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By M.Eric Long All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Scifi

Chapter 1

In the dim light of his cabin, Captain Vector Storm tucked a spare set of trousers into his duffle bag before kicking off from the ceiling. With the artificial gravity disabled, in his quarters, he glided seamlessly from his open bag as it floated at the top of the bunk. It would be a short trip and he would not need much. Covered in a short, thick layer of fur, he had never seen a point in bringing more than a spare change of clothes and a few comforts from home when he traveled.

His room, a meager set of quarters for a ship’s captain, was quite large for a person only a meter tall and he used it to its fullest. Collecting his change of clothes, a small screen on his wall began to flash. With a small set of three beeps the call started to nag him. Though he knew who was calling, he also knew that the small repetitive chime would not surrender. With a sigh, Vector touched the display with his black rounded fingertip. The view screen lit as his claw lightly tapped the glass, pushing him away from the panel.

"Hello Storm, it's been a long time…" A Niarikus named Kelso from the trade district, his familiar feline face was one Vector did not want to see.

"Kelso… how've you been you old Tom?" He replied as he floated to his locker. He knew the reason for the call, but he was not going to be the first to mention it.

"Where's my money Storm?" The man demanded as Vector rummaged for a clean shirt.

"What money?" Storm replied as he sniffed a white button up.

"Those relics you sold me turned out to be fakes, and I got stuck with having to explain it to my buyers!" Kelso demanded as he leaned closer to the camera feed. His pupils were thin slits as he peered into the screen.

"Fakes!" He looked to the screen. "Huh…Really? They looked real enough to me." He said with a non-committal shrug. "Look even I get stuck with bad goods once in a while, but I got a nice simple job that pays well enough and I can cut you in a part… but only cause I like you Kelso." He said with a smirk as he tucked the garment into his bag.

"Yeah, so I heard… A Varan ship huh. How ‘bout you get me one of their laser rifles and maybe we'll call it even." His broker said with a smile tugging at his whiskers.

"You heard that huh? I thought your people don't use guns?" The Captain replied, rolling one sock into another.

"Let's just say our army would love to know exactly what we are up against." Kelso said, sitting back in his chair.

"Your tryin to get me shot, aren't you..?” Vector said with a squint. “I'll see if I can't sneak you one, but I do need to get going. I'll contact you after I'm done." Vector finished the call. Tapping the screen once more, he swam from the ceiling to the foot locker that was secured to the deck. Retrieving his favorite jacket, he touched the small metal button on his collar and called his Engine Chief.

"Alex, are you packed and ready to go?" he asked, releasing the small silver relay circle on the collar of his jacket. The tawny leather was worn and moved freely as he collected his data pad and an azure bottle of Grinshaw bourbon he had stashed for a special occasion. If he was going to spend a week aboard a Varan warship, he was going to need it. Scanning his quarters one last time, he was ready.

"Aye Captain, I'm ready to go, and the cargo box is still purring like a niar." A female voice answered.

"Good, you might wanna bring a thermal case." He responded as he checked his energy pack on his pistol before holstering the weapon. Two small magnets cradled his double barreled PX-12, as it slid into place.  Kicking off the wall, he used his thick tail to swim to the door.

"A thermal case?" Alex asked.

"Yeah, the Varan don't usually cook their meat, Oh and bring the Peacemaker I gave you last Gripple's Day." He finished stepping into the field of gravity outside his room.

"My… Gun Captain? But I thought this was a smooth run? Are we gonna have trouble?" She asked with concern in her voice. "Knowing my luck, I'd shoot a window out, like you did."

"That was one time…You'll do fine Chief. The Varan have been paid to take us safely through their space, I just don't wanna seem weak in front of the troops. And besides the Doc’s pay’n eighty thousand crebble for that thing." He replied, strapping his pistol to his hip.

"Okay, I'll get Betty and meet you in the bay. But if you're wrong, you're gonna owe me words." The voice answered, as he walked down the short hall, past the dining quarters and onto the bridge. With Alex as his mechanic, all the interior lights now worked on his ship and the smooth, rhythmic sound of the un-muffled M9 engines made him glad he chose her. The Nystrom had been in bad shape when he had bought her, but after hiring a good Engine Chief, his ship was starting to look respectable.

