Space Spaghetti

Space Spaghetti

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A CLOSED RP of epic proportions! Gunslinging, theft, and evading the law...in space!

446 readers have visited Space Spaghetti since Blackfridayrule created it.

Introduction

For every profession, there is the one goal everyone aspires to. CEO. President. Partner. For a band of professional thieves, their goal is a little less noble...

http://write.roleplaygateway.com/p/Space%20Spaghetti

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The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 1 authors

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"Hold on to yer ass, Wick! We're comin' in hot!" Josibel clutched the control stick of the runaway train they'd hijacked for dear life, alternating between jerking it wildly and keeping her hat on her head. Behind her, Wickerbasket pressed his bulk against the entrance to the conductor's cabin, keeping the many angry Government agents on the other side from swarming in and killing them. Without warning, the train dropped out of wormspace, sending the roaring machine through their destination and shattering the train station. The force of impact threw Josibel over the console and into the windshield, knocking the wind from her lungs. Her companion, with his substantially larger bulk and superior footing, simply grimaced as he braced himself against the impact.For a few blessed moments, there was only silence. All too soon, however, the rowdy hollering and swearing of the Government officials in the next car over resumed and Josibel figured it was high time to lay the bastards to rest.

"Alrighty then, Wick. Let's clean house an' see where th' devil we washed up." A deep purring sound rumbled from within the creature as he backed away from the door to allow his companion a clear line of sight to her targets. She climbed down from the control panel, drew her twin firearms and prepared to unleash hell. The first man to press into the cabin immediately dropped to the ground, his insides turned to ground meat from her gunfire. The rest backed away from the door in an attempt to seek cover, but it was futile. Josibel casually pushed the door wide open with one gun barrel, spraying the train car with her other hand and mowing down several of the officers. Once her weapons clicked empty, she bowed out of the way to allow her bloodthirsty friend a shot at the annoying men left alive. Like some sort of threshing machine, Wickerbasket stormed through the train car, warping the metal sides and brushing chairs away like they were made of paper in his murderous rampage. Men's bodies exploded under the force of his paws, were shredded and torn by his fearsome claws. teeth and axe-like beak.

When they'd finished mopping up the survivors, Wickerbasket pried open the now-defunct train car doors to allow them egress. Almost immediately, Josibel had to sheild her eyes against the bright, unforgiving sunlight.

"Hooee! Where'n th' blazes did we end up, pardner? This looks mighty similar ta nowhere. I ain't exactly keen on that notion." Taking a few minutes to adjust to the sunlight, Josibel got a better feel for the town. Some backwater criminal haven, she supposed. Just her kind of place. "Well, well. Mayhap this ain't such a bad spot ta end up crashin' on, eh? Looks ta be fine folk about." Wickerbasket, who of course couldn't see anything, simply chuffed neutrally.
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The bartender just watched Kaija for a moment as he dried out a glass with a red rag that had seen better days. A silence ran between them that permeated the general clamor of the bar as the two just stared at eachother, neither moving. "Where you come from, girl?" he asked finally, brow furrowing.
"Somewhere colder than this dump. And darker." Another stagnant pause. "You gonna take my order or are you just gonna stare at me?" The thin lines on her face and body pulsated softly, shifting from a greenish yellow to a light orange. "You seem like the dumb type. I'll take my coin else--"
"Whu-wait. I'll serve you li'l lady," he said, though Kaija could hardly be considered 'little'. She was slender, but quite tall--taller than the portly man behind the counter. "What can I get you?"
"Stout. If it's not cold, I ain't buyin'."
"Stout? Er...yeah. Sure. Comin' right up." He moved quickly, bringing her a large, tall glass of a foamy dark beer with a brisk, sort of chocolatey aroma. She smiled at him, though not kindly, and after pushing a coin across the bar, sauntered out the door with his glass. "Hey! I better get that back!" he hollered after her. She didn't even turn.

Not five feet from the door, Kaija nearly spilled her drink as a thundering crash sounded from down the way, followed by a series of gunshots and the gruesome crunching of metal. The woman watched with interest as a woman and a large beast crawled from the wreckage looking victorious. Behind them lay several government officials, most of them brutally maimed and all of them dead. Good, their natural state, Kaija thought. She never did like authority much. The pair began looking around, exploring the washed out glory of the dusty dump they landed in. Passerbys would nod to them, some tipping their hats in congratulations, and others laughing at the fate of the dead. Oh, what a place this was. Some might call it backwards, but it was good a place as any for Kaija, even if it was miserably hot and fiercely bright; a pair of dark sunglasses helped remedy that, at least. Even so, the woman felt she'd been here too long. She'd been itching to try her luck somewhere else, perhaps another planet, but finding the means to do so was often harder than it seemed. This lady though, she looked like she knew how to hop planets. Interesting.

"Ja'ti," she greeted them, approaching with her drink in hand, the condensation dripping from her glass. "Welcome to town. That was a nice entrance...I like your style. You got plans, trainwrecker?"
****
Loosing a short bark of a laugh, Josibel danced a little jig. Her kind of people, indeed. It was nice to get some hospitality for once, rather than gun barrels and irons at every turn. She gave two short whistles as she stepped off the platform, her faithful compainion at her heels.

"Can't say I do, friend. Jus' finished a lengthy stint in th' black, an' I'm feelin' a mite cooped up. A stretch o' th' old legs would do us well fer now. How's about ye give us th' grand tour, since ye seem ta be knowin' yer way 'round th' place. Maybe a drink too. Ain't had good booze in too long, an' I'm feelin th' thirst come upon me somethin' mighty fierce." From behind her, Wickerbasket chuckled, though he was definitely in agreement. The creature rather fancied ale, and usually drank up a sizeable portion of Josibel's hard stolen credits whenever they made friendly ports. Josibel sauntered up to her greeter, squinting up at the much taller woman with a lopsided grin on her face.

Sticking out a hand in greeting, the bandit introduced herself. "M'name's Josibel, friend. What're ye called, by chance? S'not often I get ta meet folk as welcomin' as yerself." Behind her, Wickerbasket huffed and gave his friend a nudge, almost bowling Josibel over with his enormous head. "Ah, shit! Sorry, Wick. Erm..This 'ere is m'best pal, Wickerbasket. We are pleased ta meet ye." Wickerbasket's face broke into an enormous toothy smile as he chuckled.
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"Grand tour." Kaija chuckled, her stripes turning blue. "Oh it's grand alright. I'll show you around and afterward we'll go pay my friend the bartender a visit." She glanced at the glass in her hands. "He's dumber than a hunk of iron, but he's got good brew." Kaija shook Josibel's hand and gave a small bow. "Kaija Tezusha. A pleasure. It's not often I get to meet folk as interesting as yourself...it's a dull place, this city. Not really much of a city if you ask me. Well then, Josibel and Wickerbasket, allow me to escort you around this lovely town," she said, laying the sarcasm on thick. She hated this place, really. Well, perhaps hate was a strong word, but so was her distaste for the arid climate and the admittedly rowdy but altogether dull residents.

Kaija sipped her drink and turned on her heels, strolling down the wide street. Despite being paved, the wind brought in so much dust that it was hard to tell most of the time there was ever a real road there at all. "I have a friend you simply must meet," she said with faux enthusiasm, though she had kind of a mischievous look in her bright eyes. "He's one of my favorites here. A real sweet fellow." As she walked, she seemed to be looking for someone, or listening in for some kind of signal; her footsteps were soft but quick. "Kind of a reclusive guy, so you have to track him down....ah!" Her head turned sharply and the spines on her head flicked upright as she spotted a young man slinking in the shadows between two buildings. He didnt' look quite as rough as the rest and he seemed to have a more cautious air about him; obviously, he hadn't lived here long and was not used to a life of crime. He spotted Kaija and bolted suddenly, but he was no match for Kaija's swift feet and deft hands. Her fingers hooked his vest and yanked him back, turning him around to pin him against a wall with the business end of a wicked knife held to his throat. "Ja'ti, Morrison..."

"Heh, Kai, hee-eey...um...I see you made a friend there...that's uh, great."

"Isn't it? Fork over some cash, boy, so I can buy these nice folks a cold drink."

"Er....a couple coins ought to do it, right? I could uh...s-spare a few..." The minute his wallet was in sight, Kaija snatched it, emptied it, and pushed it back into his chest. "Kaija, wait! That's all I've got, c'mon...cut me a break..."

"CUT you a break?" Kaija laughed.

"Wait! Not what I meant! No, just--just go, please?"

The woman, still laughing, let him go and tapped his head with the flat of her blade. "Good boy, Morrison. I knew you'd come through for me." Smilng amiably at Josibel, Kaija hefted the stolen loot in her hands. "Drinks on me. This way."
***

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Mmm..A firey one. Something that Josibel could definitely appreciate. Sucks for the kid, but hey, that's the way things worked. If you couldn't defend yourself, then you got taken advantage of. Josibel didn't waste her time pitying the weak, not only because pity is worthless, but they just plain didn't deserve it. The kid did sort of remind her of herself way back when she was first starting on her path of criminality. Before she'd met Wickerbasket, Josibel really didn't have much going for her. Sure, she was a crackshot with a gun, but her stature really put her at a disadvantage when it came to raw intimidation factor. After all, no one is afraid of a midget, even if she's royally pissed and sticking the barrel of her gun up your nose. Still, Kaija's handling of her source of cash made Josibel smile. It was good to see that there were still smart crooks out there that knew which marks to pick and milk for all they had.

