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Simultaneously...

Obsidian Dawn
Bioengineering lab 4
In orbit of Ozymandias Station
Vega System, Draconis Combine 
May 24, 3029 
______________________________ 

I stood in the darkened observation room that looked out onto the surgical bay aboard the Obsidian Dawn, perusing the physiological profile of Bishop Weyland as Doctor Morales prepared for operation. We'd agreed that Morales would take the first operating shift while I advised him, and that I'd take the second under his guidance. Doing so would allow each of us a respite from the marathon of operations, while still ensuring that two sets of eyes were monitoring the experimental process at all times.

"Quite a mine field you're going to be navigating," I remarked, looking over Bishop's scans. "This man has a ridiculous amount of scar tissue. Why, if I didn't know better, I'd think he'd been literally blown to bits and then stitched back together with old-fashioned needles and sutures. I've seen cleaner cadavers in the Medical Sideshows of Station 13 picture book."

"The joint collaboration between Randolph P. Checkers and Duncan Fischer? Come on. You can't seriously be considering that an authoritative source. And anyway, just remember that you'll soon have to navigate that same mine field behind me," Morales chuckled, finishing his pre-operation disinfecting procedure, pulling on a pair of gloves, and donning a surgical mask. "Assuming that the M.I.D. doesn't shit the bed and delay the procedure."

"Well, we've got a few more opportunities to dry run the unit before we start down that path. While you tackle the visual upgrades, I'll do some surrogate implantation tests. Which reminds me," I replied, pressing my thumb against the verigraph protecting the design document for Weyland's upgrades, "he wants the eye color for both units set to red. Go ahead and give him the calibration unit while you're at it. He may want to change them later."

"Is Kauffman going to foot the bill for that?" Morales asked.

"You did his upgrades - you tell me," I laughed, reading through the specifications provided by the Crayven Corporation.

"He never had any payment issues as a private patient," the doctor answered.

"Well, that's good. And anyway, the data we're going to get back from the field tests of this equipment is worth more than a remote control for bionic eyes," I replied, setting down the noteputer and going about scrubbing up to join Morales in the operating theater.

"Assuming that he survives the procedure," Morales noted.

"Well, he did sign a waiver, as did Kauffman, but you're right, it would be a serious pain to have to start the search over for someone else crazy enough to volunteer for this type of procedure," I agreed. "Alright, let's get this show on the road."

###

The operating room was a small, sterile, white-and-chrome laboratory, at the center of which was a biobed with an ancient stasis unit augmented around it. Laying atop the bed, encapsulated in a sterile glass tube, was Bishop himself, in the process of undergoing deep anesthesia. Above and beside the equipment, a battery of computer terminals stood rigid watch, interpreting and reporting the man's vitals at regular intervals. A myriad of masked medical technicians stood ready to begin the marathon of operations. As we approached, one of the orderlies strode toward us.

"Doctors - the patient is ready. I will note that based on what we observed during his surgery prep, recovery will be a grueling ordeal for him. He's sustained a huge number of physical traumas in the past, and what we're going to do today isn't going to help his body's already-compromised healing mechanisms much," the medic advised.

"That's consistent with the scans of his scar tissue we were reviewing. Thank you for the update," Morales replied. "Please make sure that the physical therapists are following the procedures. We're ready to operate now. Go ahead and release the tube if he's solidly under at this point."

The technician nodded and returned to the bank of computer terminals. A few moments later, the sound of multiple latches disengaging sliced through the silence of the theater and a hiss filled the air. The transparent chrysalis sheared open.

"Ladies and gentlemen" I announced, "we're ready to initiate Myomer Implantation Field Test 1 on a living subject. Please keep in mind the high-stakes nature of this process. Our objective is to produce a high-quality human war machine. We want excellent, marketable results. Maiming our volunteer or leaving him in an other-than-living condition is unacceptable. If any of you have any uncertainties as to whether or not you're able to meet this vision, please leave now. And with that out of the way, at Doctor Morales' discretion, we'll begin."