"What's our ETA?" Vector asked, rubbing his small round ear on the top of his head as he walked on to the bridge. Conner Tangent sat at the helm of the open windowed room. Two of his six vivid blue eyes turned their attention to the Captain as he entered the room. Four normal sized eyes rested in a square pattern on his face with two smaller eyes that lay on the side. Aligned, just below his temples his peripheral eyes watched the dim twilight of the ship's instrument panels as he piloted the Nystrom.

"We should meet up with The R.S.S. Krusher in about ten…holey shit, that's a big ship!" The pilot exclaimed as the silhouette of the massive green vessel came into view. Its engines were bigger than anything Conner had ever seen and their main Magoneire Cannons were as big as the Nystrom.

"Well the Lizards do like to build 'em big." The captain chuckled as he left the bridge and headed to the loading bay. "Make sure not to speed in front of them. And don't try to dock till your cleared okay? We don't want to get blown up."

Scanning his document one last time Lieutenant Noral's yellow reptilian eyes looked back to his uniform as he polished the metal that adorned it. His orders were clear, yet they made no sense. Rendezvous with a cargo ship called the Nystrom. Take on a relatively small crate and two passengers. A Qin and a Sylis would be accompanying it to Kelvin station on the other side of the system.

“I don't like aliens aboard. We're not a cruise ship.” He grumbled to himself as he buttoned the top of his shirt, and ran a clawed finger along the wide green ridge of his eyebrow. Hearing the chime at his door, he glanced over the paper one last time, committing the names of their soon to be guests to memory. Noral had worked with a Sylis before, but never a Qin.

"Enter." He answered, as he finished up the final touches on his dress uniform. Their ship was commissioned for combat, not formal affairs, and the use of their dress attire was rare. With his high collar rubbing the small spikes of his dewlap, he clasped the constrictive sleeves of his shirt. Turning to meet his visitor, he shifted uncomfortably as the entire outfit irritated his scales. The man's snout was much thinner, making him look almost feminine next to Noral’s wide muzzle.

"Are you just about ready?" Officer Kole asked as he removed the freshly pressed jacket off the wall and handed it to the lieutenant.

As ready as I'll ever be… How do you pull it off?" He asked the Science Officer as they walked down the well-lit corridor.

"Hm? Oh the uniform? Do you know how many disgusting things I come in contact with?" He continued without stopping to make eye contact. "Besides, there is a popular theory that females like a man in uniform." He finished, a slight smile at the corner of his long mouth.

"Do you know anything about the Qin? I mean I know they are about a meter high, and covered in hair, but…" Noral asked, holding his hand out to his waist as they made their way to the cargo bay.

"Well the reports I've read on them say that they are very good swimmers and they mostly eat fish and tend to anger quickly. I've also heard they like to hide things, but as for their hair… they should be here in a minute." The word seeming to bring up something he didn't want to talk about, as he quickly changed the subject. Running his hand along the spines that crowned the back of his head, Kole stood with the lieutenant, not paying much attention to the two armed soldiers that accompanied them. It was not out of the ordinary. Two soldiers were always present when anyone was boarding The Krusher.

Cargo dock four was like any of the others. Everything was stowed, everything had a place. They waited for their two guests to arrive, as Engineer Maleen joined them. Protocol dictated guards, but she was a special request to assist with the transport of the package.

"Should she be here?" Kole asked looking at the female's distended stomach, but immediately regretted his comment as the much larger female stepped closer to the Science Officer. Nostrils flaring on the sides of her thin snout, she moved inches from his face.

"You got something to say small spine?" Outweighing the Science officer, she stood almost a head taller than either of them. Hands clenched, she growled, as Lieutenant Noral cleared his throat. Moving back from her advance, Kole's eyes bolted in the direction of the guest who had just walked through the air lock. Both watching the interaction with mild amusement, they waited.