"Mighty generous o' yer li'l friend ta loan ye cash like that. Wish I had friends that nice," Josibel commented with a giggle. "What'd ye say yer name was? Kayju? I'm afraid I ain't the best with strange names, but I'll work onnit. I know I hate it when folk go about sayin' my own name wrong." Shrugging apologetically, Josibel jammed her hands into her coat pockets, glancing around the town with mild interest. She'd sensed some displeasure in the other woman's voice when she'd talked about it, though for the life of her, Josibel couldn't imagine why. Blue skies and bright sun always picked up her mood, and the heat never really bothered her. Probably because her coat had a built in climate control, but even in her childhood, the bandit had always preferred warmer climes to cooler ones.

"Say, this bar o' yers, c'n we all even fit? Wick's mighty big. I dunno if he's gonna get in alright." Turning to her companion, Josibel scratched the underside of his chin, running her thumb down the axe-like beak gently. She'd cut herself on his beak more times than she cared to remember. Wickerbasket purred, his stalks swaying back and forth gently as he padded along behind the pair. Something was catching his attention, though, Josibel could tell. He was either listening to conversations on the street, or smelling something he wanted to stuff into his face. The thought of food set Josibel's stomach grumbling.

"Say, drinks'd hit th' spot, but a bit o' feed wouldn't hurt, neither. Ye got a good place fer grub 'round here?" She mentally calculated how much cash she had on her person, not really willing to tap into her bank for fear of drawing government attention. She wasn't too eager to tangle with those bastards again so soon.
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"He's a sweet one, isn't he? Kind of new to the game, but he'll get it." Kaija remembered when she first started; she had more spirit than poor Morrison, but the outcome was generally the same. She had fire, but she didn't know what to do with it for a long time. Thankfully, she was lucky enough to find her something of a mentor and she finally had the bite to back up her bark. Morrison would learn. If he wanted to survive and remain free, he would become more hardened, stronger, craftier. Until that day, Kaija thought it grand fun to exploit him.

"It's Kaija. Kyyyy-juuhh." Her tone suggested she had to do this often; she'd had a few run-ins with the law and she never met a single one that pronounced her name correctly when they looked at her file. "I'll answer to Kai, too, if that suits you. And I believe your friend will fit just fine. The door's big. We may have to clear a few seats, but the riff-raff here are easily persuaded. Besides, I can't imagine anyone telling Wickerbasket 'no'. Can you?" She grinned. "I can't say there are any GOOD places around here to eat, but there are some passable ones..." Kaija shrugged; she'd been spoiled with food, as one of her favorite passtimes used to be robbing high-class establishments of their very expensive food. She was fond of caviar. "Might have to order that to go. Most food places around here are smaller than the bars. Hm, quite the indication of the state of the place, dont' you think?"

Kaija pushed open the large door to the bar, walking back inside. "Barkeep!" She yelled.
"You again."
"Put these folks' orders on my tab, would you?"
The man eyed Josibel and her partner with a quirked eyebrow. "Folks? You mean--"
"YES," she growled impatiently. "If you're quick about it and you wipe that stupid look off your face, I might tip you. Maybe."
****
"Ah, Kai it is.. I c'nt manage th' other very well, an' I ain't in th' habit o' 'ffendin' folk what don' deserve it." The pair continued back towards the direction of the train station they'd so rudely destroyed, but stopped to make a detour into the aformentioned bar. Josibel grabbed Wickerbasket by the beak and led him into the bar, much to the surprise of many of the patrons. She casually shooed them out of the way with an expression that very clearly advertised she wasn't someone to fuck with. They approached the front of the room, where the bartender Kaija mentioned sort of stood there dumbfounded. It was almost like he wasn't used to seeing aliens come into his place every day.

'Some folk...' thought Josibel with an exasperated sigh. Honestly, with how big the universe was, you would think people would just stop getting surprised by shit. Pulling up a stool at the bar, Josibel removed her hat and set it next to her while she glared at the bartender. She pushed her glasses back up her nose impatiently. "Well then, come on. We ain't sittin' here fer yer comp'ny, friend. Got us some mighty parched throats that need washin'." To emphasize the point, Wickerbasket dropped heavily onto his haunches and set one human infant sized paw on the counter, drumming his toes impatiently.

"Erm...Alright. What'll it be today?" Josibel eyed the various bottles lined up on the shelf, thinking long and hard about what she wanted. Suddenly she spotted a small-ish bottle tucked away behind some garbage brand liquor and pointed at it. "Issat what i think it is?" The bartender followed her gaze, looking at the bottle in confusion.

"Whiskey? Yeah it's an old bottle. No one's ordered it in...sheesh. Years. You want a shot?" A sudden burst of laughter escaped Josibel as she imagined herself only ordering one shot.

"No, sir. I want th' whole damn bottle. I recognize that brand anywhere, I reckon, an' I could do with s'me good memories." Blinking in surprise, the Barkeep nevertheless overturned control of the bottle to the diminutive woman, who eyed it greedily. From above, Wickerbasket cleared his throat which startled the bartender terribly.

"Uhm...Does your friend here want something to drink as well?" Josibel, who was mid chug, glanced between the bartender and Wickerbasket, then shrugged. The large creature lowered his head till it was level with their server and grinned menacingly at him.

"Yessss, it doesss. Bring me a cassssk, if ye pleassse. Your sssmall bottlesss en't enough to sssatisssfy me." Almost immediately, the bartender paled and stepped backwards in fright, though he managed to keep his wits about him long enough to go fetch a small barrel filled with ale and hand it to Wickerbasket. Purring in delight, Wickerbasket bit through the side of the barrel and began to slurp it up, his long tongue darting in and out of the hole.

Slamming the bottle down with a sharp crack, Josibel uttered a noise of ultimate satisfaction and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "So, Kai, tell ol' Josibel 'bout yerself. Ye seem ta have a fierce need ta be away from this place."
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Kaija just watched in amuement as her friends settled into the bar. Now this was interesting! She'd been longing for this kind of spice in her life for a whlie now, as most smarmy folk were fairly one-dimensional in personality and few caught Kaija's interest. Apparently, she'd picked a good one. Almost as enjoyable as the sight of Wickerbasket slurping down a cask of ale right from the barrel like a happy dog was the look on the barkeep's sweaty face, pale and dumbfounded. For being a bartender, he was fairly pathetic, especially in a place like this. She'd seen far fiercer hosts in the more civilized cities of the Inner Ring, even, in places where the government agents frequented and upstanding citizens went to have a drink. This guy was a joke.
"Pity," she said with a smirk, stripes a deep blue that pulsated very slowly--once every twenty seconds or so. "I was hoping Wickerbasket was going to order the barkeep's face. That would have been a sight."
The man, definitely within earshot still, cast her a displeased frown. "You cause a lot of trouble for a woman."
"And I bring you a lot of business, too, so batten down those lips of yours before I cut them open."
The bartender sighed and muttered, "everybody's got something to prove...Alright lady, where's my money?"
Kaija took the handful of silver she'd stolen and hurled it across the bar, scattering them all along the floor and the back counter. Furious, he sulked away to gather his prize.

Victorious, Kaija shrugged to her newfound companion. "If you spent much time on my home planet, you'd understand. We are far from the sun and one of our two moons tends to sit right in between us and it. It's a dark place, but us Turias are well adapted for it. The darkness is my home and I find places like this sticky and overbearing. Besides. I don't like staying in one place for long." Her tone suggested both that there was more to that story, and that she wasn't about to elaborate on it. "And the people are a real bore, like the fat fellow behind the bar, here. What about yourself? You seem like you've been around the System a few times."
****
Wickerbasket paused his intake of delicious ale for a moment upon hearing Kaija's comment, though Josibel just laughed. "Wick's a veggie-tarian. His poor belly cain't handle meat. 'Sides, I reckon he'da gotten sick offut were he of th' meat cravin' disposition. Don' look like too much ofa morsel ta me." Muttering something in an upset tone under his breath, the bartender continued picking up coins.

"Sorry, didn'a catch th' last bit there, friend. What's that about my ass ye don't like?" Josibel called down to the man, one hand on her ear and the other on the handle of her sidearm. Upon not getting a retort, Josibel spit over the bar disdainfully. She'd lost interest in tormenting the man now, and instead turned to her companion to answer her question.

"Yawp, I seen my fair share o' th' black.I take it ye ain't travelled much yerself? I'd offer ye a ride, but as ye know, m'ride's all busted up from re-entry. Unless ye gots yerself a port nearby, I don't rightly know how we're gonna get off this dirtball."
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"Vegetarian? Never would have guessed. Seems ironic, considering your build, Wick," she said, indicating his axe-like face and intimidating claws. Where she came from, anything that had claws was feared by some creature or another and for the most part, the Turias had learned how to kill it and eat it. Hearty vegetation in her dark homeland wasn't really much of a thing, and Kaija had never seen many vegetables and fruits people commonly ate elsewhere until she left home. "Can I call you Wick? I figure we're all friends here."

