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Ancient Uprisings

Chapter One: Contract Eventualities


For a moment the man kept his resistance against gravity but then his bloodied
corpse slid with a sickening sound against the metal wall and collapsed in a heap on
the dank floor. The blood marked the heads path as it trailed down the sloped wall;
every so often, a void appeared where the head caught a rivet, hair and brain
matter a splattering over the darkened surface where the shot had scorched and
pitted the metal. The gun felt heavy in his hand, it always did, especially after he
had just put a bullet through a man’s skull having forced brain and the majority of
said skull in the same direction. A bullet did a great deal of damage, even more so
when it had virtually no space to travel between the barrel and skin. Jak D’nar had
killed women and children in this way as well, a bullet through the brain was as
definitive as could be, and he had done it many times. He felt it was a necessary
evil in this day and age, sometimes people just needed to be dealt with, a finality
that was required without consequence. In some respects this was his motto of
business, for which many people paid handsomely for. The smell of singed flesh hit
his nostrils and he twisted his face in disgust, ever since the first time of point blank
execution he had never been able to eat re-simulated pig or boar again. He peeled
a small and slightly crispy piece of the man’s forehead off the end of the barrel,
tossed it like a reluctant coin to the body.

“Here’s your change, cock sucker.” Jak resisted but a smirk escaped on his broken
and scarred face. All in a day’s work for a mercenary like me he thought.

Sliding the gun back in its holster lying over his thigh; it locked into place thanks to
the Cognitive Velcro, co-vel for short. A brilliant invention that was dreamed up
some four hundred years after the original, a version that moulded itself to new and
remembered objects but something that could pretty much attach itself to anything
required. In Jak’s case his thigh was perfect for the cannon he carried around as a
hand gun. He cracked his neck first one side then the next as he stood before the
carnage, blood seeping out of the gaping hole now present in the skull, stepping
back as the pool encroached on his boots. Reaching in to his jacket, he brought out
a big thick cigar from New Deus, illegal on most planets but thankfully not in
Bhuvarloka, he thought it was surprising that the ‘divine heavenly planets’ were the
most lax in preventing marginally narcotic products being constrained. Ah well,
their gain, my gain, somebody’s loss. He pulled a lighter out of his belt pouch and lit
the cigar, pulling the thick smoke deep in to his lungs he could feel the caustic
flavour biting and scratching inside around him, holding the smoke in for just a
moment he let it settle, he let go of the pressure and blew the greenish tinge of
hallucinogen in to the air. It brought more of a smile to his face as the colours and
shapes shifted around him, shimmering as the drugs caught hold of his nervous
system. The feeling helped reconcile the demons that were screaming for attention
within his mind. The effect was good, addictive, but not too much, just enough for
him to enjoy the moment and return back to coherent usefulness.

Footsteps sounded from nearby, the echoes reverberating along the metal
corridors, the gun shot had obviously alerted the rest of the crew and he could hear
them rushing around the ship, either away in fear or towards in futile bravery and
stupidity, or possibly simple curiosity he thought to himself. He checked his wrist
computer and realised the deadline was soon coming upon him; he turned away
from the dribbling corpse, air causing crimson bubbles to appear in the man’s skull.
Hurrying down the corridor he reached the furthest escape pod, checked it was
definitely the right one and jumped in. Some of the crew came careening around
the corner; he gave them a final salute of the middle finger and jammed his hand
down on the big red button practically screaming ‘RELEASE’. Pulling another drag
on the cigar he watched as stars spun across the escape hatch window and the
planet ship diminished in size as the little capsule hurtled away. He floated towards
the nearest body harness and strapped himself in; the next minute was about to get
bumpy and floating in a barrel in space with no gravity and lots of hard metal
objects around was not going to be a good idea. There was no noise; no massive
detonation that deafened his ears, the explosion erupted from within the bowels of
the ship without any pleasing accompaniment of chaotic orchestra, he only saw the
sudden barrage of torn metal, liquids and pulverized flesh rushing towards him and
then he was caught in the shockwave and the scene slipped away as he was carried
along on the crest of the wave.

“Shit that wasn’t supposed to happen.” Moments later even the stars were lost as
he blinked out of consciousness, the force of the shockwave having flung the
capsule like a cork on a turbulent river.

“Fuck. Ah my head hurts.” Jak said, he pulled open his eyes wincing as a bright
surgical light burned his retina for a moment. “Shit, now my damn eyes hurt. Turn
down the goddamn strobes.” He was rewarded with the light fading and he shook
his head to get rid of the grogginess though he felt his brain rattle inside his skull,
groaning he reached for the back of his head where it seemed to hurt most.

“Don’t touch it! Leave it alone unless you want your brain or whatever is left of it to
leak out of your skull.” The voice deafening inside his head making it throb with
renewed effort. For a moment, the image of another man’s skull with a grotesque
hole appeared in front of his eyes. Jak smiled, ironic he thought.
“You say the nicest things to me Doc, your bedside manner is about as charming as
my chat up lines.” Jak replied.

“Considering you use those on cheap whores who’re barely willing to ride your prick
I won’t take that as a compliment, now shut up so I stitch your scalp back together.
Yet another scar to add to the rest.” The Doc’s voice, sharp and stabbing behind
Jak’s eyes, the fact she was a woman seemed to make it even more painful. A
man’s voice was never that harsh and cutting he thought. He closed his eyes and
felt himself drift down in to the darkness as more sedatives enveloped him.

“Any normal person would have died a long time ago thanks to half of these
injuries. Hell just the knife wound to his chest should have killed him; god knows I
tried my hardest when I did it.” Said the Doc, her hand shaking with pent up fury as
she pulled the needle through his scalp and yanked on the bio-thread with a
perverse retribution. Shame he’s out cold, she thought to herself, she swabbed the
blood away as she got closer to closing the wound up.

