Grayson and Amy's breakfast had been a pretty dull affair.... outside of meeting a new recruit to the team and getting informed by the others that Tibulass and Matija had hooked up, a fact that had left them both a bit shocked, to the extent they were still discussing it now as they walked out into the common area.
".... An' I mean, it's not anyone could've seen it comin' eh? But good for them. Hey, I gotta get up to the workshop inna bit, finish calibratin' that new software in our armors, plus I'm neck-deep in service jobs on the entire rifle stock, best get to it 'fore the captain calls his meetin'. So wha's on your agenda fer today Ames?"
Tibulass stepped into the docking bay of the Revenant, holding two large bags full of clothes as she carefully looked from side to side. She didn't wanna get caught by a specific person carrying all this nonsense. They'd never let her hear the end of it.
She walked carefully through the Revenant's bay and halls before she made it back to the somewhat-familiar smell of the cockpit. It still had that slight alcoholic night aroma to it, but it also smelled like... well, her room. Sighing with relief, Tibulass tossed the clothing bags towards the stairs before climbing into the pilots seat and doing a quick check of the controls.
Stryker had finished reviewing the briefing and scheduled a meeting with the crew to happen shortly after takeoff. The dock master had pinged the ship moments before with a 'gentle reminder' that their time was up, they had to take off within the hour, or pay for another day. Hoping Tib had finally returned, Stryker walked down the hall from his room towards the cockpit, whether she was back or not, he had to start the pre-takeoff checks."Oh good, you're back"
he said as the door slid open to reveal Tibulass already in her seat, she barely acknowledged him walking in. He sat in the co-pilot's chair and started up the console. As he waited, his eyes were drawn down the stairs, where he could see a large shopping bag lying on its side, a few articles of clothing spilling out."Did a little shopping then?"
he asked tentatively, just looking for a way to break the silence."Yeah. Just a littOH SHIT-"
Tibulass rushed out of her seat to the stairs as she grabbed her clothing bags and chucked them at her bed, the articles staying in their bags as they flew towards their destination. Immediately after, Tib grabbed the five or six pairs of underwear that had fallen out of the bags and chucked them hard towards the bed as well. Interestingly, none of the clothes were neutral colors. They were all shades of red and orange. Peculiar.
Blushing hard, the viking returned to her seat and sat back down, preparing the ship for the takeoff procedure. She didn't dare turn to face Stryker, so she didn't. She stared forward and simply spoke to him. "T-thank you for not leaving me behind..."
she choked out, twiddling her hair in her free hand. "So... what's this next mission we have to do? I am kind of leading us there, after all."
Stryker chuckled to himself at her reaction and the flustered look on her face as she climbed back up the stairs. The underwear he'd seen left very little to the imagination, it was a strange sight that conflicted hard with his mental reasoning that she was still just the same old Tibulus, just in a woman's body.'Stop it. Behave.'
he told himself."We'd never leave you behind"
he said simply, eyes pointed down at his console as he ran through the pre-flight checklist "Someone's gotta fly this bucket and you're the best we've got by a long shot. Now, speaking of that, just wanted to check before we even started the engine.... you're good right? Ready to step back behind the wheel full-time? If so, we're headed out into Federation space, hold on I'll get the coordinates.""Well... I'm not ready for full time, never again, but you taking the wheel every several hours or so we should be fine."
Tibulass looked back at Stryker, a little scared to look him dead in the eye. He just saw her underwear, for shits sake. "And for the record, I'll be fine getting us out of here and into deep space."
Tibulass initiated the prerequisites to the takeoff before asking the same question from earlier."Right, well, just let me know when you need a break."
Stryker looked across as she smiled a thanks. She had a cute smile.'What's wrong with me today?"Again, what's the next mission? Is it the cocks-out-rock-out kind or the delicate kind? I'm up for either."
