golden Wind, the incoming fighter bore a sleek, iron-gray finish like a vessel fresh out of factory production. It lacked a committed paint-job or decals of any kind on its arrow-shaped chassis. The only distinct feature was the nose, which protruded forward in a frame of armored plates. A faint u-shaped glow of orange sensor banks encased the canopy, opaque in nearly all situations due to the protective shell. A headset provided the pilot with sight of the outside via the ship’s mechanical ‘eyes’. Flying by the naked eye was a last resort, even if she might prefer it that way.
Her name was Razor. The sharp exterior and effortless glide of her frame through space explained the name succinctly.
The arrowhead’s back folded forward, reversing the direction the shape pointed while keeping the cockpit facing forward. On either side, panels peeled back to loose whirring VTOL rotors that softened her descent. And yet - the fighter hovered for several seconds, hesitating as it lined up with an almost tremulous meticulousness. Then: alignment and the muted buzz of magnetic locks. Razor affixed herself in place and air friction guided the rotors towards a stop. The engines on the roar faded from a dull roar to a rumbling reverb.
The underbelly hissed over the faint sounds, announcing the drop of its exit ramp. Plate by plate, it folded out until it tapped the ground with a tick. The tap of boots followed, preambling the arrival of Razor’s pilot onto the hanger deck of the Golden Wind.
Not unlike JJ, the woman that stepped out of the shadow of her ship drew the eye. She wore a form-fitting flightsuit, hugging to athletic curves and a well-rounded chest. The black fabric bore a set of blue-and-violet stripes along her arms, legs, and sides as if highlighting that form. The insulating material thankfully seemed to hold it back from being totally revealing. Matching its color, a ponytail of sable hair and long backs framed a pale face the color of Earthly moonlight. Within their shadow, a set of syrupy orange eyes swept the room, both enticing in their exoticness and unsettling in their unnatural pigment.
Kazane Kyūnasaki was human, though her appearance suggested something out of the ordinary about her. Available data pointed towards cybernetic enhancements beneath the lovely surface, although their extent had never been determined.
“Quite the ship,” Kazane murmured to herself, finishing her initial study of the hangar. She threw a glance backwards at the man following her down the ramp. “Don’t be shy, Nick. If she holds to her word, the captain should be anticipating our arrival. Tell me I’m not the only one curious to see what a woman with that alliterative of a name is like.”
“You’re not. And from what I can gather, she’s relatively new to the scene,” the more obvious cyborg mentioned, his trenchcoat trying and failing to hide the metallic hands or the bulky cybernetics that made his frame more massive. “I do think… I have a good feeling about her, Kaz. And, if I’m wrong, you can then say you told me so… after you inevitably save my ass for the… are we going on eight or nine at this point?”
“Ninth time,” Kazane replied with a grin. “Figures I’m the one keeping precise count.” She returned her gaze out to the hangar, quickly noting the pair approaching them. As they got closer, her eyes fixed on the Captain, which widened gradually. Her mouth opened slightly as her brain sought words and found none worthy of vocalizing. Holy shit.
Blackout, DarkGemini24601, and ZombieSplitter53: “Sleek Style, Part 2”
JJ was all smiles, her bodacious, bouncing form coming over with all its curves and enticing appeal. Aya followed closely, scanning the pair with more scrutiny. Her eyes seemed to focus on the male of the two, particularly his obvious cybernetic parts sticking out of his trench coat. She quickly lost any sign of a smile.
“Hello, Jackie-Jackie Jetstorm. And if I recall correctly, Aya Me. I’m Nick Graves and this…” He turned his head to look at his partner. He let out a sigh, before his military arm flicked her, “is Kazane. We heard you had some room on your crew for bounty hunters with additional skills besides the typical ‘securing’ ones?”
“That’s right. And you showing up means you two, indeed, are looking for a job.” JJ placed a hand on her hip. “So tell me about yourselves, and what brings you to me. I am always interested in hearing how and why someone sought little ol’ me out.”
Kazane blinked for a moment, clearing her mind - on the surface, at least. “Been doing this for about three years now,” she answered. “As my record will show, Nick and I’ve caught most of our marks.” A small smirk. “Not sure if it mentions how often I’ve bailed him out, but there’s that, too. You can thank the instruction of an ex-special forces officer for my skill. He taught me what he knew before I got my license. His training’s served me well, as has-” For a moment her eyes had shifted to Aya and back to JJ again, “-my equipment.”
“Equipment…” Aya pulled out a data pad, looking through some pages. “Rrrrrright. And you, Mr. Graves? You, um… geez, you’re more machine then the Kotavorg…”
“Are you still on about that?” JJ asked with a sideways glance.
“Oh, no, not anymore. Not when I have a new cyborg with even less organic parts on him.” Aya gave him a not-so-amused smile. “How far exactly have you gone to…” She took a deep breath. She obviously wanted to say something more insulting, but forced herself to go with, “...enhance yourself?”
Nick’s face showed a tiny hint of emotion, before it went back to its neutral state. “Two military-grade cybernetic limbs, two civilian limbs, synthetic lung and kidneys… typical servo rig to ensure my limbs are usable and don’t degrade my health, subdermal chest armor… hmm… Kazane, what was that battery that was installed for my arm rifle called again?”