“Yeah, I always wondered why you stabbed him Triza. Especially considering
afterwards you stitched him back up and pretty much saved his life. Most people
that our reviled leader has met would enjoy watching the bastard bleed to death.
Slowly.” The voice came from the door-way of the med bay where Darius the
engineer stood, a smoke leaning at a precarious angle from the edge of his mouth.
He stood there, gazing upon his leader and Captain, Jak D’nar, as the bloodied skull
was sewn up. “I think that I’d enjoy that more than most, except you of course
Doc.” He sneered as he scratched his crotch from within his pockets. Early thirties,
he knew more about engines and space drives than entire cultures, he’d built his
first planet ship by the age of fourteen. Should have been the next big thing for the
Territories but at age sixteen he’d ran in to trouble and all his hopes and dreams
had been shattered. Killing your father by roasting him alive would do that. He had
a misshapen face, all bumps and grease stains, except the grease stains were more
or less permanent. He never saw the point of being clean if he was going to work on
engines so he never washed. His hair hung plastered to his forehead barely over his
eyebrows, most people could not tell where the hair ended and the grease carried
on.

“You’re disgusting Darius” the Doc spat out, she turned around and saw the grease
monkey behind her. “You’re filthy and this is a surgical area, look at you, grease
and gods know what else all over you and stop scratching yourself. Yet another
demonstration of how you really are barely evolved above the grease monkey that
you are. Leave. Now.” The tall gangly greaser turned and pushed himself from the
doorway, his footsteps echoed down the hall way as he chuckled to himself.

“Let me know when he’s ready to hear about the damage to the ship, there’s a lot,
so give him some nice shit to calm him down beforehand!” His voice petered out as
he turned a corner.
Disgusting animal, Triza thought to herself, but he was also right. Why had she
saved this abomination’s life after she had stabbed him, out of loyalty? Certainly
not, she hated the man, hated him more than she could imagine herself hating
anyone. A sense of duty? She was a physician after all, there was a certain code for
people like her, to care for the fallen, to preserve life and aid the continuation of
existence. Yet she would quite happily have let Jak D’nar die a slow painful death,
watched as his blood ebbed from the massive wound that she had caused. She
knew she was not the best of people, she had seen and let people die, people more
deserving than him. Debt, she still owed him and would probably owe him for a very
long time; if she had let him die countless times that debt would have been wiped
clean and no one would ever have complained, most would say that she had paid it
a hundred-fold. Triza looked down upon the bloodied man she had known for the
past six years, his body was in good shape, at least relatively, take away the scars,
the destroyed flesh and patched up skin. Strong as a Dragorain Ox, he could punch
through a wall or a man’s body as he preferred to say. He was by no means
handsome, his nose was jumbled mass of flesh and cartilage, his cheek bones had
been broken countless times and re-healed which gave his face a square quality to
it after so much surgery. Thinning grey hair, black stubble, his ears had chunks and
slivers of skin missing, not by any means was he attractive.

Nevertheless, she knew the reason why she was still here, still patching up the quilt
work man as she had come to consider him. Protection. Jak D’nar may not be a nice
guy, he may be a monster that would rape, pillage and kill without remorse or
consideration but when it came to the killing he was good. So good, he was feared
across the Galaxy, from the Territories, Core Space or even some places within the
Heavenly Bodies. Which meant that whilst she was with him, the people that she
feared, other than Jak D’nar, would keep their distance and that entailed keeping
him alive and needing her. She had met him by mistake, after the incident that she
was running from happened she had found him lying in a back alley, gunshot
wounds covering his entire back. At first she thought he was dead, nothing more
than meat returning to dirt, until he grabbed her ankle and moaned in agony. Even
though she had to keep going, something in her, some last vestige of duty forced
her to help him up. Once on his ship she had never left, she’d never had to worry
too much about her pursuers, they had kept their distance.

She moved her long dark brown hair out of her face with her forearm; she finished
off the last stitch and tied the bio-thread up. The wound would heal up soon enough
and the thread would merge with his skin and disassemble within his blood stream
leaving nothing more than yet another faint line of vacant hair on his scalp. One
more trophy for the great and feared mercenary Jak D’nar, the Doc thought to
herself. Leaving him unconscious on the table she walked over to the skin to wash
her hands and arms of blood, looking in the mirror in front of her all she saw was an
old woman, long passed her prime with regret and dashed hopes in her eyes.
Basically, she thought to herself, she looked like shit, same as usual then. She
rubbed at the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, looking around the doorway to
make sure no-one was about she reached in to a draw beneath her lab desk and
pulled out a hypo-gun. Next to it was a shell of swirling multi-hewed liquid, pushing
it in to the hypo-gun she pulled back the surgical coat and t-shirt over her left
shoulder and jammed the twelve little needles in to her skin. Flinching from the
sharp pain, she forced the plunger on the end of the hypo and with a click the shell
was expunged in to her. She watched as the cocktail of drugs eddied translucently
through her pale skin, soon she felt the icy spread hit the base of her skull and
shiver down her spine in a cascade of pleasuring rapture. The colours she had seen
in the shell danced in front of her eyes as spittle dribbled from her mouth, angels
danced with fiery steps along her nerves as the muscles across her body spasm, her
back arches as she comes closer to that desperate pinnacle of joy. She shuddered
as a torrent of heat flushed through her limbs, hairs tingling over her skin as the
moment of ecstasy becomes overwhelming. She sighed as she stumbled into the
chair, dropping with exhaustion her muscles limp, every so often another tremble
running through her. Closing her eyes she enjoys the remnants of the pleasure, the
colours chase away the darkness deep inside her for a little while. Once it was gone,
she pulled her arms around her and sobbed quietly, the feeling was always so
perfect, the zenith she reached was ever better. The fall from such a height
however, was increasingly more painful, but it was the loss of such pleasure that
brought the tears. Pulling herself to her feet and staggering to the door on the other
side of the table, stepping inside her bedroom she pulled the door shut and locked
it, lying down on the bed her head on the pillow she held herself, alone, and wept.

