Never did Laura think she would see the day, where she would be the one staring down the barrel of a plasmar aimed at her in point blank. Never did she expect it would be Miya holding the weapon.
“Just a precaution, Commander, you understand,” Miya added as her Captain noted the weapon, “I wouldn’t want you making any rash decisions. You still have some--maturing--to do.”
“And you, Miya, seem to have some loyalty issues—“
“Hardly,” the pistol’s grasp became just lighter, the hand somewhat more trusting, “I’ve only done you favours thus far. I took out Darrick. Edge. Haren. Olsein. And even Rose. All for you, Laura.”
“I didn’t ask for any of that,” Laura scowled, “committing assaults on my crew members is not my idea of doing me favours!”
“Admittedly, I needed to prove a point,” Miya sighed, gesturing her weapon to Laura’s, “put the gun down. I’m not going to hurt you.”
“I’d much better believe that if you hadn’t pointed a gun at my face,” she retorted.
“Fair enough,” Miya took a step back, sitting into the Captain’s chair, “but--I find you much more--what’s the word—compliant. And I like that about you, Laura, you just—follow everyone else around, and pretend to be on top of it all. It’s cute, at best. Now, be a smart girl. Put it down.”
The gesture again. And this time, Laura did slowly put her weapon down. But as she did so, she never took her eyes off Miya. Her eyes took a glance at a glinting brooch square on the black chest armour she was wearing.
The insignia of a trio of silver rectangles pointing inward to a black circle. While simple in its appearance, it spoke volumes.
Volumes that would be titled Trilithe Masons of Majestia.
Volumes that told tales of the most discrete, mythical and nonexistent arm of the Behraanese government known only to a select few.
Volumes that were rife with assassination.
“Why are you really here, Miya?” the Captain stepped away from her only protection.
“Well,” Miya smirked, placing the pistol on the arm of the chair, crossing her arms, “I hope you don’t have anywhere to go. It is quite a tale, I assure.”
“I’ve got all night,” Laura sat in the pilot seat, using Darrick as a stool for her feet, “and I assume you have something better than a gun to protect yourself with?”
“Better than your whole crew combined,” she smiled a sinister, dooming smile, “but, that is not the point. You see, I feel you ought to know a little--more--about your crew. What happens thereafter will depend on your reaction.”
Laura sat quietly.
“As you know,” she cracked her fingers, staring blankly in Laura’s general direction, “Behraan Code dictates that all those deemed non-Behraanese, by descent, must be put to slavery, or death, as they are imperfections of the Behraanese Destiny.”
“Common knowledge,” Laura nodded, “but we’re all Behraanese, so this can’t be why you’re—“
“So sure, are you?” she smirked, “you see—we have a gift, our guild. We have a rare, powerful technological application, that allows us to see people for who—or at least what—they really are.”
“Divination?” Laura guessed.
“Genetics,” Miya frowned, “Behraan Code also dictates that all use of non-mainstream methods of science, such as divination or telekinesis, are strictly outlawed and punishable by death. We certainly would never be such hypocrites, no matter how--tempting--it might be.”
“Genetics is a fool’s doctrine in itself,” Laura shook her head, “everyone knows that. It’s entirely conceptual, with no basis.”
“Correct and as intended,” Miya’s syllables spaced out more and more as her lips pounded each word out, “we find such a science to be simply too much for the comprehension and, indeed, the sanity of a layman. Only those who pursue the true glory of the Imperator may be privy, and worthy, of such secrets.”
“Okay,” Laura said idly.
“To put it simply,” Miya looked Laura in the eye, “I scanned everyone. At first, it was only you, Laura. And that was just as you entered the Academy.”
“Yes,” she nodded, “it was my first assignment. To case you. Figure you out. And, to see if the intuitions of Imperator were true—that you were related, possibly the daughter of the pirate lord Zodiac Bensen—“
“Even if that were true, which it is not,” Laura defended, “the only father I have ever known is my foster father, Academy Instructor Avelik. Not some bandit.”
