“Alpha One, all clear?” the radio cracks with the sound of my own voice. The sun begins to set as I wait to move into the far corner of the warehouse district that allegedly houses simple furniture and recyclables for a standard housing company. In reality, the Ranger Corps suspects that it is a cover for a smuggling operation involving pirates.
“Alpha Two, Delta six is green,” Agent Saun Vo says while I await for the cover of night inside the forest that sits at the edge of a series of warehouses. The huge thick trunked trees surrounded by countless quick growing shrubs are characteristic of the northern continent of this moon. Across the warehouse district, the gas giant, Altamura, begins to rise. Most of the vegetation is geared to withstand the long days and nights as the moon rotates around Altamura, and not to mention the extreme changes in its temperature.
For months several merchant ships have been forced to give up their cargo to a fierce band of raiders while smugglers used clever tactics to move the stolen merchandise across the Protectorate. We both tracked a series of stolen goods to the housing company that stores its merchandise here and the ringleader is visiting today. Arresting him would be a major break in our investigation. There’s only one problem, we didn’t spend the time to set up a tactical response team since he won’t be here for long.
“Alpha one, are you sure about this?” Saun asks.
“What other choice do we have?” I say, “See you on the other side.”
The sun continues to descend, now obscured by the canopy of the forest giving way to a dark blue twilight in the sky. Several bright dots now become visible. After inhaling a wonderful batch of air, the process that I discovered to be quite handy begins. My eyes glow brightly and my skin gets a slight glow as thousands of specialized mitochondria in my cells activate and network with other mitochondria throughout my body slowly manipulating space and time placing me one second into the future, continuously, which distorts my body from the present and invisible to anyone in the present. I am no longer visible, and out of contact with Alpha one. What just happened is an oddity that no scientist in the Protectorate is able to explain. Somehow a biological process hidden deep in my genetic code brings about a series of reactions that produce exotic energy and radiation that somehow allows me to move within a wormhole of sorts.
The environment around me is no longer the same, light behaves differently and so does sound. This makes everything appear bright and distorted. Each sound sends constant echoes through the world around me. It’s hard to get used to the change, even the walking and moving feels more sluggish requiring more effort on my part to not fall and actually move through the area. Unable to be seen by anyone else, I walk down into the district, past the guards and through the various sections of warehouses. Once getting close to the warehouse where Dreg most likely is found, I search out the area for a good place to revert back to normal. The alley between two warehouses that are close to each other is dark enough and secluded enough for me. Privacy is much needed, due to the side effects of being able to phase through time like this.
The echoes and distortions give way to the normalcy of the world around me. Who am I? My back is against the wall of a large building. My heart is racing, pounding forcefully against my chest. Where am I? The bulky black clothes that I am wearing seem to have some sort of flexible armor plating. It's hard to breath, each second my body is demanding more oxygen than I can take in. What am I doing here?
Up in the night sky I see a bright multicolored world reflecting the sun's light. Most of it seems to be shrouded in darkness. My legs are able to support my weight. These black pants feel surprisingly flexible. There's a weapon, a handgun, strapped to the side of my right leg and a dagger tucked away on left leg. A utility built is around my waist and my jacket is covered with a few pockets. My fingers trace my hair to discover that it is somewhat fluffy and frizzy but long. A small nose, thick lips, two ears, and two eyes with epicanthic folds. I used to think that my eyes made me unique, but I can't remember when or why I felt that way.
"Alpha one, respond," the familiar voice speaks into my earpiece, "Alpha one, please respond." That must be me, maybe a response is warranted.
"Alpha one, eight-nine," my response is code for all is good, where did that come from?
"Alpha one, what do you remember?" he asks me.
"Bits and pieces, Alpha two, you are Alpha two, right?" I ask, Saun Vo is his name but it's something that shouldn't be mentioned over a radio. But why?
"What am I doing here?" I ask.
"Do you know my name?" he asks me.
"Yes, and don't ignore my questions, that’s not nice," I say firmly.
"Lyn, save your scolding for later," he says, but that's not my name. Now it's getting clearer, they all know me as Lyn Antoria, Agent Lyn Antoria of the Protectorate Ranger Corps.
When I was a little girl I would always get these black outs and lose several minutes or hours of time. Every time I would be moved from one foster home to the next one with no explanation as to why. My ability to control my powers have improved, as well as my ability to recall most of what happened. These memories seem to be comming at me pretty fast, but randomly.
An alley formed by two warehouses seems to be my hiding place. On one end there's a garbage disposal unit and on the other end there's a few small boxes. It doesn't take long for me to hear footsteps approach. One set, not light. They could be from someone of medium build looking for an intruder like me. My instinct is to inch towards the boxes and crouch behind them and listen to the footsteps as they get louder.
"Alpha one, sit-rep?" Saun asks me to report my situation. The only answer I give is silence which prompts him to repeat his request. The footstep's owner makes a turn towards the boxes that are hiding me from his sight down into the alley. He's not wearing anything that would imply security guard but his large rifle seems to indicate that he is more than just an honest citizen taking an evening stroll. At this rate he'll see me and that can't be a good thing. The pile of boxes is only a little over half my height. With my hands on the top of the boxes, I straighten out my legs jumping up over boxes and land in front of the armed man in a crouched position and twist my body with my right leg extended kicking his feet out from beneath causing him to fall to the ground.
