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@Gardevoiran@Xandrya@iTem@BKburke@Rultaos@T2wave@ArkmageddonCat@Silver Carrot@Strange Rodent@Vampire Stepdad@superservo27@sntabe@TheEvanCat

"Hm, yeah, good idea, especially if any of our newer crew mates have any questions"

Stryker spun his chair to find the datapad and turn on the loudspeakers.

“Attention everyone, I was just informed we’re a few hours out from or destination. I want everyone to gather in the War Room in 15 minutes, I’ll share the intel we have on the job. See you there, Stryker out."

As he stood up and prepared to leave he called down the steps.
"Hey, uh Tib? You want the comm link set up so you can listen in?"

A muted 'yes' floated up in response, so Stryker leaned in over her console and flicked the appropriate switches.
"Ok, all set, see you later."

Stryker headed directly to the War Room to plug in his datapad and started to upload all of the briefing files to the holotable as he waited for his audience to arrive.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Amy's Training

A collab between Xandrya and myself


“Oh, so you're gonna be pretty busy then eh? I was actually...I was hoping you could help me with some marksmanship training," Amy stopped for a moment, holding out a hand to stop Grayson as well. "I'm an okay shot but I'm not great, but I want to do better."

“Yeh?” he asked “I mean, we’ve plenty of time ‘til we get wherever we’re goin’, so yeah, we can do that. C’mon up to the armory, we’ll get some gear an’ ammo.”

He led the way upstairs and marched right on in to the armory. Every surface along his desk space and workbench was covered in weapons, all in various states of disassembly.
“What did ya wanna start with lass? 7.72, or somethin’ a little heavier?”

"Uh, yeah, that'll work," she smiled, looking around the various disassembled parts. Sure, some weapons were familiar to her going off of their parts alone, but otherwise she had no knowledge of what he had laying around. "It should be fine for some long-range practice."

Amy picked up one of the parts, carefully examining it simply out of curiosity.

“Right, ok, think you could handle slappin’ that Kilotek on the desk back together? Already had ‘er cleaned up and polished, jus’ didn’t get a chance to put it back together ‘fore I came to bed las’ night.” He grabbed one of the chairs and rolled it across to the far corner of the workshop portion of the room “I’ll load up a few mags worth a’ rounds. Or ya know, we could switch over if yer not comfortable with the assembly job. I’m sure you’re familiar wit’ loadin’ rounds at least right?”

Amy let out a short sigh of disbelief. She knew Grayson meant no harm, but nonetheless the question caught her off guard.

"Yes, I do know how to load rounds, I wasn't born yesterday." The statement came off half-jokingly, just like she'd intended. "The Kilotek however is beyond me. Hand me those rounds now, will ya?"

“Alrigh’ lass, only teasin’. Here, you hop up on this chair, the mags an’ a few cases o’ rounds are already set out. Only gonna need a min or two to get tha Kilo back in one piece!”

Grayson slid out of his seat and walked over to sit at the desk. True to his word, he quickly and efficiently reassembled the bolt-action rifle and tested it dry a few times by sliding back the bolt and clicking the trigger.

“All ready here Ames, how about you?”

“Just about done,” Amy rotated around on the swivel chair to face him, her hands busy with the last magazine and the remaining rounds that needed to be inserted. She worked on it a little bit quicker before finally setting down the magazine next to the other one, both full to capacity.

“Alright, let’s do this. My trigger finger is itching.”

“Right-o love, let’s go”

He collected the magazines and slung the rifle over his shoulder before heading out, leading the way downstairs to the makeshift firing range in the gym. Once they arrived, he set the rifle on the table and laid out the magazines. Finally he reached under the table and pulled two pairs of noise-suppressing earmuffs out from a box. He laid one set in front of Amy and slid the other down around his neck.

“So, obviously you know yer basics lass, but marksmanship is more so a skill of the eyes than the reflexes, and if I were ta’ guess, the years of bein’ blind affected that in ya. So that’s what we’ll focus on. Start here though, ya ever used a Kilotek before?”

“Can’t say I have,” Amy replied, grabbing the earmuffs and subconsciously tapping it with a finger before she realized what she was doing. She then placed them around her neck like Grayson and picked up the rifle. “Walk me through the steps, please? I’d rather do it on my own as I’m a hands-on learner.”

