Miles To Go Chapter 1.2: Debt Boogaloo

The Wanderer

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  1. Give-No-Fucks
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After a week or two on Olympia, and after getting a couple more members involved in their unfortunate crew to replace the ones that had vanished. The group would quickly realize that no matter what job they did, the high debt they had accrued was just getting bigger as the meager payments were barely cutting the minimum payment threshold until with no other option, they would find themselves being directed towards the Maw. The looming skull that once belonged to a megafauna of unknown origin that had long since passed. The crew in the bus getting shifty looks and lingering gazes thrown their way. The driver, Daniel would practically be humming a tune off-key as he felt like they were being sized up. Risks weighed, values estimated. Most were looking at Hearts for reasons other than ogling her.

But all this faded the second the group parked the bus in front of the building that belonged to the mercenary company, Invictus.

The building was pre-fab but looked like it had been through enough fights that the repair jobs had practically made it nearly handcrafted, dingy lighting that looked fresh and easily replaceable and the ‘lobby’ was more like a war-room filled with people clad head to toe in armor style of Invictus. Closed helmets and each one armed to the teeth.


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The armored soldiers that gathered near the table looked over at the group and the telltale buzz from their helmets indicated that they were talking about them. One of them had his shoulders shaking soon after showing that whatever was said had gotten a laugh. A deep gravelly voice would roar out. “Don’t you ingrates have a job to do on this planet?!” It was like someone had shot a gun to start a race, the soldiers pushing past the group to head outside. Until they were left in the room with the commander of this branch. He looked grizzled, gear and bodily scars covering everything from the dings in his armor and slash scars that broke through his graying beard. His hair short and possibly receding. He was missing an eye, replacing it with an augment that lit up as he focused on them.

Scanning their faces before he’d paused on Daniel, he would narrow his eyes, the untold command making Daniel clue in on what the man wanted. Pulling down the face mask and lifting his goggles. Showing off the “IV” tattoo on his cheek, the man moved on until he saw Zadie. His expression changed ever so slightly, bemused rather than gruff or stern as someone of his nature would be.

“Got a Vatborn, a wanted Drak, the daughter of the only respectable person on this rock and various other misfits. What the hell brings you lot to our humble abode?” He’d ask, his expression being one that had no doubt heard the same stories.

Zadie grinned, a little cheeky smile that the Commander was probably used to by now. She wasn’t familiar with the man, not really, but Zadie made a point to introduce herself to those around Olympia who weren’t maraudin’ around and making this rock worse than the corpo-overlords. Invictus was… well a mercenary company, but they took care of their own and didn’t cause too much of a ruckus between the locals. They did fine repair work too, if there were ever a time they didn’t have their hands full with one mission or another.

“We’d like an audience with the Matriarch, Commander.” Zadie replied, refusing to beat around the proverbial bush. “Whateva’ we gotta do to make that happen, you let us know, alright?”

The Commander adjusted his jaw slightly as he thought about it. Looking them over once more before he’d nod. “Depends on what she needs doing. I take it that you all got caught in Titus’ little scam? Don’t worry, I’ll run some names through the registry and see what she can do to have you owe her one. In the meantime, I’ll give her a call.” He’d pat the countertop before he walked back towards a terminal, his fingers slowly clicking on the keyboard as he put in Hearts’ name and finding the ship that had been impounded. Humming at the sight of it, he would reach over to a LRCD. [Long Range Communication Device.] And tapped a quick-call button before he brought the ear piece up to his head.

It was a solid five minutes before his call was answered.

“Sorry to interrupt, sir. But we got some folks who got caught up in Titus’ little scam. Need a favor from the sounds of it. Want an audience.” The way he spoke was straight to the point. Military talk. “Mhm. Sending details now.” He reached over to type and send the data off to the Matriarch. Wherein more minutes passed as he listened carefully, looking over at the assembled crew. Humming slightly as he waited for whatever the Matriarch was saying to finish and when she did, Darwin continued. “Yep, can arrange a team to get it done.”

The conversation was one sided due to the call not being on speaker phone. Yaat was really the only one to be capable of listening in but Darwin would turn to look at them as he hung up the phone after saying his goodbyes. “Good news. In twenty-four hours, you are going to the spaceport and you will be expected. Go up the lift and your ship will be free to leave. But you are to go to these coordinates before the timer is up. You deviate, or take too long or try to leak these coordinates and you’ll wish you had died on this planet. Bad news will be left to be revealed when you get to those coordinates.” He gave Hearts a datachip for coordinates for the ship to make a jump to. It has a digital timer on it that had yet to start but Yaat could tell that the second they took off, the timer would start and that the device had a beacon hooked in. And that his expertise told him that deactivating it would not be a good idea.

And like that, they were dismissed. Soldiers were called in past them as he gave orders that got muffled as they left and got back into the bus. There were dead looters on the outside, indicating that some had tried to get in but were dealt with quickly and quietly. Driving off and soon taking up shelter in a settlement that was closer to the city that had the spaceport and sleeping through the night. The drive went smoothly but slowly for the most part until they were driving into Horizon Heights. The sight of the city was beautiful but looking at it directly would show that the city had recently been through some sort of chaos over the last twenty-four hours. The cause would be revealed to be the CEO tower with smoke pluming out of it almost like an explosion was had. The crew was let through various checkpoints by terrified looking guards who skirted away as if they had the plague.

Even at the spaceport when the elevator was opened ahead of time as they drove into it and the elevator ascended up and the reason for the CEO building looking the way it did was revealed.

A news broadcast was played. A sad looking human woman in a red and orange dress spoke. “It is a very sad day as last night, several explosions inside of the CEO tower led to the death of the majority of Titus’ board of directors, leaving only three survivors who are unwilling to talk about what happened beyond that it was an accident via gas explosion. We will update you as we get further details.” Images and footage showed off the tower during the climax of this event.

The more experienced would know that it was no gas explosion. Only det-packs and coordinated placement could lead to such damage. But eventually the elevator arrived at its destination. The sight was just as chaotic as down below. Technicians running past and around like they were chickens who had their heads cut off. And there was Hearts’ ship, looking slightly better than she had left it. Or rather forced to leave it. After spending time to get the Big Kahuna into the ship’s hold, and getting the crew all situated, they would be allowed for take-off.

Moments later and it was as if they had never owed a large debt to Titus.

But that datachip once it was entered, showed coordinates to some system a fair distance in terms of jumps away. And the timer started. And rather than risk it, the call was made and the ship went into making the series of jumps until they arrived at the coordinates given.

