Author - Elliot Frost
Rating - T (Some mildly disturbing content, language and war violence)
This story is linked to another story, Born Into Darkness: The Paths of Morgon Gedo for Morgon Gedo's perspective, you should also read that story!
Xavier stood, long dark gray coat rippling in the chill wind.
"How long has it been like this?" he asked.
"Several days, ever since her accident." said the mother in a strong accent.
"Days..." he muttered, "Why did you not come see me sooner?"
"I didn't think it was this bad, not until she showed me."
"Get her inside, we'll talk prices later." He held open the door for the mother to carry her small child inside.
"Here." Xavier pulled up a chair for the girl to sit in.
"Thank you." said the mother desperately.
He took the girl's hand and unwrapped the thick white cloth that was fastened around it. Underneath was a horrible cut, deep and already infected. "This is really bad," said Xavier gravely, "You said it was a harpoon misfire? What was she doing with a harpoon?"
"She was fishing."
"Her father was with her, they were ice fishing out on the Skyrm."
Xavier injected a small amount of pain killer into her arm, then started cleaning out the wound. "Don't watch," he told the mother. The girl had already passed out from the pain killer.
An hour later they were done. The wound was clean, treated, and bandaged.
“Thank you so much doctor, we are in your debt.”
“40 credits and you won’t be.”
The woman blushed and pulled out a small leather wallet from her simple, fur lined snow garb. “Here is twenty-three, I’ll send my husband Islor over with the rest later today.”
"Whenever he has time, but beta salve isn't cheap out here on the raggedy edge, I have to have it shipped in from Herildic IV. Either that or the inner colony medical facilities, which don’t fund me anymore.” Xavier sighed, “The good part is your daughters wound should be healed by the end of the day, as long as she doesn’t move it too much.”
“I understand, doctor, I’ll make sure Islor remembers to bring you the credits.”
“Thank you.” Xavier said. He let them out, mother carrying daughter, through the insulated, steel door. He watched them go through the large, metal shuttered window. Frost crept over the edges of the window, blurring it with intricate white patterns. Outside was nothing but white fog with the dull glow of three small suns low in the sky. Night would fall soon, long, seventeen-hour night before the first sun would rise. Moisture was everywhere, most of it frozen. The entire planet was a frozen solid sphere of liquid; water, near the surface, then heavier liquids farther down and eventually a solid rock core.
At nightfall the mist would clear because the suns stopped melting the frozen surface of the planet. The mist would refreeze over everything that wasn't under shelter, revealing the cluster of buildings that made up Halinstad. Halinstad was a small town on an insignificant planet, full of people who wanted to either hide from the Alliance or had an unhealthy love for snow and ice. Photographers and writers would also sometimes visit because of the massive, stunning ice sculptures that were created naturally with the melting and refreezing of the ice near the equator line.
Xavier turned away from the window and looked around his simple facility. The entire main floor was one large room. Hospital beds with curtains around them, chairs, rolling metal tables with tools and instruments on them, and various machines were scattered around with no particular order in mind. Along the far wall were cabinets and shelves with bottles of pills and liquids, sets of instruments and a sink.
Xavier walked over to the sink, weaving through the maze of tables, and leaned over it. His ice-blue eyes were dark and bloodshot. He hadn’t slept well recently. His hair was black and shaggy, falling almost to his shoulders. He wore a tattered dark gray jacket with silver buttons and a badge on the shoulder depicting a triangle made of three smaller triangles, this was a token from the Sixth Rebellion of the outer colonies, which he had fought in as both sharpshooter and a medic at different times. Coming from underneath his jacket a black hood rested on his back, it was deep and would sit low, covering most of his face if he wanted it to. He also wore black, fingerless gloves for keeping his hands warm while he fingered his cold metal instruments. The rest of his outfit consisted of thick, black, waterproof pants and black combat boots (also a reminder of the Sixth Rebellion).
