“TEN MINUTES FOR LUNCH. REPEAT. TEN MINUTES FOR LUNCH!”
The blare of the speakers across the mineral processing plant signaled a glorified stampede through the looming, sprawling interior of the massive industrial plant. Tools were dropped, work was discarded, and every man, woman, and child wearing an orange jumpsuit sprinted forward as if they had just joined a marathon.
Warm bodies poured into the small, poorly lit cafeteria like water through the break in a pressure seal. Within seconds everyone was shoulder to shoulder with one another as they surged towards a wide metal machine that stretched most of the length of the wall. Laden with sensors, spouts, and tubes, worker after worker thrust their IDs forward along with dented metal bowls.
An electronic ‘beep’ began to chime up and down the length of the machine as mounds of yellow, semi-gelatinous rice shot down the tubes and fired into their bowls.
Like clockwork each worker would approach the machine and a ‘beep’ and ‘slorp!’ would sound out.
However when a yellow eyed girl approached the machine, another sound rang out.
Laika bent her arm back before smashing her below into the side of the tube. The blow wasn’t hard enough to visibly damage the sturdy plasteel tube, but the vibrations were enough to delay its deposit of rice. With a shaking, hissing noise Laika stared down with anticipation as an extra large clump of fried rice was deposited in her bowl.
“What the hell!?” One worker cried out in surprise, turning heads across the crowded room as Laika sprinted for the nearest table.
Crashing down into her seat Laika stuck her spoon into the rice, which had already begun to conform to the shape of her bowl, and began to shovel spoonful after spoonful into her mouth.
“You know if management found out about what you did, they’d dock your pay.” A young man with greasy, sharp black hair said as he sat down beside Laika.
“How will they find out? Everyone is going to try what I did after they saw how much rice I got. No one is going to want to say anything, Sipnik.”
Laika spoke with a mouth full of rice and Sipnik simply shook his head in exasperation.
“They’ll find someone to blame if the food machine gets beaten into scrap metal by people trying to get a few more grains of rice.”
The older boy tried to deepen his tone to get across the severity of things, but stopped himself as he sat the content look on Laika’s face as she continued to dig through her rice bowl.
“Its chicken fried rice though, that makes it way better than regular rice, so it's worth it!”
Laika once again spoke with her mouth filled with food, her cheeks bulging with half-chewed rice as she continued to shovel more into her mouth.
Sipnik began to open his mouth to speak when a soft ‘crack’ from across the table interrupted him.
The yellow eyed girl and greasy haired boy sat and stared as a shorter boy with acne scars across his face deposited a thick yellow goop into his rice bowl.
Laika swallowed hard.
“What’s that, Venel?” Laika asked and the smaller boy just grinned.
“Its an egg.”
The two sat and watched in amazement as the smaller boy mixed the goop into his rice, turning it into a wet, soupy consistency devoid of the typical dryness.
“But, I thought eggs were a powder?” Laika asked.
“Not when they’re fresh.” Venel said as Sipnik stared intently at the boy’s bowl.
“Where did you get a fresh egg?”
Sipnik spoke in a hushed tone, glancing around as Venel simply grinned.
“That’s a secret. And I didn’t even have to pay for it.”
Laika’s eyes went wide, but she realized that Venel didn’t seem like a particularly capable thief.
“Wait. Do you own a chicken?”
“There aren’t any chickens on Venus.” Sipnik said dismissively. “Besides, are chicken eggs blue?”
“Uh, maybe? Whatever I has makes eggs, and that’s all that matters.” Venel finally began to dig into his rice, his face brightening as the eggy rice reached his tongue.
“There has to be chickens on Venus. I mean we’re eating ‘chicken’ fried rice. That means it has to have chicken meat and veggies in it, doesn’t it?”
“Laika, I don’t think we’ve ever eaten real meat. And for all we know this is just regular rice dyed yellow.”
The yellow eyed girl stopped mid-bite, spoon raised to her mouth.
“Then what’s in it?”
“Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers too, Laika.”
Sharp feedback from the speakers overhead made everyone in the cafeteria wince, some covering their ears.
“LAIKA V. , SIPNIK W. and VENEL V, REPORT TO THE MOBILE WORKER HANGER IMMEDIATELY FOR AN EMERGENCY WORK ORDER!”
