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The five days before the transfer to planet Cobalt went by without anything of note. Perhaps the last few calm days they would enjoy for some time. Despite hitching a ride among the cargo, the trip wasn’t of the worst. She would almost call it comfortable, compared to some of the places she’s been to during the war. As the flight dragged on, she entertained herself by browsing the cargo manifests attached to most crates and other containers. Perhaps there was something that could be useful to them. What was a few opened crates to a large shipping company? That was until the freighter turned around rather hastily and, by the looks of things, tried to get back to the Bazaar at full burn. This kind of maneuver was rough on the passengers and cargo even in top of the line vessels, let alone a freight barge. As soon as the ship somewhat steadied, Rachel dropped what she was doing and made her way back to the group, wondering what could have caused the crew to head back in such a hurry? Engine trouble? No, they would take it slowly. Something critical, like a life support failure? Could be. Or perhaps...

The pirate ramming attempt caught her mid-step, promptly sending her onto the floor with a hollow thud. As she scrambled back to her feet, the ship started to shake again as the pirates pummeled it with weapons fire. She could only hope the hail of fire wouldn’t penetrate the cargo compartment they were in, much like the rest of the passengers and crew. As far as any defensive action was considered, she was next to useless in a situation like this. Rachel spent most of the war observing the enemy, infiltrating key positions and extracting information. Most of her training was devoted to not being seen. They only started shooting after making sure the team she was assigned to like a piece of equipment had every possible advantage before executing a swift sweep with surgical precision. The other possibility was being ambushed by an enemy force, but that never happened while she was on a ship. She took a breath and was about to suggest they just hide and live out the raid. But that was before the pirates docked, no doubt intent on deploying a boarding party. “So much for that plan.” she cursed under her breath and hid behind a stack of crates, more for concealment rather than cover given the raiders’ firepower.

The best course of action would be to stay back and support her more combat-oriented teammates by throwing any pirate that would be a threat to her teammates into a wall or pulling a friendly away from said threat with her telekinesis Sadly, this ‘best course of action’ was still quite limited. An illusion at her level could only affect one target at a time and she couldn’t do much else while it was active. Rapport was dependent on the target’s mental fortitude, but if she focused on injured pirates, the spell’s chance of success would be greater. She doubted Fire Surge would be effective enough against opponents in vac suits. “Ideas?” she asked with a good measure of uncertainty in her voice.
The part of the Galactic Bazaar where the factory was located reminded Rachel of the Nariman district of Londres Nova, where she grew up back on Mars. Dark, somewhat rundown, quite cramped, almost claustrophobic in some places and very few law enforcement officers ever ventured there. But it was home, no matter how bad it was. A heaven for a fingersmith such as herself, had it been more populated. With her hands in her pockets, the former scoundrel followed the group towards the team’s humble abode in long strides, leaving her mind to wander. Eight years ago, give or take a few months, she tried to steal her first bicycle in a street not very different from the one they were just walking on. Given that she has never learned to ride a bike, it was the first and also the last one she ever set her hands on.

When the group stopped to listen to the news, Rachel followed the broadcast with her ears, eyes mindful of the street. Although the general was correct in citing the lack of security in the name of freedom as a problem in past regimes, his apology rang hollow. He was also correct about the corruption issue, but there was a big difference between a corrupt government and a species-wide cult of personality. She had to snort with laughter at the last bit. ‘...disturbance of tranquility is never a way to solve any problems.’ Spoken by a representative of the government that started a race-oriented war and pissed off every known major species in the process. And the might of Ascendancy’s military? Rather, they would face whatever scraps were left of it. But despite the massive beating they received at Proxima and during several late-war battles prior to it as well as the subsequent disarmament and sanctions, squashing a couple of annoying bugs was still a fairly easy task for them. And their little group was a very small bug.

As the broadcast ended, Rachel turned to Aaloka. “I don’t know. I think I saw a deck of cards in one of the cabinets?” she searched her memory for more, but came up with nothing. ”We’ll have to check when we get home. That is unless something that needs to be done first pops up.” she added, looking forward to sitting down at last. “How long do ye think the job will take? Few days? A week?”
I was just asking myself the same question.
Rachel watched John leave the tank alive and well, thinking about Karrsh’s question. “My upbringings weren’t anything grand, but it was something at least remotely normal.” she responded quietly “Than the Ascendancy came, took everything I knew and turned it all into nothing more than distant memories. And although many, including all of ye, had it much worse during the war, I just don’t have it in me to forgive such a thing. I want to watch them burn, just like they watched us. Just make sure ya take inspiration from John and not me, and ya’ll be right as rain.” Much to her surprise, she became quite fond of the group, something unthinkable just a few months ago. The presence of others who went through a similar ordeal worked wonders. Humans were, after all, pack animals.

Although Rachel wasn’t sure mixing alcohol and magic-wielding super soldiers was a good idea, she welcomed anything that would keep the group’s spirits high. Perhaps ‘spirits’ wasn’t the best choice of words. “A party, ye say? Should I go and steal a few bottles of something? Maybe some snacks to go with them?” Rachel asked a semi-serious question over the comms as she followed John out. Some distance from the meeting point, she emerged from the shadows and joined their leader, still vigilant of their surroundings. Falling into pace, she spoke, off the comms. “What are yer thoughts on this deal? I didn’t hear all of it, but what I heard sounded a little too good to be true, at least without a significant hitch somewhere down the line. I mean, ten million? Is the lass planning a field trip through a war zone or something? Who in their right mind would pay so much for bodyguards?”
Anything will do for Rachel, but meat would be appreciated.

Rachel stuck to the dark spots, taking in the layout of the factory, comparing it with the floorplans she studied beforehand and mapping possible escape routes. Unsure of her usefulness in a direct confrontation, she tried to stay slightly ahead of John at all times without letting him out of her sight to warn him of any danger in advance, all the while trying not to expose herself to any eyes that may or may not be lurking in the factory’s numerous nooks and crannies, much like herself. Given their past, she would not be surprised at all if someone was watching. Her task was made somewhat easier by the fact that John was the only green thing in the seemingly endless sea of battleship gray and the occasional faded black and yellow warning tape that was the abandoned factory and therefore easy to keep track of. As they approached the tank, Rachel opened a channel to John. “Nae way I can get inside the tank unseen, ye'll have to manage on yer own. I'll be right at the door, so nae problem pal. Holler and I'll be there.”

She watched John enter the tank and settled close to the door, straining her ears for any signs of commotion or a cry for help. All she heard was a muffled conversation between John and another man. “Playing the princess’ guard, oh the sweet irony.” she thought with a sigh, turning her attention back to the silent factory. But was it? Rachel took a few steps away from the door so the conversation inside the water pit wouldn’t interfere and listened carefully. Nothing. Nothing but a slight draft and distant noises of a busy district. Satisfied for the time being, she retreated back into the shadows beside the pit entrance and waited for John. Maybe she was being paranoid, but she found it hard to believe the mysterious woman would pay ten million credits for bodyguards, especially a group of teenagers in less-than-ideal mental states, magic or not. Either the lady expected to go through hell, or worse, or the entire job was a ruse. She made a mental note to ask John’s opinion once they were out of the factory and waited, eyes darting from one corner to another, looking for oddities.
Checking in.
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