I rubbed my rag deep into the armor left behind in my quarters, staring into my reflection in the helmet old memories began flooding back into my head, my home and it's people, the war that tore it apart, everything that remained afterwards, and how I got here. Squeezing the rag, I closed my eyes reminiscing trying to find something enjoyable from the past but nothing was there that I wanted to see I huffed and tried thinking on the now but it only reminded me of my contract holder and all the debt she's been collecting.
"Koschei!" I heard her voice echo from down the ship's hall.
She soon caught up with her yelling and poked her head into the room hooking her arm around one of my own.
"Come on chitin butt let's go! I want you to see my daddums." She just couldn't contain herself and wanted to her dad, she almost reminded me of a big kid that wanted to run to the candy shop and ran off to the ramp. Slinging my rifle on my shoulder I followed after her to make sure she wasn't overzealous towards anyone or hurt herself.
The second I went knee deep into the snow, the cold wind of Arx kissed my antennae and almost blew them to the back of my skull, the cold breeze and no coat froze me to the bone and I hugged myself in a vain attempt to keep warm, just a little chilly she said, it's not cold this time of year she said. If she wasn't holding my contract I'd probably have a number of harsh words with her.
Among the white snow Verrax my contractor's green wings stood out as she unfurled them and fell back first into the snow and started wiggling on the ground at the space port. I did my best to pull her off the ground and brush off any snow clinging to her before glaring down at her." You said it would be just a little chilly?"
She cocked her head to the side."What? It always gets this cold on Arx, it's like this then spring comes, this isn't anything it's just chilly is all." She turned towards the main street and pointed to the large complex down the snow covered streets; looking around there weren't many people outside and it was probably for the best with how cold it was out here." Alright Let's get to the prison."
"The prison?" I parroted. I noticed the massive complex again, it's what she was was pointing too now and it made me slightly uneasy with how quick she was willing to go into it and how she wanted me to just follow without questioning really." Yuppers, Daddums is in there and has the best prison cell out all the prisoners there." She said it without breaking her smile.
The journey to the prison wasn't a long one, but once inside it felt like hours before we could meet with Verrax's father, the visitation room felt small in a way. Once the guard arrived with Verrax's father I was shocked, the patriarch of her family was a woman and soon my staring was answered." Is staring at people you don't know a part of your people's greeting miss? Because in some cultures it's considered rude."
Her voice was silvery as she spoke but looking deeper into her face she looked like Verrax, but more pale and with a dark vein on her neck, I shook my head and responded to the woman."S-sorry Ma'am, my name name is Koschei Ashari, but most people just call me Ashari or Ash."
The dragonoid woman had a pale smile that looked weak."Nice to meet once of your kind after the whole thing with your people. But my name is Vertex." She turned her attention back to Verrax and looked her daughter in the eye."It's nice to see at least you again hun, your sister Vertrice doesn't bother visiting and your mother practically lives close by."
Verrax practically hugged the glass window to show her affection to her mother."Well I'm trying to get my fortune dad and when I do I'm gonna buy you out of prison so mom can be happy."If I could see them, I would guess she had a confident look in her eye like she would do it.
Vertex's smile somewhat withered before she sighed." Honey bun I don't think I'm gonna be coming out of here, I think this place may be my coffin." She looked away from Verrax briefly and put a hand in front of her mouth then her reptilian eyes focused on me."Verrax, sweet heart if you don't mind could I speak with Ms.Ashari."
Nodding, the childish dragon woman put her hands on her ears, once she began humming Vertex looked me in the eye and her eyes went glassy."I really don't know how many days I got left Ms.Ashari, take care of my daughter don't let her do anything stupid or get herself killed out there in the cosmos, she never was one to do much thinking and always had a big heart."She bit her bottom lip with sharp teeth and held back tears." I'm dying." She told me.
"I got something, from my old crew after I butchered them over a bunch of damn rocks." She swallowed hard and shook her head."Now I'm in here and the ones I wanted to provide for and make a better future for are out there and." She took a deep breath."And I'm afraid, I'm afraid of it all. I'm sorry you wouldn't understand."
I didn't know what to do, I just silently put a hand out on the glass and gave her a look of confidence to reassure the dragonoid parent." I'll protect Verrax, even if I gotta protect her from herself, I promise. You got nothing to be afraid of."
Vertex smiled weakly feeling a bit better I was hoping after getting that off her chest, when she tried to speak again she went into a coughing fit and hunched over the table on her side of the glass, when she looked up several veins had sprouted up on her visage and she collapsed on the floor. Immediately Verrax slammed her fist on the window crying out for her father, the guard on the other side of the glass went to Vertex's aid calling for medics, once Vertex was gone I kept her words burned in my mind. "I'm afraid
The visit was cut short because of Vertex's sickness getting the better of her, after we got our weapons I escorted Verrax back to her ship through the snow. The second we got back on the ship I was glad we we were gonna be off world in a couple minutes and we were gonna be back to what crazy venture that Verrax had planned for the both of us.
I huddled around the heater in my room trying to get the feeling in my fingers back before Verrax appeared." Ashari there's kind of a problem." She looked unsure to me of what we could do before telling me the problem." We're grounded and can't take off, and there are these scary looking soldiers outside." She had a worried look on her face.