The armed man reaches for his rifle. To prevent him from getting a hold of his weapon, I throw myself to his side and grab his arm and roll across his body, twisting his arm in the process, and continue rolling him over me and to the ground beside me. I then roll on him and sit on his stomach with my legs on either side of his body and press down on his throat with one hand preventing him from screaming. My other hand pulls out my own hand gun which I aim right between his eyes.
"Don't scream, that will only end badly for you," I threaten him. My one hand is still pressing down against his throat. His one arm is most likely broken since he is only using his left hand to attempt to peal my hand away from his throat so that he can’t breathe. Have I ever killed a man? This position seems too easy for someone who hasn't. It at least means that this is nothing new for me. His eyes speak for him, pleading for his life. If they could form words, they would promise to leave me alone and never do anything wrong ever again, that they would harm no one. They would tell me how he never intended to spend his life doing harm to others and that some society's shortcomings led to his downfall. No, it's not easy, it probably never is. My only recourse is to kill any empathy in me and darken my heart against all compassion. Is this what I must be? If his eyes could scream the sounds would be torturous to any soul with a heart so mine must be shut down. A voice continues to pound inside my ear, it's not really that relavent.
"Lyn!" Saun's voice pierces through my ears.
"What," I respond stiffly, "You're breaking protocol."
"I know you're confused, but whatever you are doing try to remember everything before you do anything rash," he says.
Why do I have to remember? The previously armed man is kicking his feet around trying to throw me off, but my balance is perfect. He's been under me for only a few seconds so far. This seems like an odd time to think about myself. But it hits me with a frightening jolt. I am seconds from killing a man whom I only suspect is a member of a crime syndicate! Immediately, I release his throat and he proceeds to cough and attempts to inhale more air than his lounges have capacity for.
From a pocket in my jacket, I pull out a shock disk and slap it on the back of his neck. It releases a sedative and knocks him out. He'll be in real pain when wakes up, but for now he only knows peace. My eyes linger on him for a moment. My ability to slip out of phase with time is very useful, but it has some frightening side effects. Some human part of me seems to give way to ruthless monster as my memories return to me. One of my fears is that I'll lose myself at one point.
"I'm back," I say to Saun via our radio, "mostly."
"N-Two is south by three-B-Two," Saun responds returning to our code which in this case means that Dreg is located in the warehouse two buildings behind the warehouse that forms the alley. Cautious quick steps take a lot of practice to master, but they do allow me to inch up to unsuspecting guards and jump them before they are able to determine what happened. Hidden between two warehouses, there’s an entrance that is visible from around the corner which right now acts as my only cover from the individual guarding the entrance.
“N-Two is Red, stand by,” I say and study the guard. She has an extremely short haircut and jewelry pierced all over her face and dark brown skin. Apparently she loves genetic manipulation. Her eyes are not human, they resemble feline eyes. Her clothes aren’t exotic in that she is wearing some simple pair of pants and a loose fitting shirt with a belt that seems to hold ammo for projectile weapons and maybe a radio by the looks of it.
There are a few ways to get guards out of the way. The first is the classic throw a pebble to make a noise in the opposite direction. The only problem with that is that if there are two, they’ll split up and if there is one, she might just focus more on her job and stay where she is. Another way to deal with this problem is to get their attention, and then take them out before they are able to call in any back up. This is where a tactical team would come in handy had we had enough time to put one together. Shooting her isn’t exactly the best option, noise and blood tends to draw attention. Saun is, undoubtedly, resisting the urge to let me know that my idea was a rather bad one, it is not, he just needs to learn how to take more risks. I’ve gotten better in cajoling him into following my ideas, even if they do seem like a bad idea. He doesn’t seem to bother to push back as much as someone I once knew. It’s a set of memories that are best left in the past where they belong, forgotten.
The best way to go about this is to remove my utility belt and outer jacket and armor until I have only a white undershirt left. There’s nothing that can be done about my pants and boots other than getting rid of the dagger and gun and covering the upper part of my boots with the pants instead of having them tucked inside of the boots. With my weapons and jacket hiding under a few shrubs that have grown against the warehouse, I walk around the corner and say, “Hello? Anyone around?”
The guard aims her weapon at me prompting me to stop and force myself to screech in horror. It’s a rifle no bigger than her own arm, but a lot deadlier.
“Easy girl,” I say quickly, “I’m just looking for district ten.”
“This is a closed off district,” the guard says. She walks towards me with her weapon trained on me. It seems to be working, she hasn’t shot me yet.
“Really?” I respond, “I seem to have gotten here pretty easily.” She stops only about a meter away from me still aiming her weapon at my chest. Guards look for intruders, people trying to sneak through. In the case of criminals, they are looking for cops. Something that they don’t seem to handle well is seemingly innocent people who took the wrong turn a few warehouses back. There’s no point in having to kill someone to only go to the trouble of hiding a murder if that woman poses no threat. Convincing them that a I can’t hurt anyone isn’t too hard.
“You’re security, right?” I ask.
“Yeah,” she answers, “Who are you?”
“Alemyn Santae,” I say giving them a name that belonged to one of my foster parents back in Solustia. Surely they won’t mind my use of their name in a situation like this.
“You should not have gone wondering around. On your knees,” she says.