Kaija was about halfway through her stout. She could hold her liquor alright when the occasion arose, but for the most part she was a slow drinker and took a while to finish any beverage. Kaija set the glass down, swirling her slim fingertip through the ring of condensation on the wooden bar. What she wouldn't give for a whole pool of water to jump into...
"Oh, no," Kaija corrected, "I've been around. Probably not as much as you, not by a longshot, but I've seen my fair share of polished steel-and-glass cities and....less than civilized places of the System. I don't always have the opportunity for as much travel as I would like. It was some sick twist of fate that I wound up here in the brightest, hottest planet in all the System...go figure." Kaija's stripes slowly morphed into a kind of golden color that moved in and out of chartreuse. Obviously pondering something, she fiddled with the silver that plated the antihelix and inner helix of each ear, tapping the metal with her fingernail. Her stripes went back to a blue-green and she sat up. "Alright. Well...there's a port nearby. Sort of. It's about a day's walk from here, but with a vehicle or...perhaps Wickerbasket's assistance, it'd be shorter than that. It's probably the only place on this planet with any kind of real security, so we'd have to be smart about it. Speaking of, I can't get a hundred feet of the outer fence without one of them getting all excited. I've got a face that's hard to forget, you know. If we could get in there though and either make friends with a shady pilot or just take one for ouselves, we could get out of this dump."
****
Pondering the situation for a moment, Josibel idly sipped from her almost empty bottle of whiskey. "Awright, pardner. I ain't got a better plan, anyhow. Wick? Whatcha think?" Wickerbasket chortled with amusement.

"I'd love ta play yer ferryman. I need ta ssstretch my legsss anywaysss. We sshould get sssome feed and be off." Fully in agreement, Josibel knocked back the rest of her whiskey and clapped Kaija on the back, indicating that she should do the same. "C'mon, pardner. We gots a ship ta catch." Josibel and her partner sauntered out of the bar, though the latter had a bit of difficulty jamming his enormous bulk through the doorframe. Outside, a grizzled looking gunslinger was just setting about securing his mount when Wickerbasket startled the creature and caused it to jerk out of his grasp. Thinking quickly, Josibel sprinted forward and leapt, making use of her surgically enhanced musculature to send her easily flying straight onto the creature's back. She grabbed hold of the thrashing animal's fur with one hand and held her hat aloft with the other, whooping and cheering as she rode the bucking beast. Soon the animal tired itself out and allowed its owner to calm it down and tie it to the post.

"I'm mighty sorry 'bout that, friend. M'pal here sometimes has such effects on animals." The man laughed heartily, simply happy to have his animal safe.

"Oi en't worried, lass. Yer quoite th' rider yerself. T'was mighty impressive, it was. 'Ere, fer th' show. Moy treat." Handing Josibel a small strip of plastic, he shook her free hand with both of his and headed inside with an enormous grin on his face. Josibel surreptitiously slid her hands into her coat pockets for a moment, staring after the man with wide, blinking eyes. She finally shrugged and headed towards what she assumed to be a general store, though Wickerbasket waited outside in case Kaija came looking for them before Josibel could finish her business within.
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"You're a real gem, Wick," Kaija said with a smile. Her friends moseyed outside and the woman took a moment to finish her drink. As she was just about to leave, a gold-toothed man with a thin beard approached her with a grin. "Hey li'l lad--"
"Do us both a favor and go back to smoking, snaggletooth. I really don't want to dirty my blade today, but if you make me, I will."
"Feisty, aren't you? How about I--" Kaija didn't allow him to finish. She pulled her knife from it's place on her thigh and, lightning fast, pinned his calloused hand to the bar with it. She released him, turning to wipe her blade on his shirt as he howled like a lone wolf to the moon.
"That's enough!" The barkeep finally shouted, his face almost as red as Kaija's stripes. "You've done enough damage today! Get out!"
"Don't worry," she said coolly, though her stripes were still red and the spines on her head were straight up. "I was just on my way out. You may wanna get that chap a tourniquet." She stood and sauntered out next to Wickerbasket. "Well," Kaija said, donning her sunglasses, "It's probably a good thing I'm leaving this place. Something tells me I won't be welcome back in that bar again." She had a grin ear to ear though; he deserved it. "Where'd Josibel get off to?"
***
For a moment, Wickerbasket didn't answer, though when he did respond it was semi-distant. "Ssshe'ss inssside th' ssstore gettin' sssuppliesss." He settled down on his belly, head swiveling back and forth slowly, occasionally chuffing out the cumulative breath he was intaking. The pair passed a few moments of silence, which was summarily interrupted by Josibel's flying leap onto Wickerbasket's back, landing solidly in the saddle. She reached behind herself and patted a spot on his back, indicating that Kaija should join her.

"C'mon, Kai. We gots places ta go an' ships ta see. Sorry ye ain't got a proper saddle seat, but me'n Wick here ain't exactly used ta sharin' th' personal space, y'know?" Reaching down to their new travelling companion, Josibel helped her up onto her perch with relative ease. "Well, yer almost light as a feather, missy. I don' reckon Wick here will have any trouble carryin' th' two ovus. Eh, Wick? Oh...before it slips my mind, ye may wanta find somethin' ta hold onto. Wickerbaskent ain't like any steed ye've ridden afore. Th' ride'll be a bit bumpy." Josibel and Wickerbasket shared a hearty laugh as he gained his feet and padded towards the outer edge of town.

"Awright, get along li'l doggie! Hi-yah!" she cried, whipping his reins. Wickerbasket bellowed with excitement, causing several curious passersby to scramble backwards in fear. They didn't move till his silhouette had faded into the distance. Josibel sat casually in her saddle, easily riding the bizarre bounding motions of Wickerbasket's gait and holding onto her hat. Occasionally she tugged her reins in a direction, steering him clear of large obstacles in their path. Wickerbasket's species originally came from a planet with an inhospitable surface, forcing the species to retreat to the underground cave network, where they subsisted on moss and minerals that they extracted by headbutting stones open. The only reason he was able to run as fast and long as he could is thanks to the strict training regimen Josibel raised him on. Every once in a while she looked back at Kaija to make sure the woman hadn't fallen off, and to make sure they were headed in the right direction.
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Kaija smirked. "I'll be alright," she said as she climbed up onto his back. Getting comforable, she said, "Yeah, I'm a tall creature, but thin. Can't imagine I'll be too much of a burden." Squeezing with her legs and gripping the back of the saddle, Kaija steeled herself for takeoff. With a loud cry, Wickerbasket leapt away and very soon, the dusty town was far behind them. Kaija couldn't be more grateful. More than once she'd considered splitting to find another town nearby and trying her luck there, but she'd seen enough maps to know the nearest city was a ways off. Most locals would do fine traversing on foot, but Kaija was no local, and she was not built for the desert sun. She'd learned her lesson once before.

The trio rode for hours, eventually coming to a settlement with maintained pavement and tall towers with large glass windows. A fence surrounded the premises and two gates, one on either side, allowed for passage in and out of the spaceport. A variety of ships were docked there--freighters, a small but speedy messenger-ship, a government 'gunner' as Kaija called them, and multiple passenger ships. "Okay. First we gotta get in there, and then once we're in, we either hijack one of the faster, smaller ships in there, or we try to strike a deal with one of the freighter captains. Got a preference?"
***
Once they'd neared the port, Wickerbasket slowed to a saunter, his lungs working like great bellows and sweat coating his skin. Josibel tossed a casual smirk over her shoulder, appearently in on some sort of joke. "Don't fret, now, ma'am. Ol' Josibel has it all sorted out, nice and purty. Ye ain't in trouble with the law here, are ya?" Recieving a negatory head motion, Josibel chuckled.

"Then you ain't got a thing ta worry yer pretty li'l head about. I got it all sorted. I think ye might just be in fer a happy surprise." They approached the gate, stopping to explain their business to the guards, who although they cast suspicious glances at Kaija, decided not to do anything about it. After all, who wants to stop the person riding a death machine for no reason? Guiding Wickerbasket with the reins, she steered him to the back of the port and up to a relatively ugly looking freighter.

"Well, here she is. Our ticket outta this dump. Ain't she a beauty?" Giggling to herself, Josibel hopped off Wick's back and approached the guard assigned to the ship. They talked for a moment, shook hands, and then the guard turned to leave. Letting out a short whistle, Josibel started up the ramp into the belly of the ship, an eager look on her face. Wickerbasket followed the sound of her whistle until the ship 'came into view'. He deftly guided himself onboard, keeping conscious of Kaija on his back.

"Jossibel! Ey, pardner! Ye mind fillin' yer bessst pal in on what 'zactly we're doin' on a sssmugglin' ssship? We ain't sssmugglersss," he called, though Josibel had already moved deeper into the ship and therefore couldn't respond. Rolling his massive shoulders in a shrug, Wickerbasket dropped to his belly to allow Kaija off his back.

"Eh..Have fun ekssplorin' th' ship, I guesss. Lemme know if'n th' corridorss are big enough fer me ta sssqueeze through, neh?" Deftly unbuckling his harnesses, Wickerbasket dropped all his gear onto the deck of the ship and rolled onto his back, tongue out like a dog.
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"You're just going to walk up to the front door politely?" Kaija muttered as they approached. "Well. That's a different tactic. Lets hope it works." While they were being inspected, Kaija tried to make herself small, though sitting behind Josibel, that was no easy task for the 6'2" woman. She didn't think they would know her, here, but she didn't want to take chances either. Sure enough, they were let through and after a quick conversation with a shipguard, the trio was allowed onto a freighter that had seen better days. Kaija was not picky, though. A ship was a ship and that meant getting away from this sandpit.

Once inside, her bioluminescent stripes were even more prominent in the dim lighting of the ship's underbelly, softly pulsating a pale green. She stashed her sunglasses. "Ah! This is more like it. I feel a waft of air conditioning, if i'm not mistaken. I like this deal already. Enjoy yourself, Wick," she said, splitting off to poke around the ship.
****

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The gentle twang of an ancient stringed instrument floated gently over the shipboard intercom system. Josibel lay sprawled in her command chair, strumming away on the guitar and staring into the deep purple void of wormspace in a trance. They'd been hopping systems for a week now, and if not for the increased governmental presence in the sector, they'd have been at her headquarters by now. She wanted no chance of a tail, however. Her base was too valuable to even take a hint of risk like that. Finally, she couldn't take just sitting around any longer. They had a few hours before the computer was scheduled to drop them back into reality, so she wanted to get in a bit of exercise.