All three groaned as everyone else in the room breathed a sigh of relief.
“For fucksake, it hasn’t even been five minutes much less ten!” Sipnik said, pushing away his barely touched bowl of rice as Laika raced to shovel the rest of her bowl down her throat.
Chowing down as much as she could, Laika left with the two boys and the three of them were soon in the hanger.
The hanger was a large, dark room that reeked of oil and the familiar smell of iron. Rows of Scutsons sat against the wall as people who made far more money then they three of them moved along catwalks overhead.
“Alright, listen up!” A voice boomed overhead and Laika looked up to see one of the shade wearing managers looming above them.
“We’ve had a pressure drop in the primary collection tube for the factory. If it remains like it is we’ll be working at half efficiency all day, and the boss isn’t having any of that. Fix the tube in five minutes and you’ll be given a bonus. Now move it!”
The manager walked off and Laika wasted no time in moving for the nearest Scutson.
Opening the back cockpit she climbed inside, dropped into the seat and buckled in. Her fingers moved across the console dashboard reflexively thumbing switches to close the cockpit and begin starting up the reactor. On the outside of the suit the mono-eye of the Scutson flashed to life, swerving long its track as the dark curved screen in front of Laika lit up shoving her the hanger.
“Five minutes?” Sipnik said as comms were established.
“They probably want us to fix the primary gas and mineral intake for the factory before everyone gets done with lunch and back to work.” Laika stated simply as she checked the status of the Hazard Gear fitted to her Scutson.
“For fucksake, that’s crazy! That’s a half an hour job at the least.”
“Did you hear though, it's a bonus! Come on, follow me, I know exactly what’s wrong with it!” Venel’s excited voice chimed over the comm channel as his Scutson lumbered forward and all but ran towards the hanger door.
Laika fell in behind him, maneuvering her Scutson towards the airlock as Sipnik followed suit.
The three only had to wait a few moments as the airlock ran through its cycle. With a sharp hiss the doors to the outside shot open and the three were able to walk their Scutsons forward.
The habitats of Venus were massive angular domes fitted atop equally massive hexagonal nanocarbon plates. Layed with plasteel each habitat floated in the upper atmosphere well above the more dangerous concentrations of corrosive substances below. Oxygen was a lifting gas on the planet, which is what allowed their homes to exist in the first place.
Hex 34 was just one of many habitats on Venu. Each was connected to one another via flexible lines that contained both rails and communications, bringing people, goods, and messages to each habitat. Laika had been told that the habitats formed a vague hex pattern across the upper atmosphere of the planet, but she had only seen minor proof of that years prior.
Walking across the dark outer hull of “Hex 34”, Laika stopped and looked straight up towards the sky. She had to bend her Scutson backwards to achieve the angle due to its immobile frontal head.
Directly above Laika could see the black void of space, tintly only slightly orange with the color of Venus’a deadly atmosphere. From the surface all you could see was the tangerine smog and from the habitats all you could see was darkness, occasionally dotted with twinkling distant stars.
Laika had forgotten how late it was, though had remembered that the sky was usually a poor mirror of the time of day. She had been told once the habitats had a similar rotation to that of Earth, giving them 24 hour days without needing to do anything to the planet itself. However, it was often difficult to tell the time just by looking, both above and below.
Approaching the very edge of the Hex 34’s plate, Laika looked down to see the orange planet, marked by swirls of vivid yellow and white. Even at ‘night’ the planet always seemed to have a neon glow to it...
“Come on Laika, jump already, lets hustle!” Venel said, his Scutson moving up beside her.
“Uh, right, sorry!”
Gripping the controls Laika angled the small ‘arms’ fitted to the back of the Scutson backwards. The grappling hooks at the end of the arms fanned open and fired, grabbing onto empty metal loops near the edge. Venel and Sipnik fired their who grappling hooks and, in near uniform motion, the three had their Scustons step off the side of the habitat.
As they dropped the grappling units began to reel out wire, repelling them downwards until they could see underneath the habitat’s plate.
Once the three could see the underside, they each detached one of their grapplings, reeled it in, and fired it at one of the various metal loops present on the underside of the habitat.