“You want me to propose to you?” I respond. The question takes her off guard, her eye seems to glaze over for an instant, and that’s my window of opportunity. My left foot steps forward as I twist my body to the side. My left hand holds the barrel of her rifle, with my palm facing down and my fingers wrapped around the barrel, pushes a bit forward clearing my body from the line of fire. My right hand wraps under the barrel with my palm facing up and then I strike her jaw with my left and wrap it around her arms. She still hasn’t released her grip of the rifle, so I twist and pull it away from her and kick her down to the ground. My new gun is now aimed right at her.
“Sorry,” I say and deliver a quick punch across her face. She nearly falls as a result and is promptly knocked out after placing a small shock disk on her. The coast should be clear from this point on. With my clothes back on and the unconscious guard hidden in her place I walk into the warehouse through the previously guarded door. The warehouse is dimly lit with old lamps suspended from the ceiling. Walking through it isn’t too much of a problem because there are plenty of shadows between the mountains of crates to hide in. Passing aisle after aisle making my advance with silent steps that I learned in the Solustian military is time consuming, but effective. If someone is out there, she’ll be making enough noise with her feet to alert me of her presence.
There’s a slight rhythmic sound approaching from the distance. From the safety of a darkened alley formed by several crates, my ears open up to listen to the faint sound grow louder. They are footsteps from one person, most likely a guard making there rounds. The aisle is clearly visible from the alley of crates. The footsteps are heading towards me and will pass right in front of me revealing their owner and allowing me to ambush him. The footsteps become extremely loud when compared to my own steps. The guard passes by, unable to see me lurking in the shadows as a predator waiting to pounce on her prey. He’s wearing similar raggedy clothes as the last guard. This one is only carrying a pistol of some sort tucked into the belt of his pants, which makes my job a bit easier.
My legs move silently taking me out of the shadows and then sprint up behind him. Upon catching up to him, I grab him by his shirt and pull my own gun and place it against the back of his head. He didn’t seem to notice me since his body is frozen, possibly contemplating on how someone managed to sneak up behind him like this. Pulling his shirt with my gun still placed against his head, I lead him back to the old dark alley and allow him to turn and face me. My forearm presses up against his throat choking him since his back is up against one of the larger crates..
“Dreg, where is he?” I ask, he remains silent prompting me to press harder against his throat. My weapon is aimed at his gut preventing him from making any sudden movements lest he loses his life. Of course shooting him could draw too much attention. He doesn’t know about my reservations on killing him. To be honest, the prospect of killing him isn’t thrilling in any sense. There’s no telling how he ended up here. Many are blackmailed into a life of crime, others feel forced into it by their economic situation, and others are just simply bad people that we would be better off without. That part of me from earlier, when I nearly strangled one of these people, is still inside. It whispers in my ear sending a shudder down by spine and up my arms. Its voice is subtle and the impulses are faint. But it is still there calling out to me.
“Tell me where he is,” I command him releasing some pressure off his throat allowing him to gasp at some air.
“Wh…who are you?” he asks.
“No, I am asking the questions here,” I respond and grab him by his shoulder and drive my knee right into his gut. He doubles over and hits the floor in a coughing fit. My hands pull him back up and once again my forearm is pressing against this throat and his body up against a tall crate. My weapon continues to provide deterrence to any idea of self defense that he might have.
“Down this aisle to the left three aisles down there’s a series of crates hiding a trap door that leads to the basement. He’s down there,” the guard says.
“Thanks,” I say and place a shock disk on this neck, “That wasn’t too hard now, was it?” His eyes close and his body loosens up and falls on the floor. His body won’t be seen in the shadows, so it’s safe to move on. The aisles are all pretty much the same. They are all lined by piles of crates many of which are unmarked. Chances are that those crates are mostly empty of anything valuable. It’s a good way to hide any real merchandise that these people might be trafficking just in case an inspection comes through. Most inspections aren’t too thorough, especially on a moon like this. Altamura is an interesting name, considering that the closest Ranger Headquaters is based on a world known as Altamira.
The big pile of crates in the center of the warehouse are large, larger than most. Walking around them requires extra caution. There are sounds coming from one end, voices. Those voices are coming from the small alley that opens up on one end of the pile of crates. There’s no real light in there, most likely to hide any signs of the alleged trap door. Removing a small shock grenade from my belt, I throw it down the alley. The grenade lands, then there is silence followed by rapped electric arcs that catch two people preventing them from screaming. The effect is sudden and efficient. The two guards drop to the floor allowing me to advance in pass them and down the trap door which was easy enough to find since it was left open.
Down the stairs of the trap door there’s a hallway, unguarded. Those guards most have just come from down here. No doubt some of the commotion was heard down here, so time is of the essence. I pull out my gun and kick down the first door, no one, so on to the second door which opens on its own. Tall bulky man emerges porting a head of blond hair and wearing a simple suit walks out in a hurry. He stops suddenly with my gun aimed at his chest and a smile on my face.
“Good evening Dreg,” I say, “Now hun, do me a favor and just come with me. Oh, and the name is Agent Lyn Antoria of the Protectorate Ranger Corps, just in case you wanted to know.”
“You’re making a big mistake,” He says.