"Hey, Kai! Where ye hidin'? Ye wanna do somethin' ta pass th' time?" hollered the bandit as she strolled down the main pathway. She'd found an old ball hidden in one of the smugglers pockets, and had rigged up a hoop in the cargo bay. She'd played a few games of hoopball with Wickerbasket and Kaija on the voyage, and even though the alien woman hadn't known how to play before, she was a natural. Her height and natural muscular build put her on an even playing field with Josibel's enhanced strength and agility, something which surprised the bandit. She'd never had a real challenge before.
The chill of black space was welcome to Kaija, as was the general darkness except for the ship's indoor lights, which she was happy to discover could be turned off when she slept. She usually found the coolest corner of the ship, flicked off all the lights in that area and would sleep somewhere hidden, or at least behind a stack of cargo. For someone who knew her, it would be difficult to see her unless they were purposefully looking, as she was good at camoflauging herself and when she slept, her glowing stripes went completely dark; the lines on her skin looked like ropy scars when not lit. During the day, when Kaija wasn't lurking quietly off by herself, she would join Josibel in the control room and gaze out the window at the speckled nothingness in front of them.

Kaija heard Josibel's voice and was in the control room in only a moment; she hadn't been far, but her approach was silent. She had a habit of doing that. "Thought you'd never ask," she said with a grin, her stripes flashing green. She picked up the game quickly. As soon as she understood the rules and the strategy of the game, she gave Josibel a run for her money with her height. Kaija enjoyed their sessions, as it was a good way to keep her restlessness in check. Even so, she was anxious to get there.

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"Josibel," she called one day, sauntering into the control room. "How long till we get there? Seen any more Govvies?"

Josibel started when Kaija's voice intruded into her thoughts. Instead of answering, however, she simply jerked her head towards a nearby screen. On the display, their onboard navigational computer depicted a 3D reprisentation of their current flight path and projected exit point. According to the instruments, Josibel expected a relatively rough entry due to a wandering cluster of meteorites entering the small quadrant where she'd rigged up her warp gate in the beginning.

"Hold on to yer ass, it ain't gonna be a smooth ride," she finally managed to reply. The change happened suddenly, though if the two women hadn't been watching the viewport, they wouldn't have noticed it as the ship itself didn't shake or rattle to give any indications. Dropping out of wormspace always left Josibel slightly sick in the stomach; her mind had to race to catch up with the sudden influx of visual stimulus. As predicted, there swarmed the small meteorite cloud and they were headed straight into the heart of it. Josibel slapped the warning klaxxon and toggled on the A.I. driven autocannons, which popped out of their hidey holes and started blasting away at any meteorite that made it within a hundred feet of the ship in a full 360 degree bubble. They of course couldn't catch everything, so she had to hook directly into the ship's navigational computer to get the amount of control she wanted from her new baby. She plugged a three pronged jack into the base of her neck, connecting it to her wetware hub and went limp in the chair. Seemingly of its own accord, the ship began to make wild maneuvers to avoid meteorites. The ship audibly strained against the forces acting upon its weathered hull, but it was a good, solid smuggler ship, so it of course held together perfectly.

After three tense minutes of wild ace flying, they cleared the danger zone and made it into the asteroid field proper. Most of the rocks that floated serenely dwarfed any ship in known space, though one in particular stood out as it was basically a small moon. Josibel sat up in her chair and unplugged herself from the ship, sitting back in her seat and sighing with pleasure. A brief squawk of the wideband radio broke the silence, which Josibel answered.

"Plunder Haven, this' Chief Maurader. I'm inbound at approach vector 703-2216. Be good an' open cargo door five, if ye please. Oh, an' I want a cup a hot brew when I get in. Out." Swivelling slightly in her chair, the shorter woman gestured grandly to her base with a huge grin.

"Well, Kai, whatcha think? Pretty grand, neh? Built th' whole damn thing m'self. Well, me, Wick, an' my crew, anyways. Took us eight solid years ta get 'er nice 'n cozy, but we did it. Welcome ta th' Grand Central."

'Rough' was not really what Kaija wanted to hear. She did fine and dandy in space or in the air when the gong was smooth, but she wasn't much a fan of excessive turbulence, as it made her nervous and often made her stomach churn. At the warning, she hunkered down and grabbed hold of whatever solid objects were next to her, then waited. Really, she wasn't even interested in watching the process, she just wanted to be flying smoothly again or even better, landing. The one part of the whole ordeal she did find intriguing was the plug that could be inserted into Josibel's neck. Kaija had heard of such technology, but she'd never seen it firsthand. Something to ask her about later when she wasn't so worried about colliding with a wayward asteroid, she thought.

The ship steadied finally. Kaija had been sort of squatting down the entire time, her stripes a vibrant and toxic looking purple; only once the noises and creaking and lurching stopped did she straighen, though her stripes never did return fully to their usual cobalt. Instead, the color wavered somewhere close to lavender. Though her colors were sometmes hard to decipher, the meaning of that shade of purple was very clear; she was very, very uncomfortable.

An asteroid...Kaija hadn't ever thought that a spacerock could be big enough to house a civilization of any form, which was probably why Josibel chose it. Who would look for them there? "It's...genius," she said with a watery smirk. "Is there...an atmosphere? Air?"
***
Chuckling knowingly, Josibel steered the ship with one arm, the other dangling limply over the side of her command chair. "O'course there's air. Whatcha think we are, a buncha wackos? That was th' first thing we installed. Got us three atmo plants deep in th' core, along with th' generator and heatin' units. All th' creature comforts o' home, I reckon." As the ship ducked down towards the underside of the asteroid, they could see an enormous pocket had been carved out, big enough to fit a starliner and an entire fleet of repairships. For now, though, the space was inhabited by a scant few fighters and salvage ships, the entierity of Josibel's fleet. She engaged the ships auto-docking function and pulled herself out of her chair to stretch a bit.

"Whew. Pilotin' a bird direct like that really takes it outta ye. C'mon, lets check on Wick an' get ready ta meet th' family." She sauntered down the main corridor to the cargo bay, where Wickerbasket lay under a pile of upturned crates. He appeared to be sleeping, something which never ceased to amaze Josibel. That damn animal could sleep through a nuke if the mood took him. Slapping him about the face and neck, Josibel prodded her friend until he finally roused.

"Wick, we're home. C'mon lazybones. We got work ta get taken care of." At the mention of home, Wickerbasket jumped up and tossed several boxes around excitedly, bounding around the cargo bay like an eager puppy. Once they'd docked, Josibel hit the cargo door release switch and stepped out on the metal catwalk. Several of her crew milled around outside, but once they'd spotted their leader, they caused quite an uproar. She hugged several of her 'family', though she was quickly muscled away by Wickerbasket who moved into the crowd, whining in excitement. Josibel turned back to her ship and waved Kaija forward, raising a hand for quiet.

"Everyone, I gots a new member o' th' family for ye ta meet. This' Kai. I picked her up on a dusty ball in th' middle o' nowheres. Make her feel at home, yeah? I got business ta attend to." A few people approached Kaija, smiling and friendly. The lead of the group stepped forward and pulled the woman into a tight embrace.

"Hiya, Kai! Its so good to have a new face around here! Come with us, we'll get you set up right away. You hungry?"
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"Whackos? Yes, I do," she said with another smile, her usual brand of flat-toned humor coming back to her. "But that's beside the point. Seems like a good place to set up base to me. I should gather my things," she said, padding quietly off and disappearing into the deeper sections of the ship. When she found Wick and Josibel, she had her things with her and slung over one shoulder. The cargo bay opened, a rush of fresh air greeted them; slowly, Kaija's stripes turned just a little more blue. She stepped out cautiously, unnerved by the lack of visible artificial atmosphere, though she found she could breathe just fine all the same. Interesting.

Several people, dressed in black, greeted the three of them with varying levels of enthusiasm. One in particular, a woman, seemed to be very comfortable with Kaija right away, because she pulled her in for a hug before she really even said anything to her. Always the stoic, standoffish type, Kaija was a little unnerved by this too and wasn't really sure how to respond to such a gesture, so she stort of stood there numbly and did nothing. The verbal greeting, however, she was just fine with. "Nice to meet you too. I'm always hungry, as long as there's food being offered," she said with a small grin. "What do you call yourself?"
****
Clearly taken aback, the shorter asian woman slapped her head. "Oh, I'm so sorry! My name's Tally Marks. I'm Josibel's right hand around here. Come on, we should be having dinner in a little bit." She laughed and turned to lead Kaija deeper into the base, skipping merrily and shooing laze-abouts out of their way. Once they'd gotten to the back of the docks, a frieght elevator opened up to allow them onboard. As soon as the doors closed, the boxy mechanism whooshed upwards at an alarming speed, much to Tally's delight. At the top of the ride, the elevator decelerated smoothly, coming to a nice gentle stop, where the back door opened to let them out. The room they emerged into was cavernous. So large, in fact, that if not for the lights installed into the ceiling, one wouldn't be able to even spot the roof. The lights looked sort of like stars, white spots in a sea of blackness, though they illuminated the ground fairly well. Josibel stood by a small retinue of what looked like retainers, all of whom were attempting to read off holopads to their leader and get her up to speed. Josibel herself listened intently, though it was fairly obvious that she was impatient, as she had her arm tightly around the waist of a blonde woman next to her and was leaning into her side.