“Subdermal EMR Capacitor,” Kazane filled in fluidly. She folded her arms together, facing Aya. “It’s a shame you Tamearins don’t appreciate the art of augments. You’re missing out.”
“We like to think that how we were created is how we were meant to be, and modification is a perversion,” Aya noted bluntly. “You’ve been modified too, but I can’t seem to find to what extent. I don’t know if you have a simple modification to enhance your eyesight or if your entire body transforms into a giant gun.”
The Japanese woman muttered something to the effect of ‘not my entire body’, which only deepened Aya’s scowl.
JJ chuckled nervously. “Th-that would be pretty cool. But maybe we shouldn’t grill the new recruits…”
“You were the one talking about trust earlier.” Aya looked between the pair. “We can’t trust people if they hide too much, right?”
“I served in the military, in the armed peacekeeper corps of the GFP. 32nd platoon, 4th company. I was blown up with an IED and had several of my friends’ internals drop on me. I also lost an arm and a leg to said explosion,” he said with a machine’s monotone voice. “Is that better? Does that illuminate you as to who I am?”
Aya’s head sunk a little from guilt. “I was more talking about your… partner. I’m sorry. I…”
“Didn’t mean to make assumptions.” JJ placed a hand on Aya’s shoulder. “Aya is just very dedicated. And a little strict when it comes to things instilled in her since birth. She didn’t mean anything, but I’m sorry if she insulted you.”
Kazane’s expression had remained level throughout. “Eh, I’ve met enough Tamearins that I’m used to it by now. As far as your line of questioning goes… there is a line where trust meets privacy. Since it’s partially gotten out from my fieldwork, I’ll confirm this much for you: my augs are pretty extensive. If I hadn’t installed them, well…” Her amused smile didn’t match her explanation that followed. “I would have gone through a terminal case of death.” She left out the likelihood that she wouldn’t have minded a portion of them anyway. No sense in pushing her.
“I see…” Aya took a deep breath. “Alright.”
Her captain raised an eyebrow, expecting more. “Just alright?”
Aya nodded. “Yeah. I’m… not going to humiliate myself anymore by pushing the issue.”
“I see.” JJ grinned. “Alright!” She clapped her hands together. “Now, um… hmm. Not so big on this interviewing thing since so few come to me… do you two have any questions for us?”
A flash of a smirk crossed Kazane’s expression before she hid it with a glove. “I can think of a few,” her slightly-muffled speech snuck around the barrier. “Although some are of questionable relevance to business.” She pulled her hand back from a smile - the devious twists to her visage only partially subsided.
Nick cleared his throat. “Ship-mounted weapons, conditions and firing arcs, as well as the various rooms and functions so as to not wander off to places that are considered restricted.” Nick asked, poking his compatriot’s head.
“You’re no fun,” she murmured, still smiling.
Aya nodded, clearing her throat. “Two laser mounts up top covering the full 180 degrees up there, two mag rail guns doing the same under the ship. Lasers are in moderate condition. Our concern is with the rail guns at the moment. One is in good condition but the other needs to be replaced. We also have a pair of forward plasma missile launchers…”
“…but no missiles at the moment.” JJ frowned. “They’re expensive, and we used our last pair fighting off a pair of pirate ships.” She scratched her head. “As for restricted rooms… I guess engineering if you have no business there. But that depends on what else you do here. Engineering is up ahead on the ship. Then we have quarters. Then a lounge, a meeting space, armory and cargo, a holoroom, and the bridge of course.” She smiled lightly. “You’ll each get your own room if you join.”
Nick frowned, looking at Kazane. “Can I cash in a favor, Kaz?”
Blackout, DarkGemini24601, and ZombieSplitter53: “Sleek Style, Part 3”
She raised an eyebrow. “Depends on what you need.”
“I need to have at least two pairs of the missiles.” Nick asked, his eyes darting back towards the ship before looking at her. “With moderate equipment and one faulty gun, I don’t think even my skills as a gunner might be enough. I promise to pay you back in due time, Kaz, but… It’s a necessity.”
“Hmmm…” Kazane rolled her shoulders. “That’s two-thirds of Razor’s compliment, but as long as you offer a return on the loan… I’ll allow it.” She glanced at JJ. “Provided your launchers have scaling adaptors. I’m guessing they typically don’t fire fighter-sized missiles.”
“We have adapters.” JJ smiled widely. “Thank you so much! I-I’ll pay her back, as soon as I have the money.” She looked between them. “So, um… does that mean you’ll be joining us? I know this ship is a bit of a fixer upper, but it really is a great ship, I have my sources and a few jobs lined up, and we would love to have you on board.”
Aya nodded in agreement. “And despite my personal misgivings, I have read through your files extensively and you two do have really good records. I too would… would like to invite you to stay.”
“Hey, traveling in a mothership saves me loads on warp fuel,” Kazane noted casually. “And it’ll provide us with backup for the tougher jobs. The way I see it, we both come out of this better than before.”
I detect biases attached to otherwise-sound logic, a voice in her head assessed.
Shut it, Nobu. Kazane deftly took a step to the side from Nick. “I have to ask, though…” She grinned at JJ. “Are you single?”