Tibulass adjusted her outfit with one hand while slowly bringing the ship off the ground with the other. Despite the loss of appendages from the Funganoid-to-Human transition, she was doing just fine with piloting this big ass cargo ship. "Just tell me what sector we're goin' to and I can get us there.""Not sure precisely what the plan is this time out. We're headed into Federation space. Teravainen, in the Solad Q'artex System."
Stryker punched in the coordinates and sent the navigation display across to Tib's console "We've got to rendezvous with some sort of Alliance spy unit who have further orders, though the briefing file here has dossiers on a bunch of people. Safe to assume that whoever they are, we're gonna have to make them disappear.... permanently."
As the conversation died down, the immediate silence was deafening. Stryker could still see her little smile in his head, when suddenly an image of Tib wearing a pair of the very revealing underwear jumped to the forefront of his mind.'It's Tib. Stop it.'
he willed the image away but it kept finding a way back. He had to talk about something... anything.... and then he spat out the first thing that came to his head:"So, you and Matija seemed like you were having a lot of fun, how was the rest of the night?"
Tib paused and slowly turned to face Stryker. "Fine...? We both fell asleep after we got off..."
Tib's face was turning even redder than it already was. She tilted her head at the bounty hunter. "Why are you wanting to get to know me all of a sudden?"
She didn't mind the sudden interest, he wasn't that awful of a guy to her. Maybe... no that's stupid. Him, coming onto her? What a rich joke that was! Hah!
Stryker's face went beet-red as she turned the question back on him."No reason, just curious to how you're doing these days."
he said, locking his eyes down on the data flying across his console screen. That and conversation were the best ways to proceed "You went through quite a big change after all.""... I mean... there's shit that I can tell you, but you've pretty much learned all you can about Tibulus and Tibulass."
The viking was speaking aloud, dead serious in her tone. She pulled a small pad of paper out of her hoodie pocket before she wrote another thing on it, leaving the pad open as she brought the ship out of Helios Station. Interestingly, she still was still piloting with only one hand when she should probably be using two. Weird.
"Yeah, I'd like that."
Stryker absentmindedly activated the immersive flight hologram. It was a bit of a luxury item, but Stryker found it helped his concentration when flying, and when everything was all good, it was easy to look out at the stars and get completely absorbed in thought for a while. The lights in the cockpit dimmed and the small reflector device flipped down from a hatch in the ceiling. Slowly, the walls, the ceiling and the bank of monitors and servers in front of them melted away and a hologrammed facsimile of the space immediately outside the cockpit hull filled the room. It was just the two of them, the shadow of the floor, and their chairs and consoles, floating through space. "Sorry, forgot to ask. Before you start, you ok with this setting for a bit?"
She still hadn't spoken a word, but the captain noticed some sudden movement and he turned to look only to find it was just her slipping out a notepad and discreetly scribbling something down."What's that?"
he asked, genuinely curious."S-sorry. I was thinking about where in my past I should tell you. I got an idea."
Tibulass spoke again after a moment of thought. Returning to her headspace, she decided to toss the notepad to Stryker. "It's a series of possible new identities I'm considering taking up, and this is fine. Don't read it too much, I'm about to tell the story."
Appx. 9:12 AM
A spaceship sits alone in a landing bay, smack in the midst of all the commotion and ships. The exterior of the ship looked rather ordinary, nothing distinguishing it specifically from the rest of the ships around it, save for the dim lights on inside the ship. A lone, rocky, and burly alien walks through the lane in front of the ships, steadily approaching the dimmed one in the crowd. Checking the wrinkly piece of paper attached to the parcel he was carrying, he stepped up to the ship and knocked on it's underside. A small hatch opened up above the rocky alien before closing once again. After a few seconds, a small ramp lowered, allowing the alien inside the ship.
