Blood pumping, I almost lost traction as I skidded around the corner of the corridor. Slumping heavily against the wall, I wiped the sweat from my brow with the back of one hand. I flinched as pain seared across my forehead and bright crimson smeared across my hand and dripped to the floor. I lingered for a moment, relishing the feel of the cool metal against my throbbing head. A crash behind me jump-started my heart, and again I threw myself forward one boot in front of the other. Door upon door flew by my vision but none of them caught my gaze. None of these doors mattered. The only thing that mattered was the dwelling down the hall and to the right. Footsteps thundered behind me, I didn’t have much longer; soon I would be overtaken.
Bursting inside the small room, my nightmare became a reality, as I spotted that unmoving form of the only person that mattered…
“No!” I screamed, attempting to lunge forward, only to be dragged backwards as two sets of bulking arms grabbed me from either side.
“Nyx! Nyx…” My angry shouts turned into pleading. Tears streamed down my face as I kicked and struggled to no avail.
A figure I hadn’t noticed a moment before, stood quietly staring down at the lifeless body, a pistol in his left hand at his side. He stood tall and lean but muscular. Dark chestnut hair messed up, just so. If everything wasn’t moving a mile a minute, I might have noticed sooner.
“I warned your people not to resist-”
“Fuck you!” I shouted, interrupting him. Gaining another boost of adrenaline, I managed to slip one arm free, and elbow one of the men in the face causing blood to explode from his nose.
The man turned and I caught sight of his stern almond eyes.
It couldn’t be.
Frozen in shock, the man on my left seized my arm once again, ignoring the blood streaming from his face. I stared wide-eyed unable to process what was happening in front of me. That familiar cloak, the tattoo spreading out down one arm, the messed up hair…
His gaze hard and uncaring, he lifted his pistol to my face, and snarled, “Don’t fuck with pirates, kid…”
One of the worst things about the warp, besides the killer demons, uncertainty of survival, or the knowledge that a single slip of navigation can send you who knows where.. is the nightmares. I tried to shake the horrible feeling of my nightmare by spending as much time as I could with Nyx… With all of Nyx. The crew had started murmuring of some unknown sounds in part of the ship. I told them that there was nothing to worry about; I was working on it. I was really working on it, if you know what I mean.
We made it back to Footfall rather quickly, and before I knew it, we were traveling on the familiar path to Zulfikar’s with the news from the pirates. We had a short wait while Zulfikar finished up who knows what and we awkwardly hung around in the large empty room we found ourselves in. Janoor, sat at a large desk and seemed very busy at her computer. She was polite but things were definitely different. I felt like things didn’t end right but I didn’t know what to say to her. I just hoped she knew that Nyx and I really cared for her and Janae. Zulfikar finally arrived and I felt relieved that we could leave the eerily quiet behind us. As we filed one by one into his office, I noticed Krieger and Zulfikar having a respectable stare off. As soon as Sigmund filed in we started our report.
At the mention of the Kasballica Mission, the underground trade of illegal and stolen goods across the Calixis Sector, Zulfikar hurled the datapad Krieger had handed him across the room smashing it against the wall. He then swept the top of his desk in a big swooping motion and everything crashed to the ground in a deafening clatter. I flinched at the sound but did not move. His voice thundered around the room.
“The bloody Kasballica Mission is a disgrace! This makes me look weak and that is something I cannot afford! I need you to track this scum down. Do this and I will pay you double of what you have just received!”
Things calmed down relatively quickly as preparations for the nights feast started coming underway. At the table I found myself sitting fairly close to Zulfikar. As the drinking started, I pushed away my flask as usual and picked at my food my thoughts elsewhere. As the night went on, I finally found some courage to talk to Zulfikar on behalf of myself. As everyone bantered away in their own conversations, I leaned over the table to talk to him.
“I was wondering if I may have a word. I apologize that I am about to speak business while at your feast..”
“Speak away.” Zulfikar said, seemingly surprised by my request. I had never really had a conversation with him before and I tried to speak quickly before losing my nerve.
“I don’t really have a desire for money.. I was wondering if instead I could ask for a favor as payment for this next mission. I have a missing brother and I was wondering if you could use some of your connections to help me find him.”
He asked about the time of his disappearance and spoke of a violent Rogue Trader active at that time. Luxera Specture? I made a mental note to look up that name later on a terminal to see what I could find. I thanked him and continued to eat, my mind feeling a bit clearer.