“Again, correct as intended,” Miya grinned deviously, “but the Genelink never lies. It is confirmed: you are, biologically, Bensen’s daughter.”
Laura shrugged, as if she made her peace long ago about her shrouded heritage, “So?”
“So,” Miya spoke over her former commander, “as Zodiac Bensen’s daughter, you carry his traits as an Aeonian, one of those races the Imperator has placed a great reward on, head for head.”
“This is ridiculous—“
“Don’t yell, don’t get up, and don’t interrupt me,” the gun was back in Miya’s hand and her tone was more cutting than before.
“Fine,” she muttered, eyeing the gun.
“I scanned the others as well,” Miya crossed her arm over the one holding her gun, “I’ll list the offences of those aboard your crew, all of which punishable by slavery or death.”
Laura said nothing.
“Olsein, by race, is Behraanese,” she hummed, “but the problem is not in race. It is in time. Time that makes a normal person, such as you and I—well, just me in this case—age normally. But not Olsein. No, he has lived two full lifetimes of a common man and still not only he lives, but he thinks and fights like one my own age.”
“So he’s guilty for being too old?”
“No,” she shook her head, “he is guilty of the practice of magic to extend his lifetime...among many other things, no doubt.”
“He has shown no sign of it,” Laura argued, “he’s just a stupid old man—“
“Yes,” Miya’s eyes lit, “a stupid old man. So why should you care?”
Laura was again silent.
“He is likely a diviner, as well,” Miya continued, “although that has been difficult to prove. His time on Noregaa has left us with more questions than answers. Still, even a small chance of that being the case warrants his extermination.”
“Then, Roselii,” she continued, “what a fine fighter. Diplomat. Mechanic. Intellect. So many great talents, that she alone could handle all the roles of all the other crewmates. And yet, she seems to be only your age.”
Aeonian? Laura briefly brewed on the possibility.
“Of course, she’s too...fair and petite to be an Aeonian. Aeonians tend to be taller, a little brawnier. Even you have some more solidity about you. No, she is in fact a member of a race long thought to be extinct, the race that turned mad and became Behraan’s greatest enemy.”
Then Laura knew the assassin’s inference.
“Yes,” Miya smiled, “she is Oasiian. A real, pure-blooded, living Oasiian.”
“Punishable by death, high bounty,” Laura sighed, “I never knew.”
“She could be decades, or perhaps centuries old,” Miya added, “some washed up survivor just trying to make her way throughout the universe, hoping to blend in. Well, the luck that has kept her alive this long, where it abandoned the rest of her heathen kind long ago, has just about run dry. Fitting...to place the hit on her on a planet that has suffered such a similar fate, don’t you think?”
“I’m as good as dead,” Laura shook her head, “you don’t give a plug up your backside what I think.”
“Ah,” Miya clapped falsely, “you understand!”
Laura simply jutted her middle finger and index finger up in the plugging gesture, representing the two prongs being plugged into a live outlet.
“Grace and Ejjar,” Miya sighed, “I care little of. Grace is some cleric who trained in the Skyworlds. She could even be Kelviki. The Genelink on her is inconclusive, but she practices magic, of that I’m sure. Those vials? Those--strange concoctions which work wonders in short order? Tangible proof of the crime. So she’ll die for that. And Ejjar’s just a tree-loving Khrynthoss who wandered too far from home. He won’t be going back.”
“I wonder,” Laura growled, “are you really Trilithe? Or just some dressed up bounty hunter, here for a quick credit?”
Miya gasped, “How rude! I don’t want them all dead for money. There is...prestige...in bringing trophies such as you to the Imperator. I could get advanced training, and become an even better me, so that I may vanquish an even better you. Like your father! Yes, what a concept....”
“Dreamy,” Laura snarled.
“Exactly!” she cackled, “Next. There’s your prisoner, Darrick Walson. Rather young-looking, to be an old prisoner on some slave world. Why doesn’t he bear the long-term effects? Scars; tattoos or ID marks; tanning or discolorations He hasn’t a single wrinkle. He is far too--pristine.”
