The onset of dystopia in Andromeda did not spare the TIAF's Andromeda colonies either, leaving the once-pristine worlds a charred island isolated from the rest of the Federation. Yet, against all odds, the colonies have survived. They have fared better than most in this dark era, but it is a far cry from their glory days at the height of the New Dawn 100 years earlier. The surviving planets have managed to keep in a fragile union held together only by the false hope that the Federation will come to rescue them, though many know their brethren in Bunsen have long since left them for dead in the ruins of Andromeda.
Many have been stranded in Andromeda away from their homes in Bunsen. Some have since perished, while some still cling to the past to avoid facing the grim future ahead. Others have accepted that grim future and have made new lives for themselves in this radically different Andromeda. Some still cling to the ideals of the Federation and some have abandoned them and adapted to their new life, in the hopes of getting the chance to live for one more day.
A run-down station orbiting Stafamur, a TIAF planet whose surface had been deeply scarred in the countless encounters with demons, lowered the shields over its cargo bay as a great Rigel-class destroyer approached it. You didn't see too many Rigel-classes floating around these days - not after the local Assault Armada and Domestic Defense regiments had begun to grapple with the concept of resource shortages - so it was fairly easy to tell who it was and what business they had if one showed up at your doorstep.
Space Traffic Controller - This is Stafamur Station to- -bzzt- clear to proceed -bzzt- docking bay.
Both the station and the ship's communications arrays were in sorry state. The ship's captain muttered to the first officer as the transmission cut out.
????? - Remind me to get that fixed, Mirra. We should have enough money after this trip to buy some new equipment.
The ship lined up its cargo bay with the station's cargo bay, and the few engineers left on the station began to work on unloading the cargo. The ship's captain beamed aboard the station and monitored the process from the small cafe that overlooked the cargo bay - these days, you could never be too careful. The captain ordered a cup of coffee. Thankfully, coffee machines these days still worked quickly, though the coffee tasted terrible - you just had to make do with these things.
????? - Grr, I remember when we had quality coffee grinds, not this stuff that tastes like that Kraw vzak shit.
?????? - Funny, I don't remember you being a coffee drinker.
The captain gagged a little on the coffee as a light blue reptilian figure, in a TIAF military uniform from the long-past New Dawn era, stepped out of the shadows and walked up next to the captain's table. The captain paused for a moment to wipe her beak clean of any coffee she might have spat out.
????? - Well, I'll be damned. Adrian Basshu. You're still alive.
Basshu - I'm tougher than you think, Lady Tzena.
Tzena - Don't you have some demons you ought to be killing? You know, that whole "defending the Federation" bullshit?
Basshu - Well, it seems those demons have relented a little bit in the past few days. I'm sure they'll be back soon, it's not like them to just suddenly leave us be... But I had some spare time on my hands and heard an old friend of mine would be pulling into this station.
Tzena - Oh, don't flatter me. How could you still call me a friend after all that crap that happened when Andromeda went to shit?
Basshu - Stop beating yourself up about that. No one could really do anything against hordes of demons using only a single fleet. In fact, the fact that you survived that is something.
Tzena - Millions of good men perished. I don't know if I'm lucky to be a survivor.
Basshu - You certainly didn't feel that way after we got our asses handed to ourselves after the Andromeda War-
Tzena - That's different. At least when we were killing those overweight salamanders we had a worthwhile cause in mind. The demons? Merely staving off the inevitable. Lee, Piett, McCoy... I lost a lot of good soldiers in the 7th Regiment because of it.
Tzena silently took a sip of her coffee and forced it down.
Tzena - Listen, if you came to try to recruit me back into the defense program, it's not happening. We all know we're stuck here for the rest of our lives, I'm not going to risk my life to fight for a fake cause. Times have changed, I've adapted.
Basshu - They say you're running freight trips using the USS Victory now? Working for that shady Lothnia Freight Company?
Tzena - They pay well. And "shady" is a relative term these days.
Basshu - I imagine you've gotten to see what the rest of this crapsack galaxy looks like today first-hand.
Tzena - I don't imagine it's too different from Vanexia when I torched that place to the ground.
The two of them laughed a little bit at the joke. Even with 100 more years, Tzena still had a strong contempt for the Andromedans, probably reinforced by their total and utter collapse.
Tzena - Well, actually, they haven't sent me too far yet, though now that I've got some experience in trading they're willing to send me out into the galaxy.
Basshu - My friends tell me you joined up some five years ago. Had some trouble with your early clients?
Tzena - Gah, you know me far too well.
Tzena took another sip of her coffee and gagged a bit upon discovering that some of the coffee grounds had found their way into her beverage.
Basshu - I know you well enough to say that you drinking coffee is pretty unusual, let alone the shitty coffee that gets distributed throughout the colonies now.
Tzena - It makes me feel better. If only I could get some hands on some grinds from back in Bunsen...
Basshu - I know how you feel, my lady.
Tzena began to feel nostalgic but then held a resolute expression as she finished the rest of the coffee in a single chug. Her communications device also relayed a signal telling her the ship was ready for departure. She quickly got up and made her way to the exit.
Tzena - Well, what do you know. Time to go.
Basshu - Lady Tzena-
Tzena - I'm sure I'll be seeing you again some time soon-
Basshu - But what if I don't see you again? If this is the last time I'm seeing you, I'd at least want to say a proper goodbye.
Tzena stopped in her tracks and turned to face an anxious Basshu.
Basshu - I want to wish you well on your journeys. We may not meet again, but I hope that we can meet again. I'll always be here in the colonies for you, since you are, have been, and always be my Lady.
Tzena - ...Thank you. You are the greatest friend a person like me could have.
The two embraced each other one last time before Tzena signaled the order to be beamed back to her ship. As she dematerialized, Tzena shot in one last goodbye before she reappeared on the bridge of the Victory.
Tzena - So long, old friend.
Tzena bore a melancholy expression as she rematerialized on the bridge, her bridge officers watching. Most of them were unfamiliar with this emotion on their captain's face, but were familiar with the emotion nonetheless.
First Officer Mirra - Something bothering you, Admiral?
Tzena - It's nothing. Let's get ready to set out. Meada, start up the engines.
Mirra - Er, Admiral, I received a transmission while you were gone. Apparently the Lothnia Company wants to have a word with you personally before we head off on this journey.
Tzena huffed as she heard the news. This was an unpleasant surprise.
Tzena - Fine. I guess we have no choice. Meada, we're taking a slight detour to Tholassia, we have some old "friends" to see.
Web of Shadows
Tholassia was a bit of a hostile planet, orbiting relatively close to its star making the planet quite hot and its wildlife not the most friendly. With terraforming and astroengineering, it could have been made more hospitable and moved to a more accommodating orbit, but obviously, no one these days had the resources nor money to support such a project. Nevertheless, the planet was still inhabitable; uncomfortable, but inhabitable nonetheless. It was upon this planet that the Lothnia Company had decided to establish their headquarters.
Most would not be too pleased if they had to come to this planet, though Tzena was especially annoyed now. The USS Victory did not have to travel too far from Stafamur to Tholassia - with Tholassia being on the edge of space still "controlled" by the TIAF colonies - but time was money and any extra time needed was money being thrown out the airlock.
Tzena - Mirra, come with me to the surface. Meada, you're acting captain while we're down there. If we're not back after an hour, send a security team to the surface to check up just in case our "friends" have a nasty surprise for us.
Navigator Meada - Got it, captain.
Tzena - Alright. Beam us down.
