Six Months Before Quantum Event
The holographic insect head laughs as Cuevas PMC soldiers surround Riker and West, their rifles drawn up. The once dark alley is now lit up by the rapid response vehicle floating above the buildings, all while shooters take up position with flashlights pointed at them both. The Cuevas Private Military Corporation is the best in the system, born and bread badasses one and all, and contracted out to the Thre-Pas mining colony in the Torgrata asteroid belt which is how they come to have their guns trained on the two humans. Riker slowly starts to raise his hands when West puts his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Put your hands down, you’re making us look like idiots.”
Riker rolls his eyes at West and does as he’s asked. The hologram clicks and clacks as the insect talks to them, the translator delayed by a couple of seconds. “You should have listened to your brother to begin with Captain Everest, this job was always a trap.”
“Told you.” West chimes in boastfully.
“Hey, man.” Riker looks at West exasperated. “He doesn’t need your help, ‘kay? We had a deal, Quarak.” Riker turns back to the projection of the Rocktar pirate. “I get you the VT-G80 isotope, and you free the slaves.”
The soldiers approach him slowly, one of them having switched to holding a pistol in one hand, and handcuffs in the other. “Captain Everest, those slaves were legally purchased by the Thre-Pas Mining Syndicate and you have no claim to them, or to their release. Mr. Quarak, thank you for the tip, your payment will be forthcoming.” Riker grits his teeth. West did warn him of course, and he really should have listened. The double cross was all too obvious, now that it’s too late. “Captain, tell the kid to put the canister down and—”
“Kid!? How dare you!” West says dramatically, but earnestly. “I am 19 years old! I can buy apple cider!”
“Is this really the time?” Riker asks, turning his back to the approaching soldier, raising an eyebrow.
“No,” West says, turning a serious eye to Riker, “Now is.”
The soldier, his guard down as Riker and West were bickering, has no time to react as Riker brings an elbow back across his jaw, then disarms him, putting an arm around his neck. Choruses of “Drop it!” ring out through the alley.
“You fools!” Quarak screams through the hologram, “I told you to be—” Riker blasts the projector, then turns the gun back to his hostage’s head.
“That’s enough from him I think.”
The Sergeant on Riker’s left is the first to speak, “Captain Everest, release the lieutenant!”
“Well since you asked so nicely.” Riker smiles as he walks backward, West keeping pace just behind him, and out of sight of the soldiers.
“There is nowhere to go; we have the alley surrounded.”
“Yeah, I kinda figured that. Honestly you guys have more than earned your reputation.”
“Then where are you going?” The sergeant asks, confused why Riker is still moving if he knows it’s hopeless.
“We’re going grenades.”
“I said--” West drops the two flashbangs, procured from the back of Riker’s belt when no-one was paying attention to him —a distinct advantage of Down Syndrome.
“Run!” Riker shouts as he grabs West, and they bolt through the back door of a short order kitchen. The three Haruki chefs use the extra tentacles hanging from their jowls to throw pots and cutlery at the fleeing brothers as they run through the kitchen knocking over dishes and carts. “Sorry, my bad!”
“Oh man, I’m hungry.” West says, gawking at the food as they get onto the restaurant floor.
“Not the time!” The pair burst through the front door and onto the streets.
“Get in!” Reginald, a young black human yells in his thick accent. “Uhyah boy, yous two in it big now, yeah?” Riker nods awkwardly, and quickly glances at his brother who returns an equally awkward shrug from the back seat of the land speeder. Reginald is only the 4th human they’ve ever met, making the accent hard to place or understand.
“They following us?”
“Not yet boyo but theysa comin’ fast.” Reginald says drifting his vehicle into an alley and punching the throttle. “Captain Everest, yousa get the location of my peeple?”
“I was just about to take care of that.” Riker gives a mischievous grin.
“Don’t do it.” West says shaking his head.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Riker says, turning to his brother.
“Did I say this deal was bad? Did you listen? Did we almost die?”
“No you shut up bro!” West says puffing up his chest and giving his brother an intense look.
“You know, I’m told he is tha smahtah one. I’m told.” Reginald says with a shrug.
Riker gives an offended look to the wheelman before flipping open his holo communicator, showing the insect head of Quarak. “Go ahead and run Captain Everest, you’ll just be tired when you die.”
Riker smiles, cocking his head. “Hey Quarak, how’s it going? Funny story, but you weren’t at our meet. Don’t worry though, a whole bunch of heavily armed guys showed up to keep me company.”
“Somehow, I knew you’d escape.”
“We had a deal, Quarak, I bring you the VT and you give me the slaves.”
“Oh, the Thre-Pas syndicate will still give me the VT, and you’ll—”
Riker produces the canister waving it at the projection unit, “No, go ahead. What were you saying?”
Quarak begins screaming so quickly, and at such a high pitch, the translation program can’t keep up. He ends with a guttural yell, understood in every language.
“If you don’t load those slaves onto a transport ship slated for immediate departure, I’ll hijack the ship, and then sell the VT to someone else. Maybe ‘The Avenging Sons’ might be interested?” The Rocktar noticeably flinches, something very rare for their race to do, at the mention of the fundamentalist zealots who have been hunting the Rocktar people for generations. “You have 20 minutes to message me with confirmation.” Just then a Cuevas PMC rapid response ship appears overhead, a searchlight beams down on them.
“Not if they kill you first.” Quarak chuckles.