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Meanwhile...

Screaming Dragon Bar & Grillhouse 
Ozymandias Station 
Vega System, Draconis Combine 
May 24, 3029 
______________________________

RadekHagen.png.2458cf5049f0b10f38554cfacdb27a47.png

The pirate - or at least, the man whom I assumed to be a pirate - glanced over his shoulder toward our table with a furrowed expression, dark eyes glistening beneath bushy eyebrows, an inquisitive scowl visible behind an unkempt, salt-and-pepper beard that jutted out below his face like the prow of a ship. Standing a full head above the patrons around him, the man was a giant with a physique to match.

I raised my saké cup, making eye contact with the man as I did so. In reply, he held up an expensive-looking, glowing glass of liquor with what appeared to be actual gold leaf floating in it, downing it with a single gulp. I nodded an acknowledgement.

"Oh god, I wonder how much that round cost..." I muttered through a cordial smile. The pirate grabbed another glass from the bar and loped toward us like a predatory, aloof animal, his eyes tracing from side to side, sweeping the room for threats as he did so.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" the pirate asked as he drew up to our table, towering over our floor-level seating arrangement. "I'm not dead, so we can rule out an assassination attempt."

"We wanted to meet a pirate!" Steve Jenkins blurted as he pushed another rice ball into his mouth, freezing with a "deer in the headlights" expression, teriyaki sauce running down his chin, as I shot him a brief glare. The pirate let out a hearty, growling chuckle. Although Steve's frankness had been lacking when it came to tact and laid our entire hand bare at once, it had the apparent effect of immediately defusing any potential tension.

"Is that so?" the pirate asked.

"We're not from around here. Just passing through. I noticed your insignia and thought that if anyone might be familiar with the neighborhood, you would be," I explained. "Charles Maxwell, 'Hurry Up Bessie' logistics company. These are my colleagues, Orlex Jaeger, Alyssa Chase, and Steve Jenkins."

"I thought the lot of you looked too squeaky-clean to be locals and too pale to be from the Combine," the man replied, holding up his drink. "Radek Hagen, but most people call me 'Malice.'"

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mister Hagen - " I began.

"No," Hagen interjected. "'Mister Hagen' was my father's name. 'Malice' will do. 'Captain Radek' in a crunch."

"Alright - 'Malice.' Pleasure to meet you. Please, have a seat - there's another drink in it for you if you do," I replied. Malice looked at me suspiciously, glanced around the bar, and then eased his towering frame down onto an available pillow, his leather armor creaking audibly as he did so. A moment later, our dragon-costumed server appeared.

"Cromarty Black, 3018 if you've got it, oldest in the house if you don't," Malice advised the server. "And a Waygu beef steak - rare - with a side of matsutake gohan - you don't mind if I eat while we...socialize...do you, Charles?"

"Of course not," I replied, C-Bill symbols flying through my head.

"Tadachini," the server responded, hurrying away to enter the order.

"So, Charles, what port do you hail from?" Malice asked in a tone of voice that was both jovial and terrifying.

"We're out of New Earth," I answered. "We're currently moving product for the New Earth Trading Company."

"Rather far from home out here at Vega. What sort of merchandise?" the pirate asked.

"We just unloaded two hundred gross of zinc vacuum energy cores and 50 head of Beefalo. We're empty right now," I explained, hoping to head off any ideas of burglary that the pirate might be formulating. "You're pretty far outside of your home territory yourself, aren't you?"

Malice chuckled, grabbing a sushi roll off of the communal platter in the center of the table and devouring it in one motion, a trail of rice spilling down his beard. "And how would you know where that is?"

"Well, I assumed that you're probably from Star's End, given the insignia," I observed. "And the impressive Nordic motif you're wearing."

Malice let out another bellowing laugh. "Maxwell, for a merchant, you're very comfortable talking to someone you think's a pirate. That'll come back to bite you in the ass if you're not careful. Seems like the rest of your crew here plays it closer to the vest."

I chuckled and downed another shot of saké. "I'm sure they're just held in rapt attention by your presence. We don't get out this way too often."

