I n f i n i t y
To The Edge and Beyond
More than anything else, it was always quiet. Noise and the sounds of living are often taking for granted as they are - wake up and go to work with various sounds signalling that you're still a breathing entity in reality. That's how it usually is all over the globe, no matter which part, hemisphere, or country you go to. This only applies to the boundaries of a mere planet however. In the totality of the universe, there isn't much noise to greet you. No sounds of life hovering around to let you know that you're alive, save for the dulled thump of your heartbeat. More than anything else, it was also quiet - the universe and its vastness. Except - more than any singular planet - life was much more abundant in the infinite reaches of the universe. All manner of star vehicles hovered to and fro, some carrying cargo and others carrying passengers to their destinations. Strategically placed law enforcement watched the flow of multiple traffic lines to ensure proper order and their safety before anything else. Star ports were bustling with activity and, despite the fact that noise wasn't very apparent in space itself, the state of living seemed much higher among the stars.
Warden Vice Mitchell gazed up at the beige clouds and sky of the prison planet, Arch Maximus. The entire planet itself was a beige color; most thought it to be caused by the fact that it almost purely composed of rocky formations and desert lands with underground rivers, lakes, and streams for water. Since it was a mostly windy planet, many figured that the dust from the dry rocks had melded with the atmosphere to create the sandpaper sky above. It had been dusty and windy for centuries after all. The color of the sky didn't concern the Warden however. As he rubbed his grey beard and swiveled back around to the metal desk, his thoughts went back to the events that had transpired a month prior. It had taken a year or two, but the Claustrum had finally found its criminal crew and had left Arch Maximus for a UIG sponsored space port near the edge of the Center World Star System. Mitchell shook his head disapprovingly at the thoughts. A guard entered the room at the same time, his steps echoing on the metal floor underneath. The Warden didn't turn around as the guard entered, saluted, and placed his plasma rifle down on the floor next to him in an "at ease" position.
"It's a fucking shame, you know that?" Mitchell said, still without turning.
"What's a shame, sir?" The guard replied in formal fashion. Mitchell raised a hand nonchalantly and the guard's posture immediately eased up.
"This whole... Suicide mission or business or whatever. It's a fucking disgrace. Why in the hell would the most organized government of our time formally back and allow this foolery?"
"I have no idea, sir,"
"Their criminals, right?"
Yes sir, they are indeed,"
"Exactly, their criminals. The scum of the earth, sent here to rot away or die from manual labor. Doesn't really matter how, as long as they do die. What the hell's this system coming to? And then the weapons; I had to specially sign off on forms allowing each and every one of those bastards to carry a fucking handgun. Custom installed security granted, but it's still a god damn disgrace. I hope they die out there,"
The guard remained silent.
"I know it's harsh boy, but this is real life after all - can't have dangerous assholes like these earning their freedom. That's why they decided that an entire planet should become a prison after all. Too many fucking lunatics in the galaxy as it is, we can't have them roaming around on government sanctioned missions, even if it is supposed to a 99% guaranteed chance of ship destruction and crew death. What did you come in here for again?"
The Arius spaceport was a rather large one. It was near the border of the Center Worlds Star System so it had every right to its massive size and depth. Cruisers frequently came in and out of docking dropping off all manner of cargo from passengers to crates and shipment freights. Besides that, it also served as a hub for the many citizens who wished to travel between systems. Mostly businessmen and the like did this, but there were always a few civilians who were traveling for vacations. The thing was, since this was the Center Worlds Star System, there were often people from outer worlds trying to get in. Arius was mostly a hub for these "refugees", as people called them although they didn't fit the technical definition of a refugee. The Center Worlds always seemed very appealing to those in the outer worlds because the UIG only operated within its borders. Only a select few outer worlds - like Samara for instance - ever even interacted with the UIG and that was usually because such planets harbored something of interest.
A warship labelled with The Claustrum on its massive hull sat docked in one of the private ports. A crowd of security stood all around it and even blocked Arius workers from performing normal maintenance duties. At the moment, the ship was getting refueled and something important was going on inside. Every worker who walked past could see it and wondered, but more people were concerned with the fact that there was an actual warship in the dock. Warships were thought to have been destroyed after the treaty was drawn up by the UIG many years prior. Whispers fluttered around the room as nervous Arius crew wandered by and were made even more nervous by the presence of a ship that was fabled to have enough firepower to take out a moon. Within the ship however - in the conference room to be exact - a variety of criminal individuals sat around large oval table. Their hands and feet were both shackled and security personnel stood all around the table at the walls of the large room. The head of security walked slowly around the table, hands behind his back and a stern expression on his face.
"I won't stoop down so low as to fill my words with belittlement and insults. I have no time for such in any case," The man took a breath and stopped at the head of the table. "As you all know, you're here to complete a single mission. That is to bring back a certain item from a planet called Novalis. Novalis is located at the far edge of the mega galaxy and is largely uncharted territory. We know a little about it, but nothing relevant that you'd need to know at this point. The point is, you've been chosen for this mission for the sole reason that you are beings who do not deserve to live. Therefore, the UIG has decided to spare the lives of good men and send worthless thugs on a mission with a ninety-nine percent chance of complete crew death and vessel destruction. You already know this information so let's move on to your Bonds," The man took another breath and a sip of water this time that had been placed at the table. One of the guards from the wall stepped up in a rigid position.
"Your bonds are special devices that allow your location to be tracked. They are also able to keep your behavior in line should you try to escape or get out of hand. They are programmed to dispatch a lethal mix of chemical that will exterminate your existence should you try and do one of the following things: Shooting or attacking your crew mates with any weapon, getting out of range of the Claustrum which constitutes an escape attempt, or tampering with the Bond itself in any way either physically or remotely through the use of technology. All these things will result in the injection which will kill you in thirty seconds." The guard said in a serious, monotone voice. The head of security nodded and the guard stepped back.