Tzena and Mirra disappeared from the bridge and rematerialized on Tholassia's surface, where they were immediately hit with a wave of warm air characteristic of this tropical wasteland. Judging by their surroundings, the two had beamed down into part of Tholassia's thick jungles.
Tzena - *sighs* Nice to know the transporter's targeting systems are as sterling as ever.
Trudging through some foliage, the two made their way onto a beat-up paved road that led into the city. In older times, this road would have had a skyway running directly above it, but the high prices for fuel and construction had left the skies of Tholassia silent except for the normal ambiance of the Tholassian jungle.
Tzena and Mirra passed two cargo yards, on opposite sides of the road from each other, as they made their way to the distinctive lone skyscraper that the Lothnia Company called home. The cargo yard on the right was adorned with the emblem of the Lothnia Company and was filled with countless stacks of cargo crates, while the one on the left was nearly empty, save for a few kids playing sports on the concrete, and was marked only with the faded logo of what was likely another freight operator long driven out of business by the massive Lothnians. The two entered the skyscraper complex and were greeted by refreshing cool air and a timid-looking Metedarl receptionist.
Mirra - I wonder how much they pay each month just to keep this atrium nice and cool.
Tzena - Beats me. *to receptionist* Hey. Buddy. We've got an appointment with the bosses.
Receptionist - *checks files* Y-yes, indeed you do. E-elevator on the right, p-please... p-please don't hurt me.
Tzena gave the receptionist a skeptical glare as he cowered behind his computer, and then proceeded to the elevator as instructed.
Tzena - *to Mirra* The bosses only wanted to see me, so stay down here and just keep watch.
The elevator doors closed as Mirra nodded in understanding. Tzena pushed the button labeled "CEO's Office" and waited as the elevator began moving up. The Lothnia Company, being filthy rich by modern Andromedan standards, were able to afford a few luxuries, judging by the smooth and quick elevator ride up. Tzena did not get to enjoy the cool lobby air for much longer as the doors opened and the sweltering heat of the CEO's office flowed in. She paused for a second to acclimate herself to the heat and walked into the reception room.
A Dragoozie was running the reception desk in the CEO's tower, and while she was trying her best to look composed, it was clear from the towel on her snout and numerous water bottles in the trash can that working all day in this environment was not doing her any good. Tzena herself began to feel like she was sweating, though having been here before she knew what to expect. She was wearing a short-sleeve shirt but rolled her sleeves up anyways, giving her the appearance of wearing a tank top.
Tzena - I have an appointment with Mr. Toszthor.
Receptionist - Yes - ahem - right away. I'll - cough - bring him in now.
The receptionist took a large sip from her bottle of water before pressing a button on the intercom signaling Mr. Toszthor to come in. Tzena began fanning herself as Mr. Toszthor came through the great wooden doors that separated the lobby from the office.
Reimus Toszthor - Captain Tzena! Yes, yes, I have been expecting you. Please, please, come right in and have a seat.
Tzena - Yes, Mr. Toszthor. Right away.
Tzena was a little fidgety as the heat was already getting to her, though to Toszthor, there was nothing wrong with the temperature. In fact, to him, it was a little bit crisp. He was an Icolian, after all.
Tzena took a seat in a small wooden chair while Toszthor sat on the other end of the table in a very comfortable leather armchair. Toszthor noticed that Tzena had brought a magazine in from the lobby to fan herself.
Toszthor - You know I'm going to have to ask you to put that down.
Tzena - Of course. It's just, well, you know, hot.
Toszthor - I don't have a problem with this temperature and neither should you.
Tzena - ...of course.
Tzena reluctantly put the magazine on the floor while Toszthor handed her a towel to wipe up her sweat.
Toszthor - I just had that chair restored, if you get it drenched I'll be cutting it from your salary.
Tzena - *sarcastic* Yes. Of course.
Toszthor - Now I understand you're going on your first major trip outside of Federation space, so as CEO of this company I feel that I ought to give you some pointers before you leave.
Tzena - Where's Yilkene, busy again?
Toszthor - Oh, you know him, busy keeping this company together in this terrible time.
Yilkene was the "other" CEO of the company, though in truth he was the true operator of the company. Most people knew that Toszthor was the "charismatic" face of the company while Yilkene was the man behind the curtain running everything. The two were both Icolians and had left the Icolian Empire because of their more businessman-like ways. They had set up shop on Tholassia before the collapse of Andromeda and eventually made it big when efficient freight came into demand in the post-collapse days.
Tzena - Alright, let's get to the point. What do you need to tell me?
Toszthor - I have only given you this mission because I have trust in you. Trust that you will fulfill what this company stands for.
Tzena - Which is...
Toszthor - Getting the job done no matter what. You understand. If the customer doesn't want to pay up, twist his arm a little. And if he's still resistant after that, twist his arm off.
Tzena - And if I feel like someone deserves a freebie-
Toszthor - We DO NOT GIVE FREEBIES! We are A BUSINESS, not A CHARITY! The client knows what he signed up for when he ordered freight from Lothnia! We expect payment for our services, no matter who it's from or what standing they have. More importantly, don't you think all of us here at the Company deserve some compensation for being put through the STRESSES of a delivery run these days?
Tzena - With all due respect-
Toszthor - Alexa. This company was built on trust. Yilkene and I founded this company on trust, and the only way it stays together is... trust. You know that if you do anything out there to betray that trust, I will know. You know very well that this company has eyes and teeth everywhere.
Tzena - Understood.
Toszthor - Very good. Bon voyage.
Toszthor finished his speech with a sinister tone, with Tzena responding with a obviously forced smile. Tzena politely got up from her chair and walked out the door, though in a small act of rebellion, she slammed the door hard. She noticed the receptionist was laid across the desk with her eyes closed as she made her way to the elevator. She was most likely taking a nap, though Tzena mused to herself that she was suffering from heat exhaustion.
Tzena's mind wandered back to what Toszthor had said as she entered the elevator. She scoffed a bit thinking about it. What a load of bull, she thought. "This company was built on trust"? More like fear. Tzena had been trained from birth not to fear death, and she did not fear it now either, though the Lothnia Company's underhanded ways of getting what it wanted disgusted her a little bit. Granted, she had a reputation in the past for brutality, but still, the level to which Toszthor and Yilkene employed it was beyond even Tzena's standards. She didn't fear them, but she was smart enough to realize that upsetting them in any way was not in her best interests.
A "ding" indicated that the elevator had reached the first floor. Mirra was waiting for Tzena on a couch in the lobby.
Mirra - What'd the big cheese have to say, Admiral?
Tzena - The usual. Gave me the talk and all.
Mirra - ...the talk? *snorts*
Tzena - Shut up. Get your mind out of the gutter. Let's get going.
Tzena and Mirra walked outside the building and made the signal to the ship to beam them up. They reappeared on the bridge, where the crew was relieved that they were okay.
Tzena - I'm back, bitches. Let's get this show on the road. Meada, take us out.
Meada - Aye-aye, captain.
The ship's engines were quite old and took a little bit to start up, but within a few minutes the Victory was at cruising speed, setting course for their first destination.
All's Pheromones in Love and War
The Victory slowed to a halt in front of a great gas giant, orbited by two moons. Luckily, this planet was not too far from the old TIAF borders, as the Victory's hyperdrive was in a sorry state. Even then, the trip had taken almost a day to complete on a route that could be covered in an hour in Andromeda's glory days.