"Well, you got me. I'm from Star's End. Novo Cressidas, to be specific," Malice confirmed. "It's been a minute since I've been back that way."

"So you run with the Belt Pirates?" Orlex asked. Malice nodded.

"I did until about six months ago when a group of us ended up at Vega. We had been raiding up and down the front, using the punches that the Lyrans and the Combine were throwing as cover. We ended up hitting a freighter that had a huge load of prototype myomer on board. It was a motherlode - there were blueprints, research notes, all kinds of shit that suggested some kind of shady skunkworks between the FedRats and the Cappies. Fucking snakes," Malice growled, helping himself to more h'orderves.

"Anyway, we put the crew over in the lifeboats and decided to run the entire freighter and its cargo out here to Vega. We figured that the Dracs - the Cosby folks in particular - would pay top dollar for it. And we were right. But that's when things took a turn."

"How so?" I asked.

"Four of our ships escorted that freighter in, but my crew was the one that actually stayed aboard it to get its engines working and fly the goddamned thing out to Vega. A handful stayed aboard my ship. When we got here, we met the agent from Cosby. She paid our commodore and took the freighter and the cargo," the pirate began, accepting his plate of food and a bottle of whiskey from the waiter. "I thought that we were in the clear at that point."

I leaned back against the wall of the pagoda, the continuous stream of saké beginning to have a noticeable effect. "I'm guessing that turned out not to be the case."

"A regular genius is what you are," Malice growled. "Either someone in that flotilla - or someone on this station - is on the take for the Capellans, because the next thing I knew, my ship was impounded, my crew aboard the freighter are disappeared, and the rest of our fleet is hauling ass out of the system, leaving me and three other guys marooned here on Ozymandias Station. I didn't even get paid."

"Who has your ship impounded?" Alyssa asked.

"The Draconis Combine, on behalf of the Capellans, but no one seems to know why. And of course, neither Cosby nor the Kuritans want to admit to doing business with a pirate, so asking them to release my ship is a dead end. Meanwhile, the impound fees have piled up and exceed the price of the ship itself!" 

Malice punctuated the last words with an angry stab at his Waygu steak. "They took my Sternsnacht Claymore boarding pistols, too," the pirate grumbled.

I glanced toward the rest of the assembled crew before looking back toward our new acquaintance.

"If someone could bust the ship out of impound, what would it be worth to you?" I asked slyly. Maybe it was the alcohol talking. Or maybe I was already bored from our JumpShip travels. But either way, I felt like we had the opportunity to make a new and valuable ally. All it would cost us was a little mischief-making along the way.

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After making a few calls, I had determined that Captain Maxwell and the rest of the crew had gone to a restaurant called the Screaming Dragon Bar and Steakhouse. Catching a pedicab uptown, I arrived a short while later, and walking in, found the members of Aegis Division and the Hurry Up Bessie crew holding court with a hulking, dark-haired man who sat at the head of the table with a meal spread out before him that looked like it probably cost a month's wages. I assume he must have been very well off, and thus, a person of some importance, so when I approached, I ensured that I was doing so in the most respectful manner possible.

"Hey everybody, sorry to dash off on you earlier, like I said, I had some business I had to attend to." 

Behind the pagoda, on the stage, there was a huge crash of breaking furniture as one of the sumo wrestlers picked up the other and threw him through a table and then promptly fell through the surface of the stage. The thrower let out a victorious yell and flung his arms out to either side, and then did a belly flop onto the man who had fallen through the hole in the stage. A loud groan and the sound of barfing resulted. It was a weird sideshow. 

"Charles? Another member of your crew?" Asked the dark haired man. 

"Yes, this is Nathan Schmidt, he's something of a computer specialist, among other abilities." Maxwell answered in a slightly-buzzed tone of voice. "Nathan, this is our new friend Captain 'Malice' Radek. He's from Star's End." 

I raised an eyebrow with an impressed gaze at Captain Maxwell. 

