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Onboard the Hurry Up Bessey 

Just then, to my astonishment, the hulking form of Lieutenant Weyland appeared within the airlock. He appeared to be walking under his own power.

"Bishop?" I gasped.

"Wow. He's big," Mal gasped.

Bishop slowly lumbered forward, his mass filling the space between the small group on individuals. With each step his mag boots gave a heavy thump on the deck. Bringing his head up the skinwalker activated his left eye’s thermal imaging. Instantly the two figures stand in front of him be came a wash of orange, reds and blues. 

“Alyssa, good to see you again” Bishop said, now feeling the creeping pain of the surgery. 

Both Alyssa and the new comer instinctively took a half step backwards. The Strategic Operations Manger wasn’t sure if it was his physical body change or he red glowing eyes. The pair were obviously spooked by his presence. Bishop instantly picked up the trace sent of fear pheromone in the air.  The beast whimpered with hunger. 

“Bishop.... what did they do to you?” Alyssa asked almost to herself. 

Ignoring Alyssa question Bishop went on to ask 

“And who might this be?” Turning his head the thirty year old man standing in a lab coat. 

“My name is Doctor Mallory Akron, I was hired to assist you in your recovery Lieutenant” the man said extending his hand. 

Bishop stood motionless for a moment studying the man with his infrared eye and taking in his sent. 

“Forgive me Doctor... if I don’t shake hands, it’s for your own safety. I’m still learning to control my augmentations” said the Mercenary. 

“Of course Lieutenant! I understand”. Said Mallory retracting his hand and adjusting his glasses. 

“Warrant Office Chase... was the Doctors hiring status approved by the General?” Asked Bishop. 

“I...I think so” replied Alyssa. 

Bishop reached behind him and brought up a large steel pelican case that was floating behind him. 

“Well Doctor, since you’ll be assisting me in my recovery this case contains my medical file, and detailed instructions from Doctor Reade. This also contains all data and informations of exactly what I have. Since you have been subcontracted by Aegis you are now... by default a temporary hire for Crayven Corps. You are now subject to all interstellar corporate laws pertaining to asset confidentiality. You have a temporary security clearance, given by me in this matter. Your clearance authorization is Alfa-One. Warrant Officer Chase will also have the same clearance due to her background. She... and only she... may assist you if need be.” Bishop said deadpanned. 

Doctor Mallory took the large case hesitantly. 

“Ah... ok. I’ll need time to read through this information”

“You have six hours, before we start. In cargo bay two you will find additional medical equipment and supplies if you need them” said Bishop feeling a slight buzzing in his skull. 

“ Lieutenant, how are feeling” asked Alyssa sadly. 

Bishop saw that Alyssa was starting and his left hand. Following her eyes the Skinwalker saw a trickle of blood running down his argument hand from under the cuff of his black form fitting full body compression suit. The myomer bundles in his hand where clearly visible under his skin. 

“I’ll be fine Alyssa... Doctor Mallory, I’ll be in my quarters resting. Please come and wake me in six” Bishop said with a painful smile. 

Mallory and Alyssa stepped aside to slow the Skinwalker to pass. After a moment the both of them turned and starred at each other in astonishment, the echos of heavy mag boots still echoing in the corridor as the predator skulked back to its cave. 

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RWRS Valhalla
Impound Docks - Ozymandias Station
Vega System, Draconis Combine
May 30, 3029
____________________________________

I reached the first docking clamp on the exterior of the ship in short order, we didn't have long until the camera loop might be discovered by someone still watching the security feeds and I didn't want to waste any time. Alyssa was busy inside the ship disabling the mooring clamps from within while I had to take care of the large magnetic locks on the outside of the ship. These were large metallic pads that attached the station's docking arms directly to the hull in addition to the standard mooring clamps, which typically mated with the ship's own internal mooring clamps, specifically with the impound docking arms. It also allowed the Impound dock to restrain an uncooperative ship, although I wouldn't want to see the end result of a struggle between the ship's engines and the docking arms, neither party would fair well.

"Wraith to Mirage - I've found the gearbox. Initiating Phase 2," Alyssa whispered over the comms.

"Copy that - Mirage to Phantom and Ghost - as you're able, you should start heading toward the ship. Things are about to start happening in quick succession," I replied as I pulled out a plasma torch and started cutting the bolts on the cover plate of the first electromagnetic clamp.

"Roger that, Mirage - we're rolling," responded Maxwell.

I spared a brief glance over and saw Maxwell and Malice making their way out towards the vessel before turning my attention back to the heavy maintenance cover plate I just finished cutting free, the zero-G environment allowing me to easily move the large, armoured plate aside and leaving it free floating out of the way.