This gas giant had been part of what was known as the Divinarium, but only the few survivors from the old days knew what that term meant, since the average inhabitant of Andromeda these days wouldn't be able to tell based on how the Radeon were like now. The snowy second moon of the gas giant was a local capital of prostitution and pleasure, and a frequent customer of Lothnia for all kinds of alcohol. The name of the moon: Alkhuse VB; though these days TIAFians mockingly referred to it as "Alkohol Abuse VB".
Meada - We're in orbit of Alkhuse VB now, captain. They've given us permission to beam down.
Tzena - Perfect, our first stop is the winter whore wonderland. I'll head down alone.
Mirra - Admiral, are you sure you don't want an escort?
Tzena - Believe me, on a planet like this, the worst that could happen is that you get bitch-slapped by some bitch working the stripper poles.
Chief Engineer Lorov - This interests me greatly.
Tzena - Another reason why I'm going alone.
Tzena beamed down to the cold surface and hopped around a little bit to warm herself as her feet touched the frigid snow. There was a light snowfall going on, and it would have been quite a peaceful-looking night were it not for the blaring music and rowdy crowds gathered in front of the Alkhuse Strip building in front of her.
Tzena - Ugh. Smells like whore.
Tzena shoved her way through the crowd and forcefully pushed the automatic doors open, releasing the noise and stench in full force upon her. She reeled from it for a few seconds before trudging into the entrance hall, where she could see men and women dancing on platforms and poles to cheering crowds. A Radeon woman approached her as she made her way into the building.
Radeon - Welcome traveler, looking to relieve those spacetime blues?
Tzena - I'm here on some official business. Where's the manager of this hellhole?
Radeon - Oh, you mean Mr. Rontoor? He's in the back.
Tzena looked across the sea of people to the back of the club, narrowed her eyes, and let out an exasperated sigh.
Tzena - Wonderful.
Tzena began to wade her way through the crowd, trying her best not to make contact with the countless sweaty bodies piled around every platform. However, as she continued to make her way to the back, she felt someone approach her from behind and grasp her shoulders in what felt like a really firm massage.
??????? - You feel a little tense here, perhaps we can go into one of the backrooms and... relax you.
Tzena - What the-
Tzena turned her head to face her unknown masseuse, a bright pink female Zazane. She didn't have any kind of identification on her, though Tzena thought she sort of looked like a "Blossom". Her thoughts quickly turned to disgust though when she realized she was receiving a massage from a female Zazane prostitute. Blossom's eager smile turned to disgust as well as Tzena turned around.
Tzena - Ohohoho, no. I don't swing that way, sister.
Blossom - Hrmph. You're not what I was expecting.
Tzena - The hell do you take me for?
Blossom - Some ignorant fool who came in here desiring to drown the reminders of their pathetic and wasteful life with an evening drowned in ecstasy and hormones?
Tzena - What led you to believe that?
Blossom - Why else would you come here and wander through the hub of all that is perverse?
Tzena - I'm the one who delivers the alcohol your whores drown yourselves in every- get your hands off of me!
Blossom's arms had still been resting on Tzena's shoulders, with Tzena promptly throwing them off. Blossom then immediately lifted Tzena effortlessly and threw her into the drink counter. Tzena landed with a resounding crash, causing a few beer bottles from the bar to fall off and hit her on the head. Tzena angrily got up and began walking at Blossom.
Tzena - So that's how you want to play, bitch? Fine!
Blossom - Call me a whore again, go on! See where it gets you!
Tzena - Whore! Whorewhorewhorewhorewhore!
Blossom paced up to Tzena and delivered an iron-hard fist straight into Tzena's beak, with enough force to knock Tzena over into an unfortunate nearby table. Tzena rubbed her beak as she lifted herself from the splintered table.
Tzena - Grr!... I didn't want to have to use this-
Tzena paused to unsheathe one of her katanas.
Tzena - -but now you've really pissed me off!
The whorehouse crowd backed away from the two in a panic, while Blossom clenched her fists as she stood squarely. Tzena unsheathed her second katana.
Tzena - I bet you love it when they fight back, huh?
As soon as she finished saying that, however, her second katana began crumbling into powder for no apparent reason, with Tzena looking at it in disbelief as the rot descended towards the crossguard.
Tzena - ...the hell?
Tzena looked around the crowd for a short moment to see if anyone had caused this, before turning her attention back to Blossom and giving her a menacing glare as she strolled up into her face.
Tzena - You've got a lot of nerve disintegrating my sword. These were a gift from my mother when I was 14!
Blossom - Then feel free to hit me.
Suddenly, Mr. Rontoor emerged from his office with a scowl on his face, displeased with the situation occurring in his establishment.
Rontoor - Okay, what the hell's going on?
Tzena - Showing this bitch her place.
Rontoor - Blossom?
Blossom - I have told people a million times, sir, I do not like being called a whore.
Tzena - Well, boo-hoo. Whore.
Blossom proceeded to deliver a powerful kick to Tzena's stomach, leaving her reeling from the pain as Rontoor continued.
Rontoor - Blossom, I've told you before to not allure our shipping contractors.
Tzena - You must be- *cough* -Mr. Rontoor.
Rontoor - Yes, sorry for Blossom. She's a little hot-blooded.
Tzena - Some like it - *cough* -hot, huh? Oh, I'll need you to- *cough* -sign here.
Rontoor - Ah, good. We're running out of Paa'go. Popular stuff, that.
Tzena handed Rontoor a datapad, though his attention was diverted before he could sign it.
Rontoor - Now, I think we should discuss business. Blossom... be nicer next time?
Tzena - Yes, her behavior was most... WHORE-ibble.
Tzena shot Blossom a taunting glare as she delivered the pun, with Blossom not giving her the pleasure of a reaction and simply baring her teeth. Blossom pushed her way past some staff and headed for one of the backrooms, the staff falling to the ground as she shoved past them.
Rontoor - She can get a little grumpy at times, she's one for more... erm... upper-crust clients.
Tzena - This galaxy's really gone to shit if that's "upper-crust".
Rontoor - Blossom's not upper-crust herself, she likes that kind of clientele.
Tzena - Whatever. You were saying about discussing business?
Rontoor - Oh, of course, of course. Your shipment... erm... where do I sign?
Tzena - Here, here... and here.
Rontoor mumbled to himself as he reached for a stylus from his coat pocket and signed in the three locations on the datapad Tzena designated.
Tzena - Excellent. I'll have the cargo beamed down to wherever you want it.
Rontoor - We have a warehouse on the left side of the building where we keep everything.
Tzena - Then I'll have my boys beam it down there. You should find it in a few minutes. Anything else, Mr. Rontoor?
Rontoor - No, I don't believe so. I will transfer the payment to you on your way out. Good day.. and, erm... don't be too sore towards Blossom.
Tzena - Oh, believe me, I've dealt with worse Zazane than her. Well then, thank you for choosing Lothnia Freight and have a nice day.
Tzena did a little mock curtsy at the end, as was protocol for Lothnia employees, and Rontoor nodded and returned to his office. As Rontoor closed his door, Tzena turned to face the bar (or at least, what was left of it), and decided a drink would be really nice right now. Luckily, she hadn't destroyed a big part of the bar counter and was able to find a seat.
The bartender showed up after a few moments, and Tzena was surprised to see the bartender was a Tybusen. He was big and bulky, though he looked a little weary. The bartender began to ask what Tzena wanted to drink, but he stopped as he recognized her.
Bartender - Well. Ol' Admiral Tzena, on Alkhuse VB.
Tzena - I take it you're a TIAF expat.
Bartender - Damn straight. Couldn't find work in the colonies, Alkhuse had an opening. So here I am. But what's a respectable gal like you doing in this hellhole?