“Junkie” said Jak as he opened his eyes, “fucking junkie, at least she mended me
first before she stuck herself with that shit.” Unbeknownst to Triza, her little trip to
nirvana had lasted nearly an hour. Long enough for Jak to come to and realise she
was taking a trip, the pain in his head had kept him in place for the majority of it,
and then he just lay there enjoying the sounds of orgasm that came from his medic.
However, he knew what came next, nothing on this ship happened without his
knowledge, whenever she played and went on one of her trips they always ended in
the same way, crying, wailing and sorrow. Those were the bits he enjoyed the most,
made him hard as rock every time, after wiping his own state of bliss off his
trousers he zipped himself up and swung his legs over the edge of the table. The
sudden movement sending the med-bay swimming out of focus, he steadied himself
and walked towards the corridor leading to the rest of the ship. The med-bay being
a late addition to the ship, Jak had never had a proper medic on-board till Triza
arrived, meant it was situated in the hold, leaving the faint sobbing behind he went
in search of his engineer.

Nearing the engine zones he began to feel the ship thrumming, rhythmic almost
like a heart beating he thought to himself. Jak didn’t like the core of the ship, gave
him the creeps every time. He knew it was a necessity if they wanted to navigate at
near light speed; let alone use the network of jump points that existed throughout
the galaxy but his very own ship still iced up the hairs on the back of his neck,
thanks to the Embedded in the engine. He walked passed a viewing panel, he knew
the ship should have been there in blatant and tempting view but all he saw was
wreckage and detritus. Walking through a hatch, Jak stepped on to the overhead
gantry that perched above the engine zone, up here in the uppermost reaches
smoke and steam billowed out with swirls of indistinguishable molten colour and
moisture eddied around his feet as if it were attracted to warmth, a hunter and its
prey. His heavy footsteps resounded along the metallic walls as he strode along to
the stairwell leading to the bowels below; the steam clung to everything, a wet and
dank residue over every surface. Descending the metrical thrumming seemed to
permeate deeper and more intensely inside his skull until he felt his brain was
pounding in unison, Jak cracked his knuckles, the noise seemed loud and out of
place as it conflicted with the resonance around him. He felt immediately better so
carried on and cracked every bone he could, puncturing the orderly rhythm with his
very own influx of chaos, stepping deeper into the core he cracked his spine, the
noise cascading down his back as he descended. Lazily the steam and smoke began
to lift away from him; in front of him was the Embedded, the engine of the ship, if
that’s what you could call this thing Jak thought to himself. The Embedded, or Edd
as the crew had named it, was not a conventional star drive; only solar travel used
propulsion or local jump gates. The science was beyond Jak, he didn’t know how it
worked and neither did he care; as long as his ship got him from one planet to the
next he was content, content but always a little un-nerved.

Faster than light travel was an impossibility other than Jump Gates that used stable
worm holes, which was an accepted scientific fact in Jak’s modern era, however,
near light travel had been achieved, though not necessarily within the most moral
of breakthroughs. The computations required to navigate through the universe were
immense, so much so that the most advanced AI computer systems could barely
manage it, at least not without making mistakes. Mistakes in space meant death.
Consequently the human race was limited to solar travel, till one day the Embedded
were born, a genetic race of humans grown with higher functional capacity brains
that are integrated within an engine, with the brain being a computer predisposed
for computations and decision making the results were incredible and soon became
a business. The irony was lost on the majority of humankind; the brain against the
computer, for once biology took place ahead of mathematics. Worm holes however,
were an anomaly that could not be explained, after centuries of scientific
exploration and testing no-one was the wiser concerning them. They could be
controlled to the extent that with energy bursts they could be fuelled which allowed
them to be stabilised

Jak stepped toward Edd, though hesitantly, he always expected it to suddenly grab
him so his fingers were always close to the knife strapped to his belt, the fingers
almost stroking the handle. Sitting in a translucent tank filled with jelly that shifted
and congealed around it, Edd scarcely looked human, its skin was bleached with a
sickening wet sheen, and no hair covered its body which was encased in a metallic
throne as Darius liked to call it. The Embedded had been grown with a singular
purpose in mind, as such, scientists had discarded some of the more ‘obsolete’
aspects of the human body, Edd had no legs and its arms were simplistic as if
moulded with clay. Its upper body was emaciated, no muscles being required they
were shrivelled up, its ribs showing through skin. Pipes and tubes permeated the
body in a chaotic web of fluids and electricity. Jak peered at Edd, the face seemed
constricted as if caught in a moment of intense pain and panic, within the twisted
mask the features again were simplistic, and the lack of detail prevailed when
looking at it. The lips were bland streaks that trembled almost constantly, the nose
was more a lump of skin and cartilage with two small slits, the eyes were concealed
behind flaps of pale paper like skin so near to transparency that Jak thought he
could see Edd peering back at him. It was bald, having no hair anywhere on its
body, yet with all the tech sprouting from his skull it almost seemed he had
dreadlocks cascading into the metal surrounding him.

“Hey boss! Come to check the baby’s sleeping alright?” Came Darius’s voice from
behind machinery the other side of Edd.

“Sleep? This fucking thing isn’t even alive so I don’t see how it can be asleep D.”
Jak’s face pulled in disgust as he stepped away from Edd, he leaned against a railing
and groped in his pockets and finding a cigar he grabbed his lighter and with a
practised click of his fingers the flame blinked into existence.

“Don’t even think about it boss, you know he doesn’t like it when you smoke, hurts
his lungs.” Darius said, watching Jak, his hand on Edd’s shoulder. Darius was more
comfortable around the Embedded than he was most humans; he was particularly
rude and generally anti-social or abusive so he spent most of his time away from
crowds and people. From his own personal experience he managed to get himself in
to more trouble than it was worth when he was near people, for some reason he
could not fathom, people wanted to hurt him after meeting him. Space travel was
definitely a good career choice for a grease monkey with a massive knowledge of
engines and Embedded.