"Holy shit," came Malice's excited voice over the comm, "I think your man Jenkins must have hit something in the control room. Those Yakuza ships aren't supposed to be free of their moorings with nobody at the helm."

Oh boy, I thought as I looked over towards where we had seen several Yakuza dropships moored earlier. Sure enough several of them were now disconnected or partially disconnected from their docks and floating free, one in particular, a Condor-class aerodyne dropship, appeared to have been pulled to the side before being released and was now veering dangerously close to two other dropships. Turning back to my task at hand I initiated a manual override on the large electromagnets within the housing of the impound clamps, a large lever allowed what was essentially an over-sized breaker to air-gap the electrical circuit powering the electromagnet and causing it to release from the hull. With the first clamp successfully released I moved to the next and repeated the process, cutting open the appropriate cover plate and then activating the manual release lever.

"Wraith to all units - I'm cutting the cord now," Alyssa alerted us over the radio.

I stopped cutting the access panel I was working on and braced myself, a moment later the ship shuddered as a series of explosions deep within the vessel reverberated through the hull with a surprising amount of force. I watched with satisfaction as the mooring cables went slack and those I had already disabled the clamps on were now drifting slowly away from the ship. There was no way the Impound Dock authorities would miss the explosions, even with them being internal to the ship, and the now free floating mooring cables, and I needed to work fast to get the final two impound clamps removed. I finished up the last bit of cutting needed for this clamp and disengaged the electromagnets without difficulty before moving to the final clamp. A sudden crashing and grinding noise of metal on metal washed across the pressurized dock as the Yakuza owned Condor from earlier crashed into another vessel almost in slow motion, the shower of reflective metal the only real sign of the damage done at this distance, maybe the Impound Dock authorities would miss our own exploits for a little longer.

"Wraith to Mirage: I've cut the cord. You're clear to proceed with Phase 3," Alyssa reported, "I'm headed back to the bridge to see what I can start bringing online."

"Copy that Wraith, I've got one more clamp to go then I'll start Phase 3," I responded.

I made it to the final clamp and cut away the cover plate with little difficulty but when I operated the large manual release lever nothing happened, I tried it again and still nothing the indicator lights were still on and the electromagnetic clamp stayed engaged.

"Shit!" I swore to myself, as I tried in vain to operate the lever a few more times before radioing the others, "Mirage here, ... we might have a problem. The last clamp isn't releasing, going to have to improvise. Just ignore the flashy light show, - unless you here me screaming or something."

I looked at the plasma torch in my hand and considered it for a second but that decided it wouldn't work, I needed to short out of the circuits powering the giant electromagnets in the clamp and the plasma torch would just cut through the coils too cleanly and it would take too long to cut through enough of the coils to disable the clamp. No I needed something that would melt the coils without completely destroying them, and then hope that the short circuit would be enough to melt more of the coils to the point that the whole electromagnet would fail and in theory trip a breaker or other circuit protection back on the dock side of the mooring cable. The only other option was to cut through the myomer bundle attached to the impound clamp but even with the plasma torch it would take too long and I didn't have any of the handy explosives that Alyssa had used. Instead I slapped a power cell into my bionic arm and opened the ports for the internal laser, taking aim at a particularly large set of coils that were exposed under the cover plate I had removed and fired. Instead of the usual short blast of laser fire I held the firing mechanism on and sent a solid beam of laser fire burning into the highly conductive electrical coils and watched in satisfaction as they first began to glow and then melt together. The continuous beam from my arm laser created more heat than normal and quickly burned through the power pack but by the time it was spent I had melted a significant portion of the exposed coils. A second power pack later and all of the exposed coils were fused together, I was about to grab the plasma torch and start cutting a new access hole to get at more of the coils when I noticed the fused ones were now glowing on their own and a faint glow could be seen starting to emanate from within the clamp itself. I backed up quickly as most of the remaining coils started melting and even more of the circuit shorted out, the massive amounts of power that were running through the large electromagnet were now bypassing it intended routes and instead was jumping across damaged coils that were never meant to handle that much power. I suddenly realized there was a very real risk of the electromagnet shorting to ground, which in this case meant its metallic casing, and by extension the very hull I was standing on, but before I could figure out if I would be like a terrestrial bird on a power-line or squirrel shorting out on a transformer there was a massive blue glow that burst forth from the open panel on the clamp, along with a shower of sparks. I opened my eyes, which I had reflexively shut, and realized I was thankfully still among the living, the clamp floated harmlessly away with nothing more than the dull glow of melted copper emanating from within it.