“It’s mine to make,” I say in a lower quieter voice, “Turn around, up against the wall, and hands on your head and I won’t have to fill out a report as to why my suspect died during transport.” That didn’t doesn’t feel like the bluff it was supposed to be, something’s off with me. It’s hard to make sense out of these sensations that are growing inside of me, it reminds me of that one guard outside when my mind was still out of it. The amnesia takes a few hours to completely wear off, but that was the only thing that I had to deal with after going through the time phase. Fortunately Dreg decides that my not so veiled threat was not a bluff and assumes the position allowing me to cuff him.
Forcing him up the latter is tricky, but with a gun pointing up is rear end he complies fully. Dreg obediently leads me to the door on the side of the warehouse. All of a sudden there’s blaring alarm going off. Someone must have found one of the several guards that got in my way. Saun hasn’t checked back in for some reason.
“Alpha one report,” I speak through the radio. There’s a slight pause of static.
“Is there a problem?” Dreg mocks me, a death glare makes him shut up. What can be keeping him? It’s not like Dreg’s people, or his competition, would have found him. Space is a really big place. Regular sensors have a limited range of about two thousand kilometers, and using optical sensors isn’t the best either. This star system isn’t fully mapped out. Anything picked up by the sensors could easily be an asteroid or some other space object. And even if they do spot something, it takes time to travel the thousands of miles to check it out in real time.
“Alpha One, ten-four went back for some skippers,” Saun says. Back up, he called for a fighter patrol. Picking up fighters in formation is a bit easier.
“Extract on my position now,” I say.
“Roger that,” he responds.
I pull Dreg towards the corner and wait. The main street is big enough for the shuttle to land in. There are three guards running towards us, they must have been trying to contact the people inside. With no one there to answer, they figured that something is up. Dreg starts laughing. His laughing is making my blood boil in rage, my heart beats faster and my body begins to warm up. Phasing through time is one option, but amnesia isn’t exactly a good incentive. So a fire fight it is.
I make three shots towards the guards, only two land their targets. One guard falls with an energy burn in his chest and another on his leg. The other two shot back forcing me to cower behind the corner. Pretty soon there won’t be any cover. The shots subside allowing me to aim and fire three more times, this time the second guard falls. Two trucks are coming down the street and a few more guards emerge from the other warehouses.
There’s a thunder, from a sonic boom. Two arrowhead shaped fighters with two arching arms extending from the center of the main section off to the forward section fly down towards the street followed far behind by a speck, possibly a shuttle. The fighters open fire on the street with heavy ion canons sending bright large sparks of dissipated energy. One of the shots hits one the trucks causing it ignite in flames after a severe electric storm erupts from the inside. All the other thugs retreat for the moment as no one wants to get caught by one of those. They are Star Patrol fighters. Saun’s shuttle, a pod like ship with wings on the top an engine on the back and the cockpit with its windows visible on the front, flies down towards the street. The fighters fly through making another strafing run.
“Get up!” I order dreg and drag him behind me as I run towards the landing shuttle. The side door slides open revealing the inside. It’s mostly an empty interior with some seats along the back and an open area at the front that makes Saun’s head and his brown hair visible in cockpit. The shuttle is small, maneuverable, and combat capable. Some say that it’s too much for a police shuttle maybe they’re right and maybe they’re wrong. But these shuttles are fast, really fast and they are helpful for these situations. I shove Dreg inside and hop in and immediately the shuttle lifts up with enough G’s to knock me down. However, I am able to stand up effortlessly despite the constant acceleration. Maybe muscles have some sort of implants in them? Amnesia sure is annoying.
“Watch it!” I shout as the door closes.
“Feel free to strap yourself in,” I say to Dreg and move towards the cockpit.
“Lyn!” Saun shouts back in disapproval. Dreg can’t strap himself at the back thanks to the handcuffs. Saun wants me to help him, it’s a fair enough thing to ask, the G-forces can really knock a person around in this shuttle if they aren’t strapped in tightly. So I decide to help the guy out and strap him to his seat and then strap myself on the co-pilot seat next to Saun. After a moment the shuttles acceleration slams my body back into the seat. The clouds give way recede and more stars become visible. The gas giant in the sky becomes even more impressive as the multiple colors start to stand out better.
“Lyn,” Saun says, “You lied to me, this little mission wasn’t authorized.”
“Sorry, don’t worry,” I say, “I’ll take the blame for it.”
“That’s not the point,” he says.
“Don’t you have fighters to evade or something?” I say and check the sensors. There’s one large contact about five hundred kilometers out, it’s marked as a friendly Interdictor class cruiser. They are about seven hundred meters long fat tubes with two wings coming out of the sides. Under the wing attached to the main section are two hangers that run the entire length of the ship that house shuttles and fighters. Those hangers are open on both ends.
“The Judicator brought some fighters to help out,” he says, “Don’t change the subject.”
“I was going to take the fall, that I lied to you,” I say, “You didn’t do anything wrong, you understand?” It’s Saun’s nature to get worked up over things like this. Arcadians are very anal retentive when it comes to following the rules. It’s how they measure their worth, he wasn’t supposed to know or even find out. My stomach knots up inside and the pangs of guilt press hard against it. Justice has become their raison d’etre. Coming from a world littered with countless islands of varying sizes, Arcadian ancient history is riddled with chaotic periods of piracy and anarchy. At some point, islands and democratic governments formed out of allegiances that began commissioning small armies and navies to enforce a strict, and at times harsh, from of social justice.