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It was a massive space prison station. But looking at it would immediately say that the station was repurposed long ago. Evident by the graffiti on the outside and the plethora of ships going in and out, and the fact the station had enough weapons to require a fleet of supercarriers to match. The insignia of Invictus on most of the ships and the station itself including a giant one docked at the top. A docking station lit just as they got closer. Upon docking, the crew would exit to what could only be described as a bazaar set up in the docking bay. Various crews of differing races, affiliations and so on mingled, made sales, bought things and so on. The delicious aroma of food cooking filled the air as the crew walked along until they were waved down by a robot that stood taller than Hearts, had four arms and had combat attachments all over it. A gatling gun mounted to its shoulder.

“Matriarch wanted me to inform you fleshlings that she cannot meet with you at this moment. You are however in debt to her, so she’s calling upon one of the several favors. A test of sorts. Deliver the package. No questions asked. Do this and you’ll get better paying ones. Cut is thirty-percent in your favor. Take off when you’re ready, explore the station and buy shit. So long as the package gets delivered.” The robot explained in a voice akin to an Aussie before it walked off, dismissing them in a rude manner in the form of a middle finger. Behind them, people were loading a large crate onto the ship.

And now, after all that. Looks like they’ve traded a money debt for a favor kinda debt…..
 
  • Zestytines
Reactions: rissa
From Sariel's perspective, she had been working on the planet of olympia for slightly longer than the other individuals in the group. She was part of a group of other hapless individuals unknowingly put into debt much like our current group and just so happened to run into our band of (anti)heroes while on a job. She was more or less a hostage originally turned crew member after becoming the crew's stand-in doctor after an emergency arose. She didn't particularly hold a grudge towards the group she found the whole adventure itself quite thrilling despite the circumstances. It also helped that there was a drak among the group, and a droqon as well who Sariel found a fun interest in. She mainly remained wordless when it came to talking to some suspicious individual to acquire a ship, a little naive when it came to the criminal underworld. Sariel was also the most relatively new among the group, with some still probably considering her a stranger who could be left at any point in time. This perspective didn't stop her from marveling at the big kahuna once it was boarded, looking at all the various rooms and probably annoying the more seriously-minded individuals who were trying to situate themselves as well. When it came to the revamped prison station, Sariel was once again marveled by the grand structure, although her mood was slightly soured by the fact that their welcoming party was a scary robot that was rather rude and flipped them off. "...I thought robots were supposed to be nice," She murmured to no one in particular and glancing around at the area.

Arna was in a similar situation, not quite as new as Sariel but still relatively newer. She was hired on as a navigator for the crew's inevitable escape to the stars. Despite her being not as new as Sariel, she was in a similar situation with being seen as a stranger for her lack of social skills. Most would probably see her as being standoff-ish, but the few perceptive ones might see the difficulties she has with other people. She was the first to look over the navigation potential of the big kahuna once it was liberated, sliding into her position with ease while Hearts piloted the ship itself. She didn't have much to mention about the robot, simply turned and made her way back to the big kahuna. She wasn't made for buying weapons and using them, being more likely relegated to a 'man in the chair' position than being on the field. "I'll be on coms if people need anything, If anyone finds a map of the place send it to me" She mentioned to the group, floating off.

Azir meanwhile nodded, although looked to the rest of the group for more details on the situation. "Did anyone get the coordinates and deadline for our little deal? If so I can maybe ask around and see if I have any contacts in this part of the system. This is quite the den of..." He tilted his head to the side while trying to think of the appropriate word until he moved it back into place, "misconduct and other like activities," He said and then pointed to hearts. "Some of us also have some certain bounties on our heads so we should watch for that, but if we have connections then let's search out for them. Does that sound up to snuff with everyone?" He asked, using the hand he pointed with to gesture towards the group as he made his way in front of everyone.
 
It was admittedly nice to know he wasn't the only new member on the crew, however, Luer did feel a fair bit more out of place than most of them. He wasn't here to serve any true practical purpose to most people. He was simply here for their use, a role most didn't look at an elf and think of. Curse his half blood. Because of this, though, much like some of the others he was sure, he felt quite… expendable. So he would at least try to make sure the others liked him enough to keep him around. He did have a feeling most of them probably were not going to pay him, though. They didn't seem the type. Mostly.

Especially given the debt they seemed to be in. He didn't entirely mind helping with that, though. Earning a fair amount of money wasn't too difficult for him in the right place. Alas, something else came up and he felt fairly less comfortable than before. Oh hell, the whole crew was in a debt of a whole other form, and one he was despicably familiar with. He preferred the financial debt.

Though he wasn't as standoffish as some of the other newest members, he was less willing to speak up in official business- it wasn't his place and it wasn't his niche. Even so, as they were shuffled off to deliver a package with a non verbal 'fuck you' and no direction whatsoever, the archer returned the gesture behind the robot's back and his own mouthed 'fuck you too'.

He focused on Azir when he spoke up now. He offered a small smile and nodded in agreement. "I already know I do not, since this is the first time I've ever left Ithiel. That said, getting information out of people like this isn't too hard for me, either. If I know where or what to ask about, I'm sure I could get something useful out of them in a few hours." His particular talents weren't exactly a secret among the crew given his role, so he wasn't going to be shy about using them for their advantage either.
 
Hearts-on-fire

Hearts would remain largely silent on their trip in, tense as they'd enter a military camp, her hands rested on the grips of her pistols. Times like this one were when she regretted her life decisions the most with that bounty hanging over her head, but they didn't seem to have much choice.

Zadie took care of things quickly, and she took the chip when offered with a nod, her eyes harsh from experience before they'd escape quietly out the way they'd come with Hearts remaining stiff even as the bunker would leave vision. She didn't like people knowing when and where she was going to be, it gave them a chance to prepare, though there obviously wasn't much choice for them.

Who'd have thought that a simple cruise ship piloting job would turn into this, she was even trying to lay low after her last adventure...

Happy to have her hands on the ship's navigation systems once more, they'd arrive at the matriarch's ship in good time, their mission a simple one, though her eyes would narrow at the idea of there being more missions.

"I know the value of my time.. I hope your leader does too." Hearts would hiss at the giant machine's back, before letting out a sigh. Her short, relaxing cruise slowly turning into more and more of a headache.

"The less contacts the better, and if you do, don't mention my name. That goes for the rest of you, too. I'll be in the ship." She'd warn to Azir with the point of her claw before waving it at the rest, suddenly seeming more and more like a pirate now that she was somewhere she'd much rather not be. Storming off after Arna as she'd return to the ship, eager to be off and away from the criminal den.

It was obvious to her.. But it didn't hurt to remind the less danger-inclined people in their party.

They were technically under the matriarch's protection, being indebted to her, but people had done more crazy things for money than going against some crime boss, and Hearts didn't feel like dying today.

Making her way into the ship, Hearts would slide into the pilot's seat once more to sulk, her tail occassionally thumping against the metal floor of the ship as she'd keep an eye out on the space dock, deep in her own thoughts as she'd pay her sherrazian co-pilot little attention.
 