“It doesn’t give a rat’s arse if I smoke in here Darius, it just annoys you because this
is your little sanctum and don’t call it he, it’s bad enough we gave it a fucking
name.” Jak replied lighting the cigar and inhaling a deep breath of rich hot smoke.

“Fine, but at least blow it in some other fucking direction boss.” He said, almost
murmuring, he shook his head slightly and bent down to adjust a tube sprouting
from Edd’s body.

Jak looked on in open disgust, wondering how Darius could be so comfortable


around something so un-human; he blew smoke up in to the mist above him.
“And it is a ‘he’, has the whole downstairs equipped out if you must know. Ha!
Seeing your face I’m guessing you didn’t really want to know that?” Darius chuckled
to himself as his hand lingered on Edd's shoulder seeing Jak’s discomfort. His fingers
caressed the bleached skin for a moment longer after Jak turned his eyes away.
“Down to business, those fireworks you kindly provided for the crew’s
entertainment screwed Edd like fuck, his brain went in to shut-down after the
shockwave hit us. Anything left of the ship by the way?”

“Only what I brought back” was Jak’s reply.

Darius knew only too well what that meant, so carried on with listing damages,
“Well we’ll be ready to move in another hour after some major rewiring, but our hull
has had some serious damage, leaks and punctures all along the underside of the
ship. I’ll get out there and patch it up as much as I can but I could do with some
help. Maybe our new pilot could give me a helping hand or two?”

Jak saw the undisguised smirk on his face, “I’ll see what I can do, but you better
keep your hands to yourself this time. I doubt that he’ll let you off with a scar next
time.” Darius ran a finger over the back of his hand, he had tried being a bit
‘intimate’ with the new pilot, which not being that way sexually inclined, resulted in
Darius having a knife jammed into his hand and nearly cutting off his little finger.
He got it bio-repaired, but left the ragged scar visible. If anything Darius was
pleased of what he called his battle scar, an injury of love and war he said.

“What about our weapons, D? Tell me that once we get moving we can shoot.”

“Ah, bad news is last news I’m afraid, boss. That shockwave knocked the turrets out
of synch completely; they won’t be firing till they’re over-hauled.” He paused
knowing this was going to be the sore point, “Which will take a good week in space
dock.”

“You gotta be fucking kidding me?! A week, because of one little shockwave? Tell
me Darius, are you taking the piss or just inept at your job?” Jak spat the words out.

He knew he was on thin ice when the boss called him by his proper name, Jak
always called him D, except when he was not happy. “Don’t blame me boss, I
checked the scan results we took whilst you were over there, seems they had a
little something...special in their cargo hold. Danic Cobalt.”

“Ah hell, so what about it then? He get infected?” Jak nodded over at Edd.

“That’s the best news I got for you, seems my shielding I put in place a couple of
months ago really paid off. No infection whatsoever, he’s clean as a whistle.” Darius
smiled smugly at Jak. Danic Cobalt was a rare material only found in one area of the
galaxy so far, it was also extremely precious as it stabilised worm holes and it had
some importance in growing Embedded, though the process was now outlawed.
This happened once moralistic people decided on a multitude of worlds that growing
an engine computer that originated and resembled a human being was wrong. Of
course those very same people continued to have organs, limbs and entire
replacement bodies created to serve their needs whenever they were required, but
according to them that was different. Although only Darius knew why Danic Cobalt
was important in making Embedded, he did not bother to explain why to anyone
else, he did tell them that if more than a few microscopic particles of it came into
contact with an Embedded it was like catching a fatal disease with no cure. Edd
would slowly go insane and would initiate star travel blind, inevitably result in
death.

“Great, so its fine but if we get in to any trouble whilst making our way back we
can’t fight, just run with our tails between our legs.” Jak said, knowing the possibility
of being attacked very high.

“He who runs away...” Started Darius

Jak interrupted with his own ending, “gets shot in the back and dies a fucking
coward. Any more gems of insight?”

“I’ll see what I can do about the weapons, I might be able to cannibalise a few of the
systems to give you one possibly two of the turrets. No guarantees though and I will
need help.” Jak saw the look on Darius’ face, knowing he was doing everything he
could.

“Fine, do whatever you can internally for now. If we stick around in this area for
much longer I get the feeling someone is gonna come looking for their cargo and
find nothing but twisted metal and dead. I’d rather they didn’t find us at the same
time. I’m off to the bridge; we’ll be leaving in a few minutes.” He didn’t wait for a
response, turning on his heel he inhaled a lung full of cigar smoke and made his
way upstairs.

Darius watched the Captain leave, listening to his thundering footsteps as the
echoed along the metal walls. When all was quiet, Darius knelt down next to the
throne and whispered quietly, “It’s alright now; I won’t let anything harm you.
Never.” His fingers traced faint silvery webs in the moisture across Edd’s cheek.
“You’re safe here Edd, I’ll make sure of it little brother.” He placed his lips on Edd’s
forehead.

Jak thundered along metal gantries, climbing up various ladders all leading upwards
to the flight deck where his pilot and gunner were waiting. Now he knew what had
happened, the Danic Cobalt, if he’d known that was on board he’d never have
placed that charge, but it being on board meant that instead of disabling the ship
he blew it to kingdom come as the old saying went. He heard their voices before he
stepped through on the deck, they were arguing about a game of Venteel, neither
of which was particularly winning in the high risk strategy game, but both felt the
other was cheating in some form or other. Jak thought that true in relation to both
of them, when it came to Venteel; he trusted neither of them so much so that he
very rarely played, especially if money were involved.