A woman with golden honey hair pulled into a loose ponytail stood in the doorway. She wore a cyan one piece outfit that reminded the soldiers of a pilot's uniform. Carrying a large suitcase in one hand and shoulder bag that looked to be full of tools in another, she also carried a thermal case tucked under her third arm. She stepped aside and set her luggage down with a heavy clunk, her smile fading as armed soldiers stared at her. Walking past her, a shorter furry creature that resembled an otter stopped as the edge of the airlock.

He stood half her height, but was clearly the person in charge. Duffle bag slung over his shoulder, the man wore a collared white shirt with a worn leather jacket that hung almost to the floor. His boots of regular size covered his shorter legs up to the knees as he stopped. With cream colored fur around his mouth, his long whiskers moved as he spoke.

"Lieutenant Noral… Permission to board?" He asked looking between the two men, clearly unaware of the Varan military ranks. The captain did however know ship etiquette and did not move until answered.

"Granted. I trust your journey was smooth Captain Storm?" Noral answered as he motioned to the two soldiers to carry the heavy crate from the Nystrom's shuttle.

"Well enough, it wasn't too far out of our way. This is Alex, my Engine Chief." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder as he stepped forward to shake hands with Noral.

"After Science Officer Kole examines the parcel for contaminants, your Chief can go with our Engineer to the anti-grav storage roo.." Eyes wide, the lieutenant jumped back, placing his hand on his side arm as the captain's jacket had swung open allowing his hip holster to peak out from its covering.

"Weapon!" He shouted, causing the soldiers with slung rifles to drop the box that they had been instructed to move. Facing the aliens, they drew their weapons with accuracy. The Varan had visibly changed their scale color. No longer were they the viridian and emerald they had displayed earlier. Now they were a dark as open space, their bright yellow eyes even more piercing as they reacted to the threat. All had changed, all except their science officer. He alone, seemed unaffected by the turn of events.

"Careful! You idiots! That is a priceless artifact!" Kole hissed as the three pointed their firearms.

Slowly, Vector raised his clawed hands. Alex, who had started to protest the treatment of the fragile crate, dropped to her knees. One pair of hands held high, the other covering her head.

"Alex, you were right and I was wrong. Happy now?" Vector's words were monotone and did not carry any inflection, his stare locked to the commanding varan's eyes. Slowly reaching down to the lapels of his long coat, the furry captain pulled his coat open, showing his the PX-12 set comfortably in its cradle. Varan keep their ships at a sweltering temperature , and even in the cargo bay, the ship was uncomfortably warm for the two travelers, but at the moment, Vector was glad he didn't sweat.

"Civilians are NOT permitted to carry firearms on a Varan Warship!" Noral snapped as his laser sight rested on Vector's heart. He preferred the feel of a projectile weapon over the standard issue energy rifles the soldiers were given. A metal slug was just as deadly and it did not cauterize the wound like a laser would.

"I only brought the one, and rarely go anywhere without it. So if it makes you feel better, why don't you keep it safe for me until we are done with this little exchange?" The Captain said coolly. He did not move, not even a whisker gave a twitch as he allowed the soldier to take his favorite sidearm. "Alex? How you doin…" He started to ask but his Chief burst into torrent of incoherent rambling.

"I told him this was a bad idea! Betty is in my tool bag! I couldn't find a belt that looked right… so I put her in my bag! Oh gods don't shoot me!" She finished covering her head with all four hands and ducking to the floor.

Placing both weapons in a secure box, Noral turned back to his new guest with crossed his arms. With a squint of distaste he motioned for his men to collect the dropped crate.

"Do I need to search you?" He questioned, raising a spiked eyebrow. His scales returning to their brilliant viridian, as he holstered his own firearm.

"Not unless you're buying me dinner." The Qin smirked as he came to ease once again. "You know you really should take a vacation. I know this great place on Sepia 3 that has…" Vector chuckled as his relay interrupted.

"Captain, are we expecting more guests?" Conner asked from the Nystrom.

"Are we?" Vector looked to the lieutenant.

"Not that I've been told." He answered as he turned to the communicator on the wall.

"Captain, look out they're charging their weapons!" Conner's voice returned as the lights in the cargo bay turned to red then went out completely.

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