"Oh, hold up a sec," Tally whispered to Kaija. "Boss is getting the debreif, and I think she's gonna want a moment alone with Alabaster. She's been gone for four months now, after all." Tally thought for a moment before waving her hand at a few people nearby, who approached her quickly. "Hey guys, we have a new member of the family. Help me get her settled, yeah?" Tally turned to Kaija with a big grin. "Hey, so we're gonna skip meeting with the Boss real quick. I'm sure you'd rather be eating than listening to her go through all that boring stuff that comes with being a leader, right?" She nodded to the three that had approached her and moved off to stand near Josibel.

The big one to the left of the group nodded quietly to Kaija, sitting on his haunches. His companions seemed much more lively however. Waving to the woman, the center one spoke up, their voice strangely androgynous, as was their appearance. "Greetings, newcomer. This one is blessed to make your aquaintance." It bowed at the waist, then gestured to its companions. "The large one is Gruk, and the small one is Khazzik. This one is called Ma'tera. What is your birth name?" Gruk, the large, hairless gorrilla-like being grunted, though he smiled at last. Khazzik giggled and hid her face. She looked to be a child, though she was a fully grown member of her species, a race of short crimson people resembling goblins. Her head looked very oversized for her scrawny body, and her enormous multifaceted eyes gazed seemingly everywhere at once.
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"Alabaster, huh?" Kaija said, mostly to herself. She was prepping herself for the onslaught of introductions and names to remember, and it wasn't going to be easy to remember them all. She would try what she could. "And Tally. Ai, I sense there's gonna be a lot of names to remember." Kaija followed her hostess, constantly glancing around to take in her new surroundings. Frankly, it was a heck of a lot better than the dust pit she'd been in for the last month or so. The cavern, especially, was quite to her liking. Sunlight was nowhere to be seen and instead there were distant but adequate lights up above. Despite good visibility, Kaija felt more at home there than she had been in a long time. The stripes on her face and body pulsed a vibrant turquoise at a slow and steady pace; she was going to like it here, she could tell.

Kaija gave kind of an odd bow as she touched her fist to her chest, greeting the three odd characters who came to meet her. "Gruk, Khazzik, Ma'tera. We'll see if I can remember that. My father named me Kaija Tezusha, but it seems I'm more known as Kai, these days. Either works." Kaija looked around, her eyes reflecting bright green under the distant overhead lights like some eerie nocturnal predator.

Ma'tera bowed again, then turned and gestured for Kaija to follow it. Gruk wandered off to go do something else, but Khazzik decided to tag along out of curiosity. She hung about close to Kaija's legs, babbling in her native tongue. Off to the left hand side of the cavern, a large three story steel structure stood illuminated by spotlights and surrounded by many bustling crewmembers. Pretty much everyone near the building looked like they were strictly noncombatants, as their bodies had a softness to them that didn't befit any sort of warrior.

Looking over it's shoulder, Ma'tera smiled at Kaija and Khazzik. "So, Kaija. Tell this one a little bit about who you are. What brought you to the Boss?"
Kaija smirked. "She ripped apart a train station and I bought her and Wick a drink for such an accomplishment. We worked together to get a ride off that horrible planet, and here I am."
With a chuckle, Ma'tera knodded knowingly. "That sounds very much like her. It is good that you now can join our family." They'd almost reached the building when a great uproar issued from within. A child burst from one of the doorways, clutching something to her chest and laughing madly, though she stopped when she noticed the visitors. Hot on her heels, a portly woman huffed and puffed her way up to the girl, grabbing her by the back of her jumpsuit and hoisting her up into an inescapable vicegrip.

"Gotcha, you little scamp. You know it's naughty to take things that aren't yours!" She wrestled with the girl for a moment, tickling her and managing to slip the small loaf of bread from her tiny fingers. "Run along now, Cassidy. Don't make me get your mothers involved!" she warned, though her tone clearly conveyed that she wasn't serious. Ma'tera waved to the woman daintly with an effete laugh.

"Greetings, Helga. This one has a being for you to meet." Turning to Kaija, it motioned for her to step forward and be introduced. Khazzik had taken off after Cassidy, giggling and whooping as she chased the child down. Approaching the pair, Helga reached up and pinched Ma'tera's cheek, tut-tutting disapprovingly.

"You haven't been eating like I've been telling you to, have you? You're practically skin and bones, you scamp." Helga turned to Kaija, a large grin on her rosy-cheeked face. "I'll take it from here, deary. Thank you for showing her the way here." Bowing away bashfully, Ma'tera turned tail and retreated, leaving Helga to guide Kaija to the kitchen.

"I'm sure you're hungry, sweetie. Josibel isn't the best cook, and I bet you didn't have quality rations on whatever rustbucket she's commandeered this time. Come have some of Helga's famous home cooking and tell me a bit about yourself. I know it's tough to try to remember everyone's names, so I won't be offended if you forget some. It just takes time." In the kitchen, Helga sat Kaija down at a table, ladled a plasteel bowl full of her homemade stew and set it in front of the woman before taking a seat herself.

"Go on and enjoy that for a bit. Whenever you're ready, old Helga will be here to chat."
Kaija was relatively silent as she was escorted around; it was her way to just observe things for the most part, anyway. The little girl caught her attention though. As the older woman playfully wrestled with her and halfheartedly reprimanded her, Kaija's reflective eyes just watched a little absently. She was obviously locked in some distant memory the scene was conjuring, as it wasn't that long ago that the little girl was her. Only instead of a kind hearted woman catching her in the act, Kaija often had government soldiers, or worse, the local authority. She blinked rapidly and looked back up at the woman as they were introduced.

"Ja'ti," she greeted with a nod and her odd bow. "I'm practically always hungry. Many thanks, stranger." She sat down at the table, taking in the sights and sounds of the room. All else was forgotten, however, as soon as the stew was put in front of her. Kaija hadn't been around good cooking in a long, long time, and even when she had been around it, she rarely could afford it. "Te'ana!" she said enthusiastically, slipping back into her home language as her stripes shifted to a rapidly pulsating turquoise. "You're a fine cook indeed. Your name is Helga? What exactly is it that you--I mean, all of you--do? Are you a gang with a Kingpin? Or more of just a group of bandits?"

Belting out a deep, booming laugh, Helga clutched her stomach. Once her fit subsided, she wiped a tear of mirth from her eyes. "Oh ho, that's rich. I like you already, girl. You could call us a gang, if you want, though if anyone is a kingpin around here, it's me." She leaned forward and put a hand up to the side of her mouth conspiritorially. "Don't tell Josibel I said that, though. That girl is hard headed and likes to fancy herself as the brains of this outfit." An aftershock of chuckling rippled through her.

"No, truth be told, I'm just a matron figure around here. Josibel is indeed the driving force behind all of this," she gestured around her as if it was a miracle. "Without her, we'd all be in prison or dead. Each and every one of us owe her everything. But most of us have either put the life of crime behind us, or were never suited for it in the first place. I take care of and direct the support crew, while Josibel handles the, ahem, heavy lifting." Helga pondered for a moment, rubbing her chin.

"Who all have you met so far? I'll give you some pointers on who's got the most weight around here. Get to be friendly with them and you'll be well off, you know?"

"You say you've mostly left behind a life of crime...what is it you do then? And er...what's the um...h-how does the loyalty thing work around here?" This seemed like an uncertain subject for Kaija, something important to her. "Is it like, you're in for life or...?"

She slurped at her soup for a little while as she pondered Helga's next question. "I've met...er....the short red one, the large one, and the one who introuduced you to me. And one other girl." She smirked. "Which ones are the ones to avoid?" she joked.

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For a moment, Helga adopted a serious posture. "That's thin ground there, girl. Josibel takes family very seriously. The last time someone left us, they very nearly got everyone else killed due to loose lips. If it wasn't for Josibel's trigger finger, we might not be here. Keep that in mind while you're here." Once she'd finished warning Kaija, the woman fell back into her genial personality.

"Mmmm..." Kaija said quietly on the subject of loyalty. "Well I didn't come here to screw anyone over...but let's just say I have commitment issues..." something in her tone suggested there was a long story behind that one, one Kaija was not about to get into with just anyone. It would take more schmoozing than a friendly tone and a bowl of stew to coax that story out of her.

"The red one is Khazzik. She's the tech wizard around here, though none of us really understand her. She doesn't speak common. I think Cassidy has been picking up on her tongue though. Those two certainly spend a lot of time together. Ma'tera is the one who introduced you to us, but it doesn't really have a defined role. Mostly paperwork or public relations. As for the other two, we have so many shapes and sizes around here, I frankly couldn't guess as to who you're talking about. The key players you're going to need to stay on friendly terms with are Josibel, of course, her wife Alabaster, Khazzik, Tally, myself, Damiyan and Vooli. Tally handles sorties and the armory, I deal with food and non-combat supplies, Damiyan is our ship mechanic, and Vooli handles the med ward. I'll take you to each of them once we're done here."

"Ah, yeah, Khazzik. I met her, and Ma'tera, and Tally, too. Alabaster, I think I saw but never spoke to." She finished her stew and followed Helga out to the greasy mechanic--it wasn't hard to tell who he was or what he did, as it was fairly obvious.

Once Kaija had finished her stew, Helga took her to a connecting corridor which led to an enormous warehouse stacked to the ceiling with shelves and crates. In the middle of the space, a gangly man with a messy mop of hair leaned over what looked to be a jet engine, his back to them. At Helga's whistle, however, he swore and dropped a spanner he'd been using to tighten bolts on the engine. He continued to issue a colorful stream of verbage as he clutched his hand in pain.