Stepping through the hatch, he watched as Dominia placed a piece on the highest
level of the board, a relatively low value piece placed in a precarious position which
made Vogan worried, Jak could see by the look on his face that he was perplexed by
the move, looking at the board from this distance, he could tell that the piece was
moved as a double bluff. Dominia played it as if she were trying to take the focus
away from something else; Vogan’s eyes flittered back and forth looking for the
trap. However, from this distance, Jak knew the most important piece on the boards
was the very one Dominia had just placed.

Vogan’s eyes gleamed in triumph for just a moment before he made an


exaggerated sigh of surrender; he moved his Emperor to a safer position and his
shoulders slumped.

“Damn you.” His voiced reeked of defeat, but his eyes shone a little too much.

Dominia did not seem to notice so taken in with her brilliant strategy, she barely
noticed his voice and she moved her previous piece a second time, her piece took
one of Vogan’s and she beamed in triumph.

“I now have control over sixty percent of your southern Island Vogan, you may as
well give up and just pay me now.” So smug Jak thought, he was going to enjoy the
next bit.

“What?! Sixty percent?” Vogan’s voiced his amazement, “Is that all you managed to
get?” He knelt forward, his face changing from amazement to surprise. “I spent
ages setting that up for you, I thought you’d get at least eighty percent of it.”

Dominia’s face fell, bewilderment. Gazing at the board, her face scanning over the
pieces trying to discover if he was bluffing or if he really had set her up, if it was the
latter then she knew she had just lost and probably outrageously.

“Dammit Vogan, don’t milk the bloody thing to death, just place your move.” Jak’s
voice echoed around the room, both of the players turned to watch him walking
towards them.

“Aw come on captain, it’s not the winning that’s important, it’s the ridicule.” Vogan
chuckled with unabashed glee. “Very well, here’s where my last piece goes.” He
placed his Emperor within the range of a suicide piece of Dominia’s. “Boom.”

She looked on, realisation dawning as she knew his grand plan. He’d led her with
just enough little breadcrumbs to invade most of the boards that made her think
she had control, then he used the Emperor in a suicide bid to kill a massive portion
of her force. He won by numbers rather than capture, her force was now so
depleted she could not even contemplate continuing with the game. For a second
she thought she might do so anyway just to spite him, of course that would
probably mean playing for another hour and that would just bore her.

“A last resort attack, that’s not strategy it’s using a hammer where a needle is
required. Here’s your money you git.” She tapped her wrist com and paid him the
credits, a second later Vogan’s own wrist com bleeped from across the room.

“Ah, lovely doing business with you my dear. You know you spend far too much
time trying to save the hierarchy when you should be concerned with winning.” He
grinned as he packed the boards away.

Jak leant against the wall and smiled, always the con artist he thought, there were
times when even he could not tell when Vogan was acting. Dominia pulled a pistol
out of her ankle holster, started scraping of flecks of blood caught on the barrel with
a fingernail. “You really wanna carry on with the gloating?” Arms raised in fake
subservience he walked over to his flight panel.

“So, what’s the deal then? I get guns or not?” She faced Jak, her being one of the
most dangerous people he knew, Jak did not bother about the lack of respect she
showed him.

“We’ll get propulsion within the next couple of hours and that should maybe get us
to the nearest port, though D says that our hull is worse than Teegan moon for
craters and holes. This means someone will have to space walk with him to fix it,
two man job.” He raised his voice at the last addition, making sure Vogan heard.

“No chance captain, the last time I went near him he damn well tried to rape me!”
The voiced screeched across from the other side of the deck.

“You’ve got more hours than the rest put together, you’re going. Just don’t kill him,
anyway, I’ve told him not to touch you.” Jak said, enjoying seeing his pilot squirm.

“But...” started Vogan.

“No. Get suited up, the quicker you get your arse in gear the quicker we can be on
our way to collect our money.” Vogan grumbled to himself, but reluctantly got up
out of the flight chair and stalked off the deck, the two could hear him swearing all
the way down to the next level. Jak turned to Dominia and saw a sour look on her
face; her eyes glinted with undisguised murder.

“You avoided my question, Captain.” She spat out, her finger was no longer
scraping blood from the barrel but was tight up against the trigger.

“Noticed that did you, thought I might have deflected your question at least a little
bit.” Her intense gaze did not give way. “Well, as I said, we should be moving soon,
as for shooting at things, looks like the shockwave did more than a little bit of
damage to the turrets. Need a complete overhaul, week in dock.” He watched as
her face tightened up with fury, this Jak found impressive, he didn’t think her face
could actually tighten up any more than it already was; Dominia always looked in a
permanent state of anger in his opinion.

“That snide little worm, I told him those turrets needed better shielding! But no, all
he cares about is his precious little Embedded, nothing else matters. So he spent
ages shielding that fucking thing, but our weapons were put on hold. How’s he
gonna like it when we start getting shot at and all I can do is stick my finger up at
them?!”

Having screamed her vehemence outwards, Jak wiped spittle from his face, Dominia
saw his face and her tirade of anger and spit halted. Jak’s face was devoid of
emotion, carved granite eroded by battle. She was not scared of anyone, fear was
something she embraced and redefined within her, she was Katari after all, subdue
fear, hone anger, sharpen hatred, embody the devastation, the Katari mantra. It
made her stronger, she was not afraid of anything in the end, but Jak she was wary
of. Which for her was reluctant respect, there were few people she considered
capable of killing her if the opportunity arose and unfortunately she considered Jak
to be within that elite group of killers.

He looked up at her, all politeness and humour gone from his stance, “That is the
situation Dominia, whether you like it or not. Deal with it, make repairs and don’t
bitch. You’re making my teeth ache. Go and do what you think needs doing.” He
dismissed her with that last comment and he walked away not waiting for any
response.