After climbing up into the ship, the alien looked behind him to see walls, littered and littered with string, pictures, notes, and scribblings. The air was hardly that, but it didn't seem to affect the rocky alien as he calmly waited for the hatch to rise once again, giving him a platform to step on as he approached the driver, tinkering around at a cleared off console. Without hesitation, the rock alien blurted out. "Oi. Wilton.""Did you make sure you weren't followed?"
"Yeah. I triple checked at every blasted turn, caunt.""Calm with the obscenities, Yi-Draal. What've I done to you recently?"
The chair the pilot was sitting in turned to face Yi-Draal before the pilot looked up at him. He was wearing a leather pilots jacket above a black shirt and a pair of old jeans, the entire outfit accompanied by a red hat. He looked like he came out of a cheesy 1960's flick, but it was something he never cared to take into account.
"Plenny, but this time, issa little bit diff'rent." Yi-Draal passed the parcel to the pilot, who caught it in his hands before placing it behind him, turning his chair to the side. Once again, the pilot addressed Yi-Draal. "Oooh, opening someone else's mail? Isn't that a felony?"
"Like you give a shite. Y'work at a fekkin' cockfighting ring.""You and me both know that it's my deal with the feds. I get hired as a teller for underground rings, I work a bit to shake the suspicion off me, then I rat them out."
The pilot looked back at the package once again before asking "Any traps? Bombs? The good ol' 'Anthrax in the Packing Peanuts' technique?"
"Neh, but the contents're bloody int'restin'."
The pilot opened the parcel and pulled out the note attached to the top. He read it silently to himself before looking under it and noticing the other contents. "... that bastard..."
"Issn' he some kinda race researcher or somethin'? What kinda beef y'got wif'im?" Yi-Draal stepped forward and took a seat, the chair making a noticable squeak under the alien's hefty weight. Logical, he was made of rocks after all."He did a few things for me, and he's wanting something in return. Knowing the Alliance, they've got dirt on him. Bad dirt, from the looks of things."
The pilot read the note over one more time, suddenly being interrupted by Yi-Draal. "He said y'were the best pilot he ever met.""Well, when you work for the feds before busting your 'bosses' out of the jam so they can keep on livin', you become quite the getaway driver."
"Ah yeah, the side job.""Well, it saved your ass, didn't it?"
The rocky alien grumbled frustratingly under his breath before the pilot put the note to the side, pulling out the rest of the parcel's contents. A small, white box was the first to be removed, then a manilla envelope that had been left unopened. The pilot turned to Yi-Draal. "Why didn't you check this one?"
to which Yi-Draal shrugged. Of course. He was normally quite the letdown on security. The pilot sighed before opening the envelope, to which he pulled out the contents and instinctively pulled his head back in surprise."... motherfucker."
The pilot chuckled under his breath before tucking the envelope away. "When you have a researcher in the know, he pays out sometimes."
The pilot stood up from his seat before facing Yi-Draal once again. "Well, my friend, I've just been given an offer I can't refuse."
"That mean I'm leavin' yer' employ?""Indeed it does."
The pilot stepped forward and bowed towards Yi-Draal. "I'm guessing you've got loose ends to tie up, so I won't leave those waiting."
"Well, now that y'mention it..." Yi-Draal stood from his seat. took both his hands and cracked his knuckles. "There's one thin' I can tie up right now...""I wouldn't do this if I were you."
The pilot said intimidatingly. "I promise you, as long as you know that my cap is beet red, you will regret what you might do right here."
Without so much as a moment of time passing, Yi-Draal brought down a rocky fist onto the pilot's head, it shattering against an invisible surface that coated the pilot's body. In an instant, what was Yi-Draal's face turned from overconfidence to immediate perplexion. "Wha...?"
The pilot brought up a hand, clocking Yi-Draal in the chin as bits of shattered stone flew onto the floor of the ship, sparks clearly flying off the glove the pilot was wearing and off of Yi-Draal's rocky mug. What immediately followed was the hatch of the ship opening up once more, revealing the two to be high up in the station Yi-Draal's shoulders and head were resting on only air at that point, and falling would surely mean death.