"You don't have to like each other, but we won't have you needlessly killing each other if there's even a sliver of a chance that this mission can succeed. However, if you want to kill yourselves, feel free to do us all a favor. Now then, onto to your weapons. Obviously you don't deserve anything due to your histories, but we need to provide you with a basic form of defense to increase chances of success. You'll all be provided with a basic MD-22 codenamed "Dominator". The Dominator is one of the few handguns without a Mass Driver. It was especially customized for you people and remains in a constant safe mode until it identifies a threat. It will scan the target you point it at and will decide if it's a threat in two seconds or less. It determines threat status based on a variety of factors - behavior of the target, body gestures, mannerisms, overall body language, etc. It fires energy shots that are generated within the weapon itself, so there is no need of ammunition. Obviously, you know what happens if you point it at each other... It may determine a status, but the Bond will react before then. Think carefully about your actions from here on out if you truly want to live,"
The head of security paused to let the information sink in.
"Finally, I'll give you your first objective. To get the far reaches of the galaxy, you'll have to reach the Drive Gate in the Cryxian Star System. However, in order to use it, you'll need a Drive Key. Unfortunately, this ship lost its Drive Key in ancient times. You'll have to retrieve one of the few we know exists on a planet called Fantasia. Once you've retrieved the Key, your mission will truly begin. That is all." The head of security nodded and all the personnel exited from the room. He scoffed one last time and exited himself, letting the automatic door whoosh closed behind him. A beeping noise began after that and ten seconds later, the shackles on the hands and feet of the criminals opened automatically and doors in the walls opened pushed out Dominator handgunds towards each chair of the oval table. As soon as each person touched the grip of one, an AI voice played out in their mind.
MD-22, Dominator active... Scanning... ID identified. No threat detected. Dominator will be locked and unable to fire.
As Kurt's message finished, he heaved a heavy sigh and rubbed his wrists where the shackles had been. He could still feel the weight and cold metal of the bond on his right ankle, but at least he could move freely now. Considering everything, he figured the group had been given very little information. They had been put through formal release procedures together for the last month and had gotten to know one another a little, but they had been promised more info throughout all of that and now that the time had come, Kurt honestly felt tricked. Of course, he couldn't complain about government officials lying to prisoners serving life sentences on Arch Maximus - what right did he have? Dismissing the thoughts for now, he placed his Dominator into the holster on his right side and stood from the table. It felt good to be in real clothing again.
Kurt wore a black shirt with a brown leather jacket, navy blue cargo pants with many pockets, and black combat boots. Even if the outfit was normal to him, he felt out of place amongst the different beings in the room. He had interacted with alien life for a pretty long time, but a lot of the different races appeared to be pretty menacing. He sighed again and rubbed the back of his neck as he stretched his legs a bit. "So uh... " Kurt stumbled. How did you break the ice in a group of like this? What was there to say? They had their first objective and they had been given everything they were going to get from the officials. The ship was probably finished refueling too. Kurt could feel that it was almost time to for takeoff and then he'd be able to chill in the cockpit and get to know the AI. That would be better than the awkward situation he now found himself in. He figured most people would retreat to their quarters for the time being, but he couldn't know for sure.
With that, he leaned against the wall and folded his arms. No matter how he looked at it, this was a shitty situation that only had the outcome of death. Not that he hadn't expected that when he was first offered anyway, but the reality was beginning to set in. He was actually "free" in a sense. At least, he was more free than he ever was on Arch Maximus. Just being able to breathe without dirt filling his lungs was a luxury to Kurt. He decided to make his way to the cockpit, but stopped at the door.
"I'm gonna head up to the cockpit... Get this ol' girl ready for liftoff and shit. They said before that the only areas of the ship open were the cockpit, our quarters, and the mess hall. Apparently, they stocked up on some food for uhh... For each of our kind too. The rest of the areas are supposed to unlock when we cross the system border... If anybody needs me, you know where to find me." Kurt awkwardly addressed the group as the door whooshed open and closed and he exited the room. Reality had hit home indeed. Kurt Dyson was finally getting away from Arch Maximus and travelling the galaxy as he'd always wanted to do. Of course, being a criminal wasn't part of the plan, but life rarely ever went they way we wanted it to go.
Baked potatoes… That’s it, she thought, baked potatoes.
She was not paying attention to what was being said, who was in the room, or what was going on. She was in her own world trying to decide what he first meal would be. Originally she thought of something fancy, couscous and pieces of lamb with a dab of oil and a sauce that danced on her tongue and left a mild sensation at the back of her throat. She liked that, she had that on Jjikor. Then she decided on something simpler, in case the ship didn’t stock the ingredients she wanted. She thought of several Samaran recipes. It was a simple planet with simple tastes.
Scrambled eggs, crispy bacon and a cup of caffeine – she never really liked caffeine – lot of red sauce as well, as she liked that as a child. Then her mind moved onto a humbler food, soup or broth. Wolff was a popular choice in Bristol, chocked full of vegetables, gravy, and homemade bread that was sold by the nearby dock wives while they waited for their husbands to get home from the harbour.
Then she thought of potatoes, and baked potatoes especially. Large, thick, crispy skinned ones. A square of butter on top that would melt, lathering the potatoes in a creamy golden hue. A topping of Meer cheese and a side order of kidney beans, slightly warmed, just to help the cheese and butter combine.
Yes, baked potatoes. She thought once more.
A queer thought suddenly crossed her mind as the head of security kept prattling on – he was a tall, gruff and serious man, a parody of himself she thought – if Dr. Vandergrift could read her mind now. After their last session, the good doctor was somewhat unnerved but Elysia had answered, finally, so many questions the good doctor wanted to hear. But if she could read her thoughts now Elysia suspected she would be surprised, as, for that matter, would anyone else if they could read her inner dialogue. A young girl, a murderer and a terrorist and at one point, the UIG’s second most wanted, was not concerned with the fact that she had been released onto an obvious suicidal objective with chances they would never return, no, none of that troubled her.
She was debating over what to eat first.
‘Baked potatoes.’ She whispered to herself as the head of security finished with whatever he was saying, she caught none of it. He looked like he had just stepped in the steepest amount of dog shit ever as he gave them all one final look. Then he left.
A few seconds later their shackles came off, then followed the weapons. She was the last of the fortunate ones to take hold of her designated firearm. One finger at a time she went, wrapped around the fore grip. It was an exhilarating feeling to hold a weapon again though the charm of that slowly faded. The design, it had no faults, it was sleek, she liked the design actually. But it was safe, she didn’t like that. It was the type of thing you give to a child to ensure they made it back safely from school, it was the type of gun a thirteen year old grabbed from his father’s sock draw and would pull out during a pissing contest, just to prove a point.