They were called The Judges. They were in effect raised from youth to worship the rule of law and trained to enforce it to the letter. Slowly the area controlled by the Judges grew, and so did their popularity. Entire legends of heroic Judges exist, even religions that worship their lives sprung up in the following centuries. At some point Justices were appointed to judge criminals apprehended by The Judges. The Assembly of Jurors was formed to consider appeals and enact laws. In essence their entire culture became one giant court. The Judge system was slowly abandoned in favor of more complex forms of government, but the remnants are still visible in Arcadian culture. Most Arcadians have inherited the obsession that The Judges had. Arcadian space is patrolled by the Arcadian Judicial Officer Corps, a modern version of the old Judges.
“Do you?” I ask again
“You take too many risks with your career,” Saun says.
“I didn’t make it as an Agent by following every rule to the letter,” I say.
“I did,” he responds and looks at me with his blue eyes. It’s hard to tell if they are filled with anger or some form of guilt over being an accomplice to my less than legitimate arrest.
“That’s because you’re weird like that,” I tease him, hoping to change the tone of the conversation, “Are we landing?”
“Yes, the ship’s commander wants to have a word with us,” Saun says.
“Why?” I ask, Suan shrugs, “I’m sure it’s nothing, she’s just giving us a courtesy debriefing.”
The cruiser approaches rather quickly and G-forces act against me as the shuttle turns towards the hanger. Suan begins to talk with the space traffic controllers to properly plot the shuttle’s approach and set in a landing path without crashing into anything. Space craft have to land in much the same way as aircraft, it’s a little trickier in space though, it’s just so big and things move so fast. There’s no air, so if a crash happens, our EVA suits are the only things that keep us from dying of exposure to the vacuum of space. The fact that the only thing protecting me is my jacket and pants doesn’t really help with the prospect of a breach.
The shuttle lands and the troopers take Dreg into custody. A lieutenant leads us through the ship’s corridors up to the commander’s office. I am expected and apparently they don’t care much for Saun. Maybe they realized that it’s not his fault. The warrant that we received is a simple order for arrest. We needed to organize a strike team and file the proper paper work, requisition the supplies, make proper statements, contact local security forces, and confirm that everything is in working order. That takes time and endless paper work, time that really wasn’t on our side since Dreg was going to leave for Sherrish space, which is outside of our jurisdiction.
Walking down the corridors of a Judicial class cruiser, which is Arcadian in design, is always different than most. The corridor walls angle in to form a triangle, which means that there is no “ceiling” to the corridors which sets the tone for the rooms and cargo holds on the ship. Thirty five cruisers of this kind exist in the entire Ranger Corps, and they each have names chosen by the owners of the design. The Arcadian Judicial Officer Corps has another forty five of these ships. My escort stops in front of a doorway and alerts the occupant of the room on the other side of our presence and the door opens. Inside a female Zinthian greats me wearing a Commander’s uniform. It’s a simple blue suit with a diagonal buttoned up opening and several insignia on the front of the left shoulder.
The Zinthians are a mammal species, of the feline variety. Their fingers are thick and instead of a human mouth they have a small somewhat flat snout. Their hair is thicker and more consistent throughout their body with narrow and long eyes and two pointy ears stretching out from the sides of the head where ears would be found in humans. The skull shape is slightly triangular, unlike many felines on many worlds, which cements their appearance as not human. In the case of females, unlike human females, they have six mammary glands which shows through the commander’s uniform. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a Zinthian, but it is the first time I see a female Zinthian in person. They tend to be a reclusive species with a minority that enjoys spreading to every corner of the Protectorate. The most interesting thing about them is that men seem to be more public than women.
“Flease, zo come in,” the commander speaks in the usual Zinthian accent and introduces herself, “I’m Commanzer Linkin.” While many Zinthians are able to learn to enunciate human sounds fairly well, others are unable to adapt. Someone once told me that Zinthian women are far better at adapting to our speech patterns then the men, which makes this particular Zinthian stand out to me. She can’t pronounce P’s or D’s. The inside of the office is minimally decorated with any furniture save for a coffee table and a desk surrounded by a few seats each. We both sit down, the commander sits at her desk and opens up a file that seems to be of relevance to our discussion. Is it my record? That would make the most sense.
“Fifteen zemerits on your recorz,” she says, “Anz two zisciplinary actions against you too.” How is she able to pronounce the T’s and not the D’s?
“Circumstances sometimes makes it hard to follow every single rule in the books,” I say, “Personally I think some people don’t like just how efficient I am.” It sounds arrogant on my part, this is painfully obvious to me. However it is the truth. It’s not that I’m some sort of super cop, but when things are done my way there are results that back me up. Most of those demerits are a result of my amnesiatic states after I use my rather unconventional abilities, which frankly does scare several people with big paychecks. The Liberation Fleet almost had me forcibly transferred to their ranks just so they could use me as a special weapon. Not going to happen, ever.
“The Juzicator,” she says as I fight to suppress a small snicker which only adds on to the guilt that is already present, “Will remain in this sector to helf resolve some issues with the local security comfany.”
“That’s good,” I say, “this place is a rampant with criminal organizations and I doubt that the security force is even trying to stop them.”
“Which is exactly why you zizn’t contact them about your little oferation,” is she trying to give me excuses for what I did?