"Pleasure to meet you, sir. I admit I think this is a first. I've never met a, um..." 

"A pirate?" laughed Radek. "Well, count yourself fortunate, that probably means you've been playing it safe. Come, sit, drink! Charles here was just asking what it would be worth to me to get my ship back. The answer is...it would mean everything, of course....."

Edited by Nathan Schmidt
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Screaming Dragon Bar & Grillhouse 
Ozymandias Station 
Vega System, Draconis Combine 
May 24, 3029 
______________________________


I saw the wheels turning in the Captain's head, almost knew what he was going to say before he did, I hadn't known Charles Maxwell that long but I knew his type, had served with several of them over the years in fact, not all of them were still around.

"If someone could bust the ship out of impound, what would it be worth to you?" Charles asked slyly with a slight smile.

I thought as much, mentally shaking my head slightly, I couldn't argue with the Captain's line of reasoning we could stand to make a valuable and potentially powerful ally if, and that was a big IF things went our way. On the flip side, if things went awry they could go very very badly, worst case we end up dead or rotting in a Draconian prison cell, although I'd still take that over a Capellan one, best case we would no longer be welcome in Vega and could potentially have a pirate hunting us down for revenge, provided 'Malice' ever found a way off this station. Well, in for a demi, in for a c-bill, I thought, a modern take on some ancient Terran saying.

Just then Nathan Schmidt arrived in the bar to join us, after a brief introduction between Nathan and our new pirate friend, he sat down seemingly impressed with Maxwell's ability to find "interesting" company nearly everywhere we went. Nathan had apparently never actually met a pirate, which was probably fortunate and Malice echoed that sentiment.

"Come, sit, drink! Charles here was just asking what it would be worth to me to get my ship back. The answer is...it would mean everything, of course..." bellowed Malice with a hearty laugh.

"Well, supposing someone was actually capable of pulling that little feat off, I imagine I would owe them a sizable debt," continued the gruff sounding Radek Hagen, "A debt I would be looking to pay back, within reason of course."

After a short pause Malice continued, "While we're speaking of hypotheticals, what makes you think there's someone here that could pull it off. Be logical to assume it's already been tried, would it not?"

"True, but if it's been tried then there's intel out there. Plus many hands make the load light, or so the saying goes," replied Maxwell.

"Yes, but they also say too many cooks spoil the broth," countered Malice with a grin.

"Fair point, perhaps there's a sweet spot in between?"

"Could be, let's say there is for conversation's sake," the pirate paused for a moment to savor a bite of his likely very expensive steak, "mhmm this Waygu steak, best on the station. Enough of the word sparring though, why should I believe that some merchants would be capable of doing what some pirates, who are rather invested in this particular venture I might add, are not? Remember we pirates have a tendency to just take what we want from you merchants, generally speaking without too much trouble either."

"We don't all hail from New Earth Malice," I replied, "and not everyone is a merchant for life either."

Malice turned his head and looked at me, his eyes gauging me beneath his furrowed brow, "Oh I'm not so dim as to believe that my dear boy, Orlex was it? I'm well aware that you are not mere merchants, just as I am not some pirate wannabe. My question still stands, why should your crew fair any better than my own attempt?"

Edited by Orlex Jaeger
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While everybody was talking to the huge pirate, I decided I needed more Alcohol drinks but I couldn't get the Waiters attention, he was too busy running all over the place and I needed booze now. So I went over to the Bar and tried to get the Bartenders attention, but there were a bunch of Yakuza bosses in the way and the Bartender couldn't see me even when I jumped up and down, finally I decided to ask the Yakuza bosses to get out of my way.

"Hey I need to get a Drink can you please move??" I asked the Yakuza bosses. "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?" One of the Yakuza asked. "I'M A YAKUZA CRIME LORD AND I DON'T MOVE FOR ANYONE."

"Well I'm Steve Jenkins and I'M NOT FROM AROUND HERE!" I said back. "Jenkins?? Did you say your last name was JENKINS??" Said the Yakuza Boss.