"Well I'm still alive, and we're clear. Moving to the final part of Phase 3," I called over the radio as I turned and ran back towards the ship's main docking collar. 

Phase 3 required a manual release of the docking collar to fully free the ship from the impound dock, technically it could be completed through the computer systems but would require hacking through multiple layers of the Impound Dock security systems and Alyssa had more than enough on her plate getting the ship up and running. So instead I should be able to bypass all of that and manually disconnect and even retract the docking arm using maintenance controls and a bit of creative engineering. Arriving at the docking collar, and re-opening the control panel Alyssa had accessed earlier, I swapped around a few wires and pulled a couple others to make the system think that it was no longer connected to a valid docking collar. On the opposite side I opened another small access hatch and pulled a circuit board out, shorting out a couple contacts before replacing it back in and then moving back up the treelike umbilical cables and back near the maintenance tunnel we had originally used to access the ship. Opening the access panel up there I pulled out a maintenance panel and flipped a pair of small toggle switches to revert the docking arm to a maintenance override mode and plugged in the portable engineering console that I had in my satchel. The console brute forced it's way into the system with some help from an automated batch program Alyssa had previously prepared just for this task, once in the console loaded up a basic control scheme that would allow manual control of the docking arm, usually reserved for performing maintenance and testing on the docking arm during overhauls. With the disabled control panel and partially shorted out circuit board the docking arm now believed it was in a test mode and allowed me to disconnect from the Valhalla's docking collar with ease. Once all the cables finished disconnected I was able to retract the arm upwards enough to give the ship a relatively wide berth once its engines were up and running.

"Mirage to all units, Phase 3 complete. We are free and clear," I reported over the radio before continuing, "Wraith, how are you making out with the ship's systems? I can make my way aboard now if an extra pair of hands would be helpful."

Edited by Orlex Jaeger
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MEANWHILE..... 

I Really fast hit all kinds of Buttons on the Control Panel when the dock master came back onto the room and started hollering at me, I didn't care what they did, I just slapped all the buttons with Both of my hands like I was playing Wack a Mole, then I I turned around and got out of my Chair. 

"Never you mind what I'm doing, I'm the new Belt Holder of Screaming Dragon Sumo and if you know what's good for you you'll let me handle my Business" I intoned and I looked at the dock master to make sure he knew I was Serious. 

"Why are you in my office with that stupid Ninja mask on your face??" He asked. You're not even supposed to be in here pushing buttons!! 

"Because you DON'T need to know my Secret identity!!" I Hollered. "I'm doing crime for my friends!!!" 

"That's it, I'm calling the cops!!" Said the dock master, then he went to a phone panel to call the cops. "OH NO YOU DON'T!!" I Yelled and I threw a Sai through the air so hard that it stabbed all the way through the phone that the Dock Master was about to use and the phone wrecked all over the place. The dock master turned around and looked at me, somewhere else there were huge booms out in the Dock yard, I think there might have been a ship wreck happening. 

"You dare weapon at me??" the dock master yelled. "Do you know Who I am??" 

"You are my opponent on the Field of battle!!!" I Screamed, then I pulled out my Bushido blade and did a combat stance. 

"No, Steve Jenkins.....Yes, I know it is you and that you are wrong. You would attack your own FATHER???" The dock master asked, then he flipped back his hood and ripped off his beard which it turned out had been a costume all along and underneath..... 

NO!! How could it be Possible?? I thought in my Mind in shock, How could this Happen?? There......in the room......was my Father.....Bob Jenkins..... And he was holding a sword!! Except for the fact that he was Chinese and holding a sword, he looked just like a Mid West farmer in a battle cloak.

"You're supposed to be on Kuzuu with mom doing dirt farming!!! How are you here??? I fought the title belt today get your Yakuza fines paid?!?" I gagged and choked in Horror. 

"I had a chance to become the Master of this Station and I could not refuse it, you know Your mom went crazy years ago and Dirt farming hasn't been the Same without her, I needed something More in life and so I came to Vega, but now and your friends you have Disrupted my plans by doing...."

Maybe Dad had something else to say but I was bored of his rant, also he was being an Asshole. I put a tape of Motivational Rock in the deck on the console and hit Play. For some reason it played Circus Music instead, I guess Jingles had been messing with my Tapes. But it didn't matter, it was time to battle. 

"YOU WON'T STOP ME THIS TIME!! PREPARE TO FACE MY BLADE!!!" I Screamed.

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“Escape the Wilderness”

Ozymandias Station 

Vega System, Draconis Combine 

May 30, 3029
____________________________________

"OK then. How do I make it go?" Nathan asked. The donkey alternated between stomping her feet and kicking at the air behind her, then suddenly snapped her head down to try to graze on one of the few tufts of grass left in the paddock. An extra rein that ran between her bridle and saddle prevented her from reaching all the way down, and she brayed in frustration. Nathan looked startled. "I think this one might not like me."