“Well, real quick, tha’s one of my own there. Kilotek Model 188, bolt action, fluted barrel, 10 rounds per mag, 12x scope with thermal toggle, and that foregrip there, he’s the real treasure. It’s adjustable to any point along the underbarrel to fit the user’s preference. An’ also, if ya’d prefer ta post up in a more covert position, there’s a little switch there that splits the foregrip into a bipod. Comes in pretty handy. So, let’s get to it lass. Load ‘er up, get used to the feel of it, I’ll set up a target,”

Grayson crossed the room, grabbing a paper target from the stack and pinned it to the wall. He fished out a pen from his belt and hastily colored in a dot, off-center and smaller than the actual bullseye.

“May as well dive right into the deep end eh? Try an’ hit that target I put on there, and we’ll use that as a baseline for how much practice ya need.”

"I appreciate your faith in me," Amy smirked in a hushed tone, reaching for the magazine to load up the rifle. After she laid in the prone position, she made some quick adjustments to her liking, especially since she was much smaller than Grayson so she had to readjust the foregrip. She did a bit of a test run, aiming down the sights with her finger on the trigger but with the safety on, so she wasn't taking any shots even if she wanted to. Amy felt comfortable after a few moments, looking up at Grayson.

"Alright, stand back and watch the magic happen."

Amy took a breath in before she took aim at the small dot on the target. She switched off the safety and placed her finger on the trigger. She made sure to not use the very tip of her finger, so she lined it up just over the first crease. And finally, when she felt at ease, she pulled the trigger just enough to get the shot out. Not with a jerk movement, nor too soft as to jam the weapon, but somewhere in between.

“Nice one Ames” Grayson said as he lowered his earmuffs again and engaged his ocular implant to start analyzing the shot. He headed over and removed the target from the wall.

“Technique was excellent. Top marks there. Ya hit the target too, but the point o’ impact was off by a little bit. So, like I figured, it’s all in the eyes for ya, we train those up a little, and you’ll be unstoppable. Ready for another round?”

He placed a new target on the wall and placed 3 more dots on it with his pen.

“Same deal, sight ‘em up and shoot ‘em dead!”

He snapped his earmuffs back on and walked across to stand behind Amy’s position.

“Not bad if I do say so myself.”

Amy waited for a moment until Grayson walked back to safety, out of the line of fire. She got into the ready position and switched off the safety once more.

Amy lined up the sights a little quicker this time, having the confidence she didn't have before. Not that she considered herself a great shot, but she found herself handling the weapon with ease. Targeting the dot on the right, she waited for a moment before slowly pulling the trigger again.

Without bothering to take a look, Amy repeated the process for the remaining targets. She did not want to lose her concentration by looking up and then having to readjust.

“Well done lass” Grayson said after his initial analysis “89% accuracy on th’ first, 84 on the second, an 90% on the third. That’s all up from a 78% score on that first shot ya took, so that’s already a great improvement. Once we get ya to consistent high 90’s on stationary targets, we can try some moving targets.”

Grayson considered the stack of paper targets for a second and an idea came to his head

“How ‘bout one more?” he asked as he grabbed a target and drew on two dots, so close together they were nearly overlapping, he quickly shaded in one of them then showed it to Amy.

“This is somethin’ I had to do to way back when I was barely more’n a kid. The circle, as always, is your target. The colored dot is a hostage…. And it’s someone you know. Could be anyone, a friend, family member, hell, it could be an old schoolteacher even. An’ you gotta visualize that before pulling th’ trigger. Someone ya know, and love, or at least respect, held at gunpoint by an’ evil piece of shit. Now kill ‘em an’ save their life.”

Grayson set up the target and stood back. For this test, he was firing up his implant right away to study everything that happened, not just the bullet trajectory and accuracy, but Amy herself. How she reacted physically to the task, any areas of tension, or stiffness in her actions and that sort of stuff.

"That took a dark turn real quick," Amy said to herself as Grayson was making his way back to her, her eyes briefly on the target downrange before she turned to him. "No pressure, right?"

Amy couldn't help but picture some of the people she knew, those she cared about the most, being in that situation. Of course this was only a training, with no consequences at all except being told she was a bad shot, but she felt a little bit nervous again. What would occur if the scenario was actually taking place and she missed, but not without injuring or killing her loved one? It would be nothing short of devastating for her.

But Amy had to shake away those thoughts. The loss of her parents managed to affect her with something as simple as training, and it needed to stop. Readying herself again with the same routine, Amy took a bit longer to fire the next shot, hoping to all hell for a positive outcome.