Every time relief loomed on the horizon, it was cruelly snatched away. Every time it seemed they had room to breathe, something else closed in. Yaatree was, as always, a center of calm in a storm. And yet, with each passing day, it seemed that he more and more resembled that ancient artifact, the comic of the burning dog. ‘This is fine’, it had said. Yaatree wasn’t capable of that level of self-deception, but outwardly, he could maintain a brave face.

First came the knowledge that the Matriarch’s organization would handle Titan. Relief. Then, the less-than-accidental explosion and a meeting with the Matriarch. Relief lost. Making the deadline for the meeting and being given time to shop. Relief. Seeing that ominous crate… relief lost.

At least Yaatree had finally gotten an encoded message out to a dead drop account while they were back aboard Hearts’ ship. It contained what little intelligence he’d gleaned while stuck on that damned planet, and his current status. He was still an active agent. But this debt and his uncertain future meant that to the Voyagers, he would be useless for a while longer. At least they could be certain he wasn’t giving anything up.

In more immediate concerns, they were on board a former prison, and Yaatree had time for acquisitions. Briefly, he considered more robust armaments. But it would be wasteful, since he wasn’t nearly the fighter his companions were. Drones or robot assistants could be more helpful, but they would probably cost too much. That, and Seilen still had his little insect drone. So, Yaatree went for that which had high value and theoretically zero cost… Information. It could be risky, though. To that point, he responded to Hearts’ dire warning with a quick
“No need to worry about me, Captain. Rank only. Technician out.”
Before he walked off.

Finding a quiet corner of the docking bay their ship sat in, potentially in the security cameras’ blind spot, Yaatree hooked everything in, antenna to deck to implants. Then he hit the local net. It wasn’t necessarily easy to access, being a prison, but he was a master. His next consideration was what he wanted to know… Who the Matriarch was meeting with piqued his interest, but her systems would be closely watched, and he might not be the only mind in the network. Too risky. They could just ask in person. Briefly the thought of tracking that rude robot came to mind, but that was petty, and the information was worthless. Eventually he decided to comb through docking records and the camera archives for the dock… He was sure he wouldn’t be lucky enough to see the mysterious box being packed up, but seeing who brought it in, when, and from where? That might give him the clues needed to solve that box mystery without ever touching it. That was worth the risk.
 
zayd.png


Oh what sweet beautiful hell Zadie had found herself in.

One tedious request after another for others had been one side quest fulfilled to her. Being amongst the stars in Hearts ship had been the highlight of her life so far. Her shipmates were a confusing bunch, too focused on being new to let themselves relax and integrate or too shy to do the same, but Zadie did what she could in her own little way to help out here and there.

Little bonds sparking to life.

Little sparks to widen her horizon.

Little by little Zadie would catch glimpses of emotions not her own and would smile, despite the resonance being one of sadness or anger, for it meant she was growing closer to them and in turn, would one day be able to amplify her relay and help them all work effortlessly as a team.

When the Matriarch's giant robot retreated with a middle finger, Zadie snickered despite the anger spikes radiating from half her crew. Arna and Hearts-on-fire went back to the ship and Zadie made a mental note to keep an eye out for maps of this quadrant at Arna's request. When she looked around Yaatree had disappeared too. Connections and information were out of Zadie's wheelhouse, so she simply shrugged.

"Sounds alright by me. I wanna go get some goods and get a bottle of somethin' nice for us to celebrate once we're off." She looked down at her armor's screen display, noting the time. "Why don't we all meet back here ina few hours?"

 
Seilen

The entire journey had been one problem after another, the Titus corporation being the most irritating he had ever faced. But now he stood off world, the architecture of the station bringing back unpleasant memories of being stuck as a meteorite miner. It was so so long until he could walk on fresh grass again, so long he spent waiting for the day he would get his chance at escape.

Only to realize now, Seilen had been zoning out from the moment they stepped onto the station, being woken up by the prospect of shopping. “I’d love to join you two for-“ But as he looked around, most of the crew had already departed, including Zadie. Confused, and rubbing his eyes, Seilen hurriedly tried to catch up to Zadie. He couldn’t remember now why he had lost track of time, accidentally bumping into several strangers on his way to the two.

“Hey, wait up!” Seilen had to call them, hopefully getting their attention enough that he could reach them.

“Mind if I- huff- join the -huff- shopping trip?” The weight of his weapon carrier, and a briefcase drained him of some of his energy on his way there.
 
[A collab post with @rissa ]


Zadie took a moment to gauge everyone's reactions before shrugging and stretching out her shoulders. It was quite the sight as she was still ladened in her power armor (she was rarely seen without it), it's bubble gum pink, electric sunset yellows, and pale blue paints stark against the dreary exterior of the prison-turned-hub. Zadie quiet liked it though.

Turning to one of her crewmates, one she suspected had similar gifts to her own. She wanted to ask about them - but it wasn't proper to do so until you were well acquainted - at least on her little world.

"Luer," Zadie called as she began forward, "Wanna help me with some resupplyin'? Maybe find somethin' useful during the way."

With everyone seemingly decided on their own paths, the archer nodded to himself and turned to find a more suitable location to his profession. Or at least he started to when a call of his name caught his attention. He looked to the source and tilted his head. He didn't know this one well, either.

As she offered to travel with him he took a moment to think over it. If he was seen with a woman there was a low chance anyone would agree to sleep with him. Not exactly a heartbreaking thought, but the loss in profit did sound painful. Even so, he could waiver this one for now, lest his new crew mate proved to be a talented wingwoman, and take the chance to establish some sort of rapport with her.

He offered a small smile and nodded. "I can do that." She would need help carrying it, too, right? Maybe… he wasn't sure.

Zadie smiled before closing the face shield of her helmet and taking a few short steps forward to catch up. She pointed farther along the makeshift bazaar thoroughfare, where a thick haze lingered between a few different stalls.

It was obvious that's where she intended to go, though she didn't voice anything for awhile. What could have been an easy ten minute walk through the bazaar took significantly longer, as more and more people arrived or shuffled out of the station and caused a jam in traffic every few minutes.

Eventually, Zadie glanced over at Luer and tilted her head. "Can I ask you something? You can tell me if it's too weird, I won't get upset."

Luer followed Zadie's gesture, seeing their destination. With her lead, he took pace beside her and walked with her. He didn't overly mind the business of the place, if anything he was watching other people more often than anything for anyone who might look like they know something helpful.

When Zadie spoke up again, he turned attention to her. He managed a small laugh. "It's hard to weird me out, I assure you. What's on your mind?" He returned. He wasn't too subtle about a lot of things, so what she wanted to ask had him curious. He also didn't entirely mind the idea of getting to know each other a little better.

"You're kind," Zadie says softly, her melodic voice muffled behind the helmet. "I like that."