 

“She’s testing you, to see how much she can get away with,” I said. “They do that.”

 

“That one looks deathly bored, too,” Gretchen said. “With the stomping, and the windsucking earlier - you could be in for an interesting ride.”

 

“Great… just great,” Nathan said.

 

“Just hold onto the reins, especially if she tries to leave the path, and if she tries anything else, remind her what she’s supposed to be doing,” I suggested. “Although, that might be easier said than done, if these horses were only trained in Japanese.” I tapped my horse’s sides with my feet. “Walk.” He didn’t respond. “Let’s go. Giddy up.” Still nothing.

 

Gretchen tried “step up”, and “vordere”, and “schritt”, also with no luck.

 

“Okay, so no voice commands,” I said. “I guess we can work with that.” I pressed my boats against the horse’s sides, slowly increasing the pressure until he finally took a step forward, so slowly that I couldn’t help imagining that he was rolling his eyes at me.

 

Gretchen did the same, and the large pony she’d chosen started meandering toward my horse. The animals seemed to know the drill, which wasn’t surprising if they followed the same path every day. “Hold the reins loose, and squeeze with your legs. Kick a little if you have to,” Gretchen said to Nathan.

 

My horse walked a few more paces, then stopped in front of the paddock exit where the trail began. “Let’s go,” I said, and tapped him with my feet. He started walking again.

 

I looked behind me as we left the paddock, and Gretchen and Nathan were both following; either Nathan had figured out how to tell the donkey to go, or it didn’t want to be left behind.

 

***

 

The trail appeared to cover the full ⅓ mile circumference of the grav deck. Every few minutes, the decor around us changed; we’d already passed through a rustic faux Christmas tree woodland and a “mountain passage” with plaster mountains and painted-on views, and were now coming up on a desert landscape.

 

The horse, pony and donkey walked at the very edge of the “cliff face” we were descending, and absolutely refused to move back toward the middle. Maybe this is how bored animals add excitement to their workday? My horse had probably made this precarious walk at least a hundred times before, but I still tried not to look down.

 

The desert zone had real sand piled into dunes, scraggly trees that were probably fake, and cacti which I assumed were actually growing, since the rims of terra-cotta pots sometimes poked out of the sand around their bases. The trail veered over to one side of the grav deck. The other side was taken up by an attraction surrounded by a high wooden fence. Gigantic dinosaur sculptures peeked over the barrier, along with a bit of the cacophony of children playing.

 

Stereotypical “old west” music was playing, presumably to drown out the noise from the nearby kid-friendly play area. I looked for the source of the noise, and realized that not all of the cacti were real - a few of them were actually well-disguised speakers, complete with straw “cactus flowers” glued on top. I was about to point out my discovery to Gretchen, when the music suddenly cut out and was replaced with static.

 

My horse stopped, and we both side-eyed the nearest speaker cactus. Then the static stopped. The cactus boomed "LEEERRRRRRROOOOOOOYYYYYYYYY...." and then my horse bolted as a staticky thud played from all directions.

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PART DEUX DEUX

MEANWHILE... 

".....JENKINS!!!" I Screamed and did a powerful Zen burst and flew into the Sumo torpedo. Unfortunately out of nowhere, the dock master did a surprise Yoga Flame with a thousand hand slap and I Screamed as I Auto-attacked straight info it, my hair lit on fire as I flew into the flames. I could feel my hit points dropping as the pain of the fire and so many slaps went over me...my Mind went back to the good old days.....

*FLASHBACK*

JENKINS FARM

PLANET KUUZU.......HOUSE KURITA SPACE.....

The camera flues through space with asteroids and wrecked up spaceships and a bunch of other things going by it so you know you're in space. Then it zooms in really fast down onto the World over lots of crops of dirt and onto the front porch of the Jenkins Farm.

I am sitting on the farm porch swing and 9 years old. Watching the fireflies as they fly past. It is Nighttime, and the dog is barking at the moon. Dad came out onto the porch. His name was Zhuhao Liukang Jhzuizui, but after he fled with me and my mom to Kuuzu, he changed his name to Bob Jenkins, or BJ for short.

"Hi there son," He said, spitting a huge wad of tobacco chew down into the night grass. "Your mom is still angry that you backed the rotovator into the outhouse today."

"I didn't mean to," I said still looking at the sky.

"You know that, and I know that, but you know and I know that your ma aint right son. Ever since we left China she ain't been the same. So you know your punishment is that you have to fix the rotovator yourself."