“So uh,” A voice sounded out around. It was unsure what to say, or what to do really. Kurt, as she had come to know him by, was the man behind the voice. “I’m going to head up to the cockpit… Get this ol’ girl ready for lift off and shit. They said before that the only areas of the ship open were the cockpit, our quarters, and the mess hall. Apparently, they stocked up on some food for uhh… Each of our kind.”
She smiled. Granted, alien species rarely came to Samara, she didn’t even meet an alien until she went off world but she quickly learned that they, just like humans, all had the same codes and fears and sins and virtues and policies and morals and secrets and rebels and gods and tyrants. The only difference she saw was superficial. Two arms, three arms, eight eyes, a pair of wings. Three breasts or a dick and a vagina or nothing at all. Then again, with the modern advances of surgery, humanity too could have both a dick and vagina or nothing at all if they so wished.
“The rest of the areas are supposed to unlock when we cross the system border… If anybody needs me, you know where to find me.” Then he, like the head of security, left.
‘I’m going to eat,’ she said, just barely audible to the room.
Baked potatoes. Her thoughts on her food again as she left.
Sean simply stared at the table, deep in thought, not making eye contact. He put the same scenario through his mind a dozen times. The same replayed scene of him getting caught, it kept reverberating in his brain. Did my family sell me out? No, they would never do that. He thought, his facial expression in a mix of anger and sadness. It was his own fault for getting caught, the cops came in at the last possible second. He was the last one to the vehicle, one of pigs got him with a stun shot. His comrades got away because of his own capture. The car already disappeared into traffic, his family completed the ultimate heist. It would make them the most notorious criminal group on the planet. His sacrifice made his family.
Sean entered reality once more, his focus exiting his thoughts. He looked up, glancing around the blank room, him and the other criminal scum. Pretty fucking ugly aliens and some big authority figure who was blabbing about a suicide mission, it was a regular party in this room, and of course the guards, making sure that no one had too much fun. The man kept going on and on, the only words so far that caught Sean's attention were the ones about the 'deadly' security bond on each prisoner, Sean's being on his right ankle. Apparently if they tried to fiddle with it, it would kill them. There has to be a way around them, there was most likely a console of some kind that controlled all the bonds, if Sean ever got to it, he could hack into it, then let all of his 'friends' free and start a good ole fashion riot.
The man then mentioned something about a gun they would each get, some fancy piece of crap that could identify friend or foe. Probably electronic, with a vulnerable set of internal mechanisms. These authoritarians had made quite the mistake of leaving the best human security hacker on a ship full of security related electronics. He'd be like a mouse in a house crammed with cheese in every nook and cranny. But for now, he'd have to keep a low profile, and make some allies. The humans seemed like an obvious option. Lord only knows if these extraterrestrials even spoke a word of English.
He glanced around the room just as the blabbering doofus finished spouting empty words and baseless threats. Sean had dealt with pigs before, they all talked big, but all squealed the same. Prison being no different, Sean's family had taught him that prison guards were just as, if not more vulnerable than the prisoners. Something was odd about this situation though, these obviously weren't cops, some hired goons posing as a security force? Probably. The security man backed out of the room, followed by his lackeys. The chains they had put on each of Sean's fellow prisoners released, letting them free, well except for the deadly bracelets.
As everyone started to get out of their seats, Sean quickly scanned each face. He saw a good amount of humans, his eyes focused on a human female, a pretty one at that. Looks like someone that Sean would have to work the legendary Irish charm on. But he had a nagging feeling that he seen that pretty face before, they were all criminals, he had to have heard of at least a few of them. Once he started figuring out names then he could pick out the ones he had heard of before. He took his eyes off the female, then looked around, he thought of getting up from his seat, but didn't know where to send himself, maybe to his personal quarters? He was about to rise up when someone spoke, breaking the uneasy silence. A human male, the first one to speak, it seemed to Sean like this fellow was trying to assert himself as the leader, the way he recounted the words spoken by the pig. Sean stood up, stretching out his legs, then arms. He turned around, grabbing the weapon they had been issued.
He glanced over the firearm, it was a nice piece, but didn't suit Sean. He preferred the more classical style guns, not some bullshit foe detecting safety gun. But he would have to make due with what he had. Just as long as the weapon worked when he needed to, he would be happy with it. Sean stuck the weapon in the back of pants, then covered it with his shirt. He wore simple clothing, a white t shirt, black slacks and a dark grey beanie. At least they didnt't stick all of them in retarded matching prison jumpsuits, which was something to be happy about.
And they are feeding us, which must be something they hate, having to feed people they just want to see die. He thought, deciding that he would either go to the mess hall or just wander around and get suited to his new home. He decided upon going out the nearest exit and heading for the mess hall, which is exactly what he did.
"What!" It wasn't very loud, though it was highly surprised. The mission hadn't been clarified at any point, but any one here likely had a good assumption what it would be before they even sat down today. They were going to be traded for something or they were going to go somewhere that wasn't legally sound. Whatever the mission was to be, it was something that they wouldn't waste good, precious lives on. However, 99% causality? What sort of odds were those? Had that been a joke? There was practically a 100% chance of failing? Why would they waste the resources and the time on something with such absurd odds? Even if everything else was expendable, these fancy little guns and those lethal armaments had to cost quite a bit and took some time to produce. Yet, all of it was somehow worth it?
She was now going to be in a terrible mood.
It wasn't as if she honestly cared. No. From the moment she was selected she was hellbent on not going through with the mission. She would find some way around it. While outside of the UIG's oh-so-penetrating field of vision machinery could mess up. Highly technical devices could...Falter and a few resources could be lost. That was her plan from the very start. She would be careful, naturally, and take all the time she needed, but she planned to find a way out of all the UIG's carefully thought out precautions. She was absolutely certain that she was not one of the many variables that they took into account. It may not be tomorrow or the day after, but she was going to be one of the few to survive this mission. She'd do whatever it took.