"Yeah, why, it doesnt change the Facts that you are between Me and my Alcohol." I said back. The Yakuza Boss blinked, I don't think he was expecting me to say that. "Are you the son of Bob Jenkins??" He asked. Then another Yakuza Boss turned around, now I had 2 big heavy guys in Suits looking at me.

"I used to be the Son of Bob, but then I Divorced my parents so that I didn't have to be a Farmer and learn Mechanics." "OK well your Father owes us 100,000 RYU for Yakuza Dues." Said the Yakuza boss. "If he doesn't pay up we will Burn his farm down."

"Well I want to see you try, the only thing Anybody can farm on Kuuzu is dirt!!" I said back. "THATS NOT THE POINT, WE WILL BURN THE HOUSE AND THE BARN AND THE OTHER THINGS DOWN IF HE DOESN'T PAY!" Said the Yakuza. "Why does my dad have Yakuza dues anyway, he's not a Yakuza??" I asked. Then the Yakuza boss started Laughing.

"WHEN WAS the last time you went home, do you evenv know your parents anymore???" Asked the Yakuza boss. "Bob Jenkins applied for a Yakuza membership 5 years ago and he got accepted, but he never Paid his full subscription fee and now he owes Back Fees for his Membership, also we have been trying to Recah him about his car's extended warranty but that's a different issue!"

"WELL I don't know anything about any of that, but I'm a high powered Attorney now and you'll drop those Fees or you'll get Litigated." I said. The Yakuza boss gave a huge Belly Laugh.

"I don't Fear your lawsuit." The Yakuza said. "But I will make a Deal. That man on the Stage is the 9 time Grand Champion of Steakhouse Sumo. He is undefeated 9 times. If you can beat him in a Match, you can win the Pot and pay for your Father's subscription and he will not Owe me anymore."

"You have a Deal." I said. "Where do I get my Weapons??"

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"My question still stands, why should your crew fair any better than my own attempt?" The inquiry came from Malice, who punctuated the words in the air with flourishes from his fork as a large chunk of the steak was slowly ground apart between his teeth.

In the silence that followed, Nathan took his seat at the table while Steve wandered over to the bar and proceeded to engage in a rowdy conversation with the Yakuza-looking types in suits. I looked toward Charles, who was now leaned casually against the table with a mischievous expression on his face. I knew the look - it was the uninhibited, reckless side of his personality surfacing - a side normally reserved for controlled circumstances and seen in brief flashes - but now it appeared that an impromptu operation was being slowly informed by it.

"You can't be serious..." I whispered. Charles simply flashed me a knowing grin.

"Two reasons," the Captain began, returning his attention to the pirate. "One: the entire station probably knows who you are by this point, so there's nothing that you can do that doesn't go unnoticed. We don't have that disadvantage. And two: since it seems that you've already called our bluff - you're right. There's more than meets the eye to the talent on our crew. Suffice it to say that the places we end up often call for a wide variety of specialized abilities. Trade can be such an unpredictable profession, wouldn't you agree?"

Malice let out a dubious grunt, but didn't dissent. A moment later, he formulated a reply.

"And what form would this plan of yours take?" the pirate asked. A sudden, shrill scream cut across the bar, and my head snapped toward its source. There, on the stage, bedecked in only a Sumo loincloth and a bizarre attempt at a kumadori style of makeup usually reserved for kabuki, was Steve Jenkins, a massive opponent coming straight at him with a powerful shoulder charge. I buried my head in my hands and looked back toward our guest.

At least with Jenkins at the center of attention, prying ears aren't likely to overhear whatever insane proposal is about to get laid out...

"I preface this by saying that it really does seem like you got the short end of the stick in this situation. Cronysim keeping your ship tied up for no clear reason is not due process at all, and so my conscience is pretty clear in what I'm about to propose. The plan is simple," Charles began, downing another shot of rice wine before continuing. "First, you help us understand how your ship is being held, where it is, and what you've already tried. Then, about two or three days from now, we use our charms on the dockmaster to get you and your crew aboard it. Once we've achieved that end, we distract the impound people, spoof the impound monitoring systems, and then cut the linkage to the mooring clamps. You haul ass out of here and we pull our people out of position before the ruse is discovered."