“God damn” was all Grayson could say “Tha’ was damn near perfect Ames.”

He pulled the target down and brought it over to show her.

“That’s a 96% right there, but look here, the ‘hostage’ circle isn’t broken at all. Still a kill shot, an’ the hostage survived so may as well call it a bullseye right?.”

He leaned down and kissed the top of her head.
“Proud of ya love. This one took me a couple tries to get an’ ya took to it right away. Yer a damn natural at this” he paused and tapped his temple “I’ve got a little bit of data to sort through, but if ya wanna keep goin’ we can move on to-”

The loudspeakers screeched to life.

“Attention everyone, I was just informed we’re a few hours out from or destination. I want everyone to gather in the War Room in 15 minutes, I’ll share the intel we have on the job. See you there, Stryker out.”

“Ah, damn” Grayson said as the announcement ended “Guess that’s all we get for today then?”

“And I was doing so good…”

Amy pushed herself off of the ground, picking up the rifle as she stood up and handing it to Grayson. She also removed the earmuffs, putting them back in their place.

“You know, I think I’m going to like this next job.”

“Yeah? Good feelin’ about it? Well let’s go see what it’s all about.” Grayson put his own earmuffs back, gathered up the extra magazines and led the way out.

“Should be jus’ enough time to pack this stuff away before we’re expected.”
@Xandrya

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?"

Sparks?

A collab between myself and @Gardevoiran


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."



Unitech Station
Sector 11-9-B
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.
@Gardevoiran

"Hey, I didn't say anything at all." Stryker said, throwing one hand up in a mock-surrender "You don't have to impress me. Happy for you, about... you know. I know it's been a while for you, but in the future, you really ought to close up the door to the cockpit. I can't speak for anyone sleeping downstairs here, but I had my door closed up and it still sounded pretty loud.... like a screaming banshee."

He chuckled briefly at his own joke. It was all in good fun, Tib had to know that from his tone of voice alone. Still, he thought he caught her blushing for a second, that was sort of cute.

'Get ahold of yourself man, it's just Tib.'

Pax walked in, looked around awkwardly, then left again in a hurry. Stryker tried to wave hello, but he took off too quickly.

"Anyway," he said, a bit more straight-faced "SAL mentioned that the ship is back to 100%. We're supposed to be waiting for another Alliance ship, but according to the guy that dropped off Henry here, they're running late. Our docking clearance is still good for another few hours, so if anyone's got business on the Station, do it now. Tib, I'll be up there to help with pre-departure checks when I can. First I gotta see what the overlords have planned for us this time."

He finished off his second cup and walked out of the kitchen, waving the small black Alliance envelope like a fan. On the way back up to his quarters, he repeated his message about their approaching departure to play over the loudspeakers for those who weren't in the galley. He walked in to his room and deposited the envelope along with his datapad onto the desk, turning to find a bit of a strange sight. The door to his ensuite bathroom was open and from where he stood, Stryker could see the mirror was fogged up. He'd taken a hot shower that morning after getting up, but surely the steam would have dissipated by now? Curious.
"Yeah, well, one thing you'll learn pretty quickly around here is the Alliance doesn't care much when it comes to small things like a scraping chair leg." Stryker said to Henry disdainfully "I doubt they'd even give us food if they thought it wasn't essential to completing our mission."

He nibbled on some more toast, conversing lightly until Tib and Matija came in. Stryker smiled, remembering how ridiculous they looked leaving the bar last night. He kept that shit eating grin on his face until Tibulass took a seat a little further down the table. He sat there, waiting for either of them to notice the look on his face, the look that he had something to say. Matija didn't stick around long, just grabbed up some food and took off again. Nevertheless.

For some reason, his gaze seemed to be drawn in Tib's direction, and The longer he looked, the more he began to notice how different she'd become over the last two days. When Stryker and the others had discovered her new form in Med Bay, she was just... Tibulus in a woman's body. Now, just a mere 48 hours or so later, she was still Tib in a woman's body, but she just seemed infinitely more feminine in her body language, speech, and just general attitude. Must have been the hormones setting in. Stryker finished eating and slid back his chair to carry the dishes over to the cleaning station, stopping on the way to pour another half a cup of coffee into his mug.


