Pariahs and Peacemakers

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Thirteen

Larik Kass wiped the sweat and blood splatter from his brow with his sleeve as the rest of his fire team sabotaged the corridor’s blast door in the hope of slowing down their Votheen pursuers. In all his military career Larik had never faced a foe like them. They had outnumbered the crew of this small recon ship three to one but that didn’t seem to have mattered. They were huge in size, half a person taller with two sets of arms and a thick exoskeleton that seemed to deflect smaller calibre rounds. Out of the six initial squads of five marines only one squad remained and a sole survivor from team four who’d gotten lucky by tripping upon retreat. The shot that should have killed him had barely singed his hair. “I’m calling it now, the bridge is a no go. We’ve not affected their numbers nearly enough. It’s a suicide run.”

“Agreed,” Larik admitted. He rested to catch his breath on the nearest bulkhead as he checked the nav readout on his arm mounted computer. “If capturing the ship is a no go we have to get their navigation data or this mission has been a complete bust and I’m not having that on my record or conscience. We’ve lost good men.”

“And we’ll lose a hell of a load more if we follow your stupid lead. We jump ship,” rifled back the redheaded Sarcurian the Colonel had initially agreed with. This defiance was met by a handful of not so reluctant nods of approval much to Larik’s annoyance. The men were down on morale and he was public enemy number one. “I lead this operation. We are getting that nav data.” He spat so close to the Sarcurian’s face that he covered him in saliva. The alien pushed his forehead against the Human’s in a show of force, he didn’t want to be seen as being intimidated by his superior officer.

“Your choice, old man, but I’m leaving. Anyone who feels the same is free to join me.” Thankfully only two of his unit joined the usurper but that didn’t make it sting any less, they were down on numbers anyway. He could see others wanted to leave but were either too afraid of him or didn’t fancy the Sarcurian’s chances of survival. Larik didn’t either but they were too far out of earshot now and frankly he didn’t care what happened to them. He felt a consoling arm on his shoulder which he instinctively shrugged off. He could see more sympathetic eyes now. He had to use what he had left. One last gasp attempt to collect the navigation data and whatever that entailed.

Shayara had unfortunately been right. The fleet had been the fortress like flotilla of the Lost Sentinels. They’d been a thorn in Senate Security’s ass for millennia and never stayed in one place for too long. The dreadnought had swooped in and swallowed the Pariah up with ease. Nothing had been said by the captors. The Pariah’s crew hadn’t attempted to repel the pirates, they were vastly outnumbered and it was far more wise to go with it and see where it took them. As some scavengers began to loot the contents of the small non-frigate the crew were hauled away from their home under armed escort to a very well used prison block not all that far away. That was all the trigger Jarner needed as he was pushed toward an open cell. He swiped the guard’s pocket blade and plunged it deep into his eye. As he squealed in pain Jarner slashed wildly as if feral upon the two guards rushing toward him. He broke the arm of one before cleaving out his throat and shattered the leg of another before Jarner was hit by a stun round by the warden which knocked him out cold.

Shayara couldn’t blame him, he’d been through a lot after she‘d left Coroniss for good but seeing how lost he was had her frightened to be sharing a cell with him. After Jarner’s performance needless to say the already savage guards were much less accommodating. Across from them James shared accommodation with an unconscious Keeto, Shayara guessed he hadn’t come peacefully either. Isaac had a room all to himself next door. The numerous other prisoners around them were a variety of very haggard individuals none of which Shayara recognised and some of which had expired likely waiting for their ransoms to be paid. The cell at the end had been repurposed by the warden as a gambling room. The round wooden table was full of booze and gambling trinkets. Shayara shuddered to think what they bet over. Which prisoner would expire first? What did the winner get? A pick of who they wished to rape? She shook her head of the thoughts defiantly. Not her. She laid Jarner on his side to stop him swallowing his tongue since the guards had just tossed him in by the arms. The aftermath of the antics outside the cell took a while to tidy up. The senior warden looked stunned when the guy with the broken leg explained it had been one prisoner who’d caused it all. Another sneered through the bars about getting even but Jarner wasn’t coherent enough to care.

Time passed and so did Shayara’s grasp on time. Some distasteful water in a rusted bowl was the only new development until Jarner began to stir. Shayara moved closer aware she was likely putting herself in harm’s way but she guessed it was better than letting her friend freak out completely. His eyes snapped open and were unwilling to examine their surroundings. “I’m in a cell, aren’t I?” he asked blankly, still not allowing his gaze to venture farther than Shayara’s face.

“A little, yeah.” She smiled not knowing what the news might cause him to do. She had known Jarner for so long she wasn’t used to treating him with suspicion, like some stranger she was afraid of. He deserved better. He looked embarrassed which was hard to spot with his already red pigmentation. It was understandable, he’d behaved like some cornered animal and given similar results. “I’m sorry you had to see that,” he managed.

“I think I’ll let you off considering.” She gave another sympathetic smile as he struggled to muster one back. She lent in to ruffle his hair but quickly found herself on the receiving end of a very spontaneous and unexpected kiss. At first an alarming sense of confusing punched her brain but that was quickly forgotten due in no small part to the fact that Jarner was rather a decent kisser. He pulled away sharply and shook his head clear. Shayara was still confused. “I’m sorry, my head’s all over the place. Shouldn’t have done that.” Shayara gathered enough marbles to reassure him that it was okay and that was that. They sat in awkward silence for the duration until Jarner gave a smile. “Can you do me a favour?” She nodded slowly still really struggling to grasp the English language. “Don’t let me see the bars.”

Reinforcements passed overhead clueless to the fact Larik and the rest of his team were underfoot, holding their breaths to avoid detection. As the last of the foot traffic moved through, the unit allowed a little more time and sleuthed out of the service shaft to their target which happened to be relatively nearby. An alien designed battle droid that the Votheen seemed to favour as cannon fodder caught them in the act but was quickly silenced by the sidearm of an alert officer three men behind Colonel Kass. The phantoms moved fleet-footed towards where they had been assured, through reliable intel, navigation was supposedly situated. In his career the term reliable intel hadn’t carried much reassurance yet it was all they had to go on. Thankfully it appeared the data spike retrieved by the Ubiquitous Light’s AI, which had allowed it to partially map the interior of the Votheen cruiser, was indeed reliable. Inside the boxy room one lone Votheen stood unprepared for the six weapons aimed his way. They were tough but not unkillable, an important lesson for the men Larik considered as it collapsed. They all had bloodlust and wanted some payback. The Votheen technology they’d encountered so far was on full display within. Votheen architecture and design was astounding. It merged the complexities of Sarcurian design with the subtleties and tradition of the Caliterrian. Had everyone built on the foundations of the Votheen before they’d boxed them away? Kiko, the groups leading technical specialist, moved to the console and used his holographic tool to upload hacking software which would help him sweep through an unfamiliar alien system. Zach covered the door as Larik stood anxious, it was taking far too long. Kiko’s hands flashed over the controls as a subdued smile crossed his red skinned face. “I’ve found it. You got an exit plan, Kass? As soon as I pull the data they’ll know where we are,” he informed cautiously. There hadn’t been much time to plan. The Votheen wouldn’t likely allow them to exit through the hangar they had entered from and the drop ship by now had probably been overrun as he’d not heard from them in an uncomfortably long time.

“We improvise.” He checked the ammunition in his Reaper rifle to find he had half a clip left. “Yank it.”


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