I sighed and cracked my neck before we went to the loading dock and extended the gang plank allowing them on." You're letting them on!?" She shrieked, I put a finger over her mouth and shushed her like a child."I'll do the talking there's nothing to be screaming over." Vertex's words were still fresh in my mind. "She never was one to do much thinking.
"Should've said isn't too brave too." I mumbled as the cold wind froze me stiff.
Suddenly a trio of civil protection officers walked up the plank and into the ship. The one in the middle being their leader she had long flowing black hair as dark as the tunnels on my home world." Ms.Parallex and Ms.Ashari, it's nice to see you once again but I wish it was on better terms."
I was starting to remember this woman, I saw her at the founding party of Civil protection, instead then she was wearing an evening ball dress, she was dressed up in her officer uniform and brown winter coat, she pulled out her badge reminding me of her name and rank.
"We've had sightings of an escapee in the area and we're checking for stowaways on board ships, I'm not doubting you're ability to protect your mistress Koschei." She fixed her cap then looked me in the eye with a different air about her." But I'd rather we conduct a search of the ship."
The way she told me that they were gonna do a search put me on edge, then I noticed she was starting back at me, I think my own non answer was making her and the other two officers tense. I felt could take them but I would need to be quick, my first move could be my last, suddenly Verrax bumped into my back and I knew what we had to do, I chuckled and put on a false smile." Your planet, your rules right?"
She returned the smile back with her own that seemed more smug than happy. "I'm glad you see it that way Koschei." She removed her cap and ran a gloved hand through her curly hair." For your own safety why don't you wait outside or at one of the local places, I'll send one of my officers to retrieve you once we're finished the search."
"Alright captain Zaora, we don't wish to cause any trouble, we'll take some of our stuff and allow you to do your search." I grabbed some of my equipment and let Verrax grab some of her random stuff, the second we were off the ship I had Verrax spin all the way around.
"Verrax take that power thing from out the ship and hide it before we leave."
"That power thing you wouldn't stop talking about, the supply thing to power down the whole ship."
"But Ash taking it out will just stop the ship from flying is all." She shrugged.
"That's the point, it's just in case if anything happens and they try to steal the ship."
"Verrax just do it." I stopped her from trying to argue anymore and let her scurry under the ship, I heard a pneumatic hiss and soon Verrax was back at my side." Don't worry, they won't be able to find it."
"Alright, let's get somewhere warm before I end up freezing into a popsicle."
As we walked away from the ship I kept wondering if that was the real reason she wanted us away from the ship, I didn't see any of those hologram wanted posters up, but with all the snow covering the ground and how freezing it felt I ended not really caring much about the prisoner but worried more about not catching my death.
Out of nowhere I felt Verrax's wing come around me and cover me, for some reason she felt really warm." Hey Ash how about we stay over there?" She pointed to a bar." I don't care as long as it's not cold."
We strode through the snow to the bar and the warmth of the place almost felt heavenly, I sighed letting it wash over me before Verrax said something."Huh the place is empty?"
I looked around seeing only one other patron and the bartender." Yeah it gets that way when the snow gets pretty high, I use to get some of those guards who'd sneak off for a quick drink and mercs but they'll be here later."
Sauntering up to the bar and sitting on the stool closes to the bartender I noticed the other guy was well working on a bottle of some green alcohol and at the far end of the bar, once Verrax sat down he scooted over making me expect he was up to something before he held up his bottle." You ladies want some? I got ton of credits."
The second I wanted to tell the guy to leave us be, Verrax accepted his offer." Sure! Ash you should get some too it will make the time fly."
I sighed feeling reluctant but the bartender already had a glass for the both of us, and the guy was shaking while pouring out the last of his strong smelling liquor. Verrax quickly gulped down the drink and I reluctantly swallowed down the green liquor and it felt like I swallowed a cup of fire, my head started to spin and my balance on the stool felt wobbly.
The guy cheered telling us." That stuff will put hair on your chest. Bartender! Give us another bottle!" He yelled smacking a credit chit; one, two, three, more drinks and I was starting to feel like I was in another world with a fire burning hot in my gut. The second he offered me another glass I pushed it away noticing how Verrax was doubled over the bar counter passed out.
The guy buying the drinks leaned into my shoulder and glanced over at Verrax."So you ladies bounty hunters? You look the part but not the dragon lady."
"No, I'm just a bodyguard we were visiting her father or Mother, whatever her race has as a sire or whatever."
He looked at Verrax a second time a little more intensely like he was trying to see through her." Is." He let out a hiccup." Is her father a dragon too?"
"Yeah older looking woman, pale skin, green scaly clawed hands and a tail. Why?" The questions were sobering me up.
He leaned further into me and whispered."I'mma tell you a story, I probably shouldn't but I like guys."
The guy let off a soft belch into his fist." That girl's pappa is a bank robber and thief, their crew stole over a billion in physical money, goods, and even ships; they also killed anyone who got in their way, civilians who were too nosy, planet side cops, soldiers and everyone inbetween."