@Polyphemus Just posting here to say I'm interested. Haven't got a character yet, but I'll be back with an idea soon! Edit: Approved via PM

@Xandrya

"For you love, anythin'" he said as he scooted even closer and pressed tightly into her back. He noticed the faint bar smell of booze and smoke in the air, probably clinging to their hair and clothes. Grayson was too comfortable (outside of his self-inflicted illness) for it to bother him. Over time, he noticed that Amy always had it worse the morning after they'd been drinking, so he did whatever needed to be done to make her feel better. He decided that after they got up and showered, Grayson would grab the bed sheets and their clothes to chuck in the laundry.

Idly, he pulled his left arm out from under the pillow and groped around awkwardly over his head until he found the small cut-out and pulled out the remote. Flipping down through the options on the small LED screen, he found what he was looking for, angled the remote towards the window screen and tapped Enter. The screen stayed blank but the faint relaxing whoosh sound of rain started to play.

"That's nice" he said lowly, his throat still dry and sore "Could stay here all day listenin' to this."

@Strange Rodent

Stryker nibbled on a piece of toast, it was still only himself and Harrison in the kitchen, and conversation was light. His datapad, laying on the table beside his plate, suddenly chirped. An access request from someone on the dock, must be the new recruits.

"Mm, leave that there" he said to Harrison pointing at his plate "I'll be right back."
He slipped the datapad into his pocket as he stood and headed to the elevator for another trip down to the cargo bay. He hit the button and the ramp started to lower. A handcuffed and gagged human slowly walked up the ramp, seemingly laboring with every other step. An Alliance officer, carrying a duffel bag, followed him up.

"I thought new recruits were supposed to be delivered unharmed" Stryker said.
"He tripped" the officer said, his name tag read Olbric, though he didn't bother to introduce himself. He tossed the duffel down next to Henry and handed over a small black envelope.
"Cap'n Dawson said to hand you this, 'ere's the scum, he's yer problem now." He slipped the cuffs off and without another word, the officer started to walk back down the ramp.
"Wait" Stryker called out "I thought there were two recruits?"
"Oh yah, other transport tight-beamed us a few hours back, they're runnin' late, gonna catch up to you at some point."

And just like that, Stryker was alone with the new recruit. The bastard hadn't even taken off the gag. Stryker walked over and pried it off before tossing it into the far corner.
"What a dick. Hey man, welcome aboard. I'm Stryker, come on up, we're having breakfast, you can meet the crew and introduce yourself up there. Don't forget your stuff."
@Xandrya@Gardevoiran@Silver Carrot@Rultaos@iTem@BKburke@superservo27@t2wave@ArkmageddonCat@Strange Rodent@TheEvanCat@Vampire Stepdad@sntabe@Damo021

SAL took the information about the potential drone dealers and thanked Qoorb by transferring over an extra 1000 credits before bidding the scavenger farewell. The robot carried on about it's business and within an hour, he was returning to the ship with a push-cart containing his new acquisitions, fists only slightly tinged with a green blood smear from a Tragladarian who got in his way. The cart rolled silently up into the cargo bay and SAL pushed it over to the far corner. He noticed Koren hard at work through the engine room window. Harrison was nowhere to be seen, probably off cooking sustenance for the other fleshbags. The Tobi situation would have to wait just a little bit longer- Stryker's orders had been clear, the ship needed to be ready by the morning.

------

"We can discuss the more technical aspects of it all later, but yeah, great to have you aboard. I suppose now's a good time to mention there's a line in your contract, the one the Alliance will want you to sign, about also being part of the ground team during combat ops. There's hazard pay included and all that, but like I just said, no need to get into all of that now. Get your stuff and meet us at the ship. C-Dock, berth 15."

As Sadaet headed off, Stryker sat back in his seat to finish his drink. Benny had a bit of a dumbfounded look on his face, like he truly couldn't believe what he was seeing as he stared across the bar. Stryker turned to look and nearly spat his drink out as he saw Tib carrying a giggling Matija in a full-on bridal carry, moving swiftly towards the exit. The look on Stryker's face was probably pretty similar to Benny's as he spun back around in his seat and reached for his beer.

"Well" he said, tipping up his glass to finish the drink "That was... unexpected."

Stryker and Benny sat there in silence, each processing what they had just seen. The complete lull in conversation gave a waitress the opportunity to sidle over and speak.

"Excuse me sir, but before they left, those women in the corner booth claimed to be your employees? Said that you'd be paying their tab?"
Stryker sighed and cracked a smile, still in disbelief even as he reached for his datapad to transfer the credits "Of course they did."