He had been drafted into the Insurrectionists Army (or simply, “the Rebels”) at the age of 14, as an orphan. He had been proud to serve, even if only as an assistant to the medical officer at a small camp on the outskirts of the war zone. Xavier had learned much about medicine and cleaning wounds and how to treat different types of injuries, but medical work was really only a secondary passion. After a year of doing nothing but treating bullet holes, plasma and laser burns, bandaging cuts and setting broken bones, his opportunity arose.
Smoke, haze, the scent of burning flesh, lightning and fire streaking across the sky…The roof of the medical complex was nothing but burning wooden planks, the fabric was all but disintegrated. Xavier pushed away the sheet of ridged metal that had protected him from the shrapnel; bits of red hot metal were imbedded in the other side. The air around him rippled as the slow, rumbling bomber turned around for another pass. The hot Ahgorian sun reflected off its broad white side and its dual burning blue engines left a simmering heat haze in its wake. Seventeen-year-old Xavier Frost sprinted over and around the debris and charred bodies toward-
His memory was sharply interrupted by a hard knock on his solid steel door. He turned around quickly, scattering a few empty syringes that had been resting on the sink. Through the shuttered window he saw a large, bulky figure. Xavier plucked a deadly, thin combat knife from his boot and held it loosely in his gloved hand before making his way to the door. He pulled the door open with a muffled crack as the fresh ice on the outside broke. The large figure walked in and Xavier realized it was actually two figures, one carrying the other.
“Found this one passed out from cold, right inside the gates, said sommaht ‘bout needin’ a doctor, and he’s got that pretty damn straight. Look at him, he’s got the chill death if you ask me.” Said the large, bulky city guard.
“Hypothermia? Bring him in, over here by the vent.” Said Xavier, closing the door and leading them to a table next to the heating vent, while subtly stowing his blade inside his jacket.
The guard set the other figure down on the table and Xavier got his first good look at him. “Engurrian? What’s a gohram Engurrian doing here? I’m surprised he’s not dead yet.” He pushed the table up against the clean but rusty steel wall, as close to the vent on the low ceiling as possible.
“Should I, uhh, run for some hot water or sommaht’?” asked the guard, standing awkwardly to the side.
“Hot water?” asked Xavier absentmindedly, he had removed the Engurian’s coat and was checking him over, looking for damage to his cold sensitive skin. “I’m afraid that would probably send his system into shock and kill him. We don’t want to do that just yet, seeing as you’ve gone to the trouble of bringing him in.”
“Oh…” said the guard, quelled and uncomfortable.
“You should get back to your post, you’ve done your job.” Said Xavier, forcing a bit of gratitude into his voice.
“Yes, yes I will,” said the guard with some relief. He walked over to the door, knocking half a dozen things off their tables or trays, and exited without looking back.
The Engurian lay on the table, twitching occasionally with his eyes moving behind their lids. Xavier methodically checked him over, looking for cuts, bruises or frostbite, but it looked as if the Engurian was merely intensely cold. Xavier set most of the frozen, stiff clothing to one side and lay a heavy cloth blanket over the Engurian's body. Now all that was left was to wait and hope he would warm up without the need for injections or surgery.
An hour passed, Xavier sat off to the side, thinking.
The bomber was bigger up close, half buried in freshly turned sand. A squad of Rebel foot soldiers crouched in formation outside the exit hatch, waiting to see if anyone would come out. Xavier stared at the fist-sized hole in the plexiglass windshield, and through it the splatter of gore that had been the pilot’s head. The body was slumped in its seat, held in place by the safety straps, dripping. The long, heavy rifle dropped from Xavier’s hands and he sank to his knees.
Something hardened in him in that moment, or something broke. His numbness did not last for more than a few days, just long enough to get him through the hurried and awkward award ceremony, where he was transferred to Sniper Division and given a small medal to wear at formal occasions. Xavier remembered little of this, only what came after. Training, long and hard, and then assignments with-
Suddenly the Engurian gasped and lurched, his eyes coming open. He was shaking slightly and breathing heavily.