Yi-Draal looked as a boot was placed on his chest. The pilot's boot specifically."I've been in this business for decades, and you thought you could pull that shit on me? Enjoy the fall, cunt."
Then, a simple push was all it took.
The pilot closed the hatch behind him as he turned to face the helm once again. The manilla envelope was still where he left it. He stepped forward to his autopilot, punched in a few coordinates, and let the ship take it's own course to the destination. He was already long gone from the station before any police were even alerted. The pilot walked to the bathroom of his ship and looked down at the sink, covered with red and orange paint around the drain, and a lit cigar on the side of the sink. "You've outdone yourself, Jackson. Hopefully the Alliance is too dumb to track Wilton Christopher's identity. Ah, who am I saying, the ship's full of criminals! You just gotta hope there aren't any of your old bosses there. Need a new moniker too... probably something silly and stupid. Tibulus? Maybe... you have time to dwell on it."
Tibulass found herself smoking a bit of a cigar once the story was over, smirking happily before snuffing out the barely-lit cigar and tossing it to the side. "Heh... I loved being a crimelord."
Tib looked over at Stryker as she turned over the controls to his seat. "So... I told you my past. Tell me about yours, oh-so-gloriously... l-leader."
Stryker glanced down through the list of names briefly before tossing the book back across the way. He listened intently to Tib's story, noting the supreme irony in a former master crimelord volunteering for a job like Project Revenant. And as the story continued, Stryker gazed out at the faint stars of the Deadzone. Every time they passed through, Stryker couldn't help but marvel at how this entire quadrant of space was so much darker than everywhere else. There were no real stars here, just the faint pinpricks of far-off systems and worlds, and the dull glow emanating from other Deadzone stations, like beacons in the night. The neon-blue haze of a radiation storm on the horizon drew his attention for a second, as did the derelict corpse of a ship long destroyed and scavenged for scrap. Though the sudden smell of the cigar smoke mixing with the booze-and-sex smell that still lingered shook him from his reverie and he turned to find Tib staring at him."My story's a tale for another time."
he said as he gripped the controls when she tossed command over to him. "Trust me, it's nowhere near as interesting as yours. Although, I could be convinced to share a shorter story, like one of my old jobs" ”Do it. I won’t mind. I’d actually like to learn more about you... a-as a friend.”
Tib found herself blushing once again, a hard red color to her face. She would have to facepalm later... why did she like Stryker right now? She didn’t mind, but it was alarming to her.
I mean... her? With someone like Stryker? As if..."Yeah, ok then."
Stryker said. She was acting a little strange too. Must be something going around the ship, and Stryker made a note to himself to confer with Varrus and Harriet about that later."Well"
he began "This one goes back about a year or so before the Alliance wrangled us up. I was contracted by some guy, he used an alias, like a lot of my clients did, I never cared as long as I got paid. This guy paid me in advance, the full contract, to make the mistress of this prostitution ring disappear. Not a problem under normal circumstances, but she was under heavy protection, and careful about everything she did too. And of course, complicating things was that the client wanted her alive, so it's not like I could've just posted up outside her club, wait for her to come out and put a hole in her head from afar. So I waited, for weeks, to get my chance. I got inside the club as a client, started paying them a visit every night. Finally the madam... ahem 'took notice' and gave me my opportunity. The club shut down shortly after. Come to think of it, that might've been the last time I.... well nevermind.""... You're kidding, right?"
Tibulass leaned forward onto her knees as Stryker finished his story. "You... haven't had sex since then? It's been about 2 or three years!"
Tibulass practically shouted that comment. She couldn't believe it, not for a moment. "Someone as handsome as you not fucking for that long? God damn... even I had to get wet after that dry spell of around 60 years..."
Tibulass said as she leaned back once again, pausing a little longer before softly continuing. "... it wasn't even... that fulfilling..."“What!?? No, no, not that!”