Malice stared at Maxwell for several long moments. Then, the glowering, dark-haired man began to laugh. It began as a chuckle, then morphed into a loud, raucous chortle, finally crescendoing into a howl of hysterics. All the while, Charles maintained the same placid expression. I glanced back and forth between the pair in confusion.

"Charles Maxwell, you are truly insane. I approve of this mad plan, but tell me - what price would you have me pay for this service of yours? I presume that you do not do this simply out of an act of charity?" Malice punctuated the words with a generous slam of whiskey.

"You're probably correct on both counts," Maxwell grinned. "The price is a guarantee of safe passage to and from the Oberon Confederation, backed by independently verifiable information about where your brothers-in-arms are going to be operating so we can stay out of their way. And there's a caveat to this entire plan: I'm not going to order anyone to participate. The entire undertaking is strictly on a volunteer basis only."

The pirate's customary scowl returned. After several moments more, he sighed heavily and then spoke.

"You drive a hard bargain, Mister Maxwell. I accept your terms. I will tell you what I know. In return, I want to know to whom I'm entrusting this fatuous plot of yours so I can rest assured that I'm not handing my livelihood over to amateurs," Malice agreed.

"Well," I interjected, "if you lunatics are insistent on doing this, you're going to need a systems expert with a penchant for being able to get into areas of cyberspace where she doesn't belong. Count me in."

Edited by Alyssa Chase
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"Well," Alyssa interjected, "if you lunatics are insistent on doing this, you're going to need a systems expert with a penchant for being able to get into areas of cyberspace where she doesn't belong. Count me in."

"I'm in as well," I said with a smile, "I've got a knack for engineering that I have a feeling will be useful. Plus to be honest I'm curious to see what kind of ship our pirate friend here has."

Charles nodded at each of us with an almost mischievous grin, I think the rice wine was starting to get to him, and I could see the wheels continuing to turn in his head as he formulated more of a plan, and possibly contingencies as well. I was growing to like Charles more and more as I got to know him, there was a certain reckless bravado to the man that was normally carefully framed by an attention to detail and thoroughness that was often lacking in mercenaries, let alone those in command. It was an admirable trait for a leader, even more so when combined with the fact that he genuinely cared for those in his charge. I had heard about some of their previous exploits from before I joined Aegis Division and it was easy to see why people were willing to follow him on what some might see as a foolhardy venture, hell I just agreed to help a pirate steal his ship back from the Kuritans simply cause it sounded exciting and Charles seemed sure we could pull it off.

A loud crash following by more screaming and the sounds of something breaking over on the sumo stage drew my attention away and I leaned over to the side to try and get a better look. I wasn't sure but I thought I saw Steve going flying sideways through the air, whether of his own accord or courtesy of his sumo opponent I couldn't tell.

"I can't speak for the man himself, but if we are in need of a distraction we do know someone who is excellent at providing them," I said with a chuckle as another crash resounded across the Screaming Dragon's dining area. 

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“Hold on a minute,” I said just loud enough to be heard over the metallic clanging sounds that were coming from the sumo ring, for some reason. “Shouldn’t you all think this through in the morning - without the sake - before committing to a heist of an entire dropship?”

 

“It’s unconventional, but this seems a lot safer than trying to pass through Malice’s neighborhood without any inside information,” Maxwell said. “And, this is a volunteer operation; you don’t need to get involved.”

 

“Sure, but if this thing goes south, it’s going to put the non-participants in a difficult situation, too. What are we supposed to do if you yayhoos get yourselves arrested?” This was maybe not the most diplomatic way to voice my objection, but I’d had a few cups of sake myself. “Do we leave without you and try to finish a year-long job shorthanded? Try to convince your CEO friend that bribing you out of jail is a normal business expense? Even if you’re only suspected of being involved, we can’t haul ass out of the system until Bishop gets back from that thing he’s doing for another three days.”

