The skies of Zor had a cloudy display that matched the somber mood of a town The Onyx was nearing. There was news about the infamous pirate ship that once belonged to Captain Arko himself, but it was now steered by Lydia: a former crew member of his. No one knew her story… No one except for Zayin, her one and only true friend as well as her first mate. All people heard is she was on a quest for riches and fame! That was fine with Lydia… Knowing she was going to travel this universe because it was an old friend’s dream would sound soft anyway.
The Onyx lowered itself at the airship dock outside of the miserable little town. It was generally a pirate ship that floated in the skies, its great sails folding at the command of a button when it stopped. People stared at the ship with awe… It had been a long time since an aircraft of any sort even passed through their territory, let alone the atmosphere.
After a long moment of silence, a tall and proud woman was seen on the figurehead in a crouched position. Her deep, black hair whipped behind her in the ominous winds, her sparkling eyes of light blue staring into the distance. Everything she heard about this planet was true, after all. There was empathy in her gaze that she was certain no one could see from so far away. The tips of her antennae longed to touch the tallest heights possible so they could help her get more familiar with the scents. It excited her to be out on adventures again! Nothing completed her more than sailing through the skies, gazing at the fullness of the stars and visiting new planets. She smiled to herself, letting it escape the moment she stood up to straighten out her expensive looking coat.
She jumped back on to the deck of her ship, her black boots making a thud sound when she landed. “These people need a miracle, Zayin. Get the book for the recruits to sign their souls away. I’ll join you after I check the status of our supplies. Make sure your voice is heard loud enough, we haven’t got all day.”
Lydia spoke in a less professional manner since no one was on board yet, so he might as well enjoy that until they casted off. Their attitudes have been negative to one another lately, so she felt like she should be a tad nicer so she’d not be a grouch for her new crew members. She left him to go announce their arrival and disappeared down a small flight of stairs where she took inventory of their ammunition, food and many other things.
A tall shape walked through the steel corridors of the Onyx, its footfalls making slight resonations within the hull of the pirate vessel. The bio-mech was a rare sight, not of flesh, blood, and bone, nor of the elements, but rather cold steel and synthetic biomass. A featureless face-mask put over black and seemingly burnt flesh. Large tubular wire-like contraptions that seemed to snake through smooth, black, but obviously artificial fiber like muscular mass. Armoured plating, masterfully crafted and surprisingly flexible, was placed all across his body, dark black and grey in colour. Long, armoured fore-arms, with blood red, lightly glowing veins running through them. Sinister digits that looked almost like beastly claws. His six eyes, whose pupil-less stare almost gave off the illusion of luminosity, scanned the quiet corridors, two of which focused onto a stairway, while the rest scanned the corridor for any signs of life.
Deciding that they'd be alone, Marcin Kroylittziveck descended into the lower decks of the storage rooms, making no attempt to hide his presence. Around him, stacks of arranged supplies were stacked into asiles and shelves. The white neon lights illuminated a single shape, that of Captain Lydia. He walked, approaching her directly, and tapping her on the shoulder with a single large finger. He'd tailed her here, hearing about her little expedition to some treature trove. As a man with nothing else to do, he figured he'd make himself useful to his old friend, and travel along.
Zayin Pryde reveled in the feel of the wind in his hair once again. As soon as they had broken the upper atmosphere and slowed to an acceptable cruising speed, he broke the life-support bubble and toggled the kinetic frequency of their 360-degree shield to allow the wind to hit them. He held the ship's movement control in one hand, his other moving in a blur to twist dials and punch buttons that would light up mili-seconds before. He was in his element, handling a ship with such freedom. He loved Lydia for allowing him this.
But he was feeling quite angry with her for other reasons. They had not talked to each other much over the course of the last leg of their journey. She had insisted on mooring into Zor to find crew members; a lot of rascals and miscreants to become her pirate crew. Zayin had insisted that they pull wide and sacrifice some travel time to moor into Gleiad instead. While not as out of the way as Zor, they could at least hope to find more reputable deck hands. A fight had ensued not soon after, and as Lydia always did, she had her way with him. In more ways than one.