Tzena - I do what I have to do to survive these days.
Bartender - I hear ya.
Tzena - Well then, I think you'll know what a TIAF girl like me would like. What've you got?
Bartender - Hmm... Well, don't tell Rontoor, but I had a buddy of mine smuggle in some gin from that one brewing planet by the TIAF border... oh, Victree.
Tzena - Victree gin? Hmm. I'll have a taste.
The bartender slid her a bottle of the gin. Tzena sipped some of it and was hit with a burning sensation in her throat.
Tzena - Guh! Powerful stuff.
Bartender - Takes a few minutes for the initial burning to go away.
Tzena handed the bartender some money for the drink, and began drinking. It had a powerful sake-ish taste to it, though the bartender was right and the taste mellowed out after a few minutes. She was about halfway through the bottle when she noticed a Zazane and a Radeon wander in to the club. She didn't know why, but she suddenly felt an urge to get out of the building as soon as possible.
Tzena - Mind if I take this to go?
Bartender - Go ahead. Be sure to stop by again next time you're around Alkhuse.
Fat chance of that, Tzena thought as she quickly got up from her seat. She passed the Zazane and the Radeon as she made her way out, though the two didn't seem to notice her. Back out in the cold snow, Tzena decide to keep herself busy by checking the warehouse to see if the cargo had beamed down alright, which it had. Downing the rest of her drink as she made her way back to the front of the building, she threw the bottle into the street as she winced a little from the aftertaste of the gin. She'd certainly had better drinks before.
Tzena signaled the Victory to beam her up, though as she began dematerializing, a large explosion rocked the side of the strip club, and she made out what appeared to be a Draconis flying through the wall and into someone's car.
Tzena - What the fu-
Tzena was cut off and Alkhuse VB disappeared and she appeared back on the bridge of the Victory.
Tzena - -ck.
Head Medic Jedsoi - You're all bruised up, captain, anything go wrong down there?
Tzena - Everything's fine. Just a scuffle, that's all.
Lorov - Some bitch working the stripper poles bitch-slapped you?
Tzena - Shut up.
The Victory was in the middle of a long hyperspace trip from Alkhuse VB to the next cargo stop. The ship's engineers were concerned over whether the hyperdrives would hold out the entire journey, so they weren't running at full capacity. A trip that would have already taken at least a day on full power was now going to take at least three days. It was better to be safe than sorry, however, as the space they were passing was notorious for pirate sightings, and nothing would be worse for a cargo ship than to have its hyperdrive break down in the middle of pirate space and be left a sitting duck. Taking two extra days to travel would be far less costly than the combined price of any goods they would lose in a likely pirate raid.
Tzena was in the ship's galley, drinking a cup of coffee from one of the ship's replicators. Given the reputation of replicated food, the coffee was naturally worse than usual. It would have to do, though, until they could pick up a fresh supply of fresh commodities at their next stop, as the ship was running low on coffee ever since a bizarre incident regarding a female officer and a large sack of ground coffee.
Tzena was sipping from the coffee as she was trying to read from an old Draconis newspaper she'd "borrowed" from the warehouse workers at Alkhuse VB, but having little knowledge of Dracid and feeling too lazy to retrieve her translator device, she tossed the newspaper to the side and began to sip again from the coffee. All of a sudden, the ship slammed to a halt, causing the coffee to splash up into her face.
Tzena - Well, now that's just absolutely wonderful.
Tzena's expression was that of dull surprise as she got up and carried her coffee with her to the turbolift to the bridge. She arrived to a scene of controlled chaos, officers frantically running around trying to figure out the cause of the sudden stoppage, though retaining their professionalism as they did so.
Tzena - Damnit, Lorov, what've you done with my ship?
Lorov - The engine deck's telling me we've had a *small* malfunction with the ship's hyperdrive, we should be able to get it fixed in a jiffy.
Tzena - Good. I want to get out of this space as soon as possible. Absolutely crawling with pirates.
Mirra - I'll have the combat decks ready weapons and shields, just in case.
Tzena - Alright.
Tzena seated herself in the captain's chair and faced outwards towards the viewscreen, positioning the coffee cup in a precarious position on the armrest.
Tzena - Let's get that engine fixed before we have company.
Almost as if on cue, a second rumble rattled the ship, spilling the remaining coffee on her lap and throwing her out of the chair. The shake was much more violent than the first, likely confirming Tzena's statement. A livid Tzena got up and simply narrowed her eyes.
Tzena - Speak of the devil.
The sounds of explosions and blades being unsheathed along with the shouts and screams of officers began to fill the air, coming from below the bridge and slowly getting louder. There was trouble on board and it was heading their way.
Mirra - Captain, we're detecting a large boarding party moving through the middle decks.
Tzena - Great. Mirra, Meada, come with me. Let's go greet those bastards.
The middle decks were a scene of carnage, with blood and debris flying in all directions. The floors were covered in a sea of corpses filled either with bullet holes or claw marks. The ones who had butchered them were now scavenging the bodies and taking trophies, ripping heads clean off the bodies to the sounds of their own sadistic laughter. These were Zazane, adorned with black scales and red stripes and decorated with makeshift armor with no particular notion of uniformity, although their blades and guns seemed to be of the same design. A particularly large Zazane stood out from the rest, standing taller than his comrades and inhaling from a strange hand-sized device filled with a strange gas.
Tzena, Mirra, and Meada arrived at the scene not long after, with Mirra and Meada cringing from the very bloody sight. Tzena, on the other hand, simply observed the area as if she had seen this many times before, and proceeded through the hellish melee with a very dissonant serenity. The voices of the Zazane could be heard as she continued her approach.
Zazane 1 - Take their skulls, guns, and whatever equipment you can find! Scavenge for materials!
Zazane 2 - I wonder what cargo these lightweights are carrying... do you reckon there's some of the good stuff?
Zazane 1 - I doubt it; these ships don't carry the stuff, they're not registered to.
Tzena - Gentlemen.
Tzena suddenly appeared behind the two conversing Zazane. The rest of their comrades turned to face their new adversary, readying their blades and aiming their guns. The large Zazane did not turn to face her, only taking another inhalation from his device before speaking to her.
??? - Ah, I assume you are the welcome party.
Tzena - You could say that.
Tzena quickly pulled out her pistol, and without looking, shot a Zazane pirate that was trying to sneak behind her. The Zazane flew against the wall and dropped limp.
??? - Who might you be, young one? Are you the leader of this brigade of corpses?
Tzena - Why should I tell you, so that you can kill me right here on the spot? Not that it would work, anyways.
??? - It is rude of me to kill somebody without knowing their name. These children who surround me have yet to learn patience. I like your confidence, however.
Tzena - Hmph. At least you've got some kind of honor left. Alexa Tzena, captain of this ship and the one who's gonna forcefully evict you from the grounds.
Loa - I am Loa, former general of the Guardians of Light. Please, let us not come to misunderstanding. We are both in desperation of resources and materials for we both live spacebound lives. If you allow us to examine your cargo and take what we require, there shall be no more blood on your floors or on my children's hands.
Tzena - *sarcastic* As much as I'd love to give you everything not nailed down on this ship after you killed most of my entertainment contingent, I hope you understand that I don't give a flying shyrak about you or you pirates.
Loa - It appears you are at a disadvantage, child. You are outnumbered and outgunned. The odds are in my favor, my children's favor.
Tzena - Maybe I am outnumbered and outgunned, but I sure as hell outskill all of you combined, and that's all I need.