"Stay calm, you're safe," said Xavier calmly and firmly, "Focus, you have to stay awake."
"What... is this... place?" the Engurian wheezed.
"A Medical facility in Halinstad, on Stryrrin. I'm trying to revive you, you're suffering from hypothermia. What were you doing out on the plains?"
The Engurian breathed deeply and gathered his thoughts.
"A good question," he said thoughtfully. "There are some things I will not be able to explain, partly by choice, and partly due to a lack of information on my part." He sat up and his face momentarily assumed a slightly disgusted expression, "I will say however that, depending on your relationship with the local authorities of this planet, you may wish to inform them that there is a ship in the wastes; a cargo vessel, I would guess. It had an active beacon when I left it. You will also find three bodies; thieves and scavengers. I will have to keep my own involvement to myself for the moment, however."
“Thank you for the information, ‘authorities’ in this city have little or no funding or interest in salvage. However, I know some good honest folk who’d love to take a look at it. A share of whatever profit made could be sent in your direction should you feel the need for it.” Xavier said good-naturedly. “What’s your name?”
"There are those who have met me in the past who call me Morgon," he replied, speaking slowly, "You may call me by that name if you wish. As for profit, I have no need. For the moment, my clothes would be sufficient if they aren't damaged. After that, perhaps you could indulge me with some tea, if you have it." He sighed. "I am aware of the difficulty in finding actual organic tea, however. That being said, I will settle for synthetic if it is my only option."
“I have your clothes here,” said Xavier, motioning towards the garments that were layed over a table in the corner, mostly dry and thawed from the warmth of the heater. “I’m afraid I don’t keep any tea, synthetic or otherwise. Would imported organic coffee do for now?”
"It will have to do." Said Morgon, "If you'll excuse me, some privacy to dress would be appreciated."
“Absolutely.” Xavier nodded and departed, making for the steel ladder on the far wall that lead up to the second floor. He navigated through the maze of tables and equipment and broke into a jog to run up the ladder and grab the ledge at the top. He pulled himself up and turned around, stepping around the open trapdoor. The room he was in, his room, was only about half as large as the main room on the first floor. Black carpet covered the floor and the walls were decorated with peeling dark blue wallpaper. His bed in the corner was a simple and efficient bunk; next to it was a portable heater emitting a red glow. An open doorway on the far wall led into a simple kitchen where Xavier procured two simple tin mugs. He set these on the counter and started filling a pot with water from the sink.
"Doctor," came a somewhat urgent call from downstairs, "You may want to have a look at this."
Xavier dropped the pot into the sink and jogged to the trap door. He dropped through it, landly lightly despite the longish fall, and made his way swiftly to the Engurian, who was standing out the window.
"See something interesting?" he asked, before glancing out himself. "Shit." He sprinted to the opposite wall and started opening cupboards, grabbing several black bags and slinging them over his shoulder.
"I have a small transport on the roof, it will get us to atmo where I'm expecting a 'friend' who can pick us up. I should have expected this, the entire planet is an Insurrectionist hive, I knew the Alliance would come eventually."
"Of course," Morgon nodded. "The Alliance. Lead on, then."
Xavier was having trouble reading the Engurian, but he decided not to worry about it while their lives where still in danger. "My name's Xavier, by the way." he added before turning and swiftly making for the door. On his way out he grabbed several injection needles, blades, and other small medical supplies which he dropped into one of the bags.
At the door Xavier turned the handle and rammed his shoulder into it, breaking the thin layer of ice on the outside, then pulled it gratingly open. They exited, not bothering to shut the door, and Xavier led around the corner to a ladder leading to the roof.