She was angry with his questioning her, and while she had a certain right to be, he was her XO, her Executive Officer. Or First Mate, in closer reality, though he couldn't break away from his strict military upbringing. She called him Mate, he called her Captain. At any rate, it was his duty to offer her alternatives if he saw a flaw, and he was doing it with increasing frequency as they had no crew around them. It was like being married to her, the ship being their home.
Unfortunately, while the ship was large, there wasn't enough space to get true space between one another.
He spotted the miserable little town the planet called one of it's largest ports and made a face. It was far from a reputable looking location, and even for pirates, it was a wretched place. A hive of scum and villainy, he thought to himself. He likened it to the port town of Tortuga, from Earth-history centuries upon centuries ago.
Bringing in their solar sails, he aligned The Onyx to one of the larger, cleaner-looking docking arms and set her in. He kept his eyes on Lydia as she sat alone on the figurehead; she had something on her mind, but she wouldn't share with him. Not at this moment, at any rate. Suddenly she turned and strode down towards him. Zayin had locked the controls on the bridge and was now standing on the main deck. She stopped to regard him, and said:
“These people need a miracle, Zayin. Get the book for the recruits to sign their souls away. I’ll join you after I check the status of our supplies. Make sure your voice is heard loud enough, we haven’t got all day.”
"Aye, Captain," he responded. He already had 'the book' tucked under one of his arms. It was actually a large data pad with adjoining stylus. Men would sign their names, which bound them to a contract of service that dictated their working terms (which had almost no limits) in return for a fair share of their bounty by the end of that term. It also had a specific clause about dying.
He thought she wanted to say something else to him, but she continued below deck. With a sigh, he turned to the docking arm and stepped off the gangway, headed into town. He cleared customs quickly with the use of a credit chit, and found the largest, most despicable cantina he could find.
"Hear ye, hear ye! The Onyx be looking for able hands!" He bellowed as he shoved the doors away ahead of him. He was an imposing figure, all muscle and confidence in nothing but a black shirt, black trousers, and combat boots. He wore a combat harness strapped to his waist, and there was no doubt he could use the instruments of death strewn about his person.
He locked eyes with everyone before finding a suitable corner seat, and uploaded data from his data pad, sending off all across the port town that his ship--Lydia's ship--needed crew members. If anyone was looking for work, or looking at an advertisement board, they would soon know this.
Tugrik looked into the inky blue drink that lay in front of him. It both smelled and tasted foul, nothing like the premiere spirits he had in his office back home, but he needed courage and this would provide it. How long had it been since he was around such rowdy individuals? Some would call them uncivilized but there was nothing civilized about any world these days, they were all savage in a different way. As he downed the alcohol in a single gulp his AI assistant appeared in his entropic display, appearing over his normal vision thanks to his cyber eye.
“Excuse me sir, the ship you booked passage on has arrived as expected. All of your things have been sent ahead like you instructed and should be loaded by the time you arrive.”
“Thank you Muse, I will be leaving soon then.”
The humanoid figure in his vision bowed and slowly faded away as he picked up his things, left a hefty tip, and went to his room at the inn to put on something more suitable. What he hadn’t sent ahead was the equipment he didn’t want to risk losing. Tugrik knew in his gut this would not be a pleasant trip and was planning accordingly with both survival and surveillance equipment. As he put a layer of clothing over his armor to make it less noticeable he made sure all his weapons were in working order. A pair of plasma pistols, a mass driver rifle with under barrel shotgun, and a grenade launcher. Most of these things he hadn’t used for going on thirty years and while they were no longer state of the art each one had proven their worth and Tugrik knew they wouldn’t jam when it counted. He felt the cold ceramics and metal that made their frame, each had its own memories and it showed on the surface.
They all had etches for each kill, his old mercenary bands logo branded on them, numerous modifications that could never pass for army standard, and colorful markings such as “Your sister liked my other gun more.” These were pieces of a different Tugrik from a different time and while he wasn’t exactly a fan he couldn’t help but smile as he held them. “Right, time to get moving” he muttered while packing them into a shock proof case and throwing it over his shoulder. Something about being on a pirate ship somewhat unnerved him but he had spent his life around similar people so it would be like going home except he didn’t worry about packing heat back home.