Once he was out of the flight deck, Dominia breathed a little easier, she still needed
to curb her emotions around the Captain, being relatively new to the crew she did
not want to make things hard on herself or she’d have to move on. The last time
she had pushed a crew and Captain too far, they had all died. Granted she was the
one that killed them all but it was their fault really, she was innocent. She knew it
wasn’t true but they should have known what to expect with her kind being on
board. However, once news got around of the incident, that meant that very few
ships were willing to allow her onboard, let alone part of the crew. Jak the only one
that accepted her, he gave her ultimatums which usually she would not have
remotely accepted, but this was her last resort to attain her ambition.

She rammed the pistol back in to her ankle holster and checking the flight controls
and making sure the ship was held static she left to see what damage occurred to
the weapons caches across the ship. Along the way, she sharpened her variety of
daggers with the whet stone always hanging on her belt, can never have to many
knives she thought, never know when a gun is gonna jam or you need to kill quietly.
The rasping of the stone against blade could be heard along the corridors in time
with her heavy footfalls, making the other members of the crew cringe; shivers
going down their spines, she was careful not to break the seals on any of the knives
that contained poisons or toxins otherwise she’d be dead. Depending on the knife
that could be seconds or days but all the knives promised death regardless of the
doc on board. She held one her favourites up in front of her, made of Damascus
metal, along the thickened spine there was a small tubular groove along its length,
if she broke that vial the poison eddying within would be released in to the blood
stream of her victim, any cut deeper than half a centimetre and death was
imminent. Smiling ghoulishly as she traipsed along metal gangways she made her
way to her larger scale weaponry, her mood lightening the closer she got.

Vogan was not happy; every time he had to go near the grease monkey his skin
itched and crawled. It wasn’t because of the Embedded or Darius’ fascination and
perverse affection for it, that he could handle. He knew more than a few people
across the galaxies that had stranger fetishes, no, for Vogan it was much simpler
than that, he knew Darius. Knew him personally, knew where he was from though
little more than that, but that kind of association could be deadly to Vogan. Of
course Darius did not seem to realise and recognise him, but Vogan was still wary.
The Captain laughed at the scar he had left on Darius’ hand, they thought that the
engineers perverse tastes had expanded to include Vogan, which although a
possibility was not the reason for the scar. Seeing Darius in the distance, waiting at
the airlock for him, a sly cheeky grin that suggested some secret tryst between
them; Vogan cringed, the scar was him over-reacting, jumping the conclusion that
his past had caught up to him. Thankfully, it hadn’t, he wouldn’t be here on the ship
if it had.

“Well hello there, looks like we get the pleasure of going out for a walk under the
stars together. You can hold my hand if you like Vogan, or anything else that grabs
your fancy.” Darius sleazily spoke to him.

“How about, we got out in to space and the only thing that goes near my hand is
the gun I’ll use to put a hole in your chest?” Vogan replied, smiling like he had just
stepped in something nasty.

“Hmmm, so you want to give me a new hole to play with, aren’t the ones I’ve got
already enough for you?” Darius chuckled to himself at his disgusting comment.

“Idiot. Let’s go, the quicker we get this done the quicker we get paid.” Vogan
moved to the nearby locker and pulled out a melding suit from the rack. Darius
reached passed him, his arm rubbing slightly against his shoulder and pulled out
another suit.

Flicking imaginary filth Vogan stepped to one side and eased in to the suit, once he
was comfortable within the main body he pulled over the grey slick hood over his
head and taking a deep breath pressed the round metal plate to the back of his
neck. He winced as the interface sent probes in to his spinal column seeking out his
nervous system, for what seemed like minutes rather than seconds the probes felt
like they were scraping and ripping away at the nerves within his neck. Once
finished, the suit melded to his body till Vogan felt like he was wearing a second
skin, the system would constantly monitor his vitals and change accordingly, if he
tore the suit, it would repair itself almost instantly with minimal loss of pressure.
However, the suits were dangerous, they tended to give the recipients a sense of
invincibility and many people had died assuming the suit was greater protection
that it actually was. The symbiotic relationship between suit and beneficiary was
euphoric at times and highly addictive, so vigilance was required. It was very rare to
do a space walk alone; having back up was generally a requirement, even if it
meant Vogan had to spend the next few hours with Darius.

Darius stepped in front of Vogan’s vision, checking his face to make sure the
interface had gone ok; both men knew the look of someone that had a bad
connection. Dribble, slack jawed and usually the eyes turned up to show the whites.
Not fatal, but not nice to recover from either.

“Looking good there my friend.” Said Darius seeing Vogan fully with him.

“A, we’re not friends and B, I’ve done this alot more than you have, so I know what
I’m doing. Oh and C, even if you’d had a bad interface, I probably wouldn’t know the
difference, you dribble all the time anyway.” replied Vogan, he moved away to the
air lock and stepped inside waiting for Darius to follow. Darius followed grinning,
enjoying their banter far too much Vogan thought. He really did hope Darius hadn’t
recognise him from the old colony, killing him may prove problematic in the long
run, a bit of blood on his hands did not worry Vogan at all. His hands were so
covered with the stuff that he was surprised they were not permanently stained.

Eventually the majority of the repairs were done, it had taken hours of hard labour
and all of the crew had to pitch in their efforts, the hull had been pierced in several
places by wreckage of the other ship. The crew had been utterly unaware of Jak’s
intention to blow it up, assuming they were on a raid they had ensured they were
close by. Surprised as they were when Jak disappeared aboard the other ship, they
continued to hold stationary orbit nearby ready for the crew to pounce and strip the
ship bare of any valuable materials. That had changed when they saw the explosion
and saw metal shards ripped and warped with the force flung towards them, only
later had they learned that this was an assassination mission.