"Here, you'll need these." He tossed his gloves to the cold-sensitive Engurian and started climbing the frozen metal ladder. Just as he reached the top and climbed onto the snowy rooftop the air was rent by a piercing high-pitched shriek. The sound was eerie, unlike anything he had heard before. It sounded both intelligent and feral.
"We have a serious problem, doctor," Morgon shouted up at him from the ladder. "I hope you have a backup plan."
Xavier knelt at the edge of the roof and offered a hand to Morgon, who took it and allowed himself to be pulled onto the roof. The wind was stronger with nothing to stop it. The medical building had one of the tallest roofs in the area, as most buildings were only a story high.
In the rough center of the roof rested a small military-class fighter. It was shaped roughly like a 'W', with a larger central area and small wings curving forward armed with a small machine cannon each. Underneath the thin layer of ice and snow the paint was matte black, a long gash and several scorch marks ran along the left side revealing the dull sheen of steal armor plaiting. 'Vladen 49' was emblazoned along the side in white, military letters.
"Rather sophisticated for a world this far from the galactic hubs," Morgon commented. "For the moment it isn't an issue, considering the circumstances. I'm assuming you still remember how to fly this thing?"
"I was never very good at it, but yes," replied Xavier. "I picked it up shortly after the conclusion of the sixth human rebellion against the Alliance. It was a gift from a dying freelancer pilot." He jogged to the side of the ship and opened the hatch. "You're in first. The only other seat is a rear-facing gunner position which we may have to make use of very shortly."
Another piercing scream echoed across the skies. Xavier couldn't be sure, but it did not seem to be getting any closer. "Now would be an excellent time to leave," Morgon stated, climbing in to the gunner's seat. "I'll do what I can, you just focus on getting us as far away from this sector of space as possible. We don't want to be nearby when they figure out they've lost us."
Xavier nodded and climbed into the pilot's seat. He relaxed easily into the black leather and pulled the hatch closed, it sealed with a soft hiss. With the flip of a switch he ignited the dual engines, which flickered for a moment before powering on with a bright blue glow.
"The joystick in front of you controls the chaingun, which fires actual copper-plate rounds, so it wont work if we break atmo. There is also an oxygen mask hanging next to you if you need it." Xavier said, looking over his shoulder to make sure Morgan was settled in. He pulled a comlink out of a small compartment, "Helena, this is Xavier Frost, requesting immediate orbital dock. Sending coordinates"
"Frost, this is Valerie Dietiri, what's going on?" replied a female voice from the comm.
"No time, Miss Dietiri, we need off this planet right now." Xavier gripped both joysticks and brought the engines to full power. Slowly the ship rose from the ground, melting the snow beneath it in a wide radius. He pulled back on the joysticks and the ship angled upwards, gathering speed.
"Let's just say the planet is about to turn into molten slag and leave it at that."
The comm clicked off without a response from Valerie, but a second later a sleek silver transport ship appeared through the last scattered remnants of cloud and atmosphere. At the same moment Xavier caught a glimpse of another ship out of the corner of his eye, it almost looked like a pirate vessel or a slaver ship apart from the uncontained bolts of energy flickering across its hull. It didn't appear to be on an intercept course, so Xavier dismissed it as temporarily unimportant as he focused on safely landing the fighter in one of the two available shuttle slots on the underside of the "Helena", Valorie Dietiri's personal transport ship.
The heavy latches clicked as they fastened Vladen 49 to the underside of the Helena's sleek left wing. A hatch opened just above them, and a ladder dropped down next to the cockpit.
"Come on, we have to get out of here and into there before we freeze to death," said Xavier, making ready to open the hatch. "You go first, I'll follow."
Morgon said nothing, but unstrapped his harness. Xavier popped the hatch and followed the Engurrian after taking a moment to hoist his bags over his shoulder, climbing the ladder one-handed. He emerged from the docking hatch into the ship and set his bags down on the clean, white surface of the floor. The shining clean light was somewhat blinding for a second after the dark of space, but Xavier soon recovered. Morgon didn't seem to be fairing as well.