The three Scutsons began to swing, going from loop to loop.
Venel and Sipnik had to use their thrusters to help with their forward movement and controlling their speed, but Laika was able to swing simply through good use and conservation of her momentum.
Soon the three mobile workers came to one of the many thick flexible tubes that hung from the underbelly of the habitat, stretching for countless meters all the way into the thick corrosive soup of the Venusian atmosphere below.
“Alright Venel, why do you think you can fix this?” Sipnik eventually asked as they began to lower themselves down the length of the tube.
“Don’t sound so accusatory. I heard the last people who fixed this had been out drinking, so they probably just screwed up setting up the pressure control modules near the base of this. We don’t have to go down miles or anything like that. Besides, if they didn’t know the problem was so close then why would they offer a bonus?”
“To incentivise us to kill ourselves so they don’t lose a few pounds?” Sipnik spat back, but Laika was already focused on the task.
“There are two modules pretty close together this high up. Me and Venel will change those. Sipnik, why don’t you check the seals near the top of the tube?”
“Fine by me.” Sipnik said, his Scutson suddenly stopping its descent before darting upwards.
Laika continued to repel towards, Venel speeding ahead of her as they both arrived at large, burgeoning squares protruding from the tube.
Grabbing the tube for support, Laika maneuvered here way over to the box, prying it open and revealing its computerized insides. Reaching out with the Scuton’s hand, the tip of it’s finger snapped open, smaller more precise arms folded outwards. Silence full over the three as they became lost in their work.
Just as Laika finished re-installing the pressure module, Sipnik’s voice rang over the comm line.
“We’re running out of time Venel, do you have it fixed or not?” He demanded.
Laika looked to see Venel’s Scutson still fidgeting with the pressure control module.
“I’m almost done. Besides, it's not like they’re gonna turn the pressure back on while we work on this.”
As Venel laughed Laika suddenly froze in her cockpit.
A sudden sense of overwhelming fear filled her mind as a sharp, electric tingling sensation raced down her spin. In her mind a murky grey image appeared for a brief instant...
Without thinking Laika threw out the Scuston’s legs, kicking the tube as hard as she could while firing the Scutson’s thrusters and reeling in her grappling hooks.
Her Scutson swung around the tube, away from Venel as she raced upwards.
“Laika, what the hell are you--!”
Venel’s words were drowned out as a brilliant flash filled Laika’s screen followed by the sound of micro debris striking the hull of her Scuston.
The explosive shockwave hit Laika’s suit and she was thrown backwards as her vision was clouded.
“VENEL!” Laika heard Sipnik cry and as the debris cleared, she could see why.
Venel was falling.
His Scutson rapidly grew smaller and smaller, spinning wildly out of control as he dropped downwards towards the clouds of corrosive miles and miles below.
“Eject, Venel, eject!” Laika shouted, her heart began to pound in her chest.
“No! No! I can save this, I can save this!”
Gritting her teeth Laika took one look up at Venel, the mono-eye of her Scutson swerving to see the boy and his own Scuston looking down from above.
Without a second thought Laika slammed on the controls.
In an instant she was falling, grappling cables flailing behind her as they disconnected and began reeling themselves in.
Digging her fleet into the floor pedals Laika fired all of the Scuston’s thrusters at once, shooting downwards after Venel.
Laika was pressed back into her seat, her entire mobile worker shaking from the violent forces that assaulted its body.
The habitat above her began to grow distant as Venel’s mobile worker grew closer.
However the distance between them was still significant and the menacing clouds of Venus grew only larger and brighter as they fell.
Swinging one of her grappling arms over her Scutson’s shoulders, Laika took aim and fired.
The grappling spike shot downwards, remaining closed as it slammed through the side of Venel’s Scutson.
Reeling in the line, feeling her speed picking up, Laika was finally within arms reach of the other Scutson.
“Forced ejectionForced ejectionForced ejectionForced ejectionForced ejection…”
Laika’s mind raced as her eyes darted across the hull of Venel’s Scuston, eventually stopping at the spot directly atop the mobile workers protruding head.