“Now, I am sure you can unzerstanz that we came here with little to no intel on this system,” she continues to speak, “Stellar cartography and zeep sface telemetry are both working harz to map out the system so that we can zetermine who is here anz if they are criminal. There coulz be a hunzrez shifs out there waiting to ambush us.” Did she pronounce a P correctly?
“I appreciate your willingness to help out,” I say unsure as to the purpose of all of this, “So, how hard was it to learn Basic?” It may not be the best move to tip her off that I know that her accent is fake. She can speak perfectly, buy why is she faking it? What is going on? Instinctively my hand is holding my holstered gun.
“It’s a shame really,” I hear an unfamiliar voice from behind and spin around aiming my gun at the voices’ owner. Straight dark hair, arched eyebrows, round hazel eyes and high cheekbones, a woman that just appeared behind me without making a sound, with no apparent location to hind behind. She’s wearing a sky blue power suit with dark blue arching designs around the joints. Linkin is standing as well and speaks, this time with no accent, “Sorry for the accent. It was not my idea, I do hope you can understand the situation.”
“Who are you?” I ask facing the woman.
“Commander?” the strange woman speaks to Linkin.
“Agent Antoria, please hand over your weapon,” she says, and makes me pause for a second. Why does she want me to hand over my gun? I obey anyway and surrender my gun against every instinct within my being.
“I’m sure you are aware of Homeplanet’s diplomatic envoy to this region of space,” Commander Linkin says, “This is her, known as Girlbot.” The commander is smart, I would have shot her that very second without thinking. That means that she did more than just simply read my service record, she dug into my past, she must have found out about Jol. It’s taking every bit of will power not to attack Girlbot. She’s the reason that the most senseless cost of life took place over a year ago.
When was I born? No one knows, no one even knows my real name. It’s a secret that belongs to me and me alone. When merchants turned me into the Solustians when I was a little girl, I refused to give it up, so they named me Lyn Antoria. Merchants found me after my family’s ship was raided by pirates. They were stopped on Solustian space and Solustians in turn took a strange interest in me. They didn’t trust that the male merchants would be careful enough on their way to a Ranger base. So I was raised with their culture and their beliefs and their ideas. Half that time I was left confused and rejected their culture. The other half, their culture made sense and it became my own.
The boys were immediately taken by my unusual eyes, which are apparently common in other parts of the Protectorate and outside of it. But in Solustia they were one of a kind, and they all loved it. Growing up was confusing to say the least, but nothing confused me anymore that Jol did. He couldn’t care less for my eyes or my hair or even for the fact that I was a girl. Our friendship grew out of something else. He was different than the other boys, more confident, more outspoken, more outwardly intelligent, and fiercely independent. That made him unattractive annoying to many, but me...
We would spend many nights helping each other with homework and studying, he took every opportunity to annoy me in return for how much teasing I subjected him to. We kept an eye out for each other, and everyone knew that if anyone did anything to him, they’d have to deal with me. Despite his desire to rebel against what Solustian culture dubbed to be the norm for women and men, he still treated me as others expected, but to a point. He would follow me but force me to deviate for his sake as well.
We both ended up joining the Solustian Naval Guard. Solustia prides itself in protecting the lesser advanced worlds and governments in its region of space. There was a war between two alliances, Solustia took a side and went to war with the approval of the Protectorate Security Council who wished to save some money in not having the Liberation Fleet intervene. The Solustian Navy had advisers from other member states and one diplomatic official, Girlbot. The woman with the worst name in history from a planet with an equally terrible name, must be some sort of disability that prevents one from coming up with better names. Though to be fair, their names get too the point. Forget fairness, it was her advice that they send in Jol’s regiment on a suicide mission, one that he protested, but no one listened. He was a tactical genius, but his opinions were of little relevance to anyone else. Girlbot didn’t mention that they wouldn’t survive the attack, Jol did. Girlbot was a female from a highly advanced civilization; Jol was just a man from the ranks of foot soldiers, and he should shut his trap and understand where he belonged. So he ended up following orders like a good soldier. The best died that day.
That was the first time I found myself filled with more hate than I thought was even possible. And that very same hate is now burning inside of me. There’s a rage attempting to escape and evolve from hate into action inside of me, infecting each limb and invading my thoughts.
“The accent was my idea,” Girlbot speaks, does she know that I want to kill her? “I had to scan your brain patterns and needed you to be distracted by the fake accent.” She must know, she’s just taunting me. It must be some sick game, the same game she probably played on countless planets before bringing destruction down on them. It’s a little known fact that Girlbot visits worlds that are too underdeveloped and judges their potential. If she’s not pleased, those worlds face cataclysmic events that bring an end to their civilizations. Very few end up rebuilding and if they do, they are marked and damaged, unable to aspire to anything other than becoming some other empire’s play thing. So much for her political neutrality, where was it when she took sides in a war and sent Jol to his death?
“Commander,” I say, “please make this get to the point, because I feel that I am about to get another demerit on my record.”
“Okay,” Girlbot says and walks around towards the commander. I bite down on my lip to keep myself from losing control. We were friends, Jol and I, we were more than that. His death left a void inside that has never quite been filled. Many sleepless nights involving vomiting the days after his death was the manifestation of my grief. The pain became so unbearable that at one point I figured a trip through the Rim would have been preferable than living in Solustian space, and working for the fools that allowed her to do such a thing to me. They told me to get over it, that there were others, to move on. Move on to what? He was my only family. I always resented my foster parents, deep inside because they were not mine. But he was mine, I don’t know what he was exactly, but he was something of mine and she took him away.