“Single?” JJ looked around herself. “I mean… I don’t have anyone else… I mean…”
Aya rolled her eyes. “Single as in unattached. As in, no boyfriend, girlfriend, mate, or otherwise.”
“Oh! Heh, I knew that…” Jackie-Jackie rubbed the back of her head sheepishly. “I am… single. Though I feel a strong attraction to the ship. Don’t think it would work out between the two of us though…”
Kazane snickered. “Well, the job benefits keep stacking up then.”
JJ chuckled back, even if she was too oblivious to take the hint, and waved her hand. “Come. I will show you your rooms. Incidentally, are there any other functions you’d like to take up on the ship between jobs. You’re a pilot, right Kazane?”
“And you mentioned experience as a gunner,” Aya noted to Nick. “We could use both of those.”
“We,” Nick sighed heavily at his companion before offering a small smile, “would accept said positions if they are vacant. Kazane is one of the best pilots out there, and can probably pilot the ship if you want. However, she’s better utilized in her Razor, acting as strike craft for the ship. That is if she can stop drooling for a couple seconds to do so.”
Kazane crossed her arms and glanced away from him. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She flicked her gaze back to JJ and Aya. “I wouldn’t mind ferrying people for planetary excursions. For missions…” She rubbed the back of her neck. “I could manage, but it’ll be… bumpy. I haven’t crashed that many times, I swear.”
“What about on the Omikron mission?” Nick teased, playfully poking her nose. “What did you call it… ‘I didn’t crash, I just landed in style’?”
“Something flew in the rotor,” Kazane insisted. “You try smooth landings with the VTOL busted.”
JJ giggled. “You two have such an interesting dynamic.” She waved for them to follow her out of the hanger. “It actually reminds me of Aya and myself. Friends, but willing to be honest when the need arises.”
As they walked past engineering, three Baʒir stuck their heads out the door, watching them curiously as they passed before a fourth made them go back inside.
“Your engineers, I take it?” Nick asked, making mental notes for various entrances and tunnels. “ And if so, you have a Chief of Engineering, then?”
“Báichī. He’s the second largest of the four.” Aya looked back at him. “He acts as chief engineer for now, though that might change as we expand our crew. He’s not big on leadership and is a little skittish, like most of his kind. But he really does know what he is doing, of that you can be sure.”
JJ tapped her lips as they reached the next part of the ship where the quarters were located. “Would you two rather be on the upper deck with the lounge? Or the lower deck with the holoroom?”
Nick looked at Kazane, tilting his head. “You feel like interacting with people? We haven’t exactly met anyone else that’s as nice as the Captain or Aya.”
“I’ve got my VR rig,” Kazane pointed out. “Holodeck would be partially redundant. I say we go for the upper deck. You never know.”
“Upper deck it is.” They rode one of the lifts up, and walked halfway down. With five rooms on either side, JJ chose the middle two for the pair. She opened one to reveal a large one with all the fixings. Bed, couch, table, and chairs, along with a desk and shelves, as well as a washroom to the side and a food replicator in the wall. “What do you think?”
“Spacious. Enough amenities to be sufficient. Room to customise it into our preference. I’d say… it works and I’m perfectly fine with it. Kaz, what do you think?”
Kazane had strode into the room, inputting a quick search into the replicator’s database. “I’ll be nicer with some personalization.” She procured a data drive from a pocket and slid it into the machine. A holographic image briefly displayed the item she’d added—a type of noodle—before vanishing. “Like so. The amount of replicator templates without ramen is an affront.”
Aya raised an eyebrow but smiled. “I’ll have to try any dishes you program in. I am always up for expanding my palate.”
“Agreed.” Jackie-Jackie looked down at herself and chuckled. “Well… I am filthy, and I should have made myself more presentable for this meeting, but… whatcha gonna do? I’ll go hit the showers and Aya will make the appropriate inputs into the computer while you two settle in.”
“The greased-up aesthetic can have its appeal, but yeah, you do you.” Kazane flipped back her ponytail. “I’ve got some personalization to do. Lots of stuff needs to be moved in here, workbench and all.” She nodded to JJ. “Let the other cyborgs know I’ve got them covered if they need repairs.”
JJ winked at her, and turned to Nick. “It is a pleasure to have you on board.”
“The pleasure's all ours. I got to help Kazane out with moving. It’ll take her longer without an extra pair of hands. Besides, now that she knows she staying, someone has to make sure she doesn’t go overboard with her… tactics.” Nick smirked, his eyes going over to Aya’s for a moment.
Aya gave him a knowing nod. She and the captain gave them a bow before leaving them to get moved in, heading towards the front of the ship.
Kazane turned to her partner after they’d left. “Just so we’re clear, I saw her first.”
“Fine with me. She’s not my type, but uh… you kinda drooled all over her for the entire meeting, leaving me to deal with the details. You know negotiation and interacting with people isn’t my thing…” Nick shook his head, smiling at his friend. “But, I suppose you being all… lovey-dovey with the Captain a good thing.”
“Let the record show that I flirt. I do not ‘drool’,” Kazane replied with a chuckle. “Sorry about that, though. I was taking in the sights.”