"Oh, I'm sorry Damiyan. I didn't mean to startle you like that, though you certainly deserve it after your hijinks in my kitchen last week. Besides, it's not safe to work on engines without a shirt on, much less proper saftey gear. You might get that scraggly goatee caught in another turbine if you aren't careful." Damiyan had stopped swearing, though only because he had his hand up to his mouth. He didn't seem to be fazed by the abundance of motor oil and grease that coated his hands and forearms.

"Whudya wan', Helga? I godda eingeen ta fix." Damiyan's already thick accent wasn't any clearer with a hand in his mouth, though Helga had enough experience to understand him anyways.

"Hush, Damiyan. I have a new girl you need to meet. You might be working on a ship for her in the future, so play nice." Turning to Kaija, Helga gestured towards her comrade. "Girlie, this is Damiyan. Damiyan, this is the new girl, whose name I don't yet know."

She didn't realize she hadn't given her name to Helga. "Ai! Did I never give you my name? I never was a good houseguest. Kaija Tezusha," she said to them both, bowing again. "If you ever want an apprentice someday, Damiyan, let me know. I know a few things about engines, here and there."

Appraising Kaija critically, Damiyan huffed. "Girlie, there's more ta feexing ships than some eingeen work. Ya need ta know fuel lines, eelectric seestems, computors, not ta menshun all tha hull work and weelding I have ta do. Eef I am that desperate, then we have a beegar problem." The mechanic crossed his arms over his lean chest and glared at Helga impatiently, obviously wanting to get back to his work. Helga berated him for being so rude, though the surly mechanic shrugged it off nonchalantly and ignored them. The plump woman finally threw her hands up in frustration and led Kaija out a door towards another building nearby.

"Don't worry about him, I just caught him in a bad time. Hand Damiyan a bottle of booze and he's the friendliest guy around, but don't interrupt his work." As they entered their next destination, a slight floral scent floated through the air. In the next room, the contrast was so stark it was shocking. Instead of steel walls and flourescent lights, the entire surface of the room was coated in soft, cushony moss, and several glowing plant bulbs protruded from the walls and ceiling, casting a comforting blue glow on everything. Even more at odds with the starkly out of place decor was the woman tending to it.

Helga opened her mouth to speak, but was instantly hushed with a delicate hand motion from the other woman. She turned to face the pair, her waist length hair making odd clacking sounds as it brushed against itself. It looked almost translucent, like fiber optic wire, which fit her pretty well, as she was mostly cybernetic. A small smoke ring puffed out of the long, hollow horn that protruded from her forehead, and her hair slowly began to fill with light. She tapped her right temple, which caused the steel visor on her eyes to split down the middle and fold backwards, allowing her to see who had come into her personal world. Vooli approached Kaija with eerily smooth motions, her prosthetic legs absorbing the impact of walking so completely it almost looked as if she was gliding.

Of everyone Kaija met, Vooli was the most intriguing. She guessed she would warm up to Damiyan later, though that would take time. Vooli was different. Though they likely had very different personalities, Kaija felt almost like they had something in common. It was probably only just their outward similarities and bioluminescent features that reminded her of her own people, but it was something all the same. Kaija hadn't seen anyone else like her in...a very long time.

Once she'd come within a foot of Kaija, Vooli stopped to gaze at her. Her milky, seemingly blind eyes drilled straight into Kaija's gleaming ones for a moment, though eventually she smiled. "Greetings, luminescent one. Welcome to my domain." Her voice came from seemingly nowhere, as her mouth didn't move as she spoke.

"Ja'ti," she said, a genuine smile on her face. "This flower...we had some like these growing outside my house back home. It's been....ages since I've seen one."

Blinking slowly, Vooli turned to look at one of the bioluminescent flowers she cultivated. "These? Josibel brought them back for me from one of her trips. I do not know where she obtained them, but they are quite beautiful. You say you had them on your home world?" She mused for a moment, her head tilted slightly and making odd motions with her fingers. "What system do you hail from? I will attempt to look it up on the galactic net."
"They grew like weeds. We called them avai back home, but I don't know what they're actually called. I come from the Taivas system. It's....quite a ways from here."

Vooli's head lolled back onto her shoulders, her hair pulsing rapidly through the visible spectrum of light. "Confirmed: Taivas system. Please wait, accessing Telnet Hub. Gateway breached, cartography function online. Scanning....System located. Accessing GeoTop data. Accessing Survey data. Scanning...Specimen found. No formal name entered. Writing...Avai confirmed as species name. Galactic records finalized." Slowly, her wild color display faded to rhythmic deep cobalt bands. She came to and shook her head gently, offering Kaija a slight grin. "Congratulations, Kaija. You are now a Galactic Species Discoverer."

Kaija wasn't really sure what to make of the display she'd just seen. Eyes wide, she sort of nodded and asked, "Does that....happen often?"

Issuing a snort of amusement, Helga shrugged. "I suppose. Vooli is pretty spirited, and doesn't mind breaking countless laws to satisfy her curiosity. You'll have to ask Josibel for the full story, I suppose. Unless you want to fill her in, Vooli." Cocking her head in curiosity, Vooli looked at Helga blankly.

"Fill her in? Is she missing vital components? I have a back order of both organic and synthetic parts I can access if they are needed."

Kaija didn't speak, but her stripes flashed purple for just a moment.

"Please, Vooli, don't scare the new girl. I need to take her back to Josibel now. You can do an examination later if she wants. Go back to tending to your moss, honey." Before she could argue, Helga had already taken Kaija by the arm and steered her out of Vooli's lab. Outside they almost ran straight into Josibel who had Cassidy hoisted up onto her shoulders. She'd changed into one of the standard jumpsuits while she'd been away.

"Ah, Helga. I'd caught wind ye was showing Kai 'round th' place. Thanks fer th' help. I'll take he yer hands now, though." Helga smiled and nodded, reaching up to pat Cassidy on the head before turning away. "So, how'd ye like th' tour? Pretty nice setup, eh? Mayhap a little rough round th' edges, but it's home and freedom, an' that's more than most of us had afore. I hope ye'll like th' place as much as th' rest of us." She jerked her head, indicating that she wanted Kaija to follow her. "I'll show ye to yer bunk." The trio headed out to the common area, and near the back of the cavern a veritable maze of beds had been laid out. Most were empty, and looked to have been that way for some time, though there were several hundred, so it wasn't too surprising coinsidering that at most there were only roughly a hundred members of this crew. That had been seen anyways. Josibel showed her through a several rows towards where the more frequented bunks were, stopping at the outer edge.

"Here ye are. Ye c'n have any one ye want, s'long as it ain't used." Cassidy jerked a bit of Josibel's hair, causing her to turn around. Alabaster approached them, smiling serenely. "Hey, love. I was hopin' ye'd stop by ta meet with th' new member o' th' family. Kai, Alabaster. Alabaster, Kai." Alabaster nodded to Kaija, kissed Cassidy on the cheek and put an arm around Josibel.

"A pleasure to meet you at last, Kaija. Welcome to our humble family." Her dulcet voice had a slight reverb to it, lending further to her almost mystical grace. Many humans that met her referred to her as an angel, Josibel included. She was tall, willowy, with long golden locks and crystal blue eyes. "You don't mind if I sit with you and talk a bit, do you, Kaija? I like to meet everyone personally." Something in her tone indicated that she wasn't used to being refused. She sat down on a bunk and patted next to her, indicating for Josibel to pick Cassidy up and set her next to Alabaster before taking a seat herself.

"Ja'ti, Alabaster. Nice to meet you, finally." Kaija sat down on the bunk beside Alabaster. "What's on your mind?"

Crossing her legs daintily, Alabaster regarded Kaija at length. "You are, Kaija. I'm simply interested in you. I like to know everyone that my lovely wife brings into our home, for security reasons. We have had some trouble in the past, is all. Tell me your story, as well as any experience you have with our line of work." Josibel glanced between Alabaster and Kaija uneasily, but refrained from interjecting.

"Cassidy, run along now. Yer ma an' I needs ta discuss business with Kai, okay?" Leaping off the bunk, Cassidy ran off without complaint, almost immediately getting into mischief.

Somehow, Kaija was afraid of that. She knew Alabaster's tone held a 'but there's more' hint to it. Her stripes turned a deep orange and pulsated just a little quicker; she had a wary look in her eyes. "You're asking for quite the story, Alabaster," she said, a harsh edge creeping into her voice. Obviously, this was senstive territory for the woman. "As far as my experience, let's just say I kick up trouble to survive. And there's a few bars across the system that aren't so fond of me and would probably kick me out if I came back." She gave a smirk. "I've always been a fighter, not a lover. Contrary to the stripes," she said as they flashed a little brighter as if to display them, "The darkness is my ally and i work best in stealth." She was just fine talking about her more recent experiences, but her past? Not so much. She would avoid it to the best of her ability.
***

Alabaster frowned slightly, clearly displeased. She was about to say as much if not for Josibel's intervention. "Love, th' girl just arrived. Ye c'n grill her later. Fer now, let's let sleeping dogs lie, yeah? If it comes down ta th' wires, ye know I'll sort it out clean." Alabaster debated internally before exhaling softly through her nostrils. She rose from the bunk and strode away, still somehow looking graceful in her ire. Josibel watched her retreating form for a moment, her expression a mixture of desire and displeasure.