Though all that didn't matter. No. She wasn't angry that she was on a deathtrap right now. She was angry that they thought she was so easily disposable. That she was worth a mere 1% chance. As if she were the most insignificant thing to take for account. That was stupid and insulting. Crimminal or not she was still highly skilled, specialized, and there was no other like her in all the galaxy. She was the prized gem of the Rosarian culture being the only Rosarian-human in all of existence. She was stronger than any Rosarian and smarter than 95% [Self Proposed] of humanity. How could they not realize that she was a diamond among coals? If anything, the UIG should send this pathetic, sloppy lot out first and, after they failed the mission miserably, properly plan and calculate and then send her out on a mission that was well prepared for what it was getting into. She was assuredly last resort materiel. To be the treated like the initial test rat was...Disgusting. It was enraging! She found herself sending hateful, irate glares at the man that had the burden of explaining the mission criteria to them. She watched him like a hawk that just witnessed someone lurking towards her nest. He seeed the sort of arrogant, tight-ass that would probably take her glare as a complement. He wouldn't worry or take them to heart, because she was locked up and he was able to go home later today. The filthy bastard. As if he were better than her. He was that sort of man. He thought they were worse than the bugs he walked over. He should know better.
Murderers can hold nasty grudges.
He explained everything in detail and really nothing bothered her so much as the 99%. She expected all the other precautions. She was a little surprised by the nature of the weapons however. They were a little too restricting. They could very well be manipulated by the target, should the target ever figure out how they worked. Two seconds was also quite a while in a gunfight. But, that really didn't matter to her either. She didn't plan on taking the weapon or any of the weapons that would be offered to her. In fact, she would rather never have to see one being fired. A weapon and a Rosarian did not go together in the slightest. It was honestly a good thing that they did not know this. It was a critical weakness and one that she refused to be exploited.
"I guess we are done here..." Elizabetha would say after Kurt scurried out, her bright green eyes following him. Was all that information he gave really necessary? It was like he was telling his parents where he was going to be so that they could call for him later. There weren't many in here who honestly cared where he went off too. Then again, that was likely mostly Elizabetha's own prejudices. She didn't care for anyone in here. Not as anything more than people that she was forced, by the threat of death, to be in a crammed space with. She realized, after Kurt left, that her way of thinking was flawed. Sure, there is little point getting to know them because they were all going to eventually die. Even if this mission was a success, the UIG would probably send them back to that hellish place or just execute them to tie up a loose end. That was why Elizabetha's motivation was not successfully completing the mission but surviving it. Likely, many others weren't even thinking in that fashion. Some were probably in awe and wonder about the potential item they were seeking out or that they were on a legendary warship or that they were going to travel into space that was a story-book adventure. As far as Elizabetha was concerned, everyone here was stupid, useless, and she'd honestly rather they stayed on their side of the ship while she stayed on hers. Still, Elizabetha would do well in knowing the abilities and capabilities of those in here. She didn't really recognize them as some of them were arrested while she was on her homeworld while the rest while she was heavily involved in her studies at the University. It would be nothing but beneficial to know who could do what and who was completely useless to her. Like a Yilnar. Completely useless race. There was nothing beneficial from one of them. The exact opposite of that, though, was a Quobalan. Simply ignoring a Quobalan could end up with Elizabeth in a worse situation than she was already in. So, now that the specifics of this mission were made clear, it was about time Elizabetha started gathering information.
Elizabetha would run a hand through her jet black, thick hair. It felt wonderful to be able to do that freely. She would stand up as she twirled a piece of hair. She had been given a pretty long list of clothing options. She chose a very short dress and some heels. The sort of clothing that she was the most comfortable in. The dress hugged her curves, dipping and weaving around her well toned form, and stopped about 8 inches after her waists to show off most of her legs, especially while sitting. The dress was black with white, etched seams. It was short sleeved, of a thin material, and exposed a little bit of cleavage. It was the sort of dress that a fresh secretary would work in an office full of men with a lot of money in their pockets. The heels, only a few inches, were completely black. Something fleshy and flashy was the sort of thing the woman preferred and was probably going to be everything that she had that wasn't armored. The reason? Because she was pretty and she liked to show off everything she had. She was proud of her looks and was the sort of woman that would have even put on make-up before this meeting. The only thing that made her feel so out of place was the Bond. Her Bond was on her right arm and it was heavy on her.
Standing, Elizabetha would leave her gun. She would never fire it so there wasn't any point in taking it. Someone could just have two of them. She had a feeling that a few of the monstrosities here would be more than happy to go around with both weapons as if they could take down the entire world. Counting, three left before she even completely stood up. She wasn't reading them, so she couldn't really tell where they were going or their motivations about where they were going, but that didn't matter. The only one that she had been truly interested in was the Quobalan anyway.
Elizabetha had avoided talking to the Quobalan all this time for various reasons. Elizabetha had a few days where she just needed to breathe and mostly confined herself to her room for about a week after. She hadn't really been in a position to "associate" for the last two weeks, but she still hadn't bothered because she didn't even know why she was there. She didn't know if any of them would be on the same mission or if, for some television set, they would all due battle in some giant field for some sick crowds entertainment. She didn't know, before now, if even conversing with the others was worth the effort. Likely, almost all the others were in a similar situation. But that was changed now. They were all going to be a crew and that meant, unfortunately, that Elizabetha would have to stop imagining who she would kill first and how she would kill the rest.
"Quobalan," Elizabetha would start, she turned towards the door, her hair flipping about due to it's length. Elizabetha had a natural strut about her that was only exggerated in those highly inappropriate clothes. She continued walking to the door as she spoke, not actually looking directly at who she was speaking too, "I would like to have a word with you. I'll be in one of the open areas. Come find me when you have the time," Polite. Elizabetha could manage that when speaking to a Quobalan. Fortunately, there were various races that she could. She went to a highly diverse University and dealt with so many types, though mostly humans. Intelligent, civilized and sophisticated species were completely respectable in her opinion. However, that wasn't to say that she would ever speak to something like a Kzinti, Yilnar or a Malmooth with anything other than disgust. There was a level of respectability that Elizabetha did cap herself at.
Elizabetha would leave right then. She wouldn't wait for an actual response. Instead, she was going to head to the largest resting area that had at least chairs and a table.
