“The one considered Winter Ventrosia a possession; the other cherished her. The office of Lord Chancellor was a possession to the one and a grave duty to the other. The choice was clear.”
From “The Book of McKenna” - Destiny
Winter awoke from a deep sleep only to see dark gray walls, lit dimly by fluorescent lights. She rotated to upright position and tried to rub her sore neck, but the inhibitor collar got in the way. She silently cursed Slann’s name and stood up. Looking around, she immediately saw she was in the brig, with a saurian fast asleep behind the control station. Someone had been nice enough to provide her with a jumpsuit, folded neatly and placed on the cell’s sink. She put the jumpsuit on and adjusted it to fit. It was loose, making it a little more comfortable than what she’d expected.
There were no windows in the cell, which would make it difficult to determine where she was, but the snoozing saurian in no particular uniform suggested that she was on a pirate’s ship. Slann was certainly a bastard!
“If that ass has sold me to slavers, I’ll personally castrate him when I get out of here.” She said to herself. She looked into the mirror. Her face was rather plain, and she had no make-up at her disposal. There was a comb, so she did her best to make her hair at least presentable. Then she noticed it.
The green light on the inhibitor was no longer flashing. “Well I’ll be...” she whispered, not wanting to wake the guard. She brought her scanners online, interfacing them with her optics suite. They were in perfect working order.
“Kick ass.” She said, again minding her volume. It was now time to plan her escape. She could not wait to see her man again, and looked forward to losing herself in his arms one more time. She collected herself and began looking for an avenue of escape.
The scans revealed a typical saurian brig with plasma streams made for the bars of her cell, promising to cut her to pieces and burn her alive at the same time if she tried to walk through them. The walls were composed of an endurium/titanium alloy, with a sensor net woven in. If she cut her way out, disruption of the sensor net would trigger the alarm. Teleportation was out due to a low yield disruptor field she’d detected, just power enough to scramble matter-transmission of any kind. On top of every thing, there were no access panels. The only route left was shifting into her battle frame and blasting her way out.
She remembered from her days as a starship Captain that the Saurians usually placed brigs deep inside the ship, and well away from the outer hull. It appeared she would be forced to fight her way out. One Migichinan warrior against a crew of saurian pirates was the stuff of romance novels.
The doors slid open, allowing Slann and Capt. Greel to enter. Greel knocked the sleeping saurian out of his chair and promised him a quick demise if he did not leave immediately. Winter used her cyber-brain to quickly interface with the inhibitor collar and make the green light blink again.
“Ah, my dear Lord Admiral. What a pleasure it is to see you awake and on your feet. I trust you are well?” Slann asked.
“As well as can be expected, for a prisoner.” She replied. “You do realize you’ll never get away with this.”
“I’m afraid I already have, Winter Ventrosia. If you remember, you saw your beloved and your bodyguard attempting to rescue you from my compound. Well, as it turns out, I decided to destroy my own compound, and in the process, Zendista McKenna and Rhaine Quatralis were blown to bits right along with it. An acceptable loss, considering the results.”
Winter dropped to her knees, her eyes wide with tears. She knew that the possibility of Slann lying was real, but he never had done so in the past, always straightforward and brutally honest. She began to weep.
“Oh come now, Lord Admiral. It’s not becoming of a lady of your prestigious status to grieve for someone who was beneath you in every aspect of society and rank. Rhaine Quatralis was nothing, and McKenna, a mere inconvenience. It is much better for all of us that they are out of the way. Oh, and spare me the ‘someone will rise and take their place’ crap. I personally saw to it that Dakkoth Starkiller would not be a problem either, by driving the blades of my battle frame through his heart.”
“YOU BASTARD!!!” She screamed. In a fit of rage, she shifted to her battle frame and fired a two-fisted, full powered energy blast through the cell doors.
Dakkoth Starkiller sat on the floor in the middle of his apartment. He slowly flipped through his photo album. It was filled with pictures of Brigit Perrin and her clan. He was particularly fond of the vacations to her clan world for family reunions and picnics. Even though he maintained a stern and business-like appearance, he did truly enjoy himself.
The doctors had done a good enough job of patching him back together, though he truly wished they would have just let him die. He would have been able to join Perrin in the hall of heroes. Now he would have to wait a little longer, as suicide was frowned on in the Migichinan religion.
He stared at the shrine Perrin had erected in a corner of his apartment. She’d done that when she’d first introduced him to and taught him the ways of their religion. The statue of Migichina was the first gift she had given him, to welcome him. Then there was the shawl that she’d made for him when he’d gone through the rituals of entering the faith. It had been a historic event, as he had been the first alien to be accepted.
He had learned all the prayers, and kept a copy of The Litany on the small table. He added her portrait to the collection, and lit a vanilla scented candle. He knelt and clasped his hands together. He felt a hand on his shoulder. Dakkoth rose and turned around.
Standing before him was a figure bathed in ethereal light. He could see vague features, resembling a humanoid, but what struck him was the hair, two white stripes in a length of brown that was similar to that of his boss.