Pulling her Scuston’s arm back Laika heaved the first forward with all the strength she could force out of the servomotors. The spot above the head crumbled inwards, electrical arcs jumping from beneath the plasteel paneling as explosive bolts in the back of the Scutson fired.
A slim, rounded off cockpit shot out, bags inflating around it and quickly carrying it upwards.
Seeing Venel float away Laika kicked off the other Scuston and fired all of her thrusters at max power.
Once again she was crushed downwards into her seat as she fought against gravity and her own downwards momentum. In the rear sensor projection she could see Venel’s abandoned Scutson spiral away, turning into a dot that was lost in the avarice orange atmosphere of the planet below.
Warning alarms began to blare, screaming out notifications on heat build up, potential engine damage, and possible burn out.
Yet Laika continued to push her thrusters as far as they could go, the Habitat growing closer and closer…
Then she heard it.
The Scutson’s thrusters began to sputter and die, the reaping hands of gravity pulling on Laika, eager to have her…
“Come on, be close enough!”
Gritting her teeth Laika fired her grappling cables, watching them arc upwards towards one of the empty rungs high, high above.
Her heart began to sink as she began to fall, dread and brief panic washing over her…
Until she was jerked forward, her Scuston bouncing as one of its grappling lines pulled taut.
Holding the sides of her cockpit, Laika was left staring downwards at Venus, her mobile worker swinging by a wire thin ‘thread’.
Slowly her heart rate fell and Laika collapsed backwards into her seat, letting out a heavy sigh of relief.
“Everything...everything is going to be alright now.” She told herself.
The spectacled, velvet suited man behind the desk barely looked up from his papers as Laika looked back at him in shock.
“What?” She demanded and the man flicked his eyes up to her.
“Don’t sound so surprised. Do you really think you would keep your job after that little stunt?”
Laika glared at the owner of the factory and rose out of her seat as he sneered at her.
“I was trying to save someone’s life!”
“Your job isn’t to save people’s lives” The factory owned waved his hand in dismissal “Its to do the work that I tell you to do. Besides worker Venel didn’t need saving.”
“Yes he did! There was no way he could have pulled his Scutson out of that spin and I knew you had all of the Scutson’s ejection systems disabled. That’s the only reason I was even able to force ejection to begin with.”
The factory owner sat up straight in his chair, his face turning red with anger.
“I disabled the ejection feature because I don’t want my profit margins cut to ribbons because of black-lunged little idiots with cold feet. This is dangerous work and you all accepted the terms and conditions of my employment. Now because of you I have to buy a replacement mobile worker AND deal with the damage to the factory’s collection line.”
Slamming his hands down on the table Laika watched as the fat, well dressed man jabbed a finger towards her face.
“Just be thankful I have a headache and don’t have the patience to involve the constabulary, or I would have done more than just fire you. Now get out of my office!”
Laika’s eyes went wide and her hands curled into fists, her fingernails cutting into her palms as she raised her arms. For a second the factory owner’s anger cooled into fear as he leaned back away from the almost snarling, yellow eyed girl.
However Laika held herself back, stepping away from his desk and stomping out of his office.
Walking through the filthy metal floored factory towards the entrance, Laika stopped as she spotted Venel sitting on a crate near a nanocarbon plate conveyor.
The entire left side of the boy’s face was a single dark bruise that had already swollen into a painful, grotesque bulge. His orange jumpsuit was stained thoroughly with his vomit that he had no doubt spat up in the dizzying drop towards Venus.
Grimacing Laika walked over and put a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“Hey, Venel. Are you O--"
“Don’t talk to me, Dog-Girl.”
Venel brushed Laika’s hand off his shoulder, turning and glaring up at her with one eye nearly swollen shut.
“Thanks to you I have to pay the company for a new Scuston. Do you have any idea how long that will take? I have a sister to feed and for all I know she’s going to starve to death thanks to you!”
“I was just trying to help!”
“Well you didn’t help, Laika. You never help! All you ever do is make things worse for everyone else. Besides, you dodged out of the way before that explosion even happened. If you knew it was going to explode then why didn't you say something?”
"You're a freak, that's what you are! You want to really help everyone? Then take a flying leap off the habitat!
Venel jerked his head back and spat blood directly into Laika’s face.