The taxi brought him to the harbor and he made sure to take in his surroundings as he exited the vehicle. The ship looked like it would do just fine and from what Tugrik could see it looked like they were stopping here to get more crew. “Fantastic” Tugrik thought “This is hardly the place to look for crew of anything short of a suicide mission.” He was already having second thoughts about using this ship to get him to his destination but the amount of ships heading there had lessened for some reason and he needed to be there as soon as possible. Trying not to surprise the man announcing the search for new hands Tugrik tapped him on the shoulder. Without looking at him one could guess Tugriks size and alien features from his baritone voice and its odd harmonics. “Excuse me sir, I hate to interrupt but I believe I paid for passage on this vessel. Ten thousand up front and another ten on arrival. As you can guess from the amount secrecy is the aim. You may call me Drem, it’s a pleasure doing business with you.” Tugrik reached for a handshake not even trying to hide the armor under his clothes.
Zayin spun and looked the alien man up and down quickly, taking in his measure. Large bastard, was all he could think as he took notice of the small armoury the alien, Drem he called himself, carried. He knew that armour was concealed beneath the clothing he wore, and that this creature was not something to take lightly in a fight.
"Call me Pryde," he finally answered as he shook Drem's hand in as firm a handshake as he could. "First Officer of The Onyx, the finest bucket that will ever sail out of this backwater hell hole." His face twisted in a grin. "Passage, eh? I think I remember something about that," he said, trying to down-play the importance of the ferrying they had decided to accept. They would be paid twenty-thousand to go to a place they already had planned to, as well as to have an extra set of hands should anything go awry. All they needed to do was not ask questions.
"Well, have a seat if you would like, Drem. Drinks are on me, if you fancy anything, but keep it to a bare minimum. We set sail soon, very soon."
Zayin settled into his seat and locked his eyes onto the door of the cantina. He shifted his weight and stealthily loosened the bolt pistol at his hip, sure he wouldn't need it, but cautious non-the-less. More people would come. He knew it, he felt it.
Tugrik smiled, or at least what one could call a smile, as he took Pryde’s hand. “I see I chose the right ride, heheh.” The man carried himself well and seemed professional. Perhaps this will go better than expected Tugrik mused to himself while shifting the weight of the weapons to a more comfortable position. “A drink with company would be a fine change indeed” Tugrik said while looking at the potential deck hands. “Whenever you’re ready I think there might be a place to get a decent pint around here somewhere.”
The crowd was growing ever larger and he wondered when they would have enough hands to get going with the voyage. He toyed with the temperature control system of his armor looking for a comfortable setting. “Damn cold blood” he said while trying to keep an eye on his weapons. They were close at hand but it was better to not underestimate the local thieves. “So Pryde, that’s what you told me to call you right, how long have you served on this ship? Don’t mean to be nosey but it’s always good to have some idea of who you will be dealing with. I’ll answer you what I can as well of course.” Tugrik was trying to be at least somewhat approachable, best to have a positive reputation with the crew rather than one of mystery and distrust.
“I notice your bolter there, know how to use it young man?” Chuckling, Tugrik took out his own plasma pistol, making sure the power cell was inert, and gave it to Pryde handle first. “That my young officer is practically an antique. Easy to customize, easy to shoot, and it won’t jam on you. It’s far from factory specs but guns like that are meant to be personalized. I’ve had that baby for going on thirty years now and it still fires like the day I got it.” A faraway look washed over Tugriks face as he looked at his old weapon. “Aye, that one has history.”
With a digital list in hand, she tapped on the screen to enter their number of supplies. This part of her vessel was modeled a lot like an old fashioned pirate ship, with the barrels of alcohol and all. She smiled to herself as she counted each container, moving along to a wall where weapons were hung. Each one was inspected from the outside and she made a mental note to ask one of her recruits to make certain they were fully loaded with whatever ammunition they required. Since that crossed her mind, she was going to look at that stock next.
That would have to wait, though. Someone tapped her on the shoulder, causing her to instantly spin around. She smiled to the creature standing in front of her. She wasn't expecting a stranger to follow her here... Kudos to him for sneaking in so quietly.