Loa - Not all of us. I do not doubt your ability, I recognize strength when I see it, but you are dealing with a former Guardian, a man forged to fight. This is your last warning and I am not hesitant to spill blood, child.
Tzena - I disemboweled a Draconis admiral once and I could certainly do it to a Zazane Guardian. So come at me.
Loa - Children... show her what your training has amounted to.
The children roared and charged at Tzena with their daggers and guns, with Loa stepping back and watching while he inhaled again from his device. Tzena, however, drew her katanas and effortlessly cut down a handful of the children, while knocking the blades out of the hands of some others. As the "battle" began, Loa finally turned to face Tzena, revealing a large scar running from his lower lip to the center of his chest, looking quite fresh even though it was quite clear it was quite old. Tzena noticed.
Tzena - You ought to call off your kid soldiers. I wouldn't want to... scar them for life.
Loa paused and lightly chuckled at the pun before delivering his retort.
Loa - Hah, we all have our scars, child. I know more about you than you think, you shall see that soon enough.
Tzena - Touche.
Tzena narrowed her eyes in reaction to Loa's counter-pun and then kicked one of the kids to Loa's feet. Loa simply looked down at the child and kicked him further away, launching the child across the floor and ultimately into a faraway wall. Loa continued to stare as his children continued to fight Tzena. Well, not so much "fight" as "struggle". Tzena was maneuvering fairly easily through the children's gunfire and slashes, repeatedly kicking them in the face and on to the ground.
Tzena - You know, when I came down here, I was expecting a battle, not a football match.
Loa - These children have slaughtered soldiers and pirates alike, I have seen it with my eyes. Good, it shows you were not lying when you claimed to be the infamous Admiral Tzena. An impersonator would have had their skull removed by now, child.
Tzena - If it makes you feel any worse, my katana skills have been a little rusty lately.
Loa then revealed a large machete-like blade that was adorned with countless markings that were etched into the blade. The markings were written in Zan'tai lexicon, and were presumably names and titles of all those the pirate had fought and slain in battle. The pirate himself was wearing pieces of armor recognizable to anyone who had lived over a century ago; it was heavy Guardian armor, imbued with kinetic barrier technology and self-sustaining energy systems and designed to enhance movement rather than reduce it. He was only wearing the shoulder pads, gauntlets, and greaves, though, leaving his torso exposed, showcasing his heavy build as well as his massive scar. He grinned deviously as he unsheathed his blade.
Loa - That is certainly a shame.
Tzena - Indeed, all the more shame on you when I defeat you.
Loa - If anyone is to beat me, I would not have it be anyone other than you, child.
Tzena - That's touching. Now, I wonder how many times I can poke my sword into that silly abdomen of yours.
Loa - Come, and find out. Nobody is stopping you. It is only us now.
Tzena - I've been itching for a good fight lately.
Tzena assumed a battle stance with her katanas primed to deflect any attack by her opponent.
Tzena - Your move.
Loa - Allow me to scratch that itch of yours.
Loa charged forward, cleaver in one hand and claws primed in the other. Tzena countered by deflecting Loa's cleaver with one katana and slashing Loa's open hand with the other.
Tzena - Check.
However, when Tzena tried to pull her blade out of Loa's hand, she found Loa had wrapped his hand around the blade, keeping her in range for another swing of his cleaver.
Loa - This could have been avoided, young one.
Tzena - Clever, catching my blade. Mind holding this for a second?
Tzena let go of the captured katana, freeing up that hand so that she could deliver a powerful kick to Loa's arm, loosening his grip on the sword and ultimately sending it flying out of his hands as he stumbled backwards. Tzena caught the blade by the handle and readied herself for the next attack. Meanwhile, Loa jumped backwards after being pushed back by the kick, watching the flesh around the wound on his hand writhe and ultimately pull itself back together as the blood clotted.
Loa - It will be a pleasure separating your skull from your spine, child. In fact, I may just spare your crew so that they can grieve over how much they have lost.
Tzena - With just that knife? You must not be very popular in the kitchen.
Loa - This blade is a Kuakanta - a weapon used by my ancestors to kill demons and maligned spirits whereas normal blades could not. My belief is that of the Rahonta; whereas most Zazane believe we were made for fighting, those of the Rahonta believe we were made for hunting.
Tzena - Well then... I think you just mistook a predator for prey.
Tzena rushed at Loa and delivered a kick to his stomach. Loa withstood the blow and slapped Tzena in the face with his free hand, leaving claw marks on the side of her face. Loa then raised his Kuakanta blade and prepared to send it flying down towards Tzena, but Tzena blocked the strike with one of her katanas and returned the favor by slapping Loa back. Loa leaped back and growled, baring his teeth, revealing gums filled with carved marks and teeth tattooed with patterns.
Loa - You have nerve, child.
Tzena - An eye for an eye, a slap for a slap... You Zazane really never have heard of that Gandhi guy, have you?
Loa - Gandhi... sounds like a warrior's name with a warrior's reputation. We have our own method to revenge, however. A head for an eye, a spine for a hand.
Tzena - Doesn't seem like the most economical of revenge systems... but it will work for me. I'll take your head for the eye that was taken from me!
Loa - Then make it quick, for I grow tired of waiting.
Loa took hold of his Kuakanta with both hands and stood in a ready stance, his devious smile widening after he took another breath from his handheld device. Tzena paused and cocked her head in half-confusion, half-irritation.
Tzena - Performance-enhancing drugs, that certainly seems fair.
Tzena charged forward and made several quick slashes at Loa, with Loa blocking most of them though failing to deflect a couple slashes which landed on his exposed collarbone and sides. He was unfazed by these wounds, however, and quickly went in for several agile, powerful strikes of his own. Tzena and Loa seemed to casually talk as they went back and forth with their slashes.
Loa - Incorrect; they are performance suppressors for they contain the voices of the spirits to calm me.
Tzena - Then I guess you'll have a peaceful death. Even if it is one that involves me driving my katanas down your throat.
Loa pulled back and prepared himself for another onslaught, but his eyes suddenly opened wide and he raised a hand as to indicate to stop the fight. He stood upright and placed his hand against his ear. He muttered something into what Tzena deduced to be a communications device and then lowered his arm to face Tzena.
Loa - Mmhmm... affirmative, right away. ...I am afraid we will have to "cut" this fight short, my attention and presence is required elsewhere if you do not mind.
Tzena - Fine then. Why don't you take some fried *chicken* on your way out?
Loa - ...Chicken?
Tzena - You Zazane are seriously centuries behind on slang.
Loa - I am required to meet with a supplier, although I fear that they may not be content with your vessel's escape from this area. I shall reveal to you one thing, however; there are hyperspace interference installations across this space, it is a common route and many travel through here to go places.
Tzena - Hmph. I guess you've still got your honor about you. Fine, go ahead, get out of here. It'd make it easier for the both of us.
Loa - May the spirits guide your way, child. Feel free to keep any weaponry that you may come across from the corpses of the children.
Loa turned away and became engulfed in energy, disappearing from Tzena's sight. The Victory rumbled a bit as Loa remotely teleported away to his own ship, a vessel similar in size to the Victory stylized with Zazane decorations. The ship quickly cloaked and disappeared from view.
Tzena examined the wide array of bodies surrounding her and was ultimately disappointed with what she could salvage.
Tzena - Just a bunch of useless Zazane junk. I guess we could use it as scrap metal.
On the far side of the room, a Zazane was leaning against the wall, nursing a bullet wound. He loudly grunted as he started to get up. He seemed about the size and stature for a teenage Zazane, having been noticeably taller than his younger brethren yet not nearly as big as Loa. It also happened to be the same Zazane Tzena had indiscriminately shot as she was introducing herself to Loa. Tzena, Mirra, and Meada turned to face him and he stumbled to his feet.