"Aw come on Dad!" I said "You know I hate mechanics!"

"I know Son but you will need to know it for your future. Just like the martial arts I have taught you. Your skills will help you find your Destiny. Here, I want you to have this."

My Dad walked over and handed me a tool.

"What is this?" I Said.

"This is your first fusion cutter. Treat it well. It will treat you well."

"Wait, I have already had this flashback and you already gave me that thing, why am I back here???" I asked. 

"Because son, you still

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haven't learned how to use it and your Destiny is not inside your control. You are supposed to be doing Heroics like saving planets in a big robot and traveling through space With a cyborg and beating criminals in Law Court. NOT hanging out with an evil clown and having Automobile Wrecks. You have had lots of Hero's Journeys but you are not using the gifts that I have gave you to your full Potential and it sucks that my son isn't living his Destiny. "

"is that how come you're out there throwing Fireballs and doing combat slaps in a fake beard??" I Asked my Dad, worried that I had made a great evil come into the world with my Failures. Then I ate some tobacco with him and looked at the moon. 

"No son that's because you broke into my office and let all the Yakuza ships out and now I have to make a Believable insurance video for the insurance company, otherwise the Yakuza are going to bury me with Cement blocks on my feet and since your mom is already in an Insane Asylum that won't leave anybody to look after the Dirt Farm"

"Oh" I said, I understand. 

"But never mind that, you need to work harder to Fulfill your destiny." Said my dad, BJ before he stood up and hocked a huge loogie in the Grass and pointed at the outhouse which had dook leaking around it in the Night light. "Otherwise you are going to be like that Outhouse, crashed by a rotovator, and we are going to be right back Here again having this conversation" 

"OK dad, I'll try" I Said, then I looked up at my dad, but instead, now Jingles was sitting there!!! 

"JINGLES???" I Said. 

"It's time to go now Steve Jenkins" He said and then honked one of his big rubber shoes at me. 

"What does that mean??" Then the next thing I Knew Jingles fist was flying into my face with huge bass knuckles and I..... 

*END FLASHBACK*

......Was getting blasted out the window of the Dock Master's office as I was falling.....falling......falling down onto the Docks below. I Screamed in slow motion as I hit the Deck and I felt all the bones in my face get Sundered, then I started to get up and I saw Captain Maxwell and Pirate Malice walking towards me. I started to get up and all of the sudden I heard a bunch of Gun fire and clown noises and a horrible womanly scream except that it was a guy come from the Dock master's office, what it could be I did not know. 

"Come on Steve Jenkins, we have to go!!" Yelled captain Maxwell. 

Was I ready for my destiny????

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Meanwhile...

Malice and I hustled as quickly as we could without risking being noticed, attempting to cross the football field and a half's length that stood between us and the Valhalla. Overhead, a cacophony of bangs, thunks, screams, and the occasional showtune squelched from the public address system. I was growing concerned about Jenkins - whatever was taking place in the control booth sounded as though it was becoming legitimately brutal, although in a darkly comedic sort of way. We were halfway to the slip before we were intercepted by a pair of dockhands that were sprinting away from the piers as a pair of Yakuza cruisers smashed into each other and then spun off wildly in opposite directions. Although I tried to avoid eye contact, the two men spotted us.

"You there!" one of the pair called out. "We're having an...issue. It's not safe to be dockside right now. Come with us, and we'll escort you to safety."

"It's okay, we cleared through the dockmaster," I explained. "We're here to close a deal on a ship."

"Yeah, maybe so, but I have my orders, when there's an issue on the piers, we have to clear the civilians out," the dockhand responded. "No exceptions unless you have a Theta Three."

"Obviously, we both do," Malice bluffed. "We'll be careful. I promise."

"Oh, my mistake," the man answered, apologetically. "If you'll just take off your masks so that I can clear you in the system, I'll get out of your way."

I looked toward Malice with concern in my eyes. Malice glanced back at me and shrugged. Then, in an explosion of violence, the pirate tore into the dockhand with a barrage of vicious blows that rendered the man inert on the floor. Simultaneously, the fellow's accomplice, evidently undeterred by the fate of his compatriot, swore and then charged me while brandishing a crackling, glowing stun stick. Reflexively, I unholstered my combat shotgun from beneath my longcoat, inverted it, and drove the butt of it forcefully upward into the man's chin. The impact detached the dockhand from the surface of the pier and sent him spiraling toward the ceiling. At the same instant, a massive blast of reddish-orange fire blew out the windows of the observation booth overlooking the docks. Through this apocalyptic detonation was ejected a large, initially-unidentifiable flying object. At first glance, I thought it could've been a boulder, or a misshapen torpedo, or even a flying saucer of some sort. But these ideas were quickly dismissed as the projectile landed before us on the deckplates with a loud, fleshy 'thud.'