Each member knew full well that were they found in this area surrounded by the
wreckage of the Morning Tide, they could expect swift retaliation. Not necessarily by
any planetary enforcement, if anything if a legitimate search was instigated they
would probably have less chance of dying, at least in the short term. No, the
greatest threat out here when surrounded by wreckage were pirates, mercs and
salvagers, each of whom would gladly shoot first, steal what they could and then
only consider asking questions. Eden’s Betrayal, Jak’s own ship was renowned
throughout most of the solar systems, nominally as one to avoid for the very reason
that they were pirates, mercs and salvagers themselves, of course this often meant
they were targeted for this reason, being so good at their job generally meant they
would have something worth stealing.

Jak was not concerned for the duration of the repairs across the ship, he did not
expect anyone to come looking for the Morning Tide and it was very unlikely that
any other ships come across them by accident being so far out of the shipping
lanes, only scoundrels and killers would be found in deep space like this, even
though they were in the jurisdiction of Bhuvarloka it was rare that they sent patrols
to this area. Even more rare after the bribes he had paid out, not only to enforcer
officials but to the criminals established anywhere nearby.

He stepped away from the viewing panel, seeing nothing but darkness and pin
pricks of light, the wreckage had all drifted away and little could be seen now, most
of it was destroyed in the blast. Jak should his head, never trust your sources he
thought to himself, he’d known the Morning Tide was a front for some dodgy
smuggling of goods but he’d no idea it was Danic Cobalt. He’d been told it was just
black market sort of stuff, cigars and hallucinogenic liquors. Which had been
confirmed when he’d sneaked a look in the cargo hold and pinched a box of the
cigars, now he realised he should have looked a little closer at the crates. Gently
touching the back of his head, he suddenly felt concerned, he’d been told that the
ship was nothing more than opportunist smugglers, so there would be extremely
little in terms of defence systems or armed crew. That much had been spot on, he
thought, if anything they were utterly inept at defending themselves, Vogan had
hacked into their systems with impressive ease and they never knew the Eden’s
Betrayal was nearby. A little too easy, Jak now thought, but Vogan had put it down
to his incredible skills.

He’d been paid to assassinate someone on the ship, he’d been given a description
and a gene recognition patch, he’d also been told that he would only get paid with
genetic proof, hence why he’d not cleaned his gun when he replaced it in his
holster, the co-vel had been programmed to acquire any human matter and store it.
Just to be entirely certain that there would be no survivors he’d rigged the escape
pods barring a single one to lock into place when the ship was exploding. Again,
that had worked wonderfully and no-one had managed to escape.

Dragging a cigar out of his shirt pocket, he bit the end clean through with his teeth,
fumbling around in another he found his lighter and clicking his fingers, he caught
the flint sending the wick aflame. He liked the old ways; so many things in this
modern era were accomplished through complexity rather than the simplest of
ways. In his mind that explained for alot of the problems that occurred with humans
in general, simplest and most direct was usually the one to go for but was rarely
followed. Closing his eyes, he placed the cigar in his mouth and drew the flame in,
feeling the heat permeate through; he tasted the smoke and saw the end glowing
with hidden fire. Taking a deep breath, he blew the thick swirling coloured smoke in
to the corridor around him, feeling the twinges of hallucination he smiled contently.
Thinking about the whole operation, he realised he came up with more questions
than answers, that bothered Jak. His skin itched slightly over his shoulder and he
turned around.

Triza walked around the corner, stopping as she watched Jak at the end of the
corridor as he smoked one of his cigars, wondering when he’d come acquired them,
and she stepped towards him. Even though she was careful to be quiet, her feet
falling so softly along the gantry that she couldn’t hear them, he turned around
almost immediately. There was no surprise in his eyes, only expectation she
thought, as if he knew she was going to be there at this precise moment. He stared
intently at her, his eyes piercing her, she felt her soul shudder.

“Looks like we’re ready to leave, enough of the repairs are done that Darius thinks
we should be fine for Edd to take us in to near light.” She said, not being able to
look directly at him with those eyes she moved to look out the viewing panel,
coughing slightly at the smoke that hung in the air.

“Sorry about the smoke Doc, would you care for a drag?” Jak offered the cigar to
her.

She looked at him then; his face seemed lifeless in the gloom of the pale
fluorescents of the corridor, macabre in the shadows. He started to pull his hand
back, thinking she was declining. Reaching up she took hold of the cigar, turning
back to the panel she placed it in her mouth and inhaled deeply. She was rewarded
by seeing Jak’s stony visage crack in moderate surprise.

“Nice, New Deus, very illegal in most systems, but I guess that doesn’t bother you
right?” She said passing it back.

“To be honest Doc, I didn’t think cigars were your sort of...vice.” Taking another
drag he left the cigar hanging from his mouth, his teeth lightly clenching it in place.
Pulling up his sleeve he punched in a couple of codes in his wrist com and spoke
through the cigar.

“Every one to their stations, ship jumping to near light in ten minutes.” Thumbing
the disconnect button he turned to the Triza, “Make your way down to Darius, if
there are any problems with the Embedded I’d like you there.”

She nodded, having already decided to do the same. Jak turned and started making
his way down the corridor to the flight deck.
“Captain?” He turned around and stared at her, as ever she was astounded at the
lack of emotion he emanated. “What happened here?”

“What do you mean Doc?” Jak said his voice monotone.

“We thought this was a simple raid on unsuspecting amateur smugglers, and then
you go over yourself and blow the ship up. Next I hear from Darius that the reason
the damage was Danic Cobalt, which he says you weren’t expecting. I know you
well enough to know you wouldn’t put the ship in such proximity. So I ask again,
what happened here?”

The captain gave a rare smile, taking the cigar from his mouth and shaking his
head, “So far Triza, you’re the only one smart enough or dumb enough to question
me and I mean ever. Out of all the crew I’ve ever had either living or dead, most,
just like the rest of the crew we have now, would keep their mouth and their
opinions about an assignment shut. Not you.” He turned and stepped further along
the corridor until he reached the hatch at the end he halted when he heard her
voice again.