"I am at a disadvantage here, doctor. Perhaps after we've been introduced to the captain we could inquire after some darkened lenses, otherwise you won't find me in the best of moods on this voyage." he said, squinting.
"We'll get you something, soon as we're out of here," he replied sympathetically, "Miss Dietiri, we're on board. Can we get out of here?"
"Coordinates?" came Valerie's voice over the ship's comm system.
Xavier glanced at Morgon questioningly, to see if he had a preference.
"Anywhere but here," said Morgon. "In the meantime, i'm going to try and find a dark, warm place to gather my thoughts. Perhaps near the engines. I will meet with the both of you in a few hours."
Xavier nodded as Morgon turned away. He picked up his bags again and made for the helm of the ship to talk to Valerie, who he had only ever spoken with over the comm once, or twice now, he supposed.
Traversing through its halls, Xavier couldn't help but notice how beautifully the ship's interior was designed. Sleek and smooth, there were no sharp edges, everything was colored in shades of matte white and deep blue. He made his way from the small shuttle dock down a passageway the curved slightly to the left, following the contour of the ship. Every so often an automatic door on the left led further into the ship. He assumed the bridge was positioned at the bow of the ship, as far to the front as possible, so he continued along the passage until it converged into what appeared to be the central navigation chamber.
The chamber itself was smaller than most military grade vessels, like Xavier was used to, only meant to be manned by two or three. It sloped into a point at the front of the ship, with two pilot seats surrounded by holographic displays. There were also two real windows, reenforced slits with panels that could be closed over them.
In the seat on the left sat a slim figure, as he approached she spun around and stood up greeting him with an outstretched hand.
"Mr. Frost, it's a pleasure, what's going on? I was sheduled to dock an hour ago but I lost contact."
He shook her hand and set down his bag again, "Likewise, and you know about as much as I do. The planet is under siege by... well I'm not sure what, but the Engurian I brought with me knows. We just got out in time, thank you for responding so quickly." "Under siege? Styrrin is a border planet of little to no importance strategically speaking, as far as I know it's just a frozen rock full of people in need. Who would want to attack it?"
"Your guess is as good as mine, but it won't last long. I have no idea as to the extent of the attack, but Halinstad is probably glass right about now." Xavier looked away for a moment.
"I'm sorry," Valerie said consolingly, "We're headed back to Ehrial, safest place I know of, we'll be ok."
"Ehrial!? As in Alliance Core planet Ehrial?" he jolted out of his momentary lapse of grief.
"Yes?" replied Valerie hesitantly, "Is that a problem?"
"Well, actually, yes-" he was interrupted by the hiss of the door opening at the back of the room. Behind it stood the Engurrian, Morgon.
"Doctor," he said, nodding to Xavier, "Captain," he nodded to Valerie as well, "I'm sure you both have questions for me, some of which I have answers for."
Valerie nodded curtly and extended a hand, "Valerie Deitiri, a pleasure to make your acquaintance,"
Morgon shook her hand respectfully, "I appreciate being welcome aboard your vessel. It's a bit... bright, for my tastes, but that is, unfortunately, an idiosyncrasy of my people. I don't expect you to alter the ship's lighting just for me." He turned back to Xavier, "As I said, I have some answers for you. Not many, but those I can provide may be useful to you." He retreated to a seat at the science and navigation control panel. "I cannot say for sure, but I suspect that your planet was targeted entirely due to my presence, Doctor. There is always the possibility that my ego is making more of the situation than there really is, I am inclined to disagree with that assessment." He looked at his hands, flexed them into fists, unflexed them again. "If I had to make what you humans would call an 'educated guess', I would say your planet was attacked by the forces of a Builder."
Xavier folded his arms and leaned back against another console, "A builder..."