Driving back to the Titansbane seemed to take an eternity. I kept thinking about this violent Rogue Trader and wondered what I would find later. If I could find anything later. My thoughts were interrupted as drunken Zarko carried on from the back of the rhino I was driving. Obviously, because who else would be driving.
“No shit..” I heard Nyx mumble, which made a grin spread across my face. He was so cute when he was grumpy.
We turned onto the corridor going to the Titansbane and I glanced back to see Zarko pointing at Hoder.
“You can medicae! Fix it!”
I smirked at the thought. Using medicae to cure being drunk. Yeah, right!
pop. BOOM! CRASH!
I swerved as our windshield exploded. The glass protecting the corridor from the cold void of space cracked, then also exploded, creating a large gaping hole with even bigger problems. Bulk heads slammed shut, now in an emergency state and we found ourselves trapped in this small section of road with no where to go.. and no air to breathe.
“It didn’t work!” Zarko yelled at Hodor, and I shook my head in disbelief and rage.
Next time they are walking their happy asses back to the ship from Zulfikars….
We did a quick calculation, and found we had 90 minutes to figure out a solution before we all suffocated. A vox call to the Titansbane revealed that Emir couldn’t get to us any sooner that three hours from now and the local Footfall officials would be here in two. Protocols had to be met and they couldn’t just open the doors we were at because it would endanger the lives of the people on the asteroid.
Thinking quickly, I started attempting to hack the terminal that opened the emergency door panel leading back the way we came. Krieger organized with the guys from Zulfikars place and they started attempting to open the door hatches from their side. We had about 12 to 15 doors to get through and each door took about 3 to 5 minutes to force open. We were down to one hour remaining and time was not on our side. Sweat dripped down my brow, and I tried to steady my breathing to keep a clear head, as I tried to get my way down the corridor back to Zulkifars; a much shorter distance than to the Titansbane.
45 minutes went by much too quickly. We had made little progress, only forcing three doors open and Zulfikar’s men opening about the same. Things were bad and my head was starting to swim, making every effort seem that much more strenuous. The last bit of air finally gone, all we had was a small emergency air tank in the rhino we could all share, extending our time a very small amount. Sigmund passed out. Krieger jumped out into the service hatch basically sacrificing herself for the group. Unprotected outside she wouldn’t last long…. My vision flashed and I realized we wouldn’t last that much longer in here either. Krieger ran down the road and started working on the wiring for the door hatch, I had a hard time seeing what was happening. Suddenly a faint swoosh sound could be barely heard and Krieger’s voice rang out loud and clear.
I didn’t need any second bidding. The adrenaline I was riding, was fading as the lack of air caused my movements to be sluggish and slow. Zarko hung out of the door to the rhino and clasped onto Kriegers arm pulling her inside as I drove. I nodded, starting to black out, and I tried forcing my eyes wide open willing myself to stay conscience. Racing down the corridor, we finally made it to the end and I slammed on the brakes bringing the rhino to a skidding stop and the guys in back threw open all the doors. Air rushed in and I lay my head on the steering wheel for a moment with my eyes shut; visions of suffocating in the MantaRains clouded my thoughts. This was the worst feeling in the world..
Nyx frantically tried reviving Sigmund to no avail and a man from the crowd came to assist. He told us Sig would be okay he just needed rest and to get to an infirmary soon. As did we all, really.
“I don’t think I’m drunk anymore…” I head Zarko murmur as everyone packed into the rhino again and the stranger jumped out.
“It worked!” Hodor replied, excitedly making a horrible sound. I think it was a laugh.
Arriving back at the Titansbane, Nyx and I disappeared for some much needed us time. Almost dying really brings out emotions and such, if you know what I mean. We lay in Nyx’s room and had just found our rhythm when the door busts open and a Krieger with her gun drawn comes busting in the room. I took a mad dive over the edge of the bed trying to hide and hit the floor hard.
“Sigmund, I found the thumping!” Krieger exclaimed, lowering her gun slightly.
Nyx gathered the blanket to cover himself and angrily threw a pillow at her. “Krieger GET OUT!”
I also grabbed a blanket to wrap around myself and peered over the bed.
Krieger locked eyes with me for a moment and tossed the pillow back at us, talking into her microbead, “Threat neutralized.”
Nyx jumped up to slam the door behind him. Later, I sent a message to Sigmunds datapad reading: I am the Captain.