“Tic-Toc bug man!” Riker ends the call and then draws his pistol and fires on the ship, which swerves. “Reginald, we gotta loose these guys!”
“Theysa inna highly maneuverable, military grade troop carrier. What’chu think this is? A Slip Racer?”
Riker gives a confused and exasperated look, “I told you before that we might have to make a quick get away!”
“No, yousa said that we wus gunna make the trade and get my people back. Ain’t nobody say nothin’ about no army chasin’ us.” The ship fires a warning shot, sending trash and debris into the air.
“Don’t think I don’t see what you’re doing.” Riker says to West as he holsters his gun and grabs a grappling gun from his utility belt.
“You’re making people think I’m dumb.”
“Because you are.”
“Yeah? Well can a dumb guy do this?” Riker fires the grapple gun and it latches on to the ship. The cable immediately retracts and he’s propelled up towards the ship, just as they cross an antenna array spanning the alley, knocking Riker around and up into the hull of the ship.
“All signs point to yes!” West shouts back as Riker comically flails around.
As the grapple gun finishes retracting, Riker’s movements settle and a Cuevas PMC soldier opens the keel doors. Riker grabs him and pulls him through the doors, sending the soldier 50 feet to the ground before pulling himself through. Four more soldiers open fire as Riker rolls behind a large crate and draws his gun. “Surrender now!” one of them shouts as they stop firing.
“What do I get?” Riker asks.
“What?” the soldier asks, confused.
“I said what do I get?” Riker calls back looking around the ship.
“I… Nothing! We won’t kill you!”
“Well is it nothing, or will you not kill me? Because those are very different things.” he replies, still frantically looking around, until he finally finds what he’s looking for on the wall across from him. “How about a counter offer?”
The four soldiers chuckle as they silently consult each other with a glance. “What could you possibly offer us?”
They laugh aloud, “There’s four of us and one of you so,” they cock their guns, “we’ll take our chances.”
“Well, can’t say I didn’t try.” Riker fires on the drop release controls, opening the floor beneath the soldiers sending them falling 50 feet into the alleyway. Riker opens the cockpit door and thumbs the hammer back on his pistol. “What did you think about my deal?” Riker asks the pilot.
“Oh, it was a great deal. Like, really great.” The pilot says smiling wide, revealing both sets of long teeth.
“You know what?” Riker asks with all the charm of a Peralian lounge singer, “I thought so too.” He winks at the Benkir pilot. “Now, here’s what we’re going to do.”
Quarak flexes four of his arms back and forth in a desperate bid not to relax and not tear his own ship asunder in frustration. His other two hands remained folded at his back as he listens to his subordinate explain the plan.
Click-Clack-Click-Clack. The Rocktar communicates with his superior in their native tongue, so as not to alert the slaves. [We have seperated the humans onto the transport ship which will begin taking off at your command.]
Clack-Clack-Click. [Good and the ship’s controls?]
Click-Click-Clack-Click. [Slaved to our own commander. If this, Captain Everest, somehow evades capture and he boards, we will lock down the craft trapping him with the ones he wishes to free so badly. If they want to live, they’ll have to kill him or be vented into space.]
Clack-Click [He’ll succeed I’m sure.] Quarak’s communicator beeps. Click-Clock. [Ah, the drotuk himself. He presses the button and a projection of Riker appears.]
“I trust my passengers are tucked away safely.”
Clock-Click-Click [You have no doubt scanned the ship yourself Captain, and know I have done as requested. Now where—]
“Not so fast Quarak, I want that ship in the air first. Have them open the cargo-bay door and clear the deck. I’ll fly O—”
Click-Clack [And what assurances do I have that you won’t try to double cross me?]
“Look East.” Quarak does as he’s told, and on the horizon just above the building line he can see the unmistakable white polymer of a Cuevas troop ship. “They start taking off and I’ll personally make sure you get your canister of terraforming-goodness. And if I break away, you just go ahead and fire that deck gun on my craft. It’ll be just like Christmas.” The Rocktar considers the request and then nods to his first officer who signals for the slave ship to take off. The older craft strains as the boosters fire propelling it into the air. As the ship pulls away Riker nods, “pleasure doing business with you.”
The troop ship fires it’s engines and begins flying toward Quarak’s mid-sized carrier. Suddenly another ship buzzes the carrier, firing a pulse round at the deck gun, disabling it. Quarak recognizes the ship immediately as Captain Everest’s and panic sets in. The ship does a hard rotational burn, something it wouldn’t be able to do with passengers onboard at that speed, and pulls up underneath the troop ship. Quarak sees four figures jump into the ship and peel off just before the troop ship — and the canister on board he’s sure — dives right into the flight deck.
Riker climbs into the cockpit and rights the ship. West, used to this sort of thing, lands more-or-less on his feet, while their two new friends land in a heap beside him. Riker smiles wide as he watches Quarak’s ship freeze from the inside, giant spears of ice tearing through the hull. “Ohana to Rocktar sub-ship P10, this is Ohana actual over.”
“We read you Ohana actual.”
“Do you have the ship, over?” Riker waits for the all clear as he swears he can see Quarak freezing to death on the deck of his own ship.
“Slave controls have been disabled, and all souls are present and accounted for, we’re firing up the FTL now. See you on the other side Ohana. P10 out.”
“Ohana? What kind of ship name is dat?” Reginald asks, picking himself up against the side of the ship.
Riker smiles as West takes the second chair and fires up their slip-space drive. “It means family.”