"A... difficult concept," the Engurrian answered slowly, choosing his words with deliberation. "I don't expect you to have heard of them. Most humans have not, which is something extraordinarily lucky for your species." He glanced around the bridge, "Imagine, Doctor, a black hole. As most species know, a black hole tends to warp reality around itself. Fundamental laws of a scientific nature break down and begin to fail. Energy is released and absorbed. The forces of creation and destruction are locked in a constant battle for control. In theory, anything would be possible. Now, imagine a being, an individual, capable of of this... distortion, this range of possibilities. Take away the black hole's attractive forces, it's tendency to devour everything in it's vicinity. This is a very short, very scant description of what a Builder is, and what a Builder can do."
"A being that possesses the ability to simulate black hole distortion in a controlled fashion?" questioned Valerie, "That sounds borderline fantastical! How many are there?"
"I would agree that it was fantasy, if I had never encountered one," Morgon replied, "And I wouldn't call the distortion controlled; some of it may be, but the worst part about a Builder is the damage they do simply by being. A Builder can cause unimaginable space-time damage simply by inhabiting a region of space. As for their numbers... that I have no answer for. There are not many of them, but the forces they are able to command can seem uncountable."
"You've seen one?" Xavier responded skeptically, "Actually, wait, go back to the part where one of these 'Builders' mounted an attack on my planet. Because of you?"
"Yes, well, I did kill one of them, once." the Engurrian raised his hands in a defensive posture. "Once. Whether I could do it again, I don't know. The methods for fighting a Builder are as varied as the Builders themselves, and there are never any guaruntees. I barely remember the event in any case. Doctor, the only evidence I have that the Builders were targeting me on Stryrrin is entirely conjecture, but I don't like to believe in coincidences. The attack began in the sector where I had been receiving your medical care, and in my history, these sorts of situations have been known to happen to me more often than I'd like." He stood and walked carefully and slowly to one of the viewing ports, clasping his hands behind his back. "I understand you have secrets, Doctor. So do I. I have never been what your kind would consider a 'good' man. I have done things that would be considered reprehensible by many species. That being said, those things needed to be done at the time, or at least they seemed to have needed doing, and that was the only direction I had at those times." He turned back to face them, his eyes hard. "There is nothing we can do for Stryrrin or her people at present. We are only three beings against an unknown force. It would be my suggestion that we run fast, and run far. I don't consider myself a coward, by any means, but there are some battles that simply cannot be won by a group as small as ours. In that capacity, I offer my services. I have some limited ability in combat, and I am familiar enough with a starship's sensor equipment to perform a passable job as a science officer." He turned to Valerie, "Should you need one, of course."
Valerie nodded, "The AI core is handling it right now, but I'd prefer actual flesh and blood controlling my ship if you have the inclination. I'll transfer full access of that terminal to you."
Xavier sighed, "I'm deciding to trust you for now, but this is over my head. I'm still considering the notion that you're suffering from delirium after hypothermia. That attack though, was very real and definitely not like anything I've seen before, and I agree that running is a good idea right now."
"You are the expert on medical health, Doctor." Morgon shrugged. "Now that we've gotten this far, are there any suggestions for a course? A mid-rim world may suit us best. If I may say so, we still need more crewmembers. A mid-rim world would give us a slightly better pool of individuals to choose from, while still being far enough away from the Alliance for you to be comfortable, Doctor."
"We're on course to Ehrial as we speak, but I can set a new destination if you wish," replied Valerie, "Speaking of which, Doctor Frost, why are you so hesitant to enter Alliance space? You don't have a criminal history as far as my research shows, the Alliance Core Network doesn't have much on you at all, actually."
"I fought in the sixth rebellion," replied Xavier, knowing this would have come up eventually, "If I were identified in Alliance space law enforcement is authorized to forcefully detain me on sight."
"Oh, I see," replied Valerie, biting her lip.
"Is this going to be a problem, Miss Deitiri?" he looked her in the eye.