She sighed and rubbed her temples before laying down on the bunk and stretching out. "Well, Kai, can't say ye made th' best first impression with m'lady. I hope ye don' plan on bein' so difficult th' whole time ye stay here. Jus' so yer aware, I gave up my bed fer ya tonight. That's how much I trust ye." Rolling onto her side, Josibel propped her head up on her hand and pushed her glasses up her nose.

"Mm. Never was good at first impressions. Or people skills. Just....It'll take a sizeable amount of booze to coax a history lesson from me. Let's just say it's not great, and I don't like to talk about it." Her stripes shifted yellow and slowly edged closer to green as the subject passed.

"Anyways, water under th' bridge. What'd ye think o' th' tour ye got? Any questions fer me?"

"It's quite the place you've got here. I have to admit, when you said base, I didn't picture anything this large, or organized. Not to mention diverse. Vooli and I, we don't seem to be too far apart, biologically I mean. She's an odd one, but I feel like we'll get along." Kaija fidgeted with her silver-plated ears, tapping at the metal with her fingertip to make a satisfying tick sound.

Josibel snorted derisively. "Unless yer more machine than woman, ye ain't got much in common with that one. I dunno what her species is, but it's mostly gone now. I'm assumin' yer referrin' ta th' light show, yeah?" Kaija nodded. Patting at the various pockets on her jumpsuit, Josibel pulled out a thin, translucent cable. "These, right? She grows 'em outta her head, same as I grow my own hair. We use 'em ta build comm equipment. Finest fiber-optics around, and totally renewable." Josibel sat up, a sly grin on her face. "Ye wanna hear her story? It's a mighty tall tale, but I swears it's true." Taking a deep breath, she prepared to weave a yarn.

"So I was doin' time in a Govvie tech prison, right? I got some illegal wetware in me, an' they wanted it back. Well I wasn't too keen on lettin' them city doctors carve me up ta get my metal bits, so I staged a breakout. Them damned camps are so twisty and windy, though, I got lost quicker than light in an event horizon. So I took a wrong turn and ended up in some creepy, twisted lab where th' really bad shit happens. Th' kind o' shit th' Govvies keep locked up in black boxes, on account o' th' public would riot if they found out. I see's ol' Vooli on a slab, lookin' deader than a doornail an' hooked up ta all sorts o' wicked operatin' equipment. I was gonna turn tail and book it, but them eyes, man. She turned an' looked straight at me, pleadin' fer a knight on a horse ta rescue her outta that tower. What could I do? Refuse?" Josibel scoffed at the idea.

"So I set about unhookin' th' poor thing, makin' sure I didn't cut her none on all th' sharp bits layin' about. She was so light! I mean, yer pretty easy on th' shoulders yerself, but Vooli ain't weighed more than this here pillow. I guess it was cause she ain't had any arms or legs..." For emphasis, Josibel tossed the pillow at Kaija with a grin. "Once I got her free, I swaddled her up like a newborne babe and bound her ta my back. Appearently she's got some killer cyber warfare up in that noggin', cause doors opened for me like I ain't never seen. We grabbed us a scattergun, popped a fair few Govvies on th' way out, and booked it on some rinky dink fighter. Ever since, I got a special place in this ol' black ticker o' mine fer that one. My second daughter, Vooli." Leaning back on her hands, Josibel grinned to Kaija, clearly expecting the other woman to be impressed.

Somehow, learning that Vooli was more cyborg than living being was a little disheartening. Kaija hoped she would have someone like her, even if only on a surface level. She supposed though that she could just pretend the luminescent fibers on her head were hairs and not cables and call that good. "It's honorable of you to take the time to rescue her from a Govvie Block...those places are fierce. I would say I'm surprised you both made it out, but it sounds like it worked out pretty well for both of you. Is that....what you do?" Kaija asked at length. "Find destitute beings across the system and offer them a place to belong?" She smirked, knowing full well she was in that category.

Josibel shrugged nonchalantly. "If it suits me, I guess." She clearly didn't like being compared to some sort of bleeding heart rescue worker. "We all gots a common goal here, s'all. Anyone's welcome, so long as they c'n fall in line and help out th' group." She looked up suddenly, a though occuring to her. "I ain't told ye what we're all about, huh? Ye know of Fort Zanzibar, yeah?"

"I don't believe you have, no. I've...heard of the Fort, of course. I don't know any criminal worth his salt who hasn't. But you aren't planning to rob this place, are you? Because that's like asking for a second go in the Govvie Block."

Grinning knowingly, Josibel nodded. "Oh I know. Th' difference is we ain't gonna be stupid about it. This here space rock? We been makin' some...special modifications to it. A couple more years, an' we'll be ready ta make our move. O'course, we still need more crew, more ships, more...well, everything, but it takes time. If ye asked any Govvie ta turn this here space rock inta some kinda fortress with less than a hunnerd personnel an' no fleet o' miner ships, he'd kill himself. So I reckon we c'n do it just fine."

Kaija smiled, shaking her head in disbelief. "I thought you were a little off your rocker. But it takes a crazy person to do something crazy, doesn't it? Ai....I'm guessing that if I'm to be a part of your crew here, you're gonna want me on this job, huh? I gotta be honest with you, I gotta think about that one. But I can't think of any real good reason not to...except not wanting to see the inside of a Govvie block again. But I could think of worse things in life..." Kaija thought for a moment to herself, then as her head-spines flicked up about halfway, she asked, "You got some kind of plan in place, or are you hoping to get that as soon as you finish preparations here? I mean, let's say you actually get there without being shot down first. Do you even know where to go? How to get in and out? What even are you planning on making off with, anyway?"

Josibel crossed one knee on top of the other and steepled her fingers mischeviously. "Oh I gots a plan alright. We're takin' Fort Zanzibar for every speck o' wealth they have. All of it. We're gonna buy us a planet where anyone c'n live without governmental law, where th' outcast an' downtrodden c'n be free. A haven fer folk like us." Josibels eyes almost looked lit from within, so passionate was she about her dream. With that kind of drive and passion, it wasn't hard to see why she'd gathered as many followers as she had and made so much progress with basically nothing.

"I ain't gonna fill ye in on all th' details right now, on account of yer still untested, but if ye prove yerself a steady hand an' solid heart, I'll give ye th' full initiation." Standing up, Josibel stretched, grunting in pleasure as her vertebrae popped. "See Helga about gettin' one a these suits. I doubt yer gonna want ta stick around in that clothing fer weeks on end. These don't get dirty an' they're mighty comfy. Seeya 'round, Kai," called Josibel as she walked away, scooping up her daughter who happened to be running past and showering her with kisses and a big hug.

"Ai, woman, you are crazy. You mean to tell me you want the whole thing?" Kaija laughed, muttering to herself in her native tongue. It was a sharp, kind of jagged language that didn't always flow smoothly, but on her lips it sounded perfectly natural. "I don't need details yet," she said at length. "If I were you, I wouldn't trust me with them, either. A stranger and all. But if I end up doing this with you, when the day comes, you better tell me every last detail. I ain't going in there blind. Anyway, we'll deal with that later. See you later, Josibel." Kaija gave a small wave and lay back in her new bunk. What had she gotten herself into?

<><>

Striding back and forth throughout the bunks, banging on an old steel pot with a ladle, Cassidy was shouting at the top of her lungs and spewing some old war propaganda she'd caught on the net. The combat trained personnel rolled out of their bunks groggily, shuffling towards the armory to get suited up and ready. No one questioned what the situation was, no one complained about the odd hours. They were all pretty much used to it by now. In the armory, Tally was already handing out weapons and documenting who got what and how much of it. Near the end of the line, Khazzik approached Tally and held out her hand expectantly. Laughing to herself, Tally reached down and ruffled the diminutive girl's hair, then immediately yelped in pain as Khazzik hauled back and kicked her right in the shin. This time more adamantly, she held out a tiny hand and pantomimed cocking a shotgun. Giving a confused shrug, Tally handed Khazzik a shotgun and bandolier.

The noise woke Kaija up in a flash. Spines up straight and stripes a vibrant gold, she sat up and rolled out from under her blanket. Quite the wakeup call, she thought, though she'd seen it before at least once and knew what was going on. The first time, she hadn't been so lucky. Kaija dressed herself in some of the clothes she'd brought with her--a tight fitting crop-top of a matte black and thick material that was usually soft and pliable, but as soon as it was hit with sudden kinetic force, it stiffened like hard plastic. It was the closest thing she had to armor and it did protect her vital organs, though for the most part she would rely on stealth to keep her alive. Maybe she would get used to full armor eventually, but she hated the way it limited her lithe body. For now, she would go without. The shirt revealed an extensive line of glowing stripes like the ones found on her face and arms; they extended to her chest and collarbone and down her spine, though there were none on her belly.

Kaija stood in line for her supply of weaponry. Though she always took her two knives with her, one shorter and the other more of a machete length, she knew her little backup pistol wouldn't cut it out there and she needed some heavier ammunition. Besides, she had about two shots left in her own little gun, and she had a plan for those. Kaija did not want to waste them on just anyone. "Ja'ti," she greeted Tally. "What've you got for me?"

Perking up in surprise, Tally nevertheless grinned wide at Kaija. "Oh, heya Kai. Finally got cleared to run a job, huh? I got just the thing for you." She fiddled with the computer screen that controlled the gun rack, queueing up her selection. Once it had finished its rotation, she picked up a compact submachine gun and handed it to Kaija, along with four spare magazines. "Make sure you bring all that back. Casings are disposable, but mags are hard to come by." Tally checked off a couple boxes on her holopad, then indicated to Kaija that she was cleared to join the others.