“I know. Given what she was wearing and how even her friend was blushing, I can see why you’re interested. Want me to be your wingman for it, or are you going solo?” Nick asked, walking back the way they came.
“I’ll fly solo for this one,” Kazne answered, resting her hands behind her head as they headed off to the elevator. “Trust me, I can handle it.”
BMPixy & DarkGemini24601: “The Majestic Maned Mercenary, Part 1”
GFP Space, Beta Quadrant
The Golden Wind, Hangar Bay
1:51 p.m., LST
The hangar bay of the Golden Wind was awash in mismatched aesthetics - a sleek fighter craft in one corner, contrasted by shuttles in disrepair in the other. The place was nearly deserted, save for an instance of such contrast given flesh. Tucked away in the corner nearest the exit to the rest of the ship stands a Shinso, dressed in traditional garb, punching away at a laptop hooked up to a sharp and angular motorbike, Shinso folk metal drowning out the sound of keystrokes and filling the hangar with noise, interrupted by the lionman’s occasional dives at making some manual adjustment to the bike.
“A yuve yuve yu,” Gazan briefly sung along with the music, before clicking his tongue. He wasn’t quite getting the expected power from the bike, and that was slowly beginning to chip away at his calm.
Off to the right, motors whirred. The ramp of the sleek fighter craft in that direction folded up, plate by plate, and her pilot stepped back. No remote or any other external device had commanded Razor to seal; Kazane had merely willed it so, and her implants had wirelessly carried out the command. Realigning her azure scarf to roll off her right side, the Japanese woman turned towards the elevator - only to have her eye caught by Gazan’s bike.
She strolled towards him, hands folded behind her back. “Well, Kentaro hasn’t arrived yet, but I see you’re a man of similar tastes in transportation,” Kazane announced her presence.
Not turning around to greet the woman, Gazan merely raised a single finger towards the ceiling. “Grandmother said this. No matter the day or age, a knight must have a steed,” he quoted, before killing the volume from his laptop and spinning in his seat with an almost casual flair. “However, as befitting a steed of this caliber, it has a temper and will of its own,” he finished, reaching over to test the throttle once more, the black-and-gold bike briefly roaring to life, though evidently not quite to Gazan’s satisfaction.
“It have any combat-oriented bells and whistles?” Kazane questioned, eyeing the chassis as if searching for seams from which such weaponry could sprout.
“Ezo Heavy Industries Mark IV shielding,” Gazan replied, reaching into the tool-chest and withdrawing a socket wrench, followed by standing from his seat and crouching down to get at some screw in the engine. “No in-built weaponry, at least if you were eying it up,” he added, tightening the screw with a slight grunt. “But for the one who stands on top of vehicular combat…” As he trailed off, a slight glint sparkled in his eyes, hinting at untold possibilities.
Kazane chuckled. “My… associate is going to contest that, just warning you now. But he’ll enjoy the rivalry, I’m sure.” She tilted her head back in the direction of her fighter. “Me? I prefer something with wings when I’m in the driver’s seat.”
“Yes, I noticed your little bird of prey over there,” the Shinso replied, revving the throttle once more, smirking at hearing the much healthier roar of the engine. Rotating to lean back against his bike, Gazan takes a closer look at the Razor, nodding appreciatively. “A fine piece of machinery indeed. I imagine it serves a fitting steed when the time calls for it?”
“Oh yeah.” Kazane crossed her arms, smiling proudly. “I’ve got a unique pattern of shield generator - the Shinobi pattern - and quite a few weapons. Pair of twin coilguns, a light railgun in the main body, and two missile launchers.” She sighed. “Although those only have one missile in the chamber each. My partner decided it’d be better to donate two-thirds of their payload to the Golden Wind’s launchers.” A shrug. “We’ll see if it’s worth it.”
Gazan nodded along at this exposition. “Give the soldiers spears before the cooks swords,” he replied, his tone indicating this was another piece of wisdom passed along to him. As he unplugs his laptop from the motorcycle, he said, “On this note, I do not believe I have encountered you before.” He leaves the statement there, leaving implication and an arched eyebrow to ask the natural follow-up.
“Kazane Kyunasaki,” the Japanese woman introduced herself with a slight bow. “Expert bounty hunter. I just arrived today.”
“Well then, allow me to give a welcome,” Gazan replied, bowing back, though it’s more a slight nod than a proper bow. He taps a few keys on his laptop, logging it out, before shutting it. “How have things been treating you so far, Kyunasakin?” he added, giving a slightly informal addition to the Japanese woman’s name.
She raised an eyebrow at that. Is that some kind of honorific? Or did he mess up the pronunciation? she wondered. “Rooms are a lot nicer than living in Razor’s cockpit, that’s for sure. Plenty of room for all my paraphernalia. From the glimpses I’ve got of the other facilities, it’ll still be tight living on longer trips - but I’ve gotten used to that the past three years.”
The Shinso nods sagely. “A common trend for our line of work,” he replied. “For all the good of our work, it would be nice to be paid ever so much slightly more. But then again, I suppose being known as ones who will defeat the evil of the criminal underworld for only the necessities of survival is good for our image,” he finished, crouching down to slide the laptop into a messenger back, and turning back up to Kazane as he closed out his statement.