“McKenna?” He rasped, unsure of what he was seeing.
“Not quite, my friend.” replied the apparition, whose voice was unmistakably feminine. “I have brought with me someone who was quite insistent on speaking with you.” The apparition stepped aside to reveal another figure, also bathed in light, but whose familiar features were more defined.
“Hi ya, tiger.” Brigit Perrin said. Dakkoth’s eyes were as wide as saucers.
“Perrin...?” He managed.
“Yeah. Migichina granted me time off for good behavior. She said you were in bad shape, and thought I might be able to help. So here I am.”
Dakkoth walked closer to her. He reached out and put his fingers her cheek, which was solid, warm, and smooth to the touch. “You’re... you’re real! How can this be?” He asked in disbelief.
“The Goddess has allowed you to talk to her one more time, warrior.” The first apparition said. “What has happened cannot be changed, but this is a gift she grants in a time of need.”
“Thank you.” Dakkoth whispered. The apparition vanished from sight, allowing for privacy.
“I... I can’t believe you’re here.” He said. “I..”
“Shh...” Perrin said, putting her fingers to his lips. She kissed him fully, with a passion and warmth Dakkoth could feel throughout his body. Dakkoth held her tightly.
“I just wanted to see you one more time, before I’m fully accepted into the hall of heroes. I died in the line of duty, and that pretty much makes me a shoe-in. I just never really had, or took the chance to tell you how much I love you. I’m glad Migichina has given me this chance to express myself. Not as your partner, but as a woman who fell in love with you from the first moment she laid eyes on you. I... I wish I would have said something sooner.”
“I wanted to say that to you, Brigit. You gave validity to my existence. You were my Migichinan Alliance, and all it stood for. I did it all for you.”
Perrin smiled. “Those were the happiest times of my live, my love. To be at your side, roaming the Alliance, bringing justice to the lawless frontier, busting the bad guys. You know, on those undercover assignments, when we had to pose as a married couple, I really felt comfortable sleeping next to you, I always felt safe in your arms.” She kissed him again.
“But now...” Dakkoth added, knowing that the conversation would not be left at just that.
“We can’t be together after this. As much as I wish we could. But I want you to be happy. I don’t want you to pine for me. I want you to go with your life.”
“What do you mean?” Dakkoth asked.
“There is someone else out there who loves you. I asked her to look after you, if anything were to happen to me. She fell in love with you too, but stayed away out of respect. Don’t hesitate with her, my love. She is there for you, and I want you to be happy. I don’t want you to be alone. In her, you’ll find a new reason to continue to live and fight. But do me one favor, please?”
“What is that?” Dakkoth asked.
“If you are to have a child, and it’s a girl, would you remember me when you name her?” Perrin asked.
“I will. Of course I will.” Dakkoth said.
“I have to go now. I love you, Dakkoth. I always have, and always will. Remember me, my love.”
“Perrin, who is it?”
“The woman who loves you? You already know her, and she will reveal herself to you soon. Until we meet again, my love.” She said as she faded from sight,
“Until we meet again...” Dakkoth said, allowing a smile to slowly come to his face. He stood alone, once again. The light had faded, returning the apartment to its darkened settings. Light slowly began to seep back in, provided by the sunrise. Dawn would bring a new day to the Homeworld and a new beginning for this Migichinan warrior.
“You’re a dead man, Slann!” Winter Ventrosia hissed in the mechanical voice of her battle frame. She slowly shifted her feet into a classical combat position. “I’ll rip out your spleen for what you have done.”
Slann remembered the old adage about the fury of a woman scorned, and from personal experience, it went double for Migichinan women. Slann shifted into his own battle frame.
“Greel, you’d better leave. I would hate to see any harm come to you.” Greel said nothing, knowing that this would shortly become the last place he would want to be. Stories had been told of two Migichinan warriors decimating entire cities in one-on-one combat. He just prayed that they would leave his ship in one piece.
“Now I’m sure we can talk this out Lord Admiral.” Slann said nervously. He glanced over his shoulder to make sure Greel had left. “There is really no need for us to quarrel. We are both lords of the Alliance, and we are supposed to work together. As the new Lord Chancellor, I assure you that you shall have the same power and respect...”
“SHUT UP! You killed McKenna! Your men raped my bodyguard, and you killed Dakkoth Starkiller! Your aide hired an assassin who attempted to kill McKenna and myself, only to kill four innocent people in the process! I don’t exactly see that as working together!”
The eyes of Winter’s battle frame burned bright red, as bolts of energy leapt forth. Slann narrowly dodged the incoming attack.
“Winter, I have no interest in fighting you!” Slann said. He couldn’t bring himself to counter attack the daughter of his best friend.
“I have so many reasons to strike you down, Slann: the deaths of my friends and loved ones, the fact that your father killed mine. The list goes on and on. I see it as ensuring no one else dies because of you malice!”