Nizaali hated sitting down. A Quobalan, even one wearing a biped-suit, didn't have a reason to sit. Sure, the suit had cosmetic joints built into it, but they were simply that—cosmetic. There were many parts of the suit that served no function other than to satisfy the simple minds of the biped races; Nizaali's, for instance, had a front shaped like a pair of modest breasts; the body, shaped with slightly more curves than the male model, was even detailed subtly as to appear more feminine. She found it more... convenient to identify as a female while she worked for Red Azazel, her former crime syndicate. She typically dealt with human men, and typically they were more easily swayed by a woman's presence—even an alien woman. She wasn't sure how useful it would be to identify as a female in her current situation, but she had no other choice; she'd likely be stuck with her current biped-suit for a long, long time. Thankfully, the last model she picked before being arrested was sleek, simple, and black; she could accessorize it any way she needed with human clothing and adornments.
Right now, she was thankful she didn't have joints, or she would probably be feeling pain from the way her hands and feet were shackled. Fortunately, she could move her “limbs” any way she desired without hurting herself. Sitting, however, was very uncomfortable, and she would never get used to the feeling. Quobalan sometimes needed to practice for years to master a biped-suit, but without one they most certainly would never be able to interact directly with other species. Such an idea was anathema to her people; they wanted to—needed to—learn about every other culture in the galaxy. Their suits were the vehicle with which they could achieve this desire. Unfortunately, they needed to learn how to walk and sit in them—which was akin to a Human learning how to fly with prosthetic wings. It was a good thing a Quobalan had all the time in the world to learn.
Nizaali mastered the use of the biped-suit decades ago. But, no matter how hard she tried, she could never find comfort in sitting. It certainly didn't help that she had a strange device, the Bond, attached to the back of her head like some vulgar cybernetic implant. She had hoped that the Bond would be placed on her suit somewhere, but her captors were obviously smart enough to figure out that she could simply slip out of it.
She listened carefully to the instructions given by the security force, marking every detail in her memory. Information was important, no matter how miniscule it might be. Information was power; information could get you anywhere in the galaxy. A fact that seemed useless to someone might prove to save their life in the distant future—a notion that was lost on the fleeting Humans, and many other short-lived biped races.
She had previously tried to learn everything she could about her new companions, but she found it difficult to learn anything beyond a name, species, and various rumors regarding their crimes. She would have to get to know them, one by one, to determine their value to her. She had already decided that most of the crew members were highly intelligent in some way, which pleasantly surprised her. Most of her dealings with the criminals on Arch Maximus failed to be mentally engaging in any way; she was thankful that she could at least have a conversation with someone aboard the Claustrum.
As the security team exited the room and the shackles disappeared, Nizaali's head began to glow in a myriad of colors—first a deep violet, then a flash of turquoise, then a fiery red. Another Quobalan would have recognized her signal of relief, but the others in the room simply gazed at her with varying reactions. When she first began interacting with aliens, she would often gauge what others thought of her presence, but ultimately she concluded that most races had no appreciation for the complexity of her language—they saw her as merely a flashing, colorful light bulb to either admire or mock.
She stood up and straightened herself out as the aforementioned weapon protruded from the wall near her. She grasped it and attached it to her suit; she would likely never use it, but she wouldn't dare turn down any tools given to her. At this point, the crew began to disperse from the room. As Nizaali was contemplating whether to head to the mess or her quarters, the Rosarian female named Elizabetha suddenly began speaking to her.
It startled her, at first. She had been watching the girl, or woman—she had a hard time determining the age of bipeds—and noticed the extreme emotions playing on her face during the security briefing. Nizaali acknowledged that Elizabetha was rumored to be the most deranged person aboard the vessel, but knew that she was extremely intelligent besides. In fact, the Rosarian woman was one of the first people she wanted to get to know, considering how culturally similar their two species were. Based on what she heard, however, Nizaali knew that Elizabetha was anything but a typical Rosarian.
Elizabetha beckoned for her to follow in a manner that belied her high-status upbringing, complete with an air of superiority that permeated the entire room. Deciding she had nothing better to do, she followed after a minute or two had passed. She found the woman sitting at a table in what looked like a lounge area, and briefly admired her appearance—a woman with her looks could accomplish much with nothing more than a whispered word—and moved to a nearby chair, leaning on it rather than sitting.
Speaking was always an event with a Quobalan. They did not speak through mouths; instead, the sounds emanated from their bodies in melodic reverberations that were often preceded by eerie lingering notes—in truth, mimicking speech was a difficult task for a Quobalan that required many fine combinations of different sounds to achieve the desired result. Ultimately, they could speak with a near-perfect accent in any tongue they desired to learn, albeit their speech patterns were always more musical and lilting. Nizaali decided to use her linguistic gift now to speak in Elizabetha's own tongue.
The language of the Rosa'a was pleasing for Nizaali to form; it was beautiful and respectable, much more so than most of the simple biped languages. The words came quickly, “Greetings, Rosarian. We have much to discuss, I presume.”
Lis felt the shackle carefully, tentatively, it was located around his waist. It was an unusual feeling to know that his life could be turned off at any second. He wasn't so much scared as unsettled, and this was displayed subtly as the chromatophores in his skin shifted, producing a very slight crimson pigment at the highlights. However there were some upsides to being enlisted in a suicide mission. Arch Maximus was a dusty, rusty, stifling rock of planet. In other words completely boring, utterly hideous and completely unsuitable for a sepiida. The Claustrum was a quite literally refreshing contrast, given the sepiida's unusual skin. Lis was highly sensitive to air quality, with a preference for cool, moist environments. The opposite of Arch Maximus and while the Claustrum was a tad dry for his taste he appreciated the clean air which was filling his system.
Lis paid attention during the talk, taking mental notes, which he would later convert to hard copies. Given these would control his life, knowing how to follow, and bend them, would prove vital. He assumed that the man giving them the introduction was not exactly happy with them, he found it hard to interpret human emotions by the voice but he was much better at understanding the tone of their voices. Understandable given that Lis was one of the most successive solo serial killers without an army background, not too mention most of his crimes turned the stomachs of other humans. They were quite a squeamish race he thought to himself. Lis held the weapon he had received in his hand, testing the weight and feel of it. It was smooth, light, clearly cutting edge technology. He assumed it was anyway, he never had much of a mind for physics and electronics. He had no experience with guns, if it came down to it, Lis thought he'd be more comfortable using improvised weapons.