“I don’t know if my ambitions are quite that lofty,” Kazane replied with a chuckle. “We’re only flickers like distant starlight on the galactic stage. We might go nova at some point, but we’ll be forgotten when our time’s up.” She shrugged. “I’m just happy to put my skills to use and get paid for it.”
This time it was Gazan’s turn to chuckle, a low and rumbling thing emanating deep from his chest. “Even the most distant star is someone’s sun,” he said with a wide smirk, his fangs catching in the light. “And, of course, a star’s nova may leave impact long after it has elapsed - gamma ray bursts are quite unfortunate, I’m told,” Gazan added, chuckling once more.
Kazane’s smile wavered, if only for a moment. “I suppose so.”
Rather well-spoken, isn’t he? Nobu noted.
Don’t rub it in. Kazane rubbed the back of her neck. “Metaphor aside, I’d be surprised if we accomplish anything historic. A bunch of mercs aren’t likely to overturn any paradigms.”
“Ye of little faith,” Gazan said, patting Kazane on the shoulder, the glimmer in his eyes taking on an almost cocky, yet certain, sheen. “You have already made your mark on history - you are now part of the legend of the one who will stand atop all bounty hunters.”
Kazane’s eyes widened. See? You can be a well-spoken and a fool. A smirk followed. “I wish you luck with that dream. It’d be quite the sight - but so will the attempt be… something amusing.”
“Grandmother said this,” Gazan replied with utmost confidence, raising a single finger towards the heavens. “If you wish it, luck will always be on your side. As such, I shall take your wish as another sign of my guaranteed victory.”
The smile transitioned into an incredulous gawking at him. “Alright, I… assume you’re joking at this point.” No one can be this self-assured, right?No one that lives for long, anyway. “Even if you’re more skilled than I am - and I’m doubting that - that doesn’t guarantee you’ll accomplish everything you set out to do.”
Gazan stretched his burly arms wide, as if inviting the criticism. “And why wouldn’t it?” he asked bluntly, cocking a curious eyebrow.
BMPixy & DarkGemini24601: “The Majestic Maned Mercenary, Part 2”
“You point enough guns or trained professionals at a problem and it disappears. No one’s invincible. Anyone that thinks they are tends to take a bullet through the heart,” Kazane warned him, her expression settling into seriousness. “No disembodied fortune or patron god’s going to bail you out above all the people that have come before.”
Gazan gave a single, hearty bark of laughter at that. “What a foolish line of thought. You might as well be saying to the sun, ‘be wary of men with water hoses’,” he replied, striding around the motorcycle to stand directly across from Kazane. Despite his seemingly mad words, the Shinso radiated utmost certainty in himself - he more than believes his own words.
He’s either crazy, or…
Or somewhat so - with a partial ability to back up his madness.
Kazane went with the latter for now. That expectation kept her safer. “You can deify yourself all you want, but I’ll hold my reservations until I see your supposed invulnerability in action.”
“‘Deify’?” Gazan smiled wild at that. “Why would I want to lower myself?” Turning to face away from Kazane, he raised that same finger towards the heavens once more. “In all the universe, there is one name you must know. Slashing his sword, one who will replace the gods.” Slowly, he lowers the finger and turns such that he is now pointing at the human. “I am… Gazan Laguz Kamiji Caineghis-Kruger,” he introduces himself. “You might also know me as Armor Knight OverLion.”
“Haven’t heard of you in my life,” Kazane was overjoyed to rebuke. “I’ve worked for a couple of alien noble-types, but you win the prize for the most self-important.” She shook her head, slowly acclimating her disbelief towards something else. Disappointment or disgust, she hadn’t decided yet.
Gazan, rather than be offended, laughed at that. “Another foolish statement. The sun has every claim to importance, and even though there are those who have not seen it, they too know it’s influence,” the Shinso said. “And as the one who stands atop all suns…” he trailed off, leaving the rest of his statement to the imagination.
Kazane rolled her eyes. “I get the idea by now. Look, you’re welcome to have your delusions. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you if they get you killed.”
“If I die, you’ll be the first to know,” Gazan replied with a thumbs up, his tone more suited for telling a child that Mister Yulesmas was real than the situation at hand.
The Japanese woman stared at him blankly for a moment. “Well!” She clapped her hands together. “If you’ll excuse me, I have more-” productive “-things to attend to before I’m fully settled in. I think I’ve said all I need to.”
“Oh?” Gazan said, either not noticing Kazane’s body language or simply not caring. “While I may not be the master of this vessel, I can still be a gracious host. I shall help you settle in as best I can,” the Shinso added, performing his very much not self-humbling bow.
Again, Kazane’s eyes widened - although under the influence of a different emotion this time. Shit! Is he really that unbothered by what I said, or is he doing this to screw with me? The Japanese woman nevertheless hadn’t come up with a back-up plan incase her cue to leave had failed, and thus found herself trapped by some basic sense of propriety. “I… suppose I could. You haven’t claimed a room yet, then?”