Tzena - Hmph, thought he was dead.
???? - B-bastard... h-he sent us here to c-confirm his suspicions!
Tzena pointed her katana at the Zazane, who stopped and glared at her. He snarled at her as blood dripped from his mouth and chest and his shoulders moved up and down with his heavy panting.
Tzena - Hold it right there.
???? - *growls*
Tzena - What do you know about this Loa bastard and his intentions?
???? - ...h-he's no pirate, I-I can tell you that! He's an o-operative, takes assignments from higher-ups i-in the Syndicate. He's into some heavy shit; prostitution, drugs, w-weapons. He's a marketer, a s-salesman as well as a m-merc.
Tzena - *under her breath* Syndicate, huh... *to the Zazane* You, give me your name and relation to the Loa bastard.
Krao - Name's Krao, I w-was born into the Syndicate from o-one of Loa's whores, as w-was everyone else you s-slaughtered.
Tzena - Give me one good reason why I shouldn't impale your chest right now and stop that ridiculous panting of yours.
Krao - I have i-insight into Loa, h-his strategy, his w-weaknesses and strengths. I'm also g-genetically recognized as S-Syndicate p-personnel, I can g-get you to certain places a-and access certain information r-remotely. A-And I'm a battle asset.
Tzena - Hm. Good enough. Mirra, get him down to the medical bay and get him patched up. Welcome aboard.
Krao - I don't n-need no m-medical! This will h-heal soon, it's only a s-scratch... Who's Mirra?
Tzena - First Officer of this ship. And kid, I'll send an officer to medical for treatment if he gets so much a paper cut from the toilet paper in the restrooms, so I'll sure as hell send someone like you who has a bullet wound.
Mirra - C'mon, kid. I won't bite.
Krao looked at Mirra, staring at her for a while, his breathing calming down as he gazed at her. He then came back to his senses and nodded in approval.
Krao - I-I may have b-been a little hasty, i-it really, r-really hurts.
Mirra - We'll get down there in no time.
Mirra guided Krao to the turbolifts, while Tzena assessed the damage and turned to Meada.
Tzena - You and Operations are in charge of clean-up.
Meada rolled her eyes and made her way back to the bridge.
The turbolift arrived in the medical ward, with quite a few of the beds occupied by injured officers. Mirra escorted Krao to an unoccupied room.
Krao - You get injured people often?
Mirra - Yeah, usually after getting a boarding party like yours.
Some of the officers in their beds noticed Krao as he walked by their rooms, stirring up a commotion as officers tried to get out of their beds to confront one of their assailants.
Officer - No- let me go, doc! Let me go! I'm gonna give that Zazzie bastard a taste of my- fdasfdafdashflkda
The rowdy officers were quickly sedated and put into a peaceful sleep. Mirra finally found an empty room for Krao and began turning on the various medical machines, while Krao grew concerned after seeing the officer attempting to get out of bed to attack him.
Krao - J-just so you k-know, I didn't k-kill anyone. I only s-stabbed a guy in the b-back of the s-shoulder, some guy shot him b-before I had the chance to finish him... This probably isn't the b-best first impression, my apologies.
Mirra - Relax, once they know you're with us, I'm sure they'll be more accepting of you. Now just sit on the bed right there.
Krao's concerns about the officer were dissuaded, though were quickly replaced by nervousness about the hospital environment he was in, which was quite unusual for a Zazane like him.
Krao - ...Zazane don't usually u-use hospitals... what does t-this involve?
Mirra - These monitors are gonna keep track of your vitals - you know, like your heart rate and brain activity. So that we know you're alive and all.
Krao - But I know I'm a-alive and you know I'm a-alive!
Mirra - Yeah, but if you were asleep or something, we wouldn't be able to tell just by looking at you. Now, hold still, I'm gonna take a look at your wound.
Krao remained still as he moved his hand away from the wound. The flesh around the wound was writhing and trying to pull itself together on a very small scale. He winced as he pulled his hand off.
Mirra - Hmm... you definitely took a hit there, but it didn't go too deep or hit any of your vital organs, so that's good. I'm gonna administer some regenerative cream to the spot to make it heal faster, okay?
Krao looked at Mirra and raised an eyebrow, his mouth open slightly and his tongue almost sliding out, as if intrigued by this "regenerative cream".
Krao - ...cream? A-As in that g-gooey, sticky s-stuff?
Mirra - Well, it's actually more like a lotion, which means it's not so much gooey as it is a little slippery.
Krao's expression changed into a smile, although it was the unsettling sort of smile rather than the comforting kind. His mood shifted from nervousness and worry to confidence, though again in an unsettling manner. Mirra was a bit disturbed by the sudden change from apprehension to enthusiasm.
Mirra - ...you're fine with this, right?
Krao - Umm, y-yes, yes! Of course, w-whatever's necessary! Y-you may w-want to apply quite a bit, though... t-the wound hurts, like, a lot. Really a l-lot.
Mirra - Well, okay...
Mirra poured some of the cream into her hands and began lightly rubbing it around the site of the wound, which was in the middle to lower parts of his torso. Krao leaned his head back and winced a little bit at first, but the wincing soon became quiet, pleasured purring as Mirra continued to massage the area.
Mirra - ...are you doing okay?
Krao - Yeah... doesn't feel like it's getting any better, though... may want to apply a little bit more.
Mirra - Hm, I hope this bottle isn't expired.
Mirra poured some more cream and continued applying it. Krao continued to lean back and hum with contentment. A doctor walked by the room and was disgusted by the sight of what appeared to be Mirra spreading a white substance over Krao's lower abdomen with Krao sighing with pleasure.
Krao - Hehe, I don't t-think it would matter m-much, lotion is l-lotion, after all, krahana.
Mirra - Well, I mean, I'd hate to be using expired medicine on you, though it might be all I can spare right now, so this might take some time.
Krao - Mhmm... I'd hate to s-sound selfish, but maybe a little extra w-would be necessary? You know, just in case i-it doesn't heal completely and it t-tears while on-mission. I mean, if it's e-expired, up the d-dosage, you know?
Mirra - ...I guess.
Mirra poured some more cream. Krao's purring grew continuously louder, though he attempted to hide it with the occasional wince, which was faked, of course. His toes and fingers curled and retracted as the cream was spread over his torso and the wound. He eventually lifted his head up and looked at Mirra.
Krao - So, t-tell me about you. What do you do aside from plea-- treat people here?
Mirra - Well, I'm not normally a medical officer, there's just not enough doctors right now to treat you, though I do have some standard medical knowledge. I'm the first officer, which means I'm in charge of the ship when the captain is away. I'm also the chief tactical officer, which means I know a bit about guns and other things that shoot stuff.
Krao - Oh really? Well... I guess you could say I'm an expert at s-shooting, I suppose we would work well together. On a team. Of two. Surrounded.
Mirra - Well, personally, I'd bring more officers along - the more the merrier - but I guess if going in pairs is your thing...
Krao - Personally, I think things become a little more... hectic and distracting when there are more people.
Mirra - I suppose it's easier to focus on your own shooting when there aren't dozens of people around you shooting in every which direction.
Krao - Hehehe, I like to know where and who I'm shooting at rather than, how'd you call it, "friendly fire".
Mirra - Yeah, that would be unpleasant.
Mirra paused and picked up the bottle of cream, shaking it a little bit to determine how much was left.
Mirra - You're sure you're okay, kid?