"Is that a.. problem?"
"No no, it's fine. That is to say, I do know them. Here you are." He finished up the transfer, including a bit extra as a tip for the poor girl's trouble, then went back to sitting in silence. Both men still surpringly speechless, I mean, what do you say after seeing that happen before your eyes?

A situation seemed to be unfolding down at the counter, at last something to distract their attention. To Stryker it looked like the robotic bartender was calmly dealing with a pair of loud and disorderly patrons when it suddenly snapped into action. Stryker watched on in awe as the robot handily fought off the aggressors, despite being outnumbered. He had signaled to Benny to not interfere, but when the gun came out and people began running, Stryker dove to the floor, reaching for the pistol tucked into his boot, but still, the robot took care of business, although sadly, there were a pair of casualties when the dust finally settled. As he watched the robot stand still in the middle of the carnage, an idea came to his head. Stryker approached the robot carefully, his hands up to clearly show he was unarmed.

"Excuse me a second" he said cautiously "You handled yourself well there. I was pretty impressed. And sorry if this seems insensitive, but it seems like you might be in need of a new job now. One where you could put those skills to use. My ship can always use an extra pair of hands if you're interested."

"I... I did?" Pax responded, slowly lowering his gun arm before looking back at the bodies around him. "Well... I suppose joining you might be the best thing for me. Though... I have a few things to take care of while I'm at it." He continued, heading for the door and stopping in the doorway. "Oh! And where can I find your ship when I've... taken care of my things?"

Stryker told him where the ship was docked and they shared a quick introduction before parting ways, agreeing to chat later about payment and the like. Once he made sure all their drinks were paid for, Stryker (and Benny) left the bar to return to the ship, all in all satisied with the events of the night.

The Next Morning....

Stryker woke early, it was just after 7am local time. He'd have slept a little longer, but his datapad starting chirping that oh-so familiar chirp, a message from the Alliance. He rolled over in bed and stretched out to grab the small tablet, squinting with the glare of the words on the screen. Still half-asleep, he skimmed through the correspondence, mumbling aloud.

"Two more recruits, transported separately, communications transponder codes, mhmm, dossiers attached, blah blah blah, official bullshit, this message will self-destruct, ok."

A few minutes later, Stryker pulled himself out of bed and trudged into his bathroom to splash some water into his face. He got dressed and wandered down to the Crew Deck, to see if anyone else was up yet and to make a pot of coffee. The captain was pleasantly surprised to find that Harrison was already there, whipping up enough breakfast for the entire crew.

"Morning" Stryker said, crossing the kitchen floor to fetch himself a cup of coffee "Might wanna throw on a little extra, just got word that we'll have two more joining us before we take off in a few hours."

----

Grayson groaned lowly as the thump-thump of a monster headache roused him from his slumber. The toll of having a good night like the one he and Amy had just shared. There was a faint smell of food cooking wafting into the slightly ajar door of their room. His right arm was curled up around her midsection, and he could feel in her breathing that she was either waking up or already awake.

"Mornin' love" he managed to rasp out, his voice gone from all the cheering he'd done during the holo game "You gettin' up yet or did ya wanna stay in bed a while?"

-------

SAL walked out of the engine room, his feet clanging loudly on the metal grating of the landing. He had just completed the final repairs of the engine, though he'd resolved for the Juz' to wake up before running any advanced diagnostics. The robot walked down the stairs to the cargo bay floor and walked over to the push cart holding the spool of mainframe cabling and the crate containing the new drone frame. He had just grasped the handle to wheel it over to the elevator when his audio sensors picked up a faint noise from the opposite end of the cargo bay floor. The ramp had been closed all night and SAL was the only living being (figuratively speaking) in the cargo area.... or was he? A quick optic-thermo scan picked up a heat signature from an industrial-size ammo crate. Fearing vermin, or worse, another stowaway, SAL retrieved his shotgun from the hidden compartment in his leg and approached the crate, gun at the ready. He swiftly hauled open the top of the crate and shoved the barrel of the shotgun into the face of a cowering human who wasn't supposed to be there. With one hand, SAL grabbed the man by the collar and dragged him out, dropping him roughly on the floor beside the crate.

"Stay there, and don't move." SAL uttered before pinging Stryker's comms unit.
Making it official: accepted!
@Vampire Stepdad Accepted!

Here's a short summary of the story so far if you need it. We'll talk in PM about character introduction ideas, so if you have anything in that regard, send it my way!


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