The neon light of her list turned off before she slipped it into the pocket of her coat, a hand extended out to offer acquaintanceship. It would have been foolish to ask if he was lost; who would aimlessly board a ship? Additionally, he struck her as a more intelligent character.
"Looking for a spot on my ship?" she asked as she went ahead and grasped his hand, only catching a few of those long fingers as she shook it. Her hands went to her hips as she looked him over. "Don't blame you for seeking me out instead. I'm far more pleasant to talk to than my first mate. But you already knew that..."
Lydia made a slight chuckle at her words, imagining Zayin's reaction if he heard her say that. "Long time no see?"
He nodded and shook back, responding to her question with a fuzzy trill. After shaking her hand with his spindly fingers a component seemed to open up above one of his eyes. A small projecting device then began stick itself out from the hole it had suddenly emerged from. Raising his head and stepping back, he projected a three-dimensional isometric hologram of the ship, outlined in a smooth green shape upon which white lines criss-crossed. One segment of the ship seemed to light up, highlighted by a suden change to blue. It was the generous hangar bay, which if the scans showed correctly, had been opened earlier unknowingly. Within, Marcin's ship, highlighted red, now lay.
His eyes turned their look to her, as if attempting to ask if she approved of his sudden transfer of the Usurper unto her ship.
"Are you sure about this Kiqu?" A strikingly beautiful woman asked. There was three of them, two who caused many heads to turn. They walked almost like they were gliding. Tall and lithe, they were humanoid with features that appealed to many different species, though their own was slightly in question. The third, who lead them was almost child-size in comparison and it was obvious that if she wasn't family, that she was at least of the same type as these two visions.
Kiqu was currently dressed in a beige jump suit with a large dufflebag that was nearly her size slung over her shoulder. She had her hair tied at the nap of her neck, unlike her sisters who let their long manes flow freely.
"It will be a great adventure Cora," Kiqu said with a smile. "Besides, I think even if I don't find anything, I'll learn a lot." Kiqu was worried though, what if they didn't need an engineer, or worse, didn't actually think she knew what she was talking about. She might not have had the almost heavenly grace of her sisters, but she knew that she was more then just pleasant looking and some species had no respect for females.
The three of them entered the cantina, and Kiqu looked around. It was easy to find the first mate, everyone in the place seemed to have their eyes on him, though they pretended to be paying attention to their own business. Not surprising, the Onyx made quite an impression when she docked.
Walking closer, she noticed another person, who had just handed the man at the table a gun of some sort.
"Kiqu, they look like dangerous men."
"Of course they are Raye. That's why everyone insisted you two accompany me. This whole place is dangerous." Though really she thought she would have been better off coming here alone, she couldn't have said no to all of her sisters. Besides, everyone knew this could be good bye for a long time.
"Excuse me, I'm an engineer and I'd like to join the Onyx," Kiqu stated as she walked up and stood at the table. There was no need to be anything but direct here.
"Years," Zayin responded simply to the question about how long he had served with Lydia. A waitress brought him a small glass filled with bubbling black liquid, and nodding his thanks, he took it up and gingerly sipped. His mind wandered, briefly, to the years he had spent with Lydia. He recalled their battles, their arguments, the nights they lay together. He smiled minutely, then his mind came back to the present just as quickly as it had wandered away.
He eyed the plasma pistol with a solid, stoic face. Inside, he admired the antique weapon, but made no outward gesture or note of his approval. "That's not standard issue," he finally said. He didn't bother un-holstering his own gun.
"I've had my girl for years, myself," he said. His face contorted into a quirk of a smile, as he asked himself quickly, am I talking about my bolter, or Lydia?
Before he could regale the alien with any tale, he was approached by a trio of humanoid females. At least, he assumed they were females-- they had all of the features women of his type would have. Two of them were strikingly beautiful; statuesque, with fantastic hair, and bodies that were both alluring and athletic. There was something dangerous about them.
The third was their opposite. Not necessarily un-beautiful, but not striking. She was short, and had a body that was built more for function than anything else. There was an innocence about her, and Zayin wondered idly if she had wandered somewhere she shouldn't have been, when she spoke.