Kaija took the gun and grinned, stripes rapidly flashing a deep and practically ultraviolet blue. "This should do nicely," she said. "I'll be sure and get them back to you. Later, Tally," she said, stashing the extra magazines in various pockets, including one inside her boot. Kaija moved to join her comrades for the briefing, though she would be lying if she said she wasn't a little nervous. Danger didn't bother her, really, but she'd never really done much work in a group and already she was wondering what her place in all of it would be. She figured, however, that she would stick with what she did best and would keep to the shadows as much as possible while backing up those who were more visible.

"Awright, everyone listen up for yer group assignments!" Josibel began to rattle off names. "And finally, my recon crew will be Cysalic, Khazzik, Vooli and Kai. Yer gonna stick ta th' highbeams an' keep an eye on th' rest of us, yeah? Split up into yer respective groups an' let's board th' Cow." The crowd split up into four groups, one for ship crew, one for assault, one for demolition and of course the recon crew. Coming from behind Kaija, Vooli clapped her on the back with a huge grin. She'd swapped out her normal steel visor for a more protective facemask that covered her eyes and forehead. Several camera lenses and antennas protruded from it at odd angles, giving her a strange bug look.

"Ja'ti, friend," Kaija said with a smile, happy to know that her strengths had been considered when given an assignment. On her own, she was great at the aggressive offensive role, but in a group full of people far better at brute force and offensive tactics, she was much better utilized as support. And it seemed she was in good company. "Glad to have you with me. And you too, Khazzik." Though she didn't know Khazzik nearly as well as she knew others in the crew, Kaija admired her spirit. Full of fire, she took guff from nobody. But the last member of their crew was nowhere to be found, at least to her eyes. She was about to ask when the answer to her question was sort of given to her.

The fourth member of their crew, Cysalic, had never met Kaija before. For a moment, it looked as if there were only three members of their group, until Khazzik gestured impatiently to seemingly nothing. Dislodging himself from the shadows, Cysalic appeared to be vaguely humanoid in shape, though his skin had the texture and consistency of jelly, which allowed him to absorb light. In stark contrast were his glowing yellow eyes, perfectly round and unblinking. He sized Kaija up, clearly acknowledging her as a fellow shadowstalker, but also adopted a cocky posture, practically oozing a superiority complex.

At first, Kaija smiled, she liked him already. But the minute he straightened and gave her an appraising glance, she caught wind of his attitude. Her smile faded into her typical stoic stare as she, too, looked him up and down. She gave him a look that said 'challenge accepted' and her stripes pulsed a deep forest green once before brightening to something a little more yellowy, spines dropping against her skull. To her, this kind of interaction felt like home, where everything semeed to be a competition for the title of alpha male or alpha female. It was almost a little endearing. "Kaija Tezusha. You must be Cysalic." She did not bow like she ususally did when meeting someone new and her tone was aloof, but it was all in good humor.

Eyes narrowing in what appeared to be a smile, Cysalic laughed. It wasn't a pleasant sound though, more like wind through a lonely forest, rustling leaves and sending animals scurrying in fear. He extended a shadowy limb in greeting. "It's good to see another...likeminded individual in our little group. These two are very talented, but when it comes to skill, well...It's hard to match a living shadow at the game of invisibility," he commented in a wry whisper. Clearly charm was not in his repotoire of skills. That dry, ghostly voice made Khazzik shiver uncomfortably and heft her shotgun to soothe her jitters. The weapon was taller than she was, and looked incredibly comically oversized in her childlike grip. Vooli nodded to Cysalic and led Khazzik to the line of boarders, though she did comment to the remaining pair in the group not to dawdle too long. Josibel disliked tardiness.

In a way, Kaija and Cysalic were sort of opposites--she produced light, he absorbed it. Even so, he was more similar to her than most in Josibel's crew. She took his hand and shook it. "Of course," she merely said, smirking a little and following behind Vooli to board the ship. This was going to be interesting.

Once everyone had boarded the ship, they disconnected from the hub and flew down a long tunnel which imperceptable was accelerating them to breach wormspace upon exit. An interesting, if unorthodox setup, to be sure. They were on their way to hit a starliner, loaded down with cash and riches galore. They'd intercepted a message about their intended route, which convieniently took them through a lush tropical system nearby. Close enough range for Josibel to not worry about taking one of the bigger, wormspace enabled ships. The Cow was a throwaway barge converted to a one time boarding craft, perfect for a blitz attack.

The interior of the ship faded between blackness and dim red light as they travelled in silence, puncutated every so often by a cough or sniffle. Most of the bandits spent their time checking and re-checking their gear, gazing into the distance, or watching the countdown timer on the ceiling. All too quickly, the number finally reached zero and the bandits dropped back into normal space. The intercom clicked on. "All right, boys an' girls. Th' lootbasket is in sight. Stick ta th' plan an' everyone of us walks away from this alive. Assault, yer on cleanup duty. Demo, ye got th' vault. Recon, yer gonna squirrel out any hidey holes, keep comms quiet, an' watch out fer any hero types. Pilots, yer gonna move straight ta th' bridge and commandeer this bird. Touchdown in three, two, one. Be sure ta wipe yer shoes on th' way in. We don't need ta track mud into th' nice place, yeah?"

A dark chuckle rippled through the room as the bandits stood up and clustered around the center of the Cow. Very faintly, the sound of cutting torches could be heard, then suddenly the bottom of the floor dropped out, revealing a brightly lit flourescent corridor. Troops began dropping in, making sure the way was clear, then began to move out. Everyone communicated through hand signals to ensure total security and stealth.

In the pulsating darkness, Kaija thrived. When the ship's interior went black, so did she, and all that glowed of her was the occasional flicker of her eyes. But when the lights came on for a brief moment, casting a reddish hue, Kaija's stripes flicked on in the exact shade of red as the light, like a sort of chamelion effect. Her stripes dimmed and flashed in perfect harmony with the lights, the spines on her head raising and lowering in sync with her breathing and flashing. For that moment, Kaija was in her element and it showed, as she was very calm and focused the whole ride out.

The moment Kaija laid eyes on the brightly lit walkway below, she flipped her sunglasses off her forehead and over her eyes. She did not adjust well to bright light, and she would need them in a place as bright as that. Down through the hole in the ship she went, landing deftly like a cat leaping from a table. Making sure her team was nearby, she began to move towards the frontlines, as she would better serve the crew as a preventative force. Besides, she needed to make her way either outwards or upwards, whichever she could find first, to gain some better perspective of the playing field and to stay hidden. Her footsteps made not a sound and she looked like a wolf on a late-night prowl for a meal.

Bring it, she thought.

Leading the squad of four, Vooli crept forward on all fours, scanning the corridors with her strange headgear. She was measuring visual inputs in all spectrums of radiation, as well as reading barometric and echolocative data in order to provide the most advanced early warning system possible. They reached a four way intersection, where not thirty seconds before one of the assault groups had passed by and headed to the right. Using the blueprint she'd downloaded from the ships unencrypted system, Vooli indicated to her fellows that they'd be moving straight ahead towards the atrium, where the bulk of the ship's population would be. Cavernous and extravagant, the atrium held all sorts of amusements for the rich folk that had booked passage on the starliner, from gambling to an indoor pool.

"Objective updated: initiate lockdown of ship to provide suitable distraction for the other crews. Target is the security room on the second level. Most expedient route is rappelling, but also the highest visibilty. Safest route is the servile dumbwaiter. I require your input data to formulate a decision." She repeated herself in Khazzik's language quietly, to include the diminutive member of their team. She thought for a moment before making a short reply. Vooli accepted the response with a nod and turned to Cysalic.

"I vote on the dumbwaiter. I've no love of spotlights," he commented dryly. The group turned to Kaija, waiting for her response, though Vooli had already generated the most probable response based on her historical data on Kaija.

"I vote we take the less visible route. Their job," she said, tilting her head towards where the assault team had passed, "Is to use force and they can handle themselves if seen. Our job is to be unseen." And that settled it. "How does the dumb waiter operate?" she spoke softly. "If it needs operation from the outsie, I vote I stay behind and operate it, give you guys some cover, Vooli goes for the security room, and you two," she pointed to Khazzik and Cysalic, "Decide which of you goes with Vooli. If the dumb waiter can be operated from inside, or automatically, we all go. Sound good?"

"The dumbwaiter can be controlled electronically. I will be handling that part." Having gotten all the responses she needed, along with her projections about force composition and her statistics work, Vooli decided that it was indeed the best idea to take the dumbwaiter. Their trip happened without mishap, though that served to increase rather than allay their nervous tension. However, all of that changed once they reached the second floor. As soon as they opened the dumbwaiter door, a random patrolling guard stepped into view. He turned to look at them and sat stunned for a moment, which was plenty long enough to ensure his demise.

Darting out of the elevator, Cysalic silently swooped down onto the guard and dropped him, holding the man and letting him down gently to avoid making a sound. <Coast is clear,> he signed, using exaggerated gestures to make up for his murky physiology. Around the corner another pair of guards patrolled back and forth, eyes sweeping the entire hall and weapons in a ready stance. Well trained, probably mercenaries. Just what they didn't need. Vooli calculated hundreds of scenarios, trying to find the optimal solution. Finally, she shrugged, leapt around the corner, and blew red hot chunks out of the guards with her concealed arm neutron cannon.

"That will have set off an alarm somewhere. The control room is three halls down, to the left. We need to hurry. Move fast and do not miss," she ordered before bounding down the hall on all fours. Cysalic glided after her, with Khazzik impressively keeping pace, even with her oversized weapon.

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