Stryker stammered out, he felt his face go even more red “I meant, uh, that was the last time I had to bring the target in alive.”
Well this was embarrassing, why had he told that story out of all the ones he could have gone to? That was stupid. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he barely registered Tib’s last statement.“Sorry”
he said slowly “what was that last bit again?””Matija was absolutely fantastic, but... I dunno...”
Tibulass darted her eyes around the vaccuum of space. ”I think I just... just being appreciated felt nice. Maybe that’s why I decided to do the damn surgery, I missed being alive.”
Tib shook her head as a brighter light in the deadzone appeared in the holospace area. It was distant, but the pilot was able to zoom in on it fairly well after retaking controls.”Our destination is that place... uh... excuse me, but what is it?”"The Solad Q'artex System, yeah that should be it."
Stryker said, one hand summoning up a holo-map of Federation territory "Closest system to the Deadzone borders, at least in the southern part of Feddie space. Still a few hours away though, even we flip her to a full-burn."
In the next bout of silence, he stole another glance at Tib. There was something about the way her red hair stood out against the pitch-black backdrop of the Deadzone space. There's no other word for it, it was beautiful.'Oh hell'
Could there be something more to the suggestive topics of conversation and the strange way she was acting? No, no way, that's impossible. There's no way a woman like that (even given her unique situation) would be interested in a guy like him..... right?'You're being ridiculous.'
he thought as he mentally drove all those thoughts and feelings down. Not enough sleep.'"Hey, y'alright there?"
Tibulass noticed her co-pilot staring at her. She felt flattered and conflicted at that, more than anything else. "You're not coming onto me, are ya?"
Tib asked with a joking manner. Imagine that! The mighty bounty hunter falling for such a weird ass reject from the remains of a station explosion! How odd! How unjust! How romantic! Wait..."... get it in your head, Tib. You're not falling for him... are ya?"
She could only think the same question she asked him as she noticed something from just outside the ships view. "Oh shit! Look over there!"
Tibulass pointed towards a little speck of green flashes from just a ways away from the ship. It'd be a few minutes to get there, but things didn't look good. "Time to investigate that!"
Hopefully the blush wasn't that noticeable that time..."Of course not! And I'm fine, just... thought I saw something out there"
Stryker managed to splutter out before Tib noticed something going on just off from their flight path. Before Stryker could say anything, his console board lit up with the pulsating green flash of an incoming distress signal."Yeah ok, just.. hang back a little, until the radar sensors can calibrate and get a clean scan. Don't wanna dive head first into a situation where we're outgunned...... or a trap."
As he turned off the holo-reflector, he accessed the distress signal tried to hail whoever sent it, but there was no reply."Stay alert, I'll address the crew.""Attention everyone"
he started as the loudspeakers whined to life "We're picking up a distress signal, just off our flight course. It's marked urgent, so we're gonna reply. The artificial gravity might be knocked out for a split-second as we turn off-course, so you might wanna hold on to something.""Roger."
Tib fastened her seatbelt as she took the reigns, flying towards the distress signal carefully as she stayed silent for the rest of the flight. When the ship pulled close, Tibulass looked over at Stryker and bluntly said to him. "I-I need you out of here. I gotta pull in carefully, and I need to... sort out my underwear and mind..."
Tib pulled her hood over her face as it became redder than her hair with blush. She couldn't be falling for him! It wasn't right! He was her superior, and he was a douche... but he was a handsome douche... AARGH!"Right, I'll go suit up and get an anchor, in case we need to pull anything in to the airlock."
It was a strange comment for her to make. Stranger still was the way she covered up her face as he stood up and walked out.
Stryker ran down the hall to the Armory and hurried into his armor. Once he was sealed up tight, he hooked in a miniaturized oxygen tank and grabbed an anchoring system off the walls."Medics, get on standby, we may have incoming!"
he shouted into the comms as he rushed downstairs.