“There’s something coming in through the Rim,” Girlbot speaks, “United Earth Space Defense Forces have already engaged unknown entities on their frontier territories near the Rim. This poses a threat to everyone in this region of space.” The Rim is a border the cuts off this section of the galaxy with about four fifths of the galaxy on the other side. The star systems in the Rim are dangerous. They are filled with countless traps and spacial anomalies that bring death to any who to try to navigate through it. Some think that the rest of the galaxy is all the same, remnants of an ancient war between godlike civilizations that are long forgotten. For something to be coming through, well, I’m not sure what to make out of it.
“I’m a ranger,” I say, “Why bother coming to me? To us? Shouldn’t you be wasting the time of the Liberation fleet with this?” The Liberation Fleet is the military arm of the Protectorate. Its main original purpose was to liberate invaded territories and provide mutual defense for member states and was composed out of donated portions of member defense fleets. It has evolved into a permanent independent military force.
“Apparently they know,” Linkin says, “They tried recruiting you before, now Girlbot is here to hopefully convince you. The brain scan was to make sure you weren’t compromised.”
“Well then tell the Libration Fleet that I am a cop, not a military officer so they can take their invitation and-“
“Agent Lyn!” Linkin stops me from finishing that thought, “Mind your tone.”
“This isn’t a request,” Girlbot says, “I have orders from the Chief Commandant of the Ranger Corps ordering you to transfer to the rank of third lieutenant of the Liberation Fleet.”
“Commander Linkin,” I say, “I’m afraid that I will not be eligible for military duty.”
“What? Why not?” Lyinkin asks.
“Because of the charges against me will destroy my security clearance,” I say and punch Girlbot. She grabs my arm and uses her foot to trip me as she pushes me backwards. My body twists away from her allowing me to get back on my feet. Commander Linkin shouts something, too angry care what it is. Girlbot stands still, calm, I jump at her throwing my arms around her neck. She deflects them, grabs my arm and turns so that her back faces me. She throws me over her, but I stop my fall by planting my feet on the ground and turn to face the ground instead of the ceiling. This twists her arms allowing me to kick her sides multiple times and then turn throwing her to the side into the coffee table. I jump on her and attempt to bust her face open with my fists. She manages to use her feet to push her bottom off the ground and buck me off of her. Girlbot strikes my side with her forearm as I fall to the ground, the pain burns through my body, she broke something. She grabs me by my uniform’s collar, my feet wrap around one of her legs and pull in to the side, and she falls on top of me allowing me to get her into a headlock again and use my legs as leverage. After that, I get on top of her by placing my knees on her shoulders and using my feet as balance to prevent her from knocking me off.
A set of large arms wraps around my from behind and pulls me up off of the woman. My feet stomp at her chest, but sadly she rolls out of the way. My hands reach back and scratch at the face of the person who grabbed me, it feels human. I use my feet to kick her knees and stop on her feet. She almost lets go of me for a second, but tightens her grip and pulls me back. The sounds of voices begin to register in my ears. My fingers stop clawing at her face, I realize that the person who is holding me is a man. The beating of my heart is loud, the sweat on my forehead thick, and there’s a wetness on my fingernails, must be blood.
Commander Linkin is helping Girlbot up, she doesn’t seem to need it. She got a fair beating but looks mostly unharmed. She really isn’t human after all, that monster was never human, but why does she look human? The face…the shape of the nose, the arms that are holding me, the protesting voice that was begging me to calm down, it’s Saun. I finally stop in horror and he releases me. His face, I clawed his face, there are three scratches on each side running from the temple of his head down towards his chin. My eyes water, the room starts spinning and my head feels numb. A coldness creeps in, and that knot in my stomach from earlier returns with a vengeance.
“Saun,” I say, “I’m sorry.” I try to examine his face, his legs must be bruised right now. Did I elbow his ribs too? Something is wrong, I can feel the floor on my back, my arms are restrained by someone else’s hand pressing them at the wrists against the floor above my head. Space around us is distorted, every sound produces an echo. I remember now, she got out of my headlock and that’s when we phased through time…wait, we? Why is she holding my face? How did she give me the delusion of attacking Saun and why? Since when could she do that? What is she?
“What are you?” She asks.
“I was about to ask the same thing,” The pain and anger is gone now, the only things that exist are the plane old facts. Commander Linkin is walking around the room trying to find us, we are invisible to her now.
“How did you phase through with me?” I ask.
“I didn’t. I’m twenty minutes into the future. To you I’m only nineteen minutes, fifty-nine seconds, and ninety milliseconds into the future. And I gave you the images of hurting your partner to calm you down. Your anger is making you very unreasonable.”
“So what now?” I ask, still underneath Girlbot.
“I revert you back to normal using my own abilities. That way we can avoid any side effects.” She says. She knows about my issues with reverting back? Or is that normal? How would she know? What does she mean that she’s twenty minutes into the future? She must be able to manipulate time. Am I one of her? What are her side effects? Why should I care about that last answer? Is she even human? She’s not human, she can’t be human.