It was Steve Jenkins, face down and spread-eagled on the metal grating, the seat of his trousers torn straight down the middle, revealing a soiled pair of polka-dot boxers. The Sergeant opened his mouth to say something, but he was immediately interrupted by a blood-curdling, banshee scream, a bicycle horn, and a burst of exceedingly high-caliber weapons fire emanating from the dockmaster's office.

Malice cast me a dire expression.

"Come on, Steve, we have to go!" I yelled, grabbing Jenkins by his trouser belt and using the weightless environment to tow him effortlessly behind me as we made a mad dash toward the Valhalla. Moments later, we were across the boarding gantry and onto the vessel. No sooner had we transitioned into the ship's darkened interior than we were stopped by a wall of four towering, battle-hardened looking goons who stood shoulder-to-shoulder across the width of the corridor, blocking access to the spiral ladderway that led up to the ship's command deck.

"And just who the fuck are you?" one of the men growled.

"As if you didn't know," Malice snarled back, yanking down his mask to reveal the entirety of his face. The thugs stared down the pirate, seeming to be itching for a fight.

"Who the fuck are these guys?" I finally asked.

"They're my crew," the pirate hissed, his eyes narrowing into a steely glare. Malice stared down the men for several more long, tense moments. Then, unexpectedly, he burst into a fit of jovial laughter, the four toughs blocking our path joining in. "It sure as hell is good to see you boys!"

"Same here, Cap. Who are fuck are they, greenhorns or something?" a burly man with a shaved head and a cybernetic eye asked sarcastically, gesturing toward Steve and me.

"No, they're helping us get off this shithole. Charles Maxwell and Steve Jenkins. Charles and Steve, meet Royce, Honey Badger, Applegate, and Ninefingers," Malice explained, introducing us with an exaggerated flourish. "And now that the kumbaya bullshit's out of the way, I suggest you get to your stations, because this boat's leaving the dock!"

A chorus of rowdy affirmations and cheers went up from the knot of roughnecks as they stood aside and we passed through. Moments later, as we ascended to the command deck, I swore I heard the sound of hornpipes, backed by thrashing electric guitar, playing from somewhere deep within the depths of the ship.

"Alright, Alyssa - give me the news - where are we at?"

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“Escape the Wilderness”
Ozymandias Station

Vega System, Draconis Combine
May 30, 3029
____________________________________

With a huge crunch, I crashed into a nearby fake cactus where the donkey-horse-thing had bucked me off. Then the donkey stood around bucking mindlessly for a couple seconds while making rusty gate noises. Meanwhile, the random noises of fighting, explosions, gunfire, and carnival music kept playing over the speaker. Then, I heard a bicycle horn honk and the PA system cut back over to quiet countryside southwestern music and nature sounds. I rubbed my head and looked up at the donkey, which was still kicking and bouncing around. Eventually Nikki came over and got the animal under control.

"Thanks, Nikki, boy, that was weird." I said.

"Yeah, tell me about it, I don't know what's going on up there." Nikki answered. "You OK?"

"Yeah, I'll survive, most of my limbs are still intact." Nikki helped me to my feet. I walked over to the donkey, which gave me an evil side-eye as I got close.

"Let's try this again, donkey." I said. Then, something in the sand caught my eye. It was shining in the fake sunlight. I reached down and picked it up. It was a tiny holodisc sticking slightly out of its reader, which was an over-the-head loop with an eyepiece.

"Hey, what's this?" I asked. Then I put the headset on and tried to activate it. It turned on.

WELCOME TO SLEEPY PETE'S TREASURE HUNT, it said. FOLLOW THE CLUES TO A REFRESHING BOOTY.

"What'd you find?" Nikki asked.

"It's a scavenger 'treasure' map. It's either a map to, like, free stuff.....or maybe hookers. I don't know. Should we follow it?"

 

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Simultaneously...

With a heavy lurch, the Valhalla pushed away from the pier, its command deck listing noticeably relative to the external view of the dock as Royce attempted to manually maneuver the leviathan vessel from its berth. I instinctively took hold of one of the safety rails fitted to the helm's console, tightening my grip on the bar and transitioning into a seat as I watched the velocimeter displayed on the bridge's sweeping status display.

"You want the good news or the bad news first?" Alyssa asked. From some distant part of the vessel, a loud, metal wrenching sound reverberated through the hull. Judging from the simultaneous shear on the ship's angle of attack, I surmised that a section of the impound dock must have been joining us on our impromptu departure.