Krao - Agh! I-It still hurts... I-I don't think it's healing right, m-maybe you should spread it round a l-little more, maybe adding an e-extra large dose will help?
Mirra glared at him skeptically before pouring some more cream and getting to work once again.
Mirra - ...Well, alright, but this is about as much as I can spare right now.
Krao began purring again, leaning his head back as he swayed his tail from side to side.
Krao - You know, it'd be very unfortunate if I end up in here again with another injury like this, since you can't spare cream and a-all...
Mirra - We haven't gotten too many serious injuries lately on the ship until now, so we built up a bit of a stockpile, but I feel like we haven't seen the last of that Loa guy and that the medbay is gonna be filled up again soon.
Krao - Can I ask for an opinion? ...What do you think about me being taken on board?
Mirra - I'm all for new crew members. You know, a new face to see when you're walking around the decks. Though you did take quite a bit of the regenerative cream.
Krao - Do you not feel unsettled? About me being Zazane, I mean, not about using the cream.
Mirra - Not really, it's not like it isn't normal to see a Zazane in Andromeda these days, though Tzena does have a bit of a grudge against the Zazane.
Krao - Considering that my siblings and father came along, killed crew members in cold blood, took their skulls and wanted to take your cargo, you don't feel... anything, at all?
Mirra - Trust me, kid, Zazane pirates are something I've learned to deal with over the last 100 years. Of course I'm upset over the dead crew, though I can tell when someone's really had a change of heart.
The monitors in the room began to beep with greater volume and frequency, indicating that Krao's internal activity was speeding up. Mirra glanced quickly at the monitors before turning to face Krao again, this time with a hint of caution.
Mirra - Er... are you alright, kid?
Krao - Huh? Oh I...I-I'm fine, I'm Zazane after all. Just felt a bit surprised by... something.
Mirra shot him a skeptical glare before getting up to wash her hands in a nearby sink.
Krao - What? What's that look for?
Mirra - You know what, never mind, I'm just gonna get up and let the cream work its slooooow healing magic.
A disappointed Krao sat upright and waited for Mirra to finish washing her hands.
Krao - How long is it gonna take?
Mirra - Maybe an hour or two. Just rest a little while you wait.
Krao - Rest? How do you recommend I rest? I don't like lying around!
Mirra - Well... entertain yourself, I don't know.
Krao - Can't you ente-- Do you mind staying and comforting me? I am a loooone stranger in a veeeeery odd place, after all.
Mirra - ...Fine. I guess I have time to kill.
Krao - We're gonna go kill something?
Mirra - Well, no, it's just a figure of speech. I can't really let you leave the medbay, not with a bullet wound in your chest.
Krao - Then why don't you apply more cream?
Mirra - I don't have all the regenerative cream in the world, kid.
Krao - Aww, not even a little to spare?
Mirra - I don't usually have to apply as much as I did with you, though I haven't treated a ton of Zazane in my lifetime so I just used extra to be sure. But to use more right now would be pretty absurd.
Krao - Gah, suppose you're right. Logic's a bitch.
Mirra - I guess if you're really desperate to have something ease the pain, I could maybe get a bottle of olive oil and see if that helps things.
Krao - Oli-what?
Mirra - Olive oil, you know, light, smooth, oily...
Krao - I have never heard of an "olive".
Mirra - Hm, there's a lot of TIAF things your kind hasn't heard of before.
Krao - However, I shan't complain to it. It sounds absolutely... what's the word? Sexy, sensual, sensitive, hot, ...delightful! That's the word!
Mirra narrowed her eyes and slowly backed out of the room.
Mirra - Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.
She made her way to the turbolift to go to the galley for some olive oil, though she wasn't planning on actually coming back for some time. She couldn't put her finger on it, but something about that Krao kid bothered her.
Rubbing Salt in an Old Wound
Tzena was in a good mood as the Victory pulled into orbit of their destination. The hyperdrives had held up for the rest of the journey and none of the engines had exploded, which was good, though they needed maintenance which would be performed while Tzena was away delivering the cargo. Plus, they would be getting their new array of commodities, as they were running a little low by the time they arrived. The ship was also getting a replacement for the entertainment contingent that was killed when Loa attacked, which would mainly consist of picking up a pair of notoriously bad Radeon and Draconis comedians and a pile of old newspapers constructed in the shape of the old Kraw Emperor Kies for everyone to laugh at. Not the best you could get in these times, but far from the worst.
Most of all, however, Tzena was happy because this planet would be familiar territory for her. As she looked down on the planet from orbit, she could remember when the great cities were just rubble, and how she was the one who made those cities into rubble, one hundred years ago. Good old Vanexia Prime in all of its not-obliterated glory.
Tzena beamed down to the foyer of the New Vanexia Spaceport, a smug grin on her face. This would be a fun stop. As she entered the main hall of the spaceport, she observed a statue of several Imperial species standing on rubble and looking to the ceiling, with a plaque at the base that read, "Dedicated to those who persevered when we resisted the boot of occupiers."
Tzena - They never seem to get their Draconis statues right. I always imagined them having longer snouts and being filled with bullet holes.
The spaceport was not very busy. The city outside was a drab and functional grey, a trademark of new Imperial architecture. In the old days, gold and glass were the architectural style of choice. These days, to decorate the buildings, columns were carved or molded into the outer walls. The city itself was a moderately-busy city of several thousand with a few construction projects going on and heavy Talon Ground Legion presence.
Tzena - They've certainly cleaned the place up.
As she walked about the city, several Ground Legionnaires shot her hostile glances through their helmets. Tzena mock-saluted them as she passed.
Tzena - Good day to you, too.
Tzena's client had asked to meet in an office building in the center of the city. The center of the city housed a great plaza fixated around a titanic golden statue of Uriel, who was depicted wearing dark armor carved from black marble. His hair was shaped to appear to be flowing in the wind while mock flames surrounded the base. Tzena was unimpressed.
Tzena - *sarcastic* Absolutely elegant.
Her sarcasm drew the attention of a nearby on-duty soldier, who marched over to her with rifle firmly in hand. The Legionnaire was a Draconis dressed in face-concealing armor embossed with insignias indicating he was a member of the 1773rd Legion. Tzena turned to face him with a devious smile on her face.
Tzena - *mocking* Oh, hello, officer! Is there a problem?
Legionnaire - Yes. Your kind aren't welcome here.
Tzena - Oh, haha. I drop a few hundred bombs on this planet 100 years ago and I'm still not welcome?
Legionnaire - Your kind took many lives and drove many more from their homes! Of course you're not welcome!
Tzena - Well, boo-hoo. Cry me a river. I'm here on official business anyways.
The angered Legionnaire reached down and clutched Tzena by the throat, snarling as he wrapped his hand around her neck and lifted her off the ground. The unfazed Tzena calmly put her hands around the Legionnaire's fingers and tried to break free.
Legionnaire - Care to repeat that, oppressor!
Tzena - Gee, you have a tight grip. You must work out.
Legionnaire - You're a master of the obvious, aren't you...
Tzena - I was being sarcastic.
Tzena managed to wrench one of the Legionnaire's fingers loose, though the soldier saved her the rest of the trouble and threw her to the ground, letting out an irritated grunt. Some of the other legionnaires on duty walked over to check up on their comrade.
Legionnaire - Out here in the frontier, where demons or pirates may attack at any moment, without His guidance this planet would become a ruin once more!
Tzena - Yeah, with guys like you defending the place...
Legionnaire - Your presence here is an offense to the Paragon. We will be keeping an eye on you.