They made their way through another throng of people - some waiting in line for a very flustered ammunition salesman - before Zadie spoke again, and in a very matter of fact tone asked, "Do you wanna be friends?"

Luer was rather surprised by the sudden compliment. He hadn't really spoken to too many of the other crew members personally like this before, so for her to get that impression right away was… surprising. He wasn't even sure how she got that impression. Was he kind? At this point he wasn't even sure if he was.

Thankfully the crowd and noise gave him a moment to process it. It wasn't enough, since Zadie's voice broke his thoughts with a rather straightforward proposition. It caught him off guard again. He was left with an unsure laugh, despite his smile clearly conflicted.

He should say no. He didn't know how long he'll be with the crew, and if he'll ever get to see them again once he has to leave. But it wouldn't be a true answer, either… He did want to. His only friends he had to leave behind and he wasn't sure if they'd be there when he got back either.

He cleared his throat. "I…" How was he supposed to answer? "Are you sure? I'm not exactly… a good person to befriend given my job." Nothing like a poor excuse for a genuine heart.

Zadie gave him an exasperated look from behind her helmet, having swung it around dramatically at the end of his statement. Thankfully they'd been caught in another jam, as her abrupt halt would have caused one.

"It ain't like your killing folk," Zadie said with an unusual hardness in her soft voice. It was a stark contrast to the delicate, almost shy muffled tone that came next. "My paw always said men and women of the night are to be treated with respect — that as long as they get their immunizations they ain't hurtin' no one."

There was a short pause as the traffic continued and they grew closer to the first of Zadie's desired stalls. By the scent lingering in the air, it was full of spices, rich and earthy, with a twang of spice that tickled the nose.

"I don't care about yer job as long as yer happy with it."

Zadie's shift in tone and mood once more caught the archer off guard. He blinked in surprise as it shifted once again. He flushed for a moment as she recited her father's words. Treated with respect? He certainly would not expect such a thing from anyone.

He looked away again when she added the last part as they got closer to a rather aromatic stall. Happy wasn't exactly how he would describe it, either. "W-Well, yes but… once I hit my quota I have to go back home and I… don't know if I'll ever get to leave again once I do… Having friends outside of home… that may never get to see me again just seems… cruel…"

"I'd love to keep in touch," Zadie continued without mentioning they prolly could, if grew a strong enough bond to send relays through. "But a part of life is also accepting the goodbyes."

Zadie hesitated, "It's the hardest when you're not ready to or it happens so suddenly, but I figure, why waste the time not being friends — isn't it better to have lived with what comes of it than not?"

"Well…" That wasn't likely to be possible unless they could do it without his boss finding out. He rubbed the back of his neck for a moment as she continued. She wasn't wrong, either, though. He could enjoy it while it lasts, and that's a philosophy he could entirely understand given his job, too.

Somewhat defeated, but clearly happy, he smiled weakly at Zadie. "Well… I can't argue with that logic, in any sense." He took a breath and composed himself again. "In that case, I'm happy to be friends."

Zadie smiled behind her mask and reached out with her gauntlets for a fist bump. At least they were similar enough on that front — it was easier to bond with likeminded people.

"You got any favorite foods?" Zadie asked as they neared the lines meant for the food stalls that were busy grilling, steaming, frying, and boiling at top notch speed. "I figure I'll get us all a nice hot meal for the road out and some perishables that'll stretch out those tasteless rations."

Behind her helmet she made a face, very much disliking the taste of dehydrated food.

Luer smiled at this, meeting Zadie's fist with his own. Having successfully cheered back up, he turned ahead again as they made their way to their first stop. It did smell quite nice. "Mm… I'm partial to savory foods. I like the stew my mom made for me…" He answered, a moment of happy nostalgia at the thought crossing his mind.

He smiled at her comment, chuckling at the obvious distaste she had for their rations. "Sounds good. It would be nice to have something good."

"Oh, yer bringing back some memories now! My grandpaw makes a mean mutton stew — he only makes it once a year though and promised us we ain't gettin' the recipe 'til he's dead."

Zadie visibly slumped, "Wish he wasn't like that but eh, that's my paw I guess."

She paused for a moment as they reshuffled in line, nearing the service line. Zadie pointed between three counters, eliminating one on second thought as her translation was off initially - the sign read sour not savory - and was more inclined for the "beef" than the "chicken" - because who in their right mind ate sour "sausage".

Before she could voice her question, Seilen arrived, breathless but eager. "Sure!" Zadie said through her cheery skull helmet, face shield still obscuring her features and muffling her voice.

"We're gettin' food first!"

Luer gave a small chuckle as Zadie mentioned her own family's food. "To each their own. If it's something he wants kept to himself then I can understand. Being able to give something to the family no one else can… It's kinda nice."

Having said that, he went quiet to let Zadie focus on the food once they were able to, giving a curious look at it. He didn't particularly care what it was, it looked rather good to him. But that train of thought derailed when Seilen called for them. He cleared his throat and nodded when he asked to join. "Anything specific in mind you'd like?" He asked, since he didn't want to seem like it upset him he came with them.
 
  • According to Plan
Reactions: rissa
From Sariel's perspective, she had been working on the planet of olympia for slightly longer than the other individuals in the group. She was part of a group of other hapless individuals unknowingly put into debt much like our current group and just so happened to run into our band of (anti)heroes while on a job. She was more or less a hostage originally turned crew member after becoming the crew's stand-in doctor after an emergency arose. She didn't particularly hold a grudge towards the group she found the whole adventure itself quite thrilling despite the circumstances. It also helped that there was a drak among the group, and a droqon as well who Sariel found a fun interest in. She mainly remained wordless when it came to talking to some suspicious individual to acquire a ship, a little naive when it came to the criminal underworld. Sariel was also the most relatively new among the group, with some still probably considering her a stranger who could be left at any point in time. This perspective didn't stop her from marveling at the big kahuna once it was boarded, looking at all the various rooms and probably annoying the more seriously-minded individuals who were trying to situate themselves as well. When it came to the revamped prison station, Sariel was once again marveled by the grand structure, although her mood was slightly soured by the fact that their welcoming party was a scary robot that was rather rude and flipped them off. "...I thought robots were supposed to be nice," She murmured to no one in particular and glancing around at the area.

Arna was in a similar situation, not quite as new as Sariel but still relatively newer. She was hired on as a navigator for the crew's inevitable escape to the stars. Despite her being not as new as Sariel, she was in a similar situation with being seen as a stranger for her lack of social skills. Most would probably see her as being standoff-ish, but the few perceptive ones might see the difficulties she has with other people. She was the first to look over the navigation potential of the big kahuna once it was liberated, sliding into her position with ease while Hearts piloted the ship itself. She didn't have much to mention about the robot, simply turned and made her way back to the big kahuna. She wasn't made for buying weapons and using them, being more likely relegated to a 'man in the chair' position than being on the field. "I'll be on coms if people need anything, If anyone finds a map of the place send it to me" She mentioned to the group, floating off.

