Pariahs and Peacemakers

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The crisp golden dusk struggled to pass through the smog-tinged atmosphere as Vad Turso hunkered down upon the rear access ramp of the scrap metal husk he called a ship. She wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination; she was old, rusty and was held together more with duct tape than the intended nuts and bolts, yet she still managed to do her job well. With a little TLC he hoped she would last until he fell into enough money to replace or improve her. Vad rummaged in his pocket a half arm deep before it returned with a packet of cigarettes and a lighter in tow. It was soon lit and in the early morning light he took a much deserved and reassuring tug allowing smoke to cascade slowly out of his squashed nostrils as he exhaled. He felt a nice warmth of satisfaction, not least from the release of nicotine but from the change in his fortune and the surprisingly empty spaceport on the edge of Coroniss’s capital Nemuroon. Coroniss was a bizarre planet which seemed to operate in polar opposite hours and conditions to all the other planets in the galaxy. The whole place was a sleazy pit of social despair yet it made it the best location to make quick and easy money and the young Sarcurian knew that as well as the next smuggler. He took in the last of the toxin before he rose and tossed the shrivelled butt aside. Vad patted his pockets in a habitual like fashion to gauge whether he had everything and crushed the dwindling embers from the cigarette under his boot as he descended the slight decline. Border control was no more than two hundred yards from Early Pay Day but he didn’t rush; he had all the time in the world.

He always thought it was odd that a planet so obsessed with breaking laws and corruption would bother with rules like checking in at all but it obviously served a purpose. Likely to calculate the crime statistics, his brain chipped in. Vad reached the door and was scanned by a biometric orb affixed to its frame, it cross referenced him to see whether he was a wanted man or anyone of importance. The results wirelessly streamed to an unknown individual with his or her own agenda. That worried Vad somewhat even though he had nothing to hide. People disappeared every day on this planet and he didn’t fancy becoming one of the statistics. The lock clicked open much to his relief but as he attempted to step forward he felt the unexpected and overwhelming sensation of being forced in the opposite direction. The Sarcurian tumbled backward uncontrollably before he crashed in a loud disorientated heap. His vision was blurry, he assumed from the blow to his head but his whole body was numb. He attempted to move but couldn’t. His first thought was that he’d been shot. Maybe he’d interrupted one of the city’s many notorious gangs shaking down the spaceport staff for protection money. The exact faction that controlled this sector was unclear as like every fact on Coroniss it changed daily. This thought, as colourful and probable as it could have been, soon dissolved as committal shapes returned and Vad made out the infamous black armour with white trim. He’d had a bad feeling about his cargo, even how it had come his way was questionable. However times were hard and an easy paycheque was exceptionally difficult to pass up in the current climate. After all, Early Pay Day was going into disrepair and his overheads were becoming extortionate. A second stun round hit and pulsed through every fibre of his being which sent him into a seizure.

Soon after, the world collapsed into a distant white speck and was rapidly consumed by darkness.

“Something is off,” voiced Jarner not entirely rhetorically. Shayara had to admit she shared his skepticism. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to raid the transporter and strip it bare of stock and life. The fact that whoever had done it could have missed someone was marginally realistic as it was physically a large ship but the likelihood was slim and the very idea just didn’t sit right at all. Even the ship being intact at first had perplexed Shayara after seeing what had become of the Sarcurian ship. The longer she thought about it however the more it made sense until it actually became rather clever. The Luminary frigate was an expendable threat, the transporter was the target. Cargo stolen and crew taken care of, what need was there to destroy the vessel? After all, another critical reactor could have possibly brought unwanted attention, two explosions in such a short window was asking for trouble. The next patrol through this remote sector could have been a decade away so why not leave the ship drifting undiscovered indefinitely? Shayara had to admit the culprits were clever bastards, clever calculating bastards. They moved deeper into the groaning wreckage which made the pair increasingly uneasy, a condition not helped by R051E who estimated rather ambitiously, by her own admittance, that the transporter had roughly an hour before the damage sustained would become irreversible and the structure would tear itself apart.

Upon the news, the pace accelerated from a concerned but jaunty jog to a competitive dash. They reached the room they’d been after in no time, a place affectionately known as the Freezer. Shayara wondered whether the room shared the same architect as the cargo hold. It was rather bare in the centre, only occupied by the main workstation which monitored the vitals of the subjects in hibernation. Shayara estimated that there were around fifty individual cylindrical pods that lined the available three walls. Most larger vessels were equipped with stasis pods, however they were only really used for long distance missions. It slowed ageing but sleep patterns had to be cycled to avoid a few unpleasant side effects. Freezer Burn was the most common and feared thanks to overcautious practices and rumour. The most heard of urban myth was that roughly ten years ago a long distance transport ship had been raided by pirates. After taking everything of value they departed and sabotaged the vessel's systems which locked the crew in the pods in a state of purgatory. It took a Senate recon team seven years to find them and the individuals that didn't die from the harsh revival procedures, the lucky ones, had become grossly deformed and had lost most of their memories. How true this story was was unclear but the idea was believable.

One of the nearest pods had shattered glass with orange stains smeared all over it. "Sarcurian blood?” Shayara probed in reaction to Jarner's head nod. Next to it, the glass of stasis pod number forty one was misted up so badly that not even a silhouette could be made out. She wiped away the condensation with her gauntlet to be confronted by the striking features of a female Sarcurian Luminary in deep sleep. Her majestic battle armour betrayed her lethality and experience that her youth and beauty had hoped to conceal. Jarner hadn't said a word but they both knew they'd either found a witness or the prime suspect. Her vitals weren't good but the stasis tank had done a fairly decent job of keeping her stable, which was why she had climbed or been placed inside it in the first place. If she hadn’t gotten medical attention promptly after the incident she'd probably have died as her injuries were serious. She had a fractured ankle, bruised ribs, numerous deep cuts and her primary heart had suffered a projectile injury and had shut down. Thankfully the Pariah had a doctor on staff.

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