Legionnaire 2 - Private, what are you doing?
Legionnaire - Venting some issues.
Legionnaire 2 - Try to not do it on the aliens.
Tzena - Y'know, I hear they have Exonet courses for that.
The legionnaire simply huffed and returned to his post, muttering to himself as he marched back. Tzena swiftly got herself back up and dusted herself off, proceeding to the office building which was now not too far from the plaza.
Tzena arrived in the office lobby and took note of the decorations. It wasn't a terribly luxurious setup - as expected of your average business these days - though what caught her eye was a framed portrait of her old Draconis adversary, Admiral Rumabus Dorastion.
Tzena - Hm. He looks better when he's not dead.
The receptionist in the room noticed her presence.
Receptionist - Miss Tzena, is it?
Tzena - Yes.
Receptionist - He's waiting for you on the top floor.
Tzena - Excellent. Thank you.
Tzena made her way into the elevator. The elevator ride was quick, and as the doors opened she was greeted by another set of doors, this time a pair of elegant wooden doors. Quietly opening the doors, Tzena found a comfortable-looking office space populated only by a mature-looking Draconis working on a tablet computer at a desk in the back of the room. To his left was another portrait of Admiral Dorastion, and in front of him was a wide bay window that overlooked the plaza and the gigantic statue in its center.
Tzena - So much Dorastion imagery around here...
Tzena quietly muttered to herself about the omnipresence of Dorastion's visage before clearing her throat to get the attention of the Draconis at the desk. The Draconis looked up and straightened his posture when he noticed Tzena.
Aramus Dorastion - Ah, Lady Tzena, good of you to come.
Tzena - *nods* My pleasure.
Aramus - I understand that you and my uncle had a history so I will cut to the chase. I take it the ordered supplies are in orbit?
Tzena - Yes. All I need are some signatures and I can get it beamed down to wherever you like.
Aramus - Just give me the document, then.
Tzena handed Aramus a datapad with the signature areas demarcated. Aramus signed the document rather hastily and let out a slight snort as he handed it back to Tzena.
Tzena - Alright then. Where do you want your cargo?
Aramus - I will have my secretary mark the warehouses where I would like them delivered to.
Tzena - Alright, I'll have it beamed down then.
Tzena extended her arm to shake, though Aramus bluntly rejected the gesture.
Aramus - ...I would rather not.
Tzena - Hm. Fine. Thank you for choosing Lothnia Freight.
Tzena did the standard mock curtsy and Aramus nodded in observance. He turned to look out the bay windows with his hands clasped around his stomach.
Aramus - Is that all, lady Tzena?
Tzena - Yes, your order will be in the warehouse in no time.
Aramus - Good. Good day.
Tzena made her way to the elevator and began to slip through the wooden doors, but she paused as she opened the doors. She felt a little guilty about leaving Aramus this way; as much as she reveled in the death of his uncle, deep down she felt it just wasn't right for her to just leave him without closure, especially not when it was someone as closely related as an uncle. She turned to face Aramus before going through the doors.
Tzena - ...if it makes you feel any better, your uncle was a worthy opponent. He died with honor.
Aramus - ...You are kind to say that, lady Tzena. He served the empire well and honestly... perhaps what you did was a mercy.
Tzena - Whatever's been going on in the Imperium... I don't like it.
Aramus - Oh? I knew he would have disliked the collapse of our territories, perhaps appalled by the conditions many citizens live in.
Tzena - I may have a reputation around here for brutality, but tyranny is not something that I stand for.
Aramus - I am aware of how fond the Federation is of democracy. But the more propaganda talks about Uriel as a savior... the more I want to believe it is true.
Tzena - Maybe this is a bad comparison because the last time I was here the planet was rubble, but do you really think you're better off than you were a few years ago?
Aramus - The Imperium is surviving, right now that's all I really find comfort in.
Tzena - Hehe, I think we're all just trying to survive. All we can do these days is survive, not truly live.
Aramus - Some in the few surviving core worlds can, especially the elitist few living in Minos'Drakon or the Dyson colonies. The rest of us have to live and make do.
Tzena - I guess we should be thankful we're still alive... Well, I have to go. Goodbye... and good luck.
Aramus - Thank you for providing closure, lady Tzena. Farewell.
Tzena slipped through the doorway and into the waiting elevator, feeling better now that she'd given some peace to Dorastion's nephew. She may have despised the Draconis but she certainly understood the value of family.
Tzena confidently strode out of the building and onto the plaza, mock-saluting the same Legionnaire that had confronted her earlier. Tzena continued past the furious soldier, who jolted to run out and grab her but was pulled back by his squadmates.
Tzena - Dominicus Vinterva, ya asshole!
Legionnaire - Let me go, I'll rip her sodding throat out!
Tzena - Come at me, bro!
Tzena chuckled to herself, stepping with an air of self-satisfaction as she listened to the Legionnaire descend into a fit of seething rage. When she wasn't looking, though, two Blood Dragons appeared and blocked her path, looming over her even moreso than the Legionnaire due to their greater height and bulk.
Tzena - Hello, gentlemen. A wonderful day, isn't it?
Dragon - Silence.
Tzena - You're a bundle of sunshine, aren't you?
Dragon - We've been watching you and, quite honestly, disapprove of your behavior.
Tzena - Boo-hoo, cry me a river.
One of the Dragons reached over and gripped her by the throat as she continued to mock them, lifting her effortlessly as if she weighed nothing.
Dragon - You may not be an Imperial citizen, but the Paragon's word is LAW.
Tzena - Listen, I know you're still pissed that I came and razed this place a century ago, but quite honestly, have you ever heard of forgive and forget?
Dragon - Your actions a century ago are inconsequential. You mocked the edifice of the Paragon, challenged the respect of the Ground Legions, twice, and in the face of His majesty's holy guard you act as if we know nothing!
Tzena - Well, geez, I thought I was delivering cargo to Vanexia Prime, not North Korea. How's your Supreme Leader been lately? Pissy as usual?
Dragon - What did you say... "Dominicus Vinterva, asshole"?
Dragon 2 - Sounds like Imperial defamation to me.
Tzena - If you want to be specific, I said "Dominicus Vinterva, you asshole".
Dragon - That does not help your case.
The Dragon tightened his grip on Tzena's airways, partially constricting her breathing and making her voice sound more forced.
Tzena - Damn. Your physical training courses are thorough.
Dragon - We will grant you a mercy, as your foreign nature invites ignorance. You may apologize for your remarks and behavior. Or, we can make an example of you.
Tzena - Fine. I'm sorry.
Dragon - A full apology.
Tzena - Fine, only for you, since you seem like such an absolutely nice guy. I'm sorry for insulting your Paragon, you, and that prissy Ground Legionnaire.
Dragon 2 - Good enough. Let her go.
The Dragon holding Tzena slightly lowered her before relaxing his grip, letting her drop to the ground. She rubbed her neck and straightened out her attire a bit before signaling the order to beam back up to the ship. However, as she began beaming out, she quickly flipped off the two Blood Dragons. One of the Dragons quickly charged his fist and attempted to smash her head in before she dematerialized, but was too late and passed straight through the disappearing image of the defiant captain.
Back on the bridge, Tzena was bearing an extremely self-satisfied, smug grin and was almost euphoric as she rematerialized on-board. Mirra saw her expression and immediately knew something had gone down.
Tzena - Punch it, Meada, I just pissed off two Blood Dragons and a Ground Legionnaire and they are absolutely livid.
Mirra - Sigh... can we go anywhere without you pissing someone off, Admiral?