"An engineer, eh? Well, there's always need for your type." He held up the datapad and slid it across the table, directly in front of her. "Sign your name, fill out the bits we need, and you'll be an official crewman of The Onyx. I hope you're not lying about your job, by the way. If you kill us all, I'll kill you myself." While a joke, he wasn't smiling.
Kiqu picked up the datapad and looked at the information required. It all seemed pretty standard to her for the type of job this was, including listing next of kin. She glanced up at the two sisters that had joined her here. Hopefully she wouldn't die on this trip. They'd been through enough already.
She glanced up at the man's joke, or half hearted threat, not that it mattered either way. "If I get us killed it's not going to be due to lack of knowledge and ingenuity. And please, call me Kiqu."
After a few more minutes she finished filling out the information and she handed the datapad back to the man. "When do you want me on the ship?" She hoped soon. Long drawn out goodbyes was not something she wanted to deal with. It had been the reason she hadn't even told her sisters she'd been looking for some type of job off the planet.
"We moored her on the nicest landing pad in this shithole," Zayin responded simply. "And she probably has a large gaggle of the slack-jawed thieves staring at her, so she won't be hard to find. If you have any kind of belongings you need to put aboard her, here's the access codes so the Captain won't shoot you, or whoever you have deliver your things, dead. We leave this planet at the end of today's solar cycle." Zayin reached into his belt and produced a long strip of flimsi paper-- a thin, clear strip of data. Black lines and dots were printed along it.
"Aside from that, you're welcome to pull up a chair and join me and... Drem, here," Zayin gestured to the alien he was currently sitting with, before taking a sip of the black bubbly liquid he had brought to him just a moment ago.
"My name is Pryde. Zayin Pryde, First Officer of The Onyx. Odds are, you'll be coming to me for everything you need."
Taking the piece of paper from Pryde, Kiqu looked over at her two sisters. "I think it might be a good idea if I get to know my new crewmates before we head out."
The two taller women looked at each other, then nodded. One of them taking the piece of paper from her hand the other holding out her hand to take the bag. "You promise you'll stay in communication?"
"Yes, and thank you." Kiqu stood their, watching the two women leave and once they were out of the cantina. She then let out a long sigh and turned and looked at the two men. "So, hello Drem," Kiqu offered her hand as she greeted him.
Lydia watched with much interest as her comrade made a display of his ship. It was a familiar craft that appeared to be nesting in the hangar of The Onyx. Normally, she'd get furious for such an intrusion, but this fellow had these rights. He came and went as he pleased, seeming to show up just when she could use him. She became very fond of this helpfulness, creating a sort of bond between them that she rarely made with anyone else.
"I approve, Mister Marcin." Lydia said professionally. "As usual, I expect you will use your talents and abilities where they're needed. I won't add you to my roll call, unless you wish it, since you...disappear...at times."
She made a smirk and slid her inventory list into her coat pocket. Everything looked to be in shape here and in the future, they could always restock at locations she had marked. It was always unlike Lydia to be unprepared, but it never hurt to double check.
"I'll be surveying the deck," she told Marcin, in case he wanted to follow her. With that, she walked up the stairs and reappeared outside. It was silent here... Zayin could not be seen, either. Knowing him, he wandered into the nearest tavern! The realization made her roll her eyes. Although that struck her as irresponsible, she liked to think he was getting recruits at the same time.
Everything was spotless and she knew it, but spending a minute without working on something made her feel lazy. With her hands behind her back, she instead walked towards the bow of the ship with her eyes on the community in the distance. It felt like she was in a world of colour, while they were in a world of gray. This was a miserable planet...
...but Marcin had seen uglier things in his solitary travels across the stars. Some saw this world as simply another dump, but he saw it rather as a place that in its own way, was bursting with life, about low-lives and scum. As it turned out, he did want to follow her, and he did so surprisingly quietly. His clunking footsteps were replaced by nearily silent pacing as he moved up the stairs, right behind her. As they were on the deck, he simply stood, almost completely still, as if he was a great statue of some sort.