"Give me the good news first," I replied, watching as Steve Jenkins and Orlex Jaeger also made their way to jump seats situated around the bridge.

"The good news is, we're away, and nobody is dead. Yet," the Lyran deadpanned, punching a flurry of commands into a battered computer terminal as the interior of Ozymandias Station rolled past drunkenly on the display behind her.

"The day's still young," I quipped. "And what's the bad news?"

"The bad news," Alyssa replied, furrowing her brow and clenching the computer's stylus in her teeth while fidgeting with a set of uncooperative computer cables, "is that the doors to the dockyard are still closed, and I can't slice in. They've rotated the codes."

"You're shitting me," I responded, looking at an orthographic map that was projected in the upper right corner of the bridge's display. "We're less than two minutes from there at our current speed. What do you need from us?"

"Ideally, more time," Chase answered, reaching inside her shirt and withdrawing a set of USB drives hung on a dog tag chain. Yanking the necklace off, she slammed the units into the terminal's data ports and set about launching a series of applications. "But, seeing as how we don't have the luxury of that, I'm going to need to improvise. And I'm fresh out of ideas."

I maneuvered across the bridge to stand alongside Alyssa, peering over her shoulder at the readouts before her. Suddenly, a node on one of the network topology maps caught my eye.

"There! What's that?" I asked. Alyssa tapped the icon. After a brief pause as the Thorin's systems queried the object, a new window popped open on the display. "A communication relay, and if I'm reading the map correctly, it looks like it runs between harbor control and the space doors. What do you suppose would happen if we bounced an override signal into it for the doors and then cut the cord before the doors could echo the command back to the control center for validation?"

Chase stared at the orthographic for a moment, raising an eyebrow and slowly beginning to nod her head.

"That's a real good question. If we used the right signal, I suppose that, in the event of catastrophic loss of communication to the base station, the door protocols might accept an override command to allow rescue crews in, since they wouldn't be able to prompt the dockmaster for authentication. Unless, of course, the station manager is a total dipshit and had that feature disabled," Alyssa replied.

"Alright, next question: can you get a signal off to the remote unit and then take down the comms before the doors try to authenticate with harbor control?" I asked.

"Not a chance," Alyssa responded. "We're taking maybe a second of latency if we're lucky. My fingers aren't that fast."

"His are," Malice interrupted, pointing at Orlex. "He's a crack shot."

"The Lieutenant pivoted in his chair to raise an eyebrow at me before looking toward the pirate. "What makes you say that?"

"Augs like yours cost good money. You didn't pay for sloppy trigger fingers," Malice laughed. "The AC/5 controls are over there. Just swing the guns over the target, give it a little bit of lead time, and then pull the trigger when the lovely lady over there says go. You in?"

While Orlex considered the question, Malice looked toward me.

"As for you, Captain Maxwell, you and Mister Jenkins will want to start working on your exit strategy"

"Our exit strategy?" I asked. "Didn't we decide that you're putting us off in vac suits before we we clear the space doors?"

"Given this latest inconvenience, I no longer believe that your spacewalk will go unnoticed by the local authorities. But I have a backup plan," Malice explained, gesturing for me to follow him to one of the command center's muster stations. "Grab enough vac suits for your crew and ready the bridge lifeboat. We'll roll the Valhalla upside down to create confusion and blow a number of other lifeboats to mask your departure. Then we'll put you overboard as we pass Hurry Up Bessie's berth. If you're not a complete dipshit, you should be able to fly into your ship's cargo bay before the ISF figures out that one of these things is not like the others."

"That's very generous of you," I responded. "How long do we have to pull all of this madness off?"

"About 45 seconds and counting before Orlex offs the space doors. Go!" the pirate exclaimed. 

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RWRS Valhalla
Impound Docks - Ozymandias Station
Vega System, Draconis Combine
May 30, 3029
____________________________________

"Augs like yours cost good money. You didn't pay for sloppy trigger fingers," Malice laughed, "The AC/5 controls are over there. Just swing the guns over the target, give it a little bit of lead time, and then pull the trigger when the lovely lady over there says go. You in?"