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MEANWHILE...

I climbed into the Ring, there was a huge hole in it wheree one of the Sumos had gotten smashed through it, now I was going to face the 9 time Station Champion for the Title and money pot. I climbed into the Ring and there was a HUGE Sumo wrestler looking at me, he had on face paint that looked like Flames and a mawashi that had dead snakes hanging off of it for decorations. The Bartender had gave me a rental Sumo outfit and now I was wearing it with red face paint on and staring at the other guy who was probably 500 pounds and over 6 feet tall.

"In this corner 9 time Station Champion Fujiazuma Kabudo!!" The Bartender screamed into a megaphone except he was talking in Japanese, so it sounded kind of different. "And in this Corner is Steve Jenkins who is a vistor to the Station and is challenging for the Title!" I looked out at the Audience, the Yakuza bosses were all there and they were laughing, one of them said "He's going to get killed."

"You just wait and See" I said "I am master of my own destiny!!" But somehow I had got distracted when I was talking to the Yakuza Bosses and all of the sudden I felt a gigantic CLANG on the back of my head, I must have missed the start buzzer because the Sumo wrestler had smashed me over the head with a chair and I was going down! I screamed in Range and Embarrassment and rolled over, then I grabbed a free weapon from the Combat Supplies box and swung it at Fujiazuma, it was a kitchen blender on an Electric cord for some reason and it busted into a bunch of pieces when it hit him, also it only seemed like it made him Mad and then he came at me with a Rope Chain and a loud Yell.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGHHHHH!!!" The Sumo Wrestler yelled and he whipped the Rope Chain at me, I jumped just in time and the Rope Chain smashed the Food and Drinks off of 5 tables in front of the stage. A bunch of p[eople in the audience started hollering at me for making their food fall over, I stopped and yelled back "I didn't do it, it was him!" Then I pointed but instead I was pointing at the Ceiling on account of Fujiazuma had grabbed me by the Thong and threw me into the air! "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!" I Screamed and I Crashed down into a pagoda and landed in some lady's lap, then I looked up at her and said "Hey, I'm Steve Jenkins, maybe after this match we can go Park somewhere" She started to giggle but then I saw Fujiazuma come Flipping Tables over and the next thing I knew he had Grabbed me and threw me back onto the stage!! I almost fell into the Hole but I didnt, the next weapon I grabbed off of the Rack was a Suruchin, which is basically 2 Rocks around the end of some ropes, I started spinning them in the air and then I threw them, they went whipping at Fujiazuma and they wrapped around his Neck, all of the sudden he started making choking Noises and grabbing at his Throat but he was still running Toward me! Then I grabbed the next weapon which was Hamburger meat, what was I going to do with Hamburger meat?? SO I threw it all at him anyway, all it did was make a mess. But then Fujiazuma fell down on the mat with a huge BOOM, he looked really Red in the face like he was having a medical Problem. "Somebody help him!!!" Somebody yelled "Steve Jenkins you better not have kjilled him!" Yelled the Bartender, I wasn't going to let myself catch a Murder charge so I ran over and took all the ropes off of Fujiazuma, just then he woke up and hit me with a Thousand Hand Slap, it was all a trick! I flew backwards in slow motion and smashed into the Juke Box which blew up with a thousand explosions, I sat there in the Record Player part of the juke box for a minute because I was dazed, then I saw Fujiazuma coming at me again!!