The next day I went out to the markets on Footfall. Today I had a mission. Surprisingly, I found everything I needed rather easily. I found a light blue emerald that was mostly transparent and brought it back to my technomat. My pandai batted around scrap as I tried to sort through the bits and pieces looking for what I needed. Spending a couple hours on my project I finally got the desired effect I wanted. Wrapping it in a small box, I did my best to make it look nice. I was never good at wrapping gifts.
A flashback came to mind: a Spacemas long ago when my hair was long and Kassius had just gotten back from port. Father had saved up so we could have a proper meal for the special holiday. Kassius teased me as I handed him his Spacemas present.
“Looks like a dog had a good romp with it first. Hope it isn’t broken!”
“Now now, Kassius. Kayp has spend all evening trying to get that wrapped just right for you.”
“Well not all evening! I didn’t try that hard.”
I did try hard to make it look nice. I smiled at the bittersweet memory and quickly tried to push it aside. No use thinking about them right now. I had something to do. I shoved the tiny box in my pocket and Nyx voiced that he wanted to come too. The drive was uneventful. I asked Nyx to wait out in the rhino when we pulled back up to Zulfikars. He seemed put out at first but seemed to understand. Going inside I went to find Janoor.
“Kayp! What a pleasant surprise! Back so soon?”
I almost flinched at the formality. It seemed weird coming from her. Living on Footfall has really taught her a lot. I’m sure being around Zulfikars business had a lot to do with that also.
“Hi, Janoor,” I started awkwardly. I hadn’t rehearsed what I was going to say. She looked at me patiently as I struggled to find the right words.
“I know things aren’t the same.. and I know that nothing I can say can make things right.” I said and pulled out the small box and handed it to her. “I made this for you; I hope you like it..”
She looked at the box quizzically, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a bit relieved she didn’t comment about the boxes rough wrap job. Opening up the top, she pulled out a chain with the blue emerald hanging from the bottom. It spun slowly as she held it in the air, showing off a small silver “J” engraved in the side of the stone.
“If you press here, it lights up like her ball did..” I said, pushing the barely noticeable button near the top of the pendant. “We all loved Janae and Nyx and I miss you very much. We are very glad for the time we got to share with you.. and I just you to know that.”
She seemed touched but kept her composure. We seemed to part on good terms and that made my spirits rise. We hugged and I returned to Nyx in the rhino and recounted what happened.
We got invited to a ball.
Farouk, it seems, was throwing a grand ball. He was a rich man and he wanted to make sure to flaunt his success, which didn’t bother us none – free buffet! And booze… As Nyx keeps reminding me. Sigmund gave out orders to keep an eye on the goings on and everyone had a role to fulfill. Nyx and I got the “innocent date night” role that we were very good at and as soon as we arrived, Nyx took a bee line to the bar. I followed as close as I could to try to moderate his alcohol intake this evening. The night was going as well as could be expected. Nyx’s body doesn’t break down alcohol very well so he was tipsy immediately. I pulled him away from the bar eventually and we set a slow pace at the dance floor. Dancing made it way easier to keep a lookout without being suspicious. I could see Sig, Emir, and Zarko all sticking together at the far end of the room. Hodor was shouting at the other end and a small group of people suddenly started hovering midair before falling heavily back down to the floor. Guards quickly swept him up and tossed him outside. I spotted Farouk making his way through the crowd and soon he was joined by Sigmund and they all quietly made their way upstairs.
Sometime had passed and Nyx was at the stage of trying to unsneakingly grope me between songs. Luckily these were the kind of people who were used to that sort of thing.. Honestly there were so many drugs being passed around, I don’t think people were really aware of much more than their own sexual desires and drinks to be bothered by anything else.
More time passed and a girl with light feathery hair came bolting down the stairs. She seemed visibly distraught and ducked down a hallway and disappeared. I took advantage of the situation, and seductively grabbed Nyx and tossed him gently into the hallway and started making out by the wall. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the girl stomp into a doorway and slam the door shut behind her. She kind of looked like the exotic goods dealer. I think her name was Serene Grace? Or something about Tranquility. Or something. We waited for awhile but she never came back out.
Eventually heading back to the main floor, we bumped into Sigmund who had just arrived back down stairs. I guess it was time to go. I wonder what information he obtained from our new “friend”. I was surprised to see a new person was in tow back by Krieger. A large white feline fellow with a pink scar over one eye and black stripes on his fur. He looked dangerous… Dangerously fluffy.