She could only stare as the boy she had been friends with mere minutes prior turned her back to her and tried to get back to work.
Wiping the blood from her face Laika continued to walk towards the entrance when she spotted Sipnik cleaning the floors beneath a conveyor.
Sipnik looked up, only to immediately look down again and quicken the pace of his cleaning.
“Don’t talk to me Laika. I don't want to lose my job…”
Once again all Laika could do was stare, a numbness replacing the intense anger she had felt before. Turning away she walked through the entrance and out into the streets.
The habitat was dark, its wide double lane streets remained throughly crowded as Laika stumbled down the sidewalk in a haze. Black nanocarbon apartment buildings and tenement housing loomed overhead, casting dark shadows broken only by yellow lights from windows and dying orange street lamps.
By the time Laika got to the capsule hotel she lived in, she felt like she was going to throw up.
She wanted to scream, to tear everything in her sight apart, but more than anything else she wanted to cry.
Yet the tears wouldn’t come, the feeling simply wouldn’t come to her face. So they sat in her belly, stewing inside of her until her body simply didn’t want to move.
“Today is going to be a bad day…” Laika muttered as she threw herself into her capsule, burying her face in her ratty pillow...
It had been almost two months since the Venue and the ships traveling with it left Mars. For sixty days Lycoris had continued to make excuses for herself and invent delays to avoid having to go and see her. However, mere hours from arriving at their destination, Lycoris could no longer invent anything else to procrastinate herself with.
“Today is going to be a good day, today is going to be a good day…”
Lycoris repeated the mantra to herself as she drifted through the halls of The Venue. Occasionally crimson uniformed soldiers would float by in the hall, stopping and staring intently at the short black horns pushing through skin of her forehead. Only the bright purple badge around her neck prevented them from stopping her.
Entering the gravity block of the ship and feeling the familiar pull of gravity tug her to the floor, Lycoris proceeded forward until she came to a door barred by two heavily armed guards.
Approaching the two heavy machine gun wielding soldiers, Lycoris held up her badge.
“Um, uh, I have permission to speak with the Princess. I’m here guest.”
Both soldiers looked at one another and then back to Lycoris. There was an awkward moment of silence before the two eventually stepped aside, the door in front of her sliding open with a pneumatic hiss.
As soon as the designer was through the threshold the door snapped closed behind her, so suddenly that it startled her.
Exhaling sharply and breathing through her nose, the bespectacled purple haired girl continued forward.
The bedroom she had entered was big enough to be most people’s apartments. A massive bed sat at one end of the room, with a canopy laden with silky veils that drape over the edges of the bed like nets. White marble covers almost every surface in the room, even the surface appeared stark white as chandeliers hung and illuminated the entire room.
Near the entrance to the room was a sitting area with plump regal couches centered around a marble coffee table and a fireplace of all things. Lycoris gave pause to whether or not the fireplace could be real, when she finally heard the music.
Will it always be the same?
Give it all a reason!
Burn me down
You watch me drown
How can I exceed!!?!
Holding out I can't explain
Though I never could that's the problem
Fighting back the pain again
Climbing up to free myself!
I don't need thissssssss
I just fall into shaaaaaaaaaaadee
Give it all a reason!
Burn me down
You watch me drown
How can I exceed!!?!
Holding out I can't explain
Though I never could that's the problem
Fighting back the pain again
Climbing up to free myself!
I don't need thissssssss
I just fall into shaaaaaaaaaaadee
The dark, hard metal rock that poured out of the speakers in the ceiling seemed almost laughably out of place amongst the regal bedroom.
Lycoris looked around in concern until she saw a pink haired figure splayed out on the couch.
Instantly the head of pink hair shot up and spun around, green eyes wide and distressed as they stared across the room.
“Lycoris? Lycoris is that you?”
Fumbling around Princess Asallia nearly fell off the couch in her effort to turn off the music, finally killing the volume before the next verse could play and rising to her feet.
“I’m so sorry if I surprised you Princess, I sent you a letter saying I was coming…”
“Oh no, no. I knew you were coming I just forgot it would be this soon. I was just...relaxing with some music I enjoy.”
“You always did have a unique taste in music, Princess.”
Lycoris smiled warmly and the tension from Asallia’s face melted away as she laughed.