“Unfortunately I am incapable of taking my vehicle as temporary quarters.” Gazan’s tone almost seemed genuinely gracious as he spoke, though a more nobility sort of graciousness. “As such, I have already taken one as my own. But I know that several of the ones near mine are unoccupied, should they be found pleasing to you,” he said, hovering a burly arm just behind her waist and gesturing forward with the other hand, as a sign for the two of them to move along.
“I did tell you I’ve already moved my belongings into one,” Kazane replied, brushing an arm back to rebuff his. “I don’t intend to shift their location a second time.”
“Of course, of course,” the Shinso answered, taking the whole situation in stride. “Then perhaps I can help you unpack said belongings - from my own experience, there is always room for two more hands in moving,” he continued, adapting to the changing circumstances with ease comparable to an Azis.
“Already moved those, too.”
I don’t believe he paid attention to half of the things you said.
Very helpful, Nobu.
“I see.” Gazan nodded serenely, that damned smile never fading from his face. “If you have a room, then I surmise the good Captain has also given a brief tour of the vessel as well,” he said, not even bothering to confirm his assumption with Kazane. “Then let me turn the question on you, Kyunasakin - I’m certain there are tasks that one such as yourself needs aid with, and I am the one who stands at the top of fulfilling minor requests.” The Shinso tilted his head expectantly, awaiting a proper answer.
“I’m rather self-sufficient, actually,” Kazane answered, narrowing her eyes. “Though if I think of something, I’ll be sure to let you know.” She didn’t expect such a situation to ever arise.
“Oh, there is no need to be modest,” Gazan replied. “Besides, my noblesse oblige could not allow me to not begin some form of repayment for your concern for my life,” he said, his eyes sparkling with mirth.
“Just as you were being serious before, so am I being earnest now.” Kazan spun around and backpedaled in a fluid motion, facing him from half a meter’s distance. “Nothing comes to mind. If you’re a talented fighter, that’ll be of use when we have a target.” She grinned. “I’d wager the Captain’s the more reliable mechanic.”
Gazan smiled and bobbed his head, evidently mulling something over. Then, he tapped his wristwatch, an elaborate holo-projection springing forth. Fiddling with some controls, he demonstrated it to Kazane. “Would you match this wager, then?” he asked, indicating the one thousand credit amount his omni-watch displayed.
Kazane thought about it a moment. Not a huge amount. If I lose it wouldn’t be much of a hit.
Again, I would warn you against making rash -
“Why not?” Kazane nodded her assent, still-smirking. “I’m in.” Worst-case scenario, I get to see that cute body in motion either way.
BMPixy & DarkGemini24601: “The Majestic Maned Mercenary, Part 3”
Gazan smiled wide. “Excellent!” he said, clapping his meaty hands together. “The House of Caineghis-Kruger appreciates your contribution to it’s rebuilding,” he added with all the confidence of one who has no concept of the idea of defeat.
“Rebuilding?” Kazane questioned. A noble without a foundation has this kind of arrogance?
“Our once glorious house that commanded vast wealth and unnatural power has fallen from power,” Gazan answered, lowering his head and gripping his right hand in front of his chest with melodramatic anguish. “However, harsh times breed great scions, and it is my destiny as the final heir to reclaim what was lost, and to have our house stand at the top of all nobility,” he finished, lifting his head and pointing at - no, clutching at the heavens. “That is the path of the one who shall replace the gods.”
Kazane avoided encouraging such notions, conscious this time that he’d interpret her sarcasm as genuine. “Practically you need to invest your work’s bounty into the family coffers then, huh?” Finally, something that makes sense.
“Indeed. Pensions may maintain that hallowed hall our house has held since time immemorial, but to reclaim what was lost - nay, grow even further beyond, that is why I have no choice but to stand at the top of bounty hunting,” Gazan concluded, pounding his chest with a hand in ancestral fervor.
“I can respect that much,” Kazane responded, “even if I admittedly don’t get the whole ‘nobility’ thing. Humans don’t have those anymore, although… I suppose there are equivalents.”
“Indeed,” the Shinso nodded along. “It is only natural that there are those who rise to the top, and it is only natural that they preserve that position for their noblest scions so that they too may claim their rightful place at the peak, and perhaps even surpass their forebears. And, finally, it is only natural that those at peak have a responsibility for those elsewhere in the mountain of skill. That is the essence of nobility, and it is found in every race.”
Kazane snickered at the idea of a ‘rightful place’. “I’m gonna disagree with you there. Might be different for Shinso, but where I come from, the people at the top tend to be the most ruthless and cunning. They’re not paragons and preservers of the community.”
“Then why do you let them stay at the top?” Gazan asked simply.
“No one has the power to overthrow them, simple as that. They occasionally absorb one another, but the status quo stays the same.” Kazane’s expression had gone somber for a moment as she glanced down at one of her hands - before shaking her head and leveling her features.
“Kyunasakin, let me tell of the origin of my house, and thus why you are misguided,” the noble began. “In times long past, there was a land known as Kruger. It’s resources stretched thin, so the only means of utilizing the land’s large populace was to send them out in search of new lands laden with loot to bring home, for glory and honor. One such band, my distant ancestors, gathered a force of six thousand and tore a swath through the largest nation of the nearby continent, sacking it’s capital six times in as many years. However, the king was a wise man, and knew that if he could not defeat these raiders, he would employ them. And so he gave my ancestors the land known as Caineghis, to defend the king’s lands from more men of Kruger. However, my ancestors were clever and ambitious, and within a century, it was a Caineghis-Kruger who sat on the throne. Do you see the point of my story?” the Shinso asked.