“Seems to be a recurring theme,” Laura added.
“All of unique cause, too,” Miya agreed, “since when I scanned him, I came up with a rather...unlikely...signature, for he is detected both as man...and machine.”
“It’s not unheard of for people to have cybernetic augmentations,” Laura shook her head, “that’s not a crime.”
“That was my initial thought, as well,” Miya nodded, “until I then got a sample of his cell structure from a fallen hair follicle in his quarters. I was amazed...for I saw no cells.
“Instead, I saw diminutive nanites, perfectly acting the way cells would on a Behraanese man or woman.”
“You imply he is a construct,” Laura shook her head again, “this Genetics thing really doesn’t make sense.”
“Nonetheless,” Miya sighed, “such a being is certainly a threat to the Imperator, not for what we know of him but what we do not know. So he will be, like the rest, terminated.”
Silence passed by for a minute as Miya hummed to herself and Laura just stared in shock at all the information the assassin bombarded her with.
Finally, Laura asked, “what of Sam?”
“Sentinel Good?” Miya nodded, “yes, about him. He is exactly who and what he says he is. A loyal, faithful servant and member of the Behraan race. I could kill him, for fun, but I feel it more effective to let him live, and pass on his memories to others, as an example of what happens to those who do not fit in the Imperator’s Destiny.”
“Your gun’s not loaded, is it,” Laura finally noted, “I can see from here its battery chamber’s empty. Used it up statting my crew, I’ll bet.”
“Very perceptive, Vinfield,” Miya said calmly, “Though I never needed the gun to have your undivided attention. I could have told you, moments ago, that I had a remote energium bomb planted in the engine room. But...I find it best to leave such delightful surprises...for last.”
“So do I,” said the firm, almost smug voice of one Samuel Good, as he dropped the useless pieces of what was once an elaborate weapon of mass destruction, undoubtedly the said energium bomb. They clattered on the floor in front of both women.
Miya flinched in complete astonishment as her mouth gaped at him, like someone who knew they were had. She futilely pointed her gun at him, as his gun—which he borrowed from Olsein--fired a stat beam into her forehead. The force of the shot was so concussive that she was knocked over the arm of her chair on the other side and bounced off the floor, resting against the rails at the edge of the ship, limp and unconscious.
Laura couldn’t even react fast enough to either Miya’s ominous words, nor Sam’s heroic entrance.
Sam then shot Miya twice more to stabilize the freeze, and secondarily, because he felt it deserving.
He then faced his captain, holstered the pistol and said, “ship is secured, Captain. What are your orders?”
“O-orders?” she replied feebly, still unable to fully make sense of anything.
“Yes, Captain,” Sam nodded once and tightened his stance, “where can I do the most good?”
“That a joke, Sentinel?” Laura did catch that much.
“Not a good one,” Sam smiled only lightly, the way a military man might, “but seriously, Captain, what’ll it be?”
“Gimme a minute, would you?” she leaned forward, her head swirling with the thoughts of everything she once knew to be true.
“Of course, Captain,” he remained in place, ever ready.
“At ease, damn it,” she glanced at him, “just make sure that bitch doesn’t get up.”
“Agreed,” Sam’s shoulders loosened up and he sat on the arm of the captain’s chair, looking over the limp near-corpse of Miya, the would-be assassin who nearly had the bounty of a lifetime: an Aeonian; an Oasiian; two magic users; a Khrynthoss; A machine man.
“How are the others?” Laura asked weakly, still using Darrick as a stool.
“Alive,” he noted from the side, his eyes still trained on Miya, “They were frozen, but not badly. They should be waking up in a while.”
“How long is a while?”
“I dunno,” Sam shrugged, “a while.”
After a long, painfully drawn breath, Laura stated, “if we weren’t all enemies of the state, Sentinel Good, I might have put you up for promotion for what you did today.”
After a long, understanding glare, Sam nodded, “you’re welcome.”