The security team left and Lis felt a sense of freedom, a warm feeling he hadn't felt in years. He knew it wasn't total freedom but he felt light, he shook himself down, taking a few deep breathes. He felt a shiver of excitement. New worlds to explore, new ecosystems, new pathogens, new science. The crew was pleasantly small as well. Finding piece and quiet would not be difficult aboard the ship. Stretching his newly freed limbs, and contorting his body, Lis explored his new found freedom.
However before finding piece and quiet, Lis had a more pressing concern. Food. The food on Arch Maximus had been unsatisfactory to say the least. Lev was experiencing deficiencies in several vitamins, and a severe deficiency in potassium. His body was screaming for fish and dark leaves, or baked potatoes. A combination of those would be ideal he thought to himself. The pleasant prospect of food gave rise to a purring sound from the whole of Lis's body, and his chromatophores shifted again, producing a green tinge to his skin , replacing the crimson and his patterning shifted excitedly.
As Lis went to exit the room, he continued to purr, and his skin continued to shimmer. His mind wandered and drifted from the prospect of adventure or imminent death (practically synonyms as it turned out), he wondered what other species ate, how the other aliens worked, their talents and the abilities each of their races were gifted with. Lis made another mental note, no dissecting companions. He was almost certain that would qualify as harming them. Making his way towards the mess hall he continued his train of though, w-shaped pupils skitting back and forth excitedly. He wondered whether any of their crew were nocturnal. So many things to ponder and so little time now, given their probable imminent deaths.
"Oh well, have fun while it lasts." Murmured Lis, a rosy pink spreading over his now pale blue coloured skin.
They had shackled his hands. His feet too, but that wasn't as important. He wanted his hands freed. They rubbed against his wrists, an unnatural feeling he wished to get rid of as soon as he could. With a deep sigh, Yusaath did his best to ignore the unwelcome squeeze of the shackles, listening to the man at the head of the table. UIG wasn't taking any risks, it seemed. He couldn't blame them. From what he gathered, he was sharing space with worse criminals than he himself was. He hadn't had the chance to get to know anyone properly, and it had been a month since they had left Arch Maximus. A part of Yusaath had regretted leaving the place. Arch Maximus was far from a nice place, but it had given him at least some contact with his own race; contact he was sorely missing now.
Outsiders had always been so very different from Erucan, all about eyesight and individualism. They did not need closeness and affection as the Erucan did. In some ways Yusaath had more in common with them than his own people. He was glad for it too. Any other of his kind would have rather died on Arch Maximus. His kin on the prison planet were proof of that fact. Some of them had considered the idea of freedom terrifying. Others didn't want to be separated from their new family. As much as Yusaath missed them, he admitted that they were cowards.
The half-breed who called herself Elizabetha Belrose seemed surprised by the casualty rate. Yusaath couldn't blame her. By all accounts, a mission like this would be a complete waste of time. He couldn't help but let out a short chuckle. That was why they had chosen criminals instead of good men then. Well, they might have saved a few respectable mens lives, but they were expecting criminals to work together. They would still lose the Claustrum. It was a shame, he couldn't help but think.
As thankful as Yusaath was for the information this man was willing to give them, the chains surrounding his arms hadn't stopped agitating him. The man didn't seem to have interest in staying around longer than necessary though. He stopped his lecture and quickly after disappeared from the room, the guards following him. With a few clicks of his mandibles, he checked for the location the gun and picked it up. In all honesty, Yusaath had never felt much love for guns.
The Claustrums pilot, Kurt spoke up, his words stilted and awkward. A part of Yusaath could not blame him. All the aliens made such curious sounds, though many of them he knew were. Kurt was lucky. Yusaaths lower hands rubbed at his upper wrists, trying to get rid of the uncomfortable itch the shackles had left behind. A low, rough hum left his throat, the Erucan version of a grimace. The human pilot had left for the cockpit, quickly followed by others of the crew. Yusaath doubted he would find proper companionship among this aliens, a thought that hit him deep inside. He buried it there. He would need to make do. He had to.
Standing up and lowering the gun on the table, the Erucan made a short, sweeping offer of open palms to all left in the room. A polite gesture, even if he knew that the others wouldn't have the instinct to return it.
"It will be interesting to see how long we'll survive," he said to them with a light and joking tone, before leaving the room, gun in his hand. He would take it in his quarters, and then find his way to the mess hall. Or maybe he could go to and see the pilot instead. Yusaath wasn't sure yet.
"The point is, you've been chosen for this mission for the sole reason that you are beings who do not deserve to live."
Several iridescent indigo crest feathers began to rise defensively on the back of Ryl'Det's head and neck. His was a species that survived off the basis of instinct; it took considerable conditioning to be able to completely silence the primal urge to submit to his impulses. He didn't particularly enjoy working against his body like this, but it was necessary to demonstrate self-control, here, if he didn't plan on ending up with only the beast-man for company. Or was the thing more of a man-beast? He hadn't decided which side was dominant on the... thing. But he was certain that information would reveal itself in due time.
At any rate, Ryl'Det, was able to stop the rogue feathers without much difficulty. He'd had to master "politeness" (the human version of it, at least) back at Arch Maximus, if he didn't like being beat. Of course, he had enough natural weapons to easily kill a human in unarmed combat, but using them on inmates would've left him dead several times over, meaning that he'd had to resort to fists: physical strength was not something the Seph'Na excelled at. In a fight, they used claws and talons to kill, and kill quickly, so they never had much use for petty fist-fighting, but humans seemed to love it. Relishing every dull thump they landed on their opponents. Disgusting.
Another thing about humans he disliked was the concept of using clothing in a hospitable environment. 24 degrees, and they still wore their petty sheets. It was all so... unnecessary. Even the Quobalan in the robotic suit put on clothes, even if just to have the humans accept it. Of course, he knew that humans weren't the only ones to enjoy clothes, but he still liked to blame them for it. Actually he liked to blame most things on humans, seeing as they always seemed to be the ones in charge around here. With their UIG and their prison planets. What right did they have to get involved with the Vinsir war? It was none of their damned business what happened outside the UIG's boundaries. Fucking humans. Fucking UIG. But, anyway, back to clothing.