“Oh it's good to see you again Lycoris, how have you been faring?”
“Uh, that’s what I’m here about actually. Where is um…”
Lycoris looked around, a brief chill washed over her as she scanned the room with her eyes for signs of anyone else’s presence.
“Where is Sir, W-wyvern?”
“Oh.” Asallia said casually in realization.
“I find it best to assume that he’s always close by and listening, at least to some degree. My ‘knight’ only likes to appear when it pleases him. Tact and manners are by no means virtues of his.”
“I-I see…” Lycoris said nervously, but Asallia walked over and placed a dark gloved hand on her shoulder.
“You’re fine, Lycoris. He would never hurt you, I can promise you that.”
“P-Princess, I--” Lycoris felt blood rush to her face and her throat tighten. For several moments she could only stare, losing herself in Asallia’s eyes.
Shaking her head, pulled her gaze from the Princess long enough to reach down into her bag. Pulling out a letter, emblazoned with a distinct wax seal, Lycoris held it out to the Princess.
“I came here to ask you for help. I was given a letter by Lord Lazland, er-- late Lord Lazland requesting the governor to allow me to participate in the expo. However I’m worried he might not accept my letter for um…”
Lycoris felt a tight pain in her chest as she struggled to form the words. Asallia looked on, frowning as her pupil stammered and struggled before her.
“The governor may have power over certain specifics of the expo, but I have been tasked with running it. I’m sure we can work out some kind of agreement even if he doesn’t approve. What did you wish to show at the expo?”
The words left Lycoris’s mouth faster than she had anticipated and immediately she could see the gloomy look that overtook the Princess.
Asallia turned and began to walk over to the nearby desk when the pain in Lycoris’s chest began too much to bear.
“Princess! I’m sorry!” Lycoris blurted out, practically shouting as her eyes became wet.
Asallia turned in surprise as Lycoris's composure melted away.
“I’m so sorry! I feel like such a hypocrite for coming to you like this. You wanted the expo to be something wonderful, to inspire people and make them happy. But it got turned into a showcase for the military. And now here I am, worming my way into things just for my own benefit-!”
Lycoris’s voice cracked and her eyes began to run with tears, her cheeks bright red as she fought back sobs.
Suddenly Lycoris felt something warm on her back and before she realized it Asallia had pulled her into a hug.
Neither the Princess nor the designer moved for a solid minute, before eventually the Princess pulled back.
“Lycoris, look at me.”
Swallowing hard and wiping her tears away with her sleeve, Lycoris forced herself to look up at the Princess.
“Peace cannot be achieved by assuming everyone will blindly defer to your own beliefs. Everyone has their own drive, their own philosophy for what makes life worth continuing. Almost everyone has some partial merit to their beliefs and for me to blindly sit, thinking mine are wholly superior, would be an utter failure on my part.”
The Princess's gaze grew hard as she spoke, fierce almost, but her tone remained gentle as she spoke at an even pace.
“Only through acceptance and clear understanding of each other without misconceptions can true peace be achieved. I understand exactly why you’ve taken the path you have Lycoris. You find worth, find meaning in your life by creating things. It just so happens that your skills lie in creating weapons of war…”
Lycoris watched as the Princess's face softened and reached up, running a hand through her hair.
“While I do not approve of our encourage the path you have taken...I don’t hold anything against you. This is your chance to wipe away the disgrace forced on you by misfortune and the impatience of others. And as your teacher, as your friend, I am overjoyed for you.”
“Just please remember, Lycoris. We are responsible for what we bring into this world.” Princess Asallia added, her tone becoming briefly grave.
“Of course. That is why I haven’t given up on the Oliver. I’m not going to let my creation be forgotten or waste away.”
“Good. Now why don’t you look for something to do on-board and try to relax? We’ll be at Annona soon and we can deal with that unpleasant business then. Alright?”
“Yes, Princess Asallia. Thank you.”
“No, thank you my pupil. For reminding me why this is so important."
Hugging the Princess one last time, thankful for the privacy of her personal quarters, Lycoris turned and left.
As she drifted down the halls she couldn’t stop herself from smiling widely, her anxeities having melted away.
Yet at the back of her mind something began to bother her.
