The breeze, its full force fractured by the many dense layers of forest, was rather soothing. The rustling leaves and the distant calls of numerous exotic avian creatures just added to the serenity. The crest of the first sun broke through the haze of the morning dawn, the warmth instantly recognisable as it licked at the bare torso of the young Sarcurian. He remained unmoved. He remained alert. Jarner sat crossed legged with a vacant mind in bronzed foliage, packed into a quaint natural clearing long enough that the lactic acid had begun to burn through his muscles. He refused to allow it to trouble him enough to move. The heat from the now half proud star was welcome comfort and brought much needed change across his pained body.
His ears perked up as the faintest sound alerted him to what he had been preparing for. The inexperienced would have dismissed it as background noise but he was much wiser. He sprung up, sweeping a trailing leg, which disrupted a pile of leaves and caused a loud crash, the tree-dwelling animals scattered at the sound. The outline of a barely visible silhouette imprinted itself into the ground much to Jarner’s amusement. The air shimmered in confusion as his would-be attacker’s stealth camouflage failed in stages, revealing a humanoid shape non-committal of gender, hidden behind the light armour of odd reflective material. Jarner stretched out his tired limbs as an arrogantly broad smile surfaced from the depths of his being. “Nice try,” he chuckled as he looked down upon his victim with playful pity. Without waiting to endure the indignity any longer the armour swung its legs and catapulted itself to a combat ready stance within milliseconds, much to the surprise of Jarner, who took a few tentative steps backward. He was now less sure of himself than he had been. It beckoned the Sarcurian forward with a mocking outstretched hand which did exactly as it had intended: to annoy. Jarner rushed forward and by doing so, snatched the bait. He lashed out with a wild round house-kick but before it was fully executed he was caught by the attacker and up-ended with lighting reflexes. He lay and looked at the cocky showboating from a bizarre angle as the armour bowed and turned blatantly inviting another challenge. Jarner was far too hotheaded to sidestep the bait. He brushed himself off and charged, unwittingly getting hit with a torso high kick from a skilfully planted boot. He hit the floor hard, carried by the momentum of the blow. Jarner didn’t get a chance to resurface as the figure pounced on top of him and inserted a pointed knee-cap into the crease of his spine. Its fist was raised but the blow never came. Jarner unclenched his eyes and something seemed amiss. A streak had shot across the horizon and from that existence seemed to oscillate. Shapes began to slowly distort and the environment blurred in turn; in and out of focus. Eventually the world gave up and collapsed in on itself leaving the pair locked in position within a large, clinically white panelled room.
“I wish you two could do something more constructive in your downtime. I’m the one that’s gotta patch you up again once you’re done,” interrupted the ageing figure in the doorway. James scratched at his rapidly greying beard as he surveyed Jarner and Shayara who remained in the position he’d found them in. “You lose again?” He smiled at the Sarcurian as his extended hand heaved up Captain Shayara Ventii, releasing the pressure from Jarner’s back. The Sarcurian wheezed with relief as his defeated, sleep deprived violet eyes rolled with embarrassment. He departed the virtual environment chamber without another word. Shayara sniggered with childish glee as she discarded her helmet and retrieved a towel from behind a wall panel which she used to dab her brow. “What can I do for you, Doc?” she requested as she tied up her hazelnut hair in a neat pony tail. “We’ve got something on the long range sensors. It’s good enough to get R051E excited, whatever it is,” informed Doctor James Crow. Shayara raised an inquisitive eyebrow. Far away from much of civilisation and at the corner of charted space, this was a rare and interesting discovery indeed.