I felt Verrax's father had to do something evil to be sent to this frozen ball in the middle of nowhere. The guy took another swig of his drink and breathed out a heavy aroma of liquor." Vertex's crew finally hit the big score, a chest full of platinum 188."
He stared at me and my unchanging face,"Whaaat?! You don't know platinum 188? It's like worth more than space gold, its so valuable that you wouldn't know what to do with the money the second you got it."
He leaned on the bar's counter before continuing the story, not caring about whispering anymore." So they hit it big and got a ton of this platinum from their last job and you know what happened? Take a guess."
I cracked a grin and played along." They got caught and went to jail?"
He shook his head quickly." No no, not yet. I heard that Vertex slaughtered her crew, every member of her ship from the most fucked up members to the Mess cook, then she spaced them and got caught and thrown here." He motioned to the prison in the frosted window.
Just when I thought he was finished the story and done he picked up back where he stopped." Now before she got caught she hid the platinum here planet side."
When he said that I tensed up, and I wasn't feeling as drunk." But Civiees caught her before she could end up hiding, they didn't kill Vertex because word of the platinum spread around even to our little backwater planet. Now in jail they watched all her moves and read all of her letters, checking for any little hint to see if they could find it, but Vertex is smarter than we've thought."
He finished off his drink and wiped his mouth." She had a guy tattoo ou-there bodies in her people's dragonic symbols and runes, they way they did it was by using shitty tools and even more shittier perma body paint."
He started to wobble on his stool and fell over on the floor snoring, I got up and decided to give him a hand, but the moment I grabbed his shirt I noticed a strange marking on his collar bone. With the story still running fresh in my mind I undone some of his shirt buttons and just like the story, he had tattoos painted across his chest, acting fast I closed his shirt up before the bartender could see them.
I immediately stood straight up and grabbed Verrax trying to get her out of the drunken sleep she was in. In the same moment I felt something with my antennae and turned back to see the guy gone from the floor and rushing to the bar's back door.
"Shit!" I grabbed Verrax and threw her on my shoulder taking her with me, the guy ploughed though the backdoor and out into the snow. As the cold wind whipped past my head I wondered what was pushing me to charge like this after the guy for story, then the reason for why wiggled around on my shoulder grumbling about how they feel like they will vomit.
Soon the snow began kicking up into the air and almost becoming blinding, and the feeling of the cold started to get to me, I dropped Verrax and hugged myself and fought the urge pull my hair out."Damn it!"
All I could really do was scream at this point, I expected Verrax to be the one to get us into a situation like this, but now I was gonna have us both freeze to death because of Verrax." Ash why are we this far out into the wilderness?"
The dragoniod pulled her face from out of the snow trying to get a lay of the land." I was trying to help you Verrax, that guy was someone who had a map of your father's treasure. A treasure that would pay off all of your mountain of debt."
"Dad's treasure?" She put a finger on her chin." Ashi we should get out of the cold your getting cold stroke."
"Its heat stroke that effects you in that way, hypothermia that's gonna kill me."
"No you won't." She put her face back I to the snow and pulled her head back up." Nope, there's a creek with trees nearby that hikers use as fire wood." She grabbed my hand and led me along.
"Don't worry Ashari, winter on this planet ends soon, but it always gets to its worst before spring arrives."
I was skeptical to Verrax's whole, "Gets worst before it gets better." Then right before my eyes the shadows of trees came into view and an oddly shaped structure. As we closed in on the small structure it looked like a small cone with a blanket covering the entrance of it.
Pushing our way in we were greeted to a pleasant warmth with only a slight draft, I sat on the floor and felt a fuzzy feeling noticing the floor inside was a patch work of fur, and in the center of the room was a small fire pit with sticks scattered around the dark cone shaped room.
Knowing What Verrax could do I put all the scattered sticks into the fire pit and let her spit an ember into the pit. The entire cone began to heat up the whole cone and I felt my cold numbness melt away." Look Verrax your father didn't do good things, but they are a good person, one of the bad things they did was keep a stolen treasure and that guy that ran from the bar knew about it."
Verrax had her wings covering her body and was silent before cocking her head towards me." So I guess you want to just abandon me and go chase after my dad's treasure?"
"No." I shook my head." I'm going to protect you while we collect what's yours."
"But Ash I don't really want it." She looked away from me." I kinda want my own fortune, not my dad's money."
I groaned." Verrax, it is yours not your father's money, you're just collecting what's rightfully yours from people that would use it for worst."
I grabbed one of her wings and looked her in the eye." This platinum that your father has hidden away it would be enough for you to actually get rid of all that debt you have, to fill up your ship's tank more than just a single flight from planet to planet. You can't sit here and tell me you like saying up all night looking at the numbers and knowing that sooner or later your debt is gonna catch up to us."
She pondered the idea for a moment."O-okay Ashari, let's get that platinum for dad, mom, and even Vertrice."
I nodded and smiled."Good, your mother wouldn't want something she worked hard for to be handed over to those disgusting prisoners."I took a moment to peek outside, all I could see for miles was the whiteout we came in from, the guy wouldn't get far in this when I thought on it again."Once this blizzard passes, we're gonna go after this guy again."