"No, we can discuss it later," she replied, meeting his gaze for a second, before turning to Morgon, "I have no practical knowledge of galactic space outside of the Core worlds, but both of you have free access to the star map. Choose a destination and I will plot a course."
"You suggested hiring more crew? I know of a few locations where rebel war vets like me and common mercs tend to gather, what kind of people are you looking for?" Xavier inquired of Morgon.
"That depends in large part on the Captain, and what sort of people she would be... comfortable with," Morgon replied, raising an eyebrow toward Valerie. "My own personal suggestions would be two-fold. First, I would prefer a stable team of experts, a command crew, if you will, from various fields. Mind you, I have no plans at the moment regarding the Builders, and I think it would be best if we kept them on our peripheral vision for now. Second, we need muscle; people who won't mind getting their hands dirty. I don't want to sound as if I'm suggesting we go pirate, but the Alliance is in a constant state of disarray. We may have to operate outside of the rules on more than one occasion. If that is acceptable, of course. I understand humans still believe in democracy; since there are two of you, and one of me, it seems fair of me to concede if, and when, you disagree with any of my proposed courses of action." An alert rang out from one of the nearby consoles and Morgon leaned over to check the readout ligthing up on his newly acquired science station. "We may have our first candidate. There's a shuttle approaching. It seems damaged, but space-worthy."
"Got a read on any lifeforms?" inquired Xavier automatically, moving to observe the readout over Morgon's shoulder.
"They don't appear to be on an intercept trajectory," noted Valerie from her station at the helm, "But I can hail them," she started typing out a message on a small holographic keypad. "We will discuss a course of action after we've dealt with this."
"No time," said Morgon, "They've initiated emergency docking. We could override it on our end, but i'm a bit more intrigued as to who this entity may be. An emergency docking procedure with no obvious emergency and no hailing beacon is something worth noting. Either the pilot is inexperienced, or extremely confident." He turned to Valerie. "Perhaps we'd all like to take a trip down to the docking tubes and meet our new 'guest'."
Xavier frowned and crouched down to undo the clasps on his bag. Shoving aside a few cloth wrapped items he pulled out a leather holster containing a large military grade lead firing handgun. Pulling it out of the holster and sliding the clip out he checked the copper plated rounds, making sure they were still in good condition. Laser technology had failed him one too many times during the war, and he had used old fashioned weaponry whenever possible ever since.
"Could be a trap, pirates maybe, I'm not taking any chances." he explained, pushing the clip back in and strapping the holster to his hip.
Valerie frowned, but didn't comment. "This way," she said, heading for the starboard docking tubes, on the opposite wing of the one they had landed on.
"Well, then; let's be off," said Morgon confidently, taking the lead ahead of Valerie. They made their way to the docking port.
"Keep that weapon handy, just in case," Morgon nodded to Xavier's handgun. "Everyone ready?"
Xavier nodded back, flicking the safety off but keeping it lowered so as not to appear immediately threatening and provoke a defensive response. Another thing he had picked up during the war.
"They're locked in, breaking the seal in 3..." Valerie waved a holopad to life and typed in an access code, "2..." she looked back at the two of them with cool, controlled anxiety, "1." and she tapped a control on the holographic interface, backing away to stand level with the other two as the doors slid open.
Inside the simple looking craft stood an alien that Xavier could not identify. Its triangular, sharply defined head was completely devoid of hair or feathers of any kind and its unfamiliar face looked out at them intelligently with an expression that was not entirely unlike surprise. It looked at each of them in turn, then took a single step forward and knelt in front of Morgon, face down.
"It is the will of my Lords that I serve as your weapon, Destroyer." Its voice was low and abrasive, but powerful. "I am your sword, your dagger, your blood-soaked claws. I await your favor."
Morgon raised his eyebrows, "How interesting..." he said, trailing off.