The Pariah was a glorified fast attack and recon craft, too big to be a personal commuter and too small to be a conventional frigate, although its weapon systems and capabilities were slightly above that of the norm. The model had initially been penned to be a mass production model distributed to Senate Security Special Forces although the project was scrapped due to the exceptionally high cost of manufacture. Only the conceptual model was ever built by Indatech, the technology and manufacturing arm of the Senate. Shayara had spent numerous cycles adapting it to her own personal taste installing trinkets and gadgets as she saw fit, which eventually had turned the interior into a mass of circuitry and mis-matched equipment. She took a well-rehearsed step over the bare wires as she entered the bridge and slumped into the captain’s chair, just as the podium to her immediate right glowed an ambient cherry red. A miniature human female materialised at the tip. She was young and likely matched Shayara’s age of mid-twenties, with shoulder-length blonde hair and dressed in a casual shirt and jeans. She stood legs together with arms folded and had a vacant expression. Her mind was elsewhere, busy computing a billion other requests which didn’t involve maintaining her avatar. “I have detected two rather weak emergency broadcast systems, both emitting standard Senate friend or foe identifiers,” the AI construct informed after an unnaturally long pause in a synthetic but oddly warming tone. Shayara was dubious at the news as she wrinkled her freckled nose; not only did few vessels deviate this far from standard cross system routes but the probability of two running into trouble was the least likely situation possible. Pirate factions and slave groups were often a threat faced on the cusp of charted space yet they tended to stick with easy money targets. A Senate-sponsored target carried too much baggage in their opinion. It would have pressured the High Senate to take action against them but while they stayed small no one in power seemed to pay them much notice and that’s just the kind of operational arrangement they were happy with. It was possible it could be a trap, set up by a similar class of degenerate, but Shayara surmised a trap this far out didn’t make much sense and she was confident in The Pariah’s capabilities if it were. “Swept for any other signs of life?”
“Of course. None present. I only detected the signals due to our close proximity, even then they are incredibly weak. It is likely no one else is even aware of them.” AI construct R051E nodded confidently.
The sleek non-frigate emerged through a newly formed slip space rupture. It hugged the sides of the Pariah as sapphire particles danced about every inch of the exterior hull. Shayara’s emerald eyes flashed with the thrill of adventure as she drifted within a couple kilometres of the debris field. She recognised the remnants of what both ships had been instantaneously, the smaller of the two had virtually been ripped in half. “That’s what I think it is, isn’t it?” she questioned as she gestured her hand over the larger half of the split.
“Sarcurian Luminary,” responded Jarner who had recently joined them on the bridge and sat with legs up against the control panel.
“What’s a Luminary? Some type of special operations unit your people have got?” chipped in James from the doorway as he managed to get no further due to the half suspended cables and numerous trip hazards. Jarner cocked his head as he tried to decide on the most accurate description a human could grasp, “Members of the warrior caste who catch the eye of the Monarch are selected for the task. It’s a way of life. Sent out into uncharted space with a frigate and crew who eventually become your family. Many spend a great amount of their lives away from civilisation.”
“What are they looking for?” James pressed still unsure at what they were, given the vague response which had served as an answer.
“Other civilisations, lost technology, lost knowledge. Anything and everything. Basically they’re explorers.” Jarner shrugged off, content he had fulfilled the question at hand rather well. Shayara moved closer to the panoramic view screen to study the second much larger space craft. It was most definitely a transporter and after closer examination bore numerous markings which linked it back to Indatech. Several possible scenarios surfaced and vacated her imagination much quicker than it was possible to digest them; none of which had any real substance.
Her curiosity was well and truly piqued however and it didn’t take long for a decision to be agreed upon. “Can that transport support life R051E?” Jarner swivelled in his seat already well aware of what his childhood friend was considering, he did after all know her tendencies far too well.
“Secondary backup generators have taken some of the slack although not well. We have a tight window,” assured R051E after not much thought or diagnosis.
“It’s our duty as Conscripts to Senate Security to at least investigate what’s happened here. Our only option, since the Luminary ship is a no go, is to board the transporter and try to fathom what happened that way.” Jarner rolled his eyes at receiving the orders he had expected as soon as Shayara had started on that trail of thought.
“I’ll prep the shuttle, we might get some valuable salvage from this escapade at least. How do you want to tackle it weapon and armour wise?” Jarner inquired.
“Keep it light this time, looks like we missed the fight.” Shayara favoured the advantage light and manoeuvrable armour had over weighty and bulky armour any day of the week, especially more so when zero gravity was likely in the mix.