Azir meanwhile nodded, although looked to the rest of the group for more details on the situation. "Did anyone get the coordinates and deadline for our little deal? If so I can maybe ask around and see if I have any contacts in this part of the system. This is quite the den of..." He tilted his head to the side while trying to think of the appropriate word until he moved it back into place, "misconduct and other like activities," He said and then pointed to hearts. "Some of us also have some certain bounties on our heads so we should watch for that, but if we have connections then let's search out for them. Does that sound up to snuff with everyone?" He asked, using the hand he pointed with to gesture towards the group as he made his way in front of everyone.

It was admittedly nice to know he wasn't the only new member on the crew, however, Luer did feel a fair bit more out of place than most of them. He wasn't here to serve any true practical purpose to most people. He was simply here for their use, a role most didn't look at an elf and think of. Curse his half blood. Because of this, though, much like some of the others he was sure, he felt quite… expendable. So he would at least try to make sure the others liked him enough to keep him around. He did have a feeling most of them probably were not going to pay him, though. They didn't seem the type. Mostly.

Especially given the debt they seemed to be in. He didn't entirely mind helping with that, though. Earning a fair amount of money wasn't too difficult for him in the right place. Alas, something else came up and he felt fairly less comfortable than before. Oh hell, the whole crew was in a debt of a whole other form, and one he was despicably familiar with. He preferred the financial debt.

Though he wasn't as standoffish as some of the other newest members, he was less willing to speak up in official business- it wasn't his place and it wasn't his niche. Even so, as they were shuffled off to deliver a package with a non verbal 'fuck you' and no direction whatsoever, the archer returned the gesture behind the robot's back and his own mouthed 'fuck you too'.

He focused on Azir when he spoke up now. He offered a small smile and nodded in agreement. "I already know I do not, since this is the first time I've ever left Ithiel. That said, getting information out of people like this isn't too hard for me, either. If I know where or what to ask about, I'm sure I could get something useful out of them in a few hours." His particular talents weren't exactly a secret among the crew given his role, so he wasn't going to be shy about using them for their advantage either.

Hearts-on-fire

Hearts would remain largely silent on their trip in, tense as they'd enter a military camp, her hands rested on the grips of her pistols. Times like this one were when she regretted her life decisions the most with that bounty hanging over her head, but they didn't seem to have much choice.

Zadie took care of things quickly, and she took the chip when offered with a nod, her eyes harsh from experience before they'd escape quietly out the way they'd come with Hearts remaining stiff even as the bunker would leave vision. She didn't like people knowing when and where she was going to be, it gave them a chance to prepare, though there obviously wasn't much choice for them.

Who'd have thought that a simple cruise ship piloting job would turn into this, she was even trying to lay low after her last adventure...

Happy to have her hands on the ship's navigation systems once more, they'd arrive at the matriarch's ship in good time, their mission a simple one, though her eyes would narrow at the idea of there being more missions.

"I know the value of my time.. I hope your leader does too." Hearts would hiss at the giant machine's back, before letting out a sigh. Her short, relaxing cruise slowly turning into more and more of a headache.

"The less contacts the better, and if you do, don't mention my name. That goes for the rest of you, too. I'll be in the ship." She'd warn to Azir with the point of her claw before waving it at the rest, suddenly seeming more and more like a pirate now that she was somewhere she'd much rather not be. Storming off after Arna as she'd return to the ship, eager to be off and away from the criminal den.

It was obvious to her.. But it didn't hurt to remind the less danger-inclined people in their party.

They were technically under the matriarch's protection, being indebted to her, but people had done more crazy things for money than going against some crime boss, and Hearts didn't feel like dying today.

Making her way into the ship, Hearts would slide into the pilot's seat once more to sulk, her tail occassionally thumping against the metal floor of the ship as she'd keep an eye out on the space dock, deep in her own thoughts as she'd pay her sherrazian co-pilot little attention.

Every time relief loomed on the horizon, it was cruelly snatched away. Every time it seemed they had room to breathe, something else closed in. Yaatree was, as always, a center of calm in a storm. And yet, with each passing day, it seemed that he more and more resembled that ancient artifact, the comic of the burning dog. ‘This is fine’, it had said. Yaatree wasn’t capable of that level of self-deception, but outwardly, he could maintain a brave face.

First came the knowledge that the Matriarch’s organization would handle Titan. Relief. Then, the less-than-accidental explosion and a meeting with the Matriarch. Relief lost. Making the deadline for the meeting and being given time to shop. Relief. Seeing that ominous crate… relief lost.

At least Yaatree had finally gotten an encoded message out to a dead drop account while they were back aboard Hearts’ ship. It contained what little intelligence he’d gleaned while stuck on that damned planet, and his current status. He was still an active agent. But this debt and his uncertain future meant that to the Voyagers, he would be useless for a while longer. At least they could be certain he wasn’t giving anything up.

In more immediate concerns, they were on board a former prison, and Yaatree had time for acquisitions. Briefly, he considered more robust armaments. But it would be wasteful, since he wasn’t nearly the fighter his companions were. Drones or robot assistants could be more helpful, but they would probably cost too much. That, and Seilen still had his little insect drone. So, Yaatree went for that which had high value and theoretically zero cost… Information. It could be risky, though. To that point, he responded to Hearts’ dire warning with a quick
“No need to worry about me, Captain. Rank only. Technician out.”
Before he walked off.

Finding a quiet corner of the docking bay their ship sat in, potentially in the security cameras’ blind spot, Yaatree hooked everything in, antenna to deck to implants. Then he hit the local net. It wasn’t necessarily easy to access, being a prison, but he was a master. His next consideration was what he wanted to know… Who the Matriarch was meeting with piqued his interest, but her systems would be closely watched, and he might not be the only mind in the network. Too risky. They could just ask in person. Briefly the thought of tracking that rude robot came to mind, but that was petty, and the information was worthless. Eventually he decided to comb through docking records and the camera archives for the dock… He was sure he wouldn’t be lucky enough to see the mysterious box being packed up, but seeing who brought it in, when, and from where? That might give him the clues needed to solve that box mystery without ever touching it. That was worth the risk.

zayd.png

Oh what sweet beautiful hell Zadie had found herself in.
One tedious request after another for others had been one side quest fulfilled to her. Being amongst the stars in Hearts ship had been the highlight of her life so far. Her shipmates were a confusing bunch, too focused on being new to let themselves relax and integrate or too shy to do the same, but Zadie did what she could in her own little way to help out here and there.
Little bonds sparking to life.
Little sparks to widen her horizon.
Little by little Zadie would catch glimpses of emotions not her own and would smile, despite the resonance being one of sadness or anger, for it meant she was growing closer to them and in turn, would one day be able to amplify her relay and help them all work effortlessly as a team.
When the Matriarch's giant robot retreated with a middle finger, Zadie snickered despite the anger spikes radiating from half her crew. Arna and Hearts-on-fire went back to the ship and Zadie made a mental note to keep an eye out for maps of this quadrant at Arna's request. When she looked around Yaatree had disappeared too. Connections and information were out of Zadie's wheelhouse, so she simply shrugged.
"Sounds alright by me. I wanna go get some goods and get a bottle of somethin' nice for us to celebrate once we're off." She looked down at her armor's screen display, noting the time. "Why don't we all meet back here ina few hours?"