He found his current attire quite uncomfortable, and planned to undress at his nearest convenience. The rather tight shirt moved his plumage in uncomfortable directions if he moved even the slightest bit. He pants were no different. He honestly couldn't imagine why draping yourself in wool in a comfortable environment ever became a popular idea. If you'd like to keep your sex organs in place, go right ahead, but it never should've become the mark of a civilized race. Especially for beings like the Seph'Na that didn't even have external sex organs. Really, cloacae made so much more sense. Clothing made sense if you were travelling to inhospitably cold areas, or those with no atmosphere, but that should be the end of that. In all honesty, he probably would've rather had the shackles and bond naked than be clothed with none of the restraining devices.
The bond. It wasn't all that bad, save the small tidbit about killing you if you meddled with it. He had serious doubts about how sensitive they'd be to tampering. If they were really as sensitive as they were implied to be, he imagined a much larger crew would've had to be put together, just to account for all the accidental deaths. He looked down, momentarily, at the metal band on his left wrist. It didn't feel very bad, compared to the clothing. In fact, it almost reminded him of a Vinsir-made ODST suit. Of course, the only similarity between the two was that they were wearable and metal, but that was enough for him. For now.
He tolerated the shackled in a similar manner. These, restricting movement, were a bit more problematic, though. The tightness didn't bother him, it was just the movement of the down as it was pulled up and down by his movements. Once again, this reminded him of how much he utterly despised clothing. He flexed the flight-membranes stretching from his wrists to his ankles. This only augmented his feeling of uncomfortableness, specifically where the pants were tightened with a belt around the waist. He once again stowed the membranes. Evidently, they did nothing more in this situation than annoy him.
He'd been so wrapped up in his loathing of drapery, that he had missed part of what the security head was saying. Suddenly, the shackles around his legs began to move, and he looked up, confused to see his crew-mates getting up. A small handgun appeared in front of him, which he rapped experimentally with his talon. Nothing. He grabbed the weapon, now, meaning to stow it. His entire iridescent crest stood on end and he fumbled the firearm as a robot voice spoke inside his head.
MD-22, Dominator active... Scanning... ID identified. No threat detected. Dominator will be locked and unable to fire.
Great, he'd broken it. He'd need to get that fixed eventually, but the people in charge were already gone. He doubted his immediate need for the device, anyway.
He watched as one of the humans stood up, announcing that he'd be going to the cockpit, and to find him if needed. He sighed slightly; one of the humans was already trying to claim leadership. Two more were headed in the direction of the mess hall. They'd have an anti-nonhominid alliance working before tomorrow. He was sure of it. At least one of them was probably UIG personnel, planted for surveillance. That's what he'd do, if he were in charge. And he was sure a smarter being than he was running this fiasco. His highly developed eyes were then drawn to the Quobalan. He loved to watch anything colorful. This was true of most Seph'Na. But, what can you expect out of a species where half of their brain mass is connected to sight? As the cnidarian stopped changing colors, his eyes found a new target. This one cephalopodic in nature.
The Sepiida was arguably even more entrancing, if more menacing looking, than the Quobalan. Ryl'Det's eyes followed him even as he was just leaving the chambers. With both sources of enjoyment now inactive, he thought about the matter at hand, and stowed the Dominator in his right pocket. Realizing this might be his first chance for real food since before Cesbar, he promptly got up, and made his way over to the mess hall. Following in the steps of the humans and Sepiida.
They always managed to put him in the most undignified position.
He used to wonder if they did it accidentally, but after so long as a quadruped in a biped prison the question became defunct. Prison guards were gutless weasel's, too fat and incompetent to eat doughnuts and watch the traffic go by. He could see it eat at them, gnawing the energy out of their every pointless movement. He loved watching them from his cell, watching them shrug limply into their jackets at the end of the day, their shuffling gait as they went home to a wife that no longer believed him when he said he would be a cop one day, saw him for the limp dicked bag of wind he was and hated him for it.
He knew she hated him, he hated that saggy titted bitch just as much as he hated himself but he couldn't show her, instead he turned his anger upon his charges, the ones that couldn't fight back and prayed for the day he never saw those fists out of manacles.
He'd loved watching the fear on the guard's face as he'd lead Gaius from his cell towards the holding deck, towering above him, a chained monster, the muscled torso an incarnation of the Adonis from those books his wife pretended not to read. A whipped beast he was about to let of the leash.
Gaius had leaned down with a leering smile
"I'll be back" he'd hissed in his ear "I'll be back for you"
He could see it in his trembling flabby face, the big question.... was 99% enough?
This new position he was on was an old favourite, one that had taken practice to cease being a source of amusement. How does a centaur sit on a chair? On the ground no problem but a chair offered far less support for his derrière and tended not to be designed for his weight.
He could plonk his behind on the chair, loop his tail over the back but it required balance, poise, extreme work of the back and abdominals and an exceptionally strengthened chair. This painful position also resulted in him being sat at least 4 feet above the others at the table whilst neatly crushing his genitals under his own weight in the process. Even as he entered the room filled with small plastic chairs closely surrounding a table he chose to stand rearing slightly to place his shackled front hooves on the top of the chair. Best idea in this situation, the sight of him sitting, eyes watering before crashing through a chair to smash his bollocks on the conference room floor may inspire legend but not the legend he longed for.
He aimed to create a myth, a story that would place the centauri back in the history books as a force to be feared, a figure that could strike at any time. He'd show them near human intelligence, the bastards that had crushed his people, destroyed the beauty of his homeland, doomed him to the shame of endless toil.
All he had to do was get that bond off...
The bond, a shackle that terminated it's target through an injection of a substance straight into the flesh that activated when they met certain criteria. Injection suggested the need for proximity and a route to the blood stream, some quick acting toxin that travelled straight to vital organ and caused straight system failure. He had heard from fellow inmates of a less lethal version used on released convicts that transported a location back to the local station. Long range distances suggested radio waves, could the signal to the bond be blocked to prevent serum release or modified to ensure it occurred.... to the right person...
Could the injection be counteracted, or could something provide immunity... they had a biologist, perhaps she could help, but she would need a point of reference a sample of the serum to test on.
A corpse would provide that.... he glanced around at the figures around him, who was non essential or particularly dangerous?