"NO I CAN'T TAKE ANY MORE OF THIS!!" I Yelled, but then all of a sudden time slowed way down and everyhting in the room turned greenish gray and I could hear a really Loud heartbeat, then I looked into the middle of the ring and Jingles was standing there, he was saying something to me with his really big red clown mouth, he was saying "STEVE....USE THE FORMALDEHYDE, STEVE..." "What?? I said, there's no formaldehyde and even if there was I don't know how to use it!!!" Then Jingles pointed at a Mop Bucket next to the kitchen door that had a bunch of rags in it and a shopping basket that said CLEANING CHEMICALS on it in Kurita, I got out of the juke box and ran in slow motion to the mop bucket, then I picked up the chemicals and I Read the labels, they said ARSENIC, NAIL POLISH REMOVER, CYANIDE, FORMALDEHYDE!! Jingles was right!! I didn't know how to use it so I just dumped a bunch of formaldehyde all over one of the greasy Rags, at that second time ran back together and I was back in the Match, Fujiazuma was chasing me around with a flaming torch, I didn't know where he had got it from!! I ran away Screaming but then I tripped and fell on my stomach which made me puke into the big Hole in the stage, then I looked up and Fujiazuma was flying through the air about to do a Sumo Smash on me!! I Screamed bloody murder and stuck my hands out, one of my hands had the Formaldehyde Rag in it and it went into Fujiazuma's mouth and nose on accident, then the next thing I Knew Fujiazuma was making a weird Animal/constipation kind of face and his eyes went crossed, then he Peed his pants and flew over me and crashed down into the Hole in the stage, and then he didn't get up!! I yelled and started Sobbing, I didn't mean to kill him!! Then the Announcer came on the speaker.

"STEVE JENKINS, YOU -" "I know I know I know." I Siad. "I am Out of the match."

"NO, STEVE JENKINS YOU HAVE WON THE MATCH. STEVE JENKINS IS THE NEW POT CHAMPION FOR THE STATION SUMO MATCH."

"WHAAAAAAAAATTTTT???" I couldn't Believe it, I was not expecting the words that fell out of His mouth! I Started breathing really heavy and then I started feeling super vomity, I started to say "Hey guys I think I'm having a Panic problem, I'm a sitting duck if I..........." but then I.........blacked.....................out.........................

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“Hold on a minute,” Nikki interjected, as, on the combat stage, Steve Jenkins was unceremoniously smashed over the head with a metal chair.  “Shouldn’t you all think this through in the morning - without the sake - before committing to a heist of an entire dropship?”

“It’s unconventional, but this seems a lot safer than trying to pass through Malice’s neighborhood without any inside information,” I explained. “And, this is a volunteer operation; you don’t need to get involved.”

“Sure, but if this thing goes south, it’s going to put the non-participants in a difficult situation, too," Captain Harlow continued. "What are we supposed to do if you yayhoos get yourselves arrested? Do we leave without you and try to finish a year-long job shorthanded? Try to convince your CEO friend that bribing you out of jail is a normal business expense? Even if you’re only suspected of being involved, we can’t haul ass out of the system until Bishop gets back from that thing he’s doing for another three days.”

I swirled my drink thoughtfully. Nikki had a valid concern - several of them, in truth. Chief among them was the vulnerability of any non-participants to retaliatory actions, especially Bishop Weyland, who at this very moment was going under a surgeon's knife for a series of brutal elective surgeries. Malice furrowed his brow, and I sensed that we might be losing the pirate's interest. I had to make a judgement call - quickly. All the while, the mental image of William Kauffman reacting to a notice of his crew being incarcerated ran through my mind.

"All entirely reasonable concerns. You're right, we're in no condition to help Captain Radek remove his vessel from the impound lot..." I began.

"Thank Blake," Nikki interjected.

"...tonight." I continued. Looking toward Malice, I elaborated on the statement. "We have a man who's off-station on some business that's going to take at least two or three more days. To Captain Harlow's point, if we need to bug out with you, we have to be able to collect him expeditiously. And we need to dry out a bit and get a sense of the variables involved so that we don't screw it up before we pull the pin on this grenade. Let's catch up the day after tomorrow, and we'll compare notes at that time and see if we're a go, sound good?"

The pirate nodded and extended one of his gigantic hands, clad in a fingerless glove. I took it in a firm handshake.

"You are a gentleman and a scholar, Mister Maxwell," the pirate laughed. "I like the way you and your people think." The hulking man cast a flirtatious glance at Nikki. "We will discuss business later. For now, let us commiserate in the company of good food, new friends, and excellent entertainment."

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