“Are you actually going to give me an answer Jak?” She made a point of using his
name, knowing it would give him something to consider.

Even from that distance he stared at her intensely, at her aged yet lithe body, she
felt like a piece of meat for a moment then the feeling went. Jak seemed to reach a
decision within him, touching the sore point on the back of his skull he spoke up.

“This wasn’t a raid; it was an assassination, or execution, whichever way you’d like
to put it. Enough money to make sure someone on that ship was dead that it
covered losing the cargo they had on board. However, the intel left a few points out,
Danic Cobalt being one of the major ones.” He looked at her for a while, wondering
how much he could trust her with.

“How much are we getting paid exactly?” Her face scrunched up, frowning at the
information.

“Not enough to die for.” Seeing her reaction, he decided that he may as well tell her
something rather than have her second guessing him. “We were hired to kill Tayler
Mordren.”

“What?! But he’s of the Royal Family, guarded day and night by the Dawn and
Dusk.” She stamped her way towards him, anger and disbelief evident in her
features. “No one in their right minds would go against that Royal House; death
would be a gift, a mercy, if you were caught!”

“That’s the thing, he was alone, no soldiers of Dawn or Dusk, no Royal crest or
fancy clothing, he was running from something or someone and we were paid to
take him out.” He watched her as the situation sat on her shoulders, her mind busy
working away, wondering that the client could be so blatant as to commission Jak
D’nar to do such a thing. Jak saw from her expression that a piece of the puzzle had
clicked in place.

“It must have been another member of the Royal Family, no other would have the
intelligence about Tayler’s whereabouts, and they’re all constantly trying to
diminish each other’s power and status so much that family intrigue is rife.” She
pondered, talking to herself.

Jak paused for a moment, his own cogs turning; “Tayler?” the Doc had used the
monarch’s first name as if she knew him personally. By the sudden fearful look on
her face Jak knew he’d hit the mark, “You knew Tayler Mordren?” He said
incredulously.

“Met him, knew him, disliked him instantly, he was a snivelling worm without an
ounce of courage in his putrid body.” She replied, almost spitting her dislike out.
Seeing his face she realised she had to curtail any further questions, “Don’t bother,
it would not give you any advantage my having a...familiarity to the House of
Mordren, unless you want to sell them my corpse.”

“Ha-ha! Well, well, my Doc is wanted dead by one of the Great Houses, I already
knew you had dealings with someone high up in the grand scheme of politics but
not that high. Anyway, it looks like yours isn’t the only corpse they want.” He
chuckled to himself, but silently filed away that nugget of information for future
reference, you never know when killing someone could save your own skin.

“What do you mean?” She asked, not certain she really wanted to know the answer.

“The Danic Cobalt was not cargo on that ship by accident, neither was it difficult for
Vogan to hack in to their systems, and no Guards of Dawn or Dusk aboard when the
passenger was supposedly of Royal blood. No, it seems to me that whomever it was
that I shot on that ship, whatever blood it is that I checked with the gene
recognition patch, I doubt very much that it was of the Royal standard.” He watched
Triza think; she stepped away from him and paced for a few moments tapping her
foot rhythmically over the metal surface; grasping at the strands that he’d drawn in
front of her eyes.

“It was a trap, none of it was real?” She shook her head in disbelief.

Jak nodded his agreement, “Guess we’d better have a word with our client and find
out what’s going on, but the question is who wants us dead?” He made a point of
‘us’ he did not want them to get any ideas about selling him off or anyone else for
that matter, though this was a short lived pre-emptive attempt. Triza laughed
throatily, shaking her head at his comment. She pulled her arms around her as she
felt the cold of the tight metal sheathing the ship keeping out the even deeper frost
of space that she had come so close to experiencing for real.
“No Captain, that is not the question, pretty much everyone wants you dead, most
of your own crew would be more than willing to see it happen and the rest of us
aren’t worth the bother if you’re around. You’d retaliate if anyone came after us,
because you’d never be certain they weren’t really after you.”

She moved passed him and stepped through the corridor hatch, turning she looked
straight in his eyes, “No, the question is, who’s stupid enough to actually attempt to
kill you.”

Elsewhere, out in the furthest reaches of the universe, where the light of very few
stars penetrated the void of space, a luminescence blinked into existence. It was
soon followed by another, the two lights interacted with each other though they
were inanimate with no consciousness they were aware of the other’s proximity.
Like twin souls that find each other across an ocean they discovered their
counterparts across the depth of space. These glowing specks had knowledge,
limited but knowledge nonetheless, they knew intrinsically that if another light was
to enter the relationship something would happen, however, they were not privy to
what this might be. Hours passed and the two stars continued to shine radiantly
within the darkness, soon one felt it’s time drawing to an end, knowing it’s time of
existence was limited it began to diminish, it’s faint light increasingly became
enveloped within the void. It was not concerned; this was its course of events, its
purpose. During the last few seconds the second light could barely recognise the
glow of its partner, having dimmed so much. It also would accept this as part of the
process, with no third light they would both suffocate within the void and soon be
extinguished, that was their way of life.

The lights became aware of something else, something new, a third light had
appeared within the void, and as their awareness grew of each other, they were
suffused with radiance and all the three suns shone with such immensity that the
darkness of space shrank back in abject terror. All three lights knew of each other
and with their combined knowledge they knew of their reason for existence. With
this understanding in hand they went about their tasks with fanatic fervour. The
catalyst had begun, something had brought about the trinity of stars and like a
waterfall’s droplets where the glow cascaded and swelled around them something
beautiful happened, stars were being born. Where once there was only the absence
of light and heat, now shone stars that blazed with passion and as the void receded
and shrivelled the light was revealing. For on the edge of the universe where no
man had ever ventured something had been built, something had awakened and it
had been summoned.

Minat Terkait