Everything reverts back to normal, Girlbot stands up, and my memory is all intact. The anger isn’t gone, but its controllable right now. Commander Linkin helps me up, it seems that they’re serious about my transfer, because she’s not calling the troopers to haul me off to the brig for attacking a diplomatic official. That means that they are desperate, really desperate. The other two take a seat and invite me to sit down with them. The ship starts to move, I can feel the gravitational force pushing me down towards the floor and then dissipating as the ship’s acceleration decreases to the point where the G Force is manageable. They must have announced the warning when we were reverting back to normal time.
“Several reports have reached both the Ranger Corps and the Liberation fleet about unknown entities operating near the Rim and attacking ships,” Commander Linkin says, “The Liberation Fleet is taking over the investigation since this is out of Protectorate space. However we have no idea what is out there, so the fleet is calling anyone they can use.”
“I don’t understand why she’s involved,” I say referring to Girlbot with contempt in my voice.
“Normally I would be neutral, but this involves all parties in this sector of space. Political partiality is not an issue in this operation,” she says, “I will be providing my services as an advisor only since I will also be working with some of the other governments.”
“I thought you were staying to work things out with the locals?” I ask.
“Several fighters have stayed behind with two companies of troopers and a few shuttles. That should do until we return. You’ll be staying with the Liberation Fleet,” Linkin says.
“Can I go now? Sir?” I ask the commander.
“Sure, think it over and take some time to cool down,” She says. Girlbot and the commander stay behind. On my way out they begin speaking about having a possible liaison with the Ranger Corps. Many in the corps like the Chief Commandant believe that these new incursions are just pirates and raiders taking advantage of the lore that surrounds the Rim. The Corridors are mostly empty, allowing me to have some time to myself. A few Zinthians and Humans pass by every now and then, but they are far too distracted to bother me. Where’s Saun? He could be at the mess hall. Right now the ship’s time is well past lunch hours, so the mess hall should be mostly empty.
The mess hall is a huge room. An entire wall is open to the kitchen with a bar stacked with food trays is found. Long family style tables with benches that serve as seats populates the vast space inside of the mess hall. Saun is sitting at one of the long tables with a tray filled with some green stuff and a water bottle. He seems to be only drinking the water and picking at the green food.
“Enjoying your gourmet meal?” I ask and sit down next to him.
“They say it’s from a reptilian animal’s intestines. Apparently Shioahites enjoy eating it,” Saun says and then sees me, my hair must be a mess and my knuckles are bruised, “Please tell me you decided to go to the ship’s gym and had a friendly sparring match.”
“I attacked Homeplanet’s diplomatic envoy,” I tell him.
“Lyn,” he scolds me, he isn’t buying it.
“It’s true, that beast can put up quite a fight and then some,” I say, “Apparently I am no longer a Ranger.”
“Like I said, you take too many risks,” Saun says.
“I’m a lieutenant in the Liberation Fleet,” I respond. He’s holding his fork still, no longer playing with the green food and just stares at me. Despite my attempts to stay serious, I break out in laughter. He’s trying so hard to piece it all together, how does one go from attacking foreign dignitaries to becoming an officer in the military? His sense of justice surely isn’t helping him right now. Hopefully he’s not angry, but part of me just feels the need to be happy after experiencing so much hate, and shamefully at his expense.
“Good,” he says. That takes me by surprise. He should have said something about how that’s not right or fair.
“Good?” I ask.
“You’re too much trouble to deal with. You’re pushy, manipulative, deceitful, and generally unstable,” he says, I glare at him, “Make sure you don’t change while you’re working with them. I’m not a fan of the Liberation Fleet.” He smiles at me, his sense of humor is hard to get used to. Arcadian humor is based on poetic justice, or something similar. It’s hard to explain another culture like them. The idea that my transfer is justified because I would cause the military trouble brings a nice big grin on his face, which quickly disappears after he notices that, as usual, the humor in it went over my head.
“I heard the commander talking to that thing about needing a liaison between the Rangers and the Fleet,” I say, “I’m going to call in a favor and make sure they pick you.”
“I’m not too excited about working with the military, Lyn,” he protests.
“We’re partners,” I say, “you know how I work and I know how you work. It’s my way of saying sorry, for tricking you into not playing by the rules.” I explain what happen in Linkin’s office, what they told me about the incursions from the rim. How I manage to hold in my rage for only a minute or so, and then tried my best to kill Girlbot but failed miserably. After that he finally agrees to do it, it probably helped that we both agree that we are dealing with new pirates operating in neutral space. It must remind him of his people’s chaotic past where there was no law to stop vicious men from taking advantage of the poor.
We both arrive to our provisional quarters and contact the deputy commandant who owes me a favor for helping clear his name against corruption charges. He agrees to recommend Saun to be the Liaison. It’ll be a few days before we meet up with the Fleet. Until then I have plenty of time to prepare for what may await me. Will Girlbot show up? If she does this will cause problems, then again she only ever shows up during the oddest circumstances. The war that cost Jol’s life was started because a civilization that barely began sending ships into space all of a sudden got advanced technologies. No one is supposed to give civilizations that are unable to use Quantum Space any Quantum Space based technologies. There are treaties that prevent that sort of thing, but no one knows who did it or how.
Regardless, I doubt that what awaits us at the Rim will be easy. Even if it is just a bunch of criminals. The sooner I’m allowed to return to the Ranger cop and live out my life as a fancy space cop, the better.
© Copyright 2017 David Bethlehem . All rights reserved.
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