Why had she said ‘almost’ everyone?”
“I already told you, we have all our papers triple checked and we got clearance from your superiors to dock at Habitat 34! There’s no need for you to search us!”
The Kelly-Class Cargo ship “Pinata” had been stopped by Rosencrantz-Class ship “Bruiser”. Two Tommy MS armed with machine guns leisurely occupied the space in front of the cargo ship, within arms reach of the bridge, barring any forward movement.
“And I’m telling you that as members of the Zern Military we have been ordered to and are authorized to perform random searches on any ships we find suspicious.”
The Avocati leading the Bruiser’s MS team stated bluntly, sounding almost bored as he argued with the captain of the cargo ship.
“T-this is outrageous! I need to get these eighteen cargo containers of secured goods to Habitat 34 now. If I’m even a second late I won’t get paid!”
“Is any of your cargo pressurized?”
“N-no. What does-”
“Then open up your cargo containers and let us check them. If you’re really in that much of a rush then we’ll do you a favor and make things quick with our Tommys. Otherwise we’ll hold you here until a proper manned search team arrives.”
“...” The pilot of the cargo ship said nothing and the Avocati began to wait patiently for a response when a voice came over his comm channel.
Quickly the Avocati switched over to the other channel and grinned.
“Just be patient rookie. I know you’re new to this, but he’ll open up for us. Then we help ourselves to ‘samples’ of whatever he has and let him go on his way. Don’t worry about him launching a complaint. Weasley little merchants like this have--”
“N-Not that, sir. It's about the containers. There are nineteen cargo containers. Not eighteen.”
The Avocati paused and he felt his heart skip a beat. Adjusting the elevation of his Tommy he gazed out over the top of the cargo ship. His eyes darted between the containers before stopping and staring coldly into the extra container nestled on the far rear of the ship. In an instant the pilot pulled on his controls, his Tommy darting down and raising its 90mm Bullpup.
Inside the bridge of the cargo ship the captain recoiled backwards as a massive gunbarrel was pressed up directly against the bridge.
“Open Cargo Container 19 NOW.”
“W-what is this abo--Wait. No, you can’t be serious. I just misspoke, that’s all! There are 19 containers on the manifest I swear--”
“Rookie! Open up that Cargo Containers. Peel the damn thing open with your bayonet if you have to!”
The other Tommy’s thrusters flared behind it as it swept through the blackness of space, flying along the length of the cargo ship until it had reached the far rear.
Raising its 90mm Bullpup, the rookie pilot deployed his folding bayonet and stabbed it into the container. Carving an L-shape into the metal he pulled his bayonet back and reached out with the free hand of his Tommy, grabbing and peeling back the metal. Leaving his mobile suit forward he attempted to gaze inside only to see a pitch black, unlit interior.
"What do you see Rookie?"
"Nothing yet sir, it's really da-"
The side of the carog container exploded outwards as a show of brilliant blue projectiles scattered outwards. Dozens of holes were punched clean through the investigating Tommy, throwing it backwards away from the cargo ship. Moments later the damaged mobile suit erupted into a fireball, exploding in a brilliant orb of heat and light that illuminated the darkness of space.
"ROOKIE!" The Avocati yelled as the top of the cargo container burst outwards, a humanoid silhouette shooting up and outwards into the space above the cargo ship.
Raising his 90mm Bullpup the Zern soldier fired several quick bursts at the distant mobile suit, tracers lighting up space as he watched the enemy speed towards him maneuvering around his gunfire. Slamming his feet into the pedals on the floor the Avocati fired the thrusters of his Tommy in full, shooting upwards as another spray of magnetically propelled shrapnel shot cut through the space where he had been before.
Now the enemy mobile suit was close enough to see, a strange black and red mobile suit with a cape blowing behind it as it flew. It kept its distance from the Avocati and his Tommy, snapping open its strange double barreled weapon in order to reload.
"Reloading in front of me was a mistake, you missed your chance to kill me and now you're dead!" The Avocati barked over the comms, boosting forward as his Tommy shouldered its rifle and quickly switched to automated firing mode.
Lining up his targeting ridicule the Avocati dug his figure into the firing trigger.