Winter fired again, this time catching Slann off guard, the energy bolts hitting him in the chest. He staggered back, mildly stunned from the attack. Slann cast aside his regrets and charged Winter, grabbing her by the arms and throwing her across the brig. She slammed into the control console, tearing it apart. She fired back with full force, using the debris as support. Slann dodged again as the blast buried itself into the bulkheads. Alarms sounded as fires ignited from the blast.
“Dammit woman! You’ll destroy this ship and us along with it!” Slann roared.
“That’s the idea!” Winter replied, firing again. Slann was blown out into the adjoining corridor, forced through another bulkhead. Winter rose to her feet and walked towards the fallen warlord, ready to make her death strike as pirates armed with particle beams intercepted her.
Their attack sliced through her armor plates, forcing her regenerative systems into high gear. She fired back, picking off the pirates’ one at a time. Slann used the pitched battle to try and make his own escape, but Winter saw his bid for freedom and stepped up the pace. She rushed the guards and tore through them with her blades. After a brief struggle, she broke through and chased Slann down the corridor.
The warlord ducked into an alcove for cover, then pulled back out to fire. He caught Winter in the right shoulder, knocking the Lord Admiral off her feet. Slann made his way to an elevator and got inside.
“Bridge!” The lift began to move, but was brought to a quick stop. A steel plated hand tore through the floor as Winter ripped her way into the car. Slann fired a couple of shots into her head, blasting her out of the car to tumble to the bottom of the shaft.
“Later, bitch!” Slann laughed, looking down. His laughter stopped; however, when he saw the lights of her propulsion system illuminate the shaft.
“Aw man...” Slann made an impromptu exit with his cannon as the charging Lord Admiral destroyed the elevator car. Slann looked back, seeing Winter had overshot the deck. He ran for the bridge, but fell to the ground when the decks below him shuddered with a deafening roar.
“What the devil is going on?” Slann gasped as he made his way onto the bridge.
“What the devil indeed, Migichinan.” Capt. Greel replied. “As you were duking it out with that woman of yours, a Saurian battle fleet has arrived and is actively looking for us. The game appears to be over, and it looks like you may be on the losing side!”
“We have to escape!” Slann bellowed.
“There’s very little chance of that, Migichinan. Your skirmish has cost us a number of vital systems. It is fortunate that the subspace field generator runs on a separate power supply, or we would be done for. However, that still remains to be seen.”
“There must be...”
“There are no alternatives, Slann. The fleet will find us. It is only a matter of when.” Greel turned his attention back to the console in front of him. “Our position puts us in the middle of the fleet, and they are scanning for us even as we speak.”
“We can fight our way out...”
“No, we cannot. If we fire our weapons, we will give away our position. My helmsman is very good, though. He may be able to pilot through the holes in the scan pattern.”
Slann looked at the pilot, a turtle, wearing a helmet. As there was no view screen on the bridge, the turtle used the helmet to “see” outside the ship. Overlaid with tactical information, the pilot began to manually maneuver the Invictus past sensor and weapons radii displayed as spherical grids.
The ride was bumpy at best, with a number of hard turns and quick stops. What did not help was the fact that reports were still coming in of Winter fighting her way throughout the ship. The bridge lights went out.
“EMERGENCY POWER!” Greel shouted. The operations officer leaned over to pull a lever in response, but a steel plated arm burst from the panel, grabbing him by the neck. With a forceful tug, the arm pulled the ops officer into the panel, and the fingers sliced through the neck, severing his head.
With another punch, Winter’s battle frame ripped open the ops console, allowing her entry onto the bridge.
“Makar Ra!” Greel cursed in his native saurian tongue. He pulled a sidearm, only to be cut down by an energy blast from Winter’s hand. Slann was quick to move out of the way of the pirates who attempted to stop Winter, but their resistance was met with greater force.
In the fray, the pilot tried to maintain control of the ship, but with the ops station all but destroyed he could no longer get the information he needed to navigate the ship. The Invictus was now tumbling out of control. No matter what the pilot tried, he could not regain control. The pilot turned and saw that the Migichinan Lord Admiral was too busy to notice him, so he made his escape.
Slann was not too far behind, hoping the admiral did not notice him leaving as well. He could feel the ship in its death throws. The only hope for escape was a shuttle or escape pod. He caught up with the pilot who was readying a two-man submersible shuttle. The pilot thought twice about letting the approaching warlord in, but figured he might come in handy later on.
“You owe me for this, Migichinan.” He said.
“Fine. Let’s just get the hell out of here!” He said, as a torpedo slammed into the sub. As the ship slowly broke apart, he saw Winter come out of a door He couldn’t hear her scream, but he could imagine her organic face twisted in anger and contorted in rage. Being as polite as possible, he waved goodbye as the shuttle left the dying ship.
“Where to, boss?” The turtle asked.
“I have a safe house located on the outer moon. We’ll go there so I can prepare for my final moves and victory.”
“Whatever.” The turtle said, not really caring about his motives. He was just really hungry.