“How distant are these ancestors?” Kazane’s orange eyes met his calmly. “I’m guessing pre-industrial - definitely pre-FTL.”
“Was power any less entrenched then?” the scion of Caineghis-Kruger retorted, pre-empting the follow-up question.
“Yes!” Kazane insisted with a groan. “The average populace can’t be expected to rise up against rulers with strike craft, private armies, and augmented elite troopers at their disposal. The only ones with the sufficient firepower would rather maintain their own power than help anyone else.”
“And that thinking is why you walk the path of people, and I walk the path of one who shall replace the gods,” Gazan answered, as if this were the final nail in the coffin of his argument.
For her part, Kazane didn’t bother arguing further. He wasn’t someone who’d understand. With a flick of her wrist, the Japanese woman brought up a small holographic projection of the Golden Wind’s corridors. “This should give you an idea of the layout. That’s what you needed, right?”
“And so it shall be done,” the Shinso said with another of his self-aggrandizing bows. “I look forward to fair play and righteous victory, Kyunasakin,” he continued, readjusting his messenger bag. “And if you ever wish to truly test yourself, I’m certain you shall be able to find me when the time comes.” And with that, and a small, almost friendly, wave, the self-proclaimed Armor Knight made his departure.
Kazane kept scrutinizing him until the elevator doors closed entirely. Then she shook her head. “Seriously… just who the hell does that guy think he is?” Rhetorical, she prevented the mechanical reply from Nobu. He’s nuts, but I get the feeling that he’s not incompetent either.
I’ll have to take your word for it. Your assessment of character isn’t grounded in logic, though your instincts have proven correct sometimes.
The augmented bounty hunter chuckled. “Just sometimes?” That hurts. She glanced quickly around. Satisfied she was alone, Kazane relaxed. Still, I hope JJ kicks his ass at repairs. His reaction to losing would be richer than the payout by far. Kazane smirked for a moment.
“...ah. I need to get her to agree to that.” Kazane shrugged, waiting a bit longer until the lift had returned - and Gazan had likely long since gone elsewhere from the subsequent corridor. Oh well. I’ll take the excuse to go see her.
You’re not defending yourself well against Nick’s concerns.
We’re going to be in port for awhile, and in transit for who knows how longer. I’m allowed to have fun between jobs. Kazane flicked her hair back, stepped into the elevator, and vanished behind its doors a moment later.
GFP Space, Beta Quadrant
The Golden Wind, Lounge
3:07 p.m., LST
A pair of black boots sat atop the far end of the couch, the heels flattening the synth-fiber cushion. Above them and back a decimeter, Kazane’s eyes darted across a display only she could see. The pupils of her orange eyes shined with an inner light, where the display of her augmented reality overlay provided the portable computer. 3D blueprints flashed into view and spun on a whim. Only occasionally did Kazane reach up to interact with them, shifting plates and circuitry in a constant quest for refinement.
At the sound of footsteps she dismissed it, her pupils returning to a deceptive black. She flicked her head backwards, her ponytail hanging upside-down as she assessed the newcomer - and her expression brightened into a smile. “There you are! I’ve been wondering when the hell you’d show - if you’d show, at this point.” A curve into a smirk ensued. “Fashionably late, as always.”
The curvature of another smirk met her before it’s owner flashed cloth between them - unslinging the cloak over his broad shoulders to hang over one, rather than extend over his entire body. His attire, as always, was the thing that made him stand out, and now that it was free from the confining swaddle of his cloak, he looked out of place. This was a ship for bounty hunters, not businessmen in maroon. Yet the muscle and tense stance of the man in this suit marked him as something of an anomaly there - the cloth was a mask. Beneath it resided someone that would likely be very much at home here.
Kentaro’s smirk faded slightly, and he stepped back to give his old colleague the space to sit up properly. Her rubbed his chin, rimmed by healthy but very-trimmed facial hair. “‘If I’d show’, she says. You know me better than that. I make dates I commit to.” His voice was calm, but carrying with it something of a sneer, or a leer. She was used to it by now, thankfully. Most people he met for the first time found themselves rubbed the wrong way by it, however. That, plus his ‘thuggish’ build, conspired to make him someone to avoid for most people.
Naturally, he was well aware of this. He simply didn’t care.
Kazane crossed her arms. Her legs hung off the edge of the couch now as she sat on the side, one folded over the other. “So, what took you so long? You get into a fight, or were you too busy breaking some poor girl’s heart?” She continued to smirk, despite the surface-level harshness of her words.
The smirk came back. “Would you believe me if I said both?”
“I would, actually.” Kazane shook her head. “I’m glad you find the crazy types. Helps me narrow down my choices.”
“Not my fault the poor girl had a price on her. Had one hell of an arm, though.” Kentaro chuckled, shaking his head. “And legs to die for. ‘Till she tried to kill me with ‘em.” His eyes almost sparkled. “Speaking of choices… you met the cap yet?”