Seilen

The entire journey had been one problem after another, the Titus corporation being the most irritating he had ever faced. But now he stood off world, the architecture of the station bringing back unpleasant memories of being stuck as a meteorite miner. It was so so long until he could walk on fresh grass again, so long he spent waiting for the day he would get his chance at escape.

Only to realize now, Seilen had been zoning out from the moment they stepped onto the station, being woken up by the prospect of shopping. “I’d love to join you two for-“ But as he looked around, most of the crew had already departed, including Zadie. Confused, and rubbing his eyes, Seilen hurriedly tried to catch up to Zadie. He couldn’t remember now why he had lost track of time, accidentally bumping into several strangers on his way to the two.

“Hey, wait up!” Seilen had to call them, hopefully getting their attention enough that he could reach them.

“Mind if I- huff- join the -huff- shopping trip?” The weight of his weapon carrier, and a briefcase drained him of some of his energy on his way there.

[A collab post with @rissa ]


Zadie took a moment to gauge everyone's reactions before shrugging and stretching out her shoulders. It was quite the sight as she was still ladened in her power armor (she was rarely seen without it), it's bubble gum pink, electric sunset yellows, and pale blue paints stark against the dreary exterior of the prison-turned-hub. Zadie quiet liked it though.

Turning to one of her crewmates, one she suspected had similar gifts to her own. She wanted to ask about them - but it wasn't proper to do so until you were well acquainted - at least on her little world.

"Luer," Zadie called as she began forward, "Wanna help me with some resupplyin'? Maybe find somethin' useful during the way."

With everyone seemingly decided on their own paths, the archer nodded to himself and turned to find a more suitable location to his profession. Or at least he started to when a call of his name caught his attention. He looked to the source and tilted his head. He didn't know this one well, either.

As she offered to travel with him he took a moment to think over it. If he was seen with a woman there was a low chance anyone would agree to sleep with him. Not exactly a heartbreaking thought, but the loss in profit did sound painful. Even so, he could waiver this one for now, lest his new crew mate proved to be a talented wingwoman, and take the chance to establish some sort of rapport with her.

He offered a small smile and nodded. "I can do that." She would need help carrying it, too, right? Maybe… he wasn't sure.

Zadie smiled before closing the face shield of her helmet and taking a few short steps forward to catch up. She pointed farther along the makeshift bazaar thoroughfare, where a thick haze lingered between a few different stalls.

It was obvious that's where she intended to go, though she didn't voice anything for awhile. What could have been an easy ten minute walk through the bazaar took significantly longer, as more and more people arrived or shuffled out of the station and caused a jam in traffic every few minutes.

Eventually, Zadie glanced over at Luer and tilted her head. "Can I ask you something? You can tell me if it's too weird, I won't get upset."

Luer followed Zadie's gesture, seeing their destination. With her lead, he took pace beside her and walked with her. He didn't overly mind the business of the place, if anything he was watching other people more often than anything for anyone who might look like they know something helpful.

When Zadie spoke up again, he turned attention to her. He managed a small laugh. "It's hard to weird me out, I assure you. What's on your mind?" He returned. He wasn't too subtle about a lot of things, so what she wanted to ask had him curious. He also didn't entirely mind the idea of getting to know each other a little better.

"You're kind," Zadie says softly, her melodic voice muffled behind the helmet. "I like that."

They made their way through another throng of people - some waiting in line for a very flustered ammunition salesman - before Zadie spoke again, and in a very matter of fact tone asked, "Do you wanna be friends?"

Luer was rather surprised by the sudden compliment. He hadn't really spoken to too many of the other crew members personally like this before, so for her to get that impression right away was… surprising. He wasn't even sure how she got that impression. Was he kind? At this point he wasn't even sure if he was.

Thankfully the crowd and noise gave him a moment to process it. It wasn't enough, since Zadie's voice broke his thoughts with a rather straightforward proposition. It caught him off guard again. He was left with an unsure laugh, despite his smile clearly conflicted.

He should say no. He didn't know how long he'll be with the crew, and if he'll ever get to see them again once he has to leave. But it wouldn't be a true answer, either… He did want to. His only friends he had to leave behind and he wasn't sure if they'd be there when he got back either.

He cleared his throat. "I…" How was he supposed to answer? "Are you sure? I'm not exactly… a good person to befriend given my job." Nothing like a poor excuse for a genuine heart.

Zadie gave him an exasperated look from behind her helmet, having swung it around dramatically at the end of his statement. Thankfully they'd been caught in another jam, as her abrupt halt would have caused one.

"It ain't like your killing folk," Zadie said with an unusual hardness in her soft voice. It was a stark contrast to the delicate, almost shy muffled tone that came next. "My paw always said men and women of the night are to be treated with respect — that as long as they get their immunizations they ain't hurtin' no one."

There was a short pause as the traffic continued and they grew closer to the first of Zadie's desired stalls. By the scent lingering in the air, it was full of spices, rich and earthy, with a twang of spice that tickled the nose.

"I don't care about yer job as long as yer happy with it."

Zadie's shift in tone and mood once more caught the archer off guard. He blinked in surprise as it shifted once again. He flushed for a moment as she recited her father's words. Treated with respect? He certainly would not expect such a thing from anyone.

He looked away again when she added the last part as they got closer to a rather aromatic stall. Happy wasn't exactly how he would describe it, either. "W-Well, yes but… once I hit my quota I have to go back home and I… don't know if I'll ever get to leave again once I do… Having friends outside of home… that may never get to see me again just seems… cruel…"

"I'd love to keep in touch," Zadie continued without mentioning they prolly could, if grew a strong enough bond to send relays through. "But a part of life is also accepting the goodbyes."

Zadie hesitated, "It's the hardest when you're not ready to or it happens so suddenly, but I figure, why waste the time not being friends — isn't it better to have lived with what comes of it than not?"

"Well…" That wasn't likely to be possible unless they could do it without his boss finding out. He rubbed the back of his neck for a moment as she continued. She wasn't wrong, either, though. He could enjoy it while it lasts, and that's a philosophy he could entirely understand given his job, too.