There was a slight pause, Xavier and Valerie glanced at each other and almost simultaneously stepped back, away from Morgon and the new arrival.
"You know each other?" asked Valerie hesitantly.
"No," said Morgon, "I've never actually met a Vierversteckt before, not on any sort of speaking terms. They are a violent, murderous race. The very fact that we are here, undamaged, in the presence of this one... very peculiar." He looked down at the kneeling figure, "Not that you need my permission, but you can stand up if you like. You may want to help me put my associates at ease, as well, and explain what this is all about."
"Of course, Destroyer," said the 'Vierversteckt', rising to his feet. It turned its head to Valerie. "I am called Sourek. What the Engurrian tells you about my species is vague, but true. I give you this promise: while I am in service to the Destroyer, not a one of you will suffer pain or death at my hands." Looking back at Morgon, its eyes narrowed into long slits. "I have been placed in your service, until such time as I have fullfilled my destiny, as appointed to me by the Lords of the Void. This I swear upon the blood of all those who have come before."
"I see." Morgon placed a hand on his jaw, one arm across his chest resting on the elbow of the other. "What's this... Destroyer business? I've had many titles in my time, some of them not complimentary. This one does not seem familiar to me, and i'm not sure I care for it's connotations."
Sourek's eyes narrowed further. "The Lords of the Void have chosen you, as they have chosen me," it said, smiling unpleasantly with its many teeth. "They are not always known for their sense of humor, but this seems to be one of those times when they are making a joke at our expense. What matters is that you, my reluctant master, are destined for great things, and I am duty-bound to see those great things in person." It turned towards Valerie and Xavier. "Perhaps your friends would care to introduce themselves? I enjoy meeting new people; oh, yes."
Xavier paused, unsure, and glanced at Valerie before slipping his weapon back into its holster and stepping forward to extend a hand. "Xavier Frost, formerly of 49th sharpshooter division for the 6th Colonial Insurrection. Pleasure to make your acquaintance."
Sourek smiled wider, exposing more teeth. "Bold. I like that in a human." He gripped Xavier's hand firmly. Something about the hand felt odd for a moment, and all of a sudden Xavier realized it was actually split into two seperate intertwined hands. This sudden revelation was slightly disturbing, but he didn't allow the emotion to reach his face.
"You defer to the female," Sourek continued, releasing Xavier's hand. "You did not do so with the Destroyer. I am left to assume then..." He turned to face Valerie. "...that you are the Captain of this vessel?"
Valerie drew a quiet breath before replying, "I own and pilot the ship, Helena, yes. But I was, am, an Instructor at the Alliance Education Center on Ehrial" she gave a practiced smile she reserved for business, "May I ask why you performed an emergency dock on my ship?"
"I was drifting," explained Sourek, "There was an emergency aboard my host vessel. I am not sure if anyone else survived the emergency, or if the ship itself is even still spaceworthy. I'm sure they can fend for themselves." His wide grin lessened slightly. "I do not believe we are gathered here by chance. I have dreamed, and I have seen this galaxy broken, bathed in fire and in blood. The Destroyer is central to this conflict, and so shall I be. I can only guess at the parts that you and your other companion will play."
"This has been... enlightening, but it's all a bit melodramatic for me. I'm going down to the galley to replenish some nutrients." Said Morgon, rather abruptly. Nodding to them he left without another word.
Xavier blinked, then shrugged. The Engurrian was still something of a mystery to him.
"Yes... well, you may stay in one of the crew cabins if you wish," said Valerie to Sourek, "There are four near the center of the ship, ask the onboard VI if you get lost. They've never been used so you may have to peel the plastic off of some things." she finished hospitably.
"Your generosity humbles me, Captain," Sourek replied. He bowed, unfurling his arms from each other to reveal his actual number of limbs. "I am at your command. I will be in one of the cabins if you have need of my services." He straightened, re-entwined his arms, and headed to the crew section.