He had heard of that one, seen a warders discarded paper, the terrorist that had handed herself in for no known reason having caused destruction and carnage to a reeling UIG. She had now landed herself on a one of a kind warship with nothing but a bracelet to stop her. He knew her game, or did he.... their was something shrewd and calculating in those deep baleful eyes, something he could not comprehend... was it madness or malice?
The warden began listing the ways to kill yourself... interesting...
Shooting or attacking your crew mates with any weapon,
Suggested some link between the weapon and the bond,any weapon.... though what could sense any weapon regardless of metal or plastic, what had the power to sense what was in his hand, was a butter knife a weapon or a carving knife or was it the reaction of his own body that made it a weapon?
Could he offer enough provocation that someone would snap. He seemed to have the effect on people, something laced in his stride, the straightness of his back and the dismissal in his stare that made claws unsheathe.... were claws enough of a weapon to create the corpse they might need.
Getting out of range of the Claustrum which constitutes an escape attempt
Simple and obvious a permanent link between bond and ship possibly a very basic time to return system, remove the receptor and transmitter from the ship and he was home and dry
Tampering with the Bond itself in any way either physically or remotely through the use of technology,
An automatic defence system, perhaps an electric current that cut off when the material was cut and in turn cut off his life.
Cocooned in his thoughts, he was stunned to feel the sudden release of his shackles, prompting a wave of relief as he raised one leg then the other, stretching out limbs held together for far too long. He wanted to trot, to canter, gallop and prance do all the things he had not done for years.
A jabbing in his hindquarters distracted him from his glee he turned to find the butt of a pistol, sleak and deadly. He weighed it gently in his hands, cautiously embracing the smooth surface soothing his palms. He had never fired a pistol, being trained in his youth with a bow and arrow, in his adolescence never needing one... even in his drug dealing days a single example of death by incorrect formula had been enough to restrain those reluctant to pay for his wares, added a back leg kick to the chest rarely failed to put a human in the dirt and make them think twice about getting up again.
He would need to get some time in with it some practice at "putting a cap in someone's ass" he twisted his hand round it to grip it like they did in the movies.
A voice flashed through his head, cool and metallic like the bitter tang of a can on a hot day, the ships AI was directly linked to the weapon, get out of range of the AI and he'd bet you'd be injected before you could say escape. Perhaps that was what it was, the signal held the injector in place, one false move that interrupted the signal and you were stiff as a board.
What if they replicated the signal or looped it. His eyes fell on the hacker who sat with a strange expression upon his face, like Christmas had already come twice and still it was early. Perhaps he was on the same lines as Gaius, perhaps he was 2 steps ahead, perhaps they really could get out of here alive.
He beamed around before becoming aware of the uncomfortable silence that had descended upon the group in the absence of guards and he hurriedly contained his enthusiasm retaining a pensive air of dignified poise, carefully stowing the pistol in a crudely fashioned leather belt at his waist
The silence stretched, some looking uncomfortable, others unperturbed. Tranquility was shattered by the hesitant words of the fly boy who said he was heading to the cockpit prompting a general scatter, the girl with the unreadable eyes heading for the mess, a human that looked at her with a hint of lust following her quickly before the biologist summoned the freaky head thing, calling it a quobl-something and it followed like a trained dog, eager and attentive.
A 4 armed creature gestured to the remainder with a jovial "It will be interesting to see how long we'll survive," gaining little more than a raised eyebrow and a tight smile from Gaius as he strutted from the room to follow the pilot, the door sliding shut behind him, leaving him alone in the corridor.
He couldn't help it, the excitement bowled over him like an excited puppy, filling him with the gambling friskiness of a new born foal and he reared before braking into a canter, speeding up as he swerved through the corridors at random, relishing his own power and dexterity, sensations that had wallowed in the shadows just beyond the reach of his outstretched finger tips suddenly brought to life.
So long restricted, so long restrained, liberty felt like fresh air in his lungs.
Gods be praised, he may even feel some of that before long.
Dr. Christopher Pierce listened as he, along with the others, were given their mission briefings. Hearing himself being called criminal scum wasn't exactly something Chris had enjoyed hearing, but the bottom line was this Dr. Christopher Pierce was a killer. He allowed a man to die and did nothing to save him. Sure he could've hit him with the defib unit twice and probably stabilized him enough for the elevator ride to the O-R, but he didn't do that or anything else. Pierce saw fit to play judge, jury, and executioner for this man. A man who had threatened his family and took away his sense of peace. Chris told himself he was a good man.
Ever since he was sent to Arch Maximus Chris had tried to tell himself that he was above the rest of the criminal scum. Again Chris told himself he was a good man. That he didn't deserve to be there, but the longer he was at Arch Maximus the longer Chris had to think about what he had done, and all those other times he had broken the rules in his life. Whether it was in high school and he pulled a prank and got away with it, cheated on an exam, broke a rule in the military, broke hospital policy, all those times Chris thought he was such a good man it turned out it was all a lie. Once Chris embraced that truth life became somewhat easier for him to accept. Not to mention since he was helping out in the hospital wing from time to time he had access to several kinds of drugs, and Chris became known around the cell block as "Dr. Feelgood." It kept him from being assaulted in the shower or in the exercise room and it helped him make friends in high places, so he was protected. Now he was once again the new fish in the water and Chris hated it.
Chris felt his shackles fall away and he felt a psuedo-sense of freedom. Not to mention he was in what could be called real clothes and not prison gear. He wore a black leather jacket, with a white turtle neck, black jeans, and blue tennis shoes. He also now had a gun which he tucked away in his left jacket pocket and at that moment glanced down at his new "accessory" on his right ankle.
Once the briefing was over everyone just kinda looked at one another. As though no one knew really how to break the ice "So what were you in Arch Maximus for" sounded like a really bad pick up line.
Chris shook his head and stood up from the table. He said in a very neutral voice, "My name is Dr. Christopher Pierce, but you can call me Chris. My specialty is diagnostics and yes I am also a qualified surgeon. I was sent into lock-up for murder in the first degree, and if you want to know anymore I'll post my resume on the board for everyone to see. Otherwise you can engage me in conversation at the mess hall where I'm heading for a cup of coffee. Anyone else who wants to come feel free to join me."
With that Chris walked away and headed to the mess hall to get his cup of coffee.