Somewhat defeated, but clearly happy, he smiled weakly at Zadie. "Well… I can't argue with that logic, in any sense." He took a breath and composed himself again. "In that case, I'm happy to be friends."

Zadie smiled behind her mask and reached out with her gauntlets for a fist bump. At least they were similar enough on that front — it was easier to bond with likeminded people.

"You got any favorite foods?" Zadie asked as they neared the lines meant for the food stalls that were busy grilling, steaming, frying, and boiling at top notch speed. "I figure I'll get us all a nice hot meal for the road out and some perishables that'll stretch out those tasteless rations."

Behind her helmet she made a face, very much disliking the taste of dehydrated food.

Luer smiled at this, meeting Zadie's fist with his own. Having successfully cheered back up, he turned ahead again as they made their way to their first stop. It did smell quite nice. "Mm… I'm partial to savory foods. I like the stew my mom made for me…" He answered, a moment of happy nostalgia at the thought crossing his mind.

He smiled at her comment, chuckling at the obvious distaste she had for their rations. "Sounds good. It would be nice to have something good."

"Oh, yer bringing back some memories now! My grandpaw makes a mean mutton stew — he only makes it once a year though and promised us we ain't gettin' the recipe 'til he's dead."

Zadie visibly slumped, "Wish he wasn't like that but eh, that's my paw I guess."

She paused for a moment as they reshuffled in line, nearing the service line. Zadie pointed between three counters, eliminating one on second thought as her translation was off initially - the sign read sour not savory - and was more inclined for the "beef" than the "chicken" - because who in their right mind ate sour "sausage".

Before she could voice her question, Seilen arrived, breathless but eager. "Sure!" Zadie said through her cheery skull helmet, face shield still obscuring her features and muffling her voice.

"We're gettin' food first!"

Luer gave a small chuckle as Zadie mentioned her own family's food. "To each their own. If it's something he wants kept to himself then I can understand. Being able to give something to the family no one else can… It's kinda nice."

Having said that, he went quiet to let Zadie focus on the food once they were able to, giving a curious look at it. He didn't particularly care what it was, it looked rather good to him. But that train of thought derailed when Seilen called for them. He cleared his throat and nodded when he asked to join. "Anything specific in mind you'd like?" He asked, since he didn't want to seem like it upset him he came with them.
Daniel
(Interacting with Hearts-On-Fire) @Noble Scion

The Vatborn had mostly kept to himself during the drive, the young man was scared the entire time. Not because of the implications, nor the whole mercenary camp that they turned to after realizing they had no hope of paying back the debt in a timely manner. Being near the Drak, Hearts had made him feel safe enough to not be worried about the looks he was getting. Even though she scared him at times. It was the fear of the unknown as he drove them to the city of dreams, driving into that lift and getting on that ship. This was perhaps the first time someone like him had done this. And it made his heart beat faster and faster until he felt weak in the knees as he sat down in the cockpit.

When they were finally in space proper, Daniel was glued to the viewport. Looking back on the planet that was his home, before whipping his head to look around at the stars and distant moons and whatever he could see. He managed to suppress the tears that came subconsciously as he realized that his dream was on its way to being fulfilled. His gaze would eventually move to the assembled crew as Hearts piloted them to the coordinates, the 'jump' spooking him as his stomach lurched and he had curled into a ball as nausea hit him. Only vanishing when they left the jump and flew towards the refurbished prison station.

They were all unique in their own way, entertaining his questions, telling the truth or making up wild stories, minding his mannerisms and the odd way he seemed to interact with people like an overactive puppy.

There was of course Hearts, whom was the source of many stories that left him asking for more as she told him whatever came to mind. Not to mention, her taste in music wasn't bad. She even gave him recommendations on some artists, but besides that. She had wanted to be left alone for the majority of the time on the bus that was also his and their home, sometimes even offering to drive the bus so Daniel could rest, and she could have some 'alone time to think.' Which confused him as thinking was an all-time thing in his eyes, and much more preferable with company but he guess that was just a Drak thing. It probably also explained why his hair was toyed with at times when Hearts got that far away look in her eyes.

Then there was Zadie, a local on the planet. He had heard of the town she hailed from, including her father. She was perhaps the only other person that he would dare to say was an immediate case of friendship from the moment he parked the bus in the town, and she had joined the crew. He couldn't place it, but every interaction left pleasant tingles in his head and spine. But maybe that was just how pleasant the friendship was, that it made his brain happy and had also improved his cohesion with the others.

Seilen spooked him at times, from their first interaction onwards, due to Seilen's occupation and skillset being alien to Daniel. But it was quickly appreciated as he was handed a weapon by the man and been taught how to use it. The knowledge coming in handy when they fought off raiders who had attempted to rob them. Daniel was shaken by taking a life in defense and had spent that night sleepless and drinking to get the images out of his head. A move that wasn't great due to it being his first time drinking, which led to him getting sick. Seilen was the first to help Daniel cope with what happened, followed by the others. So Daniel could call him a good friend.

Yaatree was an odd one to Daniel, he was very secretive but very knowledgeable. Even going as far as to recount Daniel's stellar work history and his information up until he met the crew right after they had arrived on the planet. Whereas when Daniel asked Yaatree questions in that friendly way he always did when ferrying passengers, Yaat always avoided answering straight forward. Always skirting around the question and often would shut down any questions that pertained to him. At least until they got to know one another, then the shutdowns turned to more vague answers. But that was good enough for Daniel to bond over. Plus the tech help for the bus was greatly appreciated.

Azir was the only one that genuinely scared Daniel, as the Droqon seemed to appear out of the blue or vanish just as quickly. On top of the way when they first met, Daniel noticed those eyes looking him up in a manner that made Daniel felt like Azir was looking at him in a way as if Azir wanted to know how to take Daniel apart. Thankfully, this feeling eased to more of an uneasiness around the Droqon as they spent more time around each other.

Their crew-doctor was thankfully quiet in a different way, Daniel could have prattled on to Sariel for hours about stories and fun facts he had learned, especially during the surgery after he had been injured by a stray round and she was approached to save him and later join the crew. Though the before was blurry to Daniel, he only really knew that she joined up after he needed medical aid.

Arna was the navigator they had brought on, and despite initial friendly headbutting considering directions on the planet due to him being a local versus her logical usage of a map, Daniel respected her more and more as time went on and Arna keyed him in when the official path was often best or how to use said official paths to their advantage.

And finally, Luer. He didn't know what job Luer did before joining but whatever it was had made Luer a people person, at least that was how Luer explained his job to Daniel. And since Daniel didn't know, he didn't mind the hugs, hair tussling or compliments thrown his way. Though Luer would often complain about Daniel being 'cold to the touch.' An unfortunate byproduct of being a Vatborn, but one that was remedied. And despite that little snafu, the two were decent enough friends. Even though Daniel still didn't know what Luer's job was.