But as he did so he realized too late that the enemy had put itself between him and the ship.
Just as the first few rounds left the barrel of his gun, the caped enemy shot downwards leaving only the light cruiser behind it.
Jerking his gun up, the Avocati narrowly avoided shooting his own allied ship just as the The Bruiser's guns fired. The three-barreled cannon that had been previous been lined up to shoot the enemy was instead lined up to fire him. Pulling down hard on his controls the Avocati only narrowly manuevered to the side in time as a trio of cruiser cannon rounds sped past him into the void.
As the Avocati regained control of his mobile suit, the caped mobile suit finished reloading its shotgun as it flew beneath the Bruiser. Pointing its weapon upwards it quickly emptied both barrels, firing another two sprays of penetrative buckshot up into the two Tommy's still held within the clamps beneath the ship. The mobile suits were riddled with holes and exploded just as their pilots tried to enter them, erupting outwards and taking out a chunk of the ship's underbelly.
Darting back upwards the mobile suit flew into line of sight of the Avocati, intentionally snapping open the break-action mechanism of its shotgun as if to taunt him.
Heart racing, head pounding, the Avocati saw red and sped forward, throwing aside his bullpup as he drew his Tommy's baton.
"I'll enjoy hearing you scream!" The Avocati shouted as the enemy mobile suit remained stationary.
As the Avocati closed distance two guns suddenly slipped underneath the caped mobile suits arm and fired, spraying out rounds in a revertible cloud. Pulling his melee arm back he lifted his Tommy's free arm to protect his sensors and fighting arm. Yet the rounds that struck his mobile suit barely seemed to do any damage, crumbling against the liten armor.
"Haha. Useless weapons like that will get you killed! I have you now-"
Just as the Avocati spoke, several rounds from the SMGs curved and smashed into the mills bombs fixed to his Tommy's hips. Each grenade exploded in series, ripping the mobile suit in half, sending a wave of heat and shrapnel up through the cockpit, before obliterating the mobile suit. The caped mobile suit flew backwards as the Avocati detonated, becoming a brief brilliant star just like the rookie had moments before.
Below them the The Bruiser fired its thrusters and attempted to flee, charting a course towards the Annona Colony as the captain scrambled on the bridge to send a message through the particle interference.
"Command! Annona Colony command do you read me? This is the Buriser, we are under attack by an known enemy mobile suit! Repeat an unknown enemy mobile suit was aboard the Cargo ship Pinata! Repeat-"
The captain looked up from the comms console, staring out from the bridge window and out into space as the massive face of a mobile suit appeared. Its long slit like compound optic flashed briefly before the suit reared its arm back and buried its Cutlass into the bridge, leaving it in two. Anyone who wasn't crushed was sucked out into space to die in the freezing vacuum.
Pulling away from the bridge the caped mobile suit raised its shotgun one final time and fired two slug rounds into the ship, one straight down through the top of the ship and the other towards the back near the engines. Explosions erupted outwards from where the shotgun slugs had struck as fires spread and caused missiles and cannon rounds to cook off.
Turning its back to the ship the caped mobile suit flew off, not so much as glancing backwards as the Bruiser was ripped in half as its munitions detonated inside of its hull.
The Pinata had immediately made set in a landing course for Venus as soon as the gunfire had started flying. The Captain of the ship sat aboard the bridge, clutching the armrests of his seat and praying that they could land before the mobile suit returned. However a loud noise rang out though the ship and the entire bridge shook as something landed atop the vessel.
"Going somewhere?" A sultry female voice asked, coming over the speakers inside the ship as a direct-contact line was made.
"T-this wasn't part of our agreement!"
"Oh, wasn't it? I intended this from the very start. Its your own fault if you failed to realize that."
The captain swallowed hard, his face pallid as the rest of the bridge crew held their breath.
"Damn it...today is a disaster!"
"We're the ones who decide if our days are good or bad, little cargo-hauler. Perspective is everything. From my perspective today is going to be a wondrous day!"
The captain grimaced, already able to envision the wide wicked smile of the women in the Turncoat's cockpit.
"Now get the ship ready to land if you already haven't. We'll be landing before any more Zern show up. And I'm coming aboard. We have...finer details about our agreement to go over."