Without waiting for a reply the pirate captain continued his conversation with Captain Maxwell and the others, and I was left little time to ponder the question as we really didn't have any other options currently. While he was technically correct, I didn't pay for sloppy trigger fingers as he put it, a BattleMech's control systems were typically quite different from a spacecraft's. Thankfully I was also familiar with them due to my time in both the Outworld's Alliance military as well aboard numerous types of spacecraft with my family and their business. Even more fortunately, I noted as I sat at the indicated controls, was that the Valhalla had manual aiming controls that looked to be taken straight out of a Wolverine's cockpit. Typically dropships had tactical computers that handled their weapon bays automatically and a gunner simply had to select a target and then select which bays to fire and the computer did the rest, compensating for range, atmospheric interference, differences in velocities, etc. As ships aged and were rebuilt/repaired those systems would often fail and require expensive replacements or the need for manual controls. While touchscreens and old school mechanical keypads were technically capable of fulfilling this need many ship captains would find ways to provide better fire control, even going as far as installing systems from otherwise disparate machines.

I quickly familiarized myself with the weapon controls and took the manual aiming control stick in my left hand, like some 'mechs there was two control sticks meant to control each arm individually, in this case it allowed separate aiming for two different weapon bays or more specifically the left and right wing weapon bays. The communications relay would be passing on the port side (left side) of the ship and thus the left wing naturally was slaved to the left fire control stick, this worked just as well since precision aiming was required and my bionic arm was very adept at that, being capable of making more minute adjustments than a normal arm. Of course this also came with a downside, it wasn't quite as fast to react in larger motions, in regards to aiming, so in actual combat it was slightly less effective than my right arm but in this particular case, with a stationary target, it was the better choice.

"About 45 seconds and counting before Orlex offs the space doors. Go!" Malice exclaimed before Charles and Jenkins sprung into action to make our getaway possible.

"Alyssa, I'm all set here, just tell me when," I said as I set the fire controls to only operate the AC/5 in the left wing, it was a burst fire model which meant it would send a spray of smaller shells downrange as opposed to a single larger one but the end result was the same and the additional projectiles actually worked in our favour since hitting the target and not damage was the main concern.

"Copy that, I'll count it down," Alyssa responded without taking her eyes off her monitor, "What's your range? What kind of lead time do you need?"

"150m (492') tops, at this range only need a second. Tell me when to fire, you hit enter right after," I replied.

"Ok... - on my mark, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, fire!" Alyssa called across the bridge.

I squeezed the firing trigger and a dull set of thuds echoing faintly from somewhere deeper in the ship, a burst of autocannon shells exploded out of the Valhalla's left wing weapons bay and ripped through the intervening space in a fraction of a second. The spray of shells peppered the unarmoured communications relay wrecking havoc on it light ferrosteel covering, each round ripping straight through the plating meant to keep out little more than dust and hand tools. Several rounds shredded the small dish on top and a number of shells punched straight into the base itself and the cabling entering it, the solitary blinking light on the outside of the comm hub going out was the only indication we hit anything internal.

"Did it work?" queried Malice as he looked between a magnified view of the comm relay on a sub-monitor and the main viewscreen showing the still closed dock doors.

"I don't know, I'll hit it again," I said and readjusted the aiming reticule for another salvo.

"Wait, I'm seeing something," interjected Alyssa, "give it a minute but it looks like the doors have defaulted to factory settings, they should be opening any minute now."

"They better be, we just passed the relay and this boat hasn't got anything accurate enough to hit that little target on her aft," said Malice flatly, still staring at the closed dock doors, although the red solid light spread around the doors' perimeter were now blinking yellow.

Not a second later the doors cracked open and began opening wide, slowly but surely. Malice let out a slow whistle, "Faen, that was cutting it close."

"Better late than never," I said as I looked at Alyssa shaking my head and shrugging my shoulders.

"True, you two better go join the others. And hold onto something, we're going to do a fancy little pirouette for our friend the dockmaster now," chuckled Malice as he gave a signal to Royce.

Alyssa quickly disconnected her gear and gathered everything up before the two of us stumbled sideways back towards the bridge life boat where the others were waiting, even without actual gravity our inertia made it difficult to traverse the bridge with it rolling out from underneath us, plus it felt like the Valhalla was gaining some considerable speed. We made it to the life boat and clambered inside, before closing the door Maxwell called out to Malice, "It's been a pleasure Malice, we'll see you on the other side."

"Likewise Captain, and Thank You, sincerely. - If you leave the station in time we'll meet up at the jump point, if not we'll wait for you at Shionoha, you have my word."

"Now strap in, we'll be passing your ship with the next roll and ejecting your pod whether you're ready or not," Malice continued with a grin over his shoulder.

We sealed the life boat door and donned the vac suits in record time, barely settling into the seats before we heard the sound of what must of been other life boats starting to get discharged into the vacuum of the docks. I was about to wonder aloud how many life boats they were jettisoning and when we would go when I was slammed down into the acceleration seats as our pod was violently ejected from the Valhalla at what felt like twice an acceptable speed.

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