Kazane laughed. “Oh, most definitely. I’ll tell you what I told my partner: I saw her first.”
The man rolled his eyes in response. “You’re still rolling with him? Surprised one of you hasn’t tried to throttle the other yet.”
“He needs me.” Kazane slipped out a small vibroknife, spinning it between her fingers from one side to the other. “He may not always agree with my methods, but he’d be floating in a coffin by now without my help.”
Then outright grimaced. “She wasn’t talking to you,” he grumbled under his breath. His attention returned to Kazane. “I take it you’ve already screened the place for, uh… ‘risks’.”
Kazane shook her head. “I’ve lost them for about a year now.” Her smile had vanished. “You’ve still been followed recently?”
Another grunt, this time distasteful. “Not by anyone I can track,” was his response. “I just don’t want to get complacent and walk smack-bang into a guy that’s waiting for one of us to slip up.” He shuddered. “Or an ex. Better to keep eyes out.”
“You wouldn’t really see Tsuki if she was after you.” Kazane frowned. “Sorry. That’s not helpful.”
“It’s helpful to you if it means you don’t get complacent,” Kentaro responded, and suddenly he was all smiles again. “Speaking of ex’s, how’s Razor?”
Kazane huffed. “Holding up. Only crashed her three more times since we parted ways. And she’s come back every time.”
A snicker. “The last time I crashed mine, it was on purpose,” he noted dryly. “How the hell do you keep managing that?”
She lifted a finger. “AA guns.” Another. “A rotor broke.” A third. “...I veered too close to an asteroid. That one was my bad.”
The snicker became an outright guffaw. When he was done, Kentaro wiped an eye. “Sometimes I wonder why the hell I put my faith in you,” he sighed. “Ever. At least you’re consistent in how you let me down.”
Kazane finished passing the knife between her fingers - and it vanished at some point that Kentaro couldn’t discern. “You know why. The sky’s fun, but it’s not my element. The shadows are.” She flipped her wrist around to show the knife slotted in to a strap on the back of her arm, and then sheathed it. “Speaking of rides, though-” she gave him a split-second warning glare, “-I met a Shinso who claims to be the best biker there is. Crazy motherfucker thinks he’s invincible. I’d love to see you kick his ass in a race sometime.”
“... does he, now?” Kentaro leaned backwards slightly despite the fact he was standing, arms folded, a contemplative expression on his face. “On the ship, I presume. I’ll keep an eye out, and my seat warm. Someone that can piss you off for being cocky is a guy that needs that ass-kicking you’re prescribing.” The contemplation turned into an anticipatory grin. “Hopefully there’s some skill to back up the bravado. I haven’t had a solid race for a long time.”
“He’s way too confident to be incompetent,” Kazane asserted. “Don’t underestimate him, but don’t let him baffle you either. A guy that claims he’s above the gods has a way of doing that. Even you aren’t that arrogant.”
He blinked. “H-hold up, claimed he was what now?”
“You heard me.” Kazane grinned. “Bastard says he’s… what was it, ‘the blade that will surpass the gods?’ Something like that.”
Kentaro couldn’t help himself. He burst out laughing.
“I would have found it funny myself, if I weren’t so damn confused at the time,” Kazane noted when he took a moment to breathe.
He descended into another fit of intense chuckling before finally managing to get a hold on himself again. “We are going to get along excellently,” the man grinned. His tone suggested he meant the opposite to his words. He exhaled, before clearing his throat. “Anyway. Does the cap have any special work considerations? ‘Don’t go here’, ‘no dismembering each other’, ‘no peeking on me in the shower’, stuff like that? Or we playing it loose?”
“I haven’t heard anything outside of the normal hunter regs,” Kazane replied. “Obviously, don’t go flaunting your… friend.”
“Thought I was the paranoid one.” He lifted his hands. “And I won’t do any ‘special’ shit either. I’d be afraid that Tamearin woman’d kick me off the ship if she knew how loaded I was.” A smirk. “And I wouldn’t want to mess up a chance to work with a lovely lady like yourself again.”
“She seemed tempted to kick me and Nick off with the information she had,” Kazane deadpanned. “Shame her species are so combative about augs. She’d be kinda cute too, if she toned down the bitchiness.” Kazane shrugged. “I’m sure that won’t be a problem for you, though.”
Kentaro tilted his head slightly, dithering. “... nah, that’s askin’ for more trouble than I’m comfortable with,” he decided at last. “She’s on this ship, so she’s probably not bad in a fight either. At the very least. Got enough crazy ex’s that could kill me in my sleep already. Don’t need another.”
“Fearless Ken is backing down? You’ve gone soft,” Kazane accused.
As if in counterpoint, he rapped his knuckles on the opposite arm. The soft thuds of flesh on cloth and flesh sounded. “Kaz, Kaz, Kaz. I’m always rock-solid. Going soft is never on the cards.”
“You should get that checked out. Pretty sure that’s a medical condition,” the Japanese woman snarked back.
Kentaro’s smirk merely widened. Rather abruptly, he declared; “Oh, I’ve missed having you around. Looking forward to the bruises.”
Kazane cracked her mechanical knuckles. “So am I.”