His trip down memory lane was interrupted as they landed and their owing of a favor to this Matriarch was told to them and they needed to transport a thing for her. Simple enough but the rude robot did make Daniel want to not be on this station any longer than needed. He was about to ask Hearts on what to do when she had said her words and stormed back onto the ship, stress practically pouring from her. And since Daniel wanted to be helpful to her, he would wave at the others. "I'll stay on the ship, and get this package secured." He said, as he followed after Hearts, breaking off to get the strange crate strapped in. The floating lift that transported it was powered down properly, and double checked. Experience from his days in the factory paying off as he was done before Hearts had sat down.

Entering the cockpit, Daniel would walk over to the Drak and would gently speak up. "Captain Hearts? Want me to get you anything? Er....From the bus? Since I don't quite know my way around your ship." He'd explain to her as he would sit down cross-legged next to her seat, looking up at her.

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[Interaction with Zadie, Luer and now Seilen] @rissa @LenxKaitoYaoi @LazTheSpazz
As the trio mingled and spoke on what to go shopping for, they would find themselves being heralded over by an aged looking man in a well-worn overalls. His gray stubble and calloused figure indicating the man had lived a rough but filling life. The building he stood in front of was simply labelled as 'Murphy's General Store'.

"Heard you three wanna do some shopping?" He'd speak to them when they came over as he limped back inside. The shop despite the meager entrance was actually bigger on the inside. Seilen would easily realize that in a prison ship structure, that this was supposed to the commissary for the prisoners or people visiting said prison before it had undergone a shift in management and purpose. It was large on the inside, almost similar to the ship's cargo hold in how big it was. There was fresh produce, meat in fridges, guns on the walls, ammo underneath said guns. The weapons nowhere near specialized, in fact it looked more like gear that had been sold from random visitors. There was survival gear, including space-shields meant to allow the wearer to traverse space without a suit, provided they had that shield on. There was also low-end armor and clothing of various styles and function in one part.

The old man went behind the counter and would speak once more. "Got goods for a fair price, browse to yer heart's contents." Closer inspection of his wares would show upgrade modules or rare gear that was hardly made anymore. Such as special gun mods that Seilen could only read about or for Zadie, there were mods for her suit and so on.
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[Interacting with Yaatree] @Grehstone

The Hacker would easily get access to the cameras and would have his way with the security around the hanger. But his experience and instincts would immediately key him in that he was more directed to remain in the hanger. With security there being easier to crack than beyond that, his path being always rerouted away from the more sensitive systems. And footage that concerned certain folks were blurry on their faces. Thankfully he would easily figure out how long that package has been sitting here.

Months

That was how long it had sat in the bay, checked on from time to time, but mainly left alone. The people who had brought this were the most hard to identify, not because of whoever was keeping Yaatree from going deeper into the system, but because the footage already was being altered. A scrambler being responsible. Yaat's device lighting up as someone typed a message onto it.

"Strange isn't it? They brought their own tech to censor themselves. Wonder what's inside that crate. But then again, you're probably better off not knowing. :)" Was all the message read to him before the feed cleared and he was staring back at the footage. Scouring over the footage again and again would reveal a small frame wherein a symbol was halfway revealed due to the range of the scrambler being too far to affect the cameras. It was unknown to Yaat but he could easily save a picture of it to later use to identify the symbol.

It looked like the Delta symbol with three dots in the middle, with a surrounding gearhead looking circle that enclosed the Delta symbol. It looked familiar in that way that your gut remembers it, but the brain had long since fogged over it. Whoever the people were, their ship looked cheap. Easily a low cost ghost ship meant to be used once and quickly scuttled to not leave a trace. Their species were varied, bird-like humanoid statures, reptilian bulk and gait. The whole thing was weird, for this ghost crew knew they'd be on camera and took preemptive countermeasures to hide their identity beyond a single frame that showed a symbol. An oversight but one that Yaat could use if he could get back to an information kiosk or was able to get into contact with his team.
 
Yaatree had much to think on. First, the soft direction to stay out of other systems. Yaat considered pushing back, infiltrating further, but… If he was directed, he was watched. Even with his wristcomp between his brain and the network, whoever was in there was good-possibly good enough to sneak something dangerous through the connection. So he avoided heavier security for now, and started running checks on his systems, just in case.

Then, the box. The aliens who brought it weren’t immediately recognizable as a single entity, their crew just as varied as the one which Yaat called home. The logo tickled his brain, too. But, for now, he couldn’t place that either. What did strike him was the length of time… Months. It couldn’t have been anything perishable or living, as there was neither an external power hookup nor any indication that it had an internal power source. And it couldn’t have been on a deadline, either; The Matriarch was at LEAST influential enough to rush a package somewhere, probably with crews better equipped and more trustworthy. That left Yaat with the reasonable conclusion that it was some kind of trade good-the sort of thing that someone like the Matriarch wouldn’t acquire because she know who would want it in particular, but because it was valuable enough that someone HAD to want it. Narrowing down further, it was either ludicrously valuable or illegal. Rare and precious metals or gems were a possibility. Weapons, possibly robotic or nuclear in nature, seemed a bit more likely. Some bit of stolen art or historical artifacts also seemed plausible but the weapons were still the forerunner in the race.

As for that final thought… the other in the system made itself known. No identification was given, and he had no idea where they were in a physical sense, but they were likely the system’s security expert. The text-only nature of the message made it hard to tell if they were hooked in like he was or simply using a keyboard, but the way it was typed directly into his wrist comp was alarming. He was HACKED. And he didn’t detect it until the message. The how was unclear as he shored up his defenses… Still, as he searched for that inlet, he saw something that WAS clear:
“You’re not just letting me see this; You WANT me to see it… Sounds like the sort of thing that would make your mistress angry. Why am I worth it?”
Was his reply, a text sent out into the channel he identified as the security hacker’s way into his wristcomp… Then, he queued up a few offensive options directly in his brain. The Wristcomp might be compromised. His own mind didn’t seem so, just yet. Most of the programs wouldn’t do anything visible to an outsider. But if Yaat let them loose, they’d hunt down the computer that ominous little text came in by, and wreak havoc. A hacker on Yaat’s level would probably be able to counter such an attack, but it would eat up his attention. And with a little time, Yaat could disconnect, clean out his systems thoroughly, and come back with truly ironclad defenses… But Yaat didn’t let them loose yet. As ominous and threatening as the security hacker was, they hadn’t explicitly threatened him yet. They’d given him a gift in letting him see that security footage, really. But anyone who could slip by him was dangerous, and you didn’t deal with a mysterious danger without your hand on your gun… Or virus, in this case.
@The Wanderer
 
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